In the Gospel of John we see the many faces (or attributes) of Jesus Christ. Throughout we see Jesus’ grace, compassion, love, willingness to perform miracles, and his heart of servanthood. We often skip over the fact that Jesus also gets angry. It is not the kind of anger that led to sin and unrighteousness, instead it is the kind that is geared toward sin and unrighteousness. We often refer to Jesus’ anger as righteous anger. In today’s passage the Apostle John gives us a first hand account of Jesus’ intolerance toward sin being present in the Temple of God. Not only do we see his intolerance towards sin we also witness his somewhat violent response to the individuals who were the cause or promoters of sin. This is a side to Jesus that we rarely see but when we do see it we must take note as to why Jesus’ response was the way it was. In today’s passage we will look at the actual account of Jesus cleansing the temple; we will see its significance, its symbolism and how his response to sin should be our response to sin.
We live in a society that pushes and promotes tolerance and acceptance to everything that when it comes to sin the Church today has become tolerant of sin and unrighteousness on a grand scale. God is not tolerant and accepting of sin in our lives and in the the body of Christ. His attitude of love, grace and compassion toward the sinner never changes but this does not mean he will allow it to remain. We as Christians should have the same attitude towards sin in our personal lives and in the Church at large.
The Cleansing of the Temple
Verse 12 – After the wedding ceremony (or the changing of the water to wine) Jesus, his mother, his half brothers and the five disciples went about 16 miles Northeast to Capernum.
We now come to our first seeming discrepancy in the Gospel of John. In the other Gospel accounts Matthew, Mark and Luke (or as we will call them the Synoptic Gospels) the Temple cleansing occurs near the end (the last week) of Jesus’ ministry. John Gospel account varies how this event is recorded, what details are given and obviously the placement of this event (John puts it at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry). There are two views on this discrepancy 1) The Gospel of John is not necessarily written in chronological order. 2) There were two separate cleansings of the temple. There is no clear evidence as to one or the other. There are some who believe that there were actually two temple cleansings. Others believe John’s Gospel account was written in a topical or (theological) order rather than sequential. They believe John wrote in the order of important events in order to build on the points he is trying to make throughout the Gospel instead of how they happened chronologically. It is impossible to determine whether it was one occurrence or two but a natural or a more literal reading of the Gospels as a whole would suggest two. I don’t want to spend time defending how or why I just wanted to point out there is a discrepancy and there are two possible reasons as to why it is the way it is. Feel free to continue on your own as I think some of the arguments for and against either one are fascinating.
Verse 13 – Passover was at (probably late March early April). If we take the literal view of this passage we would find Jesus traveling from Capernum to Jerusalem for Passover*. This was about a 120 mile journey.
* Passover was a Jewish Festival celebration that took place in late March early April to commemorate the Angel passing over the door of the Israelites home during the final plague in Egypt.
Verse 14 – In the temple… This would be considered the outer courts (Court of the Gentiles) of the temple. During Passover week there was heavy traffic in the temple and people would travel from great distances to offer up sacrifices and pay temple taxes. So instead of dragging along cattle, sheep or dove on your journey one could buy an animal to sacrifice in the Temple courts.
Money Changers – There were money changers in the court who would convert money to the approved currency (since people came from all over there was different currency) and they would charge a percentage or service charge for changing the money over. Because of the imperial Roman portraits they carried, Roman denarii and Attic drachmas were not permitted to be used in paying the half-shekel temple-tax (the Jews considered the portraits idolatrous). The money changers exchanged these coins for legal Tyrian coinage at a small profit.
Verse 15 – He drove them out… The Temple was the center for worship of God, it was not “just another church” this was symbolic of the epicenter for all religious worship of the God of Israel. Seeing what the people where doing infuriates Jesus because they were profiting from God. The place that was intended for worship and cleansing of sin had become a place that harbored sin and evil. The Father’s House (which was intended to be a holy place) became a place of evil, sin and thievery. It became the antithesis of what it was intended to be.
Verse 16 – “do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” D.A. Carson writes, “Jesus’ complaint is not that they are guilty of sharp business practices and should therefore reform their ethical life, but that they shouldn’t be there at all.” What Jesus does here could have easily incited a riot and it could have turned out bad for all. There were huge profits made during this time and Jesus was demanding that this stop…
Verse 18 – The religious leaders respond in an unusual way… Instead of having him arrested for this outbreak or even brought before the High Priest for claiming God is his father they instead ask Jesus for a sign to justify his display of authority. A person who did such a thing as Jesus did would certainly be questioned by the temple authorities. However the fact that they asked Jesus for a sign does show that they may have been a little suspicious as to whether Jesus was indeed a prophet or the Messiah. They were looking for Jesus to do a supernatural sign to prove that He had the authority to be driving out the money changers and salesmen.
Verse 19 – 22 Jesus tells them the only sign he will give them was to have them destroy the temple and in three days he will build it again. This was a seemingly preposterous statement by Jesus. The leaders replied that it took 46 years to build this temple and you claim you can rebuild it in three days. The irony is they were asking for a supernatural sign and Jesus was offering it to them by having them destroy the temple and having it rebuilt in three days. It would take a supernatural even for this to happen. However Jesus was not talking about the physical temple he was talking about the spiritual Temple. His body is the Temple and it will be destroyed, however after three days it will be fully restored and alive once again. Jesus was in essence saying that the time of the temple was coming to a close and He is now the true Temple. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ there would no longer be a need for a Temple because Jesus will be the fulfillment of the law and the sacrificial system will no longer be necessary.
