Wednesday, November 24, 2021

John 1:43-51 Follow Jesus, Invite Others, Grow

 43  The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

     Jesus found Philip. Previously we saw that Andrew and another sought Jesus, Andrew brought Peter. Andrew said we have found the Messiah. The differences and similarities between how these came to Jesus and how Philip and Nathanael came are something to consider.

     Jesus found Philip and simply told him to follow him. At this time, Jesus was near the location where JTB was baptizing. The town was a very little Podunk called Bethany across the Jordan. This is not the town near Jerusalem. But look at where Philip lived – in Bethsaida which is at the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee. Where did Andrew and Peter live? In Bethsaida also. What are these fishermen doing so far south, 70 miles as the crow flies, but much further by road?

     Presumably Philip was also one of JTB’s disciples and these guys were down there trying to find out who the Messiah was and learn from JTB. Since Philip hadn’t followed along with Andrew, Jesus had to find him. Philip’s statement to Nathanael was similar to Andrew’s about finding the Messiah. It didn’t take much to get them to follow Jesus. They were primed and ready.

     Jesus found Philip. This points out that it is God who works to bring us to him. Though the others were seeking the Messiah, they still must be called by God. We were chosen by him. We didn’t choose him. Many people claim to be seeking God but never find him. They openly reject Jesus and therefore cannot be truly seeking God. The problem beneath this is that Jesus isn’t seeking them. They haven’t been called. That may seem very harsh, but we have to remember that this is God’s plan, and he will execute it when he chooses. It isn’t based on our “seeking” that comes from the “goodness” of our spirits because we don’t have any goodness there until we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. But more on this will have to wait until Chapter Three.

     The one of whom Moses and the Law and Prophets wrote about. These guys knew their Scripture. I hear a lot of people saying they were unlearned fishermen; I don’t think so. They had seen the Messiah from all the books of the Old Testament. They were unlearned by the Pharisees’ standards but knew a lot. This points out that we don’t have to go to seminary to learn the Word of God.

     It is interesting that the Sadducees missed the Messiah because they relied only on Moses. But even there, there was enough to see the need for and the promise of a Messiah. When Jesus was on the road to Emmaus Jesus taught the two disciples, “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:18). It is interesting how often people start talking about Jesus from the New Testament but neglect the very important part of the Good News that he was predicted and promised from the beginning of time. In Luke 16:31 and John 5:46, the Bible say that if you don’t believe Moses, you won’t believe Jesus.

46 Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."

     Can anything good come out of Nazareth. Even though Nathanael had a bias against Nazareth, he still went to see Jesus. His skepticism was proved inaccurate. However, he wasn’t like the Pharisees who were closeminded when they insulted Nicodemus in John 7:52. We must keep an open mind when we approach Scripture to see what God has for us. We can’t be like the Pharisees who would not consider anything that didn’t match their traditions and set theology. Nathanael came to see if Philip was right.

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!" 

     Jesus saw Nathanael and said he didn’t have any deceit in him. He wasn’t saying that Nathanael was perfect, but that he spoke his mind. He didn’t cover up his skepticism with deceit. This is a hard thing to do because always speaking our mind can cause trouble. It takes discernment when to hold our tongue and when and how to express criticism or skepticism without causing harm to others. It is also tough when we are people pleasers and want to avoid conflict. The good news is that Jesus knows us through and through. We don’t have to pretend with him. When we rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us, we can also have the discernment to speak the truth in love.

48 Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." 

     Jesus’ statement was a shock to Nathanael. What about us? Shouldn’t this show that God knows us as well? He knows our thoughts before we speak them (Ps 139:4). He sees what we are doing (Ps 139:2-3). We are accountable to him for what we do (Heb 4:13) even though he hems us in, determines our steps (Ps 139:5).

     Jesus saw Nathanael while under the fig tree. This is something the omniscient Son of God revealed to the human Jesus. It shows that Jesus is truly both God and man. Revealing this to Nathanael was enough to convince him that Jesus is the Messiah. It is interesting that this appears to be his first encounter with Jesus and he makes such a bold statement.

49 Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"

    Son of God, King of Israel. Two titles for the Messiah. I get the feeling that Nathanael didn’t have a very good grasp of who Jesus really is. As time goes on, I think that we will see all the disciples had a very limited understanding of who Jesus is. Both of these titles can be related expressly to a conquering Messiah and not to a suffering servant.

