Sunday, June 30, 2013
I’m Going Fishing!
Introduction: Fishing as a kid in NJ was never meant to bring home dinner. The lake where I went had pickerel and catfish, and that was pretty much it, so you had to choose to go for one or the other. Pickerel was more fun, but not too good to eat, but at least it was something to do in the summer that didn’t involve work! We would ride our bikes to the lake, catch a couple, and then let them go. For these disciples, they were not on a “catch and release” outing. They were going to work. The question was, had they forgotten to include Jesus in their plans? Being a Christ follower means walking with Jesus and entrusting every part of our life to Him.
The Setting: John 20:30,31 almost sounds like a conclusion for the book, but John 21, like an epilogue, reminds us that the story continues. It reminds us that the story of Jesus was not just about His earthly ministry and the teaching he gave to the disciples, but that story continues, it includes “those who would believe through their word. There is a loose temporal reference to the events of Chapter 20, “After these things…” After the appearances on the evening of Easter Sunday, and then a week later, when Thomas was present with them in the closed room, Jesus appeared again, for a third time, to the assembled disciples. We are not sure at exactly what point they had made the trip from Jerusalem (where the cross, resurrection, and first appearances had occurred) to Galilee in the north, but that is where this chapter opens, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, also called the sea of Tiberias. It is almost certain that most of the teaching during the 40 days post-resurrection / pre-ascension took place in this region, a distance of roughly 75 miles from the scrutiny of the Jewish religious leadership in Jerusalem.
The Big Idea: If we know Jesus we should follow Him through every moment of life recognizing His presence and seeking His glory.
I. Turning back to our old life is not an option for the believer, whatever we do, we must do with Jesus at the helm of our life (1-5). We read in John 21:1-5, “After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias… 3 Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We are going with you also.’ They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing…”
So begins this story which probably sounds a little familiar. That is because there was a parallel event at the outset of the public ministry of Jesus in Luke 5:1-11, when Jesus called the disciples to leave all and follow Him. We read there:
“So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, 2 and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. 3 Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. 4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." 5 But Simon answered and said to Him, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net." 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men." 11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.”
Since that episode appears in Luke and was early in the public ministry of Jesus, how important is it to interpreting this story which occurred more than three years later, after the resurrection? Most scholars believe that John was writing toward the end of the first century, decades after the other gospel writers. He was writing as an eyewitness, but he didn’t need to report every detail, by then he could assume that his readers knew certain parts of the gospel story: like John the Baptist baptized Jesus, like the fact that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in fulfillment of prophecy, and even that during that last gathering with His disciples in the upper room, the Lord’s supper was instituted. None of those facts are specifically mentioned in John. And the same is true the fact assumed here: that Peter, John, and James, and some of the other disciples were fishermen. In that earlier context in Luke 5:1-11 we see Peter, James, and John called from their profession of fishing, called to follow Jesus. The promise was He would make them fishers of men. On that occasion the miraculous catch of fish revealed to them that Jesus was no mere man, Peter realized he was in the presence of holiness, fell on his knees, and said “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man O Lord!” Jesus answered, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will catch men…” They left everything and followed Him. They had decided to follow Jesus. There was much to learn, and there was no turning back.
When we see the disciples here in John 21, and Peter said, “I am going fishing,” he was not talking about going down to the pond for a few hours of relaxation. He was returning to the work he had left when he was called to follow Jesus. Could it be that now Jesus was duplicating the earlier episode in order to remind the disciples of the commitment they had made to follow Him? Let me make something clear: there was nothing inherently wrong with fishing, as long as it included Jesus. There is no better place to be, except exactly where Jesus wants you to be. What is essential is recognizing that He is there with you and that you need Him.
First of all, notice that they fished all night, and just like the episode in Luke, they had caught nothing. That was unusual. They were professionals and knew what they were doing. When Stan (and his stern man Max!) put out their lobster traps and start hauling them in a few days later, some days are better than others, but they know where to find lobsters and how to get them. Fishermen on the sea of Galilee knew how to fish. But Jesus is Lord, not only of believers, but of all creation. He had something to teach these disciples, so all night long the fish avoided the nets, they caught nothing. Were they even by then talking among themselves, “Remember the last time this happened, and Jesus came and told us to put the nets out?” Did they even begin to think about what else he taught them back then? It may be going to far, but John has made so much of light and darkness, night and day, could it be that the detail of their fishing at night indicates that at least in one area they were still in the dark? That is, they needed to learn that they could do nothing, not even what they thought they were best at, without Jesus.
A side note: we don’t want to conclude from this that so called “secular work” is unworthy of a disciple of Jesus. We have all kinds of examples of people that were employed in a profession that paid the bills, yet they still made serving Christ the center of their life. The apostle Paul himself is one of the best examples: h supported himself as a tent maker while he served Christ with his life. Your work matters to God. It is important. Even before the fall God put the man and his woman in the Garden, and gave them work, to tend the garden. The important thing is, whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord. Take pride in your work. Do your best for your employer. And most of all, depend on Jesus, seek His glory.
In 21:4,5 notice that the disciples didn’t immediately recognize Him, they needed to learn to discern His presence and to hear His voice: “But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any food?" They answered Him, "No." We need to be attentive to what the Lord is saying to us, first of all, through the pages of the Bible. That means we need to be in the Word daily, allowing the Word of Christ to dwell richly within us. We also need to be discerning of the teaching we hear and the counsel we receive, testing it, like the Bereans in Acts 17, against the Word of God. Jesus said earlier in this Gospel, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me…” That is normal, healthy Christianity. If we know Jesus we should follow Him through every moment of life recognizing His presence and seeking His glory.
II. Jesus knows our needs and is able to guide every aspect of our life if we will recognize His presence and obey Him (21:6-14).
Even though the disciples don’t immediately recognize Jesus, He nonetheless engages them. The Master is still teaching. We read in 21:6, “And He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.” In Luke 5:1-11, the similar “sign” was used in the context of calling the disciples… Then, they recognized Jesus was no mere man, and “left all and followed Him.” Do you think they might have sensed a little déjà vu even as the “directions” were given by the man on the beach? Why would they follow the suggestion of a stranger? Could it be? A fruitless night of fishing, just like that time three years earlier, and then a confident voice telling them to cast the nets again?
