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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.




[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.


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?



[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.




[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.


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!




[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.




[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.


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.




[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.


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!!



[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.


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?




[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?


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]



[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.

John 7:53-8:11 – The Shocking Kindness of Christ

In our Bibles today, you’ll find our text today, John 7:53-8:11, either in a footnote outside the text or surrounded by brackets within the text with a little note that says, “The earliest and most reliable manuscripts omit this passage.” At first a comment like this can be quite jarring. You mean something in the Bible may really not be in the Bible! Do not fret, all this means is that the earliest and best copies of Scripture do not include this passage, and because of this it is likely not something John the apostle himself wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.[1] Yet, rather than leave it out altogether we still find it in our Bibles, why? Well, though the earliest copies leave it out some of the later copies keep it in, placing it in a variety of locations. Some put it in various locations within John 7, others put it at the very end of John’s gospel, others even put it at the end of Luke 21.

The bottom line is this – “the overwhelming consensus of textual scholars is that this was not an original part of John’s gospel, but at the same time there is an overwhelming consensus that this account is authentic and should be in every edition of the New Testament.”[2] Because it’s location within the canon of Scripture is difficult to place it means it most likely did not occur during the annual Feast of Tabernacles found in John 7-8. So now that we’ve worked through the Feast of Tabernacles section, we’re returning to this scene today, to see what we can learn from it. If you’d like to dive further into the debate surrounding this text, whether it should be in or out, please see me after service, I can tell you more and point you to some helpful resources.

Now, as we approach this text here’s what I’d like to do. I want to simply walk us through it, pausing here and there to point out some gospel wonders for us to see.

The scene unfolds for us in the first five verses. We see in v1-2 that on a particular morning Jesus had come from the Mount of Olives to the temple. As He approached the temple, people continuously kept coming to Him, so He did what He so often did and began teaching them. Nothing is quite unique about these circumstances, we’ve seen them before in His ministry and we’ll see this scene happen again. What is unique is what we learn in v3. As Jesus began teaching, what was probably a very sizeable crowd, we’re introduced to the scribes and the Pharisees. These two terms do not describe the same people. In their day the ability to write wasn’t as common as it is today, so to be a scribe was to be a skilled writer, it was a particular profession, and for Jewish scribes the chief concern of their writing was the Law of God. The Pharisees on the other hand were a specific conservative religious party, devoted to being separated from the rest in their zealous pursuit of obedience to the Law of God. Many of the Pharisees were scribes themselves but not all the Pharisees were scribes, just as not all scribes were Pharisees. But, as you can imagine the Jewish scribes and the Pharisees had much in common, and here in v3 they show up together.[3]

In the rest of v3-5 we see what they showed up to do. They cause an abrupt interruption by bringing a woman they had caught in adultery into the midst of this crowd saying, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” Pause right here. Have you ever been in a situation where you were trying to be sold a bill of goods, whatever it may be, and you knew something was off? Last year we were shopping for a new mattress. We knew what we wanted and what kind of price we wanted to pay, so I began going to different stores to check prices. I will never forget what happened in one particular store I entered. I walked in to check prices, the salesman welcomed me, asked me what I was looking for, disregarding all I had told him, and took me straight to the most expensive mattress he had, the Beauty Rest Black mattress. Anyone heard of this? It’s a $5700 mattress! Well, we walked up to it, he got this confident look in his eye, and no joke said the following words, “Tom Brady sleeps on one of these.” As if he fully expected me to say, “Say no more! Tom Brady? I want 3 of them!” C’mon man. All this to say, this salesman seemed highly suspicious to me, and no doubt, when we get to v4-5 and see what the scribes and Pharisees have done in bringing this woman into their midst, we feel a similar suspicion about their intentions.

How so? It takes two to tango, so, where was the guy? You don’t commit adultery alone. Did they not take him? If so, why not? If they did take him, did he escape? Was this anonymous man someone these Jews knew? If he was, did they not take him to protect his reputation? Or worse, did they just single out the woman as the guilty party, ignoring the man? We don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but that he’s not present with her leaves us feeling suspicious.[4] v6a clears this up for us, “This they said to test Him, that they might have some charge to bring against Him.” There we have it. They weren’t concerned with her behavior, they weren’t really concerned her at all. They weren’t concerned about upholding the Law, or concerned about Jesus cleaning up the scandalous behavior in town. No, they weren’t concerned with any of this. v6a leads us to believe that they knew of a certain woman with a promiscuous reputation, and set up a trap for her in order to trap Jesus.[5] Our suspicions are now confirmed, these scribes and Pharisees are seen to be the vile men they are, and we discover the great sin of this passage isn’t adultery, but the attempt of destroying a woman to bring down Christ.[6]

But what trap are they trying to catch Jesus in? In this time Israel was under Roman occupation. And though all the nations Rome conquered experienced much freedom in their day to day life, they could not administer capital punishment to anyone without going through the Roman system. Remember they had asked Jesus, “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” On one hand, if Jesus gives the green light to stone her, they would run off and tell the Roman officials that He is seeking to execute capital punishment out from under Roman rule, which would get Him in trouble with the Romans. On the other hand, if Jesus forbids her from being stoned, they would accuse Him of denying the Law of God, which would get Him into trouble with the Jewish people.[7] It’s another one of those ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ kind of question crafted cunningly intended to deceive. A.W. Pink describes this problem well saying, “The problem presented to Christ was…the profoundest moral problem which ever could or can confront God Himself…how could justice and mercy be harmonized…how can mercy be exercised when the sword of justice bars her way?[8]

So what does Jesus do? Look at v6b, “Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground.” Despite numerous attempts to clarify and confirm, no one knows what He wrote on the ground. Was it their sins? Was it their His judgment of them? Was it His answer regarding the woman? Was it the Law of God? No one knows, we’re not told, so we shouldn’t linger. What we do know is that Jesus recognized the dilemma and responded accordingly by not even looking up but bending down, content to simply write on the ground, He shows a calm and peace amid the storm of suspicious activity around Him. So much so that it prompts the accusers to ask Him again and again and again until He finally spoke.

And when He spoke He simultaneously affirmed the Law of God while accusing those who sought to corruptly accuse this woman. v7-8 tell us, “And as they continued to ask Him, He stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more He bent down and wrote on the ground.” They had meticulously and shamefully set up a sinful woman and cunningly crafted a question intended to deceive and trap Jesus, yet He disarms all their plotting them with a phrase. He acknowledged her guilt was deep, that she had broken the Law, that a stone could indeed be thrown because she deserved it. But by limiting who could throw a stone at her He prevented any harm coming her way.[9] With just a few words He relieved the accused woman and rebuked the accusers. R.C. Sproul is so right on here in his commentary on John when he says, “They were hypocritically bloodthirsty in their desire to shame and punish woman…while it is not wrong to punish criminals for their crimes. But it is wrong to convene a kangaroo court, drag a person before such a court, and add insult to her injury.”[10] See how they respond to this in v9, “But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him.” This is a reversal of epic proportion. The scribes and Pharisees had come, publicly using and embarrassing this woman hoping to publicly embarrass Jesus…yet now they leave publicly embarrassed themselves. They had come accusing this woman of sin and hoping to accuse Jesus of forsaking either Roman authority or God’s Law, yet now they leave accused of sin themselves.