     We aren’t much better when we first come to know Jesus. He is Savior. It is only after we get to know him better that we begin to fully understand the magnitude of who he is and what he has done.

50 Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, 'I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these."  51 And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

     They will all see greater things. Greater than seeing him under a tree. Greater than being King of Israel. What is greater than seeing these things? Seeing Jesus’ glory. This can’t be referring to his baptism when the Spirit descended on him because that already happened. It can’t be referring to Jesus’ transfiguration because only Peter, John, and James saw that. This must be referring to the glory of Jesus that we will all see only in heaven. It is the reward we have for our faith in Jesus. Nathanael has just expressed a limited faith in Jesus, and he responds by saying that this is only the beginning. Eternity will be so much more than just being seen under a tree.

Friday, November 19, 2021

John 1:35-42, Follow, Seek, Abide, New Name


John 1:35-423 (ESV) 5 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples,

     The next day. JTB had many disciples but for some reason (God’s plan), only two were with him the next day when Jesus walks by again. This must have been after Jesus’ baptism recorded previously. Even after Jesus’ ministry took off, these are the only two disciples that apparently left JTB and followed Jesus. Since JTB came to prepare the way, it is apparent that not many of the less dedicate disciple were able to switch allegiance than those closer to him. It is something to ponder for ourselves. How often do we get so dedicated to one teacher that we miss what God is doing elsewhere? It is how cults arise. For us, we have the Bible to check what teachers are saying but they had the Pharisees and scribes who had butchered the OT and added their traditions to it.

36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!"

     One thing we do not want to miss about the Lamb of God, Jesus was also the scapegoat. The one to whom the sins are transferred. Jesus fulfills both the sacrificial lamb and the scapegoat. He was taken outside of Jerusalem and crucified just as the scapegoat was taken outside of the camp and turned loose.

37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, "What are you seeking?" And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?"

     The disciples following Jesus and calling him Rabbi, established their desire to be his disciples. So I’ve heard, the Rabbi would walk ahead of his disciples and they would then listen to him as he taught. To follow behind would then signal their intent to learn. When Jesus spoke to them, it was what are you seeking, not why are you following me. He wanted to know if they were looking to be taught or were just curious. We can have the same preoccupation with learning from the Bible. We can be curious but not looking to learn and obey or have a closer relationship with Jesus.

     Where are you staying? That was an open door for them. It was their way of asking to spend time with him. They were using the custom of the time to ask permission to come and learn from Jesus. That is what we need to do if we want to be disciples. We should be coming to the Word of God (Jesus) to learn. We ask the Lord to learn from him.

39 He said to them, "Come and you will see." So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 

    Come and you will see. Jesus grants their request. And they spend the rest of that day with Jesus. We can’t learn and grow is we don’t abide with Jesus. They learned by spending time with the one who is God incarnate. We learn by abiding in the Bible. We spend time with Jesus through his word. It is the only way to learn directly from him. Yes, there are other ways to learn, but the best way is directly from the Word of God. We remember that Jesus is the Word.

40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ).

     Andrew then gets Peter and tells him he found the Messiah. How simple of a message. It is similar to what the woman at the well told her town. Could this be the Christ? Remember how the times were weighted in expectancy of the Messiah. We can’t run up to someone and say we found the Messiah and get the same kind of response. This is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry; it is not nearly 2,000 years after his death and resurrection. We need to look at the end to see how to witness, though it would be interesting to see how this approach would work since God knows who is to come to him.

42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas" (which means Peter).

     Jesus immediately renames him. I think this shows that Jesus was well aware of the nature of his disciples. This will be seen more clearly in the next passage. We need to remember that Jesus knows us as well. He calls us by name and renames us from “Dead in Sin,” “Child of Wrath,” to “Alive in Christ,” “God’s Masterpiece,”  Christian (Eph 2:1-10).

