Whenever I prepare a message or devotional one of the first question I try to answer is “What is the theme or point of the text?” Once this is determined I begin to structure it around the theme and then determine how it applies to us today. Sometimes the theme/point is blatantly obvious, other times I need to dig for it because it just isn’t there. When I am faced with this dilemma I come to a crossroad where I have to decide (prayerfully)… Do I still write about the text and pray the Holy Spirit speaks to individuals or do I skip it and go on to the next portion where the theme/point is apparent? Today’s text is one of those passages where the theme seems to be non-existent. After struggling through this passage I feel as though I need to write through this difficult passage and rely on the Spirit to reveal the theme. I mention all this at the beginning to let you know there will be a lot of information and very little (if any) personal application.
Read John 7:1 - 23
Verse 1: “After this…” A time after Jesus’ talk about the bread of life. This doesn’t mean it is directly after (i.e. the very next day) but it is an undetermined time after Jesus’ feeding of the multitudes (some have suggested as much as 6 months after the feeding of the multitude). He remained in Galilee (A large region in N. Israel) because he did not want to go down to the southern mountainous part of Israel called Judea (Jerusalem was located in Judea) because some of the Jewish leaders were seeking to kill him (probably because of his controversial teaching and for healing on the Sabbath).
Verse 2: “Feast of Booths” or “Feast of Tabernacles” or called today “Sukkot” – One of seven Festivals/Holy Days the Jews celebrated. Description of Feast is found in Leviticus 23:33-44. This celebration happens in late Sept. to late October. It is an seven day festival that commemorates the Israelites dwelling in the desert for 40 years and recognition of God provisions for them. It is also a celebration of the final harvest. For seven days the Israelites would dwell or live in booths (or as they are called today Sukkahs). These booths become the primary living quarters of ones home and all meals are eaten in them and many sleep in them as well. On the first and the eighth day of the Festival there are sacred assemblies where no work is to be done. After gathering the produce of the land they were to celebrate and give offerings to the Lord throughout the week. It is/was believed to be one of the more popular of the three feasts and drew large crowds of people who came to Jerusalem.
Verse 3: Jesus’ brothers try and talk Jesus into going to Jerusalem with them and show the multitudes in this largely populated area his miracles and deeds. The NET Bible suggests maybe his brothers were trying to convince Jesus to win back the followers he lost when he talked about being the bread of life. It also suggests (which I believe is more likely) they were encouraging Jesus to come with them because if He is making these claims to being the Son, bread, water etc. He should be trying to win over the crowds in populated areas. Why would he be wasting his time in remote areas when he could be reaching more people in the capital city?
Verses 4, 5: They’re logic made sense. If you are trying to go public with your claims why wouldn’t you go to populated areas like Jerusalem instead of the remote areas of Galilee? It is only logical to gain followers you need to be in populated areas. You’re not going to get anywhere by keeping who you are secret. Isn’t that one of the laws of real estate… Location, location, location? They, like many of Jesus’ opponents were not believers (yet) so they could not see God’s designs for Jesus. Logically this would have been the best thing for him to do but as we will see in the next verse God is not necessarily on our time table.
Verse 6: Jesus responds that his time has not yet come to validate. The NIV reads best, “The right time for me has not come, for you anytime is right.” Jesus says God determines when it is his time. As much sense as his brothers logic made it wasn’t up to them to determine when and what he should be doing. It is only determined by God the Father. For the brothers now was the time to move; but Jesus wasn’t following their schedule.
Verse 7: The world Jesus speaks of is the world system. They belong to the world system and the system cannot and does not hate its own. They are not believers hence they are of the world and the world system embraces those who are opposed to God.
The world does hate Jesus… Why? Because he opposes and exposes the entire world system represents. He exposes the evil deeds the world promotes. This is something we as Christians can expect. As Jesus will mention later on, the world will hate his followers not because of who we are but because who we belong to. We should expect the worldly people to jeer, poke fun at or even persecute us because we do not belong to the world but because we belong to Jesus. F.B. Meyer writes, “Not to be hated by the world; to be loved and flattered and caressed by the world – is one of the most terrible positions in which a Christian can find himself.”
Verse 10: At another undisclosed time after his brothers left Jesus secretly goes to Jerusalem to the Feast of Tabernacles. The only reason we can assume Jesus goes is because God signals him to go in one way or another. We can also assume Jesus didn’t go with his brothers because their motivation was for Jesus to go and prove himself by miracles. Yet Jesus’ time for public acceptance of worship had not come. So he did eventually go to Jerusalem but not for the reasons his brothers wanted him to go.
Verse 11 - 13: The Jews expected to see Jesus at during the Feast. There was a lot of secret talk about him going around. They were mixed thoughts as some were saying he was a good man while others felt he was a deceitful man who had a demon. There was much talk about him but of course none of it was spoken publicly.
Verses 14 - 15: Jesus goes to the temple in the middle of the week and begins to teach openly. They were amazed with his teaching since he was not a student of the law nor a Jewish leader. However he spoke with authority and power and this amazes the listeners.
Verses 16, 17: His words are not his own but are the words of the Father. One must have a faith commitment to God in order to understand His will. It is through faith one will know that His words are from the Father. One cannot discern this in their own power since his teachings defy logic in many cases.
Verse 18: The litmus test for authentic preaching/teaching. One who is doing it in his own power and for his own glory speak to be recognized by others for their intellect, wise sayings and thought provoking words. In other words they are seeking recognition, praise and to be held in high regard. The one who does it for the honor and glory of God is the one who is trustworthy. There is no hidden agenda and they seek no self fulfillment.
Verse 19: According to D.A. Carson, “The reference to Moses stems from two needs: 1) The need to develop more thoroughly what ‘God’s will’ is. For both Jesus and his interlocutors (those he is in conversation with), the will of God is revealed in the law. 2) The need to give substance to the argument the reason why people do not find out that Jesus’ teaching comes from God is that they have not chosen to do God’s will, i.e. to obey the law. Jesus is about to mention specific elements of the law that Jesus’ opponents do not keep. Put differently, Jesus needs to demonstrate that his opponents do not share the purity of motives that characterizes his own service for the Father.” He is exposing their hypocrisy. They are seeking to kill him because he healed on the Sabbath (supposedly breaking the law of the Sabbath) yet they break the Sabbath all the time through circumcision on the Sabbath.
Verse 20: Instead of defending themselves they do what most do when they have no reasonable response. They claim he is a lunatic, crazy or mad. How often do we see this happen? When people hear of various Christian teachings people don’t like and instead of having a calm and cordial discussion they resort to name calling.
Verses 21 – 23: Jesus defends himself and uses the law to show what he did is no different than what they are doing currently. “The one thing” spoken of in verse 21 is the miracle or healing of the crippled man on the Sabbath. By Jesus healing and then telling the former handicapped man to take up his mat was breaking the sacred law of the Sabbath. They regularly broke the Sabbath (the law of Moses) to circumcise in order that the law of circumcision (the covenant of Abraham) wouldn’t be broken. A child must be circumcised on the eighth day and when the eighth day fell on a Sabbath the authorities broke the Sabbath. They did this regularly and Jesus did this once. His response is why are you so upset with me… I healed a man and made him whole on the Sabbath and you criticize me for this? You do no different when you perform circumcision on the Sabbath so you don’t break the law of circumcision.
Some final thoughts…
Speaking the truth in love is often a hard thing to do. It is especially hard when one is called upon to say something difficult to someone you love and you know there is a possibility that you may make that person angry, turn against you or maybe even cause physical harm. What makes it most difficult for me is when the person you say these hard sayings to thinks you are speaking out judgment or intended to hurt them but in fact you are doing just the opposite. Words are powerful, the truth is even more powerful and when we fail to speak the truth in love by not saying anything at all in fear of the negative response then are we really showing true love? That’s a good question and one that is not easy to answer.
Jesus had many hard sayings and teachings throughout the Gospels. He spoke some difficult and downright harsh words to people He loved. He wanted more than anything else for people to receive His words which brought life, joy, peace and happiness. However when he did speak the words of truth the listeners were often offended or angered and either sought to harm him or abandoned Him altogether. Maybe you know how Jesus felt because you have had a time where you spoke a hard saying to someone and they responded in a way that was not positive and may have walked away from the relationship or maybe event sought to bring harm to you in one way or another.
In today’s passage we will look at one event where this is the case for Jesus. He continues to talk about being the bread of life/heaven (the truth) and in doing so a large group of what seemed to be supporters left him because they were offended. Jesus loved His followers so much that He often spoke about difficult things that were hard to digest but ultimately they were words that bring life and point people to the Father.
Read John 6:52 – 71
Verse 52: Unfortunately the Jews could not get their heads around the concept of Jesus being the Bread who came down from heaven (let’s face it it’s not a very easy concept to understand); and they couldn’t grasp that Jesus wasn’t promoting cannibalism either. They were taking him literally and refusing to see with spiritual eyes.
