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Evening = Job 11, You Deserve Worse

When we come to chapter 11 we meet the third and final friend come to bring comfort to Job. Zophar is his name, and as you’ll see he doesn’t have much to say by way of comfort, rather he comes with a rebuke. Before we get into what this last friend says I want to point out something about these friends. If you haven’t noticed it yet, you will here in chapter 11. Job’s friends say things that are often very similar to things we say to one another in the Church.[1]For example, we feel consoled when we hear Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that life abundant is given and had and enjoyed only in Him, but Zophar says something very similar in Job 11:15-19. Another example, we rejoice with Paul as he explodes in praise after the robust theology of Romans 1-11 in Romans 11:33-36, but Zophar says something very similar in Job 11:7-9. Surely we don’t conclude that because Zophar is rebuked at the end of Job for not speaking rightly of God, that Jesus and Paul are wrong as well. Not at all.

But if that’s not the case, we then have a new question. When someone says things about God that are correct, how do we know if they’re a Paul or a Zophar? We could speak as a realtor here and use one simple phrase: location, location, location. In John 10:10 Jesus is speaking to His disciples, and in Romans 11 Paul is speaking to the Church in Rome. In both of those places the truth spoken about God is meant to encourage and edify the Church. Job’s friends may say right things about God, but they’re not aiming at edification for Job, they’re using truth to tear him down. So, in a true sense they may be right what they say but they’re wrong in how they apply those statements about God.

Therefore, as we look into Zophar’s response to Job in chapter 11 let’s be encouraged to be careful and cautious about how we speak of God to others, ensuring that we’re not mirroring Job’s friends at all.

Chapter 11 is broken into three sections:

v1-6 – Accusation

v7-12 – Confrontation

v13-20 – Instruction

Accusation (v1-6)

“Then Zophar the Naamathite answered and said: “Should a multitude of words go unanswered, and a man full of talk be judged right? Should your babble silence men, and when you mock, shall no one shame you? For you say, ‘My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in God’s eyes.’ But oh, that God would speak and open his lips to you, and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom! For he is manifold in understanding. Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.”

One of our church members recently sent me a message about an article they read from a former pastor of theirs. The article was, in essence, this pastor’s belief that Christian music seeking to give voice to those who are suffering and seeking to trust God in the midst of that suffering is foolishness. The article went onto say that lamenting in song to God is really just complaining and whining. This particular church member was rightly furious about what was said in the article, so furious that they then asked me, not if, but how they should respond to it. So we discussed a few things about how they might do that and are praying it is received well. I share this little story because this church member was vexed about what this author so boldly said. So vexed and angered by it that they felt they could not remain silent about it, but had to respond to it. In a similar manner, Zophar has heard Job’s words and has been so enraged by them that he feels he can no longer remain silent. So in v2-3 he calls Job out for babbling on and on with a multitude of words. He calls Job out for mocking them as they try to give him counsel. Zophar feels Job has shamed them with his words so far, and so he now feels that Job should be shamed in return.

In v4 Zophar accuses Job when he says, “For you say ‘My doctrine is pure and I am clean in God’s eyes.’” But this isn’t what Job has said so far is it? Far from it. Job would be the first to admit that he is confused and vexed himself currently rather than doctrinally pure. Sure he has said some pretty weighty things about God, but these statements (like the one in 9:22 and all throughout chapter 10) aren’t calm and cool statements of doctrinal clarity. No, they’re the agonized conclusions of a man in desperation.[2]And Job doesn’t claim to be clean or perfect in God’s sight. He is a blameless man for sure, but the two aren’t the same. Zophar is so provoked by Job that he wishes God would speak up now and open His lips because if He did Zophar seems pretty sure what God would say to Job. What would He say? God would, look at v6, divulge secrets of wisdom and in His manifold understanding He would rebuke Job’s partial understanding. Then it comes. One of the most cruel things said to Job thus far. “Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.” Zophar is saying that God causing Job to be bankrupt, taking away all his animals, all his servants, all his children, and all his health is only part of what Job really deserves. Such that, if God were to truly give Job all of what he deserved his suffering would be dramatically deeper. This is what God would remind Job of, Zophar thinks, if God were to reply back to Job right now. Yikes. Not only is this a fantastically cruel thing to say, it is arrogantly ironic because even though God’s wisdom and understanding are secret (see v6) apparently Zophar has plumbed the depths of these secrets himself and found it all out. This is his accusation to Job.

Confrontation (v7-12)

“Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? It is higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than Sheol—what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea. If he passes through and imprisons and summons the court, who can turn him back? For he knows worthless men; when he sees iniquity, will he not consider it? But a stupid man will get understanding when a wild donkey’s colt is born a man!”

Here Zophar rightly speaks of God saying He and His knowledge in all His fullness is higher than heaven, deeper than sheol, longer than the earth, and broader than the oceans. This would be a beautiful statement indeed if Zophar applied it to himself and not only Job. But he doesn’t. He just tells Job that he cannot know God well enough to be able to know God truly. The implication though is that Zophar can, in his own finite mind, penetrate higher than heavens, deeper than sheol, longer than the earth, and broader than the seas to find out the infinite knowledge of God. Again, what does Zophar know that Job doesn’t? The thought is that when God passes by He imprisons the one with iniquity and summons a court together to pass judgment on him. Zophar believes this one imprisoned for his sin about to be judged is Job. And Job, in his partial knowledge, would be foolish to try and argue with God who has perfect knowledge. To try and do so resembles the folly of a wild animal instinct in man. God knows the sin of all men, does Job really believe God will pass by and won’t consider his own sin?

So after calling Job as stupid as a wild animal and telling him God is giving him less than he truly deserves, he decides to give him some counsel.

Instruction (v13-20)

“If you prepare your heart, you willstretch out your hands toward him. If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear. You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security. You will lie down, and none will make you afraid; many will court your favor. But the eyes of the wicked will fail; all way of escape will be lost to them, and their hope is to breathe their last.”

Zophar’s advice can be deduced to a list of things to do. First, above all other things Job must prepare his heart…to do what? To stretch out his hands toward God…to put iniquity far from his hands…and to not allow injustice in his affairs. If Job does this, Job will lift up his face without shame or embarrassment and will experience a list of blessings. Namely, if he does these things Job will be secure and not afraid, he’ll forget his misery as waters that have washed away (perhaps the common saying ‘water under the bridge’ pops in your head here).[3]His dark life will be bright as the high noon, he’ll feel dawn push back the night in his soul, and from this Job will feel secure and hopeful and in this newfound security Job will rest, lie down, while many once again come to him for counsel and pursue him for fellowship. Zophar’s instruction to Job is that Job will gain all these things, these blessings, if he puts his sin away from him. As beautiful as the things in v15-19 are they form a vivid contrast to the dark list that ends his instruction. If Job does not do these things v20 will ever be his reality. His eyes will fail, he won’t see things rightly (or as they are), he won’t see light at the end of the tunnel, he’ll be cemented in his suffering and lost condition, and the only thing he’ll look forward to is his own death when he breathes his last.

There are two problems with this instruction. First, Job has no secret sins to repent of, we are again reminded of that as we read this. And second, Zophar’s motivation for Job to repent is exactly the same motivation of Satan’s accusation of Job. Remember, Satan thinks Job was only a holy man because of all the blessings of God. So if Job repents from his ‘sin’ in order to gain all these blessings, as Zophar instructs him to, he’ll prove Satan right.[4]

So here at the end of the first cycle of speeches of Job’s comforter’s we see now, having heard from all of them, that they’re all basically saying the same thing. Job’s suffering because he’s sinned. Thus, the counsel is simple: repent and return. Yet ironically, it is the friends who must repent and return, not Job, which we’ve seen in all of Job’s responses to them thus far.

But linger back on v6 with me as we wrap this up tonight. Zophar believed Job was receiving less then He truly deserved from God, and that if God really did give Job what he deserved his suffering would be vastly greater. There’s a gospel tune playing here for us if we have ears to hear it. God truly has given us, in Christ, not only less then we deserve, but what we don’t deserve at all! We deserve death, for death is the wage of sin. But in His mercy He didn’t give us those wages, Christ paid them in full and now in His grace we’ll never have to pay them ourselves! Instead He gave us the reward we didn’t earn – eternal life! This song is playing in v6 for us to hear, and by faith we must live by this gospel tune as well.

 

Citations:

[1]Christopher Ash, Job: The Wisdom of the Cross – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 153.

[2]Ash, page 155.

[3]Ash, page 157.

[4]Ash, page 158.

Morning = John 13:18-30, The Darkness of Betrayal

“In my dream I was carried away to a great and high mountain where I saw that great city…the Holy City of God, the New Jerusalem. Around the city, as around the earthly Jerusalem, there ran a wall great and high. There were twelve gates, north, south, east, and west; and every gate was a pearl, and at every gate stood one of the Great Angels. On the gates were written the names of the Twelve Tribes of the Children of Israel, from Reuben to Benjamin. The wall of the city stood upon twelve massive foundation stones, and on each stone was the name of one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb; and as I walked around the city, thrilling with joy and rapture at the glory and splendor of it, I read the names written upon the twelve stones—Peter, James, John, and all the others. But one name was missing. I looked in vain for that name, either on the twelve gates or on the twelve foundation stones—and that name was Judas.

The longest night in the history of the world is drawing to a close. The night is passing, but the day has not yet come. Far to the east, over the mountains of Moab, there is just the faintest intimation of the coming day. The huge walls of Jerusalem and the towers and pinnacles of the temple are emerging from the shadows of the night. In the half darkness and half light I can make out a solitary figure coming down the winding road from the wall of Jerusalem towards the valleyof Kidron. On the bridge over the brook he pauses for a moment and, turning, looks back towards the Holy City. Then he goes forward for a few paces and, again turning, halts and looks up towards the massive walls of the city. Again he turns, and this time he does not stop. Now I can see that in his hand he carries a rope. Up the slope of Olivet he comes and, entering in at the gate of Gethsemane, walks under the trees of the Garden. Seizing with his arms one of the low-branching limbs of a gnarled olive tree, he draws himself up into the tree. Perhaps he is the proprietor of this part of the Garden, and has come to gather the olives. But why with a rope? For a little he is lost to my view in the springtime foliage of the tree. Then, suddenly, I see his body plummet down like a rock from the top of the tree. Yet the body does not reach the ground, but is suspended in mid-air. And there it swings slowly to and fro at the end of a rope.”[1]

This was the imaginary vision of Clarence Edward Macartney. It shows us the midnight of Judas’ life, and that he would never again wake to the sunshine of Christ’s countenance.[2]It is a sad picture indeed.

Last week we worked through one of the brightest and most glorious passages in the New Testament, where Jesus shockingly yet humbly and graciously washed the disciples feet. He then told them what this humble action meant by instructing them to live humbly and sacrificially with one another and added that they’d be blessed if they did so. But in the midst of this there comes certain details, like v11, where we find some ominous hints of a near betrayal.[3]And as v18 comes we’re thrust away from the high altitude of Christ’s bright love and are plunged into the subterranean caverns of Judas’ dark deed. Jesus told them He would love them to the end in v1 but in v18 we see that He wasn’t speaking about all of them. v18-30 is our text this morning. First, in v18-20 we have the foretelling of betrayal. Second, in v21-30a we have the trouble of betrayal. And third, in v30b we have the darkness of betrayal.

The Foretelling of Betrayal (v18-20)

In what had to be a moment of utter clarity Jesus spoke words that put fear in the disciples, “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen…” Jesus has, we know, chosen His own from before the foundation of the world. This has been made clear throughout John’s gospel many times and is echoed throughout the Scriptures in many other places. And in that vein Jesus will now speak of a particular person He’s chosen for sure, but chosen for a vastly different purpose.[4]The Scripture must be fulfilled He says, “He who ate My bread has lifted his heel against Me.” Jesus reaches back to Psalm 41 to explain Judas’ betrayal. David wrote Psalm 41, and in the immediate context David painfully traces his hurt of being betrayed by of one of his closest friends and counselors, Ahithopel, who…hung himself after betraying David. In v5-10 of Psalm 41 David describes these things saying, “My enemies say of me in malice, “When will he die, and his name perish?” And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad. All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me. They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him; he will not rise again from where he lies.” Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. But you, O LORD, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them!”

Jesus quotes Psalm 41 in v18 to point out that though the immediate context is about the betrayal of Ahithopel, the ultimate meaning of Psalm 41 points to and finds fulfillment in the greater betrayal of Judas, who would share a similar sticky end. It’s as if Jesus was saying “Men, we have an Ahithopel in our midst.”[5]By pointing to Psalm 41 and saying the Scripture will be fulfilled means Judas’ betrayal isn’t merely coming soon, but that it was foretold long ago by the Scriptures. Jesus implies this in v19 where He says the reason for telling them this is so when the betrayal happens they wouldn’t be caught off guard or be too shaken by this action but would rather grow in their belief in His deity and His command over all things. Literally in the Greek, that when this takes place they would believe He is ‘I AM.’ Lesson? When Judas betrayed Jesus, as the Scriptures foretold, Jesus was not a helpless victim of surprising treachery, but One sent and delivered purposely by God into the hands of those who would execute their treachery on Him for God’s redemptive purposes.[6]

The conclusion Jesus draws from all this is in v20, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives the One who sent Me.” A parallel is in view here. Jesus speaks of His disciples being sent as He has been sent and He speaks of people receiving them as they have received Him. The parallel is that the high and holy calling of Christ sent by the Father to a lowly and humble service is the same high and holy calling of the disciples sent by Christ to a lowly and humble service. That parallel is clear. But, how does this parallel link to the betrayal already spoken of in v18-19? Or, why talk of being sent after talking of betrayal? What’s the connection? Answer: as Christ has been sent by the Father so too Christ sends His own. As Christ was betrayed by those who should’ve received Him, so too, Christ’s own will be betrayed by those who should receive them. In other words, why would those who are sent out by Jesus have a different experience than Christ who was sent out by the Father? They won’t. Thus, they shouldn’t be surprised if the world hates them because it hated Christ first. Or like v16 said earlier, a messenger isn’t greater than the one sending them. They should not be surprised of these things, and neither…should…we. If we’re truly following Jesus, eventually the culture around us will turn on us…as it once turned on Him.

This makes me examine my life. Why? Because I wonder what it means if I do not experience any opposition. If I don’t, I fear I only have two options. I either fit in too much with this world, or I am not out in the world trying to win the world. Either way, if unbelieving opposition never comes my way or into my life, my life must not seem offensive to them. Therefore they must recognize me as one of their own and not as something alien to them.

The Trouble of Betrayal (v21-30a)

A very human Jesus is portrayed to us here in v21. “After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and testified, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.’” John shows us here how Jesus is truly divine and in full sovereign command of all things, as well as showing us how Jesus is truly human and struggling with these events as they play out. Just as He was troubled before the tomb of His friend Lazarus, just as He was troubled in prayer in 12:27, so too Jesus is troubled (agitated, distressed, grieved, stirred up, and unsettled). Why? An intimate friend will betray Him shortly. Of course this trouble was only the firstfruits of agony Jesus would experience on His road to the cross, but it was agony nonetheless.[7]Here we must recognize that this isn’t a cold action of betraying a mere acquaintance, but the betraying of a close intimate ‘friend.’[8]Judas was one of them, he was an insider not an outsider. It’s one thing to be hated and betrayed by your enemy, but by a friend? By someone we thought we knew but turned out to only be using our ‘friendship’ to further his or her own devious schemes.[9]That kind of betrayal carves a deep wound, a wound that some of you have felt personally (an unfaithful spouse, a thieving co-worker, or a child who continually abuses a parent’s love). Here learn that Jesus felt that wound. George Herbert aimed to expressed this grief in poetry, “Mine own Apostle, who the bag did beare. Though he had all I had did not forbeare. To sell Me also, and to put Me there: Was there ever grief like Mine?”[10]

Imagine this hitting the ears of the disciples for the first time.[11]They have heard Jesus speak of the grim events in front of Him for sometime now. He had told them His hour would one day come, He had told them He would die, He had told them He would depart and return to the Father. But when He told them His hour had come to die, you have to believe they we’re all kinds of mixed. They loved this Man, followed this Man, believed His teaching, and confessed Him to be God. Now He was not only about to die, but one of them would be the very ones to deliver Him to death? It was too much to bear. Jesus’ trouble it seems, troubled them.

So in v22 they all look around at one another wondering who Jesus is talking about. This is no minor detail. That they don’t immediately know who the betrayer is…shows us, not that the disciples are thick headed buffoons, but that Judas hid his deception very well. So, as Jesus is troubled by the reality of v21 so too the disciples are troubled by the reality in v21. Which is what prompts the quiet conversation in v23-25 between Peter and John. (side note: notice how John refers to himself throughout his gospel as the disciple ‘whom Jesus loved?’ This, in and of itself, tells us something of how John chiefly took delight in the fact that he, a sinner, was so marvelously loved by Christ. May we all see ourselves in such a manner, amen?!) Anywho, in his angst Peter eyed John and motioned for him to ask Jesus who the betrayer was. John nods and then leans back against Jesus and said “Lord, who is it?”

v26-27 show us how Jesus answered and what happened next. “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Though implicit, it seems Jesus said this quietly to John, because in v28-29 we get the small detail that no one else at the table knew why Jesus said this to Judas. Perhaps, they thought, Jesus said this because Judas was the treasurer of the group and had to go make preparations for their feasts, or that Judas went off to be generous to poor, like they always assumed he was doing. The reaction to the rest of the group to Jesus’ statement to Judas and Judas’ leaving the meal seem to show that Jesus’ comment to John in v26 was quiet, that seems clear. What’s not so clear is why John, now knowing who will betray Jesus, does nothing about it? We didn’t see him stop Judas from doing this, we don’t see him respond to Jesus, and we don’t even see him tell Peter what Jesus told him, even though it was him who wanted him to ask Jesus about this in the first place. Maybe John doesn’t do anything because in v28 we learn that no one at the table (John included) knew why Jesus was speaking to Judas in such ways. Yes Jesus (who knew and also didn’t stop Judas) told John, but it’s likely that the depth of betrayal occurring didn’t fully hit home to John.

The tragedy is unmistakable is it not? When Jesus hands Judas the morsel of bread, Judas takes it, eats it, and we read that at this point Satan entered into Judas. This is the first time we read the devil’s name in John’s gospel and that it says Satan entered into Judas leads us to believe that prior to this moment Satan had just been tempting Judas to do these things, but now has come in and taken a thorough possession of him.[12]The devil does things like this. “First he suggests, then he commands. First he knocks on the door, then once admitted he takes complete possession, and rules the whole inward man like a tyrant.”[13]J.C. Ryle comments on this saying, “Trifling with the first thoughts of sin – making light of evil ideas when first offered to our hearts – allowing Satan to talk to us, flatter us, put bad notions into our hearts and minds – all this may seem a small matter to many. It is precisely at this point the road to ruin begins. He that allows Satan to sow wicked thoughts will soon find within his heart a crop of wicked habits. Happy is he who believes that there is a devil, and believing, watches and prays daily that he may be kept from his temptations.”[14]

Church, we have a need to resist the evil one, and praise the Lord, because of this betrayal (how ironic and how wonderful!), we now resist an already defeated foe!

Things have indeed played out according to God’s sovereign plan, and before our very eyes Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, has become the son of perdition. So Jesus commands him, “What you are going to do, do quickly. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out.” Jesus is troubled, the disciples are troubled, Peter and John are troubled, and Satan, the bringer of trouble, enters Judas to cause more trouble…trouble that will ultimately bring triumph, through the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.

The Darkness of Betrayal (v30b)

v30 ends with the phrase, “And it was night.” I believe this phrase is meant to tell us of the current time at that moment (the sun had gone down so it was dark). But I also believe this phrase tells usmore. Namely, it tells of the darkness of betrayal. From the very beginning of John’s gospel there has been a theme of strife and struggle between light and darkness. Here before us is a staggering contrast. Jesus, the Light of the World, sits across from Judas, whose soul is black as night, and sent out Judas to betray Him. What does this mean? Jesus has now fully cut Himself off from the light and given Himself into the grip of utter darkness.[15]Even here it is implied that no one takes His life from Him, He lays it down of His own accord. For who? For those in darkness, that they (by faith) would become sons and daughters of light.

Conclusion:

The foretelling of betrayal, the trouble of betrayal, the darkness of betrayal…these have been the things we’ve seen in our text today. But I pray you’ve seen more about our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

In the foretelling of His betrayal see His sovereign plan over all things and rest in His omnipotent hands. Church, much will surprise us in this life, but O the joy of knowing that nothing, even our own sin, will ever surprise Him!

In the trouble of His betrayal see His humanity able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses. He knows what it is to be betrayed, He knows the hurt and the pain. Church, much will hurt us in this fallen world, but O the joy of knowing His hurt, of knowing His gospel wounds is where we find healing for ours.

In the darkness of His betrayal see His light shining through even then. Yes the dark would close on Him and shut out the Light of the World for a moment. Church, much of this passage today is dark and gloomy. But O the joy of knowing that it’s only against the pitch black of sin that we see the bright beauties of the gospel.

 

 

Citations:

[1]Clarence Edward Macartney, quoted in Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 325-326.

[2]Hughes, page 326.

[3]R.C. Sproul, John – Saint Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 248.

[4]D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – PNTC, page 470.

[5]Hughes, page 327.

[6]Morris, page 623.

[7]Gospel Transformation Study Bible, notes on John 13:21-30, page 1433.

[8]Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 622.

[9]Richard Phillips, John 11-21 – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 165.

[10]George Herbert, quoted in Phillips, page 166 and Carson, page 476.

[11]Sproul, page 250.

[12]Carson, page 475.

[13]J.C. Ryle, quoted in Phillips, page 169.

[14]J.C. Ryle, quoted in Phillips, page 171.

[15]Morris, page 628.

Evening = Job 10, Dire Questions

I have forgotten where I read this but I once read a book that had the following opening illustration. “I have a friend who has a dog named Bailey. Bailey was a two year old basset hound who had a gentle playful temper, eager to love anyone near him. But though this is true, Bailey has a bit of baggage. You see, Bailey was just a puppy when an F-5 tornado came through his backyard that he just happened to be playing in. He survived, my friend got to him in time, but it left a mark on Bailey that has never left, so deep a mark that anytime a storm comes to Bailey’s house and Bailey is in the backyard, he freaks out, runs up to the back door, and barks his tail off until someone comes to his rescue. It could just be a few rain drops and no big deal to any normal person but to Bailey, the apocalypse has come!

A few years after this incident, wildfires were roaring about my friends home and it did eventually catch on fire, and burn down. But the important thing to notice about this fire is that it came to my friends house through the backyard, where Bailey was playing. My friend saw it, ran outside just in time to see his trees light up like fireballs, grabbed Bailey and got to safety. During the time that a new house was being rebuilt for these guys they stayed in a little condo close by. As soon as they got into the condo Bailey had a moment. He walked in, sniffed around, found the bedroom, jumped onto the bed, found my friends pillow, and proceeded to pee. My friend knew what this meant. Bailey clearly felt the need to make a few things clear. First he acknowledged that my friend was the head of the family, (he chose his pillow rather than the others). Second, he was not running away, he was still happily part of the family, knowing he is loved and cared for, but he wanted to make a statement to let my friend know that his life (to him) was out of control and that he didn’t like what was currently happening to him. He had been chased by not only an F-5 tornado, but by a blazing fire and now his home had been destroyed twice! He just couldn’t hold it inside any longer, he had to let out his feelings and make it known that he was not happy.”

Now, I tell you this story, because when we go through tornadoes and blazing fires our their lives we often do the same thing that Bailey does. We don’t pee on pillows, we just act out in different ways. When times like this happen we feel displaced, confused, frustrated, angry, and eventually if we remain in this condition long enough, we reach our breaking point and we crack. I believe Job reached this point in chapter 3 and the evidence of his own cracking is woven all throughout his responses to his friends. Specifically here in chapter 10, Job has just been responding to Bildad in chapter 9 and his suffering is looming so large that he transitions away from speaking to Bildad to speaking directly to God in 10:1. As his words flow out from his mouth, we see His cracked heart coming through clearly in questions…dire questions.[1]There are four of them, and we’ll walk through them once at a time.

Why Are You Against Me? (v1-3)

“I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me. Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the designs of the wicked?”

The matter at hand before us in v1-3 is Job’s struggle to interpret his life rightly in the midst of his current suffering. Job will no longer just talk about God to his friends, no, he’ll give no restraint to his complaints and will now speak directly to God now about the deepest questions he has and cannot answer. This first question really comes to us in v2 where we see Job’s belief that God has condemned him and is now contending against him. Because of this Job loathes his life (v1). More so, in v3, more questions come from this concerning the very nature of God. Does God find it an exercise of enjoyment to oppress and despise the work of His hands? Or does God favor, or literally ‘smile at’ the designs and plans of the wicked?

We know the answers to these questions. We are aware that God does not smile at the designs of the wicked. That God does not oppress and despise the work of His hands. And that God is not contending against or condemning Job. Why then does Job ask these things? Because he is suffering, and as far as he can tell (regardless of what his friends keep saying) he can’t seem to find a reason why he is suffering. So why can we see what Job cannot see? Because we’re not suffering as he is, we’re not in his shoes, and we’ve been given a window behind the curtain that Job hasn’t been allowed to see. All of this shows us something here that will aid us in our own suffering and aid us in speaking with those who are suffering themselves. Suffering can at times fog what is clear, such that we call into question those things that once seemed concretely clear to us. This is what’s happening to Job. His suffering is fogging his view of God and while he’s in the midst of it, it is very difficult for him to see as he ought to see. This aids us in our own suffering by reminding us that when we suffer we’ll probably experience something similar to this. We’ll feel a fog come over us and thus we’ll need to seek out others who will tell us and remind us of what is good, true, and beautiful. This also aids us in speaking to those who are suffering by reminding us to be speaking of what is good, true, and beautiful to those in suffering. Job’s friends should’ve been doing this, but by blaming Job for these things they added more weight onto his heavy burden rather than giving him some kind of relief.

Why Do You Watch Me? (v4-7)

“Have you eyes of flesh? Do you see as man sees? Are your days as the days of man, or your years as a man’s years, that you seek out my iniquity and search for my sin, although you know that I am not guilty, and there is none to deliver out of your hand?”

Job here asks God if He has eyes like a man, and if God sees as man sees. If God were like a man and had eyes like a man Job would understand why God would have to look carefully at Job to discern what is truly going on with him.[2]But God isn’t like man. God doesn’t have eyes like man and no, God doesn’t see as man sees. He sees all and knows all, nothing is hidden from His sight. Because of these things Job tells God in v7 that it isn’t right for God to watch him as He does. God should already know he has no sin to deserve such treatment. But in any case Job also knows he is powerless before this God and that none can deliver out of His hand. Thus, since God knows of his innocence it is unfair to be suffering as he is.

Why Did You Create Me? (v8-17)

“Your hands fashioned and made me, and now you have destroyed me altogether. Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit. Yet these things you hid in your heart; I know that this was your purpose. If I sin, you watch me and do not acquit me of my iniquity. If I am guilty, woe to me! If I am in the right, I cannot lift up my head, for I am filled with disgrace and look on my affliction. And were my head lifted up, you would hunt me like a lion and again work wonders against me. You renew your witnesses against me and increase your vexation toward me; you bring fresh troops against me.”

Back in v3 Job mentioned he was the work of God’s hands, here in v8-17 he expands on that more.[3]These verses are beautiful and horrible all at the same time. It is mixed because Job is mixed. As God intimately created him, God now is intimately destroying him. God carefully formed him from the clay, God now is reversing the creation process and returning him to dust. What’s the point of creating him if his end was going to be this? Job speaks of God’s creative work with him being like that of slowly curdling milk to make cheese in v10, clothing him and knitting him together in v11, even granting life, steadfast love, and preservation in v12. Yet v13 reveals that Job remains vexed because God’s purpose in making him so carefully only seems only to be unmaking him so cruelly. Now God only watches him, doesn’t forgive him, fills him with disgrace, and hunts Job like a lion only to work wonders against him. Or as v17 describes it, Job believes God increases his vexation by besieging him with armies after armies, or fresh trouble after fresh trouble.[4]

Now it all leads to this last question.

Why Don’t You Kill Me? (v18-22)

“Why did you bring me out from the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me and were as though I had not been, carried from the womb to the grave. Are not my days few? Then cease, and leave me alone, that I may find a little cheer before I go—and I shall not return—to the land of darkness and deep shadow, the land of gloom like thick darkness, like deep shadow without any order, where light is as thick darkness.”

In a very real sense Job now comes back to the themes of his lament in chapter 3. He wishes he never lived. But because he is alive and suffering so, his wish is that God would leave him alone. If that would happen, Job shockingly concludes that he would find cheer, or literally find a smile in peaceful rest. Though his beginnings were full or order and beauty, his present life is quickly fading into nothing but disorder and chaos.

Listen to how Christopher Ash ends his thoughts on chapter 10 with a beam of hope. “And yet deep in his heart the question ‘why?’ is addressed to the God who seems such a monster. And in that question and that address there lies hope. Whatever Job says, the fact that he says it to God and says it with such vehemence suggests that he knows he has not reached the end of his quest for meaning. There is in Job the inner energy of faith, the mark of a real believer. Job may be wrong in his persuasion of God and of the reality of his situation, but he is deeply right in his heart and the direction of his turning and his yearning. Thank God for that.”[5]

 

Citations:

[1]Christopher Ash, Job: The Wisdom of the Cross – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 148-151.

[2]Ash, page 148.

[3]Ash, page 149.

[4]Ash, page 150.

[5]Ash, page 151.

Morning = John 13:1-17, The Love of Christ

Having concluded part one of John’s gospel where we find the public ministry of Jesus, we come now to part 2 of John’s gospel where John shows his readers the private ministry of Jesus to His disciples and His passion. 13:1 begins part two saying, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” This opening verse sets the stage not only for the wondrous act of love we’ll see in our text today as Jesus washes their feet, it sets the stage for all of the Upper Room discourse found in John 13-17.