Jesus’ cleansing of the temple has significance for us today. This event was a sign to show that God demands pure worship from us. Sin (i.e. profiteering from the name of God) will not be tolerated. It is not just the sin of profiting off the name of God that Jesus is against. He is against sin in the body as a whole. This place of worship (the Temple) had become a den of thieves, of sin and was in need of a cleansing or purification. This goes for us today and for the Church today. God will not tolerate openly committing or accepting sin. On a side note there will always be sin present in the church or in a persons life (because sin is ever present in us as humans) but when a church or individual starts allowing or openly accepting sin to reign or be present without dealing (looking past it or not wanting to confront it head on) it then there will be consequences and God will clean house. To some this is comforting and to others this is simply terrifying.
In Corinthians Paul declares that the Temple (physical building) is no longer necessary because the new Temple is the body. The building is not the church, you are the church and if we are allowing sin to run rampant in our lives then God will not/cannot bless the body. He desires that we be a holy body and we cannot be holy on our own. It is through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we may be holy. It is ironic in some ways we are called to be holy but we can only be holy if we do not have the Holy Spirit in us. What I am saying is we as a body need to be vessels of the Holy Spirit. I suggest you and I begin praying that God would search our hearts and our lives and do a spiritual “house cleaning” if you will in our own lives so that He may bless this body and your life in ways that we could never imagine. He is for you and He wants to have a relationship with you that is unhindered by sin and unrighteousness.
We may have this unhindered relationship with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through his death and resurrection we now have forgiveness from sins, we have freedom from sin and we have faith to live our lives for the glory of God.
Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
 Carson, D.A. (1991) The Gospel According to John p. 179 Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdman’s Publishing Co.
Today we move on to chapter 2 as we enter the period of time where Jesus begins his public ministry with a miracle. In this account is the first sign performed by Jesus (turning water into wine). There are various and differing interpretations about the meaning or symbolism behind the miracle itself as some believe it to be allegorical and some as speculative. I am not going to go too much into the actual meaning of the miracle as I am going to look at the significance behind what happens. We do know the purpose in giving the account of Jesus’ miracles was to convince the people that He was/is the Messiah (John 20:30-31).
Read John 2:1 – 12
Before we jump into this passage I think a little background about weddings in the near east is appropriate to help us understand what is going on. A wedding celebration in Jesus’ time could last as long as a week. It was truly a festive celebration. From what we gather there was no religious ceremony that precedes the celebration. We do know the groom would get dressed up in his best outerwear and go to the brides parent’s home. He would be accompanied by friends, musicians and torch bearers (if it was night time). The groom received his bride from the parents and a celebration followed (where a signing of a contract or document of sorts would occur). In the evening the bride was escorted to the nuptial chamber by her parents, and the groom by his companions or the bride’s parents. On the next day the festivities were resumed, continuing for seven days. It was a festive time and the whole community celebrated it. The groom was the one who footed the bill and was expected to provide enough food and drinks for the whole party. To run out of supplies would be a huge embarrassment to the groom. It was possible for legal action to be taken against a family if they failed to provide enough food and drink for their guests.
Three days after the last written account Jesus and his disciples attended a wedding in Cana. This was probably a wedding for a relative of Jesus or a close friend since Mary was there and Jesus and his disciples were invited as well. The disciples who attended with Jesus were probably the five Jesus had with him Andrew, Philip, Peter, Nathaneal and the unnamed disciple (John?). It is very plausible that Mary could have been in charge of some organizational aspect of the wedding since she was concerned about the wine running out. This may have been her responsibility or she could have just been concerned about the bridegroom and did not want to see him embarrassed or worse yet humiliated. Whatever the reason she went to Jesus with her concern and let him know the wine was gone.
“Wine in the ancient world was diluted with water to between one third and one tenth of its fermented strength, i.e. something less strong than American beer. Undiluted wine, about the strength of wine today, was viewed as ‘strong drink’, and earned much more disapprobation (disapproved)”. 
Mary comes to Jesus with her concern for the wine shortage and there are a number of possible reasons why she went to him. First, her husband (Joseph) was possibly dead by this time (since we don’t hear anything from him after the time Jesus taught in the temple at age 12) so Jesus was essentially the head of the household and was the one making the money in the family as a carpenter. She may have figured he would go out use his resources and get more. Second, she knew Jesus was who he claimed to be and she was asking him to do something supernatural. I mean she was his mother. Third, she was worried that this was going to come back on her and she was only complaining to Jesus, she was just passing on the sad news that she didn’t do her job right. Out of these three possibilities number two would probably be the most plausible. Mary knew her son was a special son and that God was going to do great things through Him. She was the chosen virgin to give birth to the Savior of the world. He was the Messiah; certainly He could do something about the wine shortage.
At first glance Jesus’ response to his mother seems a bit harsh and disrespectful “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” However the word “woman” is a form of address, in Koine Greek is a way of speaking politely to a female person: In Jn 2.4 Jesus uses this word to address his mother courteously. In some ways it could be synonymous to the word “Ma’am”. When he says, “what does this have to do with me?” or “What business is this of mine?” or “Why are you involving me?” is a minor rebuke. In some ways Jesus, lovingly, is declaring to his mother that he is not under human authority (including his mother), any person’s agenda or is not going to be manipulated into doing something (being a Genie of sorts). This isn’t a form of rebellion against his mother he is only stating a very important thing, His only bidding is to do the will of the Father. From this point on as a son and a mother Jesus had to start distancing himself from her. I can’t believe how difficult that would have been for Him or for her to accept. However Jesus couldn’t allow himself to be so closely attached to his human mother because his bidding was to do all the Father had told him. From a human standpoint it is hard to imagine but from an eternal perspective it was necessary. She like anyone else needed to come to him for salvation (believe he is the Messiah). She had no special privileges and Jesus certainly wasn’t distancing himself out of callousness, in a way his distancing was for her own good. In the light of the cross this distancing was necessary. As a mother she was obedient and trusting of her son as she says to the servants to do what he says. This shows that her gentle rebuke was taken and she trusted Jesus was going to take care of things. D.A. Carson writes of this encounter “In short, in 2:3 Mary approaches Jesus as his mother, and is reproached; in 2:5 she responds as a believer, and her faith is honored. She still does not know what he would do; but she has committed the matter to him, and trusts him.”