In verses 53 – 58 Jesus repeats five times about those who eat his flesh and drink his blood will have eternal life. As we have seen the bread is symbolic of Jesus’ body, or his flesh that was broken or given on the cross of Calvary for the sins of the world. Jesus is showing that all He is doing on earth is leading up to the sacrifice on the cross. This is the Father’s will for the Son. Eating and drinking are ways of partaking or providing nourishment. When we eat and drink Jesus Christ we are getting spiritual nourishment or even the means to eternal life.
Verse 53: “I tell you the truth, unless you partake (eat and drink Jesus), you have no life.” Some believe this is a teaching of Jesus on the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist and I can see how one could come to that conclusion but I think He is talking about something else.
Verse 54: When you compare verse 54 with verse 40 you can see how we come to the conclusion that Jesus is talking about how eating and drinking his flesh and blood is synonymous to saving faith.
Verse 40 – “Those who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”
Verse 54 – “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
I can conclude by the similarities in statements (and that they are in reference to the same thing… eternal life) eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking His blood is equivalent or symbolic of looking to the Son and believing in Him. As a Protestant I do not see any salvific occurrences in taking communion. When we take the Lord’s Supper we are commemorating or remembering the act that leads to salvation (Jesus on the cross of Calvary) and the new life it brings with His sacrifice and this is why I don’t think He is speaking of The Lord’s Supper.
Verses 55 - 56: Jesus once again clarifies what he is saying… His flesh/body/bread is the true food and his blood is the true drink. This basically means that all who believe in faith in Jesus Christ are truly getting to the source of life. If one eats and drinks of Jesus (figuratively speaking) then this person is in turn is abiding in Jesus and Jesus abides in the person. The one who believes now belongs to Jesus or more simply we are kept in his care. Nothing could be closer or more intimate than this. When we eat literal food, we take it into our very being; and it becomes a part of us. When we (believe in faith) in Jesus as our Redeemer, He comes into our lives to abide, and we, too, abide (continually dwell) in Him.
Verse 57: It is because of the will of the Father that Jesus came to earth and the Father is the true source of life. Since this is the case anyone who feeds or consumes like solid food Jesus will also have that source of life in them. If we are in Christ we now have life because He is one with the source of life; the Father.
Verse 58: Jesus is the bread of life. He is the source of true contentment, satisfaction and life. He is greater than the manna that the Israelites feasted on in the desert for 40 years. This special manna, which was given to the people by God, was only a temporary thing for the Jews. It satisfied their hunger for the moment but ultimately left them hungry again. Plus the manna was not life giving like the bread from heaven (Jesus). The Jews who feasted on manna and still died eventually, however anyone who eats of the bread of life will never die (spiritually speaking).
Verse 60, 61: This whole talk obviously offended many disciples. It is important to note here that the disciples spoken of are not the twelve chosen disciples who devoted their lives to following Christ. The word disciple simply means follower or learner. Apparently one can be called a disciple and still not be a true convert of Jesus Christ. These people loved following Jesus when he was performing miracles and feeding them but now that He is actually stating that just being a casual observer is not what Jesus requires from his followers. The listeners took great offense in this all of what Jesus is saying and said, “This is a hard saying…” They were saying essentially this is a very demanding thing Jesus is requiring of us and many were offended that He would even demand anything from them. So like most casual followers of Jesus found this too much and abandoned him.
This seems to be the case with many today. Much of what Jesus talks about in the Bible is either too demanding (i.e. one must take up his cross and follow me.) or offensive (i.e. No one comes to the Father except through me.) even after 2,000 years. In a nutshell Jesus is saying for one to have eternal life one must put their complete faith and trust in Him. This takes deep commitment on our part to continually abide in Him. We are not called to be spectators but are called to be part of the calling of God in our lives. This requires movement, it requires dedication and loyalty and this for many is too much of a demand.
This is a hard and demanding statement Jesus makes yet he loves us enough to tell us what we need to have eternal life and to abide in us. Jesus isn’t saying the hard saying to make it seem hopeless; he says the hard things to offer us hope.
· Jesus asks if what he says offends them.
· We see soon enough that for many it is was too demanding and they abandoned him and go back to the ordinary “regular” lives.
Verse 62 - 66: One of two possibilities could be the case about Jesus’ statement in verse 62. 1) Jesus’ (eventual) ascension will make the offense even greater; or 2) Jesus’ ascension will remove or reduce the offense.
In answer to Jesus’ question many answered Him by their actions and turning away from Him and abandoning Him.
Verse 67: Jesus turns to the twelve and asks if they plan on leaving as well and Peter answers beautifully, “Lord where can we go? We are devoted to you and we believe you are the chosen Messiah. We have left everything to follow you. We have come too far to merely leave you at this point. We are in this for the long haul.”
If only our response would be as Peter’s when faced with the hard sayings of Jesus? I admit there are many things in Jesus’ teaching that I don’t have a clear grasp on and others that are quite honestly very demanding. Yet I make no claim to know all there is to know about Jesus, theology, doctrine or the Bible. I simply know that even up to this chapter Jesus has made it crystal clear that faith, belief, trust and commitment to him are clearly the key to everlasting life. So we are faced with some questions today… Do the words of Jesus offend you? Is what he asks of you too demanding? Will you abandon Jesus as soon as your faith is tested or something happens that you don’t like? Or are you like the 12 who stayed with Jesus and acknowledges “Lord, where else can I go? Without you life is empty and meaningless. I have way too much invested in you and I believe the words you spoke are words of truth and life and not an offense. I am in this until the end.”
MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Jn 6:56). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Carson, D.A. (1991) The Gospel According to John p. 300 – 301 Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdman’s Publishing Co.
I love Asian American food. Whenever I have the chance to go to a Chinese buffet, Mongolian grill or my all time favorite restaurant Pei Wei (which is never these days) I will go and I will savor every moment. The only problem for me with Asian American food is that it never seems to fully satisfy for any length of time. Sure I will go to a buffet or Mongolian grill and eat until my heart’s content (and then some) or usually to the point of being overly full. By the time I get home or within an hour to an hour and a half after eating I am hungry again. There seems to be no longevity to my satisfaction… I’m satisfied then soon thereafter I am not. This also happens with my children at fast food restaurants. When we travel we will stop at McDonald’s, BK or Wendy’s and the kids will get a Happy meal or Kid’s Meal. They receive their little kids box or bag with a hamburger, fries, drink and the toy they just can’t live without. As we drive Carrie and I experience a moment of silence as the kids eat their meals and play with their new toy. Without fail soon thereafter we hear, “I’m still hungry.” Or “Can I have a snack?” Much to our surprise our children were not completely satisfied with their meal. With all the nutrients, proteins and health these kids meals contain (said with thick sarcasm) our kids are hungry an hour and in most cases a half an hour after they finished their meals! To top it off by the time we get to our destination they have either misplaced, broke, or lost interest in the toy they had to have.
We all know both kinds of foods are not actually healthy and they are definitely not meals that are meant to be eaten every day. The hard truth is no food ever truly satisfies. Now I know Snicker’s claims to satisfy and I am still anticipating the day when I am completely satisfied after I eat one. Food never satisfies for the duration. We see throughout the Bible that even Jesus got hungry. Even the King of kings and Lord of lords couldn’t find contentment in food. Food, material possessions, and wealth will never and can never bring lasting happiness, contentment or satisfaction. If all of these cannot be attained in things we can physically touch or eat then why do we even bother trying to find true contentment, joy and satisfaction in life?
In today’s passage Jesus talks about true satisfaction. He tells us about the "things" we should and should not invest in this life in order to attain true fulfillment. He shows us the meaninglessness of setting our lives pursuing after physical things that have no eternal or spiritual value. He also challenges us to check our motivation in becoming disciples of Jesus. Today it is my prayer that we can evaluate our relationship with Jesus and what we invest our time, energy and resources in our lives today. Are we pursuing after empty pleasures of life or are we investing in things of eternal value and importance?
Read John 6:22 – 34
Verse 22, 23: The day after Jesus fed the crowd they noticed that one of the boats was gone and Jesus did not leave on this boat, only the disciples were in it. Interestingly that evening Jesus met up with the disciples when he walked on water (see verses 16 – 21) and they went to the other side of the sea. The crowds remained because they thought Jesus hadn’t left yet but as they were there more boats arrived. We are not certain as to why these boats arrived (possible from the storm on the previous night).
Verses 24: When they found that Jesus was no longer with them they crossed over the sea to Capernaum, where the disciples were, and they found Jesus there.
Verse 25: They found him and asked how he got there since he didn’t leave in the boat with the disciples. This could have been an opportune time to share with them how he had walked on water but he chose not to. This miracle was reserved for the disciples.