Notice His ‘hour’ comes back into view here in v1 but it is no longer put in terms of His cross but of His departure back to the Father.[1]So what does Jesus do in these last moments with His disciples? He teaches them deeply and by doing so He loves them vastly, so vastly John can say Jesus “…loved them to the end.” Because of this many Christians down throughout the ages believe John 13-17 to be the holy ground of John’s gospel where Christ’s particular, powerful, and potent love for His own is made known. Yes Christ loves the world and loves all mankind in some ways, but rejoice believer (!), Christ loves His own in all ways. Of this Charles Spurgeon says, “What a title for us to wear, ‘His own’!…The fact that you are truly Christ’s is afountain of innumerable pleasures and blessings to ourhearts…He distinguishes us from the rest of mankind, and sets us apart to Himself…surely this is the highest honor that can be put on us…!”[2]This great love of Christ is shown to us in two ways in our passage this morning. First we see the love of Christ displayed for us in v2-11. And second we see the love of Christ decreed to us in v12-17.

The Love of Christ Displayed (v2-11)

Before Jesus rises to wash the disciples feet in v4 we learn some details concerning this occasion in v2-3. In v2 we learn they were eating a meal together. Matthew, Mark, and Luke would lead us to believe this meal was the Passover meal where Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. That John doesn’t seem concerned to tell us if this is that same meal or another meal shows us that John is concerned about other details. What other details? The loving action Jesus is about to do in washing His disciples feet.

A dreadful detail comes next as we move from love to hate, from the Savior to Satan, “…the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him…” Look at the contrast is presented to us here. Across the table from the self-giving Christ sits the self-serving Judas who will very soon betray Him.[3]Judas has already been in question throughout much of John’s gospel and here in v2, v18, and later in v27 his fate is confirmed as we see Judas giving room for Satan to wield him for wicked purposes. Nevertheless, Christ is not daunted by Satan’s work in and through Judas. In v3 we’re reminded of a reassuring reality. Jesus has full command not only of this meal, but of all things. It says there He knew the Father had given all things to Him, and that He had come from God and would soon to return to Him. Knowing the wicked plans Judas and Satan are about to do and knowing the sovereign command of Christ, we would completely understand if Jesus, at this meal, used His almighty power to instantaneously destroy both Judas and Satan for conspiring against Him.[4]That would show His power. That would crush evil. Or would it? Jesus has loftier intentions. What does He do? v4-5 tell us, Jesus “…rose from supper. He laid aside His outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around His waist. Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.” Jesus, the eternal Son of God, the cosmic Christ, in full command, completely aware of His betrayer next to Him and the cross before Him, takes up the dress and role of the lowliest of servants and washes all of the disciples feet, Judas included. “WHAT?!” ought to be our response to this. How unexpected…how humiliating…how gracious. Remember Jesus entered the city before humbly on a donkey, now He again humbly serves His own by washing their feet.

We see this from a bit of a distance so it may be hard for us to see the gravity of what Jesus is doing here, but by looking at the reaction of the disciples we get a glimpse into what was really happening. And that’s exactly what we have next. There is silence among the disciples until Jesus gets around to Peter in v6-7 where Peter, being Peter, blurts out what everyone else seems to be thinking. “He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter’s question is understandable. He earlier confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of Living God so for him it was entirely inappropriate for the Messiah to wash his dirty feet. But Jesus calmly responds and says that even though he may not understand why this has to happen now, one day ‘afterword’ he will. We hear this and immediately think of the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension when both the Father and the Son will together send the Spirit to open eyes, to awaken dead hearts, and to enlighten darkened minds so that they understand the things Christ made known to them. We hear this and think of that. But is there hearing this firsthand, he doesn’t know these things, so he blurts out again in v8 “You shall never wash my feet.” Again, Peter is only thinking about what is socially acceptable and because of that he thinks it’s entirely wrong for the Son of the Living God to be engaging in such lowly duties. ‘He’s the Christ, He deserves the place of highest honor, He shouldn’t be doing this!’ One commentator says here, “Peter is humble enough to see the absurdity of Christ’s actions, yet proud enough to command to his Master.”[5]

Jesus responds to him by saying in v8b, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with Me.” You have to laugh a bit when you see his response to this in v9, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Peter, doesn’t get it, but he got enough of what Jesus was saying to understand that he didn’t fully understand what Jesus was saying and that he is wrong to forbid Jesus from doing this. So he quickly blurts out the opposite of what he said earlier, desiring to receive a whole body washing instead. To this Jesus responds in v10-11, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For He knew who was to betray Him; that was why He said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’”

Jesus response in v8b and then again in v10 are game changers for how we understand this washing. Jesus isn’t speaking of mere physical washing, not at all. He is washing their feet and their feet are dirty, no doubt about that. It is certainly a humble thing to do, no doubt about that. But more is in view than clean feet. What’s in view according to Jesus, that Peter doesn’t see, is the necessity of a clean heart! Jesus is saying, ‘Unless you washed clean from sin by My blood (which is about to be poured out for you), you have no share with Me.’ So, let’s make sure we don’t view this humble act of washing feet as merely a lesson in humility. There is cross work in view here.

Hear the language of Paul’s Christ hymn in Phil. 2:5-11 here in this act in John 13. Just as[6]He rose from His heavenly throne to come into the world not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many, so too He rose from His seat at this meal to serve them. Just as He made Himself nothing taking the form of a servant in the incarnation, so too He took a towel and tied it around His waist making Himself a lowly slave. Just as He would very soon pour out His blood to wash away all the sin of all those who would ever believe in Him, so too He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples feet. And just as He will take His seat at the Father’s side once more after His redeeming work is finished in the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, so too He sat back at the table when He finished washing their feet. So here is One who both Servant and Master present among them, serving them, and teaching them. This isn’t just a lesson in humility, it’s a preview of His greater servant work He’ll complete in a just a few more hours. Yet, even as He ends v10-11 John makes sure to remind us that not all who were washed, were washed. Lord willing we’ll come back to these comments about Judas when we get to v18-30 next week, for now let’s move ahead to v12-17 where we see the love of Christ decreed.

The Love of Christ Decreed (v12-17)

“When He had washed their feet and put on His outer garments and resumed His place, He said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

In these verses we find the implications of Jesus’ act of washing His disciples feet. As we just saw Christ display His love, we now see Him decree His love. Or to say it another way, we just saw Christ compellingly display humility, now we see Christ command the same humility. Or to say it one more way, Jesus used foot washing as a preview of His sacrificial death, now Jesus uses foot washing as model for our sacrificial life. In v12 Jesus asks if they understand what He had just done, He knows they don’t (He even said they wouldn’t in v7), so He is going to help them out by explaining this action further and working out one large implication from it. He begins doing this in v13-14 by speaking about what they call Him. They call Him Teacher and Lord, and Jesus says this is right for them to do so. Because they call Him Teacher and Lord they must do, not only what He says, but what He does also. What has He done? He has taken the role of a slave among them and performed a lowly service for them. Therefore (and this is the big implication He’ll now draw out) because He washed their feet, they ought to wash one another’s feet. Notice how Jesus, as He’s saying this, reverses the titles present in v13-14? In v13 Teacher is first and Lord is second. But as He commands them in v14 Jesus reverses the order and places Lord first and Teacher second. This small shift carries large meaning. It reminds the disciples (and us) that what Jesus has done is not just something to be left in the realm of academic discussion as if He were just a Teacher. No, He is Lord, so this is a command from God Almighty to them that must change the way they live their lives with one another. Because of this we must know in our minds that we cannot be content to leave the truth of God in our minds alone. God’s way with us is from top to bottom. His truth must be known in the mind, experienced in the heart, and then applied to the will as we work these things out in bold (and lowly) service to one another.[7]

So in v15-16 it shouldn’t surprise us when we hear Jesus say, “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant (slave)is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” This is the big lesson of the foot washing. Just as a slave wouldn’t see any task his or her master gave them as beneath them, we are the slaves of Christ and we ought to do what He commands. What does He command here? This leads us all the way back to v2-11 again and causes us to see His foot washing in a whole new light. Jesus did not, in washing their feet, intend to establish a sacrament of foot washing within His Church. No, His action of washing their feet is a “…parable in action, setting out the great principle of lowly service which finds its supreme embodiment in the cross.”[8]

How do we apply this to ourselves today? Twofold: there is a sin to repented of here as well as a way of obedience to endeavor towards.

First, the sin is pride and thinking in that pride that any service or task or person or good work toward that person or group of persons is beneath you. If you think of anything as beneath you, what you really think is that you’re above everything. Nothing could be further from the life Christ calls us to here. Think of Paul as an example. He had reason to boast. In Philippians 3:5-6 Paul says he was “…circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless…” What happened when he met Jesus and saw how marvelously God had loved him Christ? Philippians 3:7-8, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Paul was transformed by gospel grace, he knew gospel grace, experienced gospel grace deep within Him, and that same gospel grace then changed how he did life with others. Not for the sake of charity, not for sake of world peace, not for the sake of earning favor with God by his own works…no, Paul met Jesus, was saved, and for the sake of Christ, for the sake of knowing Christ, for the sake of gaining Christ, he became a servant to all men. Have you? Pride is the sin in view here and pride is thus the sin we must fight here. So fight…to not consider yourself above things that were not beneath Jesus.[9]

Second, the way of obedience to endeavor towards is the way of the cross. Jesus’ washing the disciples feet isn’t about washing feet. Jesus doesn’t call us to do what He has done, but to do as He has done.[10]This whole passage is about recognizing this act as a preview of the cross Jesus was about to bear and than recognizing that the way of the cross must be our way as well. Jesus intends His sacrificial cross to fuel our sacrificial life. In a world searching for genuine community today, do you see how bright a light the Church of Jesus Christ could be if we lived this way? In both our attitude and actions towards one another we are to be people eager to stoop. There are a million ways to bring this home so I’ll just be broad here. We’re to be eager to forgive those who fail, be eager to pursue those who wander, be eager to strengthen those who are weak, be eager to comfort those who suffer or grieve, provide for those in need, sit with those who are alone, and do these things in such a way where we are gladly willing to be inconvenienced in serving one another. We have been commissioned to a great task Church, and by grace we have been welcome into “the fraternity of water basin, and now must live as people of the towel.”[11]

Conclusion:

v17 is where we end this morning. “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”  Church, it’s one thing to know, it’s another to do.[12]Knowing is great, learning is great, and thinking is great, but doing, that is where rubber meets the road. In v17 Jesus says the way to be blessed yourself is to be a blessing to others. Therefore, true blessing comes from God into our souls first by being served by Christ in His sacrificial atoning death for our sins, and second by serving others sacrificially in light of it.

May we be people who love, not just in word or talk but in deed and truth.

 

Citations:

[1]Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 613.

[2]Charles Spurgeon, quoted in Richard Phillips, John 11-21 – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 135-136, emphasis mine.

[3]Reformation Study Bible, notes on 13:2, page 1883.

[4]D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – PNTC, page 462, see also Phillips, page 145.

[5]Morris, page 617.

[6]These astounding gospel parallels come from Phillips, page 147-148.

[7]Jason Meyer, Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life, page 215.

[8]Morris, page 612-613.

[9]Phillips, page 161.

[10]Phillips, page 157.

[11]Skip Ryan, quoted in Phillips, page 161.

[12]Morris, page 621.

Evening = Job 9, The Longing for a Mediator

Having traveled through the first 8 chapters of Job I think it’s safe to say that so far we have learned a few things. We’ve learned the book of Job speaks honestly about our suffering, it speaks honestly about the limits of our ability to understand our suffering, and it speaks honestly about the overwhelming need to trust God in our suffering.[1]I think we see these three things come out clearly in Job’s own words and in the words of his friends. We need to keep these things in mind as we jump back into the middle section of Job, because as Job responds to Bildad in chapter 9-10 we see him bump up against the limits of his understanding and make some weighty claims. We’ll look to chapter 9 tonight and chapter 10 next week.

Eliphaz and Bildad have both said that God is absolutely sovereign and absolutely fair, therefore innocent people never suffer. This means the counsel to Job is simple: you are suffering because you’re in sin, so turn away from evil and turn back to good and God will bring you out of your suffering. Before his suffering began Job would’ve agreed with them, but now that no longer seems a valid option. It’s in this light we must read v2. When Job begins by saying, “Truly I know that it is so…” he does not intend to communicate agreement with what Bildad and Eliphaz have said so far. Rather it is likely something of a “Ah yes, I once knew these things to be true…but I can no longer affirm this system of belief.”[2]The rest of v2-4 shows us what he’s really beginning to believe these days, “But how can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to contend with Him, one could not answer Him once in a thousand times. He is wise in heart and mighty in strength-who has hardened himself against Him, and succeeded?” Job’s present longing isn’t to have his family, servants, animals, or possessions back but to (1) figure out how to stand before God guilt free, and (2) truly discern the character of God in his confused and disordered state. If Job had these two things he would be a happy man, but as we’ll see throughout chapter 9 Job cannot get these things he so wishes to have because God is God and he is not.

This is made explicit in v5-12, “He who removes mountains, and they know it not, when He overturns them in His anger, who shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble; who commands the sun, and it does not rise; who seals up the stars; who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the sea; who made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the chambers of the south; who does great things beyond searching out, and marvelous things beyond number. Behold, He passes by me, and I see Him not; He moves on, but I do not perceive Him. Behold, He snatches away; who can turn Him back? Who will say to Him, ‘What are you doing?’”

In this cascade of powerful imagery Job portrays incomparable God’s strength.[3]Starting with v10 Job says God is the One who works marvelous wonders, and v9 back to v7 he tells of God’s power to create constellations, put them in place, walk on the waves of the sea, stretch out the heavens, and command the sun and stars. Then in potent words Job describes God as the only One who has the ability to unmake all He has made. God can shake the earth out of its place in v6, and overturn or remove mountains in v5. What is Job’s conclusion after noting the potent power of that belongs to God alone? In v11-12 he mentions he believes in God’s power and even in God’s nearness. But he also mentions that because of his suffering he cannot see God, perceive God, or ask God why He does what He does. It’s as if Job is contrasting a new dilemma he feels present within himself. He is truly aware of God’s almighty power and unmatched strength, but he is no longer aware of God’s tender goodness.[4]It is precisely this point that Job latches onto as he continues for the remainder of chapter 9.

v13-15, “God will not turn back His anger; beneath Him bowed the helpers of Rahab. How then can I answer Him, choosing my words with Him? Though I am in the right, I cannot answer Him; I must appeal for mercy to my accuser.” Because of all Job’s said before about God, he believes God is angry with him and will not turn His anger away from him. The mention of Rahab’s helpers here is telling. In Job the many references to Leviathan and to Rahab are telling the same story. Both speak of storybook monsters of evil, and if they in their massive power cannot even contend with God how can Job expect to be able to?[5]Indeed, even though Job still believes himself to be innocent or ‘in the right’, Job’s only course of action is to plea for mercy to God (whom he sadly refers to as his accuser).

This continues on in v16-20, “If I summoned Him and He answered me, I would not believe that He was listening to my voice. For He crushes me with a tempest and multiplies my wounds without cause; He will not let me get my breath, but fills me with bitterness. If it is a contest of strength, behold, He is mighty! If it is a matter of justice, who can summon Him? Though I am in the right, my own mouth would condemn me; though I am blameless, He would prove me perverse.” Job speaks in these verses of what would surely be the most anticipated court case in history. Job vs. Godand each time he speaks of it he knows that he wouldn’t even stand a chance. Even if God does things without cause (unjustly) no one is able to summon God to the dock and force Him to give a defense for His actions. God is mighty and no one can prevail upon Him. Even though Job believes himself to be in the right he knows he’d lose that court case.

So Job laments over these things, continuing to hold himself guiltless and calling God unjust again in v21-31, “I am blameless; I regard not myself; I loathe my life. It is all one; therefore I say, ‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’ When disaster brings sudden death, He mocks at the calamity of the innocent. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; He covers the faces of its judges—if it is not He, who then is it? “My days are swifter than a runner; they flee away; they see no good. They go by like skiffs of reed, like an eagle swooping on the prey. If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint, I will put off my sad face, and be of good cheer,’ I become afraid of all my suffering, for I know you will not hold me innocent. I shall be condemned; why then do I labor in vain? If I wash myself with snow and cleanse my hands with lye, yet you will plunge me into a pit, and my own clothes will abhor me.” No matter what Job does to show his innocence, to him, the outcome is fixed and immovable, God will be victorious and Job will be condemned.

All of this leads to what is probably the most redemptive moment in all of Job’s first nine chapters. It is bleak for Job, don’t hear me wrong, he’s realizing the difference between he and God and shows his awareness of his weakness in the face of God’s strength. But because God is this much stronger than he is in v32-35 Job cries out longingly for a mediator to restore he and God, “For He is not a man, as I am, that I might answer Him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both. Let Him take His rod away from me, and let not dread of Him terrify me. Then I would speak without fear of Him, for I am not so in myself.” Again the courtroom comes into view in that which would be the most famous of cases. Because God is not like Job, a man, there is no hope for Job in the case Job vs. God. So Job longs for another to be present in the court laboring in his behalf.  This arbiter (or mediator) isn’t there for Job, but if he were Job believes he would be able to lay his hand on both of them, remove God’s wrathful rod from him, and take away his terror of God. Then because of the work of this mediator Job would happily speak of God without dread.

What Job longs for he doesn’t have. There is no mediator to do this courtroom legal work, so Job is left hopeless as chapter 9 ends and chapter 10 begins. But we do not remain in Job’s despair. Why? Because “…when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). Or as 1 Timothy 2:5 states, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” So what Job longed for God has, in His perfect time, given His people. And it is no coincidence that the imagery of a courtroom is used once more the work of Christ. 1 John 2:1 calls Him our “righteous advocate with the Father.” And when we speak of Christ’s advocate or mediatorial work, in the courtroom of God, in our behalf it is His priestly work that comes into view.

Think of the Old Testament priest. God has ordained and commanded that His people Israel be active in the sacrificial system. This meant that on varying holy days, Sabbaths, festivals, and celebrations the people would be engaged in ritual sacrifice where God’s wrath would be satisfied through the offering up of an animal functioning as a substitute for the people and their sin. These sacrifices were meant to be moments of worship for Israel. Who was it that God called to lead the sacrificial system and tend and keep the tabernacle and temple? It was the Levites, the priests. As Adam was to tend and keep the garden within Eden, so too Aaron (the first priest) and his descendants were charge with tending and keeping the worship of God for God’s people.[6]By leading the priests were literally ‘standing in the gap’ between God and His people. The people brought animals or wheat or grain for an offering, and it was the priest who actually made the offering. Year after year these offerings would have to be repeated, and in particular once a year the high priest would make an offering inside the holy of holies. The priest would get dressed up in holy garb for this occasion and included in his garb was various gems and jewels that signified the people themselves, meaning that the priest entered the holy of holies as the representative or in behalf of the people of God. Contrast this role of priest with that of a prophet. The prophet was to be God’s representative to the people, while the priest was to be man’s representative to God.

This is of course where we see the glory of Jesus Christ being our Priest. Listen again to the first part of the Shorter Catechism’s answer, “Christ executes the office of priest, in His once offering up of Himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God…” Held within this answer are three important truths about Jesus functioning as our priest: substitution, satisfaction, and reconciliation.

In His Priestly work of substitution Jesus as Priest not only made an offering as our representative before God, He was the offering itself. He was the ‘sacrificial animal’ or the ‘unblemished Lamb’ that bore our sins. No other Priest ever did such a thing. There was always an animal or something other than the priest himself that he would offer to God. Not so with Jesus. He was the offering. In our place, as our substitute He bore the wrath of God that we deserved.

In His Priestly work of satisfaction we see the first result of Jesus’ substitution. Just as the unblemished animals offered up to God would satisfy God’s wrath and justice on the people’s behalf, so too, when Jesus offered Himself up as our substitute He satisfied God’s wrath and justice on our behalf. That His bloody sacrifice satisfied God’s wrath means His sacrifice is sufficient for all, and efficient for the elect. Nothing else need be added to the work of redemption, Christ’s work alone is able to save all those He intends to. I said sufficient for all, but only efficient for the elect because we must remember the extent of the atonement. The atonement in the Old Covenant sacrifices extended only to the Israelites. No Canaanites, or Jebusites, or Moabites were covered by these sacrifices at all. In the same manner, but largely greater, the New Covenant sacrifice of Christ on the cross extends only to the elect from every nation. Many people say Jesus died for the whole world but this is simply not true biblically. Anytime Scripture says Jesus died for all, or for the cosmos, it refers to all of the elect throughout all of time not every single person who ever lived. If all men were in view we’d have to embrace universalism or a deficient view of the atonement which believes the work of Christ on the cross doesn’t actually save us, but only makes salvation possible. We reject both universalism and this low view of the atonement. That Christ’s substitutionary atoning sacrifice satisfied God’s wrath means it actually saves us.

In John 12:24 Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Think about those who heard this. Perhaps they heard Him say the hour of His glorification had come and thought it meant something else, that Jesus was about to set up His dominion on the earth and crush Israel’s enemies once and for all. To them, this would’ve been confusing and disappointing.[7]‘What? The hour of your glorification has come and you’re speaking of dying?’ What Jesus implicitly stated with the donkey in His triumphal entry He now explicitly states here in an agrarian paradox. For Jesus, the way to fruitfulness lies through death, the way to gain lies through loss, the way to glorification lies through humiliation. Or to say it another way, like the seed whose death is the germination of life for a great crop, so too Jesus’ death produces an abundant harvest.[8]When you hold a kernel of wheat (or an acorn) in your hand you cannot see all that is in it. It looks rather small and unimpressive but it contains a world of life on the inside. How does all that world of life get out? By the kernel being shoved beneath the ground. Then, and only then, life breaks forth out of it for all to see as new plants burst upward out of the ground. By speaking like this in v24 Jesus is saying that by dying He will bear much fruit. He will be plunged beneath the ground in death and put in the tomb. From the appearance of things this will look very unimpressive and disappointing. But this death will cause the life within Him to burst forth from the grave in resurrection power which in turn causes more resurrection fruit to come forth all over the globe.

You cannot believe this verse if you entertain or believe Jesus’ death on the cross just made salvation a possibility. Put away from you any doctrine of the atonement you have that involves any kind of possibility. Possibility is not present here. Christ, the seed in view in v24, does not get plunged into the ground in death in hopes that it might bear fruit. Jesus didn’t come, live, die, rise, and ascend to sit on the throne and fret anxiously hoping that someone will take advantage of what He did and be saved. This is what Jesus wanted Philip and Andrew, and these Greeks, to know. That His Kingdom doesn’t begin with a coronation, but with a crucifixion.[9]That He, the great Seed of eternal life will be plunged into death, not to make a harvest possible, but to secure a harvest plentiful.

In His Priestly work of reconciliation we see yet another result of Jesus’ substitution, that because Jesus bore God’s wrath in our place as our substitute God was not only satisfied but was also reconciled with His elect. Due to sin all men are not merely separated from God, we’re alienated from God. Because of the blood of Jesus, the elect who were once alienated and far off have been brought near and have been reconciled. That we’re reconciled to God means that all believers now have been given the ministry of reconciliation, spreading this message to the ends of the earth through any and every means we can.

 

 

Citations:

[1]Mark Dever, Promises Made, page 479.

[2]Christopher Ash, Job – The Wisdom of the Cross: Preaching the Word Commentary, page 141.

[3]Ash, page 142.

[4]Ash, page 143.

[5]IVP-NB Commentary on Job 9, accessed via Accordance, 4/24/18.

[6]John Fesko writes on the connection between Adam’s work in Eden with the priests work within the tabernacle and temple in his book Last Things First.

[7]R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 306.

[8]Carson, page 438.

[9]J.C. Ryle, quoted in Hughes, page 95.

Morning = John 12:44-50, A Summary of Our Faith

As we come to John 12:44-50 this morning we not only come to the end of John 12 we come to the end of the first half of John’s gospel. In chapters 1-12 John gives us a carefully organized picture of the public ministry of Jesus. The beloved disciple has showed us who Jesus is, what Jesus taught, and what Jesus can do. Anyone with eyes to see and with ears to hear will conclude that this Jesus is unlike any other. To those who believe He had very gracious and soothing words to say, but to those who refused to believe He had very sharp and condemning words to say. But His last public word isn’t one of condemnation, no. It’s one of tender appeal to believe and be saved.[1]

We’re not quite sure who Jesus is speaking to here in v44-50. Earlier in v36 we read about Jesus departing and hiding Himself from the public, but here in v44-50 we find Jesus saying more. Did He come back into the city and speak more to the people? Was He speaking to the disciples in private? Or were these words Jesus spoke earlier on some occasion that John uses here to bring part 1 of his gospel to a close? It’s hard to know which one of these options is correct, I believe it doesn’t really matter which one we’re persuaded to entertain, because what matters is whether or not we embrace the words of Jesus here. In this summary before us we find much of what Jesus has told us before. We find the importance of faith, the unity between the Father and the Son, the contrast between light and darkness, redemption in the present day extended in Christ, judgment executed on the last day by the Word of Christ, and eternal life enjoyed by all those who truly come to Christ. All of this is present in this summary of the gospel message.

And so this morning we’ll be reminded, not of everything we believe as Christians, but of those things that are of first importance for Christians. Such first importance that anyone who denies such things can in no way be a Christian. What are these things? Specifically in this text John places before us the nature of the Father and the Son, the nature of light and darkness, and the nature of redemption and judgment.

Father and Son (v44-45)

Five times in the gospels we read of Jesus crying out.[2]Two of them are on the cross (Matt. 27:50, Mark 15:34). One was when Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the Living Water greater than the water flowing out of the rock in the wilderness (John 7:37). Another is when Jesus stands before and cries out into the foul smelling tomb to raise the dead Lazarus to new life (John 11:43). The fifth instance of Jesus crying out is here in v44 where He begins the summary of our faith by pleading with His hearers to believe. But it’s not only a plea to believe, He desires them to know that when they believe in Him they enter into a union with He and the Father. This means the union between God the Son and God the Father is so close that the person who believes in and banks on Christ also believes in and banks on the Father. The union consists not so much in the Father’s sending of the Son, as important as that is, but in the very nature of the Godhead. Though truly distinct in their own right and Personhood (such that the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father) the Father is God and the Son is God. Unity amid diversity isn’t found in the depravity of humanity but only among the community of the Holy Trinity. And this isn’t new at all. In John 1:18 John remarked “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.” In John 5:24 Jesus said, “Whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life.” In John 8:19, “If you knew Me, you would know My Father as well.” Again in John 10:38 Jesus comments and says those who see His works should “…know and understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father.”

Therefore, you cannot have the Son and reject the Father. And you cannot have the Father and reject the Son. These options aren’t left open to us. To believe in Christ is to believe in the Father. To trust in Christ is to trust in the Father. To know Christ is to know the Father. To love Christ is to love the Father. To receive Christ is to receive the Father. “[3]If Jesus isn’t your Savior, God is not your Father.” Christ and the Father are one.[4]This reminds us that Jesus’ coming into the world wasn’t on His own initiative.[5]To believe in Jesus is to believe the Father sent Jesus to save His people. Too many people separate the two and wrongly believe Jesus to be a loving Son who saved us from an angry Father. Wrong. That the Father sent the Son to save means there is a harmony of wills present in both Father and Son.

And more so v45 here in our text we see that to see Jesus is to see the Father. The Greek word here in v45 ‘to see’ is the word theoreowhich is where we get our English words theory and theorize. In this context ‘seeing’ means far more than just ‘seeing.’ By looking at Jesus, by observing Jesus, and by studying Jesus we can see, we can learn, and we can discern what the Father is truly like. Just think of the cross. In seeing Jesus willingly embrace the death we deserve on the cross we see the great love of the Father, that He sent Him for this very purpose. In seeing Jesus forsaken by the Father on the cross we see the great holiness of the Father, that nothing unholy can be in His presence. And in seeing Jesus suffer so excruciatingly on the cross we see the terrible wrath of God against sin. To answer the question: what is God like? We need look no further than Jesus Christ.

Light and Darkness (v46)

The summary of our faith continues in v46, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness.” Implied in this statement is an indictment of all mankind…that our natural state isn’t one of light but one of darkness. Explicit in this statement is the purpose why Jesus, who is light, came…that we should not continue in darkness. This also isn’t new. Didn’t we learn in 1:4-5 “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” We learned in the very next passage, 1:6-8, that John the Baptist wasn’t the light but came to bear witness about the light, for “…the true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (1:9). We heard in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Then again in John 9:5, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” And just a bit ago we heard Jesus say in John 12:35-36, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” All of this put together is why there is so much light conversation around the Christmas announcements of Christ’s birth. A people in…darkness saw…a great light. When the magi saw the…star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. That is the reality of Christ’s birth, and that reality of joyful light entering the soul and expelling the darkness is experienced in the heart when one believes in Christ as well when God does in us what He did in Genesis 1. And more so by believing in Christ the Scriptures speak of a positional change we experience. We are delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col. 1:13). Or simply, to believe in Jesus is to come to the light.[6]

Therefore, you cannot come to the Son (who is light) and remain in darkness. Or, all those who have truly come to Christ (who is light) will not remain in darkness. The light of Christ does two things: exposes and reveals. It exposes darkness and reveals what’s hidden from us by the darkness.[7]So too Christ, coming into the world as light, exposes the darkness of our sinful hearts and reveals who God is in truth because in our darkness sinfulness we can’t draw near a God who is Himself Holy Light. Paul will later tell us how this changes the way we live in Ephesians 5:8-11, “…at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” See here what kind of lives we’re called to live. Believing in Christ (who is light) calls us to live in the light, to walk as children of light, to center our minds, hearts, and hands around the thing of light, and flee anything that would bring darkness to His light. This means right believing ought to lead to right behaving. Or, if you find yourself unwilling to live for Christ and walk in the light of Christ, it’s highly likely you haven’t come to Christ yet. Church how dangerous a condition it is to be in, to profess Christ and not possess Him by a true and living faith. Hear in v46 the call to live as we ought to. Too many hear these kinds of things and fear that we’ve turned back on justification by faith alone because we’re speaking of the works we must do in life. But may we ever remember that it is the grace of God revealed in Christ that leads us to devote ourselves to good works. Works that were prepared beforehand that we should walk in (Eph. 2:10), works that we’re to do publically, letting our light so shine before men that they may see those good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).

Redemption and Judgment (v47-48)

This summary of our faith continues onward in v47-48, “If anyone hears My words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects Me and does not receive My words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.”