The end result with Jesus performing this miracle of turning water to wine has a significant truth about God. So many commentators, theologians, preachers and Christians in general focus so muck on the symbolism of the water and the wine and I believe they miss the true point to this miracle. Not only does Jesus provide wine for the wedding guests, he supplies them with the finest of wine (the best) and gives it in abundance. Here we see God’s grace in action. Did Jesus do this for Mary? Did he do it for the guests? or did he do it for the groom? I don’t think he did this miracle for any of these people. The purpose of this miracle was to reveal his glory so the disciples would believe in him and glorify God. It wasn’t about taking care of the guests, it wasn’t about being obedient to his mother, it was about showing a little of His glory so his followers would believe and testify of who He really is. It’s ultimately about God’s glory and grace. We see so much grace in this account as Jesus essentially says, “I am not under any human authority nor will I be used as a Genie to give you what you want. But because God ultimately wants to be the source of all of your joy and because of my Father’s great love for humanity I will do as you ask.”
As I was looking over this passage and praying about it two points of application came to me and I would like to share them with you.
Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson's new illustrated Bible dictionary. Rev. ed. of: Nelson's illustrated Bible dictionary.; Includes index. Nashville: T. Nelson.
 Carson, D.A. (1991) The Gospel According to John p. 169 Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdman’s Publishing Co.
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996, c1989). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (1:107-108). New York: United Bible societies.
 Carson, D.A. (1991) The Gospel According to John p. 169 Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdman’s Publishing Co.
Today we pick up in verse 35 as we continue to meet the key players in the life of Jesus. We meet five individuals today… they are Philip, an unnamed disciple, Cephas/Peter, Andrew and Nathaneal. All five of these men have an encounter with Jesus that forever change their lives.
John 1:35 - 51
Verses 35 - 42
The day after John the Baptist’s declaration of Jesus as the Lamb of God he is standing with some of his disciples and once again sees Jesus walking by. The Baptist was standing with two of his disciples and pointed out to these two men that Jesus is the Lamb of God.
Disciple – A learner, close follower, a student, one who is tutored but is more than one who just gains information. A person who has a close relationship (academically and relationally) with the teacher.
John had many disciples. The two disciples he was standing with are Andrew (the brother of Peter) and an unnamed disciple (who traditionally is believed to be the Apostle John – the author of this Gospel). The reason Andrew is named the brother of Peter (even before Peter was introduced in the story) is because by the time of John’s writing of the Gospel Peter was a well known figure throughout Christendom. When the disciples hear John’s statement from the they followed (or became followers of) Jesus. F.F. Bruce writes about this departure from John, “It is not certain what John expected his disciples to make of his words, but they left their teacher’s side at once and hurried after Jesus to catch up with him. They certainly did not grasp the depth of the meaning which modern readers find in the title ‘Lamb of God’; but they probably understood that John was pointing this man out to them as the Coming One of whom he has spoken before. No wonder, then, that they were eager to know more of him.”
As they catch up to Jesus, he asks “What are you seeking?” He is essentially asking them what their motives are or what’s on their minds. They don’t answer his question instead they ask him a question and Jesus doesn’t answer them. Instead He invites them to come and follow him and see for themselves. Thus begins their journey of faith that will forever change their lives.
The first thing Andrew does is goes out and finds his brother Simon A.K.A. Peter and informs him that they have found the Messiah. Immediately we see Andrew giving an example of true Christian expansion… Notice Andrew doesn’t say, “Jesus, will you come with me and talk to my brother about maybe becoming your disciple?” The first act Andrew does is shares his experience with his brother. Andrew brings Peter to Jesus and introduces him to the Lamb of God.
As Peter is brought to Jesus He looks at him and says, “You will no longer be called Simon, you are now Cephas (Peter – Rock). This is significant because from the moment Jesus meets Peter he has a plan for this mans life. As we will see later down the road before Jesus is crucified he tells Peter that he will become the foundation (The Church) that Jesus will establish through him and the gates of hell cannot and will not prevail against this foundation (Matthew 16:18)
Verses 43 - 51 - The next day Jesus finds a man named Philip and calls him to become a follower (disciple). Philip’s response to Jesus’ call was similar to Andrew’s as he goes out and finds Nathaneal and tells him about Jesus. Once again we see what D.A. Carson calls, “The foundational principle of truly Christian expansion.” This Nathaneal is believed to be Bartholomew (one of the 12 disciples).
After Philip finds Nathaneal he tells him that he has “found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote about.” His name is Jesus of Nazareth. Philip refers to Jesus as the “coming one” as written about in Deut. 18:15 and also the one whom the Prophets wrote about.
Nathaneal’s response is almost humorous in some ways, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Not, “Wow you found the Chosen One! Please take me to meet Him!” Now if a Nazarene would hear this I would think they would be slightly offended; just as someone would be offended if I said the same about their hometown. His contemptuous reply could be attributed to a local rivalry between Galilee and Nazareth or could be something a little deeper. Regardless, we can know for certain he did not have high expectations for this Nazarene at first.
What kind of come back can you offer to Nathaneal’s remarks other than what Philip says, “Come and see for yourself”? Philip didn’t spend time trying to talk Jesus up or prove that he was right; his response is exactly the same as ours should be when someone responds to Jesus in a negative way… Come and see for yourself. This is not only an invitation to meet Jesus but a challenge to put aside his prejudices and see beyond his origin of birth and see God’s bigger plan.
I find it interesting to see Jesus’ response to Nathaneal, “Now here is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathaneal didn’t have good things to say about Jesus of Nazareth but Jesus speaks wonderful words about Nathaneal and calls him a genuine man without hidden motives.