Verse 26: Keeping in his traditional manner Jesus does not answer the question directly that was asked of him. Instead he questions his followers’ motivation in seeking him out so diligently. He calls them out and tells them he knows their hearts and motivation in seeking him. They were not following Jesus because they were devoted disciples. They were interested in what Jesus would do for them. According to D.A. Carson, “(The miracle of feeding the 5,000) had filled the bellies of the people, and the crowd loved it and were willing on that basis to sign up immediately.” These followers were in it with Jesus as long as he kept feeding them. They were willing to be part of Jesus’ group as long as he gave them the things they wanted. The idea of sacrifice, serving and possibly dying were not even in the cards for these individuals. They simply wanted to witness his miracles (like a circus act) and be given free meals.
This brings up the question of motivation. Clearly the motivation of the crowd was to be fed and watch from the sidelines. They weren’t willing to become true disciples who were devoted to Jesus and the Kingdom of God. They were still hopeful that He was going to take care of things by restoring Israel and overthrowing Rome. They wanted to be on the winning team. They didn’t want to sign up for the team that in the end would seemingly look like fools and losers. They wanted to share in the glory and get their needs met.
Verse 27: Jesus is tells them to not invest in perishable things in life. Invest in what matters… The Kingdom of God and doing his will. Labor/work for things that matter and have eternal value, not in things that pass away where moth and rust destroy. Invest in Jesus.
Verse 28: When they heard Jesus say work or labor for God they immediately assume this means there is a specific work they can do that brings eternal life (which is Jesus). Their response was, “Ok, tell us what we need to do in order to receive eternal life (or to be part of the Kingdom) and we will do it.” This is a very human response.
Verse 29: Jesus responds that the work of God is not an actual work but is what Paul would affirm later in his ministry based on faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is only attained by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not one specific work.
Verse 30: They challenge Jesus in some ways, because they ask what signs he will give them in order for them to put their faith, trust and belief in him. They seek a sign or miracle (as if the feeding of the 5,000 wasn’t enough) before they will believe in Him. It seems odd they were looking for more signs. Possibly they were looking for a miracle that was more military or political. Perhaps they were looking for Jesus to storm the gates of Jerusalem.
Verse 31: The crowd makes reference to Moses and Manna in the desert.
Manna – Exodus 16:11 – 36: Means “What is it?” This was the bread from heaven every morning that God provided for the Israelites in the desert for all the years they were wandering. Even the Manna that God provided in the desert was perishable.
Verse 32: Moses didn’t provide the manna, God did. The manna served its purpose in the desert and God provided for the Israelites. Jesus states a new type of bread is available and it is the true bread of heaven.
Verse 33: Jesus is the bread of heaven. He came from heaven and he gives life to the world.
Verse 34: The response is similar to that of the Samaritan woman at the well. “Give us this bread always.” They still didn’t understand that the bread Jesus spoke of was not actual bread but Himself.
The motivation for many Christians today is grounded in “What’s in it for me?” They are not interested in being part of the Kingdom movement and being a true disciple of Jesus. They are only interested in what Jesus can do for them and not because of who He is. They have no concern for evangelism, discipleship or serving in Jesus’ name because it doesn’t benefit them personally. This is why the prosperity movement is so popular. The prosperity Gospel falsely teaches people to follow Jesus and He will make you financially prosperous. This Gospel says, "God wants you to have a mansion, Mercedes and a million dollars." This is completely contrary to what Jesus taught and what the Bible says. Jesus said, “If you follow me you will most likely not be rich, you won’t always be comfortable or have many possessions, and you certainly will not be well liked by the masses.”
The body of Christ is called to meet the needs of the people. If we see someone who is down and out we should serve them in Jesus’ name, we should help them with resources if we are able, and we most certainly should share with them the love of our wonderful Savior. But we should never give the false impression that if you follow Jesus He will give you everything you want or think you need. He will only give according to His will.
So I ask you today… What is your motivation in following Jesus? Are looking for him to give you things and prosper you or are you just madly in love with the one who willingly gave his life for you so that whoever believes in him shall be a part of the Kingdom of God? We need to ensure that we do not spend all of our time pursuing those things which have no ultimate significance but pursue that which is of eternal value and significance… Jesus Christ.
 Carson, D.A. (1991) The Gospel According to John p. 283Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdman’s Publishing Co.
 Wright, Tom. (2004) John For Everyone p. 80 Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
George Mueller was born in Prussia in 1805, and in his later teens became a Christian. In his 20’s he entered the full-time gospel ministry. During this time he went to Teignmouth, England to pastor a small church. He gave up his small salary when he found out it was paid through the rental of church pews. From that moment on he resolved to live by faith.
In 1832 he pastored another church in Bristol, England. It was there that his famous work with the orphans began when two young children were thrown upon the church's care. Mueller had little to no money to his name when he began the orphanage work; however in the next sixty years God provided more than $7.5 million to supply their needs. He had new buildings built or purchased, staff was hired, and the hundreds of children never missed a meal. Often times prayers were said at dinner over empty plates only to have food arrive at the last moment.
Mueller was a man of faith. He had confidence in knowing that God would supply all of his needs and the needs of his ministry for His glory. He writes, "But God, our infinite rich Treasurer, remains with us. It is this which gives me peace. Moreover if it pleases Him, with a work requiring about $264,000 a year...would I gladly pass through all these trials of faith with regard to means, if He only might be glorified, and His Church and the world benefited...I have placed myself in the position of having no means at all left; and 2,100 persons, not only daily at the table, but with everything else to be provided for, and all the funds gone; 189 missionaries to be assisted, and nothing whatever left; about one hundred schools with 9,000 scholars in them, to be entirely supported, and no means for them in hand; about four million tracts and tens of thousands of copies of the Holy Scriptures yearly now to be sent out, and all the money expended...I commit the whole work to Him, and He will provide me with what I need, in future also, though I know not whence the means are to come."
Wouldn’t it be awesome to have this kind of faith? Why do you think we lack the kind of faith that someone like Mueller had? Did he have more faith than us? Did God favor Him more than you and me? Did he serve a different God than we serve?
I hear people say “Where God guides, God provides”. Do I believe this? Do I believe I serve a God who is able to meet every single need I have and then some? Well, my friends you and I do have the same faith available to us that Mueller had. We serve the same God and He shows no favoritism in giving out faith. He is able and will provide for our needs every time; it just may not be in our time and in the manner we would choose.
Trusting God and his provisions is for some of us one of the most difficult things. Many of us simply cannot see past the current situation we are in and we begin to despair that God may forget about us. Today we will look at an event that most of us are probably somewhat familiar with. This is a portion of scripture that should encourage and give comfort to those of us who may struggle with trusting that God does in fact provide for ALL our needs. The text for today is John 6:1 – 15 and is the account of Jesus feeding the 5,000. It is a significant passage (and certainly one that was most talked about) since this is the ONLY miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospels accounts.
Read John 6:1 – 15
Verse 1 - 4: A time that is not specified but happened sometime after the healing of the handicap man and before or near the time of the Passover.
The Sea of Galilee/Tiberius – According to D.A. Carson, “About 20 AD Herod Antipas founded a city on the west shore and called it Tiberius, after the Roman emperor Tiberius Caesar. Gradually the name was transferred to the lake , though the change was not common in popular parlance until much later in the century, when John wrote.” 
A large crowd of people had obviously heard about the miracles Jesus performed (i.e. the man at the pool, the Officials son and probably more unrecorded ones) and were following him. They may have followed because they wanted to either witness a healing or miracle or actually be recipients of a healing or miracle themselves. For whatever reason they began following because there was something magnetic about this Jesus. One of the reasons there could have been so many people following him was the Passover was at hand. This was the celebration of God delivering the Jews from slavery in Egypt and commemorating the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt. This is second Passover spoken of in the Gospel of John.
Verses 5: As Jesus is sitting on the hillside talking to his disciples he notices a large crowd gathering. According to some of the other Gospel accounts Jesus had spent some time teaching and healing the people. This teaching and healing went on for some time because Jesus noticed the people were getting hungry.
Verse 6: Knowing full well there was no place nearby to get or buy food (plus I think Jesus already knew what he was going to do) Jesus tests Philip by asking him where they could buy food for these people.
Verse 7: Philip replies, “Two hundred denarii would not be enough money to buy bread for each of them to get a little.”
Philip’s outlook was bleak and I don't fault him one bit. He had no plausible answer to Jesus’ question and to make matters worse if there was a place nearby to buy food it would cost a small fortune. A denarius was about a day’s wages. Two hundred denarii would be about 8 months of wages. Philip said eight months worth of wages wouldn’t even be enough money to buy bread for the people and that would only be enough for a meager amount for each person. It was hopeless, so why not send the people home? Jesus’ plan however, was not to just give the people a scrap of bread, his intent was to feed them to their hearts content.
Verse 8 - 9: Peter’s brother Andrew shows up with a very small amount of food. He essentially says, “I asked around and this is all I could muster up, but what good is this going to be for such a large crowd?” He had five loaves and two fish.