One of them speaks up, “Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish.” John was the first to say what the others might have been thinking, “It is the Lord!” Peter leapt into the water. It’s kind of funny because it doesn’t say that he started swimming to the beach, but the implication is he wanted to get to shore as quickly as possible, let the others worry about the fish, he wanted to get to Jesus! When we recognize His voice, we come, hungry for fellowship, thirsting for His presence.
“Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish which you have just caught...” Then we read in v.11, “Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken.” Notice that Jesus is serving them breakfast. Just as He had washed their feet in the upper room they arrive at the shore and find a fire with fish already cooking. Some of their fish could be added to the menu. The disciples needed to know that they were completely dependent on Jesus… even in their area of greatest competence (fishing!) they needed Him. He knows us well; intimately, every thought, every struggle, every need. And He will meet us at the point of our need. So He feeds them physically, even as He is giving them a spiritual lesson. Notice that there was fish already cooking when they got there, breakfast would start even before they could ready some of the catch they just pulled in.
153 fish, a very precise number! There may be some symbolism there (but I am not yet convinced by the various ideas I have read), but for now all I can say is that an exact number like that fits with the idea of an eyewitness account, one more evidence that the beloved disciple, John, the son of Zebedee and brother of James is writing this book. It was a lot of fish, and the nets were not breaking. If we are in the Lord’s will, if we are working in obedience to His word, He is going to bring about His good purpose in our lives. That includes when we are about His word of fishing for men.
What is God saying to me in this passage? There was nothing necessarily wrong with the idea of a return to secular employment – the disciples had needs, and that was one way to take care of those needs. Peter “fishing” would be no stranger than Paul making tents! But there is no mention that they took time to pray, to seek the Lord, and to ask His will. They seem to have lost direction, a sense of the mission that Jesus had entrusted to them. We’ve been looking at our vision and mission as a church – we’ll be talking about that at our next quarterly meeting - and we need to ask about our vision and mission as an individual follower of Jesus as well. Is it your mission in life to know Jesus and to make Him known? One way we can do that is by showing an uncommon commitment to do our best for your employer – whatever we do, do it as unto the Lord. One thing I did as a heavy equipment operator, after coming to Christ, I learned to be consistent, to work the same whether my boss was present or not. That kind of committed service may eventually evoke questions as to what our motivation is to be so diligent. Even if no one ever notices, Jesus knows, and it pleases Him.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? Recognize that if you have trusted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you have acknowledged who He is and put all your hope in Him, that means you are a disciple, a Christ follower. That means affirming your dependence on Him in every area of your life. He told the disciples in the upper room that they needed to “abide” in Him, He said “…without me you can do nothing…” (John 15:5). That was an important lesson for these disciples to learn, and it is essential for us to recognize as well. Think about that, AMEN.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Is Seeing Believing?
Introduction: A couple of years ago my brother was visiting us here in Boothbay and we heard there was a charity auction of sports memorabilia for the benefit of the special Olympics. We went, and one of the players we met there was Garo Yepremian, who was an excellent place kicker for the Miami Dolphins, once hitting 20 consecutive field goals without a miss and was even the MVP of the pro bowl once when he kicked 5 out of 5 FGs to win the game. Meeting Garo was a bigger deal for my brother than for me, since he is, for some reason, a lifelong Miami fan! For all the good that Garo Yepremian did for the undefeated Miami Dolphin Football team in 1972-73 (he was the leading scorer for the team that ear, scoring over 100 points) he is perhaps most (in)famous for “the pass.” Miami was leading 14-0 and the team was lined up to kick a field goal that would have essentially put the game out of reach. The field goal attempt was blocked, and Yepremian was the first person to get the ball. Rather than just falling on it and letting the defense take over he started rolling right and attempted a “pass.” The ball went straight up in the air, he got another hand on it and tipped upward like he was playing volleyball, and it was then intercepted by the other team and returned for a touchdown. “All is well that ends well,” Miami held on to win the Superbowl 14-7 and completed a perfect 17-0 season. But even though Garo was Miami’s leading scorer that year, even though he would be a two time probowl player, he will forever be remembered for “the pass.” The scene we look at today in John’s Gospel focuses on the Apostle Thomas. Thomas was a faithful follower of Jesus, but because of the episode we look at today, is always thought of as “doubting Thomas.”
The Big Idea: Faith means believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and trusting Him alone for forgiveness and life.
I. Is faith blind, or is seeing believing? No, it means taking God at His Word (24,25). After the amazing appearance of the resurrected Jesus to the disciples you might think that solidarity and faith would be overflowing. But there is a little interlude that only John reports: John 20:24-25 “Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’" Missouri is called the “show me” state, I guess we can say Thomas was the “show me” apostle. The other disciples had to be excited, overwhelmed, about what they had seen on that first Sunday night, the Master had appeared to them. He was alive!
“But Thomas…” The other disciples met Jesus on Sunday night, but someone was missing. Thomas was not with them, and so he comes back to the group hearing excited reports that Jesus was alive. His friends had experienced what was probably one of the most exciting moments in human history, and he had missed it! This is not the first time we read of Thomas in John.
The first was when Jesus determined to go to Bethany, to the house of Mary and Martha after the death of Lazarus: We read in John 11:16 “Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with Him.’" Not exactly optimistic, but at least he is committed!
Later, in the upper room, Thomas has a question as Jesus is teaching the disciples and preparing them for his departure. We read in John 14:4-6
"And where I go you know, and the way you know." 5 Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?" 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Jesus was teaching the disciples about his impending death and resurrection, and they could not grasp what he was saying. Thomas didn’t either, but at least he speaks up and asks a question. To be truthful, Thomas was not exactly a bastion of faith and understanding at either of those moments. But missing out on the Easter night appearance of Jesus was probably the most memorable moment involving Thomas in the gospels. This was “the pass” for him.
His statement in 20:25 seems to be stubborn determination not to believe. “Unless I see… I will not believe…” He is essentially telling his friends, “you can talk all you want, I won’t believe you unless I can see it for myself.”