His response to Jesus would certainly be the same as mine if someone I did not know said such things about me. I would be a little skeptical of the person and a little puffed up with pride but certainly would ask, “How do you know me?” Jesus’ assessment of Nathaneal must have been correct since he seemed to gain his attention. Apparently impressed by Jesus’ supernatural knowledge of him Nathaneal addresses Jesus more respectfully and claims he is the Chosen One of Israel.
When Jesus hears Nathaneal’s response and claims Jesus essentially says, “Well, you have only seen a small part of what is yet to come. Buckle up man, because the ride is going to get wild.” The imagery in Jesus’ final words is taken from the vision their forefather Jacob had of a ladder (Genesis 28:10 -22). If you read this account you know it is a vision Jacob had of a ladder that reached to heaven. The angels of God ascended and descended on the ladder in this vision. The LORD stood at the top of the ladder and spoke a promise to Jacob about his descendants. Upon waking Jacob knew He met with God there and he set up a pillar and called it Bethel (The House of God). Jesus in a way is saying that now the presence of God will be revealed through Him and no longer in the Temple. Certainly Nathaneal and Philip could not grasp what Jesus was saying here. I think the key words of Jesus are “You will see” and they will see great and mighty things through the Son of man through his life, His ministry, His death and resurrection. They will certainly see!
A lot happens in the account of Jesus calling the first disciples. I think we can take some of what we have talked about today and apply it to our lives in the present as to what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. What does a disciple of Christ look like? Does he/she have a certain look, attitude or air about them? Is there a Christian disciple mold we all fit into? I don’t think so. If we go with the definition of a disciple as interpreted in the original language as a “learner”, “A close follower” or “a student”. As Christians we are called into discipleship; we are called to be learners, followers of the master (Jesus) and students of his word. This means that our faith must be proactive and not passive or apathetic. We must continually be growing in our faith (there is no set standard of what that looks like but it has to be growing and not become stagnant). As a believer of over 20 years who has read the Bible numerous times, went through school specifically for Bible training, read books which number beyond my comprehension and serving as a pastor for 20 years I am still growing and I am still learning. We MUST continue to grow and not allow our relationship with Christ go stagnant.
Being a disciple takes a lot of discipline and work. If we look at the examples of today’s text I came to three points of application in what the life of a disciple can look like…
 Bruce, F.F. (1994) The Gospel of John p. 56. Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdman’s Publishing Co.
Read John 1:29 - 34
Verse 29 – The day after John’s encounter with the religious leaders John sees Jesus coming towards him and proclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” To the modern Christian this statement is a pretty clear statement and we can tend to think little of the deep meaning and how radical of a statement it was. Some have debated even if John the Baptist understood to a degree the significance of what he was actually saying.
The Messiah that the Jews were anticipating was considered a man who was strong, charismatic, a leader, and one who was going to usher in the Kingdom of God and establish Israel as God’s nation once again. To the Jews (and even up to a point the disciples) the Messiah was not going to be one who would be humiliated, hated and eventually murdered as a common thief. A sacrificed lamb was probably the last thing on their minds. They had high hopes for their Chosen One.
D.A. Carson writes in his commentary, “Modern Christians are so familiar with the entire clause that it takes effort of imagination to recognize that, before the coming and death of Jesus, it (the Lamb of God) was not an obvious messianic designation.” In other words the title “Lamb of God” was not a common reference to the coming Messiah.
The Significance of Jesus as Lamb
We know that Jesus being portrayed as a Lamb does have significance. I believe there are six ways this is significant to us today.
Verses 30 – 34 – In verse 30 John affirms Jesus as Messiah. He states that Jesus was before him (even though John was older than Jesus). Jesus as the Chosen One was confirmed for John the Baptist when previously Jesus was baptized by John (probably a week before this encounter) and the Spirit of God descended on Jesus like a dove and remained on Him. In Isaiah 42:1 the prophet writes that God will put his Spirit on His servant (the Chosen One) and he will bring forth justice to the nations.
John admits that before this encounter at the baptism he didn’t know Jesus was the Messiah. John knew Jesus since they were cousins and they most likely had some sort of relationship before this. However at the baptism Jesus was confirmed to John to be the Chosen Messiah.
What can we gather from this passage?
First and foremost regardless of whether John and those surrounding him knew what the significance of “the Lamb of God…” statement we can take comfort in these words. We know today...
A challenge I’d like to issue for you for the week is to take the next six days and read the passages that I gave earlier in this post in regards to the significance of the Lamb.
Day 1 – Read Exodus 29 & Numbers 28
Day 2 – Read Leviticus 16
Day 3 - Read Genesis 22
Day 4 – Read Leviticus 4 & Numbers 6
Day 5 – Read Isaiah 53
Day 6 – Read Revelation 7 & 17
As you read through these see reflect on how Jesus fulfilled all of these scriptures. But most of all reflect on how through Jesus Christ we no longer have to go through the tedious and bloody sacrifices for sins because Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice for us. He is indeed the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
 Carson, D.A. (1991) The Gospel of John p. 148 Grand Rapids, MI: William Eerdmans Publishing Company
Easton, M. (1996, c1897). Easton's Bible dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Today I would like to first look at the person named John the Baptist and the role he plays in the story of Jesus and second look collectively at the the religious rulers of this time. Unfortunately John’s role, if you will, is cut short with his untimely death so we know little about him but the religious leaders keep finding their way back into the Gospel account.
Some things to keep in mind about today’s message is...
Before we begin this passage I need to give some background information on our two key players (John and the religious leaders) and the religious system of this time.
John The Baptist – We don’t know a lot about John the Baptist but what we do know we find it in the Scriptures.
The Religious Jews – Most often when the term "Jews" is used in the Gospel account the Apostle John is referring to the religious leaders. The hierarchy of the religious order was a little complex and it was tied to the government. There was no separation of Church and state.
