Archive

Archive for July, 2017

John3(1)

July 31st, 2017
Comments Off

Today we will be introducing John 3. And in other weeks we will address the various issues raised.

John3:1

 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.

2(a) He came to Jesus at night

There are two possible reasons why Nicodemus came to see Jesus at night. Perhaps he did not want the other Jewish leaders to know that he had spoken to Jesus. Jesus was not popular with the Jewish leaders. He often argued with them in public.

But perhaps there was another reason. Jewish teachers taught that the best time to study God’s Law was at night. Jesus was very busy all day. He was a popular teacher and crowds followed him. So maybe Nicodemus wanted to discuss important spiritual matters in private, when Jesus was alone.

It is obvious that Nicodemus had an uneasy connection with the Temple authorities. On the one hand, he was an intricate part of it; on the other he was afraid and hassled by it. As such, he often felt that he did not belong.We see that in

John 7:50-52

We read that when he questioned his peers about Jesus’ arrest, he was questioned for loyalty:

50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 ‘Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?’
52 They replied, ‘Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.’

I think that clearly showed that any sympathy would be seen as disloyal and heretical.

The final appearance that Nicodemus makes, this time with Josephus of Arimathea, can be found in

John 19:38-40

38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about thirty-five kilograms. 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.

Notice the ‘at night”.

It appears to be more likely that the reason Nicodemus came to Jesus at night was to avoid being seen and questioned about Jesus by others within the temple leadership system.

John3:2(b)-5

and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.’

Nicodemus addresses Jesus using the respectful term “Teacher” or Rabbi. This which acknowledges that despite the acrimony towards him, Jesus was still someone important, even for a powerful member of the Jerusalem ruling elite. The term “we know” most likely refers to a group of leaders inside of the Sanhedrin that thought that Jesus was indeed a very positive figure and possibly sent by God.

This would indicate disagreement and confusion in the Temple elite. As time went on this would harden to direct opposition with only a few still sympathetic.

3  Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again’

The kingdom of God is the realm where people obey God. You will not see where God is working unless there is a birth from above or again. In other words Jesus is saying “You through fleshly eyes cannot really know who I am”.

There is also a fatherhood issue here. It is a theme that runs throughout the book. Jesus is the Son of the Father. Only the children of God know that.

4 ‘How can someone be born when they are old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!’

It is interesting how John contrasts the physical meaning with the deeper spiritual. Nicodemus’s answer shows that he has not been born again.

Nicodemus knew Jesus’ statement could not be taken literally.

But he has no idea of what Jesus is talking about. It makes no sense to him. So we can see his belief is inadequate as we discussed last week.

5 Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.

However this is not a new teaching.

This is an allusion to Ezekiel 36:24-26

24 ‘“For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

The point is that we need both a cleansing from our past(signified by water) and a new spiritual life (worked by the Spirit).

This is knowledge already known from the Old Testament. Something Nicodemus should already understand.

Jesus was teaching that every person must have a fresh beginning – become new.

Jesus was talking about something surprising — a new birth or a new start that enables a person to “enter the kingdom of God” (verse 5) in this age. Remember he told the Pharisees in

Matthew 21:31

The tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.

Even in this age, people are entering the kingdom of God, and they do it by accepting the good news that God offers his blessings on the basis of grace. But it takes a new start in life to experience the kingdom of God. And it is radical.

So Jesus said adds some words of explanation

John 3:6-8

6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

For physical life, a person needs a physical birth. For spiritual life, a person needs a spiritual birth.

Read more…

Message for the Day

John2(3)

July 25th, 2017
Comments Off

There is a whole chapter in Hebrews illustrating faith.It is Hebrews:11 through to Hebrews12:1-3.

As you read reflect on what faith is. One thing becomes clear is that it is not a wishful hope that things will work out.

It is more real than that. It is founded on a reality.

Think about the examples given. We are not called to follow the way they lived culturally but in one major area: their faith in all circumstances.

What is the definition of faith contained in these verses?

What is faith? Is seeing believing? If we had been alive at the time of Jesus would we have believed? But would it have been a saving belief?

Why did Jesus say to Thomas

John 20:24-31

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’
But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ 27 Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’

Plenty of sight there with Thomas.

28 Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’
29 Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

Yet Jesus makes a big point: which points to this gospel account as a source of belief.

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

So what is this saving faith and from where does it come?

Is it possible to have a non-saving faith?

John 2:23-25

23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name.
24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.

This is after the actions over the Temple.

Many people believed in Jesus because he did miracles or signs.