To be fair to Thomas, that has been something of a characteristic of Jesus’ countrymen as He walked among them. The prolog summarized the reception Jesus got, “He came unto His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). John uses the word “sign” to talk about the miracles that Jesus did that revealed something about his identity. The other writers preferred the word “miracle,” dunamis, “an act of power,” or the word “wonder,” teras, which emphasized the reaction of the people to what Jesus did. But in John’s gospel they are usually called semeia, signs, because they revealed something about Jesus, they showed He is who He claimed to be. He did things that only God could do. But John makes it clear that “signs” are not enough to convince the Jews to believe.
Sometimes the “signs” resulted in someone “believing”, even if it was partial and immature faith. The very first miracle in Cana had that result for the disciples: John 2:11 “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” We read also at the end of that chapter, John 2:23 “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.”
But then we also had people like Nicodemus who, “…came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him" (3:2). He recognized something in what Jesus was doing, but still did not understand, did not believe. Later, when a father asks Jesus to heal his son, Jesus says in John 4:48, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe." Then there is the multitude in John 6:2 that “…followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.”
Seeing the signs may lead to faith, but the healing of the man born blind in John 9, and the raising of Lazarus in John 11, make it clear that no matter how compelling the evidence, there is a spiritual supernatural element to seeing with faith and responding to the God who has revealed himself in Christ. The religious leaders knew what God’s Word said, but they didn’t know God, so they couldn’t take Him at His word. Faith means taking God at His word, believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and trusting Him alone for forgiveness and life.
II. Grace and Revelation (or, better yet, “The Grace of Revelation”): Jesus appears once again, further revealing his character and attributes to the glory of God (26, 27).
Jesus came to the disciples repeatedly, strengthening their faith and preparing them: “And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!"
Jesus graciously meets us at the point of our need, speaking to us in our struggles. Notice: Even though he wasn’t physically in the room when Thomas returned and expressed his doubts, Jesus knew exactly what had happened, everything that Thomas had said, and He makes sure Thomas understands that:
Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing" (John 20:27).
It’s like He says, “Really Thomas, is that what you need in order to believe? Here I am! Touch me and see, I am really here, I did what I said I would do, I AM who I claimed to be!” There is no indication that Thomas needed to actually follow through and touch the wounds in Jesus hands and side. Seeing Him and hearing Him no longer left any room for questioning. How do you feel about the fact that Jesus know all about you: every struggle, every failure. You may have wished “the pass” in your life went unseen, but He saw that too. And He never gives up on you. People might, but Jesus still says, “Come, peace be with you, I Love you, I died for you. The nail prints in my hands, the opening in my side, it’s all for you.” Faith means believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and trusting Him alone for forgiveness and life.
III. Faith means believing who Jesus is, and trusting Him personally (28). 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" Consider exactly what Thomas said.
First of all He calls Jesus “…Lord...” Kurios could be simply a polite way of saying “sir.” On the other end of the spectrum it was also used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) to translate the divine name, “Yahweh.” The Jews avoid pronouncing the Lord’s name. Until this day. when it is encountered in the Hebrew Bible, they will substitute “Adonai,” i.e. “Lord.” When the translation to Greek was made, the word “kurios” was used in place of the divine name. Which did he mean? “Sir” or “Yahweh”? In the context of John, where Jesus has repeatedly revealed himself with the phrase “I AM” and considering the parallel statement in this very verse it is clear…
He called Him Lord and “…God…” This is what John has been trying to make clear since in opening verses of the Gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus repeatedly revealed himself as the “I AM,” God incarnate, revealing His glory in His works and His words. Now, on the lips of one of the disciples, what John has told us repeatedly throughout the Gospel is affirmed: He is God! Thomas may forever be known for “the pass,” he may always be “doubting Thomas,” but of all the disciples he is the one who called Jesus theos, “God.”
But notice this: Thomas not only calls Jesus Lord and God, but he says, “…my Lord and my God…” He not only used these titles, but he personalized them, “My Lord and my God…” At this moment Thomas is not speaking for anyone else, it is just Jesus and him. The declaration he makes is a clear statement of personal faith in Jesus: Now he believes! There is a difference between knowing the facts of the Gospel, and knowing about God, and personally resting your trust in Him, knowing Him personally. Being raised in a Christian family won’t save you. Going to a Bible teaching church won’t save you. We can only be saved by grace through faith in Jesus. Faith means believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and trusting Him alone for forgiveness and life.
IV. The blessing of faith: Hearing and believing is the path to life (29-31). We have Jesus’ response to the confession of Thomas, and John’s summary of His purpose in writing down the story of Jesus.
First, we have Jesus’ word to Thomas (v.29). “Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." I don’t think Jesus is minimizing the uniqueness and importance of the eyewitness testimony of the disciples. Paul points to this as an important evidence of the message he preached in I Corinthians 15. “He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve…” (I Cor 15:5). The truth of the resurrection is testified to by the eyewitnesses. Similarly John begins his first letter emphasizing the testimony of eyewitnesses:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life -- 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us -- 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (I John 1:1-3).
Our faith is reasonable. It is important that we have the witness of the apostles to the Gospel Truth. We have the testimony of those who saw Him that gives evidence which assures us that God’s Word is truth.
We have not only Jesus’ word to Thomas, but also John’s word to us (30,31). “Many other signs did Jesus that are not written…” John was purposeful and deliberate in what he included in his gospel (as was the Holy Spirit who inspired him to write!). “…these are written that you may believe…” We have this written account of the life and teaching of Jesus to evoke life giving faith in Him. John wants this written Word to lead us to know Him, the One who is way, the truth and the Life. Friends this is why we teach the Bible here. This is why we urge you to read the word, and study it, and to hide it in your heart. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. John wrote not only to preserve an eyewitness testimony to what Jesus said and did, but to lead us to believe in Him. But believe what? He had two major concerns:
The first was Christological: John wrote so that the reader might believe “…that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God…” Who is this Jesus? John clearly wants us to understand rightly who Jesus is. Not simply a great teacher or a great example or even a great prophet. Any “church” or religion that does not go further than that is false. He was those things yes, but He is so much more. He is the one the Old Testament predicted would come, the Messiah and Savior. But get this: He is God, God the Son.