The Temple Order – There are many ranks and levels to the priesthood and they are as follows…
The Religious Leaders –
John 1:19 - 31
John the Evangelist (the author of this Gospel) introduces a new topic in verse 19. He did not witness the account so he is probably telling a well known second hand story of what happened.
Verse 19 – The religious leaders (probably the Sanhedrin) sent some priests and Levites to question John about who he was. They did not send in the big guns as of yet. They were to ask John who he was… This was not just a casual “Who are you?” question. They were coming to find out specifically if John was the Messiah, Elijah or the Prophet.
At this time Israel was under Roman leadership and they had lost their sense of independence. There was a great sense of anticipation and hope for the Messiah to come and deliver the nation because it seemed the board was set for his imminent coming. The Jews believed the Messiah was coming to set Israel free from captivity and establish his Kingdom through the nation of Israel.
Verses 20 - 21 – John the Baptist vehemently denies he is the Messiah. He also states that He is neither Elijah nor the Prophet (which was believed to be one like Moses). The Jews inquired about Elijah because Malachi 4:5 reads, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.” They were wondering if he was the fulfillment of the prophecy. They thought the prophet like Moses because Deuteronomy 18:15 says, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen.”
Verse 23 – John states who he is and why he has come. He is the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3, “I am the voice crying out in the wilderness, ‘make straight the way of the Lord.’” He was the one who laying the foundation for the One who all of Israel has been anticipating… The Messiah.
Verse 25 - 28 – By what authority was he baptizing? According to D.A. Carson in his commentary on John, “There interest is in what authorizes John’s baptismal practices. It is not that baptism is unknown. Some Jewish groups practiced ‘proselyte baptism’, i.e. proselytes were baptized in the process of converting to Judaism… Candidates baptized themselves. One of the things that characterized the baptism of John the Baptist is that he administered it.” He continues, “They want to discover by what authority John is baptizing Jewish people as part of the preparation for the Kingdom of God he is announcing. Looking around for an adequate authority to sanction so extraordinary a practice, they wonder if he is an (end times) figure.”
I have given a lot of background information and it has been given to assist us in better understanding some future events of John. However at this point I to want to stop and look at how all this can be tied together and apply to us today. As I was studying this passage I thought about not only are we introduced to two new characters in this story but also to two opposing attitudes when it comes to our relationship with God. I would characterize these groups into two categories; heart changers and rule followers.
John the Baptist’s ministry and life was devoted to pointing people to Jesus. He was a heart changer. He knew his place in life. He had a humble and strong spirit to him. He was not about self promotion, he was about Jesus promotion. He had no agenda of his own. He had God’s agenda. He was more concerned with people being right with God by preaching a message of baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins. His purpose and goal was to show people a new way of life and a true relationship with God through the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
The Jews (or religious leaders) on the other hand were all about rules, conformity and power. Their whole lives and ministry were centered on keeping the law and being pious. Their “religion” was more about doing than being. They were very much into self promotion and power by imposing rules and regulations on people based on their own interpretations and beliefs. The clothes they wore were lavish and their attitudes were conceited. They had no concern for God’s agenda; they were more about God changing his agenda to fit their plans. There was no talk of repentance and forgiveness and submitting to God. It was all about the rules. Their righteousness was based on outwardly keeping the rules.
When I look at these two groups I am reminded of how these attitudes are still among us today. Thankfully there are heart changers in this world today. There are believers today who are caught up in Christ promotion and preaching a message of repentance and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. They understand that their spirituality or faith is not a result of keeping rules and pointing out the sins of others in a self righteous way. They are who they are because they are submitted to the One (Jesus) who has shown us the way to the Kingdom. A heart changer receives a new heart when Jesus becomes their Lord and Savior. They don’t just become better versions of themselves, they become new creations in Christ. The old has passed away and the new has come.
There are also people and attitudes among us today of the rule followers. These are individuals depend on “doing” more than “being”. In their minds their fulfillment of duties and “being a good person” are all they need in order to be a Christian. They attend church on a semi regularly basis, they try to be moral (but like all of us fail every so often). They will put some money in the plate when it comes around and feel good about their duties they have fulflled. There is little to no change in heart; they are the same person they have always been and maybe there is a little compartment in their life for God.
The question I want to leave with you today is… Are you a heart changer or are you a rule follower in your relationship with Jesus? Are you putting all your chips on the fact that you are a good person and follow the rules as insurance of eternal life? Or have you repented of your sins, sought forgiveness and given your heart completely over to Jesus to completely transform your life?
 Carson, D.A. (1991) The Gospel of John p. 145 Grand Rapids, MI: William Eerdmans Publishing Company
I am a sucker for autobiographies and biographies of well known contemporary and historical people. I love to watch shows like VH1’s Behind the Music, The E True Hollywood Story, or any documentary about musicians, actors, authors or historical figures. A common theme among many contemporary musicians, actors or authors deal with how they face a great difficulty or trying experience(s) that brings them down. It may be alcohol, drugs, power, immorality etc. I love It is when the person finally has an epiphany in life and they finally get their act together to overcome huge obstacles and addictions in their life emerging triumphant (and sometimes a little wiser).
I believe in many ways we are intrigued by these stories, struggles and triumphs of individuals who are regularly in the public eye. We are all a little curious and we like to take a look into the lives of individuals who have helped shaped society, the entertainment world or history in one way or another. Why we are so fascinated is beyond me. Why we like to peer into the lives of others is a mystery. Maybe it is the stories of triumph, maybe some can relate with the addictions and struggles various people have or maybe we are just plain nosey?
I think my fascination with biographies and autobiographies has been a key component as to why I am captivated with the Gospel accounts in the Bible. The Gospel writings are basically the life story or biography of Jesus Christ’s ministry here on earth. They speak of his many teachings, miracles, and deeds which certainly clarify God’s purpose for humanity and make up the Gospel message.