In v47-48 we read of the same truth in v46 but from another angle.[8]Whoever refuses to believe in Christ and whoever rejects the word of Christ, isn’t judged by Christ (for He came to save not to condemn), but will be judged on the last day by the word of Christ. As clear as this is some have still sought to teach that Jesus was just a normal man who never claimed to be God with a message of love and peace. Surely such passages as this fit into the Bible like a square peg fits into a round hole. See here that Jesus Himself believes it is His Word that will judge all men at the last day. For someone to say this, for someone to believe this, they would be a fool if it weren’t true. Judgment belongs to God and that Jesus believes His Words will judge all men at the last day reminds us that Jesus believed Himself to be God.  Again, careful readers of John’s gospel won’t be surprised at this. Back in John 3:17-18 we read, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Then again in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Then once more in John 8:15-16, “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, My judgment is true (why?), for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent Me.”

This points us to the purposes of His first and second advents. A.W. Pink comments on this saying, “In a lowly place with a patient grace Jesus broke into this fallen world to save sinners. At the end of all things He shall return in robes of white and judge sinners with His powerful might. Once He came as a lowly servant, one day He shall return as the exalted Sovereign. He came to woo and win men, He shall come again to rule over men with a rod of iron.”[9]Be reminded of three things in v47-48. First, there will be a last day. The great theater of this grand world is in it’s final act, and one day the curtain will fall, the author of the play will walk on stage to receive glory and honor, and the show will be over. This day, this final day will come like a thief in the night, therefore we must live in light of the end and warn all of what’s to come. Second, the last day will be a day of judgment. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is LORD as the hearts of all are exposed for all to see. The ungodly apart from Christ will be judged and found wicked and will be cast into an eternal punishment in hell while the godly in Christ will be judge and be found righteous and will be welcomed into the joy of their Master. Third, this last day of judgment will be a judgment centered on Christ’s Word. The gospel and commands of Christ shirked and mocked by the unbelieving will be the very Word that pronounces guilt on them when the books are opened. When the accounts are settled the judgment will be so thorough that the wicked would rather mountains fall on them than face the wrath of the Lamb of God.

Church, the word of judgment on the last day is no different than the word of life that sounds forth each week in this pulpit. The message of salvation to sinners who repent is also the message of condemnation to sinners who don’t. Does this not make you want to amend your ways this morning as you hear of what’s to come? May you do so, and run to this Savior of sinners.

Father and Son (v49-50)

Finally, as the summary of our faith is wrapped up we find out why the Word of Christ is so strong to save and to condemn. In v49-50 we read, “For I have not spoken on My own authority, but the Father who sent Me has Himself given Me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that His commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told Me.”

We come full circle now and end our passage where we began, on the nature of the Father and the Son. Jesus’ Word is not just His Word, it’s the Word commanded and given from Father to Son. Or, all God the Son told us is all God the Father told Him. So to believe and obey the Son’s message is to believe and obey the Father’s message. Also, to reject the Son’s message is to reject the Father’s message. Therefore it is because Jesus’ message is of divine origin that it is fitting to judge all men on the last day.[10]The message of the gospel is often put in the frame of an invitation to believe. This is in one sense fitting, for all men should be invited to believe. But one of the problems of framing the gospel as an invitation is that many will hear it and believe the gospel is something they can accept or deny. What is put forward to us in v49-50 is that the gospel isn’t an invitation to respond to according to our pleasure, but a command from God that is only disobeyed to our peril.

Conclusion:

This is where I’d like to leave you today. We’ve trekked with John throughout the entirety of part 1 of his gospel. We’ve heard the truth of who Jesus is, what Jesus taught, and what He came to do. We’ve also seen the majority response to these things wasn’t one of belief but of unbelief. Nothing said today is new and because of that I’m reminded of what Paul told Timothy, that it was no trouble to remind him of the things he has already taught him. Church, where are you? Today we’ve seen a summary of our faith, and while we haven’t covered everything we believe we have covered things that are of first importance. But do you recognize them as important? More so, do you believe in them? Do you believe in them so much that you’re willing to bank your entire life on them? Do you believe in them so much that you’re willing to obey the commands of Christ and change the ways you behave? Do you believe in them so much that you’re willing to risk everything to spread this message to the end of the earth? I pray these things are true of all of you. I pray that you would truly know these things, deeply love these things, and be so moved by the Spirit of God to boldly serve one another because of these things.

 

 

Citations:

[1]Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 607.

[2]Richard Phillips, John 11-21 – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 122.

[3]John Piper, Belief in Jesus: It’s Barriers and Blessings – sermon from 12/10/11 – accessed on desiringgod.org on 4/28/18.

[4]Phillips, page 124.

[5]F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, page 273.

[6]Bruce, page 274.

[7]A.W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, page 694.

[8]Morris, page 608.

[9]Pink, page 694-695.

[10]Morris, page 608.

Evening = Job 8, God is Fair

“Human beings are hard wired to think things ought to be fair. From the schoolchild indignant when the teacher punishes the wrong child to the soccer crowd furious at a referee’s error in giving a red card, we know with passionate intensity that unfairness is rotten.”[1]That sentence begins Christopher Ash’s commentary on Job 8. It sets the tone well for Job 8, because in it we find an angry man named Bildad who believes two things about God: that God is sovereign and that God is just or fair. Now, to believe these two things isn’t wrong, not at all. They’re true are they not? To believe and intrinsically long for fairness and justice is itself evidence of the just God we were made by and for. But if sovereignty and justice were all that we believed about God we’d be…well we’d be Bildad and the rest of Job’s friends. And interestingly enough, in most other world religions who believe in a god, often it is only these two things that are recognized and believed about the so-called god in view.

Anywho, recall that as Job’s friends began responding to him in chapter 4 it was the patient and kind Eliphaz who began. There is a vivid contrast as Bildad, the next friend, speaks up in chapter 8:1. He isn’t patient, he isn’t kind, no, he’s rude. The only good thing we can say about Bildad’s words to Job is that he’s quite brief so we don’t have to endure much of him. Nonetheless, though his words may be short but they certainly sharp enough to cause harm.

He begins in v2 saying, “How long will you say these things, and the words of your mouth be a great wind?” We’ve all been in those conversations where someone was talking to us and as they dragged on the conversation we couldn’t help but butt in and stop them.

I remember a particular time when someone asked me to discuss the gospel with them. I was thrilled! The man wasn’t a Christian so for him to ask that was nothing short of amazing to me. So we began talking and as I brought up the beginnings of an explanation about the gospel he cut me off. I tried jumping back in to say something else and he cut me off again. I tried again, and got cut off again. This time he went off on a tangent about how I had been influenced by the Pope and didn’t really know it and that myself and all other protestants are really just part of the illuminati. I caught off guard, to say the least, and in an effort to redeem this conversation I sought to address the weighty claims he was bringing up and I got cut off 3 more times again. Finally after about 5 more minutes this man berating me of ridiculous claims in our very one way discussion I was pretty well fed up with the lies he was spouting against me and all other Christians so I held up a hand, motioned for a time out, and said, “You didn’t really want to have a conversation did you?” He honestly replied that he didn’t and just wanted to tell me how wrong and foolish I was. I’m not quite sure what happened after that but I can tell you that our discussion didn’t continue for much longer. We’ve all had moments like this where the person talking to us was so offensive, so vulgar, or so wrong that we reached the end of our restraint and intruded into the conversation to call them out for their errors. This is what Bildad was doing to Job. After hearing all that Job had to say in his response to Eliphaz in chapters 6-7 he couldn’t remain quiet any longer. So he speaks up and says Job ought to close mouth and that words are nothing more than hot air.

Bildad is so angered by what Job said he blurts out his main point in v3, “Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert what is right?” Bildad is making a large claim here. God, to him, is perfect, completely just and right. To say otherwise isn’t just a mere case of saying something that is wrong it is utter blasphemy. This is the reason Bildad is so angry because, againto him, Job has done just that. Job has said that God has treated him unfairly and that to do so is out of order.[2]

Bildad continues in v4-6 continuing to unfold his opinion of Job saying, “If your children have sinned against him, he has delivered them into the hand of their transgression. If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy, if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful habitation.” This is, to say the least, brutal. To tell a man whose children have died the reason that they died was because they deserved to die it isn’t a good idea. Does Bildad not know of Job’s daily sacrifices he made for his children? Clearly he doesn’t, and it probably wouldn’t matter to him if he did know it because to him and his theology, bad things happen to bad people, and God did this to Job’s kids because they were bad people. That’s v4, then in v5-7 Bildad applies these things to Job saying that if he were to turn toward the good again that good things would begin happening to him. So implied in his words here is that because Job is still alive means he isn’t as bad as his kids were. So Bildad’s counsel is to ‘seek God’, to ‘plead with the Almighty for mercy’, to ‘be pure’, to ‘be upright’, then if Job does these good things God will do good things for him like ‘rousing himself for Job’, and ‘restoring Job.’ Then on top of all this v7 comes out of his mouth saying, “And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great.” We think, wait a minute, did Job have a small beginning? Was he not the greatest man in all the east? That’s what 1:3 said he was.[3]But apparently to Bildad, Job’s initial greatness wasn’t so great at all, or at least not as great as his own greatness off in the city of Shua. Nonetheless, if Job turns away from evil and toward good God will make him great. This is the simple, black and white, theology of Job’s friends. Bad things happen to bad people, good things happen to good people. There is no place for sacrifice, no place for innocent or redemptive suffering, and no patience needed with bad people. The only counsel bad people need is this: stop doing bad things and begin doing good things. This is what Bildad tells Job.

To further prove his case Bildad does what Eliphaz did earlier in pointing to an external source that validates his opinions. Recall that Eliphaz pointed to a strange vision in the night that really turned out to be more of a nightmare, here Bildad doesn’t do that but he does point to the external source of wisdom and tradition of long ago in v8-10, “For inquire, please, of bygone ages, and consider what the fathers have searched out. For we are but of yesterday and know nothing, for our days on earth are a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you and utter words out of their understanding?” In essence Bildad is telling Job that what he’s telling him now isn’t new. It isn’t something he made up, it isn’t even something the older and wiser Eliphaz made up. No, it’s historic truth, known and taught by the ‘fathers’ of a bygone era. And because they’ve only been around for a brief time they should stop struggling to see things differently and trust the traditions passed down to them. For in them is where true wisdom and understanding is found. As well intended as this counsel might be to himself, Bildad isn’t listening to Job. Job’s words in chapter 6-7 have made him angry and instead of asking Job more probing questions and getting to the root of his suffering, Bildad just points him to their traditions and wise men of the past and reminds him to fall back on what they all know to be true. Sounds good, but Job’s experience is teaching him something else. And nothing in the wisdom of the past can settle his pain.

To drive his point home Bildad, in v11-19 begins speaking of plants to illustrate what he means. “Can papyrus grow where there is no marsh? Can reeds flourish where there is no water? While yet in flower and not cut down, they wither before any other plant. Such are the paths of all who forget God; the hope of the godless shall perish. His confidence is severed, and his trust is a spider’s web. He leans against his house, but it does not stand; he lays hold of it, but it does not endure. He is a lush plant before the sun, and his shoots spread over his garden. His roots entwine the stone heap; he looks upon a house of stones. If he is destroyed from his place, then it will deny him, saying, ‘I have never seen you.’ Behold, this is the joy of his way, and out of the soil others will spring.”

In v11-15 I think it’s pretty clear what’s being said. Bildad refers to Job as a papyrus shoot planted outside of a marsh, or a reed planted in dry ground. He may have shot up quickly at first but in the end his confidence will be severed, his trust will fall, he will be destroyed and will not endure if he continues to forget God and blame God for his current suffering. His experience will be like leaning a heavy burden on a spider web and falling right through it. That is clear. What’s unclear is v16-19. When Bildad begins speaking of the lush plant in the sun that growing, expanding, and wrapping it’s shoots all around the garden, is he talking about what Job would be if he turned away from evil and turned toward good? I don’t think he is because this illustration also ends in a bad way and so far it seems that Bildad has told Job that his end would be a good one if he turns away from evil. This illustration ends with destruction as well but links it with a communal joy in v19. Some think here that Bildad is referring to himself and the other two friends here. Specifically when Job is finally destroyed they will look on him and say, ‘I have never seen you’ and walk off in the joy of their way. Whether it’s a plea for Job to turn and end life well, or it’s about them ending well with lives already being lived rightly, it still misses the point of what’s going on with Job and speaks right past him and his circumstances.[4]

Bildad wraps it all up in v20-22 saying, “Behold, God will not reject a blameless man, nor take the hand of evildoers. He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting. Those who hate you will be clothed with shame, and the tent of the wicked will be no more.” According to Bildad Job can be sure of one thing. God won’t reject a man whose blameless, and if he turns away from evil his current despair will be replaced with laughter, shouting, and fullness. And Job can sit back and smile at his enemies perishing around him. Ironically Bildad says what is true here but has reversed the roles present among them. Bildad thinks he and the other friends are the blameless ones and Job is the wicked one. Yet the reality is just the opposite. Job is the one who is blameless among them (chapter 1-2 already told us that many times) and his friends are the wicked who in the end of this will be shamed while Job will be vindicated.

Bildad’s system of belief is sure neat and tidy, with very definable categories of right and wrong. His system has all sorts of pleasant qualities about it except for the fact that it adds to Job’s suffering and does nothing to alleviate it at all. His system has no room for mess. No room for godly people doing bad things. And most importantly no room for godly people suffering for doing godly things. That just won’t fit into Bildad’s system, which is why he can’t understand Job and must believe Job has turned away from God. We could end right here and be in the dumps with Job feeling hopeless with such a system. But we won’t.

Remember, Bildad believes God is fair. That God gives good things to good people and bad things to bad people. Many people today believe God is fair, just as he did. What they all miss is that we don’t want God’s fairness, we want His mercy. If God were fair, and truly did give good things to good people and bad things to bad people no one after Genesis 3 would ever receive a good thing from God at all. Bildad misses this because he is too high an opinion of himself. Deep down he believes God has blessed him for his greatness and goodness and because of this he misses how sinful he really is. Bildad really needs the mercy of God if he is to be saved. And I think that Job, because of his suffering, is beginning to know this about himself. That he is a man who needs a mediator, someone to stand in the gap between he and God to bring them both together again. That, of course, is found only in Christ. And in the very next chapter we see this rise to the surface in a wonderful manner.

 

 

Citations:

[1]Christopher Ash, Job: The Wisdom of the Cross – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 133.

[2]Ash, page 134.

[3]Ash, page 135.

[4]Ash is unclear on his explanation here, page 136-137.

Morning = John 12:36b-43, A Sad Pattern

“Nothing of importance happened today.” Those were words written in the diary of King George III of Great Britain. The day was July 4, 1776.[1]This quote probably shows more than he intended to, for if he hadn’t thought these events as important he likely wouldn’t have mentioned them at all. But by doing so he was clearly making a statement of dismissal over the fact that his colonies in the new world were becoming an independent nation. You could say King George didn’t lose much sleep over their revolution at all. But you could also say in regard to the cause the colonialists felt so vexed and passionate about, that King George was an unbeliever. And we can understand these two opposing views can’t we? Anytime someone makes a case for belief in anything it normally doesn’t take much time at all until someone else comes along and makes the case for unbelief in the same.

We see something of this in John’s gospel. Throughout the first 12 chapters Jesus has proclaimed Himself to be God, to be the Messiah, to be the Living Water, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, and the great I AM. After proclaiming Himself to be who He is Jesus called men and women to believe in them, and some of them did. But, a sad pattern is present in John’s gospel. After each time Jesus proclaims the truth about He is and calls people to believe in Him it seems that the majority response isn’t belief, but unbelief.

As we approach our text this morning we’ll see the pattern continue with present unbelief, we’ll see why this sad pattern happens at all with purposed unbelief, and we’ll see something that looks real but is really little more than practical unbelief. From seeing these three things we’re challenged in regards to our own belief. Will the sad pattern of unbelief continue with us? Or will something new begin in us?

Present Unbelief (v36-37)

“When Jesus had said these things, He departed and hid Himself from them. Though He had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in Him…”

Jesus had entered the city in the triumphal entry and after revealing an honest inner angst over the cross to come we see that He now leaves and hides Himself. Why did He do this? Because even though He had done a great many signs in plain sight unbelief still reigned in the city. The best of wine from mere water, numerous healings, 5,000 fed, walking on water, a dead man raised to new life, and many more. They beheld these things firsthand and like King George they responded callously in unbelief basically saying, ‘Nothing of importance happened today.’ It seems the modern Israelites are far too like the ancient Israelites whom Moses addresses in Deuteronomy 29:2-4, “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. But to this day LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.”

We learn here that seeing God do great, marvelous, and supernatural things firsthand does not automatically produce belief in man. No, it takes much more, in fact it takes nothing less than a heart transformation and resurrection because unbelief exists in the deepest part of man, in the heart. So, what did Jesus do in the face of this unbelief after such great things had been done? He hid Himself from them. Recall He had said earlier, “The Light is among you for a little while longer…while you have the Light, believe in the Light, that you may become sons of light” (12:35-36). They didn’t, the Light left, and they remained sons of darkness. To see Jesus walk away from a world lost in sin is dreadful. It ought to alarm us that when sinners reject the gospel message long enough God gives them over to what they have truly wanted all along, their sin. John expands on this more for us in the verses that follow, so let’s continue on to them.

Purposed Unbelief (v38-41)

To expand on this unbelief John goes back to the prophet Isaiah. “Though He had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in Him…SOthat the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things because he saw His glory and spoke of Him.”

I must caution you here. Do not interpret these verses to mean anything else than what they says. Much of what Bible has to say offends our modern sensibilities and when those sensibilities in us stand on end because they bump up to Scripture they don’t like, remember, Scripture wins! Do not try to soften hard texts in the Bible, if you try to do that you show others and you show God that you think you’re smarter than He is. Do you want to be arrogant in your handling of the Bible? I hope you don’t. I hope you submit to it regardless of the cost it brings you. Here’s an example of a commentator being offended by this text and trying to soften it. William Barclay says, “It seems to say that God has ordained that certain people must not and will not believe. Now in whatever way we are going to explain this passage, we cannot believe that. We cannot believe that the God whom Jesus told us about would make it impossible for His children to believe.”[2]He says this because the phrase that causes all this is the little words that begin v38, “…so that…” Many wish it said something else and try to twist the original Greek to make it say something like ‘with the result that.’ The difference is larger than the Grand Canyon. On the one hand if you believe it should be interpreted as ‘with the result that’ it’s their unbelief that stops God’s redemptive purposes in Christ. On the other hand if you believe it should be interpreted as ‘so that’ it means their unbelief happened because of God’s redemptive purposes in Christ.

William Barclay (the man I just quoted) is perhaps an easy target here. He was a theological liberal who denied many of the doctrines we hold dear. Would it surprise you to note that some others we love and adore did the same in their commentaries on John: F.F. Bruce, J.C. Ryle, A.W. Pink, and James Montgomery Boice.[3]What do we make of this? We must remember that some of the best of men and women can be very wrong on certain things. More so, we could also say that everyone is very wrong somewhere, myself included. Therefore, while sinful people can be very helpful at seeing beauties unnumbered in the Scripture, God and the illumination of His Spirit must be where our hope and trust is in reading and interpreting the Bible.

Now, I know that was a big caution. Let’s return to the text itself to see what, I think, John intends by quoting Isaiah.

He quotes two places in Isaiah. First in v38 he quotes Isaiah 53:1, “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed.” In context Isaiah 53:1 is Isaiah himself speaking about his astonishment at the unbelief of Israel shown by the rejection of the suffering servant who has been exalted by God Himself. The message from God has been crystal clear and yet God’s people rejected it. We would quickly say the ultimate Suffering Servant in redemptive history wasn’t Isaiah or anyone else in Isaiah’s day, but Jesus Christ. Perhaps now you can see why John uses this quotation. Jesus Christ, the Son of God exalted by the Father comes to His own and His own reject Him. The message of Him, through Him, and by Him has been crystal clear and again God’s people rejected it by rejecting Him. As Isaiah was astonished in His day that the arm (or strength) of the LORD has been revealed yet rejected, so too John is astonished in his own day that the arm (or strength) of the LORD has been fully revealed in Christ and still rejected. v38 shows man’s responsibility for believing the gospel message, that is clear. They should’ve believed in Christ and they refused. They’re at fault.

But there’s more to the story as we continue. It isn’t just man’s responsibility in view, God’s sovereignty comes into view next.[4]After quoting this passage from the suffering servant section of Isaiah John says in v39, “Therefore they could not believe.” Then comes his second quotation from Isaiah, in v40, he quotes Isaiah 6:9-10 to drive home his point. “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Going back to the context of Isaiah 6 recall Isaiah has just had the vision of God and heard the famous trisagion (the ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ of the seraphim to the Holy One of Israel). From seeing and learning of the awesome and terrible holiness of God Isaiah learned who God was and who Isaiah was too. He didn’t cry out in joy when he saw God, he cried out in a deconstructed state as he proclaimed woe’s of judgment upon himself for his own sin. Then in marvelous mercy and grace God took his sin away and commissioned him to go and preach to the nations. But before sending him out to preach God told him in Isaiah 6:9-10 that the nations won’t listen to his preaching because He has blinded eyes and hardened hearts, and that Isaiah’s preaching was itself going to be the means through which God hardened His people.[5]

Back to John. Why did John quote Isaiah 6:9-10 here in the v40? To explain the current unbelief in his day. Which means the foundation of Israel’s unbelief in Christ is traced to God’s sovereign judgment. Let’s think a bit deeper about this. John now shows us that the Jewish unbelief of his day was not only foreseen by God but purposed by God.[6]As God blinded and hardened Israel before in Isaiah’s day, so too He is still doing it in Jesus’ day so that they wouldn’t ‘see with their eyes, and understand with the heart and turn and be healed.’ Do you see that the Jews rejection of Jesus was part of God’s sovereign plan for our salvation? If God didn’t harden them against Christ they never would’ve crucified Christ, and no one know Christ today! Do not read this as harsh, cruel, or unfair. God has reached out to His people time and time again and what was the response? They wanted their sin more than they wanted God, so what does God do? He gives them what they ultimately want and hands them over to their sin, such that when they hear the preaching of Isaiah they hate it and reject it immediately. What was true of Isaiah’s preaching was also true of Jesus’ preaching. They heard it and the majority response was rejection. Romans 1 and Romans 9 warn us of this reality that God will remove his hand from us and give us over to our sins if we remain in obstinate unbelief long enough. The Word never returns void. When it goes out no one remains unchanged. We’re either softened by grace or hardened by unbelief. When people, of their own accord, after repeated exposures to the gospel call, reject Christ – snub His message – and ignore His commands, then (and not until then) God hardens them, in order that those who were not willing to repent are not be able to repent.[7]This is what’s happening then, and it sadly happens in each generation as well.

Hear me clearly Church. Some call this unfair and they’re wrong. When did man become the judge of God? Will the clay rebuke the Potter for making him wrongly? No. Church, we don’t want fairness. If God were fair, no one would ever be saved and we’d all be justly condemned for our sin. We don’t want fairness, we want mercy. See the evil of unbelief here. We are sinners who don’t deserve mercy but God sent His Son in mercy and what did they do? What do we do? Hung Him on a cross. And yet strangely when this happened, from God’s view, everything was going according to plan.[8]Sure God’s people have turned away from Him and His Christ, but very soon, there would be a new community of saints, held together in a new unity, walking in newness of life, bound by a new covenant, filled with new joy in their hearts, and a new song in their mouths.

This middle section ends in v41, “Isaiah said these things because he saw His glory and spoke of Him.” This means that when Isaiah beheld the grand vision of the Holy One of Israel you know who He saw? He saw the pre-incarnate Christ. This means Christ is the glory of God, Christ is the thrice Holy One, Christ is the One who sends out messengers to the nations, and Christ is the one wields the hearts of all men for His redemptive purposes. Isaiah saw God and spoke of God. May we follow suit, by seeing beauty and speaking beautifully.[9]

Practical Unbelief (v42-43)

“Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”

I am honestly a bit mixed at these closing two verses. Mixed because at first glance we are encouraged, after all this unbelief John wants to tell us that there were still some who believed, and not just people in general but men from among the authorities believed. This shows us pure gospel power. That even in the most dark and hostile of places God can change hearts and save those who are woefully lost. Perhaps Nicodemus is in view here, maybe even Joseph of Arimethea who would soon give Jesus his own tomb and help bury His body in that tomb after the cross. We know of these two men but v42 seems to give the impression that even more than them are now believing among them. That’s wonderful to see. But, though they’ve believed, for fear of the rest of the Jews they are keeping quiet. I think we can understand their struggle. Likely none of us have been in an environment as hostile to Jesus Christ as these men were. Surrounded by those who hated His teaching, mocked His power, and plotted His death. No wonder they kept quiet. However, that their fear of men is moving them to silence is problematic for sure. I’m not convinced that true belief is in view here in v42-43. If it is true belief were seeing here it is problematic or puny belief in view because such great fear of man is also in view.

But again I’m mixed. While I’m encouraged to believe that true, though puny, belief might be present in v42, a further look into v43 leads me to believe it isn’t just puny belief, but practical unbelief in view. It says in v43 that the reason they feared the Jews so greatly was because “…they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” What’s in view here is position and station. These men had a mammoth position in the city and therefore enjoyed a certain station of life above that of common ordinary folk. If they went public with Jesus they would’ve lost all that. So they believed all the right things privately, counted the personal cost of publically following Jesus and because they loved the glory from men they never professed that belief publically. They may say they believe but in reality they function as practical atheists. Isaiah’s experience couldn’t be a greater contrast than theirs. Isaiah saw the glory of Christ personally. Isaiah heard the thrice-holy cry of the seraphim personally…and what did he do? He publically pronounced woe on himself and publically volunteered to go and publically preach to the nations even though he would be publically rejected for doing so. If personal belief is true and real within us, it cannot be contained within us! It must come out! So was this puny belief or practical unbelief? I want to believe it’s puny belief but too much here points me to see this little more than practical unbelief.

Conclusion:

So Church, this is precisely what must grab hold of us today. Many of you profess to believe in Jesus, but do you really possess Jesus? If He’s a personal matter to you only I fear it isn’t true and would ask you to search deeply if you also love the glory of men like they did. But if your faith has gone public, praise God! The sad pattern of unbelief has not been true of you. My advice to you is simple: be as public as you can in following Jesus! May no one have to wonder whether or not you’re a Christian in this world. “Nothing of importance happened today” was King George’s response to the Colonials freedom. May that not be your response about today’s text.

 

 

Citations:

[1]Mark Dever, Promises Kept, page 101.

[2]William Barclay, quoted in Richard Phillips, John 11-21 – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 114-115.

[3]Phillips, page 115.

[4]We saw man’s responsibility before in v38, we see God’s sovereignty at work alongside of it and compatible with it here in v40.

[5]D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – PNTC, page 448.

[6]John MacArthur Study Bible, note on John 12:37-40, page 1610. See also, Beale and Carson’s Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, page 478-479.

[7]William Hendrickson, quoted in Phillips, page 117-118.

[8]Beale and Carson, page 481-482.

[9]Phrase ‘seeing beauty and speaking beautifully’ comes from John Piper’s biographies of Whitefield, Lewis, and Herbert.

Evening = Job 6-7, The God Forsaken Living Death

While pastor Adam was away this week at Together for the Gospel, pastoral apprentice Mike Joas was eager and kind to fill the pulpit this past Sunday evening. He studied Job 6-7 deeply and reaped in the pulpit wonderfully. Give these two chapters and Mike’s thoughts on them your attention, you’ll be blessed if you do.

Morning = John 12:27-36a, The Glorification of Christ

While pastor Adam was away this week at Together for the Gospel, elder Chad Clark graciously filled the pulpit this past Sunday morning. He lingered over John 12:27-36a, where we see a continuation of 12:20-26 and receive more on the glorification of Christ. His study has great depth, is faithful to the text, and was encouraging to sit under. Give him your attention, you’ll be blessed if you do.

The resources Chad drew from were:

-R.C. Sproul, John – St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary.

-Richard Phillips, John 11-21 – Reformed Expository Commentary.

-R. Kent Hughes, John – That You May Believe, Preaching the Word Commentary.

-He also found this article helpful: https://www.tms.edu/blog/gods-glory-on-display/

Evening = Job 4-5, A Useless Sermon from a Kind Friend

In the introduction to the book of Job in the 1560 Geneva Bible we find the following paragraph, “In this history is set before our eyes the example of a singular patience. For this holy man Job was not only extremely afflicted in outward things and in his body, but also in his mind and conscience, by the sharp temptations of his wife, and chief friends; which, by their vehement words and subtle disputations, brought him almost to despair…These friends came unto him under pretense of consolation, and yet they tormented him more than did all his affliction. Notwithstanding he did constantly resist them, and at length had good success.”[1]

Now that the initial narrative of chapters 1-2 and Job’s initial lament in chapter 3 are behind us we come at last to the moment when Job’s friends speak up. It begins in chapter 4 and ends in chapter 27. Eliphaz speaks and Job replies. Bildad then speaks and Job replies. Zophar then speaks and Job replies. This repetition or cycle of communication is then repeated a second time and then a third time, and as they progress through these cycles it’s apparent that the friends are not running out of words (they’re speeches do get shorter) but running out of patience with Job (the speeches do grow more pointed).[2]Therefore even though they’ve come to be with their despairing friend and even though his appearance makes them very sad, Job’s words make them very angry.[3]Which, in turn, causes Job’s responses to grow more pointed as well.

Most people already know, by and large, that these friends will not alleviate any of Job’s suffering but will do the exact opposite, adding to it.[4]They have no honesty, for they don’t see the world as it really is. They have no sympathy, for they don’t try to understand Job’s plight. They have no love, for they don’t seek to hear Job at all. They do not believe in Satan, for they have no place for spiritual forces of evil. They have no concept of a delayed judgment, for they believe the good receive blessing and the wicked receive punishment immediately. Lastly, they have no cross. Or in other words, because they believe the good receive blessing and the wicked receive judgment now, they have no place for innocent suffering. Yet though their words are not helpful or encouraging to Job in his despair, we do find their words included in Scripture. So we must sit back and ask, why? Why has God desired us to hear from Job’s friends? Because, we have much to learn from them.[5]

Let me now ask you to do something you’ll find very difficult to do. Don’t do with these friends what they do with Job. Try to hear them, try to understand them, try to see Job and his suffering as they see him and his suffering. By doing this, you’ll see not only how many true things they do indeed say, but how they terribly misapply them to Job.