But Jesus was not encouraged about that.

This is a very insightful couple of verses.

We can see that his power is on display. This whole incident is followed by an example of this inability to truly believe.

John3:1-2

1Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.’

So we sense that what is said in this encounter with Nicodemus will explain what is missing in people’s belief.

We can say human belief doesn’t last. It is fickle. We see that in politics – it usually ends in tragedy and deep sadness of rejection.

They believed in him for the wrong reasons. They saw that he had power. They wanted to know how they could benefit from this power. Jesus knew this. When there was trouble, they would not continue to believe in him. Jesus knew this, too. They were following him because he was popular. They would leave him when he became unpopular. (Think of the suffering of the men of faith in OT and in Jesus’ own life)

But Jesus wasn’t in the world because he was seeking popularity. He obeyed his Father’s will.

If there is one consistent message in the book of John it is this: Jesus and the Father are one. Whatever he said or did is because of his Father.

One of the lessons in how Jesus responded to Mary at Cana was Jesus felt a burden to make clear not only to his mother and his brothers and sisters, but to all the rest of us, that because of who he was, physical relationships on earth would not control him or oblige him. His mother and his physical family would have no special advantage to guide his ministry. And his mother and physical family would have no special advantage to receive his salvation.

The reason is that Jesus was absolutely bound to his Father’s will in heaven and to no one on earth. There could be no competing controls on his life.

Remember his zeal for his Father’s house. The contrast he pointed out was between “my Father’s house” and a marketplace. “My Father’s house” means: This house is about knowing and loving and treasuring a person, my Father. In this temple, my Father has supreme place. He is the supreme treasure here. “A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere”. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you”

Lets read a couple of these very clear statements about his relationship to his Father.

John5:19, 30

19 Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

Jesus’ reason for not entrusting himself to these people goes deeper still. The events in Cana made it clear that Jesus only takes his cues from his Father. In this sense Jesus does not entrust himself to anyone. He is present to all with God’s love, but he is also detached from all in his attachment to God.

So faith in Jesus can be a normal response to a popular hero.

But he is not here like anyone else.

Read more…

Message for the Day

John2(2)

July 21st, 2017
Comments Off

The miracle of turning the water into wine was called a sign, and the effect of the sign was to reveal the glory of Jesus. This revelation was to bring about belief in the disciples.

John2:12-22
12 After this he went down to Capernaum

During his ministry Capernaum, a distance of about 18 miles from Nazareth as the crow flies.

with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover,

John mentions three Passovers during Jesus’ ministry, which provides the main basis for the assumption that Jesus’ ministry lasted roughly three years.

1. After being at home a short while Jesus goes up to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover.
At this Passover Jesus performs a sign that points to his death and reveals his replacement of the temple. This implies the fulfillment of the redemption of God that Passover itself represents.
2. In the context of Passover in chapter 6 Jesus teaches about the significance of his death at great length.
3. And then at the third Passover (chapter 11) he accomplishes his work and dies as the true Passover. Thus the whole of Jesus’ ministry occurs in the framework of Passover.

Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts

The courtyards surrounded the main part of the Temple. The outer courtyard was called the Gentiles’ Courtyard. This was where the merchants and the moneychangers did business.

He found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.
These animals were for sin offerings fellowship offerings, and other sacrifices, and money was used to pay the temple taxes.

So inside the temple court, a place meant for prayer and other acts of worship, there were pens of oxen and sheep, and cages of pigeons and sellers sitting around them waiting to make a transaction, and others who were prepared to exchange a pilgrim’s money into the right currency so that they could make a purchase.

The outward reason for this set up was many worshippers would have come a long way and would not have brought their sacrifice with them. So this made the animals readily available for purchase. You could say it was the loving thing to do. On the surface you could say they were only making the purchase convenient.

And yet we read

15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.

Animals for sacrifices had to be perfect, without a mark or a spot on them. The Temple employed officials.

These officials examined the animals that people brought for sacrifices. But the officials were not fair or honest. They would reject people’s sacrificial animal which came from outside the Temple. They would accept only the animals that people had bought from the Temple. So this forced everyone to buy animals from the Temple – whether they needed to or not.

But these animals cost much more than usual. They were very expensive, so that the merchants made a big profit.

This was not the only thing that was unfair. Every Jew had to pay a tax to the Temple. This tax paid for the daily ceremonies there. But people had to pay this tax with special coins. So when visitors came, they had to go to the moneychangers. The moneychangers took the visitors’ coins and gave them the special coins. But the moneychangers charged the visitors a lot of money for this service. Like the merchants, the moneychangers were greedy and they made a big profit.