I have chosen the Gospel of John as our subject for this blog and I chose John because it is a detailed (but not exhaustive) eyewitness account of the life of Jesus Christ. It is an in depth look into the life of Jesus Christ as witnessed by the Apostle John. The overall theme or purpose of the the Gospel of John is written in John 20:31 “We write these things so you may believe that Jesus is the Christ.” I pray that as we look at the life of Christ your understanding and relationship with him deepens and your faith is strengthened. We will look at the life of Jesus Christ, his deeds, his teachings, his death and resurrection and what they mean to us today. As we will see in the next few moments, weeks and months everything about the life of Christ (his eternal existence, his incarnation, his ministry, his death and resurrection) has a purpose and it was all established for humanities benefit since the beginning of all things.
Today is a general introduction and background to the Gospel of John and I will spend only a little time on the first 18 verses of chapter one.
Author/ Date/ Background:
John (the son of Zebedee) the Apostle is the author. This is the same John who wrote 1,2,3 John and the same one who is believed to have written Revelation. Since John never actually uses his name in the book it is generally agreed that he is the author. There external evidence that even the early Church Father’s support John’s authorship. It was written about 40 to 60 years after the death of Jesus which would put it at about 70 to 100 A.D. There isn’t enough evidence to be more precise. This Gospel letter was written to Jews and Gentiles in Ephesus and he was writing to show Jesus is/was the chosen Messiah. The purpose for his writing was evangelical in intent and informative so the readers could have a deeper understanding of Jesus and eternal life.
The first 18 verses have aptly been titled “The prologue to the Gospel” by many. John takes the time at the beginning of his account to be what Gary M. Burge writes, “An overture to the story of the rest of the Gospel.” He establishes some truths about Jesus
Verse 1 – Since time began the Word was present. There has not been a time when the Word did not exist. The Word as we will soon see refers to Jesus and He has always been, He was not created and He has no beginning. This makes Jesus eternal. The Word was with God… this does not just mean he was in close proximity but implies intimate personal relationship.
Not only was the Word with God but was also the very essence of God Himself. I like the way The New English Translation reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God.
Verse 3 – The Word is now referred to as a He and this He who is the eternal God is the creator of all things. Whatever is in existence is here because it was created by the Word. The Word is the agent of Creation in Genesis “God said…” and it came into existence. Thus we can safely deduce that the Word is Jesus, he is eternal, the Creator and God. Colossians 1:15, 16 says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him – all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers – all things were created through him and for him.” And Hebrews 1:2 says, “in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world.”
Verses 4, 5 – In Him is life… Jesus doesn’t just possess life; he is the source of life… He is the source of physical and spiritual life. As we noted above that he is the Creator of all (physical life) but also through his death and resurrection He became the source of Spiritual life as well.
John also denotes that Jesus is the light that dispels darkness. In the Bible darkness is synonymous with death and evil and light dispels the darkness. The darkness will try to overcome Jesus (as we will see in the Gospel) but to no avail. Christ is victorious! F.F. Bruce writes in his commentary, “Light and darkness are opposites, but they are not opposites of equal power. Light is stronger than darkness; and darkness cannot prevail against it.
Verse 6 – 8 – John is referring to John the Baptist. The Apostle John (who incidentally is not John the Baptist) says that John is not the light but the witness to the light. His job and purpose in life was to prepare the way and testify of the coming Messiah who is Jesus.
Verses 9 – 13 – Jesus is the true light. Others may have made this claim but Jesus is the real deal. He gives light to all who believe in Him. He came to the world to bring the light and the world (namely his own people) did not receive Him, instead they crucified him and left Him for dead. However to those who did receive Him He gave them the power or right to be called children of God. He has given us Spiritual re-birth! We are not born again of humans but are born again through the Spirit of God and declared His children. To those who believe we are now considered members of God’s family.
Verse 14- 18 - The Word became flesh: The incarnation. The eternal God, Creator of all, and the light of the world took on the form of a man and dwelt among humanity. John was an eyewitness as he walked, talked and touched the living God in human flesh. John himself bore witness to Jesus’ glory. The word glory means “the most exalted state or kingly majesty”. This could refer to Christ’s transfiguration and his death and resurrection in which John witnessed.
Today I would encourage you to read over the first 18 verses of John chapter one and reflect on what these verses mean to you. Let this be a time of allowing God to search your heart and make himself known to you. Reflect on Jesus, his word, his act of creation, his glory, his light and life that is offered up to all who believe. I ask you to do this so as we continue this study you may see Jesus for who He truly is.
 Burge, Gary M. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: John, p.25. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Books.
 Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
 Bruce, F.F. (1994). The Gospel of John, p..34. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. Eerdman’s Publishing Co.
There have been times in my life where I have had an overwhelming sense of God’s presence. These encounters are vivid and life changing. I can recall at least three times (I am sure there are many more) for certain when my surroundings seemed to fade away and the presence of God was with me. The first occurrence was in Bible College. I was in Chapel service and it was a regular chapel service; I had been to dozens of them in my time at school. This specific evening I was feeling convicted that I had allowed spiritual pride to creep into my life. I was not only convicted of pride but I also had a burdening conviction for unrepentant sin in my life. I began praying for brokenness and repentance during the time of praise and worship. I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. Suddenly it seemed as though the music of the praise band started to fade in my head, I then had a sense that I was alone in the presence of God. I began to weep and cry over my sin and I spent the next few moments in what seemed to be the actual presence of God. It was beautiful, it was awe inspiring, it was scary and it was freeing.
The second time was at a staff meeting at my church in PA. Yeah, I know a staff meeting isn’t the place where you would normally have an encounter with God (are there really such things as normal encounters with God?). Every Monday the Pastoral staff would gather for lunch. We would eat, talk and end with a time of prayer. We did this like clockwork. On one special day after we had finished our lunches we went into prayer like we always did; except this time nobody started the prayer. It was silent for a few moments and at first it began to feel a bit awkward. Then a few moments turned into minutes and the minutes turned into about a half an hour. I spent this time in complete silence and I sought God and his plan for my life, ministry and family. I can’t even begin to explain this time spent in the holy presence of God. When we concluded we all just looked at each other and didn’t really say much to each other but we all knew that we had spent time in the presence of the King. It was invigorating.