So, to Eliphaz we turn. Eliphaz is the first friend to speak up and this is likely because he is the oldest among the three friends come to give counsel. When he begins speaking it may surprise us to see such gentleness used. In 4:2-5 he begins, “If one ventures a word with you, will you be impatient? Yet who can keep from speaking? Behold, you have instructed many, and you have strengthened the weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees. But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed.” Eliphaz doesn’t want to be rude or force himself in where he isn’t welcome, but remember he hasn’t come all the way from Teman to sit back and remain quiet. He has clearly come to remind Job of what they believe, but from the way Job is speaking Eliphaz simply feels there are things that must be said. He reminds Job that just as he used to instruct many, strengthening the weak and upholding the falling with his wisdom fit for the occasion, so too Eliphaz will now do with him while Job is in a state of despair and sorrow (which Eliphaz interprets as impatience and dismay).

Eliphaz’s Theology

Notice then where Eliphaz goes in v6-7, “Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope? Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off?” In v6 it seems he is really trying to encourage Job here, pointing to his continued faith in and fear of God. But then he quickly snatches any hope away in v7 by saying it’s only the guilty who perish and are cut off. Here we must pause. v7 is a verse to file away in your memory as we continue throughout the rest of these speeches. This verse shows us what the theology of Job’s friends really is. Who is it that receives blessing and prosperity in this life? Only the innocent. Who is it that suffers and perishes in this life? Only the guilty. In other words, God only gives good things to good people.[6]I do think Eliphaz is strangely trying to encourage Job saying he is still alive because at the root he is a godly good man. But what Eliphaz seems to overlook is that his words imply massive things about Job’s children and servants. That they’re dead, according to this thinking, would mean they weren’t good godly people at all and they got what they deserved.

Before Job has the chance to chime in and say ‘What?!’ Eliphaz continues to expand on this theme in v8-11 saying, “As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed. The roar of the lion, the voice of the fierce lion, the teeth of the young lions are broken. The strong lion perishes for lack of prey, and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.” To Eliphaz this is simply how it is in the moral order of God’s world. He uses an illustration of five different kinds of lions in v10-11 to prove this saying that although the wicked may roar like a lion they will perish and be scattered.[7]What he has to say here will be true in the end of all things after the judgment of God is carried out, but Eliphaz seems to believe this will be true even now. This is unhelpful, but do you know why? Because he’s missing the category in his theology of the chaotic fallen world we live in. In a fallen world the opposite of what he’s saying may be true. The wicked may prosper and the good may perish. He doesn’t believe that can happen, and by reminding Job of these things it’s as if he’s reminding Job of what they both believe to encourage him in the present condition.

Eliphaz’s Vision

Then in 4:12-16 Eliphaz gets strange. I say he gets strange because he begins proving his point to Job by telling him of a certain mystical vision he had in the night. In v12-16 he describes it, “Now a word was brought to me stealthily; my ear received the whisper of it. Amid thoughts from visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, dread came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake. A spirit glided past my face; the hair of my flesh stood up. It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance. A form was before my eyes; there was silence, then I heard a voice…” At this point I want to pause and call this what it is, baloney. Anyone who wants to prove a theological point by using a dreadful vision in the night is usually not someone you should trust. Personal subjective experience may be powerful, but it should never be the data or criteria we collect and use to prove our objective theological beliefs. Christopher Ash comments here saying, “What an extraordinary buildup. And yet it is deeply ambiguous. Unlike the oracles given to some of the prophets in visions of the night, there is no clear indication of the source of this vision or of the one who speaks. Eliphaz may imply that this is supernatural and therefore authoritative, but the author of the book subverts that claim and makes us suspect that something less positive is going on here.”[8]

We as the readers are wondering at this point, what did the voice say to him in this vision? In v17-21 we have the answer. “Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker? Even in his servants he puts no trust, and his angels he charges with error; how much more those who dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, who are crushed like the moth. Between morning and evening they are beaten to pieces; they perish forever without anyone regarding it. Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them, do they not die, and that without wisdom?” Anyone see what’s going on here? Apparently the form or spirit that glided past Eliphaz’s face in this vision believed the exact same thing Eliphaz always has. Ironic, isn’t it? That those in positions of power often use unprovable subjective mystical experiences with the supernatural to keep their positions of power over people. You only have to open a history book to see this is how many of the world’s religions/cults were begun. Siddhartha Gautama, Mohammed, and Joseph Smith did the same and from their personal experience we now have Hinduism, Islam, and Mormonism. Well with all that put to the side, think about what Eliphaz says in v17-21. We’ve heard something like this before in Job 1-3 haven’t we? No man and no woman on the planet is ever right with God, or could ever be. Somewhere deep down that person is lying and hiding some kind of secret sin that they don’t want exposed and if we looked hard enough we’d see it clearly. Even more so, all the angelic host is in the same category too. This is what the night vision implies doesn’t it? It’s frightful to notice that the same argument was used by Satan in chapter 1-2 concerning Job, that he really wasn’t right with God but a lying and hiding sinner. We saw Job’s wife say the same thing and now by saying the same thing himself Eliphaz becomes the next spokesman of the devil. Which lets us know by implication that the dreadful vision he had in the night was an encounter with the devil himself.

Eliphaz’s Counsel

After pointing this out to Job with such powerful and rhetorical statements Eliphaz give his counsel to Job in 5:1, “Call now; is there anyone who will answer you? To which of the holy ones will you turn?” Because man’s condition is so poor before God Eliphaz believes there is no one among the holy ones who could be a mediator between God and man, and even if we try no one will answer. He continues this in v2-5, “Surely vexation kills the fool, and jealousy slays the simple. I have seen the fool taking root, but suddenly I cursed his dwelling. His children are far from safety; they are crushed in the gate, and there is no one to deliver them. The hungry eat his harvest, and he takes it even out of thorns, and the thirsty pant after his wealth.” In other words Eliphaz, after all this, is telling Job to not get all bent out of shape about trying to understand what happened to him because we can’t penetrate the heavens to find out reasons why things happen the way they do. ‘Fools do this,’ says Eliphaz, ‘and you know how fools end up, everyone around them is destroyed and cut off. You and I, Job, are not fools, do not give in to this.’[9]Then in v6-7 he gives somewhat of a concluding statement about Job’s condition. “For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” Why has all this come into Job’s life? Why does he suffer so extremely? According to Eliphaz it’s because man is born to it in this world. We must be realistic about that.

Because of all these things, Eliphaz will now counsel Job to be humble (v8-16) and submissive to God’s ways for his own good (v17-27). Hear what he says in this last section, “As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number: he gives rain on the earth and sends waters on the fields; he sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety. He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. He catches the wise in their own craftiness[10], and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end. They meet with darkness in the daytime and grope at noonday as in the night. But he saves the needy from the sword of their mouth and from the hand of the mighty. So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts her mouth. Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal. He will deliver you from six troubles; in seven no evil shall touch you. In famine he will redeem you from death, and in war from the power of the sword. You shall be hidden from the lash of the tongue, and shall not fear destruction when it comes. At destruction and famine you shall laugh, and shall not fear the beasts of the earth. For you shall be in league with the stones of the field, and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you. You shall know that your tent is at peace, and you shall inspect your fold and miss nothing. You shall know also that your offspring shall be many, and your descendants as the grass of the earth. You shall come to your grave in ripe old age, like a sheaf gathered up in its season. Behold, this we have searched out; it is true. Hear, and know it for your good.”

Or in other words, ‘Yes Job, God (the God who is great, unsearchable, and marvelous – that God) disciplines people for their own good. There is hope and restoration coming if you hang on to the end. This is something webelieve, and you would be good to remember it.’ In an ironic twist of events Eliphaz ends where he began, being Satan’s mouthpiece once again. Job should, according to Eliphaz, fear God and rest easy during this hard time. Why? Because in the end there is blessing coming. Eliphaz encourages Job to fear God for the exact same reason Satan said Job feared Him, for His blessings and benefits, rather than because God is God.

So what do we make of this? We want to agree and disagree with Eliphaz here. We agree that we do indeed reap what we sow in this life, and that godly choices often bring blessing and wicked choices often bring disaster. But we disagree as well, we do not always reap what we sow. Sometimes godly people do godly things and reap disaster and sometimes evil people make wicked choices and reap blessing in this world. This is the case for all mankind in our fallen world. And it is this fact that ultimately points us to the One whom Eliphaz’s theology has no room for. Job’s disastrous reaping and righteous sowing foreshadow Jesus Christ, the true innocent one who sowed a life of sinlessness and reaped death on the cross, for us. Eliphaz, in all his wisdom, shows us nothing but worldly wisdom while Job in his suffering, shows us gospel wisdom.

 

Citations:

[1]Christopher Ash, Job: The Wisdom of the Cross – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 87.

[2]David Atkinson, Job – BST, page 39.

[3]Ash, page 89.

[4]Ash, page 93-97.

[5]I could expand on this point, but I won’t. Rather I’ll let these friends teach us as we follow their words throughout this section.

[6]Acts 28:4 is another example of this belief among those in Malta.

[7]Ash, page 105.

[8]Ash, page 106.

[9]Ash, page 108.

[10]Paul quotes this verse in 1 Cor. 3:19 to prove a similar point.

Morning = John 12:20-26, The Hour of Glory

The well known pastor and author James Montgomery Boice was once reflecting on the many different pulpits he has had the privilege of preaching from in his travels around the world. He said from the outside most pulpits are beautifully carved, ornate, and striking in design. But from standing behind them you see a different story. Coffee cups lodged there, books over here, fans or heaters depending on the season. He said one even had a light on it with a note underneath that read ‘when light comes on you have 2 minutes left.’ Out of them all he said one pulpit always stood out. On the top of it where he placed his Bible, there was a little note on it that said “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Boice commented on this saying, “That is a good word for any preacher. I wish that every preacher and teacher of the Word of God might have those words before him constantly as he prepares and preaches his sermons.”[1]

The note on that pulpit “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” comes from John 12:21, which is part of our text this morning. So this is not only a fitting introduction to our passage today, it is a fitting reminder of what the aim of this sermon is, and really every sermon and everything else we do as a local congregation in our city. Let’s look into this passage now.

As it begins in v20-22 we see rather ironically it is Greeks, not Jews, who are now seeking Jesus. These people being called Greeks in this passage weren’t people from Greece, they were something like regular Gentile “God-fearers” who admired much about the morality and deep devotion modeled in the Jewish religion and because of this they often frequented the large Jewish festivals and celebrations. The Jews even allowed them into the temple but kept them away from the inner courts in their own area outside. Well, these Greeks didn’t approach Jesus though, perhaps they were concerned about how Jesus (like the Jewish leaders) would feel about gentiles coming to see Him. So they came to Philip instead, probably because he had a Greek name and was from Bethsaida which was full of Gentiles, and asked him “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip seemingly shared their concern about gentiles approaching Jesus so he went and asked Andrew about it.[2]And Andrew, being a bit bolder than Philip, then takes Philip with him to go tell Jesus about these Greeks seeking Him. This is how this passage begins.

But before we see how Jesus responds to these Greeks recall something. Jesus had come to His own, to God’s chosen people Israel, but His own repeatedly rejected Him. That Greeks are now coming to Him is vastly significant. While the Jews hostility toward Jesus was increasing, the Gentiles curiosity toward Jesus was also increasing. So by seeing them come and ask to talk with Jesus more intimately we’re reminded that Jesus came to be the Savior of, not just Israel, but the world.[3]This is a tad comical when you notice v20-22 comes after the Pharisee’s statement in v19 about the whole world going after Him. A great turn has been made in the history of redemption, and what they said in their anger is gloriously coming true, the whole world is indeed coming to Him now.[4]

Jesus’ answer to these Philip, Andrew, and these Greeks comes to us in v23-26 where we see Jesus focus on the hour of His glory. Herein lies the main three points of this text.

The Hour of Glory (v23)

The first thing Jesus says in response is in v23, “The hour of has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” This answer is surprising to say the least. We think Jesus would’ve said something like, ‘Sure, I’m eager to meet with Gentiles, remember I have many sheep that must come from the nations.’[5]But He doesn’t say anything like this. It’s as if Philip and Andrew came to Jesus to let Him know about these Greeks who wanted to see Him and He answered in such a way as to make us wonder if He even heard what they said. But we shouldn’t wonder at His response, how often does Jesus in any of the four gospels answer questions as we expect Him too? Right, rarely. So rather we should ask, ‘What does Jesus mean by saying these things?’ That we can answer, and it all has to do with ‘His hour.’

So far in John’s gospel we’ve heard Jesus mention ‘the hour’ many times. He told His mother Mary in 2:4 that His hour had not yet come. In 4:21-24 He told the Samaritan woman that an hour is coming (and is now here) when true worship will occur, worship in spirit and truth, and not just in the temple but wherever Christ is present. Later, the authorities tried to arrest Him at the Feast of Booths in 7:30 but they couldn’t because His hour had not yet come. And after declaring Himself to be the Light of the World they tried to nab Him but no one could lay a hand on Him, why? Because His hour had not yet come. In the first 11 chapters of John’s gospel anytime the hour comes into view it’s always spoken of with a reference to the future.[6]But now, in John 12 we find ourselves at the turn of the tide. The future is no longer in view, for his hour had now come.

But let’s linger more on v23 and notice two things.

First, ask the question of why He says His hour has come here in v23? Remember, who was it waiting to see Jesus at that very moment? Philip and Andrew came to tell Him that some Greeks were waiting to see Him, not Jews. Jesus hears of their coming and concludes that His mission had reached its climax, and that His hour had come. Why? Because before Him stood Gentiles, and in them He saw the sheep He must also bring into His fold, sheep from all over the world. Their coming signified that very soon He, the spotless Lamb of God, would shed His blood for the sins of the world – Greeks included.

Second, notice how He talks about His hour approaching. He knows that with the coming of His hour comes agonizing pain and death but He doesn’t refer to it as a tragedy he refers to it as a triumph.[7]Here before the cross even happens, Jesus sees the pain, the agony, the humiliation of the cross, and yet talks of it as the hour of the Son of Man’s glorification. Yes the resurrection will follow, as will the ascension, but according to Jesus we ought to be able to see the shame of the cross and see it as He does, the hour of His glory. How can He see it like this? Because He knows His death on the cross is both the Father’s will for Him and the means by which the Father’s will in bringing many sons and daughters to glory shall come to pass. So the glory and joy of purchasing a particular people is set before Him, He anticipates the hour soon to come where He will endure the cross and (Hebrews 12:2), say ‘It is finished!’, and die.

This is His first response to Philip and Andrew and as He continues He expands on this giving us more detail why this hour of shame is His hour of glory.

The Loss/Gain of Glory (v24-25)

In v24 Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Think about those who heard this. Perhaps they heard Him say the hour of His glorification had come and thought it meant something else, that Jesus was about to set up His dominion on the earth and crush Israel’s enemies once and for all. To them, v24 would’ve been confusing and disappointing.[8]‘What? The hour of your glorification has come and you’re speaking of dying?’ What Jesus implicitly stated with the donkey in His triumphal entry He now explicitly states here in an agrarian paradox. For Jesus, the way to fruitfulness lies through death, the way to gain lies through loss, the way to glorification lies through humiliation. Or to say it another way, like the seed whose death is the germination of life for a great crop, so too Jesus’ death produces an abundant harvest.[9]When you hold a kernel of wheat (or an acorn) in your hand you cannot see all that is in it. It looks rather small and unimpressive but it contains a world of life on the inside. How does all that world of life get out? By the kernel being shoved beneath the ground. Then, and only then, life breaks forth out of it for all to see as new plants burst upward out of the ground. By speaking like this in v24 Jesus is saying that by dying He will bear much fruit. He will be plunged beneath the ground in death and put in the tomb. From the appearance of things this will look very unimpressive and disappointing. But this death will cause the life within Him to burst forth from the grave in resurrection power which in turn causes more resurrection fruit to come forth all over the globe.

You cannot believe this verse if you entertain or believe Jesus’ death on the cross just made salvation a possibility. Put away from you any doctrine of the atonement you have that involves any kind of possibility. Possibility is not present here. Christ, the seed in view in v24, does not get plunged into the ground in death in hopes that it might bear fruit. Jesus didn’t come, live, die, rise, and ascend to sit on the throne and fret anxiously hoping that someone will take advantage of what He did and be saved. This is what Jesus wanted Philip and Andrew, and these Greeks, to know. That His Kingdom doesn’t begin with a coronation, but with a crucifixion.[10]That He, the great Seed of eternal life will be plunged into death, not to make a harvest possible, but to secure a harvest plentiful.

v24 is about Jesus and what will soon happen to Him. When Jesus goes on further to v25 He applies this same principle to those who follow Him. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Jesus is saying the way to truly love life is by losing it and the way to truly gain eternal life is by hating our life in this world. This is the cost of discipleship, this is the cost of following Jesus, this is self-denial. This principle is the secret of the Christian life. Spiritually speaking, do you want to be rich? You must become poor in spirit. Do you want to be first? You must be willing to be last. Do you want to lead? You must be willing to serve. Do you want to live? You must be willing to die.[11]Or perhaps think of it like this. Our conversion is a twofold event. On one hand it is as bright as dawn for we have been born again, raised to walk in new life, filled with the Spirit, and are now adopted children of God. On the other hand it is as dark as night for a death has occurred. Not the death of anyone else, no, the tombstone has our own name on it for our old nature has died. This means our will, our agenda, our plans, our desires, our loves, and ultimately our whole life is over. Someone may think, ‘Well geez, isn’t becoming a Christian by free grace?’ Of course it is, salvation is free indeed, but it costs us everything. Until you come to the end of yourself true life in Christ cannot begin. Are you willing to do this? If not, you have no part with Christ. If so, you’ve learned the secret of the Christian life. That by dying to self and dying to sin you have found out who you really are and discovered your true identity, not in yourself but in Christ.

For our congregation in particular, many are now coming here because they want their theology reformed, but how few want their lives reformed as well! We must learn anew. The character of Christ must also be the character of all those in His Kingdom. Like Jesus, our greatest gain comes by loss.

Lady Jane Grey is a mammoth historical figure in the Protestant Reformation. She, only being a teenager, caught wind of Reformation teaching and began teaching it to others. The local catholic priest heard of this and set up a debate with a catholic theologian to squash efforts and embarrass her, but to everyone’s shock she not only held her own, she presented the teachings of Scripture with such accuracy and fervor that she persuaded more than half in attendance that day. For this she was to be executed. And as the day came she gave her Bible to her sister Katherine with a note inside it that said, “If you with good mind read it, and with earnest desire follow it, no doubt it shall bring you to an immortal and everlasting life…my good sister…deny the world, defy the devil, despise the flesh, and delight yourself only in the Lord…with whom even in death there is life.”[12]

Church, this is so timely for us, is it not? I know some of you young people are reaching the age where you’re beginning to come into your own and you’re now being tempted to go the ways of the world in indulging everything you feel. Be reminded of this text. I know some of you older folks among us are reaching the age where you recognize that you’re on the back nine of life and are tempted to go the ways of the world in comfort and leisure and the ease of retirement. Be reminded of this text. Be reminded of this text, all of you however young or old you may be. “Only one life twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last!” Life is found only in death. Identity is found only in self-denial. Gain, eternal gain, is only found is forsaking all for Christ!

We’ve seen the hour of glory in v23, the loss/gain of glory in v24-25, now see how Jesus continues on here in the end of our passage today with the honor of glory in v26.

The Honor of Glory (v26)

In v26 Jesus says, “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there will My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” We learn here that those who come to Christ must not only die to self and die to sin, those who come to Christ must follow Christ and serve Christ. This shouldn’t surprise us. Soldiers follow their generals and obey their commands, scholars follow their teachers and embrace their teaching, so too, Christians do not follow themselves we follow Christ…Christians do not serve themselves we serve Christ. Jesus holds out a promise here. And if we do this, see two stunning promises. First, Jesus says we will be with Him where He is in glory. And second, Jesus says God will honor us as we come into glory. Only through the gospel of Christ can sinners be with Christ and honored by the Father. Church, we are called to give up much in this life, but take heart, “There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for My sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29).

Conclusion:

So Church, hear an invitation from this passage: Jesus’ path to exaltation was through humiliation. We all are sinners, and we must repent or perish. But take heed of the cost. If you come to Jesus it will lead to your death, but rejoice, for that death leads to everlasting life. “Deny the world, defy the devil, despise the flesh, and delight yourself only in the Lord…with whom even in death there is life.”

 

Citations:

[1]James Montgomery Boice, quoted in Richard Phillips, John 11-21 – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 91.

[2]D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – PNTC, page 437.

[3]Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 590.

[4]Reformation Study Bible, notes on John 12:20, page 1881.

[5]R.C. Sproul, John – St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 228-229.

[6]Carson, page 437.

[7]Morris, page 593.

[8]R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 306.

[9]Carson, page 438.

[10]J.C. Ryle, quoted in Hughes, page 95.

[11]Hughes, page 307.

[12]Lady Jane Grey, quoted in Phillips, page 98.

Easter Sunday = Ezekiel 37:1-14, A Vision of Resurrection

“Death and darkness have now left packing, nothing to man is now lacking. Satan’s triumphs have ended, what Adam marred is now mended.”[1]The fall plunged man into death and pain, but now through Christ, life eternal, we gain! “Pluck the harp and sound the horn, do you not know, tis Easter morn! Crowded may His worship be, praise the Holy Trinity! Hope has returned for man in his sinful plight, through Christ’s powerful resurrection might! “Where is hell’s once dreaded king? Where O death is your sting? Hallelujah’s to Christ we now sing!”[2]

Today is a grand day. A day for the Christian, no doubt, that stands above all other days in the calendar. To make much of this day we turn to Ezekiel 37 where we see a Vision of Resurrection.

Ezekiel was prophet to God’s people after he and they had been carried off in exile to Babylon. In the first 24 chapters of the book we see that judgment has come to the people of God for their own sin, and from chapters 25-32 we see that judgment has come to the nations around Israel for their sin as well. When we come to Ezekiel 33 God changes His tone. After pronouncing judgment on His own people and the nations surrounding them, we then see God promise restoration. Life will reign again where only death has been present. How does God show this to His people? He does it by giving Ezekiel a vision, which has become one of the most well known and familiar visions in all of the book of Ezekiel, the valley of dry bones.

The vision is in chapter 37:1-14, and it contains four parts. First the vision’s command (v1-6), second the vision’s resurrection (v7-10), third the vision’s interpretation (v11-14), and fourth the vision’s fulfillment.

The Vision’s Command (v1-6)

In v1 the vision begins. The hand of the Lord was upon Ezekiel, and he says he was transported in the Spirit to a specific destination, a valley. After looking around he saw that the valley God brought him to was full of bones. In v2 God gives him a tour of the whole valley him and he concludes two things: in this valley there are many bones and these bones are very dry. He is aware that this is not just any ordinary valley, it appears to be nothing less than the valley of the shadow of death,[3]a place of total desolation. v9 will mention these people were slain at one time.[4]So Ezekiel probably wonders if there was there was a great battle in this valley, or if God has brought him to the Day of Judgment and is now seeing its results? It seems by the time he got here the vultures have torn joint from joint, and picked these bones clean. One thing is clear, there is no chance of resuscitation, there is no chance of life in this valley. God has not brought him to valley of slain corpses, but to a valley of dry skeletons. Only death, ruin, and destruction reign here.[5]

God then asks Ezekiel in v3, “Son of man, can these bones live?” With this question the main subject of the vision comes into view, life. We find the word ‘live’ not only here in v3, but also in v5, v6, v9, v10, and v14. With such desolation in view the answer to God’s question seems to be obvious. Life is the farthest thing in view here in this valley. But Ezekiel is unwilling to give a no for an answer. Why? Because he knows nothing is too hard for God to do. The real question then becomes, will God bring life to this death? So Ezekiel replies, “O Lord God, You know.” We then see the command given in v4-6, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” If God Himself hadn’t asked this of Ezekiel, he surely would’ve concluded that such an act of preaching to dry bones would be pointless. But God, the Lord and Giver of life, has commanded and promised that through his preaching breath will re-enter the dead, life will return, flesh will once again cover them, and the knowledge of who ultimately did this resurrecting act will return to them. So Ezekiel will obey this command and trust that God can do in his preaching what he cannot, raise the dead.

The Vision’s Resurrection (v7-10)

We now read of the glorious resurrection that took place. In v7-8 we see the following, “So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them.” At first it seems that God’s Word has failed, it seems that the bones were really to dry for life to return, and that his preaching had accomplished what it had time and time before, nothing among the people. But like God did in creation with Adam in the garden – creating him first and then secondly filling him with breath – God was about to do again in a kind of re-creation with these bones.[6]

v9-10 show it, “Then 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.” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.” This, for Ezekiel, probably led him to remember his own calling. In Ezekiel 1-3 God, in His majestic splendor, came to Ezekiel and twice left Ezekiel low and deconstructed in His presence. In that prostrate posture the Spirit of God entered Ezekiel and raised him back to his feet, and called him to preach to His people. So what had happened to this son of man in the past now happened to these dry bones in the present. Nothing but death had reigned in this valley of dry bones, but now by the power of God’s Word and Spirit there stands before Ezekiel a vast and great army ready to do the bidding of God. Conclusion? The prophet of God, obeyed the command of God, spoke the Word of God, and saw the power of God.

The Vision’ Interpretation (v11-14)

As you can imagine this chapter has been used and interpreted in thousands of ways over the years, but being good students of Scripture we must remember that God is His own interpreter so we must keep on reading. And when we do we find that in v11-14 God gives us the proper interpretation of this vision.[7]“Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O My people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O My people. And I will put My Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”

Now we see what this means. The valley full of dry bones is meant to vividly portray the condition of the house (or nation) of Israel. They’re in exile in Babylon, and it has become common to hear Israelites saying, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.” They’re current condition is one of exile, death, and hopelessness, but even here God reminds them that they have a hopeful future not based on anything they can do for themselves but based on God’s resolve and power to save them.[8]They are dead, very dead, yet God will not only give them physical life, He will give them spiritual life too. The cemetery will be revived when God opens their graves, raises them to new life, gives them His Spirit, and brings them into their land once again. This means the great promise made one chapter earlier in 36:26-27 (of a new heart, new life, and new obedience) will come to pass even though their present condition seems to say otherwise. From all this resurrecting activity God says His people Israel will know (beyond a shadow of a doubt) that He is God. 

The Vision’s Fulfillment

In summary then, this passage is first and foremost about God’s work recreating Israel as a nation through His Word and Spirit. What God did for Ezekiel personally in raising him to new life God now intends to do with His people nationally. And this God did do when He brought them out of exile back into their land. But even then they knew something was still amiss. So we interpret this vision as only partially being fulfilled in Israel’s time. Some say here that God is promising a coming day near the end of all things when the nation of Israel will be completely restored but I think this misses intended meaning of what’s in view here.

For the vision’s whole fulfillment we need look no further than Christ Himself.

You see, we too share the same spiritual state as the dead dry bones of Israel. Paul tells us that apart from Christ in our natural state we are not corpses in need resuscitation, but dry bones in need of resurrection. Ephesians 2 tells us this, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…and we’re by nature children of wrath…” So for us too the question is not ‘Can God raise these bones to new life?’ We know He can. The question, as with Ezekiel, then becomes ‘Will God raise these bones to new life?’ Praise be to God the answer was a resounding yes in the mind and heart of God! Not because anything in us, but because “…God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ!”

In this sense Ezekiel, the one whom God called ‘son of man’, foreshadows the greater Son of Man who is also the eternal Son of God. Ezekiel preached the Word of God and watched as the power of God raised the people of God to new life. So too, Jesus Christ, being the very Word of God come to the people of God, entered into the valley of dry bones on Good Friday, took up His own life on Easter Sunday, and brought all those who would ever believe in Him out of the grave into new life forming them into a greater and global spiritual army sending them out to preach the gospel of grace. And just as the result of Israel being so raised from death in v14 was that they knew that God was the Lord, so too, you formerly dead sinners, converted and raised to new life yourselves, do you not know – have you not learned – from being saved – that God is a God who saves?!

As it was with Israel then, so it is with us today. “…it is as we share an experience that Christ first experienced for us that we are brought from death to life.”[9]So the ultimate fulfillment in view is that in Christ a new Spirit-filled Israel of God takes shape, having an identity that is no longer governed by geo-political borders, ethnicity, or circumcision, but by faith!

Charles Spurgeon preaching on this passage similarly says, “We may with accuracy see here a vivid representation of the work of grace on the hearts of all those who are made alive into spiritual life by the power of divine grace. Men are by nature dead in sin till they hear the voice of God and feel the enlivening breath of the Spirit…what a feeling one has that there is a God when God has saved him! When he begins to dance for joy of heart because he is fully forgiven, then he knows Jehovah is God. He carries a demonstration of the truth within his own heart and tells of it to others with tearful eyes. ‘Oh,’ he says, ‘there is no mistake about it. There is a merciful God, for I have obtained mercy. There is a refuge for sinners, for I have fled to it. There is pardon, for I have obtained it. There is rest, for I enjoy it. There is a heaven, for I begin to hear its bells ringing in my heart.”[10] 

Conclusion:

So Church, know this.[11]In an ancient, arid city, one singular event occurred this day, unleashing a movement so compelling, so enduring, so influential, so unstoppable that two thousand years and billions of adherents later, it still grows, faster than ever, while the mighty empire that witnessed its birth lays in ancient ruins. This movement has shaped nations, spanned oceans, birthed universities, launched hospitals, transformed tribal peoples in the world’s remotest places, and is now spoken, read, and sung about in more languages than any other religious movement on the planet by far. That singular event? The body of Jesus of Nazareth walked out of his tomb. So ended the single most important day in history. And so began the single most influential movement in history. Love it or hate it, the world has not seen nothing like it.

Some of you don’t believe this. I’m not unaware of you. Easter, like Christmas, is a time when many kinds of people come to church. I wonder, do you see the resurrection as a made up tale that a group of people manufactured to start a religion using Jesus’ teaching? Do you think the resurrection’s as fanciful a story as the Easter bunny? You may be among us as a guest, or you may be visiting for the first time yourself. Here is what I have to say to you now. Think on the resurrection honestly, thoughtfully, and try to answer one question: did Jesus really walk out of the tomb? The more you look at it, the more you’ll see the truth. That something astonishing really did happen that day, and that after every attempt to refute it or squash it, whatever it is, it is not the stuff of legends nor lies. It is historical objective fact witnessed first hand by many.[12]

Coming to this conclusion prompts a new thought, ‘Since Jesus did walk out of the tomb, everything He said must be true, and since everything He said was true, He must be who He said He was, and since He is who He said He was, I must no longer continue in unbelief, I must believe.’