This coming July I will, Lord willing, turn 35. Some of you will say I’m still a young man, and to a certain degree I am. But, having lived through my twenties I now have come to believe the error of youth is arrogance. Pride is the oldest sin in the book, it is the root of all sin in general, and it is the sin especially present in the youth of every culture. Pride cast Adam and his bride out of the garden. Pride built the tower of Babel. Pride caused the people of God to long to be like and greater than all the pagan nations around them. Pride makes us high-minded, impatient of counsel, and rude to others. The theologian J.C. Ryle once said it is a deep and independent prideful streak in young men and women that causes them to be like young horses who cannot bear to be tamed by the rope of another. It is this pride that functions like a large boulder in the soul. The longer it’s allowed to exist unchallenged and untamed the faster it roles and the faster it roles the quicker it brings destruction to all around that individual.[11]

This is shown to us here in the v9. Who drops the stones and abandons this shameful scene first? The older men. Who drops them last? The younger men. Why? Because the older you are the more tuned in you are to your own sin, and the younger you are the more blind you are to your own sin. You are never smarter, stronger, or more invincible than when you’re 23. Beyond 23 is nothing but an increasing awareness of your limitations, folly, and weakness.[12] And with an increased awareness of your own sin comes wisdom. So pause again with me here and allow this to sink in. There are a growing number younger people here at SonRise these days, and praise God there are also a growing number of older people at SonRise too. Do you remember what Scripture commands you older folks about these younger folks? You’re the ones who’s supposed to be discipling them, teaching them, pouring into them, and warning them of these things. Why? You’ve been there, done that, and gotten the t-shirt. They haven’t. Here me clearly: if you’re older it is sinful of you to not be discipling someone younger than you. If you’re a younger it is sinful of you to not be seeking discipleship from someone older than you.

These scribes and Pharisees are wicked through and through, but here in v9 I think they challenge us greatly and have much to teach us.

So, when the power of Jesus words hit these scribes and Pharisees they were no longer interested in their deceptive plans or the sins of this woman, they were concerned with their own sins. Confounded they were, yet unconverted they remained.[13] So they all left her where she was. Through the tears, shame, guilt, see v10-11, “Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’” Church, behold the shocking kindness of Christ to sinners. You’ve got to see this. You’ve got to be moved by this. You’ve got to be hit with our Savior’s scandalous grace to sinners. Why? Because we fear shame, we fear guilt, we fear being publicly outed and exposed for all to see. This fear is what that little voice inside of you constantly tells you. That if everyone knew who you really were, they wouldn’t be friends with you, they wouldn’t look at you, and wouldn’t even let you in the doors of this church. We say we believe in the grace of Christ to sinners but we live as if Christ acts differently with us. Our lives and anxieties tell a different story. Your small voice whispers, ‘Sure, He told this woman ‘Neither do I condemn you’ but in my case He says ‘I am still here to condemn you.’

I know this is you, I know you function like this, I know you feel that God is always disappointed by you. Be reminded of Romans 8:33-34, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the One who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” In other words, Christians, there is nothing anyone could tell God about you that He doesn’t already know and hasn’t already paid for and atoned for through Christ. Jesus is the only One in our story today who could’ve thrown a stone and condemned this woman, but He didn’t. Rather, by rebuking the Jewish leaders and sending them off He got rid of the Law’s demands and extended grace to her. This is the heart of the gospel. That Christ could rightly condemn us, but in bearing the curse for us He silenced the Law’s demand, and gave us mercy. Only in the cross do we see justice and mercy meet, and only there can man become new.

The shocking kindness of Christ is in these words “Neither do I condemn you.” But notice He doesn’t stop there. He also says, “…go, and from now on sin no more.” He does not condemn her, but He also does not condone her sin. She is forgiven that she might become holy. Do not forget that order. We do not become holy in order that we may be forgiven. No, a life of holiness is the fitting response to such gospel kindness. Yet, some of you too quickly claim such forgiveness and show you don’t get it because you keep living in your sinful habits. Scandalous gospel grace to sinners is never to be used as a license to sin. Rather, if we’ve truly been transformed by such grace we’ll endeavor to leave behind sinful habits, shameful lifestyles, and we’ll want to walk in step to the tune of a new song.


This story may not belong to John’s gospel, but the point of it is unmistakably true.[14] The holy God sent His holy Son, to bear the curse for sinful man, so that we would holy be. Come to Him for grace, and set your face to sin no more!




[1] John’s gospel was written around 80-90 AD, yet the earliest John 7:53-8:11 shows up is in one 5th century manuscript, then in one 8th century manuscript, and four 9th century manuscripts. See Herman Ridderbos, The Gospel of John, page 285-286.

[2] R.C. Sproul, John – St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 149. See also Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 882-883.

[3] See Morris page 884, and Sproul page 149-150.

[4] Sproul, page 150.

[5] Morris makes a good case for this interpretation, see page 885.

[6] Richard Phillips, Reformed Expository Commentary – John 1-10, page 500.

[7] F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, page 415. See also Sproul page 151.

[8] A.W. Pink, quoted in Phillips, page 502-503.

[9] Morris, page 889.

[10] Sproul, page 152, emphasis mine.

[11] J.C. Ryle, Thoughts For Young Men, page 19-21.

[12] Matt Chandler encouraged his young church members in this manner recently on 1.21.18, accessed via podcast.

[13] Johann Wild, Reformation Commentary on Scripture – John 1-12, page 297.

[14] John Piper, Neither Do I Condemn You, sermon given on 3.6.11, accessed via desiringgod.org.

John 8:37-59 – The God of Abraham

There have been many great statements made throughout history that we remember with much fondness. For example it was Martin Luther King Jr. told us “I have a dream…” JKF told us, “…ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” Yogi Berra told us, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Abraham Lincoln told us, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Martin Luther told us, “Here I stand…” And Forrest Gump who told us, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” All of these statements are great, there’s many more we could add to this list, but one statement from Jesus Christ stands above them all, “Before Abraham was, I am.” This statement from Jesus is more than a good quote, it’s a definitive declaration of deity, and it’s in our text today.

As we end John 8 this morning we must remember where we’ve been since last November. For Advent this past year we found ourselves in John 7-8, which is the section of text in John’s gospel where the Feast of Tabernacles is happening. During this weeklong celebration all Jews from all over Israel would stream into the city to remember how God had led them through the wilderness. It’s in this setting that Jesus comes proclaiming Himself to be the fulfillment of all that they’re commemorating. He said He was the Bread of Life greater than the Manna in heaven, the Living Water more Spirit-filled and life-giving than the water that flowed out from the rock, and the Light of the world brighter and blazing more ferociously than the pillar of fire that led them by night.

I mentioned back in the beginning of Advent that John 7-8 contain more accusations against Jesus than any other place in all four gospels, and that seeing these things would be good for us because the holiday season is the time of year when questions and objections abound concerning Jesus. Therefore, as we entered the holiday season, we heard many objections to Jesus and saw Him answer them all.[1] Today we finish this O’ so potent section of this gospel with John 8:37-59.