The third was at the funeral service for my friend Thom Potts. Once again it sounds strange to have an encounter with God at a funeral but it was a funeral like I had never been to before. The service began with a time of praise and worship. As soon as the few men began playing, the presence of God was immediately sensed by us all. Carrie and I both recall the amazing time of worship we experienced. In our time of grief and celebration Jesus showed up and ministered to us all.
Today we will look at the Apostle John’s encounter with Jesus Christ on the Island of Patmos. This is an unusual encounter but it is one that has a lot of impact on both John and all believers of his time and even for us today.
Read Revelation 1: 9 - 20
Revelation is an extremely difficult book to understand. I will admit if his epistle wasn't true it would make for great science fiction reading. It is a difficult book to understand because it has a lot symbolism and many different ways people have interpreted it. Regardless it is a wonderful book and a general reading of it may confuse the average reader but the story is clear “God wins”! Today I would like to look at a small portion of the Apocalypse of John as He encounters Jesus in His full glory.
The word Greek word for Revelation is translated as Apocalypse. When many of us hear this word we tend to think of the end of the world. We think of it as the conclusion of all things. However the word itself in John’s time (and for us) simply means “unveiling of something hidden.” It is believed to be a book that unveils God’s plan for history.
Verse 9: The Apostle John writes this letter from the island of Patmos. It was a rocky island located in the Aegean Sea. It was an exile island where people were sent who banished for religious or political reasons. The Apostle John tells us he was sent there for preaching the Gospel.
Verse 10 - 11: John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day – Some have suggested “In the Spirit” meant that John was taken from the Island of Patmos and transferred to the throne room of Heaven (we see this in Chapter 4). Others suggest and probably more rightly that John was in a trance like state or he had a holy vision or revelation.
Early Christians recognized Sunday as the day Jesus rose from the dead thus the Lord’s Day was recognized as Sunday. Pagans would also set aside a day to honor the emperor, and in response Christians chose the first day of the week to honor Christ.[i]
John hears a loud thunderous voice telling him to write down what he is told and send it to the seven churches. According to D.A. Carson, “The cities were both postal and administrative centres. It has been reckoned that at the time of John’s writing this area had the greatest concentration of Christians in the world.”[ii]
Verse 12 – 16: John turns around to see the person who is speaking to him and I am certain he is not prepared for what he is about to see.
In the next few verses John gives the reader a vivid description of the risen and glorious savior. These verses are filled with symbolism and give us a glimpse of our Savior in his full glory in the heavenly places.
The number 7: The number seven is significant in this passage and in the Bible for that matter. In this passage there are seven lamp stands, churches, stars and angels. Seven is the number of completeness. This is something we should keep in our minds as we continue along.
Verse 17: John’s response was probably no different than yours or mine would be if we encountered Jesus in His full glory. He falls at Jesus’ feet as if dead. In fact his response is very similar to the reactions of Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel when they had visions of Jesus as well.
Verses 17b – 20: Jesus reassures John. “Do not be afraid”… These are words Jesus uses over and over again to comfort his people. We must note John was living in a time of persecution and persecution was going to get worse and Jesus tells him not to be afraid. He comforts John and restores his confidence so he can hear the words that he is about to speak. He assures him that he is the one who was at the beginning and has no end; he has conquered death. He lived, he died and he lives again. He holds the key to death and Hades which means he has the power over death and Hades and the Bible is clear that this power belongs to God and God alone.
John is then commanded to write down the things he has seen (the vision of Jesus), the things he is about to hear (the letters to the church) and the things that take place after this (the future and heavenly glories).
So how does all this translate for us today? For starters it should cause us to pause and ponder the greatness of our savior. It should pique our interest as to what Jesus has to say to the Church universal (which is what we will begin next week). On an individual level it should speak about the magnificence of Jesus. We can see He is sovereign over the world. He is present in the Church today. He is our high priest who makes intercession for us. He is our judge. He is the head of the Church. He is pure. His Word is powerful. He has all power and authority over death and Hades. He was once dead but is now alive. He is the King who is seated on the throne in heaven. If you skip ahead and read the conclusion you see Jesus is victorious over evil and because of this you are as well.
[i] The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 76
[ii] New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.) (Re 1:9–20). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
Do you believe that anyone is so sinful that he cannot be saved? Thankfully the answer is an emphatic NO! We serve a merciful and forgiving God whose grace extends a long way. It is freeing for us to know and accept that regardless of what any of us have done in the past God’s grace, love, mercy and forgiveness is available to all who encounter Christ and respond to his call to become a follower of him.
Today I want to share a little about my best friend who lives in Washington State. Early in my life he and I became best friends. We used to hang out all the time. There was a point in both of our lives where we went in opposite directions socially (he became a Christian and I wanted nothing to do with Christianity) but we remained friends. He watched out for me during my rebellious years. I look back and I remember that I did many stupid (and irresponsible) things as a college student. I was living a life of rebellion. I lived a reckless and sin infested life. To say I was a rough individual would be an understatement. I lived in complete abandonment of rules and regulations. Fortunately and thankfully my friend was there to watch out for me. He cared about me, he was concerned for my safety and most of all he wanted me to meet Jesus. In an odd sort of way he had a servant attitude as he would accompany me to parties and bars to make sure I stayed out of trouble. He would often share Jesus with me and I would just pass him off as a Jesus freak. Thom would often say to Drew, “Why do you waste your time on Jeff?
I am not only thankful for the prayers and investment of my friend but I am most thankful for the grace of God. I am thankful for Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you are saved; through faith, it is the gift of God.” It is not just a gift… it is THE gift from God.