The merchants and the moneychangers did not care that the Temple was a holy place. They did not come to worship God there. They came to earn a lot of money for themselves! They charged the people too much for their services. They were unfair to the people who had come to worship God.

16 To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!’

It is surprising that one man could drive all the merchants out. (Where are the temple police when you need them?) Obviously there was no resistance coming from the worshippers!

They were turning the house of God into a house of merchandise. They had turned the religion into a moneymaking scheme.

The merchants and the moneychangers did not respect God’s house. And they did not respect the people who came to worship him there.

Jesus says “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” Jesus does not in this account say that the sellers and money-changers are robbers, or that the animals are defective, or that the place is a place of prayer—though it is described as this in the other gospels.

The emphasis in John is that he says that they have turned his Father’s house into a bazaar. An emporium. A market.

17 His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’

The disciples saw this incredible display of fury—he was using a homemade whip of ropes, and loosing the oxen (oxen are big!), and dumping boxes of money on the ground, and turning over tables, and saying, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” And when the disciples saw this, they connected it with Psalm 69:9 where David the king says, “Zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.”

Jesus was consumed with zeal for his Father’s house. And reproaches were, no doubt, raining down on him like torrents: “What in God’s name do you think you are doing?!”

What is this the emphasis in John? What made Jesus so angry?

The contrast he pointed out was between “my Father’s house” and a marketplace. “My Father’s house” means: This house is about knowing and loving and treasuring a person, my Father. In this temple, my Father has supreme place. He is the supreme treasure here. “A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” . “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you”

But that focus has been replaced by a focus on trade. And there is no reference here to the people who needed the animals—the pilgrims who were buying the sheep and pigeons. The anger is all directed at those who were selling and handling the currency. Jesus could see through the veneer of religious helpfulness to its true heart.
What did he see? He saw that this bazaar, this emporium, was not advancing communion with his heavenly Father. It was not flowing from the love of God. It was flowing from the love of money. And what made it worse was that religious ritual, and vaunted helpfulness, were being used as a cover for greed—O the entanglements of greed and religion.

That’s what Jesus saw—hypocrisy. Religion used as a front for greed. Empty forms of love for God plastering over the insatiable love of money. Jesus boils when he sees formal godliness as cover for gain. This covetousness was at the heart of the temple system of his day.

It was those from the Temple who get very little regard from Jesus.

My Father is not being worshipped. Money is being worshipped—in my Father’s house. Jesus came into the world to display the infinite worth and beauty of his Father and to vindicate his Father’s honour—and to free us from the killing effects of the love of money.

Here is the first use outside the prologue of the term Father, the single most important designation for God in Johannine literature. Equally significant is the implication that Jesus is God’s Son: he refers to my Father’s house. Jesus’ provocative act is based on his relation to God as his Son.

18 The Jews then responded to him, ‘What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?’

Jesus’ words and acts caused a shock to the Jewish leaders. Only someone who had God’s authority had the right to do this. So they asked Jesus to prove whether or not he had God’s authority. They asked him for a sign; that is, a miracle.

Furthermore, Jesus has already given them the answer to their question; it is his identity as Son that authorizes his action. But it will become increasingly clear that the opponents do not understand Scripture because they cannot see Jesus’ relation to it , which is due, in turn, to their inability to grasp his identity as Son of the Father.
“If you are the Anointed One, tell us plainly.”

From the standpoint of the Temple leaders, given their religious authority as the formal representatives of the Judean religion, their authority to validate Jesus’ candidacy for Messiahship was not being honored.

He had failed to declare himself as such to the Jerusalem authorities. This was the reasoning behind their demand.

Jesus was the one to whom Israel’s Covenantal Lord had entrusted such authority .Therefore, submitting himself to the illegitimate/or at least lower level authority of Temple was out of the question.
So what happened? Simply that th eTemple leaders assumed that they had the right to approve or disapprove Jesus. They were already engaged in the process of judging him. They, at that time as they did more explicitly later, challenged him to prove to them who he was. Jesus refused.

Their authority could not have been devalued more. Without bothering to explain what he really meant, Jesus denied the authority of Temple leaders(the Jews) over him throughout this Gospel, but especially in this passage.

19 Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’

Jesus declares the Temple in Jerusalem unfit for divine worship because it was under the failed and unfaithful stewardship of the Judean ruling elite and its followers.

But there is another level of meaning.

Read more…

Message for the Day ,