The small fish were probably pickled fish (similar to herrings or sardines). The loaves of bread were barley loaves which meant that they were small inexpensive loaves of bread for the poorer classes of people. R.C. Sproul says in his commentary of John they were about the size of a Twinkie. What Andrew brought to Jesus was basically a meal fit for one person. He probably brought it to Jesus to show him how bleak the situation was and how ridiculous it would be to try and feed all the people.
Verse 10: Jesus tells the disciples to have the people sit down on the grass. As the Gospels of Mark and Luke say, they sat down in groups of 50 and 100. We are told there were about 5,000 men present. Some have projected that the actual number of people present could have been as high as 15,000 people if women and children were present as well.
Verse 11: Jesus takes the loaves and gives thanks to God for the provision and starts distributing the food to the seated people. The key to this verse is that he gave as much as they wanted. Jesus didn’t just give a scrap of bread and a piece of fish, he provided abundantly for the people present. He not only fed them, but he fed them to satisfaction.
Verse 12 - 13: When everyone ate until their heart’s content Jesus tells the disciples to pick up the leftovers and there was enough to fill 12 baskets. The number 12 may be significant here and may be symbolic of the 12 Tribes of Israel and God’s provision for the nation of Israel. All four Gospel accounts reference the 12 baskets so it is probably there to show the love and provision God has for Israel.
I pause here for a moment and I want to address something that has been heavy on my heart in regards to higher criticism or scholarly views of Scripture. Unfortunately when a miracle is recorded in the Bible there are certain “scholars” who find it necessary to explain away the miraculous. There are some who consider themselves higher critics of God’s Word and they seem to want to find an explanation in unexplainable things. They feel it is their job to use logic and reason in interpreting scripture instead of accepting by faith that the God of the Bible is able to do the miraculous without giving reason or explaining how or why He chooses to do it. There is s a teaching by some on this miracle that the real miracle in this story was that many had the foresight to pack a lunch before they came and others simply forgot and when it came time to eat those who remembered to bring their lunches learned a life lesson from the little boy as he was willing to share his lunch they too felt convicted and shared their lunches with those who forgot; thus making it an ethical miracle; the miracle of sharing.
Others have taught that prior to this event Jesus and his disciples had stored a huge cache of bread and fish in a nearby cave. When it came time to eat Jesus had the disciples distribute the food from their excess supply from the nearby cave. Trickery is hardly a miracle.
Verses 14 - 15: When the people saw the miracle or sign Jesus had done they immediately perceived he was The Prophet (Deut 18:15) that Moses spoke about. They in turn wanted to make Jesus their king and Jesus wanted nothing to do with being forced to be a king (by human means) and then touted off to lead a rebellion against the Romans. This was not why he came and this was not his purpose. He already was the King of the Jews but was not a monarchal King; He came as a theocratic King and had a completely different plan and purpose for humanity than over throwing the Roman bondage on Israel.
After reading and studying this miracle of Jesus and hearing testimonies of how God provided for individuals at what seemed the last hour, I am convinced that God can and will provide for his children (you and me). I take comfort in knowing that in this account Jesus does not just give them scraps to get by but he feeds them until they are satisfied. God provides for his people exactly what we need. We see throughout the Gospels Jesus talking much about trusting God and believing God and I think He talks about it often because He knows how difficult theses times can be. He assures us over and over that he is trustworthy AND able to provide all we need. I myself have trouble with this at times. I look at the situation before me and I see no logical or plausible solutions and it is during these times I am reminded of how Jesus met the needs of the 5,000 (or 15,000) to their hearts content. He surely can meet the needs that I have in life as well.
 Carson, D.A. (1991) The Gospel According to John p. 268Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdman’s Publishing Co.
Read John 5:16 - 29
Verse 16: When Jesus miraculously healed and encouraged the man to walk with his mat on the Sabbath got the Jewish authorities all in a tizzy. This is the main reason why they began persecuting or harassing him.
Verses 17: We have no record of the Jews asking Jesus an opposing question but the text says “he answered them, ‘My Father is working now, and I am working.” What is Jesus saying here? As we look under the surface we see Jesus is making a huge claim of equality with God.
A question the Jews had at one time was... Does God work on the Sabbath? If he does then is he breaking his own law? If He does rest then who keeps the universe in tact? Wouldn’t the world cease to exist once a week?
A simple answer to this question is God rested on the 7th day but He didn’t cease being active. The rabbi’s collectively agreed that God and only God was/is exempt from keeping the Sabbath. Jesus says, “My Father is working now, and I am working.” According to D.A. Carson, “In corporate worship Jews sometimes referred to God as ‘our Father’ but the individual way Jesus spoke of God as his own father displayed the unique Father-Son relationship Jesus claimed.” The conclusion the leaders make from his statement is, in addition to claiming God to be His unique Father, that Jesus also works on the Sabbath and says He is working because the Father is working. How could Jesus rest on the Sabbath when His own Father doesn’t rest? If God is exempt from the Sabbath then certainly Jesus is because Jesus says a few verses later, “I only do what the Father is doing.” Jesus is claiming equality to God. This was considered blasphemy.
Verse 18: For the Jews this was all the more reason to have Jesus killed (Exodus 31:14: Everyone who profanes (the Sabbath) shall be put to death). They had two legitimate reasons (according to the law) to have him killed.
Verse 19: This next passage is difficult to understand and interpret. I am still hashing this out in my own personal study but I will try as best I can to bring to light what I believe Jesus is saying.
The Son can do nothing independent of the Father. Jesus only does what the Father does. Some will use this passage as a way to show that Jesus and God are not one but it does just the opposite. Believers hold to the view that Jesus and God are one in the same but are distinctive in what they do. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one in attributes but distinct in jobs they do. As we will see in some sense the Father and Son are the same and in other senses (like this first statement they are different). “I do what the Father does” shows that Jesus is the one whom he is obedient and subordinate to God. This does not make him less than God He says that He in a sense copies God (does what He does). Nobody can do what the Father does unless they are one with the Father. The things reserved for the Father can only be done by one who is as great as the Father or as Divine as the Father.
Verse 20: This Father (being God) knows all (Omniscient) and because of his great love for the Son He reveals everything that He is doing to him. According to Jesus at this point in his ministry there are still some great works to be revealed that will cause people to wonder and marvel at the greatness of God. We see from our perspective some of those greater works include raising the dead, feeding the multitudes, redeeming humanity through Jesus' death and resurrection. Plus there are still some great works that we still have yet to witness in the future that will cause every knee to bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all.
So far we see some of the distinctions of the Father and Son...
Verse 21: The Father raises the dead and gives life, so the Son gives life as well. Although Jesus doesn’t say he raises the dead we know he does because he raises Lazarus from the dead and we can assume that when he says he gives life that would include raising the dead. To the Jews only God is able to give life (birth) and resurrect the dead so when Jesus says he gives life he is again is claiming equality with God. Not only does he give life but he gives life to whomever he pleases, wills or determines.
Verse 22 - 23: The Father has determined that his task will not be judgment. This distinction is reserved for Jesus. This again does not mean that Jesus judges independent of the Father. The Son does everything in obedience to the Father so He does judge according to the will of God (cf. verse 30).
God has given all authority to Jesus to judge so that all may honor the Son in the same way they honor the Father. Failure to give the Son honor is the same as failing to give the Father honor.
Verse 24: Whoever hears the words of Jesus and believes will have eternal life. God’s Word and Jesus’ Word is the same thing. “The Son only says what the Father gives him to say.” The one who hears and believes (obedience and trust) receives life and will not be condemned EVER! There is no judgment because they have crossed over from death to life. To the one who believes he is justified or declared righteous before the Father.
Verses 25: “An hour is coming” – this is not a literal 60 minute period but means an undisclosed time is coming and according to Jesus it has already arrived. The dead will hear his voice and will live. This can refer to the physically dead and it will happen in Jesus’ public ministry (Lazarus); or it could refer to the spiritually dead. This would apply to the unbeliever, who hears the Gospel of Jesus Christ and repents, responds and is made alive. I think both interpretations can be used.
Verse 26: God grants life in himself and the same through Jesus. They are both in the beginning (cf. John 1:1) and they are both the source of life.
Verse 27-29: A time is coming (and is ever drawing near) when the dead will hear the powerful voice of Jesus (a voice that heals, resurrects, and gives eternal life). Those who respond (the spiritually dead) to the voice will have eternal life and those who ignore it and continue in their sins will be resurrected to judgment.
Christians firmly believe the Father (God), the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit are one in the same. They are one essence (One God) but have three distinct persons. God is what we call a Tri-Unity or Trinity. To tackle a doctrine like the Trinity would (and some day may) be a series in and of itself. I am not going to spend time today trying to prove through Scripture the Trinity. However we do see that Jesus (the Son) does claim equality to God (the Father). It is important for us to know and to believe because this is the primary reason Jesus was crucified. I think the most important thing for us to take home with us today is to heed the words of Jesus in this passage. “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.”