His second concern was pastoral, or maybe what we could call “evangelistic.” “…and that believing you might have life in His name…” The faith that He is hoping to evoke in the reader is the faith that gives life, eternal life, the abundant life of blessing that He wants us to have.
What is God saying to me in this passage? We may have moments in life like “the pass.” But you know, they needn’t define us, in the big picture, that doesn’t really matter. The question that matters is “what will you do with Jesus?” If you know Him as your personal Lord and Savior, in Jesus, you win! The evidence is clear. The facts are certain. Faith means believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and trusting Him alone for forgiveness and life.
What would God have me do in response to this passage? First of all, our study in John calls for a response. Do you see, in the light of the evidence? Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Will you trust him as your savior, and submit to him as the Lord of your life? We are saved by grace through faith. Faith means believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and trusting Him alone for forgiveness and life. It’s a simple as A.B.C… And for those who have taken that step the Bible is clear that we live by faith, that is we live in the light of who Jesus is, in recognition of his provision and his presence, and in submission to his authority. The disciples left everything to follow Jesus. Will you make Him the center of your life? Will be make knowing Him, and making Him known your purpose in living? Think about that, amen.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
The Resurrection, God’s Mission, and You
Introduction: Being a father may be one of the most intensive “vignettes” of the Christian Life. As we are called to make disciples of every nation to the glory God, that mission starts at home. With our family. With our kids. When we consider the challenges that children growing up today will face, we could easily despair. The truth is, in Christ, you have what it takes. Listen, living for Jesus in a fallen world is not only difficult, it would be impossible, if not for the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. The Good News of the Gospel means we have a sure hope of eternal life through faith in Christ. He died for us and rose again so there can be no doubt about who He is and what He accomplished. As He said from the cross, “It is finished!” The debt has been paid for all who will believe and come to Him. The resurrection also has implications that can encourage us as we seek to carry out God’s mission in a dark world. Because of Him we “have what it takes” to carry out the work He has entrusted to us.
The Big Idea: Dads, the resurrection of Jesus means you have what it takes: the peace of God and the joy of His presence as we bring the message of forgiveness in the power of the Holy Spirit.
I. Because He lives we have the assurance of His Presence (19a). The initial reports of the resurrection had been circulating since early that morning. Evening was approaching and the disciples were gathered together in a locked room.
Notice first of all that the disciples at this moment were afraid. They were behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews.” Considering what had just happened to their Master and Teacher that is not so surprising. The Jews had been planning to move on Jesus and get rid of Him for some time, but the opportunity had come, and they got their way. Were the disciples next? Were their lives also in jeopardy? The doors were locked, and they were afraid.
Jesus appeared to them there. They were hiding from the authorities, concerned that they might be in danger. They were afraid, and then Jesus appeared “in their midst.” There is no indication that He knocked at the door, the locked door simply wasn’t a barrier to Him. Like the grave clothes and the stone on the tomb a door wouldn’t hold Him back. Whatever our circumstance we are promised that He is with us always (Matt 28:18-20), He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb 13:5). Repeatedly, the Scriptures remind us that we do no need to be afraid, Because we are not alone: God is with us.
· Isaiah 43:5 “Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.”
· Jer 1:7-8 7 But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD.
· Jer 42:11 11 Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him, declares the LORD, for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands.
· Acts 18:9-10 9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you…
You get the idea. Yes, we live in a hostile world. We are sent to those in rebellion against God. But there is nothing to be afraid of because we are not alone. Instead of being so focused on asking God to “fix” every problem we face, maybe we would have more peace if we could just recognize His presence, and trust Him to see us through the crisis. He is with us! Are you going through a time of storm? Jesus is in the boat! Remember earlier in this Gospel, the disciples were battling a stormy sea, in jeopardy – then they see Jesus walking to them on the water. They were “terrified!” His response, “Fear not, ego eimi, “It is I” (John 6:20). His presence assures us, there is nothing to be afraid of. It is not just that someone is with us, it is I AM, the Creator, the God who spoke this universe into existence.
The disciples were in a locked room, afraid of what the Jewish authorities would do next, and Jesus showed up. Do you have a place you go when the troubles or pressures of this world would overwhelm you? It might be a physical “get away” that you turn to. Some have a camp they can go to, others might go out on a boat ride or for a walk. Some like to put in some ear protection and go shooting! Those can be constructive times. It may be that you simply withdraw from the activities or people that you feel put you at risk or are pulling at you. Where ever it is, if you know Jesus, you can be assured that you are not alone. We have the promise of His presence. Remember the old song, “Leaning on the everlasting arms”? Lean on Him, He is right there. Don’t despair, be Glad! As we are raising our kids, teaching the next generation, we are not alone. Dads, the resurrection of Jesus means you have what it takes: the peace of God and the joy of His presence as we bring the message of forgiveness in the power of the Holy Spirit.
II. Because He lives we can have Peace (19b-20). God created a world that was ordered and harmonious. Sin brought disorientation and chaos into God’s creation. “Peace” in the Bible goes beyond the idea of an absence of conflict. For the New Testament writers, with the background of the Old Testament in their hearts, it speaks of the peace we experience because, by faith, we have peace with God (Rom 5:1). That means much more than merely the absence of conflict.
Peace = Greek, eivrh,nh, eirene Hebrew, ~Alv', shalom =
“Life at its best under the gracious hand of God”
“Shalom!” was a common greeting in the first century, as it continues to be among Jews today. Jesus had promised “peace” back in John 14:27…
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
Jesus had repeated the word “peace” in that context to draw attention to what He was saying, to make it clear what He was talking about. By repeating “peace” three times here, in today’s context, Jesus draws attention to it, and calls His disciples (and the readers of the Gospel) to reflect on its meaning. This is what Jesus was talking about when He said “I am come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). On Good Friday, Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” i.e., “The debt is paid!” That truth laid the foundation for this Word on the evening of the first day, “Peace!” Matthew Henry wrote:
“When Christ died He left a will in which He gave His soul to His Father, His body to Joseph of Arimathea, His clothes to the soldiers, and His mother to John. But to His disciples, who had left all to follow Him, He left not silver or gold, but something far better—His PEACE!”
That is good news, so we can be glad! Dads, the resurrection of Jesus means you have what it takes: the peace of God and the joy of His presence as we bring the message of forgiveness in the power of the Holy Spirit.