     A side note about the way Jesus called the disciples. Each of the Gospels tell it in a different way. What I get from this is that there was a period of time when Jesus was meeting with the different disciples. When he walked past the fishing boats and told the disciples to follow him or Levi at the tax booth, He was not a stranger to them. They had already stayed with him for some time. When the call was given it the other Gospels, it was time for them to go full-time rather than part-time. It is something for us to remember also, not everyone is called to full-time ministry. Depending on how much time we spend with the Lord, it will become clear to us if that is what the Lord wants.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

John 1:29-34 Lamb of God, Eternal, Son of God

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

     The next day. When God has a plan, it goes according to his timing and not ours. People had been waiting nearly 400 years for the Messiah. He was promised at the end of the OT. It is interesting that as soon as JTB gave his testimony God starts the process of revealing Jesus to Israel.  Gal 4:4-5 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5  to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

     Jesus came to him. It may be a minor thing as we read this, but it shows that Jesus comes to us, we don’t come to him. As JTB says in verse 33, he didn’t know him. It isn’t until the Father reveals Jesus to us, we don’t know him and can’t know him. When JTB says he didn’t know Jesus, it should be noted that JTB knew who Jesus was because they were cousins. See Luke 1:36 an Mary had visited JTB’s mother before either were born. Jesus had to reveal himself to JTB as the Messiah before he could really know Jesus. It isn’t good enough for us to know who Jesus is, we must know him personally.

     The Lamb of God. This terminology would not be a surprise to the disciples. They would probably first think of the Passover Lamb or even the ram that God provided in place of Isaac when Abraham was supposed to sacrifice him. They would also be familiar with the lambs that were sacrificed daily in the temple. However, the big difference between all these lambs, other than Abraham’s lamb, was that people had to provide the lambs. God providing the lamb points again to our inability to save ourselves. Nothing we have is pure enough or good enough to be called the Lamb of God. This image is repeated in Revelation 5, the Lamb is again seen in Heaven at the right hand of God.

     The Lamb takes away the sin of the world. As we will see when we get to John 3:16, the world doesn’t necessarily mean every person in the world. It is a reference to those that God has called and has from eternity past marked for eternal life. If this applied to every single person in the world, then Judas would also be saved and Jesus says he is doomed to destruction (John 17:12).

     Note also that the Lamb of God takes away the sin (singular) of the world. What is the sin of the world? Is it not our rebellion against God? It started with Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. When that is removed, we are then able to be reconciled to God.

30 This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.”

     JTB again testifies to Jesus’ eternal nature. JTB was born at least 3 months before Jesus. The only way Jesus could be before him would be his preexistence. This shows that JTB knew that not only did Jesus take away sin, but it is only God who can do it.

31 “I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’”

     JTB tells of two reasons for baptizing Jesus.

     It was to reveal Jesus to JTB. Even though JTB knew of Jesus and the circumstances of his birth, he still needed the reassurance that Jesus is the One to come. When in prison, JTB’s faith started faltering. It shows that JTB, though a prophet of God was still a human being who needed reassurance. God had obviously told him that the Holy Spirit would be symbolized as a dove because we can’t see the Holy Spirit.

     It was to reveal Jesus to Israel. This is even more important than anything else JTB did. Even though he told people to repent and be baptized, that would have been worthless if it wasn’t followed up by Jesus and his sacrifice for our sins.

34 “And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (ESV).

     I wonder how the people other than the disciples responded to JTB’s statement that Jesus was the Son of God? After all their questioning him about who he was and then he says Jesus is the Son of God. This isn’t a statement that he is simply a child of God like we are, but that he is God himself. It would certainly bring some questions to mind as how a person could be a Son of God while God is one.

Monday, November 8, 2021

John 1:19-28 (ESV) Christ? Elijah? The Prophet, Baptism

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?"