 Carson, D.A. (1991) The Gospel According to John p. 249 Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdman’s Publishing Co.
 Carson, D.A. (1991) The Gospel According to John p. 251Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdman’s Publishing Co.
Read John 5:1-15
Verse 1: “After this…” an undisclosed time after Jesus heals the officials son. (I skipped over this passage but would encourage you to read it for yourself - John 4:46-54)
The Feast of the Jews – This is another feast and we are uncertain as to which Feast is being referenced. It is probably one of the three major feasts… Tabernacles, Passover or Pentecost, but it does not say for certain which feast it is.
Verses 2 & 3: Pool called Bethesda – Means house of mercy or house of outpouring. It was a well known place of healing. It probably was not actually a magical pool that healed people but was most likely a place that traditionally people thought to have powers to heal. We know this because there are many invalids at this pool seeking to be healed.
In some Bibles (ESV, NIV, RSV, & NLT) you may notice that there is no fourth verse. The reason for this is that some of the best and earliest copies of this book do not have verse 4 in them. This does not mean that if you have a verse 4 it is wrong (because in actuality it is helpful to have it) it’s just that someone probably added it in over time.
Regardless of whether you have it in your Bible or not there apparently was either a folklore or tradition belief that an angel would come down from heaven and stir up the waters and the first person in the pool would be healed. What we do know is many handicapped people came to the pool seeking to be healed. They all had the hope of being restored and healed.
Verse 5: The story now shifts to one man in particular who had been handicapped for 38 years. We are not told what his infirmity was and many speculate he was paralyzed. For 38 years this man could have possibly been coming to the pool in hopes that one day he would be the first in the pool. For 38 years he was disappointed because he had not been the one.
Verse 6: Enter Jesus. He knew (divine knowledge) this man had been there for a long time (for some unknown reason out of the multitudes of invalids Jesus pinpoints this one man. A deeper reading could suggest that this, just like the meeting of the Samaritan woman at the well, was a divine encounter; with the ultimate purpose of glorifying God) and he approaches him and asks, “Do you want to be healed?” One version reads, “Do you want to become well?” Kind of a silly question to ask a person who has been handicapped for his entire life; but we see Jesus is a gentleman. He doesn’t just go up and force himself on the man and heal him; he asks him directly if he wants to be made well.
Verse 7: Obviously the man had no idea who he was speaking to. He had no idea that Jesus was God in the flesh and was offering to restore him back to health. So in his response you can hear the hopelessness he had, “I want to be healed but every time I try to step in the water when it stirs someone gets there before me.” He is a defeated man. Here is a man who for 38 years was putting his trust in a legend, myth or tale and for 38 years left disappointed. The legends, myths and traditions had failed him. When Jesus asked him I am sure he was hoping he would help him get to the water but overall he believed there was no hope for getting to the water… Yet he still determined to try all the time. He was hopeless but determined. All the while he was unaware that the great healer was standing before him, engaging him in conversation and offering to make him well.
In this I am reminded of certain Christians who have pessimistic attitudes towards life like this man. They are people who are hopeless, giving up and seeing no flipside of the coin. Some are this way for good reason and some not. I know someone who is never happy, never satisfied, and always looking at the negative side of life. People like this are like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh… Their attitude is like his "After all, what are birthdays? Here today and gone tomorrow." They have no cause for celebration, see no purpose in rejoicing and forget about seeing the bright side of life. There are many Christians who are like this as well they are always negative; nothing ever works out for them. Their motto could be, “I can never get a break.” Or “Why bother, I’ll just fail anyway.” These are hopeless individuals who focus so much on how hopeless the situation(s) are before them that they forget they serve a God who is willing and able to bring hope to any situation. There is so much focus on the situation that they lose sight of God.
Verse 8 & 9: In one fell swoop this hopeless man is given hope! As Jesus speaks (even his words are powerful) the man is immediately healed. We are witness to yet another miracle of God and in this instance a man who was handicapped for 38 years is now made well! Now the pessimists would say, “Why did God wait 38 years to heal this man? It’s not fair he had to be invalid for this long.” The true believer in Christ rejoices because he is now physically restored. My friend there is hope in Jesus!
Verse 9b: Now that day was the Sabbath. This is a significant statement made by John. The Jews kept a strict day without work. Nowhere in the OT does it prohibit one from carrying a mattress on the Sabbath (maybe the closest they could come was not to carry a burden on the Sabbath). However the Jews had developed traditions throughout history in regards to the Sabbath. There were 39 classes of work that was prohibited on this day one included carrying something from one place to another. This was an added law (tradition) to God’s command. There was an exception for carrying something on the Sabbath if it was an act of compassion.
Verse 10 - 12: The Jewish authorities see this man carrying his mattress and confront him about carrying something on the Sabbath. He responds by enthusiastically saying a man healed him of his infirmities of 38 years and told him to get up, take his mat and walk. They responded by rejoicing and praising God for the wonderful miracle that He performed! Well, maybe not so much. They wanted to know who told him it was ok to break their traditions. They didn’t care that the man was healed, they didn’t care that God did a miraculous deed. Their only concern was someone dared to break the Sabbath by healing someone and then telling the healed person to break the Sabbath as well. We will talk a little more about the Sabbath next week.
With this encounter I am reminded of a second group of people who are so concerned with keeping the rules and following traditions that they sometimes miss God’s work. These people are quick to dismiss what God does because either it was done in an unorthodox way or because it breaks certain traditions. We need to be careful to not place such a high value on human traditions that we refuse to see God at work. This happens so often in Christianity today. We have so many human traditions (which are not all bad) but we sometimes place more value on our traditions than we do on God. Just because something is done in an unconventional way or goes against human tradition does not mean that God is not in it (just as it also doesn’t guarantee that He is… we must be diligent in discernment). But may we not be so focused on human traditions that we miss a movement of God.
Verse 13: The man didn’t know who had healed him because Jesus had slipped away into the crowd.
Verses 14 & 15: Later on Jesus seeks out the man in the temple and says, “See you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” You see when Jesus heals he not only physically heals but he also deals with the sin issue in ones life as well. Whenever Jesus encounters a sinner he always deals with the sin issue. The man is now physically made well… He is healed from his infirmity. Now Jesus tells him to stop sinning. This could imply that his infirmity is related to his sin, but is not definite and certainly does not mean that all infirmity is related to sin in ones life. He tells the man to stop sinning which could mean pursue holiness, or pursue God so that when the Day of Judgment comes nothing worse will happen.
After this last encounter the man goes to the Jews (probably thinking it was the right thing to do) and tells them that it is Jesus who healed him.
The healing of the lame man at the pool is very similar to Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. In both instances Jesus gives hope to individuals and also deals with sin. In this instance I have two observations that we can use in our everyday relationship with Jesus Christ.
In our contemporary society we are constantly being told to never be satisfied or content with what you have. In 1965 the Rolling Stones (much like King Solomon in the Old Testament) told us that they have tried everything to be content and yet still “(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. The entertainment industry has a slogan “Always leave the audience wanting more.” This is why so many TV shows, books, movies etc. end in cliff hangers. We are also constantly bombarded with ads for products that are “New and Improved”, “Bigger and Better” or version “2.0” because companies are continually “improving” their product and also leaving consumers never fully satisfied. As humans not only are we never satisfied but I believe we are molded into believing that true satisfaction and contentment can be found in possessions or true satisfaction can never be found. But you and I know this is far from the truth.
Have you ever spent a long time saving up for something you really thought you needed (T.V., computer, home, car, some electronic gadget etc.) and when you finally purchased it you find that it isn’t as great as you were expecting or maybe it was even disappointing. This has happened to me numerous times and it just serves as a reminder… True fulfillment and satisfaction is not found in stuff. It seems as though more often than not just the opposite is the case… The more stuff you have the less fulfilled and satisfied you are. Why is this so? Well, I believe the answer is found in today’s passage in John 4:1-26 in this simple little encounter with Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well.
We meet, yet again, another person who has an encounter with Jesus and has her world rocked and her encounter results in a life that will never be the same again. This remains true for us today and it will remain true forevermore. When we truly meet with Jesus face to face (figuratively) we will and can never ever be the same.
Before we get into the text for this morning I need to give some background information on the land of Samaria and its inhabitants. Their history goes back to the time when Israel was divided into two kingdoms (during the son of Solomon; Rehoboam’s reign) the North and the South. The Northern Kingdom was called Israel and the Southern Kingdom was called Judah. Samaria was located in the Northern Kingdom and was the capital city. In 722 B.C. the Assyrian defeated the Northern Kingdom and had many of its inhabitants deported from the North to the South. The Assyrians also had Gentiles and Pagans moved into the Northern Kingdom and they intermarried with the remaining Israelites. Their offspring were called Samaritans and they were half Israelite and half Gentile. Not only did they intermarry but they also merged religious practices. The Samaritans only adhered to the Pentateuch (the first five books of Moses) and more specifically they rejected anything that spoke of Jerusalem (Southern Kingdom). They did not go to Jerusalem to worship God in the Temple; in fact they erected their own temple on Mount Gerizim.