III. Because He lives we have the Power to carry out His Mission (21-23).
First, notice that we are sent by Him (21). “…As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." Jesus uses two different words for “sent” here, but the context makes it clear they are used synonymously, they are sent on a mission. He had anticipated this mission in His “High Priestly Prayer” in John 17:18 when He prayed, "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” Jesus was sent into a hostile, unbelieving world with a mission, to accomplish redemption for all who would believe. He laid down His life for His sheep. Now He is sending the disciples to proclaim that Good News and to call people everywhere to repentance and faith.
Secondly notice what Jesus does, symbolically breathing the promised Holy Spirit onto them. We are empowered by His Spirit (22). “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” The word used here, “He breathed on them…” is what is called a hapax legomena, it occurs only once, here in this verse, in the Greek New Testament. Why did John use such an unusual word? There is this phenomenon in literature called “intertextuality” which also applies to the Bible. That’s a big word with a simple idea: the New Testament writers would often expect their readers to “hear” echoes of the Old Testament when they used certain key words. For example, we saw that in John 1:1 “In the beginning…” Without saying it, every Jewish reader would be drawn in their mind immediately back to Genesis 1:1 which began with exactly the same prepositional phrase. The earlier context would automatically “flesh out” the meaning and significance of the New Testament text. In fact in order to understand the New Testament correctly, you needed to reflect on the Old Testament passage(s) the writer intended to evoke. Here John uses an unusual word, it appears only here in the New Testament, but it is the same word, in the exact same form that appeared in two contexts in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament which was widely used and circulated in the first century A.D., it appears in Genesis 2:7…
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
Especially since John opened his gospel with an allusion to Genesis the reader would already be on the alert for other connections to the first book of the Bible. The action of Jesus was unusual enough that it already stood out. Hearing the exact same word from Jesus that was written in Genesis 2:7 would surely cause that text to echo in the ears of a hearer or reader of John.
The second use of the same word, again in exactly the same form, is in 1 Kings 17:21. It’s the story of the widow’s son who dies and is raised to life by Elijah. Here the translators of the Septuagint (LXX) didn’t seem to know what to do with the Hebrew word, as most modern translations in English say Elijah “stretched himself” three times over the woman’s son. The LXX translated the Hebrew with the word “he breathed,” the exact same form of the word in Gen 2:7, and John 20:21. And the boy is raised to life.
The last use of the exact same word, using the same Greek tense in just a slightly different form (it’s an imperative in this case), is in Ezekiel 37:9ff… The vision of dry bones coming to life. Notice that here it is also connected with the promise of the Holy Spirit:
“Also He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live." ' " 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath [pneuma] came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. 11 Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, 'Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!' 12 "Therefore prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 "Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. 14 "I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it," says the LORD.' "
I think it is virtually certain that Jesus (and John) had the Old Testament in mind in this scene, as Jesus “breathes” the Spirit on His disciples. As God breathed life directly into Adam, as Elijah was enabled to breathe life into the dead boy as he prayed to the Lord, as God breathed the Spirit and life into the dry bones and raised up an army, Jesus was giving life, and power to a new army that He was raising up. They were locked behind closed doors saying “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!” Jesus breathed on them, and said “receive the Holy Spirit.” That same Spirit indwells you if you have trusted Jesus as Savior. In fact in this age, the presence of the Spirit is virtually an identifying mark of an authentic believer. Paul said in Romans 8:9, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” In Acts 1:8 the promise was “…you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…” Power to witness, to carry out Christ’s mission to the Glory of God.
We have the message that offers forgiveness (23). "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." There are some parallels with the scene in Matthew 18 where the disciples are given authority to exercise church discipline. Here, the church has been given authority as we preach the Gospel of Christ. We don’t save anyone, but “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.” We recognize and confirm what God is doing as the gospel is preached and people hear and believe and are baptized and publically affiliated with the local church.
What is God saying to me in this passage? Be Glad! The resurrection of Jesus means He is with us and we have the peace of God as we bring the message of forgiveness and life in the power of the Holy Spirit.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? The world can be a dark and scary place. There are so many uncertainties about the future. We started off talking about fathers facing a seemingly impossible task as they lead their families and raise their kids. After all, we are responsible to shepherd our families and to raise up the next generation in the way of the Lord. But if you know Jesus, you have what it takes. You have peace with God. Jesus is with you. Always. The Holy Spirit indwells you and empowers you. Some dads don’t tap into that power and stumble along or worse, walk away. Walk with Him and you will lead the way. The way to “peace: life at its best under the gracious hand of God.” Think about that today, AMEN.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
Death Defying Power!
Introduction: This week was a significant anniversary. Most of us are too young to remember, but on June 6th 1944 the allied forces began the D-day invasion of Normandy. Victory came at tremendous cost, thousands of American and allied lives were lost, but the battle was won, and even though many other battles were yet to be fought historians tell us that the defeat of Hitler was certain. A decisive moment in the history of World War 2. The death and resurrection of Jesus together were such a moment in the history of redemption. Paul said that Jesus was “…declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). Peter wrote in his first letter,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1:3-5).
So the resurrection both vindicates that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and gives us a sure hope because He has defeated death. We started our walk through the Fourth Gospel about two years ago. Taking into account that we deviated from this study for some special days and guest speakers and the like, we’ve probably had about 80 messages on John over that period of time. For the last six weeks we looked into the passion of Christ in John. In many respects that surely is the climax of the story from John’s perspective as Jesus willingly goes to the cross and lays down his life for his sheep. That is the “lifting up of the Son” which the entire Gospel had been anticipating. But John won’t neglect to report “part 2” of the glorification of the Son – His resurrection from the dead. Recall Paul’s summary of the gospel at the beginning of I Corinthians 15:3-4, “…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and was buried. He was raised again the third day according to the Scriptures…” It is that part of the gospel story, as related by the beloved disciple, an eye witness, one of the first to arrive at the empty tomb, that we come to today.
The heart of the Gospel message, the power that works in us and gives assurance, is the truth that Christ “…rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…” Every other human biography eventually terminates with the death of the person who is the subject of the book. There is an indispensable addendum to this story… Jesus is alive! We serve a risen Savior!