The empty tomb, after all these years, is more influential than ever. It refuses to leave the stage of world attention. Ponder the angels’ words, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:5-6).

 

 

Citations: 

[1]Henry Vaughan’s Easter Hymn, quoted in R. Kent Hughes, The Pastor’s Book, page 120.

[2]Thomas Scott Angels, Roll the Rock Away, quoted in R. Kent Hughes, The Pastor’s Book, page 118-119.

[3]Iain Duguid, Ezekiel – NIVAC, page 426.

[4]Ezekiel, The Pulpit Commentary – Vol. 2, page 265

[5]Ezekiel, The Pulpit Commentary – Vol. 2, page 264.

[6]Duguid, page 427.

[7]Ezekiel, The Pulpit Commentary – Vol. 2, page 265.

[8]Duguid, page 428.

[9]Duguid, page 431-432.

[10]Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Study Bible, page 1134.

[11]Jon Bloom, The Single Most Important Day in History, accessed via desiringgod.org, 4/31/18.

[12]I do believe this. Evidence abounds for the validity of the Resurrection, thus, our hope abounds as well.

Good Friday = Gravity and Gladness in Job 9

“When Jesus said to the paralytic “Take up your bed and walk’ (Mark 2:9), Jesus healed the man with the ease of His omnipotent power. But when He said “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5), there was no ease involved. The deeper healing of the forgiveness of sin, cost Him His very life on the cross. So Church, we have gathered together on this special occasion for one purpose: to look back and remember an execution. This execution not only changed the world when it happened, it’s still changing the world today. It was full of sorrow, agony, darkness, and death. Yet it was also used by God to bring joy, praise, light, and life.

Tonight is a celebratory occasion (for the cross is the launching pad that ultimately gets us to Easter morning) but is also a solemn occasion (for it involved the sinless Son of God becoming sin and being forsaken by God for us).” (R. Kent Hughes) To press into these things, I’d like to show you the Gravity and Gladness of Good Friday from Job 9.

Pastor Adam did not use notes for this sermon, you’ll find the audio above.

Morning = John 12:12-19, A New Kind of King

History has known many grand entries.

One such example is the coronation of the Imperial Majesty Bokassa I of the Central African Empire in 1977.[1] All the people were gathered together to witness it. The trumpets and drums set the tone and mood as the royal family arrived and prepared to enter. Eight of Bokassa’s 29 children entered first and walked down the royal carpet to their seats. Then Jean Bedel Bokassa II, heir to the throne, walked in next dressed in all white and sat down to the left of the throne. Then Catherine, the favorite of Bokassa’s nine wives, entered wearing a $73,000 gown from Paris. Lastly, the emperor arrived. A golden carriage led by six massive Norman horses carried him to the red carpet. He stepped out to reveal not only his $2,500,000 golden wreathed crown complete with an 80 carat diamond on top, but he also revealed his 32lb. royal robe decorated with 785,000 small pearls laced with gold embroidery. As his march to the throne finished he sat down on a golden throne resembling an eagle, and the people cheered his enthronement. All together his coronation costs the empire $25,000,000. As ridiculously outlandish as this event seems, it’s even more ridiculous knowing that just two years later the French came in and carried out a successful coup, kicking out Bokassa for good.

What a contrast we have before us today as we celebrate Palm Sunday. We’ve been trekking out way through John’s gospel and it just so happens that today, on Palm Sunday, we’re coming to the passage where John describes Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city. It also is a grand entry history has never forgotten, but it stands alone in its uniqueness not only because of the One who entered, but because of how He entered as well.

v12-13 show us the entry, v14-15 shows us the donkey, and v16-19 shows us the varied responses.

The Entry (v12-13)

After the dinner party His friends threw for Him, beginning in John 12:12 we see the events that unfolded on the next day. Passover was once again approaching and Jesus decided to come into Jerusalem, being fully aware and already knowing that the chief priests and the Pharisees had put a price on His head. We read in v12-13 that those who had come into the city to celebrate the feasts leading up to Passover heard of His coming and went out to greet Him. Now, in the Jewish year three occasions held a prominent importance. Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. While Tabernacles was the most festive and joyous feast because it was a celebration of the end of harvest, Passover was, without a doubt, the most solemn occasion of the three. Here they remembered the Exodus liberation when the blood of the Lamb covered, protected, and saved them from the angel of death.[2] Because Passover was such a cherished event for the Jews, almost every Jew from the nation would come to Jerusalem for it. The historian Josephus points out to us that on average around 2.7 million Jews would come to the city for the occasion.[3] So when we read that the large crowd heard Jesus was coming into town and then see this large crowd going to out to greet Jesus on His way into town in, do not imagine a small band by the side of the road making their way to greet Jesus. Picture it as it was. Near 2.5 million people vying for a spot close to the road to get a look at this Jesus who taught great things and did great things as well.

If you’ve been tracking with us throughout our journey in John’ s gospel you’re aware that this isn’t normally like Jesus. So far in John’s gospel we’ve seen the pattern of Jesus teaching weighty things or working great wonders and then avoiding and evading publicity and arrest. Why then does He now come into the city so publicly? Well, each time He evaded situations like this before we saw a phrase explaining His evasions, “His time had not yet come.” That He comes into town now, stirring up such fanfare and hype, should prompt us to conclude that He is making it known, very publicly, that His time has now come. At the very time when the nation was gathering together to solemnly remember what God had done for them through the shedding of innocent blood for redemption Jesus entered the city making it known that the “…time had come at last when Christ was to die for the sins of the world. The time had come when the true Passover Lamb was to be slain, when the true blood of atonement was to be shed…”[4] By coming into Jerusalem this publicly and at this time, we can see the main purpose of the triumphal entry. It’s not about donkeys, not about cheering applause, no, Jesus was forcing the hands of the Jewish leaders to act against Him. Seeing such public praise and applause guaranteed a strong reaction from them.

So in He came and this massive hoard of people “…took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’” Notice they brought palm branches with them. Question: palms are nowhere prescribed in any of the feasts of Israel, so why did they get them and bring them to the roadside? Answer: because of what they meant.[5] 200 years earlier the Maccabees, after much struggle, finally and fully removed the wicked tyrants of the Seleucid empire who desecrated the temple and restored the true worship of God once more. After this removal and restoration took place they people celebrated with music, dance, feasting, and the waving of palm branches. From that point on the palm became a national symbol of military triumph the eventual liberation the Messiah would bring.[6] This image became so ingrained Jewish identity that when they revolted against Rome in 64 AD the Jews replaced the Roman currency with the image of Caesar by minting their own coins and stamping it with the image of a palm. Ironically later after the Romans squashed this revolt they minted new coins for the empire that bore the image of Caesar and a palm branch, indicating they will always be victorious.[7]

See then what these people were saying by bringing the palms with them. They thought Jesus would do to the wicked Romans what the Maccabees did to the wicked Seleucids. They thought Jesus would at any moment stop, blast the trumpet, and call the nation to pick up arms against Caesar. They thought Jesus would be their conquering King who would crush their enemies once and for all. This is seen in all the ‘Hosanna’s’ they cry out as well. Hosanna means ‘save now’ and it comes from Psalm 118 where we find the following, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save now (Hosanna!), we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!” (v22-26a) The crowd was not pronouncing a blessing in the name of the Lord on any one who comes, they were pronouncing a blessing on the One who comes in the name of the Lord.[8] They were indeed looking for salvation from Jesus, but they were looking for it militarily. They were indeed looking to Jesus to redeem them, to deliver them, but they missed what His redemption and deliverance was truly about. That they added that last bit on about Jesus being the true ‘King of Israel’ shows that they wanted Him to be their King and usher in a new kingdom, and King He was and a Kingdom He would bring! But He would not be the King nor bring the kingdom they wanted.

Because He so disappointed the military desires of the people they would soon usher this so called king to a throne they would construct for Him, a throne made of wood, in the shape of a cross.[9]

The Donkey (v14-15)

Jesus further illustrated these things with what He did next. In v14-15 we read, “And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!’” John, in recounting this event, does not seem to be concerned with details of how Jesus got this donkey or when He began riding it.[10] No, John is only concerned with what it means that Jesus rides a donkey into the city. And the meaning of it is all wrapped up in the quotation he gives us in v15. The quote is a combination of two Old Testament passages, Isaiah 40:9 which says, “Go up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’” And Zechariah 9:9-10 which says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and He shall speak peace to the nations; His rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

Having read these two passages which John has combined in v15 and knowing what kind of king the people were rejoicing in with palms as He came into the city, see what these two Old Testament passages put forward to us about the special kind of king Jesus came to be.[11] These passages do not speak of a conquering King riding His war horse into the city, eager and ready to rouse he nation to revolt once again. No, these two passages speak of leaving fear behind, taking up great joy, and rejoicing loudly. Why? Because as they look and behold the King who is coming with righteousness and salvation, they see that He is a King like no other! He is humble, riding on a donkey not a royal steed, bringing peace to all nations in His global kingdom. By coming into the city in this way Jesus further deliberately demilitarizes the vision of a war bent king by coming as the Prince of Peace. He wasn’t the king they expected, but He was the King God had long ago appointed.[12] This continues to show us how a crowd that cheered Him so loudly here on Palm Sunday could mock Him so wickedly on Good Friday.

If there ever was a picture to keep in your mind about who Jesus is, it is this one. He doesn’t come raging in fury bent on revolt riding a royal steed, but comes meek and lowly riding on a donkey bringing peace to the world through His gospel. If ever there was a picture to keep in your mind of what the Church is, it is this one. The gospel is a gospel of peace not of worldly power. We don’t spread the gospel of peace to this world with sword, might, or human strength, but with gentleness, humility, and peace. In this way the Church exists in this world to reflect the character of God to this world. Indeed, Jesus is a King unlike any other, and He leads and builds His Church to be a people unlike any other.

The Responses (v16-19)

As John ends the passage covering this triumphal entry, he shows us the varied responses it causes among the people. First we see what occurred with His disciples in v16. Seeing all these things take place, we find that they didn’t understand what it all meant. But John tells us that, after Jesus’ glorification (which likely refers to both His resurrection and ascension), when the Holy Spirit was sent out, then the disciples remembered the true meaning of things they had been eyewitnesses to, recalling how these prophecies found their fulfillment in Jesus. This doesn’t mean that the crowds recognized who Jesus was and the disciples did not. Rather this means that when Jesus rode in on the donkey the disciples probably desired similar things as the crowds who gathered there. They too thought of His kingship wrongly. Only after the Spirit awakened and illuminated their understanding could they see His kingship rightly.[13] Lesson? Jesus is many things to many people, and Jesus is used by many people for many purposes of their own making, like the crowd here wanting to wield His power for political gain. In the midst of all this confusion of who Jesus is and what He intends to do in this world remember, only those whom the Spirit of God illuminates and awakens see Jesus as the King He truly is. Only they see that a new kind of King has come, with a new covenant, and a new kingdom.

Second we see two crowds of people in v17-18. The group that had been at the tomb in Bethany when Jesus called Lazarus’ out of the tomb and raised Him from the dead, they could not help but go in spreading the news. So much so that their efforts in v17 apparently prompted the larger crowds already gathered for Passover, who heard of this miracle but hadn’t seen Jesus for themselves, to come and see this Jesus in v18. They likely heard of this powerful man who could do what no one else could do and got all excited about going to see him, and grabbed palms to wave and throw down before Him hoping he’d be their conquering hero. Third we see the Pharisees in v19. They are undone and conclude that they are gaining nothing, why? “The whole world has gone after Him.” This is surely something of hyperbole, of exaggeration. While the whole world hasn’t believed in Him for them, in this moment, it probably feels that they have.

So what response does the King’s grand entry into the city bring? Confusion and a later clarity for the disciples, curiosity and false expectations for the crowd, and increasing dismay for the Pharisees that forced them to act.

Conclusion:

History has known many grand entries, and this, the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem is an entry no one will ever forget. To the millions of people there that day waving their politically charged palms, to them, this was not an entry of triumph but an entry of disappointment. Jesus wasn’t the King they expected or wanted. But what looked like folly to them, was in reality a greater triumph, a deeper redemption, and an eternal salvation greater the world has ever seen. He came into the city to die that day, as the greater Passover Lamb, who would lead a new and greater Exodus. In His death a new kingdom would come, a new covenant would begin, and (by faith) a new people would be created.

This was indeed a grand entry, but do you there will be another grand entry where palms are once again employed, this time in a correct manner. Listen to Revelation 7:9-12, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Jesus indeed came once as a meek, humble, and peaceful King, bringing salvation, healing, and hope. They welcomed Him with as He was on His way to triumph over Satan, sin, and death by His death and resurrection. One day He will reverse our text today and come again. Not on a donkey but on His royal steed. Not bringing peace but bent on war. On that day He will not save any from death but hand all the unbelieving over to death finally and fully. And the millions upon millions and millions of redeemed sinners who triumphed by the blood of the Lamb, will wave palms once again.

 

 

Citations:

[1] R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 303-304.

[2] Richard Phillips, John 12-21 – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 80.

[3] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 583, ft. 35.

[4] J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels – John, vol. 2, page 365.

[5] R.C. Sproul, John – Saint Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 223.

[6] D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – PNTC, page 432.

[7] Bruce Milne, The Message of John – BST, page 180.

[8] Carson, page 432.

[9] Milne, page 181.

[10] As Matthew, Mark, and Luke are.

[11] Morris, page 587.

[12] Sproul, page 225.

[13] Morris, page 589.

Evening = Job 3, The Silence is Broken

Thus far in our venture into Job we’ve sat back and watched as the extreme suffering of Job was permitted in the heavens and carried out on the earth. Job 1-2 have introduced us to Job’s no doubt immense and deep suffering, and once his friends heard of it from afar they came to him and sat in silence for seven days. The initial narrative of Job is now behind us and as we move into the poetical section of the book notice that it is Job himself who breaks the silence…with one of the darkest laments in the entire book of Job. The author of Job begins chapter 3 in v1-2 saying, “After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. And Job said…”

We can call what follows a lament because it truly is a lament. Job is mourning and grieving all the suffering that’s come upon him. Yet by the way he forms his lament we can also call this chapter a protest because Job is angry and wants to know the answer to one question, ‘Why?’ Here Job isn’t addressing his friends and he’s not even addressing God either, no, Job is a tea pot of suffering that’s reached the boiling point of sorrow and he bursts out in steaming anguish. It’s as if Job is trying to bring his faith and his experience together into something that makes sense to him in this present suffering. By talking the way he does here we get a window into his heart. Remember his friends also hear his words but as the book goes on we understand that they haven’t heard his heart, and let us not forget that though God seems dark and shrouded in the present He also is hearing Job’s words as well.[1]

Two divisions are present in Job 3. We’ll work through them one at a time.

The Lament (v3-10)

“Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’ Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, nor light shine upon it. Let gloom and deep darkness claim it. Let clouds dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it. That night—let thick darkness seize it! Let it not rejoice among the days of the year; let it not come into the number of the months. Behold, let that night be barren; let no joyful cry enter it. Let those curse it who curse the day, who are ready to rouse up Leviathan. Let the stars of its dawn be dark; let it hope for light, but have none, nor see the eyelids of the morning, because it did not shut the doors of my mother’s womb, nor hide trouble from my eyes.”

We’ve seen a few special and specific days before in Job 1-2, now in chapter 3 Job has brings up two more specific days in view. Specifically, in v4-5 we see the day he was born and in v6-10 we see the day (or night) he was conceived.[2] Satan and Job’s wife had tried to get Job to curse God, and here Job is cursing. But God isn’t in view, his birthday is. In light of his current state Job, in v3, looks back and curses these days desiring that he had never been born. He now wishes the sun had never risen that day and that darkness would’ve reigned instead of light. When Job wishes that the gloom and deep darkness would claim it, the word ‘claim’ is the Hebrew word for redeem. So in an ironic reversal of creation and redemption where God speaks into and redeem the dark with His light, Job wishes the opposite would’ve happened. That darkness would’ve redeemed that day so no light or life would’ve come forth.[3] In essence, Job is now in so much pain that he wishes God would hit the rewind button and erase his very existence from history.

Usually birthdays are a celebration of life, of maturing, and of growing older and wiser. But Job doesn’t wish to have another birthday, in v6 he goes even further back to speak of the night he was conceived wanting it to be stripped of all its happiness and wiped off the calendar. In v7 he yearns for the joyful cry of his parents intimacy would be filled with barrenness rather than fertility. Similar to the Lord of the Rings when Pippin aroused the horrific Balrog from the depths of Middle Earth when he knocked the skeleton down the well inside the Mines of Moria and watched in utter dismay as he unleashed his full power on the fellowship, so too in v8 Job wishes that someone or something powerful who has the ability to curse would come and curse this day, letting loose the Leviathan on it so destruction and chaos would have their way.[4] And as we read in v9-10 that his wish is for there to be no stars, no light, no hope, no sight, and no open door for birth we see that Job in looking back wants that night to be a night that never ends in day.[5]

After seeing his lament in v3-10 we as the reader must recognize the futility of his desires. All his lamenting is fantasy. The past is the past and nothing desired in the present will change what has already occurred. This poetic lament is powerful then, not because his desires will happen, but because they truly reflect the darkness of his heart.[6] His present is so dark that he cannot see any light in the future, and he wishes he never had a past to begin with. Or to say it another way, Job wishes he had never been born because his conception and birth are the very things that opened the door to the death he is now living in.

The Protest (v11-26)

The futility of these laments probably hit Job hard after v10 because in v11 there is a clear shift in language. He began expressing desires, desires that won’t ever come to pass, and that these desires won’t ever come to pass brings Job to protest. In this protest there are five questions, and the one word common to all the questions he asks is, ‘Why?’

-Question 1: v11, “Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?”

-Question 2: v12-15, “Why did the knees receive me? Or why the breasts, that I should nurse? For then I would have lain down and been quiet; I would have slept; then I would have been at rest, with kings and counselors of the earth who rebuilt ruins for themselves, or with princes who had gold, who filled their houses with silver.”

-Question 3: v16-19, “Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child, as infants who never see the light? There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest. There the prisoners are at ease together; they hear not the voice of the taskmaster. The small and the great are there, and the slave is free from his master.”

-Question 4: v20-22, “Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death, but it comes not, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures, who rejoice exceedingly and are glad when they find the grave?

-Question 5: v23, “Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?”

Moving from the womb, to the knees, and then to the breast to nurse is usually a pattern of health, of loving nurture, and a sustained life. But for Job all this pattern did for him was launch him out into a sea with waves too high for him to stay afloat. These things fill out the first three questions of his protest and each time the answer seems to be that while life is now horror and misery to him death would be rest and peace to him. While some could seemingly develop a strange doctrine of the afterlife in this passage (particularly v17-18), namely that death and even death for the wicked doesn’t bring anyone into suffering or agony or hell but something like rest or peace, to do so would be to ask questions of this text that the text isn’t attempting to answer. What then is meant by these verses? What does Job intend to communicate? Normal human experience I think.[7] In the evening we lay down to rest, we are quiet, and we are in peace. This is what Job wants most. His daytime is nothing but terror, so he wants the rest and peace of night.[8] Or switch his analogy around a bit and perhaps see it like this. There are times of suffering so deep and so vast that an evening’s sleep is a break from the nightmare of the day. This is Job’s current experience here in chapter 3.

I do not think when we reach v20 that a change in tone is dramatic enough to merit a whole new point in Job 3 because the theme is still largely the same protest as before. But I do think that in v20 Job’s personal and inner angst moves outside of himself and is portrayed on a global scale.[9] Irony is in view. Why are those who want death unable to find it? The striking thing about this struggle is that Job likens it as a treasure hunt. Similar to those who rejoice at finding hidden treasures are those who are in despair in life and are glad to find the rest of the grave. For Job, suffering is so deep that only death would give him peace. Then in the last question in v23 Job brings up the idea of a hedge. We saw earlier in 1:10 that Satan’s complaint to God was that God had hedged Job in so that no lack or pain would come his way. Now Job turns this protective hedge on it’s head and says he now experiences a new kind of hedge. This one doesn’t feel safe, it rather makes him feels like a prisoner inside a cell of suffering and God who brought him into it, has thrown away the key.[10]

Because of all these things when we come to v24-26 it feels like a climax to all his pain. “For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groaning’s are poured out like water. For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes.” Job’s daily diet is not bread, water, ease, or quiet, but sighing, groaning, fear, and dread. Because he cannot answer the question ‘Why?’ Job has no rest and remains in trouble.

What are we to make of this chapter? We can conclude that language like this in the midst of our suffering is inappropriate, uncalled for, and sinful. This would be a wrong conclusion, not only because we find similar vocabulary given to us by God to express back to Him all over the Bible, but because here in Job we must remember that God has already spoken of Job’s quality. That Job isn’t suffering for his sin but because, ironically, he is a godly man. And after all the poetic back and forth of Job and his friends God again reminds us that Job hasn’t sinned with his lips. Therefore the only conclusion we can rightly make about Job in chapter 3 and Job in general is that sometimes those who walk with God can walk in such darkness that death seems to be the only source of relief.

C.S. Lewis explains how this was true for him after his wife died saying, “This is one of the disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him…if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be – or so it feels – welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once.”[11]

Christians can have seasons, and even years and years, of life just like Job 3. And when we see others in seasons like this we would not serve them well if we made them feel as if their suffering were sinful or faithless. We could go on and on and on about those who’ve struggled like this in history and found hope, gospel hope, in their own suffering by remembering how the deeper and darker suffering of Christ (that innocent Job points to) brings us such rich gospel hope, but I fear we’d go on forever (so maybe we can give one or two examples during the question time).

So let me end by just saying this. Job 3 is dark, for sure, but even in Job’s protest see a ray of hope. All throughout this chapter we see him energized to find out why God has done this to him (v20 indicates he’s dealing with God here who gives life or light to men, think also of 1:20-22). This shows us that Job, even here, wants to struggle with God rather than without Him and that ought to give us hope and leave us an example in our own suffering.

 

 

Citations:

[1] David Atkinson, The Message of Job – TBST, page 34.

[2] Christopher Ash, Job: The Wisdom of the Cross – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 70.

[3] Ash, page 71-72.

[4] Ash, page 73.

[5] Ash, page 73.

[6] Ash, page 73.

[7] Ash, page 76.

[8] While a discussion of the nature of OT Sheol would be in order after a passage like this, only an absurd interpreter would develop a whole doctrine of the afterlife from this passage.

[9] Both Atkinson and Ash form a new point from v20-26, why? Are we so entrenched in our three part sermons that we cannot bear one with two? I may be wrong, but I don’t think there’s enough to merit a new point here.

[10] Ash, page 81.

[11] C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, quoted in Ash, page 83.

Evening = Job 2:1-13, Job’s Rare Pearls (part 2)

Last week we looked at 1:6-22 and saw the first two scenes in the initial narrative of the book of Job. Tonight as we turn our attention to 2:1-13 we’ll see two final scenes put before us. In v1-6 we see another scene in heaven, and in v7-10 we see another scene on earth, followed by the introduction to Job’s friends.

Scene 3: Heaven (v1-6)

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will qcurse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”

In v1-3a we see the exact same details given to us as we saw before in 1:6-8. No time reference is given to let us know how much time has come and gone between this new ‘day’ and the previous two specific days of chapter 1. We’re simply told of another heavenly court or divine council meeting where the angelic host comes to present themselves before God. Satan is present again at this meeting just as before and God’s words to him are the same “From where have you come?” The answer is also the same, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” Of course we know there is much more to the story than Satan’s answer reveals because he had just executed all his plans against Job to remove all his greatness. God, knowing this full well, again responds with the exact same recommendation here in v3a as He did back in 1:8, “Have you considered My servant Job, there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Three times now we have heard this same language about Job (1:1, 1:8, 2:3), once from the author and twice from God. Again, this repetition is purposefully done in order to cement it in us as the reader, that Job is truly a godly man.

But this time God adds more to his response to Satan in v3b, “He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to destroy him without reason.” In this little addition God reminds Satan of two things. First, that in spite of his best efforts Job is still a godly man even though he is now no longer a great man. Second, that his destructive motive toward Job was illogical, unreasonable, and undeserved. This statement from God concerning Satan’s destructive intentions is the Old Testament equivalent of Jesus’ statement about the thieves and robbers of His own day in John 10:10, “The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy…”[1] Satan responds in an angry outburst at this in v4-5, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” We get this don’t we? Of course Satan is angry. His prior attempts at ruining Job’s supposed godliness and defaming God’s glory publicly have failed miserably. We could even say that Satan’s actions have done nothing but add to these things instead of taking away from them. So now, having lost round one, he attempts to destroy Job and defame God even deeper by attacking not just what Job has but who Job is. What he’s getting at here is that there is a distinction between what a person has and what a person is.[2] Attack what someone has and they may get angry, depressed, and sorrowful…but attack who the person is (health, body, and soul) and they’ll be brought down to the deepest levels of misery.

After his initial efforts failed this is what Satan wants. To him, this is the way to expose Job for the fraud that he thinks he is. And God in v6 gives it to him saying, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” Perhaps at this point we as the readers want to say[3] “Enough! Hasn’t he suffered enough already? Everything he has is now gone. He may have been the greatest man in all the east but now he is the least of all men in the east.” Yet, God allows more suffering to come to Job. Why? Because God wants to not only drive it home to us that His glory really is more important than our comfort, He also wants it to be publicly seen, without a shadow of a doubt, that He is worthy of worship on His own.

Scene 4: Earth (v7-10)

“So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

Last time as we saw the transition from heaven to earth in chapter 1 we’re not sure of how much time took place in that transition. Here, as we see this next transition from heaven to earth it’s a different story.[4] We’re not told of a time frame, just like last time, but do you notice what is not repeated this time? There is no repetition of the phrase ‘Now there was a day…’ So, here in v7 the sense is that Satan in his furious rage immediately leaves the presence of God to carry out his next attack on Job. Also, notice while last time all of Job’s suffering was caused by secondary causes. Two terror attacks (from the Sabeans and Chaldeans) and two natural disasters (lightning and gale force winds). Here there is no secondary cause. Notice “So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job…” This was a personal, fury filled, intimate attack, not on Job’s possessions but on Job himself. The entirety of his physical health is taken from him, such that his whole body is covered in loathsome sores. We do not know exactly what this is, but we do know for sure that these sores were disagreeable.[5]

As bad as this scene is it gets worse. Satan’s personal attack is over, and while the effect of the sores lingers as he scrapes himself with a piece of broken pottery we see another kind of attack come from his own wife. The only time we meet her in the entire book is right here in v9-10, and what we see of her is terrible. Yet, we must try to resist a pronouncement of judgment on her. Grief truly does hit people in very different ways but one thing that is common to most all people in grief is anger. When we see her in v9 it seems that we’ve met her during her angry grief. Her deplorable counsel to Job is, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” This counsel is so awful it prompted St. Augustine to call her ‘the devil’s assistant’, and Calvin to call her ‘Satan’s tool’ because she was asking Job to do the very thing Satan was trying to get him to do.[6] But, even though she is his wife Job responds in correction, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” He doesn’t call her a fool but does say her counsel is what foolish women say. Which implies that he does not believe her to be like such fools. He then tells her they should not only accept the easy things that come from God’s hand but the hard things as well. I find it interesting that while many today would disagree with Job’s words here saying evil doesn’t come to us from God but rather from free will or some kind of chance, v10 confirms that Job’s response is correct. “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Clearly this does not only refer to Job’s response but how he has responded from the whole of this second attack from Satan. He has passed trial number two, and now it is publicly known that Job is a man who worships God because He is worthy of worship and not for any other reason.

Before we move on to meet his friends let me say this. These first two chapters of Job are scary and terrible. Job isn’t merely among the greatest men of the east, he is the greatest in the east. And Job doesn’t slowly decline into poverty, he plunges from riches to destitution all in one day. I think we see this as scary and terrible because deep down we know that if God permits it to be so Job’s story can quickly become our story. But be reminded. No mere human has ever suffered like this. Job’s suffering is extreme, and very rare even in the most tragic of cases. I’d even say his extreme suffering is intentionally rare. Why? It all points to a deeper reality than you or I. In his commentary Christopher Ash says it like this, “Job in his extremity is actually a shadow of a reality more extreme still, of a Man who was not just blameless but sinless, who was, not just the greatest Man in a region, but the greatest human being in history, greater even than merely human, who emptied Himself of all His glory, became incarnate, and went all the way down to a degrading, naked, shameful death on the cross, whose journey took Him from eternal fellowship with the Father to utter aloneness on the cross. The story of Job is a shadow of the greater story of Jesus Christ.”[7]

Yes, even in our day after the cross Satan can still accuse us and attack us but because of the cross his accusations and attacks are answered. Indeed, Satan himself and all his destructive intentions are now crushed, put to an open shame on the cross, and stripped of their power. He may have been allowed to enter these heavenly councils but he is no longer welcome because our advocate reigns on high! Sin may still have a grip and power on us, but now because of the cross the only sin we struggle with is a canceled sin! And the only foe we battle is a defeated foe! In all our suffering we must remember this.

Enter the Friends (v11-13)

Before the poetics interchanges begin between Job and his friends, the narrative of chapter one and two ends with an introduction to those friends. v11-13 say, “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”

It must have taken some time for these friends to have heard of Job’s suffering and then some more time to travel and get to Job because Job himself later speaks of months and months of emptiness and isolation (7:3). But when they hear of it, they come. They are from the great cities of Teman, Shuauh, and Naamah. The way these cities are spoken of elsewhere in Scripture leads us to believe these cities were places of renown in that time, full of the wisdom of the world. So in a true sense, that they come to him leads us to ask, ‘Can the world in all its wisdom give this innocent, godly, sufferer help in time of grief or will they in all of their wisdom be shown to be foolish?’[8] No doubt you have heard many say their initial silence was the best thing they did, and at first it was. But it does seem that they were silent too long, which reveals their silence isn’t aiming at being helpful, it was aiming at accusations, which is made clear in all their words to him.[9]

So what do we do with this? What are we to make of his friends presence, if their presence is a bad one from the very beginning? Jean Danielou, a French theologian said this, “Suffering encloses a man in solitude…Between Job and his friends an abyss was cleft. They regarded him with astonishment as a strange being…and they could no longer get to him. Only Jesus could cross this abyss, descend into the abyss of misery, plunge into the deepest hell.”[10]

So we are left with a realistic view of life. It can sometimes be dreadfully hard and lonely. But we’re also left with gospel hope. Job’s suffering and isolation is only a taste of what Jesus Christ suffered. And because of His greater suffering we can have hope in ours, that no pain is too great, no grief can take us too far, and no pit is too black for Christ to bring life and light into our sorrow and despair.