Nobody reading this today who is a born again follower of Jesus can say, “I am a Christian because of something I did.” Not a single one of us is so good, pure, moral and holy that you deserve God’s grace and not a single one of is too far gone, sinful or lost to receive God’s grace. We all should rejoice and be thankful for God’s extending grace.
Saul to Paul (Sinner to Saint)
In this ongoing series we have looked at various individuals who had encounters with Jesus and in their encounter their lives were forever changed. We have looked at the encounters of the Apostles as they were called to follow Jesus, the Pharisee Nicodemus who found out what it meant to be born again, the adulteress who experienced true mercy and forgiveness, and the rich young ruler who walked away from Jesus.
Read Acts 9:1 - 9
Sola gratia… This is Latin for “Grace alone”. Grace, what a beautiful word. God’s grace, it is a beautiful theological truth. Grace – “God’s unmerited kindness shown to undeserving humanity.” Without grace we are all lost.
The Apostle Paul truly understands, appreciates and loves the grace of God. This was not always true though. He may not have truly understood grace until he had his encounter with Jesus Christ. Paul loved grace. He spoke about it often in his writing. He brought the message of grace through faith in Jesus to the Gentiles through his preaching and writing. However Paul was not always a grace loving, Jesus preaching, messenger of hope that we know him to be.
Before Paul had his Christ encounter he was one of those individuals that many believed was too far gone to be saved. Before he became the Apostle Paul he was known as Saul. He was an aspiring Pharisee who was quickly making a name for himself. We are first introduced to him in Acts 7 as the young man who was looking on with approval and holding the cloaks of the elders and scribes who were stoning the Apostle Stephen. Early in his career Saul launched a campaign against this Christian movement as he ravaged homes, threatened, murdered and arrested men and women and through them into prison. It was all done with the approval of the leadership of his time. This tyrant caused a great dispersion to occur among believers (which we now know was part of God’s plan) who were fleeing for their lives and relocating to various Jewish and Gentile cities. Charles Swindoll writes, “He hated the name of Jesus, so much so, he became a self avowed, violent aggressor, persecuting and killing Christians in allegiance to the God of heaven.”[i]
Saul was born a Jew in the city of Tarsus. In his youth he went to Jerusalem to study under the teachings of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), who was perhaps one of the most notable of first century sages. Saul was totally committed to the Law as interpreted and understood by the Rabbis, and he became a member of the sect of Pharisees with high aspirations. To Saul, followers of Jesus were heretics and they were an abomination to the God he served. In response to this he joined in the persecution of the Christian church. He would stop at nothing to accomplish the goal of destroying Christianity. [ii]
Paul’s Christ Encounter
Verses 2 & 3: Saul approaches the high priest and asked for letters to the synagogue at Damascus to seek out and arrest anyone who was a follower of Jesus. He set out for his 150 mile journey (It would take him about a week). On the road to Damascus Saul comes face to face with the risen Jesus Christ and has a Christ encounter that changes his life radically. He would literally become a new person with a new outlook and purpose.
Verses 3 & 4: “Suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ He responded, ‘Who are you Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.’” At this very moment Jesus in his grace reached down and called the man who was persecuting his people to become one of the people he was persecuting. Isn’t grace amazing? In God’s never ending grace he stops a murderer (Saul) dead (pardon the pun) in his tracks and calls him to become that which the murderer despises. Jesus tells him specifically to stop what he is doing and do what he is told to do. He was now going to become a messenger of Jesus Christ to both Jews and Gentiles about the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
This all happens with men who were traveling with Saul and they stood there speechless because they could hear what was going on but not see anything happening. This encounter was a time where God pours his grace on Saul and he is converted to Christ. His life will never ever be the same again.
In this short passage we witness an event that has reshaped the face of Christianity. A murderous tyrant comes face to face with the savior and has a salvation experience that completely rocked his world. Paul understood that day that all he had devoted his life to destroying was in fact a movement of God. Up to this point Paul was completely dependent upon himself and his works for his righteousness. Yet he eventually realizes that all of his law keeping and rule following was all for naught. Paul actually says this in Philippians 3:4 – 11… Paul acknowledges that his conversion and transformed life is all a result of God’s grace. He says if anyone could boast in the flesh of his works it would be him. However he counted it all as loss in relation to the grace of God. He knows and acknowledges that it is only by God’s grace that he will receive eternal life. If Paul wrote nothing else other than these verses it would be enough to know that he understood the beauty of God’s grace.
GRACE! It is the gift from God, it is not something we deserve, He has given it to us regardless of who we are and what we have done. Our salvation does not depend on how good we are, how popular we are or how little we sin in life. It depends solely on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
God has an abundance of grace and love for you. This was displayed through the cross of Jesus Christ. Even when all of us were entrenched in sinful ways and in complete disregard for Jesus doesn't take away the fact that He still gave His life for you. God’s love for you is never ending. Jesus didn’t die on the cross based upon what our response would be to Him, He did it so humanity would receive redemption, life and eternal joy.
You and I have been saved by grace. We didn’t deserve to be saved, we deserve hell. God’s unmerited favor shown to you and I, He provided a way. It is THE gift from God.
Regardless of our past we all need to realize that our salvation is not based upon what we do (works), but based upon what Christ did for us (His grace). When we were called by God it was because He first loved us, not vice versa. Our response to Him is based upon our conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit, this leads to the realization that we are indeed sinful, decrepit, and in need of a savior. God calls all of us to receive His gift of grace.
No body is so far gone that God cannot extend his grace to him. God’s grace has the power to transform. His grace turns sinners into saints. This is great news for all of us. I close with these words by the band U2 with their song “Grace”.
“What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things”
[i] Swindoll, Charles (2002). Paul: The Man of Grace and Grit, p.4. Nashville, TN Word Publishing.
[ii] Richards, Larry: Every Man in the Bible. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1999, S. 177
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I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.