As children many of us, at one time or another, said “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” If there is anywhere in Scripture where this childhood rhyme is shown to be false, it’s our passage today. Back in v33 the leaders of the Jews had boasted, “We are Abraham’s offspring…!” Jesus challenges this cherished belief and these Jewish leaders did the opposite of the childhood rhyme. From hearing His words they picked up stones to try and break His bones.

Let’s dig in:

v37-38 set the stage. After pointing out their slavery to sin and the right He has as the true Son of God to grant freedom to such slaves Jesus says in v37, “I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill Me because My word finds no place in you.” Jesus calls them out for claiming to be Abraham’s true descendants while seeking to kill Him and refusing to hear His words. He’s implying that such hostility reveals that their heritage is not what they claim it to be. Then what Jesus implies in v37 He clearly states in v38, “I speak of what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” You hear it? Jesus says He and these Jewish religious leaders do not have the same ancestry. They may be Abraham’s descendants physically, but spiritually Abraham is not their Father.

What follows in v39-59 can be taken in two parts. First in v39-47 Jesus speaks of their ancestry, and second in v48-59 Jesus speaks of His.

A Wicked Ancestry (v39-47)

Responding to Jesus’ ancestral implication they make a quick reply in v39, “Abraham is our father.” To this Jesus says in v39b-41a, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.”

When I was young I was a skinny kid who lived on pasta and peanut butter. These eating habits drove my mother crazy. She would place something before me for dinner, I’d whine and wouldn’t even touch it, and then she would say it, “You’re not getting up from this table until you eat it.” Well, I was up for such a challenge, and after an hour or so of just sitting there by myself, mom would always give in and I would go on my way. Now that I have kids some these things are coming back to haunt me. It didn’t take long for me to realize that Jack favors me more than Holly. Slowly but surely he has not only grown to look just like me, he’s also slowly and surely developed many of my habits. I now know what its like the be the one saying, “You’re not getting up from this table until you eat!” It’s true that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

We know what Jesus is doing here, He’s speaking of family resemblance. All over Scripture it is Abraham who stands out as the exemplary model of faith in God and obedience to God, even when things are hard and don’t make sense, he trusts God and obeys His commands. Jesus’ words here are clear: He’s a man sent from God, speaking the truth of God, and they’re seeking to kill Him. This means the faith and obedience (or the ‘works’) so characteristic of Abraham are not characteristic of them. Conclusion? There is no family resemblance. Therefore though they may be Abraham’s physical descendants, they’re not in his spiritual lineage. Rather, they do the works of their true father. This father of theirs, for the time being remains unidentified, but the implication is clear enough for them to hear it: their father isn’t God! They are clearly angered by such a comment so they make a jab back at Jesus, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father – even God.” They make this jab, because they know there were some scandalous details surrounding Jesus’ birth, Mary after all was pregnant before she married Joseph. Because of these things, they try to turn the tables and discredit Jesus with accusations of His immoral beginnings; while pointing out that they have always been pure, for their Father is God Himself.

So Jesus, speaking in a similar manner as before in v39 regarding Abraham, now in v42-43 regarding God says, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of My own accord, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear My word.”

Just as there is no family resemblance between them and Abraham, there is no family resemblance between them and God. If there was, if they were His true children they would do two things: first they would love Jesus recognizing Him as being sent from God, and second, they would hear His word. So it’s ironic, that they claimed to be the true children of God and rejected Jesus, because it is precisely their rejection of Jesus that shows their not only not children of God by deeply ignorant of the ways of God.[2] In our text’s first climactic moment Jesus then tells them of their wicked ancestry. v44-47, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

We’ve seen Jesus in the past go on about the wickedness of the Pharisee’s and the rest of these Jewish leaders. He’s not held back with them before, He’s called out their sin, and He’s warned them of judgment to come. But here at the end of John 8 are you caught off guard? Does it surprise you to see Jesus get so severe? He doesn’t just rebuke them, He doesn’t just call them out, He doesn’t just warn them. No, He flat out links them with the most evil being in the history of the world, Satan. Do you feel the weight of that? This is not something you say if want to continue having a conversation. Statements like this end conversations. Jesus isn’t merely disagreeing with them, He’s condemning them. Why? Because their actions show the devil is their father, and their unbelief shows they have a striking family resemblance to him. Satan is at home in lies, falsehood is his habitat, and all those who reject Jesus show a wicked kinship with him.[3] This is what Jesus says at the end of v44, that what characterizes the devil (murder and lies) not only characterize them but are alive and well in them. They do the works of the devil because they long for the desires of the devil.[4] Which is then why in v45 Jesus says they’re unable to hear the truth from Jesus, and why in v46 Jesus says they can’t even stand before Jesus or accuse Him at all, and why in v47 we see that they do not hear the words of God…why? Because they are not of God.

This is their wicked ancestry. And everyone who similarly rejects Christ and His teaching shares the same family resemblance. Sure in view here are the many and vast group of people who turn away from the gospel in unbelief and remain outside the Church. But do not be duped. Many within the Church share this family resemblance as well. These people are sneaky, claiming to believe but using God for their own purposes. Or, claiming to believe but denying Christ by their own unwillingness to live the way He asks us. These religious leaders are evidence that there can be many within the Church who are more committed to their own views and traditions than the truth itself. v43 details a condition of the heart that is very eternally dangerous. These Jews could not bear to hear His Word when He spoke. If you shirk back in horror when His Word is taught, what does say about you? If you similarly cannot bear to hear it, do not deceive yourself about what family you’re in. Repent now, trust in Christ, and your religious hypocrisy will be removed and forgiven and you will be freed by Christ and free in Christ.

A Divine Ancestry (v48-59)

It is said that as you approach the base of Mt. Everest that you walk through multiple ecosystems, all very different from one another. Some are so thick with trees that you cannot see the great mountain you’re about to climb. But sure enough the moment comes, when you make it through and out into the clearing and are compelled to look up. There before you stands the tallest mountain on the planet in all its wonder and majesty. Still, beautiful, and grand yet treacherous, deadly, and fierce. As we walk through v39-47 we have, if you will, been in the thick of the trees down at ground level, dealing with the depraved nature of men. As we move into v48-59 we come into the clearing and see what we have longed to see. Jesus plainly proclaiming that He is not only the Descendant of Abraham, but the God of Abraham as well.

Understandably so, these Jews are upset at what Jesus had said to them. But since they clearly couldn’t make any claim against Him, recall v46 had gone unanswered, they resort to language more likely to be found coming from playground bullies than found on the tongues of the religious elite. It’s almost as if they don’t know when to stop, and the more they talk the more they reveal how wicked they really are and how divine Jesus really is. v48, “The Jews answered Him, ‘Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?’” Jesus, ignoring the personal insult of being called a Samaritan, turns only to answer the accusation that threatened His gospel message. v49-51, “I do not have a demon, but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. Yet I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks it, and He is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death.” Jesus is by no means in league with any devils, all He does honors His Father, and they, in rejecting Him and His words dishonor the Father. For their dishonoring of His Father Jesus warns them speaking in v50 of the One who honors Him, saying He is the Judge. The implication is that if they dishonor Him they will one day have to reckon with this Judge who is none other than God Almighty. More so in v51, Jesus says death will come to those who spurn His word, but life (and life eternal at that!) will come to those who keep it.