Needless to say Jews and Samaritans did not get along. The Jews saw them as second class citizens. The Jews were actually hostile against them and when traveling would often go out of their way and travel around Samaria instead of going through it.
This information I just gave to you is important because you will see how truly significant this conversation is for us as non-Jewish believers. At the outset many just think this is a conversation Jesus had with a woman but knowing the background of the hostility between Jews and Samaritans we know that much more is going on here than meets the eye.
Read John 4:1 – 26
One of the first things I noticed about this conversation is the similarities with Nicodemus. 1) Jesus meets privately with this person. 2) He uses everyday language and symbolism to point to salvation. 3) He declares that he is the way to eternal life. Nicodemus was a Jewish male & follower of law (respected Jewish leader). He had all this going for him and yet Jesus told him he needed to be born again. Whereas the woman at well was a Samaritan, a woman and immoral (five husbands and living with a man currently). She had all the odds stacked against her and yet Jesus informs her she needs to drink of the living water to have life. What I can take from these two encounters is that Jesus is for all people – those who (seemingly) have it all together and those who have been shunned from society.
Verses 1- 9: Once the Pharisees heard about Jesus’ popularity in Judea he decides to head north to Galilee. We are not sure what prompted him to go there but we do know that according to verse 4 “he had to pass through Samaria”. This can be interpreted two ways 1) Jesus went through Samaria out of logistical necessity (it was quicker and easier to go through than around) or 2) more probable it meant that it was God’s will or plan that he had to go.
As he was travelling at around the noon hour he was tired, hot and thirsty as he came to Jacob’s well. It is traditionally believed this well is located on the land Jacob (Israel) gave to Joseph in Genesis 48:22. Interestingly it is still a functioning well/spring to this day. Since it was noon the sun was at its peak and Jesus was weary from his travels. He encounters a woman at this well and asks her for a drink. Once again, without the background information and understanding of the culture at this time we would think nothing of this encounter.
Water was drawn in the morning hours or the cool of the day by the women. Typically they came in groups so they could assist one another in drawing the water and before it became too hot. Yet here we have a woman who comes later in the day and alone. This tells us that she is probably a shunned woman because she comes at the point of day when she knows no one will be around and she comes by herself. So Jesus is not only breaking tradition by talking to a Samaritan and a woman, he is talking with a shunned (immoral) Samaritan woman which would put her pretty much at the bottom of the barrel in societies eyes.
Jesus asks her for some water and the woman is certainly surprised because a Jewish male is asking her for a drink of water. He has no utensils so he would have to use her cup. According to Jews Samaritans were ceremonially unclean and a Jew who used a Samaritan’s cup would also be considered unclean as well. This is what the writer John meant when he wrote that Jews and Samaritans use nothing in common.
Verse 10 - 18: She apparently has no reason to even know that she is speaking to the Messiah. She was surprised that this tired Jewish traveler was not only talking to her but as Jesus said to her had she known who she was talking to she would not only be getting him water but would be asking him for the living water. Living water – literally translated as flowing water or moving water. In the Bible water is symbolic for cleansing, refreshing and in the Holy Spirit. Jesus is speaking to this woman in spiritual terms as D.A. Carson writes, “(Living Water is) the satisfying eternal life mediated by the Spirit that only Jesus, the Messiah and Savior of the world can provide.” As Jesus talks about this water the woman thinks he is speaking of some unknown water source (or Jesus is speaking literally) so she asks Jesus how he plans on giving her this water since he has no utensils. She, like Nicodemus, doesn’t understand Jesus is speaking in a spiritual sense.
In verse 13 Jesus takes the opportunity to further explain what he is talking about. He says the physical water that we drink is temporary and never TRULY satisfies. We can drink all the water we want (to the point of getting sick) but eventually we will get thirsty again. The living water, which is not a liquid but the everlasting life of God through the Holy Spirit satisfies our spiritual thirst. In our search for satisfaction and contentment in life we seek fulfillment in physical things (cars, homes, electronics, substances, food, drink etc.) and we can never truly be satisfied. Satisfaction is only attained when we have drunk of the living water of Jesus Christ. Not only will the water of life satisfy but it will spring up or gush up like an artesian well of eternal life and life here on earth through the Holy Spirit (an abundant life).
Hearing Jesus’ description of this water the woman now desires this water and asks how to get it. Jesus then makes a prophecy about her life and her immoral acts which cuts to her heart and convicts her of her immoral lifestyle. This shows that when we desire to drink the living water of Jesus we will also have to confront our sins. Sure, it is easy to come to Jesus and drink of the living water, the hard part is realizing our sins and handing them over to God.
Verse 19 - 26: This revelation certainly convinced the woman that Jesus was indeed an inspired man. In fact her words could be translated as “I can see you are the prophet” (the one like Moses who will come).
In verse 20 the woman changes the subject (maybe to avoid the discussion about her immoral life choices) and starts talking theology (location of worshiping God). How common this is when talking to someone about God or Jesus that when you start hitting home in your discussion about the need for a savior the person you are speaking to changes the subject (i.e. well how can a loving God…)
Jesus responds, “The hour is coming…and is here…” He says there is a day and that day is here when God is no longer to be worshiped in the Temple only but will be worshiped in Spirit and in truth. Worship of God is not confined to a building but God can be worshiped anywhere. Through the Holy Spirit God is present everywhere and can be worshiped everywhere. He is omnipresent and can be worshiped at home, school, work, on the road, at church etc. God is not confined to a building but he will be in hearts (this will be his dwelling place).
As I conclude today may we take these truths home with us from this encounter Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at the well.
Every year billions of dollars are spent on commercials, advertisements, promotion materials and marketing all together. The concept of marketing is for companies to spend their money to get their product (or name/brand) into the mass public so people will recognize the name when the public is in need/want of a specific item. In this year’s Super Bowl advertisers spent $3 million to have ONE commercial air for 30 seconds. I am not sure of the exact amount spent collectively by all the businesses and companies, we can safely assume a lot of money was spent. I couldn’t find any numbers in regards to how much was spent but I imagine Dorito’s spends boatloads of money to get viewers to choose their brand of snack food for your household. Budweiser has spent billions (past and present) to convince you to drink their beer. Let’s face it, we live in a day and age where companies and individuals place a high value on marketing and promoting a product.
This marketing strategy has trickled down into the western church as well. Churches in America spend multiple thousands (if not millions in some cases) of dollars on branding (church logo, web site, etc.), advertising (internet, television, radio and paper) and promotion (mailings, door hangars, posters etc.). It is no secret church attendance in the US is on the decline. As the financial crunch has impacted our economy in many ways, it has also seriously affected our churches today. Many churches knee jerk reaction to the drop in attendance is to pour more money into promotion and advertising in the hopes to attract more people to their particular church.
In the past I have seen mailers from churches who spend thousands of dollars in printing, mailing and advertising who claim they are different from other churches because they won’t make you dress a certain way, or they will preach a message that is “relevant for today”, has modern worship music and relaxed atmosphere. So many churches believe if they wisely spend their money marketing themselves to the masses then the payoff will come by bodies in seats or pews
Now I know I may come across as sounding very critical of some churches and church marketing in the west. I guess it’s hard not to sound bitter or enraged but in reality I also see the value of marketing a church. The problem is so many are putting the emPHAsis in the wrong area. We need to get the word out about ministries God is actively involved, we need to invite unbelieving individuals to church or a small group to hear the Gospel, and we need people in pews for fellowship and encouraging one another. So I do value church marketing to an extent. It does however need to be reformed or revised because it really is not about us, it is about Jesus.
In today’s passage we can learn a lesson or two about church marketing and promotion. I don’t want you to think this is Church Marketing 1010 because in so many ways everything I point out goes against almost every “rule” in the church marketing rule book because it takes the focus off of human accomplishment and point’s people to a greater cause.
Read John 3:22 - 36
Verse 22 - 24: Jesus and his disciples went to the countryside in Judea and were baptizing people. We see that it wasn’t Jesus but his disciples who were actually doing the baptizing (John 4:2) and this caused a concern among the disciples of John the Baptist (vs. 26).
Verse 25, 26: There was some discussion going on between John the Baptist’s disciples and some Jews over the rite of purification. We are not told precisely the details of this discussion but I am sure it was over the significance of it and possibly how it was administered. Certainly there was talk about the distinction between John’s baptism and the ceremonial cleansing. The essential factor in John’s baptism was the prior requirement of repentance. We are also not told what the motivation of the Jews was in talking to John’s disciples. It could have easily been to stir up jealousy between John’s disciples concerning Jesus’ baptizing ministry. The Jews could have been saying to John the Baptists disciples, “What are you guys going to do about this Jesus guy and his disciples infringing on your ministry? Isn’t baptizing your business? Isn’t this what John and his followers are called to do? They have no right baptizing people. There isn’t enough business for the two of you in this area.” This certainly concerned John’s disciples because they went to their teacher and voiced their concern. They said, “Teacher, everyone is going to Jesus to be baptized and fewer are coming to us! They were concerned because they thought they were supposed to be the authoritarians of baptism and here comes this other band of disciples doing our job.”