                 Why is the testimony of John so important? There are several reasons:·                  

  • He is the direct fulfillment of prophecy from Luke 1:15-17 – he is to be the forerunner of the Messiah. The angel Gabriel said he would be “great before the Lord,” and “filled with the Holy Spirit.”
  • Gabriel interpreted Malachi 4:5-6, the last two verses of the Old Testament, to say that John will do what is promised by turning people back to the Lord. He will restore obedience and wisdom so that they will be ready for the Lord. These are the same things needed in our world today.
  • Zechariah’s prophecy about his son is in Luke 1:68-79. It starts off with the prediction of Israel’s freedom from their enemies. It adds that John will be a prophet of God to prepare for the Messiah. He will bring the knowledge of salvation and forgiveness of sins.
  • Remember that most often, when they thought of salvation, it was from enemies and not eternal life.
  • Historically, there was a huge awareness in Israel that the Messiah was about to come. Apocryphal literature abounded with predictions and had many people expecting the Messiah. The prophecies about John fed these and were probably known to the priests and Levites since Zechariah was a priest. John’s appearance would have brought all this to a fever pitch. It isn’t much different from today. People look at Israel and the conflict in the Middle East; they believe Jesus must come back soon.
  • So the priest and Levites were probably expecting John to make a statement about the coming Messiah. They were sent by the Pharisees who were vitally interested in anyone who would exhibit any kind of authority as it would necessarily oppose their own.

20  He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ."

      Not the Christ. Well, we knew that, but they didn’t. There must have been some relief because the Messiah would change everything. There were also a lot of false messiahs running around in those times (Acts 21:38) trying to end the Roman occupation. There is a lot of false prophets running around today. They make predictions about Jesus’ return. True believers know they are false because no one knows the time of Jesus return (Matt 24:36). But those who are not true believers sigh in relief when the predictions prove false.

21 And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No."

      Why ask if he is Elijah? Again, that is a clear indication that the Messiah is coming. They could get prepared for the Messiah –not to welcome him but to keep their power. But he answers that he is not Elijah. Later, Jesus says he is Elijah (Matt 11:14, 17:10-13).

      The Prophet is described in Deuteronomy 18:15-19. God told Israel that he would raise up a prophet like Moses. He would have the same authority as Moses. In actuality, every prophet God sent had the authority of God behind his words as is clear in other parts of the Bible. However, the Messiah was to also fulfill this prophecy. It wasn’t clear to the priests and scribes. They thought the Prophet and the Messiah were two different people.

22 So they said to him, "Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" 23 He said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,' as the prophet Isaiah said."

      John’s testimony is from Isaiah 40:3. This would have been something less than the expectation of the Messiah as Isaiah 40 speaks of bringing peace to Jerusalem and a level highway, a symbol of smooth travel or righteousness in a sinful world. It tells of the weakness of man but the greatness of God. It would not have been as threatening to the establishment.

24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, "Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"

      There is an issue of baptizing with the Jews. Baptism was a ritual cleansing for those who were converting from Gentile religions to Judaism. John’s baptism was a new command for Israel. As an Old Testament prophet, John established a new regulation that hadn’t been done before. He was preaching that Jews had to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3). This was an affront to the legalistic Jews who pictured themselves not only holier than Gentiles but also the people who were coming to John for baptism. The Jews were questioning his authority to establish new regulations. In their opinion, only the rabbis had this right to do this unless John was either the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet. Now we are at one of the heart problems they had with John. He was establishing authority that wasn’t in their power circle. This is a problem with each of us; we rebel against change whether it is in the church or in secular power structures. We especially rebel against change when our sins are exposed and our desires clash with the holy life God wants us to live.

      Many people wonder why Jesus had to be baptized because he is sinless. Jesus gave his answer to John saying that it was to fulfill all righteousness (Matt 3:15). So Jesus was baptized to fulfill all the requirements of the Law and through John the requirement for baptism was added (Matt 5:17).

26 John answered them, "I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie." 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

      John’s answer about baptism was based not on who he was but on who was coming after him. A true prophet was pretty high up there in the chain of command but to say he was not worthy to untie Jesus’ sandal elevates Jesus to the max. At this point, they had no concept of who Jesus was, just as John pointed out, he came to his own but they didn’t receive him (John 1:11). Unfortunately, there are billions of people who don’t know who Jesus is. It is up to us to let them know.

Monday, November 1, 2021

John 1:14-18 Glory, Hypostatic Union, Son of God,


John 1:14-18 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Word, i.e. God the Son became flesh. This is the Hypostatic Union.

Hypostatic Union: the human nature was united to the Divine.

(1) Miraculously (Luke 1:34,35); which was necessary to exempt the assumed human nature from Adam's sin (Luke 1:15). For God can have no fellowship with sin, and had Christ been a sinner He could not have satisfied for the sins of others (Heb 7:26).