In Jesus’ response they heard a claim to greatness that they thought ridiculous, so they said in v52-53, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Deceived and blind as they were, they understood the implications in Jesus’ words, and so they try to call Him on it. His response back though, will be extremely disappointing to them because Jesus doesn’t back down. If anything He expands on what He said earlier in v49-51 saying in v54-56, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing. It is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known Him. I know Him. If I were to say that I do not know Him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know Him and I keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see My day. He saw it and was glad.” In other words, ‘My Father, who you falsely call God, He is the One who glorifies Me. I know Him and I do not lie. You say you know Him yet you lie. You speak of Abraham? Abraham knew this, Abraham saw My day and what did he do? He rejoiced! You see Me and what do you do? You respond with a murderous rage.’ That Jesus pointed again to Abraham to prove His point saying Abraham rejoiced to see His day means Abraham looked forward to seeing the promises made to Him fulfilled.

Hebrews 11 explains this further saying, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God…yet he died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth…Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”

Clearly the glory of Christ that Abraham saw and welcomed with a glad hearted joy was lost on these men who claimed to be Abraham’s descendants. They respond again, with unbelief. v57, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Now the moment has come, the clearest declaration of deity in John’s gospel shining out brilliantly for us to see. v58, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Using the divine name of God revealed to Moses on the mountain in reference to Himself was a clear claim to deity. It cannot be taken any other way. He did not say ‘I was’ to teach simply old age and long years, he said ‘I am’ to teach an eternity of being.[5] So to answer their question from v53, yes, He is greater than Abraham. He is the God of Abraham!

Their response proves the gravity of His confession, v59 “So they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” Stoning was the penalty for blasphemy according the Law, so they grabbed stones to kill Him but again we see that it was not His time.


You’ve now heard one of the greatest statements in history in it’s own context and seen the response of those who heard it. But, what is your response to it? Is yours similar to v43? Having heard the Word of Christ do you find yourself unable to bear it? If so, I am saddened that you are blind to such beauty and dead to such delight. St. Augustine warns, “As man, He fled from the stones, but woe to those from whose stony hearts God has fled.”[6] May God open your eyes to the glory of the gospel.

Or is your response similar to v56? Like Abraham have you found yourself rejoicing at seeing the glory of Christ? Have you not only seen it but welcomed it gladly? True belief doesn’t just know the right things, it rejoices in the truth. Is that you’re response? If so, I am overjoyed that God has given you eyes to see, ears to hear, the gravity and gladness of Jesus Christ. May such gladness in God continue to grow in us.




[1] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 392.

[2] Morris, page 461.

[3] Morris, page 464.

[4] R.C. Sproul, John – St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 166.

[5] Morris, page 474.

[6] Richard Phillips, John 1-10 – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 575.

2 John 7-13 – The Elect Lady, part 3

In his book Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth Alister McGrath opens with the following words: “Never has there been such interest in the idea of heresy. Ancient heresies, seen by earlier generations as obscure and dangerous ideas, have now been sprinkled with stardust. The lure of the religious forbidden never seems to have been so strong…For many religiously alienated individuals, heresies are now to be seen as bold and brave statements of spiritual freedom, to be valued rather than avoided…The rehabilitation of heretical ideas is now seen as a necessary correction of past injustices, allowing the rebirth of suppressed versions of Christianity more attuned to contemporary culture than traditional orthodoxy. Heresy has become fashionable.”[1]

So far throughout 2 John we have received instruction from John about how to do life in the elect lady of God, the Church. This life we’re called to live is a life of discerning love, a love informed and fueled by something John cares very much about: the truth. Because this love is a discerning love inseparably connected to God’s truth it automatically makes it a love seeking to move one another toward a deeper and truer obedience to God’s commands. Being united into one body in Christ by the Spirit, this is how we’re to give love to another. So to depart from the truth results in a failure to love, this is what we learn in v1-6.[2]

But, as John continues into v7 he tells us there are a particular people who should not receive this kind of love from us. Who are these people? Heretics. Why should they not receive such love from us? Heresy. I know, I know, to speak of such things today feels extremely unsettling and deeply troubling. To disagree with another or to call someone’s lifestyle, actions, or opinions wrong is now seen as the height of arrogance. More so to use the word heresy and apply that label to someone’s teaching or beliefs is often met with the angry response “Heresy? Says who?” Our age is now summarized by three sentences: what we once celebrated we now condemn, what we once condemned we now celebrate, and more so, all who refuse to celebrate are condemned as well. There is no place for Truth today.[3] Or as Isaiah 59:14 says, “Truth has fallen in the street.”

For John’s community in view here, for this elect lady, this hits very close to home. John has come and preached the gospel, he’s preached the truth to them, they believed and we’re saved from death to life, a church was born, he instructed them for a time, and then he left to go back home to Ephesus. When he left a group of other folks came in. They had another message that taught a different gospel about a different Jesus. In other words, they were teaching heresy and by so doing outed themselves as heretics. So having spiritual authority and a deep care and concern for this church, when John heard about this he addressed it head on. Our passage today, v7-13 is where he does this. And in v7 he gives his main point:

The Nature of Heresy (v7)

v7, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

In v7 John transitions from what gave him great joy to what now gives him deep grief. Earlier he rejoiced that some of them were walking in the truth, he now tells us what the rest were doing. Rather than walking in the truth, the others we’re being deceived themselves and busy deceiving others. “Many deceivers have gone out into the world…” They defected from this elect lady under John’s care and have gone out into the community at large, no doubt to win more people to their false teaching. What is their false teaching? Notice John describes their teaching not in terms of what they say, but what they fail to say.[4] Sure this group was speaking a lot of Jesus, using familiar language that would’ve been common to many Christians in that day (much like many false teachers today). But even though they were talking a lot about Jesus they failed to say what the rest of the Christian community was saying then and still says today. They “…do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.”

This absent confession concerns the incarnation of God, it concerns who Jesus really was when He came at His birth, and this view was growing in popularity in John’s day. Most who held this view called themselves Gnostics, others were more specific calling themselves Docetists, but what they believed was very similar. They believed in a dualism that said the spiritual was good and the physical matter evil. So when God became man in Christ at the incarnation they said ‘God can’t really become true man, flesh is evil, He must have just appeared to be a man.” Others were going around teaching that the divine nature of Jesus came on Jesus at His baptism and left Him before the crucifixion.[5] Either way they believed Jesus was truly God but could never and would never become truly man. This is a massive problem. Do not think John is engaging in some kind of theological nit-picking, or creating an unneeded division over a small point of doctrine that doesn’t matter. If this doctrinal departure didn’t matter we wouldn’t have the letter of 1, 2, or 3 John. Ask yourself: if Jesus didn’t become truly man in the incarnation, could He have truly born our penalty and our curse, in our place, as our substitute? Could He have truly taken on Himself our filthy rags? Could He truly have lived a righteous life as a man and then be able to give sinful men His pure righteous robe? No! The answer is no! If He wasn’t true man, all mankind has no hope, and we are in still in the first Adam because Jesus never truly became the Last Adam.