 

 

Citations:

[1] In it’s context Jesus is speaking of the thieves and robbers who would try to sneak into the pen and steal the sheep. This text isn’t explicitly aimed at Satan, though it can be applied to him implicitly as the ultimate thief and robber.

[2] Christopher Ash, Job – The Wisdom of the Cross, Preaching the Word Commentary, page 51.

[3] Ash, page 51-52.

[4] Ash, page 52.

[5] The Hebrew word for ‘loathsome’ means literally ‘disagreeable.’

[6] Ash, page 53.

[7] Ash, page 54.

[8] Ash, page 60.

[9] Ash, on page 62 he argues from 1 Samuel 31:13 that silence for 7 days was called for only after someone died. Job is not dead, therefore the silence is too long and perhaps isn’t quite as good as seems as first. He also cites Ecclesiasticus 22:12 which says the same.

[10] Quoted in Ash, page 64.

Morning = John 12:1-11, An Extravagant Devotion

Extravagance is an ocean the rich and famous have swam in for millennia. Think of the gold the Pharaoh’s wrapped everything in, think of the enormous buildings and monuments the Caesar’s built throughout the Roman Empire, and think of the lavish lifestyles of the Popes during the Reformation. In our day the same story rings true for the rich and famous. David Beckham’s wife Posh Spice had a custom iPhone made for her from 24K gold that set her back $33,000. Jay-Z and Beyonce had a $44,000 diamond encrusted bathtub made for their daughter Blue Ivy. Lady Gaga spent $50,000 on a ghost detector machine she keeps at her concerts to alert her of spiritual threats coming to destroy her concerts. And when Celine Dion signed her three-year contract to sing for Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas they installed a $2,000,000 humidifier that hung over her and to keep her voice fresh during her performances. And we could go on and on and on. I don’t begin this way for no reason. We would all agree that in our age it isn’t difficult to find absurd and inappropriate extravagance.

But in our text this morning we see a stunning display of devotion directed at Christ that is just as extravagant as these examples. And the crazy thing about it is that Jesus accepts this offering as completely appropriate!

Richard Phillips, in his commentary on John, says John 12:1-11 shows us this extravagant devotion in three phases: devotion modeled, devotion challenged, and devotion threatened. His outline of the text is superb, I do not feel I can improve upon it so the three points of this sermon are the three points in his commentary.[1]

Devotion Modeled (v1-3)

As John 11 ends and the chief priests came to agreement that they needed to kill Jesus, we saw Jesus leave the city and go to Ephraim to be with His disciples. As John 12 begins in v1 we see Jesus return (there must be steel in His bones! I belong to My Father, what can man do to me!!! What an example for us in following Christ through hostility). He returns to Bethany six days before the Passover to be with His friends again. John reminds us that Bethany was where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. And because He came His friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus threw Him a dinner party. Hosting a dinner party was a courageous thing to do after 11:57 where the people were told that if anyone knew where Jesus was they had to tell the authorities so they could nab Him, which implies that if someone knew where He was and didn’t tell them the penalty would’ve been severe. That they have a feast for Him in public, without hiding, in the first place would’ve been a brave thing to do.[2] It speaks greatly of their willingness to be with Him rather than remain in safety. Now, we don’t see a guest list here. It could’ve been just the four of them or it could’ve included many people from the village who had been at the tomb when Jesus resurrected Lazarus. We do see what the three friends were doing though. Martha is doing the serving, Lazarus is doing the eating and reclining at the table no doubt enjoying being alive, and Mary, well Mary does something so extravagant that it caused quite a stir.

John tells us in v3, “Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair.” We see an action like this and are a bit confused because this custom seems a bit distant from us. In their day expensive ointments or perfumes like this were often used and poured on someone’s head for special days whether it be a wedding or a festivity of some kind. In describing this event John seems to go out of his way here to point out that this action was fantastically expensive.[3] Mary grabbed perfume, not just any perfume but expensive perfume, not made from any old plant by the side of the road, no, this stuff was made from pure nard, and she poured all of it out, a whole jar of it. In v5 we learn more, that this much of that kind of perfume costs 300 denarii, which was a year’s salary to a common worker. This is the equivalent of $40,000 today. In a few seconds, in one pour, it’s all gone. Some conclude from this that these friends must have been wealthy to be able to afford perfume like this. If they were they show a good example of not hoarding riches but using riches for good and godly purposes. But we don’t know of their wealth or lack thereof, the perfume could’ve been a family heirloom, something of a prized possession in the home.[4] Whatever their economic status was, that she used this whole costly jar up in this moment showed what she truly valued.

This action was not only fantastically expensive, it was action was fantastically humble. How so? Well, John says Mary didn’t anoint His head but His feet. Bathing wasn’t as common then as it is today and streets were not as clean then as they are today. Taking these things into account and adding the heat of the day into the mix, you can only imagine how nasty and smelly feet were back then. Because of this when one entered someone’s home either a slave or they themselves would have to wash their feet so nothing would get tracked in. To attend to ones feet in this day was the duty of the lowliest of slaves.[5] This act is all the more striking because in this day a Jewish woman wouldn’t normally let down their hair in public, to do so was seen as a mark of loose morals.[6] Recall that John the Baptist once said he was unworthy to even untie the sandals on Jesus’ feet (1:27). That Mary attended to Christ’s feet and wiped them off with her own hair, was her own way of saying the same thing, and it indicated that she was gladly willing to not only freely give to Him what was very costly to her, she was also willing to do the lowliest of tasks for the sake of Christ.

Charles Spurgeon, seeing how each of these three show their inward devotion to Christ outwardly, once said, “The children of God do not always feel moved to serve the Lord Jesus in the same fashion or to express their love to Him in precisely the same manner.”[7] Martha served, Lazarus reclined, and Mary, what an example we see in Mary, she gave sacrificially and served humbly. Mary’s love for Christ was extravagant and her actions remind us that it is always appropriate for an extravagant display of devotion to Christ. Perhaps Mary was thinking of Isaiah’s vision of beautiful feet, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns” (Isaiah 52:7).[8] Perhaps she looked at Christ, who He was, what He was doing, what He was teaching, and concluded that He was worthy, worthy of everything she had.

Church, what could you and I possibly do that would be too extravagant in honoring Jesus, too extravagant in praising Him, too extravagant in giving Him glory? Is there an offering to big? Is there a song to loud? Is there a study too deep? Is there a heart to happy? No! What are you, right now, giving to Christ that shows your love for Him? What could you, right now, give to Christ that shows your love for Him? Is it extravagant? Is it costly? It is sacrificial? When it comes down to it, if we know Jesus we’ll recognize that in Him we have more than any earthly possession could ever give us. This frees us to give extravagantly, not only to one another, but back to God as well.

When we the result of Mary’s very visible devotion in v3b, was that the whole house was filled with a pleasant aroma, we cannot help but think of the pleasant aroma of gospel grace that fills this place as we serve one another sacrificially and humbly.[9] But as we move on to v4 we see that not everyone was as pleased.

Devotion Challenged (v4-8)

Notice how v4 is given to us, “But Judas…” Which Judas you may ask? John doesn’t want us to mistake this figure for another so he gives us three clear markers. First he is Judas Iscariot. Second he is one of the disciples. And third he is the one who was about to betray Jesus. This Judas said in v5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” On the surface of things this could be interpreted as a good question, one that shows a true heart to care and provide for the poor in their community. But we have already seen v4 where John told us Judas was a traitor; that gives a dark shade to anything Judas will say in v5. More so implied in the v5 question is the belief that it was a waste to pour it all out on Jesus’ feet and that it could’ve been put to better use. If we didn’t have v6 in the text we could see much about what’s implied in Judas’ question in v4-5 to interpret Judas as the crook he was. But we’re not left with any uncertainty here, we have John’s own inspired interpretation in v6. “He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.” Mary’s model devotion is now challenged. Displaying himself as a humanitarian, one who cares deeply for the poor in their community, Judas questions the use of this perfume. ‘This perfume is valuable, we could do much good with the money if we sold it. Why did we not do that?’ But that’s not really what’s going on is it? Judas is angry sure, but his anger isn’t about money wasted that could’ve gone to the poor, he’s angry about money wasted that could’ve gone into his own pockets. He was not only the treasurer of the disciples, he often helped himself from what was collected and so to see something worth so much get wasted on Jesus moves him to ask why.

But let’s look at Judas’s question more deeply. On the surface of things Judas displays a kind of utilitarian outlook that believes practical and pragmatic good works for the poor are far better than spending time with the Lord and giving Him extravagant gifts.[10] Sure, Judas didn’t want to do anything for the poor, he was lying about that, but I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people say something similar. ‘Pastor, you should stop giving sermons about theology and the glory of God and just be practical telling us how to help the needy, poor, and the lost.’[11] When I hear this I want to agree and say that I get it. Sometimes those who have been most eager about theological concerns haven’t been eager at all about aiding the poor and needy. Sure, that’s sinful and requires repentance. Turn this around to the other ugly side of the coin and see what Judas is doing. Sometimes those most eager about helping the poor are the ones using their humanitarian efforts to prop up their own self-righteousness and mask a heart that hates God. ‘True religion has nothing to do with God, but has everything to do with helping the helpless. Let’s get away with doctrine and just help people! I hope they use that offering to help the poor!’ This kind of attitude is also sinful and also requires repentance. I think this is what Judas is doing here. He hates Christ and masks his hatred for Him in humanitarian terms so as to look like the one who uses resources rightly and truly cares for others.

Because of these things Judas stands in vivid contrast to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in this passage. Martha earnestly desired to serve Jesus, Judas only wanted to serve himself. Lazarus reclined at the table in the presence of Jesus enjoying His company, Judas clearly thought that was a waste of time. Mary gave an extravagant gift to Jesus, Judas wanted to take that extravagant gift for himself. The way Mary gave to Jesus cost her much materially in this world. The way Judas took from Jesus added much materially to him in this world. The impression we have here is that Judas, because of losing this opportunity of financial gain, sought out another by turning Jesus in to the authorities.[12] We have before us in Judas an example of what Jesus said in Matthew 16:26, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

Such realities were not lost on Jesus in our passage. He responds to Judas in v7-8 saying, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have Me.” On the surface His response gives the impression that He is coldhearted to the poor by pointing out that serving Him is priority in this situation. He is not coldhearted toward those in need. He’s pointing out that while the reality of serving the poor will always be in high demand in this fallen world serving Him in tangible ways like this will not. Jesus will not grow to old age in His life and will, in fact, soon be taken from them. Mary can serve the poor everyday for the rest of her life but she will not always be able to serve and anoint Jesus for burial in the way she’s done here. So He rebukes Judas and points out that Mary’s extravagant display of devotion is entirely appropriate.[13] 

Devotion Threatened (v9-11)

In v9 we learn that word had gotten out and around the village of Bethany that Jesus was there visiting with His friends. So naturally they all came wanting to see Jesus and Lazarus. Notice that in two of the four references to Lazarus in this passage John is always careful to give us the detail that he was raised to new life. It’s as if he doesn’t want us to forget what happened.[14] And how could we? A dead man had been resurrected. So what was likely a small dinner party became a village event. And when something this large takes place you know word of it will eventually get around to the chief priests and Pharisees, that Jesus has reemerged back into the public square. This is exactly what happens. They heard about His presence in Bethany and in v10-11 decide that now Lazarus must be put to death as well “…because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.”

Caiaphas had said Jesus must die in order for them to live, but now it seems that Jesus’ death isn’t enough. Now Jesus and Lazarus must die for them to live. You must see the humor here. You think they’d understand that threatening to kill a man who’s been raised from the dead wouldn’t be threatening at all. We see this clearly, but they do not. Lazarus hadn’t preached a public message, gone from house to house telling what happened, no there really wasn’t much about Lazarus that would’ve caused them to have such hostility. To these Jewish leaders it wasn’t so much what Lazarus did for Jesus, but what Jesus did for Lazarus that threatened them. That he is now breathing calls them out and shows them to be fools.[15] So, in their anger unbelief they decide to kill both of them. See here friends, that sometimes the world, in it’s hateful opposition to Christ, will try to eliminate you and your gospel influence simply because they can’t stand being in your presence. So, we should not be surprised if the world hates us for trying to reach the world for Christ. It is power and life for us, but it is folly and madness to them.

Conclusion:

True extravagant devotion to Christ has been modeled, challenged, and threatened in our passage today. Yet in spite of Judas’ and the Jewish leaders evil plotting and planning, do you see how Jesus has changed and still is changing the lives of everyday ordinary people? Martha loving the Lord and giving herself in service to Christ, Mary loving the Lord and literally pouring out all she had before Christ, and Lazarus loving the Lord and simply enjoying his new life in Christ. Normal everyday people that we still read about today not because of the great things they’ve done for Christ, but because of the great things Christ has done for them.

So the question is simple. Has Jesus done great things for you? How then, will your life make that clear?

 

Citation:

[1] Richard Phillips, John 11-21 – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 71-79.

[2] Phillips, page 72-73.

[3] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 576.

[4] Phillips, page 73.

[5] Morris, page 576.

[6] Morris, page 576-577.

[7] Spurgeon Study Bible, notes on John 12:2-3, page 1444.

[8] Wolfgang Musculus, John 1-12 – Reformation Commentary on Scripture, page 437.

[9] Johannes Brenz, John 1-12 – Reformation Commentary on Scripture, page 439.

[10] D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – PNTC, page 429.

[11] Phillips, page 76.

[12] Morris, page 579.

[13] John Calvin disagrees saying, “Those persons, therefore, are absurd interpreters who infer from Christ’s reply that costly and magnificent worship is pleasing to God.” Obviously I take a different view on the passage and application of it, but I do see Calvin’s point and therefore admit that Mary’s action should be seen as the exception, not the rule. See Calvin’s whole comment in: John 1-12 – Reformation Commentary on Scripture, page 439.

[14] Morris, page 582.

[15] R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 301.

Evening = Job 1:6-22, Job’s Rare Pearls

In the Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayer’s, a prayer named Man’s Great End begins with the following words, “Lord of all being, there is one thing that deserves my greatest care, that calls forth my ardent desires, that is, that I may answer the great end for which I am made – to glorify You who have given me my being…truly, life is not worth having if it be not improved for this noble purpose.”[1] In other words, our lives only matter if they serve the great purpose of the glory of God. Therefore it would be right to say that the glory of God is more important than our comfort. Right? Isn’t this a statement one we would all agree with? Of course we would. But, are there not some consequences to this statement that make us a bit uncomfortable? Yes the glory of God is the most important reality in all of life, but would we still believe that if God saw fit to glorify Himself by allowing suffering to come into our lives? We want to say “Yes!” but an honest assessment of our hearts may reveal a different answer and bring us to our knees in repentance.

In Job 1:1-5 we we’re introduced to a world where everything has a shiny veneer, a world where everything runs as it ought to run, where the great are also the godly and the good. But as v6 begins we see that this well ordered world is about to given to a very real and uncomfortable level of disorder. But in the disorder we’ll see one thing clearly. In God’s world there is a godly man who is great and, wonder upon wonder, when all of his greatness is taken away he continues to be a godly man.[2] This shows us that, to Job, God is worthy of worship because of who He is apart from anything He’s done for us. By remaining to be godly Job gives us a breathtaking preview of another man who would walk this road of suffering for us, Jesus Christ.

In 1:6-22 there are two scenes to witness.

Scene 1: Heaven (1:6-12)

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.”

v6 begins “Now there was a day…” and what a day it was! The events of this day would change Job’s life forever, and the ironic thing about it is that throughout the book of Job we never read of Job being made aware of the events of this day (which is itself a reason why Job couldn’t have written this book himself). We read that the sons of God, meaning the heavenly court or the divine council, came to stand before God. That they came to present themselves before God and stood before God shows us that these supernatural beings, though higher than men, are lower than God. Only God is on the throne and that these beings come when summoned shows us as much. It also prohibits us from believing this scene is something similar to a sort of Mt. Olympus scene where gods of equal power converse about how to run this world. This scene is nothing like that. Here only God is God, only God is in rules, and only God wields authoritative power in this gathering. All those present are the ones through whom God governs the world. No doubt, this is a meeting that makes any earthly governing body look puny in comparison.

Now, we do not know the guest list for this meeting but we are told in v6 of one individual who was present, Satan. We also do not know if he was a regular attender at these meetings or a regular member of the divine council, or if he was something of an uninvited guest or a kind of meeting crasher here. Whatever the case is, God speaks to him saying in v7, “From where have you come?” Remember God is God. He will not learn anything that He does not already know in Satan’s answer. In this sense God’s question to Satan here is similar to God’s question to Adam in Genesis 3:9 where God called out to Adam, “Where are you?” This was meant to reveal to Adam the weight of his own folly and sin, that he was hiding from the God who made him. The question was not meant to tell God something that he didn’t already know. So, that God asks Satan this question shows us that God already knows his reply and already knows that Satan is up to no good.

Satan’s response confirms this, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” This is a slippery answer, similar to the answer a teenager would give his parents when they ask what they’ve been doing all day. “Nothing, just stuff.”[3] The answer reveals that there’s more to the story that the individual in question doesn’t want to share. Clearly then Satan is up to something but God is aware his slipperiness and aware of his plans to attack one of His own. So He states in v8, “Have you considered My servant Job?” God then repeats in v8 what we’ve already seen in v1. He is blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning from evil. Commenting on v8 Christopher Ash says, “These fateful words, singling out Job as conspicuously genuine and godly, are to prove devastating in their consequences for Job.” Just as Jesus heard about His friend Lazarus being sick and waited two days for him to die before coming to help, so too, God, being very pleased by the life of Job, is the One who points Satan in the direction of Job.

But Satan believes something different about Job. That he’s not as holy as he may appear to be. In v9-10 Satan accuses Job before God saying he’s godly and upright because God has hedged him in so tightly, blessed the work of his hands so greatly, and increased his possessions so vastly. This is why Job is really godly, not because of who God is but because of what Job can get from God in return.[4] More so, Satan says in v11 that the only way to publicly establish if Job truly loves God or not is to take away this hedge, remove his greatness, and eliminate all his prosperity. Satan’s intentions here are horrible for sure, but do not miss that they’re correct. Now, God already knows what Job would do if all he has were removed, but no one else does. So its true that the only way to publicly prove to the watching world that Job loves God for God and not just for what he can get from God is to take away all he has. Flip the story around for a moment. If Job were a holy poor man, wouldn’t it be similar logic to give him riches to be sure that his holiness wasn’t just the result of his poverty? Indeed it would.[5] Either way, rich Job becoming poor Job or poor Job becoming rich Job, the root of Job’s love toward God will be exposed and all will see if it’s genuine. So, in v12 God gives the terrible instruction and permission, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.”

Pause here. We do not like the idea of God permitting Satan to attack Job, but that is what happens. For all his hatred Satan is doing something here for the glory of God. Do you see it? In a deep way it is necessary for it to be publicly seen by the watching world that God is worthy of worship apart from His gifts and blessings given to men. So ironically God uses Satan to play a role in this. It’s a role of opposition to be sure, hostile and hateful, but a role nonetheless that God wields for His own glory. Do not think Satan is God’s equal and the two of them are now locked in an epic chess game over the true affections of Job. No, God is God. He knows the end from beginning, and more so, He ordains all things that come to pass. All of this teaches us that Satan is nothing more than ‘God’s Satan’ as Martin Luther was fond of saying. He’s only able to go where God allows him to go. So when, in the governance of all things, God sees fit to glorify Himself through the devil, He does so, and we perhaps remember our first thought from tonight – God’s glory is more important than our comfort. Job got a first hand lesson in this, Christ got a first hand lesson in this, and we ourselves (though I’d say in a vastly lesser manner) must remember this every time we suffer in any way, shape, or form. That more is happening than meets the eye, and that God is always leading us well. 

Scene 2: Earth (1:13-22)

So we’ve seen the first scene, now let’s turn to the second scene. Here we move from heaven to earth, from the first specific day in v6 to a new specific day in v13. This day begins like any other day but ends up being a day he’ll never forget. Four messengers each with their own message come to him, they end up being, to him, more like the four horsemen of the apocalypse.[6]

v13-19 tells us the horrific details, “Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

v13 sets the stage and we see that all his children were together in the oldest brothers home having one of their festivities. v14-15 is the first intrusion where we see a messenger come with news that all of Job’s oxen and donkey’s have been taken and the servants caring for them have been killed. Before we can catch our breath another messenger comes in v16 with the second intrusion saying all of Job’s sheep were destroyed by fire from heaven (lighting) and the servants caring for them have been killed. Again, before we can catch our breath from these first two messages, in v17 we see another messenger come saying all of Job’s camels have been stolen and the servants caring for them have been killed. First was the oxen and donkeys with some servants, then the sheep with some servants, then the camels with the rest of the servants. As these three messages hit Job wave after wave he stands in a stunned silence, probably unable to believe he has been bankrupted and stripped of most of his wealth in one afternoon. He’s gone from riches to rags. But poor Job[7] doesn’t have time to process these losses when the fourth and final messenger comes. And we as the reader dread what’s coming next. We’ve felt wave upon wave with Job, and as this fourth wave approaches we think back to v13 wondering why we were told that all his kids were together. Then the worst news comes, a great wind has blown down the house with all the children in it, and they are dead. If we dwell on these four waves long enough it is not hard to weep with Job. Two terrorist attacks and two natural disasters leave Job basically all alone.

We, again, remember our initial thought. The glory of God is more important than our comfort. We know it’s true, and Job does too, but Job didn’t get our privilege of seeing behind the curtain into the details of God’s providential governance of all things. What will he do? Will he curse God and reveal that he only loved God for God’s gifts? Or will he reveal that He loves God still, for God alone, despite what has occurred? v20-21 show us, “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

After all that has taken place what does he do? He acknowledges that one day he will die and leave it all behind, and he worships God confessing that God is God and that dark as his road may now be whatever God ordains for him is right. Job words have stood the test of time. Speaking of them Charles Spurgeon said, “Some of the rarest pearls have been found in the deepest waters, and some of the choicest utterances of believers have come when God’s waves and billows have been made to roll over them.”[8]

In v22 we see a wonderful conclusion to a truly horrible story, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” By remaining godly Job gives us a breathtaking preview of Jesus Christ who remained faithful while walking a harder road for us.

 

 

Citations:

[1] Valley of Vision, page 13.

[2] Christopher Ash, Job: The Wisdom of the Cross – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 37.

[3] Ash, page 42.

[4] Ash, page 43.

[5] Ash, page 44.

[6] Ash, page 48.

[7] Ash, page 48.

[8] Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Study Bible, page 642.

Morning = John 11:45-57, The Callous Council

The pastor, author, and theologian John MacArthur has been a great encouragement to many of us around SonRise for many years. His books fill our shelves, his podcast fills our ear buds, and his and the content of his teaching fills our hearts. I remember one specific time I was listening to him speaking about pastoral ministry, and he brought up a meeting that he’d never forgotten. Things had been growing and expanding enormously at Grace Community Church and by God’s grace lives were being changed left and right. It was a joyful season of ministry, one that he was immensely grateful for. Right in the middle of this season he walked into their regular Tuesday morning staff meeting and was shocked. His entire staff was already present and by the looks on their faces it was clear that they were not as happy as he was about what was taking place at the church. The conversation began, they told him that they we’re all quitting that day, and they all walked out. Looking back at this event MacArthur said the day came to be known around the church as ‘Black Tuesday.’

In our text today there is a similarly severe meeting. A meeting that would change the course of Jesus’ life and ministry as He knew it. A meeting that would pave the way for His crucifixion. You heard Toni read it, let’s turn to it now.

John 11:45-57 reveals the results of Lazarus’ resurrection. A council is sought, that council gathers, and that council decides on a certain course of action. For those of you taking notes those are our three headings this morning.

The Council is Sought (v45-47a)

In the beginning of our passage the results of Lazarus being raised are clear. The people are once again divided. We see belief in v45. We learn that many of the Jews who had been there at the funeral not only saw Lazarus raised, they believed in Jesus because they saw Lazarus raised. For these Jews that believed, what they saw with their eyes confirmed what they had already heard with their ears. Or in other words the miracle of Jesus was evidence, a stamp of approval, or a validation of the teaching of Jesus. This is the purpose of signs and wonders all throughout the Scripture, to affirm the message proclaimed. They saw Jesus raise a dead man to new life and immediately believed that His prior claims to be the Son of God were true! For these new believers the funeral indeed became a celebration of new life, not only in Lazarus but in themselves as well. But not all present were so happy. Standing in contrast to the belief we see in v45 we see unbelief in v46. The text says other Jews saw the miracle and rather than rejoicing or being struck with awe at Jesus they went straight to the Pharisees and told them about it. D.A. Carson, in his commentary on John, says of this group in v46, “One might charitably hope that the motive of at least some of them was to win the Pharisees to the truth, but the contrast set up between those who believe and those who go to the Pharisees suggests that their intent was more malicious.”[1]

This division here in v45-46 is evidence that when people encounter Christ the one thing that never happens is nothing. People see Christ, people hear His Word, and one of two things occur. They are either warmed and come to Him in repentance and faith or they are distressed and grow in their hostility to Him. We’ve seen this division over and over in John’s gospel and most of you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the same things still occur today. Mention something about your favorite sports team playing well and beating another team and you may ruffle some feathers. Mention something about politics or who you voted for and you will certainly ruffle more feathers. But mention Jesus Christ and you’ll hit a nerve. Jesus Christ is the most divisive Person in the history of the world. This is why Paul will later say that upon hearing the gospel of Christ some smell the sweet aroma of life and draw near, while others smell the putrid aroma of death and flee for the hills. Hear in this a call to pray, that in your own life, in your families life, and in the life of this congregation many would smell the aroma of life and be saved!

Well, this second group in v46 goes off tattling to the Pharisees, no doubt making them aware so that they’ll do something about this Jesus. And there in v47a we see the severe meeting begin as the council is called together.

The Council is Gathered (v47b-52)

Once gathered the initial hullabaloo of the council (made up of chief priests and Pharisees) begins with the words we find in v47b-48, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” These words expose much about their hearts.

Firstly, they’re at a loss. They acknowledge that Jesus has truly performed many miracles and that everyone will believe if they continue allowing Him the freedom to do so. It’s understandable that they would feel like this but do you see how they’re making a bit of an exaggeration? Have they forgotten how the massive crowds left Him once He began teaching hard things at the end of John 6? Have they forgotten that just now a group of Jews came to tattle on Jesus after raising Lazarus from the dead? Have they forgotten that not everyone has believed in Him? It seems they have.

Secondly, note their continuing unbelief. They do truly acknowledge that Jesus has done these miracles, yet this acknowledgement doesn’t lead to belief, it only spurs them toward a more wholehearted opposition.[2] This is usually not what we see happen. People in Scripture who recognize Jesus’ power to do what no one else can do usually respond to Him by falling at His feet calling Him Lord. So why do these guys grow more hostile after recognizing His true power? Perhaps an example will help explain. During my first year and a half of college, before I had become a Christian, I knew of a certain guy on campus who was always sharing the gospel with any student he could. So naturally I avoided him. But in the months leading up to my conversion I not only continued to avoid him, I grew to strangely dislike him. Every time I’d see him I would try to linger around long enough that our eyes would meet so I could give him a cold glare from a distance. Looking back on my dislike of this man is curious to me. I now know that the reason I didn’t like him and didn’t want to talk with him wasn’t because I thought the gospel was false. No, his very presence convicted my heart and cut me to the core because deep down I knew the gospel was true. So I avoided him because I also knew that once I embraced the gospel, everything about my life had to change, and I loved my sin too much to leave it. One of the ironies of my life is that five years later this man and I served on staff at a church together in downtown Atlanta, and we often looked back and laughed on my previous dislike of him. You see…these chief priests were just like that in this passage. They know Jesus’ miracles to be true, to be powerful, and therefore they know His claims to be God must be true as well. But that doesn’t push them toward belief. It pushed them deeper into unbelief.

Thirdly, they’re fearful and anxious. If Jesus continues to gain momentum with the people they believe they’ll lose two things: their place and their nation. By referring to their ‘nation’ they mean the Romans will see Jesus’ movement as a rogue religious Jewish threat and desire to put a quick end to it militarily. If that happens they’ll lose the religious freedom Rome now gives them as a nation and since their religion is what by and large defines them as a nation, Israel as a whole would be lost. But I’m not convinced that’s their main concern.[3] By stating the concern they have for their ‘place’ first shows what they’re really worried about. Sure the nation may be lost, sure their religion could be wiped out by Rome, but if all that goes what also goes with it? Their prominent role in the spotlight as chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees. So, Jesus was threatening their position of power and prestige among the people. This was their main concern.[4]

After this first outburst of anxiety this council is silenced by their leader. Caiaphas, the high priest, spoke up in v49-50 saying, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” Into this frazzled mix Caiaphas brings sharp rebuke. He makes it clear that they have no idea how to see this situation for what it is and that only he has a clear enough insight to see things as they are and give the needed answer.[5] In his wisdom he suggests that they need to kill Jesus in order to save the people. Now be sure to understand that he didn’t mean this in a Christian sense, he meant that they must execute Jesus so that their ‘place’ and ‘nation’ as a whole would continue to exist.[6] But we, and really any reader of John’s gospel after the cross, can’t help but see more in his words. Caiaphas calls for the execution of Jesus for the purpose of self-preservation, but we see a call for the execution of Jesus for the purpose salvation. Lest we think we’re just reading too much into Caiaphas’ words, the beloved disciple John gives us proper interpretation in v51-52, “He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”

Now we must pause and linger to see what is being said to us.