(2) Integrally. Christ took a complete and perfect soul and body that He might heal the whole nature of that sin which had infected every member and faculty.

(3) With all its sinless infirmities (Heb 2:17; 4:15).

(4) So that each nature retains its own essential properties distinct, and the two understandings, wills, powers, etc., the human and the Divine are not confounded as Eutyches held.

(5) Inseparably. Although Christ's soul and body were divided at death, yet neither of them from the Divine nature.[1]

     This union is something that only God could initiate. It is not the same as all the mythical gods, some of whom had intercourse with women and fathered hybrids of gods and man. This is nothing like that. The real hard part to understand is how there could be two wills coexisting in one person. As we go through John, we will see places where one seems to be active and the other not.

     Have you seen Jesus’ glory? Only in the Bible do we see it now. But John saw Jesus transfigured on the mountain. He saw the resurrected Jesus and watched his ascension. It is important to see that John is establishing Jesus’ deity at the outset. As we saw last week, the other Gospels emphasized his humanity. So when detractors started saying Jesus wasn’t divine, John wrote to make sure we know it. Part of that is to attest that he saw Jesus glorified even while he was on earth.

     One and Only – Only Son from the Father (ESV), Only begotten from the Father (NAS), Only begotten of the Father (NKJ), Father’s one and only son (NLT). This is the crux of many an argument down through the ages and continues with cults today. They look at the word used and claim it means that Jesus was a created son of God. The term is used in Luke 7:12, 8:42, 9:38 to mean the only child of a parent.

John 1:14 of the only begotten of Father,) monogenous  pará  patrós

     Monogenous – We can only rightly understand the term "the only begotten" when used of the Son, in the sense of unoriginated relationship. "The begetting is not an event of time, however remote, but a fact irrespective of time. The Christ did not become, but necessarily and eternally is the Son. He, a Person, possesses every attribute of pure Godhood. This necessitates eternity, absolute being; in this respect He is not 'after' the Father."[2]

     Only begotten son is also a very Messianic term as seen in Psalm 2:7 and quoted in Acts 13:33, Hebrews 1:5, 5:5.

     Full of grace and truth.  Here is another problem for us – not for God but for us in that we often don’t associate grace and truth together. We think of grace being very nice to us and truth being harsh and hard to handle. In fact, that is what we see in one sense when we see Jesus. We see one who has been gracious to forgive us and die for us but also who has told us the truth that he is the only way to the Father. He has told us many truths, such as in the Sermon on the Mount that are hard to swallow because he expose our sinfulness. We love grace but don’t always embrace truth. Yet here is Jesus, full of both.

15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'"

     How is it that Jesus came after John the Baptist but was before him? JTB was born physically before Jesus by about 6 moths. Jesus surpasses JTB because he is God and because his ministry goes beyond calling people to repent. His ministry was to live a sinless life and die for our sins so that he could bring us to the Father. He is before JTB because he is eternal.

16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.

     Vs. 16-17 are tied together. We understand the blessings we have received only as we look at the Law. The law convicts us of sin and condemns us as sinners. But the blessing of Jesus with his grace and the truth of our eternal future with him are in contrast with the law’s condemnation of sinfulness.

     No one has ever seen God. What about all those times in the Old Testament where Moses saw him or Isaiah saw him or Ezekiel? How do you explain these? Theophanies are physical manifestations that God provides for us to experience his presence. Since God is a spirit, there is no other way we can see him.

     Jesus has seen God because he is God and was with him before he took on a physical body. (God the one and only is literally “Only begotten God.” When we see the one and only used in this way it makes it clearer that Jesus can’t be considered a creation or a conceived son.)

     At the Father’s side is literally in the bosom. “The front of the body between the arms”[3] This indicates a much closer relationship than being at his side.

     Jesus has made the Father know to us. Jesus later told his disciples, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:7 ESV). This is one of the primary goals of Jesus’ ministry. Salvation, reconciliation, propitiation, justification, redemption, and many of the other words Christians use point to the same thing. These are the things Jesus does so that we will be able to come before the Father and know him.

[1] The Biblical Illustrator Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006 Ages Software, Inc. and Biblesoft, Inc.

[2] Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Thayer's Greek Lexicon, PC Study Bible formatted Electronic Database. Copyright © 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.