In our day John would likely be labeled a Pharisee because today the only heresy is saying that there’s heresy. But boldly and bravely John drops some much needed clarity on the nature gravity of this heresy.[6] He calls this teaching and these teachers what they are. Not only are they false teachers, John refers to them using a specific title reserved for the radical and quintessential opponent of Christ, the antichrist.[7] He isn’t using the title here to describe them as the one antichrist of history, but the collective spirit of unbelief he mentioned back in his first letter. In 1 John 2 he says, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that is it the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us…who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son” (2:18-19, 22). They really did believe in Jesus, they spoke very similar language to the rest of the Christian community, but the Jesus they believed and spoke of was not in line with who Jesus truly is. John’s conclusion? False teachers aren’t brothers or sisters in Christ, they’re against Christ. They are antichrist’s. Is this your conclusion too? It ought to be.

After describing the nature of this heresy among them he goes straight to application. In v8 he gives them a warning, in v9 he gives them a test, and in v10-11 he tells them of the inhospitality of heresy.

The Warning of Heresy (v8)

v8, “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.”

What are they to do in light of the heresy among them and around them? First, notice they’re not commanded to burn heretics but rather commanded not to be burned by them.[8] They’re to watch themselves. Meaning they watch their doctrine, that it’s in accord with God’s truth rather than simply pleasing to their own personal preferences. They’re to watch their lives, that they’re obedient and pleasing to God, walking in step with the Spirit and bearing His fruit, ensuring their conduct matches their creed, and their behavior matches their belief. And specifically in the context of v1-6 here in 2 John, they’re to watch one another, walking in love toward one another without departing from the truth. Then comes the warning. John puts it negatively then positively. Negatively: if they give in to this heresy they will lose what they have worked for. Positively: if they remain firm and resist this heresy they will have their full reward. Taken together we see what this warning is. God has done a work in them personally, saving them and as God has changed many hearts in this town it began to be seen that God was doing a work among them in their community. A church has been born, and she as the elect lady herself is to be the pillar and buttress of the truth. They’ve made a certain amount of progress there, and if they give in to these heretics and do not stand firm they’ll lose all they’ve labored for. They’ll lose gospel momentum and they’ll lose the faithful gospel witness in their own congregation and in the community at large. Like a rock thrown into a pond eventually causes ripples throughout the whole pond, heresy, allowed to linger, will eventually cause ripples throughout the whole community of faith. If they give in now, their end will be disaster and loss. But, if they stand firm in the truth, as John calls them to, their end will be one of full reward. This is John’s warning.

The Test of Heresy (v9)

v9, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”

Progress is in view in v9, and progress is something we usually commend. Progress in the Christian life, progress in holiness and purity and fighting sin, progress in maturity in our knowledge of God, these kinds of progress are all good things. But the progress in v9 is not progress toward any kind of health but progress away from health. “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ…” shows that the heretics are progressives who aren’t progressing in the faith but progressing beyond the faith.[9] Apparently they heard the teaching of Christ, didn’t think it adequate for their own agenda, and added to it. In other words, they didn’t think Christ’s teaching as well as the teaching of Christ given through the Spirit inspired apostles was sufficient. So they went beyond to it, and by going beyond it John says they lost it.

v9, as v8, is put negatively and positively. Negatively, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God.” Positively, “Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” The contrast is clear. On one hand those who give themselves to theological innovation and doctrinal invention are not to be praised but rebuked and called back. On the other hand those who give themselves to the truth, as it is…as it came from the mouth of Christ…and as it came from the mouths of His Spirit inspired apostles, has both the Father and the Son. Or we could say it like this. When you denies the full humanity of Christ you lose God altogether.[10] The Father and the Son are so united that to have One is to have the Other. No one believes wrong things about the One without believing wrong things about the Other…and no one believes right things about the One without believing right things about the Other.[11]

It has often been said that yesterday’s liberals are today’s evangelicals.[12] History has shown this to be true, and if we’re honest, our own hearts have proven this as well. Because of this reality we have a need for examination. Have you gone beyond Christ and His teaching thinking that it isn’t enough for you or that it doesn’t suit your purposes? If so, you’re a heretic and by sharing what you believe about Christ you’re spreading poison among the elect lady of God. Or, have you not gone beyond Christ and His teaching, do you trust what He says and find it life giving ever since you’ve repented of your sin and turned to Him, even though at times you find it hard or difficult to understand? If so, you’re not a heretic. This is John’s test. And he gives them this litmus test to know if someone among them or around them is a false teacher or a faithful teacher of God’s Word.

The Inhospitality of Heresy (v10-13)

Now we come to John’s last application concerning what to do about heresy. v10-11, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.”

If anyone comes teaching, and doesn’t bring this teaching, the teaching of Christ, do not welcome them into your home, do not even greet him. Why? “…for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” At first glance you may think this runs against the call to a generous and loving hospitality we find so often throughout Scripture. But remember, John’s term the elect lady and her children symbolizes a church and her members, so the house in view in v10-11 isn’t a private home but a symbol for the church itself. Therefore, John isn’t forbidding private hospitality but an official welcome into the congregation, where the false teacher would find multiple opportunities to promote their cause.[13] To bring them in with welcome and greeting would make us guilty by association in the eyes of the church and of God. Such extreme measures show the immense menace heresy can be when those who deny truth are not only tolerated but invited into the fellowship of God’s people. This is the point where John perhaps felt that so much care was needed that he concluded the letter in v12-13 saying, “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. The children of your elect sister greet you.”

John yearns for their mutual joy in Jesus above all things, and because that is at stake because of the false teachers, he will come to them soon and instruct them further.


When we were in Vietnam this last year we got the chance to visit the ‘Hanoi Hilton’, the cruel prison where the Vietnamese kept Americans during the war. We walked through it, saw the cells, looked at and heard explanations of torture devices, watched a video of the real thing, and as we left and went back out into Hanoi it was a bit surreal that such an artifact of war was now a tourist spot. I think something of the same thing happens when we read 2 John these days. Heresy is no small matter. When it comes near the elect lady of God, life and death are at stake. Yet, we read 2 John as if it were something of an artifact of some earlier war that has little practical advice for us today.

Remember Church:

-As John encouraged them, we too need to understand that heresy is more than mere disagreement, that it is awful, and brings eternal consequences.

-As John encouraged them, we too need to know sound doctrine well enough to be able to recognize heresy when it springs up.

-As John encouraged them, we too need to be warned of the ripple effect heresy has in a church and stand firm in the truth.

-As John encouraged them, we too need to employ the test of heresy to make sure we’re remaining faithful to God’s truth.

-As John encouraged them, we too need to be cautioned of the inhospitality of heresy, and see that we are called to much more than mere ‘agreeing to disagree.’