I bring these things up because in v51-52 we come face to face with one of the most important matters in the entire Scripture, the atonement of Jesus Christ. The questions ‘Why did Jesus die?’, ‘Who did Jesus die for?’, and ‘What did His death accomplish?’ are all answered for us in this text. In its simplest form we’re told here that Jesus’ death was a death for others and not a death for Himself.[7] How is it a death for others? It is a death intended to gather in the children of God spread across the nations. In theological terms we’re told here that Jesus’ death was a substitutionary death. Meaning that on the cross, Jesus offered Himself up as a sacrifice, taking our curse upon Himself, bearing the penalty we deserve, satisfying divine justice in our place as our substitute, so sinners like us could be reconciled to God and welcomed into His family at the feather touch of faith. Caiaphas believed it was either the nation or Jesus that would die, and that if Jesus died the nation would live. It would be his life for theirs.[8] Caiaphas callously and cynically was speaking only in political terms of what Jesus’ death would mean for Israel. But unbeknownst to him, he spoke (prophesied) of what Jesus had come to do as the Lamb of God, not just for believing Israelites but for all those from every nation who believe as well. The irony John points out to us here is that what Caiaphas intended for harm God intended for the eternal salvation of His global people. Be reminded, in v51-52, why Jesus died, who He died for, and what His death accomplished. But also be reminded that His death is a death that is global in its scope. Any person, from any nation, people, or tribe that hears the gospel, and is struck by the depth of their sin, struck by the breadth of Christ’s beauty, turns away from that sin, and turns toward Christ in faith will become children of God!

So church, because the gospel is global in its scope every ministry in every nation should be global in its scope. This not only moves us toward giving to missions and sending missionaries to spread the gospel in other parts of the world, this moves us toward being intentional about becoming a congregation that reflects the global nature of the gospel. In our racially divided world, do you see what a breath of fresh air the Church ought to be? It is a sad truth of our time that Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours of the week. v52 ought to make you grieve at that reality. The global nature of the gospel demands that the culture of Christ’s Church not be defined by the color of our skin but in our common bond in Christ.

Church, since Christ’s death is multi-ethnic in its scope we must strive to be more than a mono-ethnic congregation. Since Christ’s death is multi-ethnic in its scope we must strive to cease living mono-ethnic lives. From seeing the global nature of the atonement we must embrace the global scope of the gospel. May this be your desire: there is a wideness in God’s mercy as wide as the sea, far it be from me that His mercy ends with me.

The Council is Decided (v53-57)

We’ve seen the council sought out, we’ve seen the council gather. Now as v53 comes to us we see the council decide on a course of action. Beginning there we read, “So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there He stayed with the disciples. Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.”

The decision is made. They will kill Him. Now they just have to do it. Jesus therefore left to be with the disciples in Ephraim, and even as the festivities of Passover began once again, their attention is on finding Jesus so they might arrest Him, and no doubt, carry out their plans.

Conclusion:

In this callous council we’ve seen horribly fearful and sinful men – led by Caiaphas – make a plan to kill Jesus so no one kills them. Why? Because He raised someone from the dead. It was the last straw, they could take no more, and so they decided not to. Genesis 3 was a sad day when our first parents fell and brought death to us all, but in all of history there is no plan as wicked as the plan made here in these verses to kill Christ. But these sinful men weren’t the only ones planning were they? God didn’t just turn their plan to a good end, He was in it from the beginning of the world, planning, and plotting to gather in all His elect children from the four corner’s of the globe. How would He do it? By substitution!

In 1874 Philip Bliss rejoiced in this very thought and wrote words to a hymn called ‘Man of Sorrows What A Name.’ I’ll end with the words of this hymn:

Man of sorrows what a name,
for the Son of God, who came,
ruined sinners to reclaim:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
in my place condemned He stood,
sealed my pardon with His blood:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Guilty, helpless, lost were we;
blameless Lamb of God was He,
sacrificed to set us free:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished” was His cry;
now in heaven exalted high:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
all His ransomed home to bring,
then anew this song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

 

 

Citations:

[1] D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – PNTC, page 419.

[2] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 563.

[3] Carson, page 420-421.

[4] R.C. Sproul, John – St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 215-216.

[5] Morris, page 567.

[6] Carson, page 422.

[7] Morris, page 568.

[8] Morris, page 568.

Evening = Job 1:1-5, A Well Run World

Well we’ve now come to it. Tonight we begin 34 weeks in the book of Job. Having spent the last few months studying Job myself, I must say I am very excited to begin working through it with you. Speaking of this book the Victorian author Thomas Carlyle said, “Job is the grandest book ever written with pen.”[1] In the introduction to Job the recently published Systematic Theology Study Bible says, “Job is a literary and theological masterpiece. It combines surprising narratives and heated conversations that test the mettle of its main characters. The book’s goal is wisdom, which here and other OT books amount to balanced living based on a proper understanding of God and people.”[2] And lastly, in the introduction to Job the also recently published Spurgeon Study Bible says, “The book of Job teaches that suffering comes to everyone, the righteous and unrighteous alike. God does not always keep the righteous from danger or suffering. Ultimately God controls all of life’s situations, including limiting the power of Satan. God’s comfort and strength are always available to the trusting soul.”[3]

Before getting into our text for this evening allow me to make two introductory comments.[4]

First, Job is a very long book, forty-two chapters to be exact. And while we are very familiar with the beginning and end of the story, most of us have no idea what to do with the middle. But ask a question here at the start, ‘Why is Job so long?’ Perhaps the answer is that God wants to take us on a journey. A journey that will take some time. Through this journey God intends to make you into a different person. How? By entering into, becoming familiar with, and being unsettled by the suffering of Job. And learning that when suffering is in view, there is no easy answer. There is no quick fix. So rightly handled, Job cannot be distilled to a few sermons and general application. You must enter it and listen carefully. But not only is Job’s suffering in view, Christ’s suffering is also in view. Indeed without Christ’s suffering coming into view in Job’s suffering Job would only be a record of unanswered agony.[5]

Second, Job is poetry. Other than chapter 1, 2, and 42 all the rest of Job is poetic and we must remember that. Poetry always has a personal take on something, aiming not just at the head but at the heart of the reader. Because of this on one hand poetry is well suited to speak to the needs of the whole person. But on the other hand we must recognize that poetry doesn’t often sum things up in neat and clearly defined categories. Rather it tends to slowly work on us, revealing deeper and deeper layers as we dive deeper into it again and again. Christopher Ash on this very point says, “You cannot ‘do’ Job as a one-day tourist might ‘do’ Florence.”[6]

As you can imagine there have been many commentaries, books, sermons, and songs produced from these forty-two chapters. A glaring omission in most all of them is Christ. How are we to see Christ in Job’s suffering? To see this, I’ve chosen Christopher Ash’s commentary to be our guide. It is careful, compelling, and Christ-centered. I encourage you get a copy of it and read it devotionally at some time in your life. I promise, you’ll find it very worth your time.

So without further ado, let’s begin.

If I were to ask you ‘What kind of world would you like to live in?’ what would you say? We’d eventually all come around to similar answers I think. We’d like to live in a world where that isn’t fallen, a world where the wicked don’t prosper and the good aren’t trampled on. Our friends across the pond in the U.K. have a saying to describe a gathering or meeting of important people. When talking about it they say ‘the great and the good were there.’ Isn’t that the kind of world what we want? Where the great men and women leading our world always do good, governing with justly and humbly? This well run world is what we find as Job begins.

Job 1:1-5 says, “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.”

Everything in this book is about the person we were just introduced to. It’s his name we learn first. It’s his uprightness, his holiness, and his suffering in view throughout the whole book. In 99% of Job either Job is talking, Job’s friends are talking about Job or to Job, or God is talking to Job. Bottom line? This book is about Job. v1-5 tell us four things about this prominent man from Uz.[7]

His Place

Job lived “…in the land of Uz…” We don’t know much of Uz in Scripture. We read of it in Lamentations 4:21 which says, “Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, you who dwell in the land of Uz…” So from all we can gather it seems Uz was a city in Edom, a pagan land east of the promise land. Notice here not mainly where Uz is but where it is not. It isn’t in Israel and Job’s story never really comes into anything having to do with Israel at all. Most think Job was a contemporary of Abraham so remember the Jewish people hadn’t become a people yet, they weren’t enslaved in Egypt yet, God hadn’t given His Law yet, and He hadn’t brought them into the promis land yet. Before all these things, here is a man named Job who should’ve known almost nothing of God, yet truly does know God, trusted in God, and worshipped God.

His Godliness

Of all the things we hear of Job in v1-5 one of the most important things we hear of is his godliness. v1 says it, Job was, “…blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” This same word that shows up here as blameless is used elsewhere in Scripture. In Joshua 24:14 it is translated as sincerity. In Judges 9:16 it is translated as integrity. God calls Abraham to walk in this blameless way in Genesis 17:1, and in Psalm 119:1 we find that blessing will come to those whose way is blameless. So when Job is in view, what you see is what you get. This is the opposite of hypocrisy, a pretending to be something outwardly while knowing it’s a different story inwardly. Centuries later Paul had to counsel Timothy on how to pastor those who “…had the appearance of godliness but denied its power” (2 Tim. 3:5). Job is refreshing for us to see, for he has the appearance of godliness because there was real godliness about him.

He feared God and turned away from evil meaning vertically he had a true devotion/love for God. He was an upright man meaning horizontally he was honest and moral in his dealings with others. Job was a man you could trust to give you counsel and a man you could trust to do business with. Job was a man with true piety, and is certainly an exemplary model for Christians in all ages.

We need to remember this about Job.

The whole time his friends speak with him they do not believe this, and though they often speak things that are true, they do not apply those true things to Job rightly because they believe he is hiding some secret sin. God tells us of Job’s quality many times in the first three chapters of this book because, perhaps, we may be tempted forget it after hearing so many accusations from his friends. Job wasn’t perfect. Only one perfect Man walked the earth. But he truly was an upright and holy man. Which leads us to the next item to notice about Job.

His Greatness

In v2-3 we learn Job has seven sons, three daughters, 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 oxen, 500 female donkeys, and many servants. From these things there is only one conclusion we can arrive at, Job “…was the greatest man of all the people of the east.”

Seven sons was seen as something of a goal to aim at. Naomi’s friends describe Ruth as “…being more to you than seven sons” (Ruth 4:15). When the formerly barren Hannah has children she praises God saying in 1 Samuel 2:15, “The barren has born seven!” The number seven symbolizes a complete number, and in this culture sons were not only a help with daily work but were also a promise of an extended family lineage. What more could you want then seven sons? Well, how about daughters? Three of them to be exact, which is also seen as a number of completion. Job’s quiver is full and his life is blessed for it. And in addition to his children we see him having an enormous amount of possessions. When you combine all his animals and servants that manage his entire estate we come to see that Job is a man of great wealth and power. So great and so powerful that there is no one like this man in all the east.

On this point Christopher Ash says of Job in his commentary, “Job was, on a regional or local scale, what Adam was meant to be on a global scale – a great, rich, and powerful ruler.”[8] Pause on this and note. Job was enormously blessed by God, and Job was immensely faithful. But we also notice that there’s another thing about Job we see in v4-5 that shows us more of the story.

His Anxiety

In v4-5 we see that each time his sons and daughters got together for one of their birthdays, a festivity, or a feast day Job grew anxious. He would call each of them to his house for a ceremony. Rising early in the morning he prepare a burnt offering for each one of them. As God’s people would come into being, be rescued from Egypt, and be given God’s Law, they were commanded to do burnt offerings as well. This offering was an expensive ceremony, where a whole animal was burned up in fire. The fire symbolized God’s anger toward sin, the animal symbolized the sinner, and that the fire would then consume the animal entirely symbolized what God would do to sinners for their sin unless redemption occurs. As Job did this for each one of his children, perhaps he pointed to it and said, ‘This one is for you’ until all his children would be represented in their own offering. Seeing this we can rightfully ask, ‘Why go to all this trouble and expense to do this after each family get together?’ v5 tells us, Job would think, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Job had a deep integrity that is clear, but he isn’t so certain about his children. This, Job did continually.

So, in v1-5 the stage set for what is to come. In v1-3 we meet the man himself and in v4-5 we see what he did continually. “This sets a happy scene with one shadow. The happiness consists in a good man being good, a pious man being a prosperous man. It is a picture of the world being as the world ought to be, a world where the righteous lead. It is ironically a world where the prosperity seems to be true.”[9] The shadow is that even in this seemingly perfect setting something dark lurks beneath the surface. Job is anxious about it after every family gathering. Even in this perfect scene we learn two great truths. First, in the best and most materially abundant of environments the possibility still exists for men and women to curse God in their hearts. Second, only sacrifice – bloody, gory, wrathful, substitutionary, atoning, sacrifice – can cover such sinful hearts.

 

 

Citations:

[1] Quoted in Christopher Ash, Job: The Wisdom of the Cross – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 15.

[2] Systematic Theology Study Bible, page 567.

[3] Spurgeon Study Bible, page 640.

[4] Ash, page 22.

[5] Ash, page 15.

[6] Ash, page 23.

[7] Ash, page 30-36.

[8] Ash, page 34.

[9] Ash, page 35.

Morning = John 11:1-44, Lazarus and the Love of God

The ancient Roman statesman Cicero once said that with the exception of wisdom, nothing better has been given to man than friendship.[1] Many of us know this to be true as we have enjoyed and experienced the benefit of deep friendships in all seasons of life. But when it comes to Jesus we might wonder. Did He need friends during His earthly ministry? Being the incarnate Word of God we may be tempted to think friendship was something below Him or something He didn’t need as we do. Wrong. The picture presented to us in the four gospels is a clear one. Jesus not only many friends, he had three very close friends. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. It is these friends who come into view in our passage this morning, and as we see how Jesus interacts with them we will be greatly encouraged.

Here’s what I want to do this morning. I’ll first walk through the text, stopping here and there to comment on it. Then I’ll end by trying to first show you a new perspective on suffering this miracle gives to us followed by two life-altering moments this miracle points us to.

11:1-6, “Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, he whom You love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it He said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that Lazarus was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was.”

The text begins with news, a certain man is ill. Lazarus of Bethany is his name, the brother of Mary and Martha. Seemingly Jesus had close dealings with this family and because of that the sisters, after learning of this illness, send a message to Jesus saying in v3, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”[2] They didn’t ask, invite, or request Him to come. It was just a statement. These sisters were apparently aware of Jesus’ great affection for them and trusted they didn’t have to ask Him to come but that, upon hearing the news, He simply would come.[3] He gets the news, turns to His disciples and says in v4 that this illness does not lead to death, rather it exists for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it. This is the definitive reason Lazarus fell sick in the first place. It didn’t happen by chance, circumstance, or happenstance, it happened so Jesus, the Son of God, could be made much of. Jesus said a similar thing back in John 9 about the man born blind. Remember the disciples asking, “Who sinned that this man should be born blind?” ‘No one…’ Jesus said, ‘…this man is blind that the works of God might be displayed in Him.’” As it was with the blind man, so it is with Lazarus. Which means there is more going on here than meets the eye.

Now, Jesus did indeed love this family, it says so in v5. So we’d think that Jesus would immediately leave to tend to these things. But v6 tells us that Jesus didn’t leave right away to visit them but stayed home. This is puzzling for sure, but remember from Jesus’ perspective there was a divine design in the sickness of Lazarus. From Mary, Martha, and Lazarus’ perspective there is only sickness and impending death. So you can imagine Mary and Martha attending to their sick brother and looking out the door every hour or so to see if Jesus had made it yet. But look as they may, there’s no sign of Him.

Have any of you ever felt like these sisters?[4] Have you ever felt that life’s circumstances have gotten so bleak that you begin to believe the only possible interpretation of these events is that God no longer cares about you? That God no longer loves you? Sure God may be sovereign and in control of all things, but this God isn’t good at all, and how my life is unfolding these days is proof of His absence! Well, I’m afraid as the years come and go that you and I will often find ourselves in this spot. Try to remember one thing. Our perspective of the circumstances of our lives is massively limited. We can only see what’s right in front of us. God can see the whole thing. We can only see the individual moment, God can see His entire work of weaving all our moments into a tapestry for His glory. While they were frantically attending to Lazarus trying to save his life and waiting for Jesus to come save him, Jesus calmly went about His work for two more days. Why would He do such a thing?! We’ll see soon.

11:7-16, “Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

After making the disciples aware of His desire to go back into Judea, the disciples urge Him not to because of the imminent danger awaiting them all back there. Remember one chapter earlier Jesus is almost stoned by the Jews for saying “I and the Father are one.” When they bring this up Jesus responds to His disciples in an odd manner, saying that there’s twelve hours in the day, and no one stumbles in the day because of the light of the world, and the only ones who stumble walk at night because the light is not in him. In other words He was saying, “The night of My work has not yet come. I still have much work to do. It is still day, and My ministry to Lazarus is part of that work.”[5]

His disciples were confused so He and said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, I go to awaken him.” Still not getting it the disciples say, “If he’s asleep, he’ll wake up Jesus.” After still showing confusion Jesus tells them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe, let us go to him.” Thomas still a bit afraid or coming back into the city said, “Let us go also, that we may die as well.” Clearly he thinks a very great danger awaits them in Judea and boldly accepts what he thinks is their own impending death. Jesus doesn’t respond to this, instead He just leaves for Bethany. They arrive in 11:17 where we’ll continue reading.

11:17-27, “Now when Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met Him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

When they arrived Lazarus had been four days dead. Many others had come to comfort them. The sisters heard He had finally come, and while Mary seems to be so sorrowful that she doesn’t even get up to greet Jesus, Martha does go see Him. And when she does she asks why He had delayed so long saying implying that His delay was the reason her brother had died. They had waited and waited but He didn’t come! From her perspective all was lost. We know her pain. “Where were You God, when the cancer came…when my mother died…when my parents split and Dad left…when my child died…You could’ve done something but You didn’t…You we’re too late.” The delays of God’s great, gracious, and sovereign love sometimes allow the pave the way for the most tragic of events. Martha’s thoughts are honest, understandable, and surprising too many…appropriate to say to God. Over 1/3 of all 150 Psalms are Psalms of sorrow or lament. God is kind to give us vocabulary for the times when the venom of despair sinks in. Jesus didn’t rebuke her honest accusation but met it with head on by directing her to Him. In her sorrow Martha merely repeats the common belief of 1st century Jews. That on the last day a resurrection to life will occur. But Jesus turns the statement on its head and proclaims that “resurrection and life” are only to be found in Him. I’m not sure if Martha understood the extent and meaning of Jesus’ words here but she responds (MARVELOUSLY) through her sorrow in faith saying she does believe He is the Christ, who is coming into the world.

11:28-37, “When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to Him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met Him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at his feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled. And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how He loved Him!” But some of them said, “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Remember we saw Jesus get questioned by the disciples, we saw him get questioned by Martha, and now we see Him receive the same from Mary. Mary’s words show she had been thinking the same thing as her sister Martha. Yet Jesus responds differently than we’ve seen so far. He sees Mary weeping, He sees those that have come to comfort the sisters weeping as well, what happens? Jesus in v33 is “…deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled.” Now, pause here. Some people have said this describes Jesus being caught up with deep emotion from the sorrow of this event.[6] I’m sure this was going on but I don’t think it was the only thing going on. In the Greek, the words for “deeply moved” and “greatly troubled” are terms of rebuke. This is interesting because if Jesus weeps in v35 for a reason that’s based in rebuking, that changes the meaning of His tears! Rather than crying on behalf of Lazarus out of grief, or at the unbelief that surrounded Him[7], I think these words indicate to us that Jesus was fuming and irate at one thing: death.[8] Just as it would be unthinkable for someone to draw a moustache on the Mona Lisa, so too, death is a blemish on God’s perfect creation. Every time someone dies we’re reminded of Genesis 3…that death is an unnatural intruder to man’s existence. So seeing death take His friend, Jesus becomes filled with fury and asks to be shown where the tomb was, and goes straight to it to do the deed He came to do.

11:38-44, “Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that You sent Me.” When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Deeply moved once again He approaches the tomb. They warn Him of the smell as He commands them to take away the stone. Reminding them He says, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” In an intimate and public moment He prays, “Father, thank You that You have heard Me, You always hear Me, I am saying this to You so that those near Me may believe You sent Me.” Remember v4? “This illness is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Here we go. The stage is set. The Son is about to be made much of, the disciples faith is about to increased, all present are about to be changed forever. The same One who in Genesis 1 spoke creation into existence by His Word, the same One who in Exodus 3 met Moses on the mountain, the same One who in Joshua 5 defeated the peoples of Canaan and led Israel into the promise land, the same One who in 1 Kings 18 defeated the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, the same One who in Ezekiel 37 called the dry bones to life through His Word, the same One who came as a crying infant, the same One who calmed the sea with One Word, the same One healed the blind man and numerous others, this same God with His strong and mighty voice called out into death and created what was not there, “Lazarus, come forth!” In a moment all their sorrow, pain, and grief turned to gladness! Tears of despair now gave way to tears of delight as Lazarus walks out of the tomb.

Conclusion:

So ends the reading and exposition of what is likely the most remarkable miracle of Jesus. Now, I said at the start I wanted to end by firstly showing you a new perspective on suffering followed by two life-altering moments.

A New Perspective for Sufferers

Throughout this chapter we’ve seen two prominent perspectives. On one hand we see the perspective of Mary and Martha which is bleak, despairing, and sorrowful. On the other hand we see the perspective of Jesus which is strong, certain, and life giving. From Mary and Martha’s view all they could see was pain and death. To them Jesus’ delay caused the death of their brother. To them Jesus was too late. From Jesus’ view He intentionally did delay so that Lazarus would die, so that He could raise him to new life, so that all would see Him for who He really was. His delay, according to Him, was a delay of love working toward God’s glory and their good. To Him He wasn’t late, but precisely on time. Listen up all you sufferers. It’s true that in the thick of it we (like Mary and Martha) can only see the pain, the sorrow, the absence, the death, and the mess that this fallen world is. In those times our pain is very real but our perspective is vastly limited. We cannot see how these things will turn out for God’s glory or for our good. But remember, we know that our perspective isn’t the only perspective in view. God’s perspective is vastly greater than our own. From His view, He is working in all things, the good and the bad, into a marvelous mosaic that will end up bringing Him glory and bringing us the best possible good.

Life-Altering Moment #1: Our Conversion

In the raising of Lazarus we learn how we are saved. Many people view salvation as if we are sick with sin, on the brink of death, and in need of a Savior to rescue. The image is a person in the hospital bed sick with no cure. What will they do? They will call out and ask for rescue and be saved. Great right? No. This idea has every pleasant quality about it except of the fact that it’s not true. You see, we’re not lying on a hospital bed in need of a cure. We are Lazarus, four days dead in the grave and people are afraid to roll away the stone due to the stench. We are not merely sick in sin before Christ saves us, there is no life in us before Christ saves us. Ephesians 2 says it like this, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy…when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, and raised us up with Him.” So, it was by grace Lazarus was raised from the dead, not of his own works so he could not boast. It’s the same way with us. When God saves us He saves us with no help from us! He looks into the darkness cavernous evil of our own hearts and creates what it is not there – life!

Life Altering Moment #2: Christ’s Resurrection

Easter is fast approaching us so I don’t want to belabour this point so I’ll just say this. Lazarus is not the only one who rose from the dead. In this miracle Jesus gives us a preview of what will happen in just a few more days when He would confront this enemy head on and kill it by allowing it to kill Him. So rejoice Christian, He is risen! The death of death took place in the death of Christ! And all who are united to Him by faith will similarly walk out of the tomb at the last day when He returns to usher in His Kingdom in full measure.

 

 

Citations:

[1] Richard Phillips, John 11-22 – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 5.

[2] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 538.

[3] Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 285.

[4] Hughes, page 286.

[5] R.C. Sproul, John – St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 203-204.

[6] Hughes takes this view and explains it well, see page 290-291.

[7] Morris takes this view and explains it well, see page 556-558.

[8] Sproul, page 210. See also F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, page 246.

John 10:22-42 – Surprised by Christ

Before God allowed Satan to bring all kinds of spiritual, emotional, and physical suffering into Job’s life God had said that there was no one as upright and blameless as Job. The floodgate then opened, extreme trials rushed in, Job despaired of life itself, and Job’s friends saw it and told asked him what sin he had committed to bring such misery into his life. As the conversation continues on throughout almost the entirety of Job right in the middle Job says something that surprises his friends. In Job 19 he is very honest about how tired he is of his friends horrid counsel, he reminds them that God has brought these upon him, and then in the midst of his despair he cries out in hope saying, “I know that my redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth.” This hopeful boast was terribly surprising to Job’s friends, it not only shocked them, it increased their hostility toward Job.

In our text today there is a similarly monumental statement. The Jews asked Him for a plain answer, “Are you the Messiah or are you not?” Jesus gave them what they wanted saying, “I and the Father are one.” Surprising to them, monumental at this time, and monumental in every time… this statement increased the hostility toward Him, and yet this passage ends with many more coming to believe in Him. Surprising how God works isn’t it?

As our passage begins we learn the context in v22-23. It was feast time once again. Particularly the Feast of Dedication was at hand. This feast is nowhere commanded to Israel in the Old Testament. It’s beginnings come from 164 BC when the pagan emperor Antiochus Epiphanes turned the temple into a center of pagan worship. Being fed up with this it was the Maccabees who led a revolt and won the temple back, restoring the true worship of God. Of this event the historian Josephus said, “From that time to the present we observe this festival, which we rightly call the festival of lights, giving this name to it, I think from the fact that the right to worship appeared to us at a time when we hardly dared hope for it.”[1] This was what they were celebrating in v22-23 and today Jews still celebrate it under the name Hanukkah.

How ironic that these Jews are celebrating a time in days past when God surprised them by breaking into their darkness with light and hope by restoring His temple while they reject and mock Jesus Christ, the very Light of the World who is Himself the New Temple of God that has tabernacled among them. Perhaps John meant to give us more than a seasonal meaning when he said “It was winter” in v22, reminding us of the coldness between Jesus and the Jews.[2]

Anywho, v23 finishes context by letting us know Jesus was walking the colonnade of Solomon, or Solomon’s Porch, when the Jews gathered around Him determined to have one last question answered. The sense of their question in v24, “How long will you keep us in suspense…” shows us that they, though rejecting His message, did understand it in part. They felt threatened. Jesus had said they would die in their sins unless they believe in Him (8:24) and had said He intends to find followers from outside the Jews (10:16). To them what else could His words mean the end of Judaism itself? So as they circle around Him see the Lamb of God surrounded by a pack of angry wolves hungry to devour Him.[3] “How long will you keep us in suspense…(or How long will you plague us)? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”[4]

From this point on in the text we see Jesus’ answering their question, as they asked, plainly. He speaks of unity between Himself and the Father and the everlasting safety this unity brings their sheep. It is a glorious passage, full of depth and detail concerning both who Christ is and who we are in Him. Because of this, these verses demand our keen attention. So Church, take heed of the following. In v25-30 we see surprising unity. In v31-39 we see surprising blasphemy, and in v40-42 we see surprising belief.

Surprising Unity (v25-30)

As Jesus begins to unfold His plain answer to their question He begins discussing the works He’s already done saying in v25, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name bear witness about Me…” It doesn’t take much convincing to believe chocolate is delightful once you taste it, so too, after seeing the kind of things Jesus did and hearing the kind of words He said it doesn’t take long to realize that Jesus is the Messiah. He isn’t the new kid on the block. He’s been around, He’s taught many times, He’s given many signs, and these things He’s done ought to be sufficient evidence and proof of who He really is. Who else can turn water to wine? Who else can heal the sick, restore the lame, feed 5,000, walk on the water, and heal a man born blind? They say He hasn’t told them who He is yet, but Jesus reminds them that He already has. He’s done these works not only in the Father’s name, these works also bear witness that He is the sent one from the Father. You’d think after hearing all He has said and seeing all He has done, that they would believe!

But as plain as it may be, they still don’t believe. Why? v26 gives us the answer, “…you do not believe because you are not among My sheep.” Jesus isn’t saying they do not believe because they are not among His sheep yet, or that by believing in Him they then could belong among His flock. Jesus words are sharp and clear, they do not believe because they do not belong. Similar to Pharaoh growing harder in heart with each plague that hit Egypt, these Pharisees grow harder in heart with every work done by Christ. With each authoritative teaching, each powerful sign, and each miraculous wonder, their hatred of Him grows. Why? They’re not sheep, they’re wolves.[5]

He continues on in v27-29 with a list of blessings that His true sheep enjoy, “My Sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Again, there is a profound intimacy between this Good Shepherd and His sheep. They know Him, they are known by Him, they know His voice, He leads them, they follow Him, they receive eternal life from Him, they are chosen by the Father and given to the Son, and they are forever secure in Him, so secure that no one or nothing is strong enough to snatch them out of His hand. Just as a Father holds onto his child walking by the road to ensure the child’s safety, so too true sheep are forever secure, not because they hold on to the Shepherd, but because the Shepherd forever holds onto them.[6]

Only God can do the things in v27-29, and only God’s children enjoy and benefit from these things. By stating these things plainly Jesus is telling them that He is the Christ. But in case they missed it, He makes a stunning statement in v30, “I and the Father are one.” This statement is surprising. Not to us, we know who this Jesus is, and our convinced that He is God. This statement is terribly surprising to the Pharisees listening. They had long loved and affirmed the words of the Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4 that says, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Ages upon ages the Jewish people held dear the doctrine of God’s oneness. Jesus’ words here echo the Shema and make the great claim that the oneness of God they held dear for so long is in reality a oneness among multiple Persons who are co-equal and co-eternal in power and glory. Though no one has seen God the Father, Jesus states that He has made Him known, thus, whoever sees Him sees the Father.[7] That this great surprising statement of triune unity among the Godhead comes on the heels of the promises made about keeping His sheep safe and secure, Jesus is saying the work of keeping the sheep is a work of both the Father and the Son.

So, the surprising unity among the Trinity shows itself here to be the foundation of our eternal safety and security. We have a reason as vastly deeper than the Grand Canyon to be of good cheer here, because this doesn’t mean the sheep will be saved “…from all earthly disaster, but that they will be saved, no matter what earthly disaster may befall.”[8] Or in other words, we will persevere in faith to the end only because the triune God preserves us.

I am aware than on any given Sunday it is not rare for someone who is not a Christian to be here with us. That’s great, we’re glad you’re here, let me point out two things to you. First, this safety and security in view here is not a promise made to you. As far as the Bible is concerned if you remain in your sin and unbelief you have no reason to expect safety and security in the life to come. In fact you have every reason to be terrified of the life to come. That ought to concern you. But that leads me to the second item, we want this promise to be for you. Do you know that today you can actually become a Christian? That you can repent of your sin and turn toward Christ in faith and be saved forevermore and become a new creation right now? Weigh these things heavily now, one day you’ll wish you had.