The Big Idea: Because Jesus defeated death we know He is who He claimed to be. He is worthy of our worship and our obedience.
I. The Tomb was really empty (20:1-10). It seems as though it was the last thing that any of them had expected. It may be something of a surprise that they were so slow to catch on. After all Jesus had repeatedly told them that it was necessary for him to be betrayed, crucified, and ultimately raised from the dead on the third day. They didn’t yet have ears to hear or eyes to see. They had some frame work for the possibility of someone rising from the dead in that Lazarus was raised by Jesus after four days in the tomb. But now Jesus himself was dead, it was the third day. How could they hope that He would somehow walk alive out of the tomb on his own? There were no “hooks” to hang that hat on!
As the passage opens, we see the Struggle of Faith (20:1,2). We see that in the struggle of Mary Magdalene to grasp what had happened. Somehow John tells us that she arrived at the tomb before the other women and is the first to see the stone rolled away from the entrance. According to the other gospels, at some point she met the other women, and apparently at least looked into the tomb to see that the body was not there. Her immediate conclusion: someone must have stolen his body and removed it from the tomb. It wasn’t bad enough that the rulers had rejected Him and that Pilate had gone along with an unjust execution, now He is denied the decency of having his body left in peace in the grave!
Notice a small detail here: Mary came to the tomb while it was still dark. Besides giving us the obvious time reference, night and day in John has repeatedly also had a spiritual significance. Remember that Nicodemus had come to Jesus “at night” and we saw that he was still in the dark spiritually as well. He couldn’t understand what Jesus was saying when He talked about being born again. “How can these things be?” He was still in the dark. Mary Magdalene arrives at the tomb, sees the stone rolled away and the tomb empty, but she is still in the dark, she doesn’t understand the meaning of the empty tomb. She concludes someone must have stolen the body! So she runs to Peter and John with the news.
The prophet Habbakuk said “the just shall live by faith” and that became one of the key themes in Paul’s letters. Though at one level faith is “believing God, taking Him at His word…” it also means trusting Him as His story unfolds in history. Many times as we are passing through this life we will struggle, as Mary did, and pray, like the Father who brought his demon possessed son to Jesus in Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief…”
As the story continues we see the Growth of Faith (20:3-9). Peter and John race to the tomb, John gets there first and stops at the entrance and looks in, Peter catches up and runs right past him into the tomb. It’s not too surprising at this point to see Peter go rushing in. No doubt their heads were spinning as they tried to make sense out what was happening, what this meant. NB. Peter first sees the grave clothes lying empty. But John sees, and believes. In this context, after the resurrection, it seems like this must mean that he came to a fuller, correct understanding of who Jesus is and that He was alive again. The two responses of these disciples serve as a good reminder that God is working in our midst and we are all different, at different places in our walk of faith. The tomb is empty! That is a fact. Has the significance of that truth come home to your heart? It is not only the revelation of that fact historically, but the interpretation of it verbally that God uses to speak to our hearts.
Notice the experience of the disciples, we read in verse 9, “For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” Elsewhere Paul reminds us that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Rom 10:13). To believe we need to “hear” the Word. I read a devotional this week that referred to Romans 10:13 and said faith is God’s Word “activated” in us. That means being in the Bible, reading, it means being under sound teaching, it means receiving the Word which is “living and active and sharper than any two edged sword.” It is through the Word that we know that Jesus defeated death and that He is who He claimed to be. He is worthy of our worship and our obedience. You see the tomb is really empty because…
II. Jesus is really alive (20:11-18)! The empty tomb, if the story stopped there, is intriguing, but it needs to be explained. What happened? Where was the body? What does it mean? The early opponents of Christianity attempted to circulate “explanations” to deal with the problem of the empty tomb, even if they had to make them up. We read for example in Matthew 28:11-15…
“Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, ‘Tell them, “His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.” ‘And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will appease him and make you secure.’ So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.”
The language is pretty clear: evidently when Matthew wrote his gospel, this was an ongoing attempt by the Jewish leaders to “explain away” the empty tomb. A made up story is meaningless. The only thing that matters is what really happened. At first even the disciples weren’t sure.
When we look at Mary Magdelene it is clear that what we don’t know about this story brings grief (11-13). Mary returns to the tomb, weeping, heartbroken, confused. She was hurting, she didn’t understand, but she didn’t stop seeking. She bent down and looked into the tomb. The implication is that she wanted to understand, to make sense out of this story that was unfolding before her eyes. She was seeking the truth. So she looks in and sees two angels. By the language here it seems as though she did not realize that they were angels, even as they speak with her. Morning had dawned, but Mary, for the moment, was still in the dark. “Why are you weeping?” the angels ask. “…They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him…” The tomb is empty, but Mary still hasn’t understood what had happened. Then the Light of the World shines on her.
In the midst of our pain Jesus calls us by name (14-16). That one word, the Master calling her name, opened her understanding, illumined her faith: “Mary!” He knows us intimately, personally. Have you had a time of darkness when you were struggling to understand, to make sense of a difficult moment in your life? Sometimes it’s in those times of tribulation that God teaches us the most. C.S. Lewis said “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains.” Mary, confused and in tears, hears Jesus speak her name, and replies immediately, with recognition and assurance, “Teacher!” It’s rarely an audible voice, but just as surely the Master speaks to us today. It may be through Scripture, through the love of Christ that flows through a brother or sister around us, through a song that brings sound theology to our heart and moves us closer to Him. Mary, Nancy, Steve, Bob, Wallace, Jeanie… He knows us by name, and He wants us to trust Him, to believe Him.
Mary was sent as a “witness” (17-18). Jesus told her to go to the others and tell what she saw and heard from Him. We read in John 20:17-18,
"Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.' " 18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.”
Jesus said “Go and tell.” So Mary, obediently, joyfully, “went and told.” After all, she had met with Jesus and out of the ashes of her life, sprang hope. Her task now was to bring hope to others around her who also were hurting, by being a witness to the Truth.
What is God saying to me in this passage? Because Jesus defeated death we know He is who He claimed to be. He is worthy of our worship and our obedience. The work is done. Do you believe it? Will you trust Him even in the times of darkness?