Heresy is one the reasons why we make so much of the pulpit here and why it drives everything we do. It’s why we have such a long membership process. It’s also why elder training takes at least a year. We want to guard the truth and the ministry the Lord has given to us. We want to stay sound, we don’t want to lose what we have worked for, and we want to be found faithful in the end.

But I cannot finish without making one more comment. We care about heresy so much because we care about the truth…and because ultimately truth is not a thing, truth is a Person. Jesus Christ, Son of God who being truly God became truly man to enable men to become sons of God. He is the way, He is the truth, and He is the life. When we get Him wrong what do we lose? The gospel. But when we get Him right, and when we commit to being a people who know right doctrine, spending year after year after year in the Scriptures individually and under the Scriptures corporately, what do we grow in our love for? The gospel………that glorious life transforming message where God in His wisdom, made a way for His love and His Grace and His mercy, to save us from His wrath, without compromising His justice, by crushing His Son, so that through faith, sinners would become His children: free, forgiven, adopted, secure, and safe forevermore.

“Praise the Lord, the price is paid, the curse defeated by the Lamb…we who once were slaves by birth, sons and daughters now we stand!……Hallelujah, Christ is King, alive and reigning on the throne! Our tongues employed with hymns of praise, glory to be God alone!”




[1] Alister McGrath, Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth, page 1.

[2] Stephen Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John – Word Biblical Commentary, page 13.

[3] David Wells, No Place for Truth, published in 1993 it seems it is more applicable now than back then.

[4] Gary Derickson, First, Second, and Third John – Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, page 20.

[5] The false teacher Cerinthus believed this, see Smalley, page 15.

[6] From Shai Linne, False Teachers.

[7] Gary Burge, The Letters of John – The NIV Application Commentary, page 4.

[8] Douglas Sean O’Donnell, 1-3 John – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 181.

[9] Original quote from John Stott, quoted in Smalley (page 17), Derickson (page 24), and Burge (page 5).

[10] Burge, page 5.

[11] Derickson, page 26.

[12] John Tweeddale said this in a conference message called The Theological Life at Reformation Bible College in January 2018.

[13] Derickson, page 27. See also Smalley page 18, and Burge page 5.

2 John 4-6 – The Elect Lady, part 2

In the midst of pastoral work here at the church one of the things that often gets pushed to the bottom of my to-do list is yard work.

I know some of you enjoy such work and look forward to cultivating a wonderful looking lawn and landscape on the weekends. For some reason that joy is not present in my disposition, so when the time comes to cut the grass or pull weeds or do this or that in the yard, I must admit that I begin doing it looking forward to the time when I’ll stop doing it. I’m not sure what it is about yard work that I don’t like, it was my first job in 6th grade and I’ve been doing ever since, and I’ve never grown to enjoy it. I simply don’t like it. Well, as I was studying the text this week I remembered a particularly busy week last year. It was the middle of summer and our grass was getting taller and taller and I was having trouble finding time and energy to mow it. So I set my mind to do it, and planned to mow after work one day, but when I came home I found something amazing. Holly had already cut it! As I pulled up and saw this, I rejoiced greatly and gladly walked through the door to thank her. You may not think this is a big deal, you may think I’m foolish to not enjoy yard work…but to me, on a busy week to not have to do that…made my day!

We are currently in a series on the Church in the small letter of 2 John. We began this series called ‘The Elect Lady’ last week and will Lord willing finish next week. But I share this story because in our passage today John expresses a similar happiness and joy when he hears something specific about this church.

As we approach 2 John 4-6, I want to first cover John’s happy boast over this church and humble request of this church. Then as we see each of those I’d like to become a spokesman for the elders and make our own happy boast over you and make a similar request of you. Let’s get into these things now.

Our Happy Boast (v4)

In v4 John begins to unfold the purpose of his small letter and when he does so we find a happy apostle. John says he is not only rejoicing but that he is rejoicing greatly. For us to see such great joy in John is not a new thing for us. John is a very happy man and he shows it in everything he writes. His gospel is full of joy and pleasure and delight in the cosmic Christ who became flesh and tabernacled among us. In 1:4 of his first letter, 1 John, he states the reason why he wrote 1 John, “We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” He didn’t write that their joy may be complete, or even that his joy would be complete, he wrote aiming at a collective and communal delight, our joy. In 2 John he says the same thing, he doesn’t write a long letter to this church because in v12 he says he desires to come see this church face to face so that “…our joy may be complete.” This happiness is present in 3 John too, in v3-4 when he learns of the faithful obedience of his beloved friend and fellow elder Gaius. And how could John not be fantastically happy as he is receiving and writing the glorious apocalypse we know as the book of Revelation? To John, joy is no small thing or side dish in the Christian life. It is something he knows deeply and feels greatly. But his joy is never just warm feelings or a general disposition to be chipper that he was born with. No, his great and exceeding joy that he deeply knows and greatly feels is a joy that is rooted in the truth.

So look at 2 John 4 and ask the question, ‘Why is John, here in this context, making such a happy boast over this congregation?’ Answer: he is rejoicing over certain news that has come his way. News, that some people in this church not only know the truth, but are walking in the truth. News, that some in this church not only believe the right doctrine but obey it as their duty and delight. News, that some in this church not only know the right creed, but work hard at making the content of that creed their true conduct.[1] Now, it is interesting to note that John says only ‘some’ of this church is walking in the truth. It is probably the case that he is glad to find some walking in truth because he knows others were not.[2]

This church in view is as all churches are, a mixed bag with sheep and goats – wheat and tares, making up the membership. He’ll spend time addressing those who are not walking in the truth in v7-11 as well as those false teachers who are leading them astray, but for now to introduce the main purpose of his letter his focus is those who are walking in the truth. And for John, being one of the elders of this congregation who holds a pastoral oversight over them, to hear this news brings his heart deep happiness. Why does it bring him a deep happiness? The rest of v4 tells us, “I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.” So ultimately John’s happy boast is that some of those within this church know God’s commands, are obeying those commands, and by obeying them they are pleasing God. This pleases John, makes Him very happy, and is itself the reason and foundation of his happy boast in v4.

See here a neglected teaching in our time, pleasing God by our obedience.[3] This is likely a neglected teaching today because by saying we can please God by our obedience seems to give us the uneasy feeling that we’re turning our backs on justification by faith alone. There is true beauty and glory to be seen in the doctrine of justification by faith alone. For God has, by His own redemptive work in Christ, saved us from death and out of our old way of life. But by not speaking of how our obedience brings God pleasure we rob ourselves of seeing the kind of lives God is now calling us into. For example…

Ephesians 5:10, “Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”

Colossians 1:10, “Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

1 Thessalonians 4:1, “We ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as your are doing, that you do so more and more.”

Hebrews 13:16, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

1 John 3:22, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him.”

And finally we must be reminded this is all really just an imitation of Christ, who as John 8:29 tells us, always does what pleases God.