Surprising Blasphemy (v31-39)

They had asked for a clear reply from Jesus, and as they pick up stones to end His life in v31, it seems that Jesus’ words were a bit too clear for their liking.[9] But in the midst of their fury do not miss the calm courage of Christ as He stands firm though surrounded by these violent wolves.[10] As they pick up stones the conversation continues in v32-33, “Jesus answered them, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father, for which of them are you going to stone Me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone You but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.’”

Jesus asked which of His works stirred them to such violence. They answer that none of His works have prompted them to this and that they are stoning Him for making Himself God. Well, we ought to ask, ‘How did He make Himself out to be God?’ Answer, ‘His works!’ So though they say it wasn’t any of His works that moved them to pick up stones, it was really His works coupled with His Words that was just too much for them to bear. Now, Leviticus 24:16 does indeed say the penalty for blasphemy is stoning, but it also says that the execution can only be carried out after a trial had been done and the evidence was plain for all to see. Skipping the process of law and disregarding God’s ways these Pharisee’s intended to take the Law of God into their own hands and be judge, jury, and executioner.[11] Can you see how backward they are in their accusation? The Jews claim He, a mere man, was making Himself to be God by speaking this way, yet in reality He was true God who had become true Man. High as His claims were, they were grounded in the truth. His works are the very works of God, His Words are the very Words of God. He isn’t making Himself to be anything, rather, by His works and Words He’s showing Himself to be what He is![12] One with the Father.

Jesus again answered them in v34-36 saying, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” This reply is a bit technical, some have said Jesus is scared pointing to some kind of Jewish loophole so they wouldn’t stone Him. Wrong. Jesus is saying, ‘Don’t you remember Psalm 82:6 when human rulers are referred to as ‘gods’ and ‘sons of the Most High’? No one picked up stones and tried to kill them? Why then are seeking to kill Me for saying ‘I am the Son of God?’’ By making an argument like this Jesus isn’t saying that He is like these mere humans called gods in Psalm 82:6, no. He is saying that if it was ok for these men to be called gods and sons of the Most High back then, how much more appropriate is it for Him who is one with the Father to be called the Son of God? More so, Jesus isn’t pulling this stuff out of the air, or making it up, He’s speaking about what Scripture says. Even when it is inconvenient to believe, we must submit to it, for the “Scripture cannot be broken.” Even more so, He had surprised them before with a lofty statement of unity and divinity, now He turns the tables again and surprises them with His own accusation of blasphemy. ‘You think it’s blasphemy for Me to say things like this? I am the true sent One from the Father, so for you to deny such reality is an even larger blasphemy.’[13]

Why are they the ones really blaspheming? v37-38, “If I am not doing the works of My Father, then do not believe Me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father.” Or in other words, ‘If I am not truly doing supernatural works, you shouldn’t believe Me. But I am doing them, and you cannot avoid how supernatural they are. Don’t begin with Me, begin with My works. They will clearly show you that I and the Father are one.’ As with Moses, with Elijah, and even with the Apostolic era…we see here again with Jesus. Jesus performs miracles, signs, and wonders not to wow people as if He were just putting on a show or to prove that the supernatural really exists, no. Miracles were proof, validating evidence that He was who He said He was. But as we read v39 and see yet another attempt to seize Him, we’re reminded that regardless what miraculous things take place, the blind don’t see Christ’s beauty, those dead in sin don’t see Christ’s divinity, and those who are not sheep do not know the voice of the Shepherd.

Surprising Belief (v40-42)

We now turn one more surprise as our passage ends. v40-42, “He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there He remained. And many came to Him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in Him there.” Having left the city He would not see again until Palm Sunday, we would think His influence would begin to decrease. But it doesn’t. In fact, His flock keeps growing out on the other side of the Jordan. Interesting isn’t it? In the place where one would think He would be welcomed men tried to stone Him and in the place where one would think people couldn’t find Him many men believed in Him.[14] But don’t stop there. Ask the question, ‘Why did they come?’ Answer, because John’s powerful testimony still lingered. John didn’t do any miracles among them and yet through his holy life and the power of his gospel preaching God transformed these people.

Conclusion:

We have seen three surprises in our text today: His statement of unity with the Father, His accusation of blasphemy, and continued belief even outside the city. I want to leave you this. Know the truth, live the truth, tell the truth.[15]

Know the Truth – these Pharisees knew Scripture, but they were more committed to their own personal preferences than they were to anything in Scripture. Most of you here today own a Bible, most of you carried one in here, but sadly many Christians don’t read or study their Bibles to actually know what it says. So naturally, they are carried along with the tide of cultural opinion and believe many false things, some of which are eternal in consequence. How will we stand boldly in front the wolves of our day or learn the difference between the voice of our Shepherd and the voice of stranger’s if we don’t know the truth? Indeed we cannot.

Live the Truth – Jesus was able to point to His life for all the evidence of the truth these Jews needed. They could clearly see the Father by looking at Him. Can you do the same? Sure, sure, Christians aren’t perfect and won’t ever be till glory, but as you see between Father and Son here, so too, there is a family resemblance between God and us. What is the resemblance? Holiness.

Tell the Truth – Jesus stood calm and collected before a mob with stones in hand. John the Baptist told his hearers of the Lamb of God soon to come and change everything. We’re called to do the same. Church, see here in v40-42 an unmistakable truth – God often extraordinarily blesses the faithful preaching of His Word in unlikely ways with unlikely power. When you see this kind of true and genuine revival take place out in the booney’s of Jerusalem in v41, or somewhere else in history, isn’t there some part of you that’s is crying out, ‘O’ God do it again!’ I can’t do miracles or work wonders or signs, I cannot preach as powerful as John the Baptist. So you may ask, well what hope is there for us here at SonRise if I can’t do those things? Much! Though I cannot preach like John the Baptist, I can preach the same powerful Christ, and you can too. When His Word is preached in power of the Spirit what always happens? God is glorified and men are saved, transformed, and secured forever. The Scripture cannot be broken.

What a text!! What a God!! What a calling He has given us!!

 

Citations:

[1] Josephus, quoted in Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 516, footnote 57.

[2] Morris, page 516-518.

[3] Richard Phillips, John 1-10-Reformed Expository Commentary, page 655.

[4] Morris, page 519.

[5] Pastoral Apprentice Mike Joas spoke of this similarity in our application grid meeting.

[6] R.C. Sproul, John – St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 196.

[7] Reformation Study Bible, notes on John 10:38, page 1877.

[8] Morris, page 521.

[9] Sproul, page 197.

[10] Morris, page 524.

[11] Morris, page 524.

[12] F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, page 234.

[13] Sproul, page 198.

[14] Morris, page 531.

[15] Phillips, page 670-671.

John 10:1-21 – The Good Shepherd

By rejecting the man born blind but now healed and kicking him out of synagogue the Pharisees have shown themselves to be such horrid shepherds of Israel in John 9. As chapter 10 begins Jesus rebukes the Pharisees further. Here Jesus (in His last public discourse of John’s gospel) makes a clear distinction between them as false shepherds who abuse God’s people and Himself as the good shepherd who rules over and leads God’s people well.[1]

v1-21, our passage today, divides up into 3 moments. First in v1-6 Jesus gives us the main metaphor of this chapter. Secondly, they don’t get it so He gives an expanded explanation of it in v7-18. Lastly, in v19-21 we see the response to it.

Moment 1: The Good Shepherd (v1-6)

In their time the sheep industry looked a lot different than it does today. Usually there was one large sheep pen in the city and at the end of each day all the various shepherds of that city would lead their sheep into that pen for the night. All the shepherds who used that large pen would use some of their resources to employ a gatekeeper to guard the sheep. It was this gatekeeper’s job to stay alert watching the sheep and watching the walls to see if thieves snuck in. When morning came it was the gatekeeper’s job to open the door only to the true shepherds returning for their sheep. Then the shepherd used one of his main shepherding tools, his voice. All the sheep from all the various flocks were jumbled up in the pen, but when a particular shepherd called out, his sheep would recognize his voice and would come to him immediately.[2]

Having that background in view, hear Jesus in v1-5. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

Right away we see contrasts. In v1 and v5 Jesus speaks of thieves and robbers who seek to steal, abuse, or use the sheep for their own purposes. They do not come in by the door but climb over the wall or attempt to sneak in another way. Try as they may, the sheep will flee from them because they do not know their voice. These verses aren’t referring to false Messiah’s or Satan but the Pharisees, who have revealed themselves to be false shepherds of Israel.[3] Contrast this image with the true shepherd we see in v2-4. The true shepherd doesn’t have to sneak his way into the pen but comes right through the front door. How? Being the shepherd of the sheep only he has the authority to come in the front door. After all, the gatekeeper knows him, is employed by him, so when the gatekeeper sees the true shepherd approaching he opens the door right away. Once in the pen he calls out to his sheep and his sheep come to him. Why? They know his voice. He then goes out before them and they follow. In this way he leads them out one by one.[4]

v6 says Jesus is using a ‘figure of speech’ here, a kind of metaphor if you will. This kind of language tells a firm and grounded truth through an untruth.[5] For example, if I say ‘I’m so hungry I could eat a cow’ I’m not intending to say I could eat a cow but that I could eat a whole lot. No one would take me literally if they heard me say that. Similarly, when Jesus is speaking of Himself here as the shepherd, and speaking of all those who believe in Him as sheep, is He saying He is literally a shepherd? Or that we are literally sheep? Of course not. The language Jesus employs here, though untrue in an exact literal sense, is intended to symbolize a deeply encouraging truth. There is a profound intimacy between God and His people. They know God’s voice and when they hear it what do they do? They follow His lead. Jesus is saying He’s the true shepherd of Israel and the Pharisees are false shepherds. This is what’s in view for us here in v1-6. The Pharisees listening to this were so concreted in their wooden literalistic interpretation of things, that the beauty of these words went right over their heads. So what does Jesus do? He explains Himself further.

Moment 2: Expanded Explanation (v7-18)

Here in v7-16 He still continues to contrast Himself and the thieves and robbers, but in this middle section there are three statements Jesus makes that direct the majority of this expanded explanation. First, in v7 He says “I am the door.” Second, in v11 and v14 He says, “I am the good Shepherd.” And third, in v16 He says, “I have other sheep too.” These two I AM statements and this global proclamation tell us a massive amount about both His identity and His activity. Let’s see them as they come in the text.

In v7-9 He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” Jesus now says He is not only the shepherd of the sheep, but the door of the pen. Remember v2, shepherds came to get their sheep every morning, so Jesus, being the shepherd of the sheep, means that all those who come before Him during the darkness of the night are thieves and robbers.[6] This is nothing more than a deeper explanation of v2-3. v9 tells us more. That no one becomes a sheep or becomes part of His flock without going through Him. No one will be saved unless they enter into the pen through Jesus.

This idea then is further expanded in v10 with another contrast. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Those who try to sneak into the pen without going through the door of Christ have only maliciousness in view. This is the Pharisee who abuses the use the sheep for his own evil purposes, rejecting those who God brings in like the formerly blind man of chapter 9. Jesus isn’t like them. Being both the shepherd of the sheep and the door of the pen He speaks in such a way in v10 to teach us that those who come into the His pen through Him are the only ones who are truly His sheep. He is not content to merely give His sheep a meager existence of eeking by, but from following His voice He leads His sheep out of the pen into abundance, or wide open spaces for the soul.[7] In Him they graze freely in green pastures amid this dark world, and enjoy a banquet of delights amid this barren wilderness.

Next we see Jesus proclaim Himself to be not only the shepherd of the sheep, not only the door of the pen, but the good shepherd who lays His life down for the sheep. v11-15, “I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

In this next contrast we see even more. On one hand in v12-13 we find the ones called the hired hand care more for their own interests than the welfare of the sheep, such that when they see the wolf coming or see danger approaching they flee. What happens when these hired hands flee? Disaster. The sheep are left defenseless, the wolf snatches some of them up, and the rest of them scatter. Contrasting their evil on the other hand is v11 and v14-15 where we see Jesus who calls Himself the good shepherd. Yes He is the Good Shepherd, but wonder of wonders, this Shepherd is also the Lamb of God who’ll do the unthinkable and lay down His life for His sheep. In their time it would’ve been extremely rare for a shepherd to do this for his flock because normally the death of the shepherd would mean disaster and death for the sheep. But the wonder of the Son of God come to be our Good Shepherd is that His voluntary and vicarious death means life for His sheep.[8] Hearing about Jesus being such a shepherd who would die for his sheep would’ve likely confused them, but there are enough Old Testament promises about a long expected Good Shepherd that these Pharisees should’ve understood some of this. For example:

Ezekiel 34, “…prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them…Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?…The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them…Behold, I, I Myself will search for My sheep and will seek them out…I will…gather them…I will feed them with good pasture…there they shall lie down in good grazing land…I will seek the lost…I will bring back the strayed…I will bind up the injured…and I will strengthen the weak…I will set up over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he shall feed them…and be their shepherd.”[9]

When we see Jesus call Himself the Good Shepherd here in John 10 we must not what the Pharisees missed. First, they missed that they are the evil shepherds Jeremiah and Ezekiel spoke against. They have abused God’s people for personal gain and will be rebuked and held accountable for doing so. Second, they missed that Jesus, the One speaking to them, is Himself the long expected Shepherd sent by God that the prophets spoke of. He’ll be the One to lead God’s people Himself. That we hear the word ‘know’ repeated four times in v14-15 shows us the intimacy in view between this Shepherd and His sheep.[10] Just as the Father knows Him and He knows the Father so too He knows His own and His own know Him. As our Good Shepherd Jesus will seek His sheep out, He’ll call them by name, He’ll gather them, He’ll feed them, He’ll bind up the injured, He’ll strengthen the weak, He’ll lead them into open spaces, and by dying for them and bearing their curse on the cross He’ll lead them into redemption, i.e. green pastures forever![11]

Even more so, the flock He knows, dies for, saves, and tends to is a global flock. v16, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” When He says “I have other sheep…” He means that these sheep already belong to the flock though they haven’t been brought in yet.[12] Don’t be confused here. This is similar to the encouragement God gives Paul in Acts 18:9-10. There Paul is discouraged after preaching the gospel in Corinth because he saw such little response to it. Into his discouraged state God gives Paul a vision in the night telling to him to take heart and keep preaching, why? “For I have many in this city who are My people.” Do you see John 10:16 here? Church, see the sovereign Shepherd. In His sovereign authority our Shepherd has chosen sheep for His flock, He laid down His life for them, and now our Good Shepherd will bring them into His fold. How? By sending His already existing flock out to preach to them and win them into the flock. He doesn’t leave this open to chance, not at all! In view is a particular people, a definite flock from all nations, and when they hear the gospel He promises in v16 that His sheep will hear His voice and come in. The end result of this global sovereign shepherding is unity – one flock under one Shepherd.

I often hear the opinion that spreading the gospel is foolish if God is sovereign and has elected or predestined people to salvation. This text is one of the reasons why that opinion is wrong. In fact, it reveals that the sovereignty of God in predestination isn’t a hindrance to evangelism or missions but fuel to fan these efforts into flame. That God has chosen a global flock, promised that they will hear His voice in the gospel, and then promised they will come into the fold gives us a hefty encouragement to be bold in spreading. It’s as if He we’re inviting us to go fishing and promises us a catch! Of course we don’t have special spectacles that tell us who these chosen sheep are, so we share the gospel with all people from all nations without exception trusting that God will call His sheep into the pen.[13]

In v17-18, Jesus ends His expanded explanation with a small clarification. There we read, “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from My Father.” Here we see Jesus in complete command. He does not accidentally die for His flock, no one will force Him into dying or prevail upon Him to kill Him. No, He willingly lays down His life and just as He has the authority to lay His life down, praise God, He has the authority to take it up again. How does He have this authority? It comes from the Father, who loves Him and sent Him to do these very things.

Moment 3: Response (v19-21)

So, we have seen the identity and activity of Jesus Christ our sovereign Shepherd. Now see the response to it. v19-21, “There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” Again, the pattern continues. Jesus’ words cause division. The pattern has remained true down to today, so where are you? Do His words here move you to think He’s a madman? Or in them do you hear the call to move into open pastures through the gospel? If you hear the call, answer it! Repent and believe in this Shepherd who is also the Lamb who bore our curse. If you do, you’ll find life abundant.

Conclusion:

Here are four concluding thoughts as we end:

Remember, Christ is our shepherd. If you’ve repented of sin and believed in Him, Christ is your Shepherd. You belong to Him, He’s called you by name, He’s sought you out, He’s died for you, brought you into the pen, and He now leads you. Chad, Dave, or I aren’t your shepherds. You don’t belong to us. Undershepherds we may be, but that’s all we’ll ever be. The shepherds of Israel failed, the Pharisees failed, we will fail you, therefore keep your eyes fixed on the Good Shepherd, He will never fail you or us.[14] By laying down His life for us He forever secured us in His pen, rest in Him

Remember, we’re sheep. It seems from all accounts, that sheep aren’t the wisest members of the animal kingdom. They’re foolish, easily frightened, ever wandering, yet at other times stubbornly immovable. Some have even seen them walking directly into open fire.[15] Do not wonder that here and many other places in Scripture God likens us to be sheep. We too are often foolish, easily frightened, and wander off where we shouldn’t. But Christ, as our good shepherd, chases us down, and brings us back. I know some of you are in the midst of hard seasons of life. I want you to be encouraged here. We, like sheep, don’t often understand why things play out the way they do, or what the Shepherd is doing using both His rod and staff in leading us…but we do know our Shepherd. Trust Him, rest in His care, and take heart…“God is not calling you to make great promises to Him, He’s calling you to trust the great promises He has made to you.”[16]

Remember, wolves are real. In this life of following Christ, not everyone will be like Christ and not every gospel preached is Christ’s. Wolves will try to sneak in, climb over the wall, and use and abuse you for selfish purposes. Many have used this very passage to try and do just that, teaching v10 in such a way as to make us believe God wants us to be rich and materially prosperous, and that all trials that come our way are the result of our lack of faith. Take caution, be aware, and keep your eyes fixed on Christ. Even if everyone around you goes off in a different direction, you keep on Christ’s heels. How? This leads to my last thought…

Remember, His voice is His Word. True sheep know the voice of the shepherd. Our Shepherd not only laid down His life for us in the crucifixion, He not only took that life back up in the resurrection, our Shepherd ascended and sent His Spirit out to give us His voice. Do you know His voice? Or is His voice a stranger to you? Do you follow His voice? Or do you follow your own way? Do you sit underneath His voice and study His voice enough to be able to recognize the voice of a stranger?

 

 

Citations:

[1] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 498.

[2] R.C. Sproul, John – St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 187.

[3] See Morris page 499, and Sproul page 187.

[4] In his commentary on John Scottish theologian F.F. Bruce mentions the Scottish shepherds he remembers from his youth. They would call their sheep by individual names, and claim that the sheep knew those names and actually responded to them. Bruce, The Gospel of John, page 224.

[5] Sam Storms, Kingdom Come, page 33.

[6] Morris, page 507.

[7] Bruce, page 226.

[8] Morris, page 510

[9] See Genesis 4:2, Exodus 3:1-2, Isaiah 40:11, Jeremiah 23:1-4, Numbers 27:16-17 also.

[10] Bruce, page 227.

[11] Morris, page 498.

[12] Morris, page 512.

[13] For more on this see J.I. Packer’s Evangelism and The Sovereignty of God, or John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad.

[14] Sproul, page 190-192.

[15] Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 267.

[16] Kevin Dibbley, quoted in a Tim Challies meme this past week.

John 9:1-41 – The Birth of Belief

Today our text is John 9:1-41. Yes you heard me correctly, we are covering 41 verses this morning. I know it’s a bit larger of a chunk than we’re used to but we’re covering all of John 9 today because this chapter is one complete story. It’s a story of a man born physically and spiritually blind but reborn into the Kingdom of God with full sight. It’s a story that gloriously gives us a glimpse into the birth of belief, while also being a story that reveals the rising unbelief in the Pharisees. So on one hand I think we’ll be greatly comforted to see this blind man’s progression into the Kingdom, and on the other hand be greatly confronted to see the Pharisees regression from the same.

Here’s what I want to do. John 9 has two clear divisions to it. First, we see the blind man healed. Second, we see have three encounters with others: his own neighbors, the Pharisees, and Jesus. Seven verses are given to the healing, and 34 verses are given to the consequences of it.

Let’s see these things firsthand…

The Healing (v1-7)

Jesus had left the temple at the end of chapter 8 and as chapter 9 begins we see v1 giving us the context saying, “As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.” This may mean the events of chapter 9 took place directly after the events of chapter 8, but remember John isn’t giving us a strict moment by moment account of Jesus’ ministry, he’s picking and choosing events that, according to John 20:30-31, will move us toward belief in the Son of God and life in His name. So most likely some time has passed by after the events of chapter 8, and in v1 of chapter 9 we see Jesus going somewhere and on His way notice someone in great need, a man blind from birth. This man must have been well known in the community because the disciples did not ask about when he had become blind, apparently they already knew that, instead they asked why he was blind.[i] v2, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Even though a couple thousand years had passed, it appears the disciples hadn’t moved past the theology of Job’s friends.[ii] That sin brings punishment and the only people who experience punishments and trouble in this life are those who have publicly or privately sinned. That bad things only happen to bad people. This is what they believed. They’ve got no category in their minds for those, who like Job, experience great suffering innocently and yet redemptively. There are truly times when God disciplines His people with afflictions and trial, but we cannot say that sin and suffering are always linked. God has not left that option open to us.

So they make a huge assumption and ask, who sinned to cause this suffering? Him, or his parents? See Jesus’ answer in v3-5, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” As Romans 9 reveals that Pharaoh existed to make the wrath of God look terrible and awful, so too, John 9 reveals that this man exists, in the blind condition he is in, in order that the works of God (particularly the power and authority of Christ) might be displayed in him. Jesus rejects the popular notion that suffering is always a result of sin and says that this man has been blind everyday of his entire life for a divine purpose. What purpose you may ask? To reveal the Messiah. Jesus says as much in these verses. That these miraculous signs, miracles, works, and wonders He must do and must be doing while He is among them to give a concrete validity that He truly is the long awaited Messiah. He will not always be with them physically and when He leaves (as in ascends to rule and reign over all things) these works will leave too. But He’s there with them now and so by saying these things He’s preparing them to see more of why He truly is the Light of the world.

So after preparing them by saying such things, the wonder happens, in v6-7 we read, “Having said these things, He spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then He anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.” The One sent from heaven to save God’s people, told this man to go to a pool named sent to be forever healed. He did, he was healed, and for the first time in his life he opened his eyes.

This blind man was used to having everybody walk right past him and barely even notice him. He was used to being treated without any dignity. But Jesus isn’t like everybody else is He? He walked by, He noticed him, He took the initiative, and He healed the man. By using the dirt Jesus is making a profound point about who He is and what He came to do.[iii] In the beginning God made men from the dirt in creation, here Jesus uses the same dirt to do a work of new creation.[iv] We’ve now seen the miracle, and truth be told there’s enough held within this scene already to move us to worship. But there’s more here as this man now encounters hostile crowds of people.

Encountering the People (v8-12)

Beginning in v8 we read, “The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

After being healed we find out this man’s reputation as a blind beggar was so infamous that everyone knew of him, knew of his blindness, and knew of his begging. Because of this, and because he is now longer blind, he causes quite a stir around town. All those people who knew him as the blind man are now having trouble accepting what their own eyes are telling them. So much so that even though v9 tells us he kept telling them that it really is him, they don’t believe him but conclude that this man is only like the blind man they once knew. Finally, after hearing him keep saying he really is the man who was once blind…they put him to a question in v10 asking him how he had been healed. This question is the beginning of a pattern we’ll see happen again and again throughout this chapter, and each time this man answers it he grows in his conviction about who Jesus is. Notice how he answers in v11, ‘The man called Jesus…healed me.’ For now, the healed man simply refers to Jesus as a man. Upon hearing this answer his own neighbors want to put this evidence to the test so they ask where this Jesus is, and the blind man doesn’t know. So being Jews themselves they take him to the leaders of the Jews. In v13 they take him to the Pharisees, and this is where things really get going.

Encountering the Pharisees (v13-34)

In v14 we learn this healing took place on a Sabbath. In v15 they ask him how he’d been healed and the man tells them the same thing he told his neighbors. In v16 we see the Pharisees are divided about this. Some said “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” Others said, “But how can a man who is not from God do such signs?” (notice the plural here? Apparently this isn’t their first discussion about the miracles Jesus had been doing, which tells us the division over Jesus wasn’t new). Then in v17 we see the Pharisees do something that is almost embarrassing.[v] They, being experts all things religious – zealous in their devotion to the Law of God – scrupulous in holy living, they ask this man who used to be a blind beggar what he thinks about Jesus. The impression you get when you read v17 is that these guys are so divided and desperate that they’ve really got no idea what to do, and being out of options they turn to this man for answers and direction. Notice how the healed man answers in v17? To him, Jesus is no longer just a man who healed him, but a prophet. It seems the more this man is questioned about what happened to him the more he begins to understand who Jesus really is. It’s a wonderful progression to see.

The Pharisees didn’t like his answer, so in v18 they decide to speak to his parents, and v19 they ask his parents, “Is this your son, who say was born blind? How then does he now see?” In v20-21 his parents answer saying, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” Put to it, his parents show themselves to be vastly different than their son. They do acknowledge that he is their son, and that he was indeed born blind, but they don’t know how he was healed or who healed him. Rather than coming to their son’s defense they defer the question back to him telling them he’s old enough to handle it. If you have any good feelings about these parents and the parental decisions they made in v20-21, those ought to be blown out the window in v22-23. There we’re told their intentions weren’t to protect their son, help their son, or assist their son, rather, they desired to protect themselves at their sons expense. Why? They know what happens to people who confess Jesus to be the Christ. They’re excommunicated from the community at large. So fearing the Pharisees, sensing the danger that lies ahead, and thinking of their own safety above their son’s they refuse to be linked to him at all.

Can we just go ahead and agree that this is awful parenting here? Placing your own safety and security above your child’s isn’t something that reveals a deep love for that child, but a deep love for oneself. They had given birth to him, raised him, encouraged him and reassured him for much of his life. Being blind meant that he was deeply different than all the people around him. He would’ve needed such encouragement to make it in life up to this point. Imagine him coming home, no longer blind, and seeing his parents for the first time in his life. You think they’d be thrilled and would rejoice with joy inexpressible. But not these parents. They heard about it, feared for their own safety, and deferred all questions back to him to keep themselves out of trouble.

So now for a second time, in v24 the Pharisees bring him in for questioning. Their opening words this time, “Give glory to God. We know this man is a sinner.” Or in other words, ‘Son, Jesus is a fraud, we know this, God knows this, be honest before God and before us, and tell us what you’re hiding.’ His response in v25 is breathtaking, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” This simple but sound statement, one commentator I read this week said, is the most brilliant gospel moment in John’s entire gospel.[vi] It’s an undeniable fact that this man cannot get over. In the midst of all the questioning and posturing the Pharisees are doing, this formerly blind beggar confidently proclaims a statement that would reverberate through the centuries. A statement many Christians have applied to their own case about how God had saved them by His powerful grace. Just as it was said of Jesus at His birth, that “…into the darkness a great light has shone…” so too when Jesus saved this man and saves any man they experience the same thing. Into our blind darkness a great light bursts forth and everything changes.

This causes the conversation to become much more spirited than it has been before. Listen to how it unfolds in v26-34, “They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from. The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.”

The contrast here is blinding is it not? As this man is growing every second by leaps and bounds in his own awareness of who Christ is, these Pharisees are becoming more and more intent on tearing him down and proving that it’s all a ruse. Yet, though they so disrespectfully mock him, he doesn’t back down. He boldly calls their unbelief amazing and clearly perceives their own spiritual blindness to one of the greatness miracles the world has ever seen. For being so bold and for seeking to teach these ‘teachers’ the truth, they do to him what his parents greatly feared – they cast him out of the synagogue.

Encountering Jesus (v35-41)

If you’ve not been encouraged thus far, this passage gets better. As this man walks away we see him have one more encounter. Not with his neighbors, not with his parents, and definitely not with any Pharisee. No, this time he encounters his healer – Jesus Christ. In v35-41 we read, “Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

This beggar was once far from the kingdom thinking Jesus was just a man. He grew closer to the kingdom when he said Jesus was a prophet. Now he enters the kingdom by bowing in worship and calling Him Lord. In this passage we’re brought face to face with what sight and blindness truly are. The result of Jesus’ coming is that blind men see, but Jesus’ words in v35-41 point us to a deeper reality, one that all men must reckon with. Not only is physical sight in view here, spiritual sight is as well. These Pharisees claimed to see but were blind, therefore their sin and guilt remained. This beggar knew he was blind but now sees, therefore his sin and guilt are taken away.[vii] Oh how happy are those who realize within themselves there is nothing but darkness…How happy are those who know they’re empty of all light and sight…and how happy are they to find that their emptiness becomes an occasion for Christ’s fullness.[viii] Do you know such joy? Have you embraced your blindness and felt the new creation work of Christ? Do you know His victory? Or are you a tragedy remaining blind to such glories? Do you reject that you’re blind and claim to see just fine on your own?

Conclusion:

Here’s a question to end with: does God still open the eyes of the blind today? The answer to that question is crystal clear. Every time the gospel is preached, God opens blind eyes! “Because of sin, no man in his natural state has fellowship with God. God is light and in Him there is no darkness.”[ix]

But, into our darkness God sent forth His Son, the very light of the world, and He said and gave proof that His light is ripe with life abundant. The light of Christ was put out for a time as He bore our sin and guilt and curse on the cross, but when He rose the light bursts forth from the grave so brightly that His light broke the power of darkness forever and now becomes the very life of all who repent from sin and believe in Him. All those who do repent and believe are then entrusted to shine the light of that gospel into this dark world…We do not have the power to open blind eyes, but we can tell them about the Savior who opened ours.”[x]

 

Citations:

[i] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 477.

[ii] F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, page 208.

[iii] R.C. Sproul, John – St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 174-175.

[iv] Morris, page 481.

[v] Morris, page 485.

[vi] C.H. Dodd, quoted in Richard Phillips, John 1-10 – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 605.

[vii] Morris, page 496-497. See also Kent Hughes, John – That You May Believe, Preaching the Word Commentary, page 262.

[viii] Hughes, page 265.

[ix] John Owen, quoted Phillips, page 586.

[x] Phillips, page 593.