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? Sixty-nine years ago the allies won a battle at great cost that assured victory in World War 2. Two thousand years ago Jesus won a battle that assures forgiveness and life to all who come to Him in faith. Have you believed the simple truth of the Gospel message? It means first of all admitting that we are a sinner and acknowledging that our sin separates us from God (Rom 3:23). Secondly we have to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for our sins on the cross (John 3:16). And then finally we have to trust Him as our personal Lord and Savior: He died for you, personally, and rose again (Rom 10:9,10). Will you determine to live by faith, remembering His presence, even when the trials of life in this sin cursed world try to eclipse the Light? Remember we know the One who is the Light of the World. We have seen His glory. Remember Matthew, after He came to Jesus, he reached out to those around him, with a clear desire to introduce them to Jesus. Will you determine to be a Matthew this year? If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, He has placed you exactly where He wants you. The people in your sphere of influence desperately need to know Him. Think about that. AMEN.
Sunday, June 2, 2013
The Passion of Christ, Part 6: The Wages of Sin is Death
Introduction: Part of the ancient Apostles Creed says that “I believe… in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord, who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried…” In our sixth week in the study of the Passion of Christ in John we come to exactly that moment. Jesus dies, for us, and is buried. When Paul was summarizing the “gospel” that He preached in I Cor 15:3,4, he began, “…Christ died for our sins according the Scriptures and was buried…” It’s that great “Gospel Fact” that we come to today, a day in which we’ll also celebrate the Lord’s Table which invites us to reflect on the great salvation we have in Christ. John wants us to know not only what happened, but he calls attention to what Jesus said on the cross. Last week we considered his “word” to Mary and John, as He showed his love and his power to care for his own. We’ll see today two more words of Christ that point to what He accomplished on our behalf.
The Big Idea: The holiness of God demands that sin be punished with death. Jesus solved our “sin problem” by taking that penalty for all who will put their trust in Him.
I. In accordance with the plan of the Father, Jesus chose to lay down His life for His sheep (28-30). The passage continues…
“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said ( to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”(John 19:28-30).We have seen in John the truth that Jesus’ death has given us new life. That idea of substitution is present in John 19:28-29, even if it is not immediately evident - In John we have seen that Jesus is in total control during the Passion. In John 10:18 Jesus said, "No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again." When we realize that, what we see in this word from the cross is even more amazing, because Jesus, in his humanity, suffered for us (and chose to do so), in fulfillment of the Scriptures. Jesus Christ was not a helpless victim; no, he was the almighty, sovereign Son of God voluntarily submitting himself to humiliation and suffering, laying down his life of his own accord. From Matthew and Mark we know that earlier Jesus had refused a tranquilizing drink of Gall mixed with wine (Mt 27:34; Mk 15:23). Now, the work was finished, the price was paid, and in order to fulfill the Scripture, Jesus speaks.
First of all, it is clearly a cry to Fulfill Scripture: "After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), 'I thirst.'" The picture again is one of Jesus in complete command, consciously fulfilling the agenda that the Father had set out for him. John's reference to the fact that Jesus knew that all was now completed recalls his prayer in John 17:4, "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do." The work has been completed, his suffering was coming to an end, and so to fulfill Scripture Jesus said, "I thirst." The whole scene is one of total devotion and commitment to the Father's program for his life and total command of the situation. Everything that happened was in accordance with the predetermined plan of God prophesied in the Scriptures.
Two texts of the Old Testament especially show the prophetic picture of thirst during the death of the Messiah: Psalm 22:15 says, "My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth." Then we read in Psalm 69:21, "They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst."
Jesus, even in the midst of the most intense physical agony, fully aware of the word of his Father in Scripture and fully committed to order all of his life, even these last few moments, by it. He spoke so that action would be taken that would specifically “fulfill” the Scripture. He knew that His statement would provoke that bystander to give a drink, precisely fulfilling the prophecy.This is not to minimize the agonizing thirst Jesus no doubt experience. This is a cry of very real human agony. This is at least the second time in John that we see Jesus thirsty. In chapter 4 at the well in Samaria, Jesus was thirsty and asks for a drink. In that context he spoke of living water flowing from the belly of those who drink of the life giving water He had to offer. Though there was that important spiritual lesson, the text also certainly implies that Jesus was thirsty. John clearly states the divinity of Jesus (from the very first verse!); but he also shows that he took on a real human nature: Fully God, and fully man.
At this point, Jesus has been hanging on the cross for nearly six hours (cf. Mark 15:25, 34). The combination of Jesus' loss of blood, physical exhaustion, and his exposure to the weather by now has generated a raging thirst. Jesus' cry, "I thirst," was not a polite and quiet request for a glass of water. It was a cry of agony. Jesus' thirst while hanging on the cross in our place showed the reality and intensity of his physical suffering. His thirst consummated his physical suffering and thus enabled Him to know that all was now completed. And so, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He cried out, "I thirst," knowing it would result in receiving a drink of wine vinegar from a sponge held up to his mouth on a stalk of hyssop. Jesus, in his humanity, suffered for us, in fulfillment of the Scriptures.But considering how John treats the idea of “thirst” earlier in the Gospel, we have to ask, was “spiritual thirst” an aspect of what Jesus experienced? I believe that it was John Piper that alerted me to the possibility that in spite of the reality and intensity and significance of Jesus' physical thirst there may have been another kind of thirst that Jesus experienced in a deeper, more profound way on the cross — spiritual thirst. We see other words from the cross that imply separation from the Father, it may be implicit in this word as well.
The verb "thirst" or "be thirsty" is found five times in the gospel of John in addition to our text here in John 19. All five are in contexts referring to spiritual thirst: John 4:13–15 (3x); 6:35; 7:37–38 . Look at these texts:
“Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ 15The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.’" (John 4:13-15).
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst’” (John 6:35).
“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'" (John 7:37,38).In these contexts Jesus was speaking about is a spiritual craving for God, a longing that operates deep within the heart of every human being created in the image of God, a thirst that Jesus and Jesus alone can satisfy for all eternity.
So it is also a word of substitution: The truth of this word on the cross is that our thirst for God can be quenched because Jesus was thirsty for us: we don't need be thirsty forever, precisely because Jesus was thirsty for us. Because he was thirsty, we can receive from him living water to quench our thirst for all eternity.