So from seeing this obedience John is happy and he tells them as much. Now I must pause and take a moment and make another happy boast as well. Much of what John is happy about here in v4 is also why we as your elders at SonRise are happy men too. We see you doing much hard work to not only know Christ rightly, we see you also seeking to live for Christ faithfully. For much of you, your doctrine has become your duty and delight…your creed fills out the content of your conduct…your beliefs have become the foundation of your behavior. So as John will say later in 3 John 4 we as your elders can truthfully say of you, “We have no greater joy than to hear that our children are walking in the truth.”

This is our happy boast.

Our Humble Request (v5-6)

But continue on with me into the rest of our passage. We see John not only making a happy boast, we see John making a humble request as well. v5-6, “And now I ask you, dear lady – not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning – that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.”

John, being an apostle and being the beloved disciple, could’ve employed his apostolic authority by commanding them but the language he employs here is softer, like the language a husband would use toward his wife, or a father would use toward his children. It is the language of a humble request. So he asks them, nothing new but reminds them of what Christ has taught them from the beginning. What is the request? “…that we love one another.” We could jump to all kinds of conclusions here of what this ‘love’ means, what this ‘love’ entails, and what this kind of ‘love’ looks like. But before we do we must remember what John has said before in v1-3 and what he says after in v6. Or in other words, we must remember the context.

John has already told us before in v1-3 that love cannot be defined in any kind of biblical way apart from the reality of truth. He told us there exists a unity, a bond, a deep and inseparable connection between love and truth, so much so that we cannot define one of them apart from the other. John says he loves this congregation and her members in truth, he says all else who know the truth loves this congregation in truth, and he calls them to a life of discerning love toward one another anchored in the certainty of God’s truth that’s fixed forever. That’s what he said before, now let’s look at what John says after the command to love one another in v5.

In 1993 the German-Trinidad musician Haddaway asked us “What is Love?” Thankfully when we come to v5 and read this request to ‘love one another’ we don’t have to define what love is because John defines it for us in v6. “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments…” In one sense we must remember God’s love is expressed toward undeserving sinners like us in giving us commands for our benefit, but in another sense, the sense John leans into here, our love for God is expressed in our living according to His commands, and how we live according to His commands is seen in how we walk through life with one another.[4] So John’s argument is intentionally circular, “The test of love is obedience to God’s commands, and the test of obedience is whether one walks in love.”[5] Notice, John asks this church to do the very thing they’re already doing in v4. He asks that all of them would do what some of them are already doing, walking in discerning love with one another. This is not new, they’ve had it from the beginning. This is his humble request.

So, because our obedience to God’s commands is the very means by which we love another among the elect lady of God, among the church, do you see that transformation is always the inevitable result of belief in the gospel?[6] John often uses the imagery of walking in 2 John to describe how we live in this life. Do you see that how you walk, how you live this life, changes when we believe gospel? In Paul’s letter to Titus, he mentions our former state of unbelief is one characterized by hating God and hating others.[7] Then he says once the gospel breaks upon the heart by the power of the Spirit as water breaks upon a rock, our eyes are opened to see how God has reconciled us to Himself through the gospel…and then our eyes are opened to the reality that the gospel didn’t just change how I relate to God, it changes how I relate to everyone else around me. I once hated God and hated others, now because of the gospel (to use John’s language) I am called to walk differently. Now, I am called to love God by walking in obedience to God aiming at pleasing Him fully, and I am called to display that Godward love to others by extending the same gospel discerning love to them.

John’s happiness in their conduct with one another leads him to make this humble request of them. And once again, I must pause and take a moment and make another request as the spokesman for the elders. All of what John is requesting here in v5-6 of them is what we, as your elders at SonRise, would like to request of you today. Much of you are already doing it, and we praise God for that! Today we want to ask that all of you begin doing what most of you are already doing, that you love one another by obeying God’s command to love one another with a discerning love. As this elect lady is, so are we: sovereignly elected children of the Father, brothers and sisters of Christ, united in love by the Spirit of truth.[8] We ask that you walk like this, with one another, through this life. This isn’t a new request but one repeated many times throughout Scripture and even in our church covenant, love one another with more than feelings and sentimentality. Love one another toward not only the right creed but toward the right conduct. Love one another toward not only the right belief but toward the right behavior.

This is our humble request.


Do any of you know the story of Narcissus? As the legends of Greek mythology go Narcissus was a hunter, known for much more than his hunting. He was said to be beautiful and proud of it. He got the attention of the goddess Nemesis but he was so enamored with his own beauty he cared little for her. So Nemesis, led him to a pool where he saw his own reflection. He loved gazing at his own reflection so much that it captivated him and consumed him and one day after gazing at himself for hours he fell into this pool and drowned.

Of course from this legend we get the word narcissistic meaning: vain, self-absorbed, or egotistical. One way of viewing narcissism is to describe it as being so enamored with oneself that one begins to turn in on oneself and ceases to see others in any meaningful way. Perhaps this hits closer to home when we realize that recent studies tell us we now live in a world where we check our smartphones every 4.3 minutes to find out who liked/viewed/followed our latest social media post or picture of ourselves. In a world like this, do you see the kind of life God calls us to together in the Church? Not one where were turned in on ourselves and using one another for our own social media image management or any other vain purposes, but one where we’re turned out from ourselves toward each other in gospel discerning love.

You’ve heard us as your elders today make a happy boast over you and make a humble request of you. By God’s grace and the power of His Spirit, may you continue to be less turned in yourself and more turned toward one another in an obedient discerning love.




[1] Gary Derickson, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary – 1-3 John, accessed via Logos Bible software on 1/3/18.

[2] Stephen Smalley, Word Biblical Commentary – 1, 2, 3, John, accessed via Logos Bible software on 1/3/18.

[3] For a wonderful overview of this theme see Wayne Grudem’s chapter called Pleasing God by Our Obedience: A Neglected New Testament Teaching in For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper, page 272-292.

[4] Derickson, accessed via Logos Bible software on 1/3/18.

[5] Barker, quoted in Derickson, accessed via Logos Bible software on 1/3/18.

[6] Gospel Transformation Study Bible, notes on 2 John 4-6, page 1715.

[7] See Titus 3:1-8.

[8] Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Reformed Expository Commentary – 1-3 John, page 175.

2 John 1-3 – The Elect Lady, part 1

Here at SonRise it has been our custom to set apart some time each January to examine the nature of the Church. We make time for this each year because we’re not only a church but we are the Church, and we want to do life together as the Church in ways that are biblical and healthy rather than ways that are pragmatic or worldly. We’ve gone about this in several different ways in the past, looking at everything from the 9Marks of a healthy church, to the meaty section in Ephesians 2 about what a covenantal blood bought church looks like, to the historical marks of a true church given to us in the Nicene Creed. This year we’re going to be zeroing in on the Church by looking at the little letter of 2 John. 2 John is one of those books in the Bible that is often overlooked due to its small size. But as small and unimpressive as it may seem but do not be duped…it has loads to say to us.