Verse 27, 28: I am sure John’s response was not what his disciples were expecting. He essentially said, “You guys know I am not the Messiah. You have heard me say my job is to prepare the way for the Messiah and that is what I have done.” He was not upset in the least because he knew his place in this part of history. John’s role in the Gospel account was a small but VERY significant role. His job was to be a promoter of Jesus (The voice crying out in the Wilderness) and not himself and his ministry. It wasn’t up to him to convince people to get his baptism; he was on the scene to point people to the Messiah. This would not be very good marketing strategies by today’s standards. Here’s John’s church growth marketing play: “Don’t come to me because I am just a voice crying out in the wilderness. Go to Jesus, He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.” He wasn’t all about “LOOK AT ME!” John was all about “DON’T look at me, look to Jesus!”
Verses 29, 30: Here John not only shows that he is NOT upset or threatened he in fact is ecstatic about what is going on. He compares himself to the best man in a wedding. I am not sure how many of you have ever had the privilege of being a best man but if you have then you know exactly what John the Baptist is talking about. As a best man you know that the wedding we are in has absolutely NOTHING to do with you. You are there to assist, to rejoice and to celebrate with the groom and his upcoming marriage. Now I am sure there are many men who may have been the best man from hell where they tried to make it about them but this is not the case with John.
In this verse Jesus is the bridegroom and the bride (in the O.T. was Israel) is the Church. The “friend of the bridegroom” is John the Baptist. His job is to stand with Jesus and rejoice with him because the time had come for the marriage ceremony. So John not only says he is joyful but that his joy is COMPLETE (A.K.A. he can die a happy man).
These are words we should all heed to and live according… “He must increase and I must decrease.” John was not merely making a statement he was stating what MUST take place. According to R.C. Sproul, “He (John) was called to go before Christ, and once he had announced Christ, then John was to go into the background that Christ might emerge in the fullness of His leadership as the appointed Messiah. ‘It is necessary,’ John said. ‘It’s not optional. This has to happen. It has to take place. I have to decrease. He must increase.’”  The Church at large would be better served if it heeded to these words of John.
If we (the Church) make it a point to promote Jesus and not us (our building, music, pastor, friendliness, acceptance, comfort level etc.) then we would see increase. Our job in this world is Jesus promotion and not self/church promotion.
Verse 31-32: Now these verses appear to be the reflective words of John “the Evangelist” and appear to be an explanation as to why Jesus must increase (since he is from above) and ultimately above all. John the Baptist speaks of the earthly things thus does not have the same authority as Jesus so it is imperative that Jesus increase and John decrease. When Jesus speaks about the things of heaven he speaks with authority and yet humanity (in general) has not accepted his message.
Verse 33 - 36: Those who do receive Jesus’ testimony do so by accepting that his Word is indeed the Word of God and that God is true. He has given us unlimited amounts of the Spirit. He re-iterates the theme of this chapter… Jesus is the Son of God; all things are given to Him by the Father. Anyone who believes (Commits unto, trusts, place confidence in, have saving faith) in Jesus has eternal life. Whoever does not believe or obey will not have eternal life and will face the wrath of God.
This is my prayer… "Jesus must increase in my life, ministry, family, relationships, work, recreation etc. and I must decrease because all I do I want to do for Him." Would you join me in praying for Jesus promotion and not self promotion? Let us pray for Jesus to shine and his salvation to come to the unbelievers in this world. Let us never shy away from pointing people to Jesus because all put their absolute trust and faith in Him will have everlasting life.
Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition. Rev. ed. of: The new Bible commentary. 3rd ed. / edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer. 1970. (4th ed.) (Jn 3:22). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Sproul, R.C. (2009). St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: John p. 52 Lake Mary, FL., USA: Reformation Trust Publishing.
Read John 3:16 - 21
Today’s text is one of the most familiar Bible passages in the entire Bible. I remember a few years ago as the boys were eating breakfast I asked them out of the blue if they could recite John 3:16… My oldest proceeded to say, word for word, the entire verse without even giving it a second thought. This familiar verse is one of the easiest and most challenging passages to teach both for the same reasons that it is easy and simple. It is a simple and familiar passage that contains the full Gospel message in a concise and understandable way but it is also difficult to comprehend because at the surface the theme (eternal life) seems so universal but at the root it is only available to a select group of individuals (whoever believes).
Before I begin I want to caution to not “check out” or skip over this devotional because you may have heard numerous sermons on this passage or you think you have already heard what is going to be written. On the flip side I caution to not to look so deep into the passage for things that aren’t there and miss the simplicity and the attainability of it. I encourage you to take this devotional for what it is at face value; the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Today we will look at verses 16 – 21 to get a picture of God’s great love for humanity. We see his best gift given to humanity and our response to God’s gift of eternal life. This is the complete essence of God’s unlimited love for humanity and the fact that he has held nothing back from us, in fact he has given us the best gift he could possibly to us… Himself.
Verse 16: There are so many different Bible translations (my personal favorite is the ESV) but The New English Translation (or the NET Bible – it’s free online) has, I think, one of the best literal translations to John 3:16, "For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." It is not too different from what you and I may be accustomed but the opening line “For this is the way God loved the word…” is wonderfully true. God’s love for the world is so evident through the physical giving of his Son Jesus Christ. The true Gospel is foundational in the love of God. Jesus’ mission and purpose was to be “lifted up” (see verse 15); his death, resurrection and ascension were in the plans since the creation of the world. They were not knee jerk reactions on God’s part because humanity got so out of control over the centuries and he needed resort to plan B so humanity could be saved. This WAS the plan, the mission, the purpose of Jesus Christ coming to the world since the beginning of time. As a gift to the world God sovereignly gave his best gift, his unique and beloved Son.
The idea that God loved the world was a hard pill for the Jews to swallow. They knew that God had favored them as a nation. He made promises to them; He blessed them and committed to being their God. Now Jesus was saying God not only loves Israel exclusively but He loves the world as a whole. His love is not restricted to a race, a nation or a select few it is for the world; literally the kosmos – the inhabitants of the world, the human race. We need to be careful in our understanding of God’s universal love for the world. This does not imply that his love equals universal salvation to everyone in the world this is called Universalism. He loves the world and it’s inhabitants so much that he PROVIDED a way for humanity to be saved and made right with him through his one and only Son Jesus Christ. Those who accept this gift; whoever believes or puts complete trust in him will receive the new birth which is eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
Those who do not believe will perish – The word literally means to be lost, ruined or destroyed. To perish is the opposite of eternal life; hence those who do not put complete trust in Jesus will face destruction, ruin or loss. The truth is since God so loved the world there is no need for anyone to perish. A way has been provided by which all might be saved, but a person must acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior.
This verse can easily be summed up as this, “God’s love for humanity was so great that he gave his best gift he could possibly give, his unique Son Jesus Christ, so that anyone who puts complete faith and trust in him will not face ruin, loss and destruction but will instead have true life for ever and ever.”
Verse 17: This is Jesus’ mission. Contrary to some people’s opinion God’s plan is not to destroy, judge or condemn all humanity. He is not the cantankerous old man in the sky just waiting to do away with sinners. Jesus tells us his plan is not for condemnation (or judgment) that will come at a later time. His purpose is to bring salvation to the world through faith in Him.
Verse 18: If you are a believer then read the words of verse 18 and hold on to and rejoice in these words of assurance. To those who believe you will not be condemned. You are safe from destruction and loss. Unfortunately The one who does not believe stands condemned already and God’s wrath is upon him. F.F. Bruce makes a great analogy concerning this verse, “In a gallery where artistic masterpieces are on display, it is not the masterpieces but the visitors that are on trial. The works which they view are not there to abide their questions, but they reveal their own tastes (or lack of it) by their reactions by what they see. The pop star who reported some years ago to have dismissed the Mona Lisa as ‘a load of rubbish’ did not tell anything about the Mona Lisa; he told us much about himself. What is true in the aesthetic realm is equally true in the spiritual realm. The man who depreciates Christ, or thinks him unworthy of his allegiance, passes judgment on himself, not to Christ. He does not need to wait until the Day of Judgment; the verdict on him has been pronounced already.” 