In the next word of Jesus we see that His death fulfilled perfectly the plan of the Father (19:30). The connection with the prophetic “drink” in v.29 is clear: the Scriptures were fulfilled – All things had been accomplished – and so Jesus said, “It is finished.” The price had been paid – the Lamb had been sacrificed. John, like the other Gospel writers, quotes from the Old Testament to show that the cross was not the result of the failure of Jesus’ kingship. In fact even in the details all that occurred was in accordance with the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.
The text unequivocally says that Jesus’ death paid the price in full: “IT IS FINISHED” Tetélestai - The price was paid. You see this word was common in the first century. According to Mouton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, it was found written on “receipts” for payments that had been made. It signified “Paid in Full.” The debt had been satisfied. An obligation had been met. Remember the word of Paul, “The wages of sin is death…” (Rom 6:23a). That is what Jesus did for us. And then, still in control, no one took His life but He laid it down of His own accord, He “…bowed His head, and gave up His spirit…” Do you see why orthodox doctrine insists that we are saved by grace alone, through faith in the finished work of Jesus? If we say we need to add to what He did in any way we are saying that Jesus’ work alone was not enough to do the job. However, His work was sufficient. The holiness of God demands that sin be punished with death. Jesus took care of our “sin problem” by taking that penalty for all who will put their trust in Him.
II. As the Lamb of God He was slain, pierced for us, yet his bones unbroken in fulfillment of Scripture, and so He became the source of life (31-37).
The Romans would normally allow someone to suffer for days on the cross, dying a slow, torturous death. There was an acceptable protocol on the rare occasion it was necessary to hasten the death of condemned criminals who were crucified. To make it impossible for them to push themselves up with their legs in order to breath, their legs would be broken, and very quickly they would suffocate. The Jewish leaders ask Pilate to do exactly that, as they didn’t want the bodies lingering there on the special Sabbath of the Passover week. They needed to get on with their religious activity, they wanted to be done with this dirty work and get about the Passover celebration. Here we see another detail that had to be fulfilled exactly as it had been pictured in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the instructions regarding the Passover lamb in Exod 12:46 (also Num 9:12) it said: “…nor shall you break one of its bones.” Similarly it says of the Righteous Sufferer in Psalm 34:20, “He guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken.” The Lamb would be slain, but His bones would not be broken.
Even as the Passover lambs were being prepared, the legs of the criminals alongside of Jesus were broken. But not Jesus’ legs. He was already dead. A spear was thrust into his side, blood and water poured out. The prophet Zechariah had written, “They shall look on the One they have pierced…” The nails in His hands and feet, the spear in His side, fulfilled that Scripture.
It seems that John, who alone records this detail of the blood and water pouring from Jesus’ side, wants us to see not only the confirmation that Jesus was in fact dead, but also the spiritual significance of what had happened. Remember He is constantly thinking of how Jesus fulfilled to Old Testament Scriptures, and expects his readers to make the same connection. This week I exchanged emails with my professor Moises Silva, and he reminded me that this scene recalls the incident in Exodus 17:6-7,
6 "Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the LORD, saying, "Is the LORD among us, or not?"
To be sure that we don’t miss the connection remember that the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:4, “…and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” Here we are, in Jerusalem, at the time of Passover, and the Rock, Jesus, is struck, water and blood pours from His side. I’ll let our medical people discuss the physiology of what happened – but John surely wants us to consider that once more Jesus is the One and only source of life, as He pours out his blood for us. Recall the word of Jesus, “I thirst.” As water pours from his side along with the blood, can the reader miss a connection with the life giving water that comes through faith in Jesus? The hymn writer made this connection when he wrote, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee, let the water and the blood, from thy wounded side which flowed, be for sin the double cure, save from wrath and make me pure…”
The holiness of God demands that sin be punished with death. Jesus solved our “sin problem” by taking that penalty for all who will put their trust in Him. He was pierced for us, and He died and was buried, so that we could have life!
III. Jesus died, and was buried in a Garden Tomb (38-42). As the ancient creed summarizes, “He was crucified, died, and was buried…” There was no question about the death of Jesus.
In Isaiah 53:9 the prophet wrote that though Messiah’s “grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death.” How would that detail be fulfilled? Jesus had no wealthy family members, so would this be a detail that went unfulfilled? God is in charge. This would prove to be one more confirmation, one more fulfillment of prophecy that left no doubt about Jesus’ identity. It also shows us that not everyone in the Jewish leadership had hardened their hearts against Jesus, some were believing, even if they didn’t yet have the courage to make it known. So we see Joseph of Arimethea providing a grave for Jesus, and with him Nicodemus, who had come to Him at night (John 3), bringing a wealth of spices to properly prepare the body. For fear of the Jews, they were secret disciples.
Before we are too hard on these men, who did not stand up for Jesus while He was alive, are there times when we, because we are either intimidated or afraid of what people might think, don’t speak up and be a witness for Him? Even something as simple as bowing our head to give thanks for a meal in a restaurant: what might people think? What is the waitress comes at exactly that moment. How much more weighty is the need for people to know that Jesus, the Passover King, died for us. Will we take a stand for Him?
What is God saying to me in this passage? The holiness of God demands that sin be punished with death. Jesus solved our “sin problem” by taking that penalty for all who will put their trust in Him.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? This plan, this amazing grace, was planned by God, even from the foundation of the world, with you (and me!) in mind. As we have spent six weeks looking at the passion of Christ in John, I pray that the Spirit of God has led you into a deeper understanding of what He did for you. I hope it also has deepened your understanding that every person you know, every person you meet, desperately needs Jesus. He is their only hope. Does your love for Jesus and your fear of others sometimes conflict? Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is promoting an outreach called “My Hope for America.” The idea is that we will seek to establish relationships with the intention of sharing Christ. Do you remember Matthew when he turned to Jesus? He threw a party in his home with the hope of introducing his friends and family to Jesus. Will you be a “Matthew”? We’ll talk more about that, but be praying for those in your sphere of influence. Because you love God, reach out to them, be a friend, and let us see what God will do. Think about that. AMEN.