Verses 19 -21: This is a profound testimony of humanity. Jesus says, “This is why there is judgment…” The shining light (Jesus) came into the world of darkness to shine brightly the light of salvation. The light exposed darkness and evil for what it is and it shone brightly as the glory of God. When the light came and illuminated the darkness some people chose to remain in the darkness and continue their evil deeds in the secret and not run to the light which not only illuminates but consumes darkness. Why did they choose darkness over light? Because they preferred to live their lives without God; their hearts are wicked and their deeds are evil. They are not willing to live their lives in the truth or light. People who choose to walk in their own ways and disregard the ways of God in turn hate the light and refuse to come to the light because they are afraid that their evil works will be exposed. The wicked do their deeds in secret and are afraid of the light because the light will expose their evil deeds; so the light becomes a natural enemy to the dark. Even today those who are unbelievers are threatened by Jesus Christ. His truth and light expose their sinfulness and makes them uncomfortable and ultimately their sin/darkness pushes them farther away from Jesus. “The best way to reveal the crookedness of one stick is to place a straight stick beside it. Coming into the world as a Perfect Man, the Lord Jesus revealed the crookedness of all other men, by comparison.” 
Those who love the truth will run to the light and do their works openly because they are good and they are from God. As one author writes, “Jesus becomes like a magnet. His people are drawn to him and welcome his revelation.” You and I (at least those who believe) are attracted to the light of Christ and we do our works openly for the world to see, not for our benefit but for the glory of God and so that others may glorify God in turn.
So what about Nicodemus, what became of him? We cannot say for certain He became a believer but we can assume or even imply his life was forever changed this evening. In John 19:38 it shows Nicodemus bringing 75 pounds of spices to prepare the crucified body of Jesus Christ. We like to believe he became a follower of Christ that evening because we know, whenever anyone has a true encounter with Jesus Christ their lives will be forever changed.
As I conclude with this dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus there is one point and one point only that needs to be made. God loves you; He desires that you are assured that your future fate is secured in Jesus Christ. He gave his one and only son as a gift to you so that you may not perish but have everlasting life. He has given you Jesus so you may look to Him to be your righteousness and NOT your works you have done in your life (Those works are only evidence of Jesus in your life). He has given you Jesus so that you may be born again. Through Jesus your heart will be transformed and you will become a new creation in Christ. God has made every way possible for you to be part of His Kingdom. The question is, will you run to the light of Christ and be saved or will you continue in the secrecy of you sins in the darkness and face impending judgment and condemnation? "For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."
MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Jn 3:16). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Bruce, F.F. (1994). The Gospel of John, p..91. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. Eerdman’s Publishing Co.
MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Jn 3:20). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Read John 3:1 – 8
Verse 1: Nicodemus – Very little is known about Nicodemus because there is little about him in the Gospel accounts. There is some controversy over whether he is actually a real Pharisee or whether he was a symbolic figure representing a Jewish leader at the time of John’s writing who was struggling with his faith. I don’t think there is enough evidence to support him being symbolic so we will just assume that what the Bible says the Bible means. Nicodemus was an actual Pharisee who was a member of the Sanhedrin and he comes to Jesus at night to dialog with Him.
Verse 2: We are unsure what his motive was in talking to Jesus since he actually never gets to ask Him anything. He did come to Jesus in the undercover of the night probably because as a respected Jewish leader he didn’t want others to know he was going to Jesus to learn from him or even be associated with him. We can assume at this time that Jesus hadn’t made enough enemies with the Jewish leaders since he was still at the beginning of his public ministry… So there is a possibility that coming to Jesus at night was not because of fear of what others may think Some have suggested he went in the evening because this was the time Rabbi’s and teachers studied and others have suggested the night time was symbolic of his spiritual state. He may have come at night because he was living in spiritual darkness and wanted to inquire of the light.
Nicodemus says, “We know you are a teacher who has come from God…” Some believe the “we” implies that he came with a group of leaders or that it could be the general consensus among the leaders that he was a teacher who had the hand of God in his life and ministry. Nicodemus was acknowledging that Jesus was certainly a man with God’s hand on his ministry because of the miracles and wonders (plural) he saw Jesus perform. The rulers knew there was something special about Jesus but they certainly were not proclaiming that Jesus was a prophet, THE Prophet or even the Messiah. Regardless the Jewish leader(s) knew there was something unique about Jesus and I am sure Nicodemus wanted to talk to Him about this.
Verse 3: Before Nicodemus can even ask a question Jesus cuts to the heart of the matter (quite possibly because he knew Nicodemus’ motive, inquiry or just needed to tell him the truth right up front). Jesus says, “Unless a person is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
In Jesus’ statement there are two items we need to look at in order to get a grasp on what is being said and what is implied by Nicodemus…“Born again” and “Kingdom of God”.
Kingdom of God
This term only exists in the New Testament and much of the Old Testament points to the reality and anticipation of the Kingdom of God. In the OT the implication of the Kingdom of God was a future day when God is the sovereign ruler of all nations and over all of creation. The prophets longed for the day when God would physically bring peace to the nations of Israel and Judah (They would be one again) and justice, peace and mercy would spill over to all nations and over all of creation.
“Seeing the kingdom’ seems to be equivalent to the more familiar expression in (the Gospel of) John of eternal life. It is the central message of Jesus Christ in NT. It is mentioned twice in John (3:3,5 & 18:36) and is defined as the rule, reign and sovereignty of God over all. Since the Kingdom is equivalent to eternal life and the future reign of God as sovereign king. At the time of this writing Jews and Christians lived under Roman rule and the Apostle Paul, Peter and Jesus all say that the world is in the grasps of the evil one (often times Rome was considered all that is evil and other times the devil). This does not mean that God is not the true ruler of the world it just means the world is in bondage to Satan and evil because of sin and the fall of humanity. We continue to live in a sinful world where it seems as though evil is running rampant and Satan seems to be the god of the world. This is a false perception in part because God is sovereign (Supreme Rule) today and his Kingdom has already begun on earth through us (those who believe in Jesus and are obedient to His call). This Kingdom was inaugurated in the person, works and message of Jesus Christ. Eternal life starts now thus God’s Kingdom is now. This however, does not negate the reality that there will also be a future day when Jesus physically returns to set up His Kingdom here on earth and rule and reign sovereignly over all nations and creation.
On the other hand one cannot see, enter or even be a part of this Kingdom unless one is born again. This term is just as confusing to some today as it was to Nicodemus back then. Some may even respond as Nicodemus does… “Can one be born a second time? One certainly cannot enter the womb (as a grown adult) and be reborn!”
There are two interpretations to Nicodemus’ response…
These are hard words to swallow and digest. Jesus was saying you must be born again in order to enter the Kingdom of God. It wasn’t about keeping, enforcing and living the law; it was about being re-born (or as the Greek states, “Born from above). Rebirth means being born of God, transformation… a new heart and becoming a new creation.
Verses 5- 6: Jesus expands on this, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” Some interpret the water to equal baptism… that one needs be baptized in order to enter the Kingdom but this is not likely what Jesus means.
The most probable interpretation is Jesus is talking about the new birth that cleanses and renews. Water is often symbolic of washing and refreshing. One needs individual regeneration (rebirth, renewal) where the person is cleansed from sin, and the heart is transformed (becoming a new creation). Regeneration does not mean that we become better versions of ourselves it means that we become a new versions of ourselves in Christ. In short Jesus says, unless one is cleansed from sin (through confession and repentance) and reborn in the Spirit of God (faith in Christ and becoming a new creation) one cannot enter or see the Kingdom of God.
Verses 7: “Do not marvel…” Jesus’ words are clear you (the you is actually plural which properly interpreted is ‘you all’) MUST be born again. This is the central message of Jesus in this passage and it is certainly a central message for us today.
Verse 8: The point of this verse is the wind cannot be controlled nor understood where it will go by human beings. We have no control whatsoever over the wind. We do know it exists because we can feel the effects of it but we cannot determine or make it go where it goes. It just goes. So it is with the Spirit of God. We cannot control him nor can we fully comprehend Him… However we know the Spirit works by seeing the effects of His work. When you see a transformed person you are seeing the direct working of the Holy Spirit. I think Jesus is saying is the person who is born again (in the Spirit) cannot be controlled by nor understood by unbelievers (those who have only been born once. We are in the sovereign hands of God.
The application for today’s passage is crystal clear for anyone who reads it. In order for anyone to have access to the Kingdom of God (eternal life) you must be born again. There must be a transformation of the heart and a cleansing of sin and iniquity. You have to become a new creation in Christ, not just a better version of your old self. A Spirit-filled believer in Christ acknowledges the sovereignty of God in his life and anticipates the future day when God will establish his Kingdom of peace, justice and mercy here on earth and we will be partakers in this Kingdom.
The challenge for today is simple… Ask yourself… Are you born again? Have you been washed and cleansed by the blood of Christ? Have you had a transformed heart and become a new creation in Christ? Does God have complete (not just some) but complete rule and reign in your life? Have you experienced the new (second) birth in Christ? I pray you are and you have to all the statements above. This is the central message of Jesus Christ and it is available to all of us today. The Kingdom of heaven is at hand… Are you part of this Kingdom?
Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition. Rev. ed. of: The new Bible commentary. 3rd ed. / edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer. 1970. (4th ed.) (Jn 3:1). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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