It is a normal first century letter, with a standard opening (v1-3), a main body of content (v4-11), and a conclusion (v12-13). 13 verses makes up the whole of it, and while being short it has content that gives enduring direction toward obedient and holy living within the Church. Although the author isn’t mentioned we believe it is none other than the apostle John because it carries the same writing style, uses many of the same words, and repeats many of the same themes. This is why in the ordering of our New Testament, we find 2 John addressed to the ‘Elect Lady and her children’ and 3 John addressed to ‘Gaius’ directly after 1 John (a much larger letter from John to those under his pastoral care). Taking these three letters together along with his gospel and his apocalypse we have a five-volume collection of the beloved disciple’s mind and heart for God and for His Church.

Just last night in our family worship we covered the fruit of the Spirit. To help them understand this fruit I asked certain questions that I knew the boys would know the answers to. I asked, “What fruit grows on apples trees?” The boys said, “Apples!” “Ok, what fruit grows on orange trees?” “Oranges!” “What grows on cherry trees?” “Cherries!” They got those quickly, but then I turned the tables and asked something different, “Just as God causes apples grow on apple trees, what does God cause to grow in His people?” They didn’t know. The answer of course is the fruit of the Spirit. They understood it, went off to bed, and……as I took up this text again to go over it I thought to myself, “This is so similar. If the Church is viewed as a tree, what does God cause to grow within in it? Or more precise, what does God cause to grow within us?”

For us today as we look to the introduction we cannot help noticing something. In 2 John 1-3 two words are repeated: truth is repeated four times and love is repeated twice. It’s these repetitions…truth and love, love and truth…that give us the theme not only for this introduction, but for this letter as a whole. And more so according to John, it’s in these two repeated words of truth and love that we find the some of the most important fruit that God grows in us, His Church.

Here’s where I want to take us today. First, I want us to see the identity of the Elder and the Elect Lady in v1a. Second, I want us to see the activity present in v1b. And third, I want us to see the certainty that anchors all of this in v2-3. Identity, activity, anchored in certainty.

Identity (v1a)

“The elder to the elect lady and her children…” is the way this letter begins. As you cam imagine there has been much ink spent on defining whom these terms refer to. The elder, being that this letter is called 2 John, is most likely John the apostle. But if it’s John, why not use his name? Or why not refer to himself authoritatively by using the title of apostle? I think he uses the term presbuteros (elder) to indicate, that he is not only an old man, that he was not only a leader in a church somewhere nearby, no. He uses this term to indicate that he is a leader that has pastoral oversight over the recipients of this letter. Most people believe at the time of 2 John John was ministering in Ephesus to many congregations. So he was nearby, they know each other deeply. He is likely one of their shepherds, one of their pastors, one who carries spiritual authority in their midst. We know something of this. That he left his name out probably means the recipients of this letter were so familiar to him they simply called him ‘elder’ as many of you refer to me as ‘pastor’ rather than Adam.

What about the “…elect lady and her children…”? Who does this refer to? While some say this is nothing more than what it is, that John is writing to a specific woman with specific children that he knows very well, I’m not convinced of this for a few reasons. First, for a man and a leader within the church to address a woman in the first century that he is not married too using numerous references of ‘loving one another’ would have been inappropriate and very suspect. v5 is an example of this, when John says he and the elect lady ought to continue to love one another.

Second, there are many instances throughout Scripture where the people of God, in the Old and New covenants, are referred to using feminine titles. When God’s people rebelled against Him He said in numerous places that they were to Him a bride committing adultery. Think of the whole book of Hosea, of God liking His people to Gomer, a prostitute that He pursues. Think also of Ephesians 5. There the Church is the Bride of Christ who is cleansed by Christ, sanctified by Christ, and washed clean with the water of the Word by Christ, so that Christ would present her to Himself without spot or blemish. That God is referred to with masculine language and we are referred to with feminine language shows us something of the care and love we receive from God being His beloved, His Church, His people.

Third, that this lady is called the ‘elect lady’ gives more evidence that she is the predestined, chosen, and elected covenant people of God in view. John ends this letter in v13 by referencing another elect group saying, “The children of your elect sister greet you.” It seems highly likely that this refers to another local church under John’s care that this church has a gospel partnership with.

So we have before us a letter from the apostle John to a church and its members under his pastoral care. The identity of those within 2 John is, I think, now settled. Which prepares the way for us to see the activity between them.

Activity (v1b)

After learning who is in view, hear now the rest of v1, “The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth…”

A deep affection is present between John and this church. He loves them greatly, he tells them as much, and from being told of this love the church should be truly encouraged and ministered to. But do you see that his love for them isn’t the kind of love often thrown around today, as if he just feels a bunch of warm fuzzies for them? No his love for them is a true love, a love that reflects God’s love for His Church. It’s a love in line with the truth, and not just truth as man may define it, but truth as God defines it.

“…whom I love in truth…”

John’s burden for this church is a balance of truth and love. We don’t often practice this kind of balance. Most of us tend to be bent toward one side or another on this spectrum. We are either those who emphasize truth at the expense of love, or those who emphasize love at the expense of truth. The first feels cold or harsh while the last feels shallow or phony. John, in a very Christ-like way, loves this church differently. Being properly balanced, his love doesn’t sacrifice truth and his commitment to the truth doesn’t dull his love but deepens it. His love for them is a discerning love. This discerning love is the love Christians are called to engage in with one another in the Church. I think this is the kind of love Jesus had in mind in John 13 when He said all people will know we’re His disciples, by our love for one another. I think this discerning love we see here in 2 John is love in its most sincere and true form. It’s a love that doesn’t ignore the obvious about people. It’s a love that never leaves any sin or any elephant in the room unaddressed. It’s a love where people can be honest with one another about one another while treating one another with gospel grace. It’s a love that embraces someone as they are and where they are, while acting to move us where we need to be. Or we could say it like this: the truth of Scripture is what guides, governs, and gives John’s love for this church and our love for one another true meaning and expression.[1]

In order to have this kind of honest love toward one another, in order to love each other in truth, I think something must be known beforehand. We must know that we are gospel people, mastered by the grace of God in Christ. Think of it like this. When children do wrong and parents intend to discipline them for doing so, they ought to remind the children first that they are their children. That all they have is theirs, that nothing can ever change their status as their children, and that they forever have their parents whole heart. Then after that is said, parents correct and discipline them. We do this as parents because our children are hard wired to believe that any kind of correction means rejection, and nothing could be further than the truth.

I think this is something of what it means to love in truth. If I know you love me and you know I love you and we both know that we’re forever accepted by one another through a robust gospel grace streaming out from God to us in Christ, than we could say very hard and honest things to each other and be deeply loving one another in doing so. Perhaps this is why John refers to this church as the elect lady before he brings the main content of his letter in v4-11. Before giving correction he reminds her that she is a chosen bride, one showered with a sovereign electing love from before the foundation of the world, and nothing can ever change that. Anything John says to them after that, whether hard or easy, will be tempered with the reality that he has their good in mind.

And John isn’t the only one doing this. At the end of v1 he says that all who know the truth love them like this too. Thus, the pattern for life together in this community of churches under John’s pastoral care is community committed to a true discerning love, to loving one another in truth. But do you wonder how can John speak for such a large group of people he doesn’t know? John is even speaking of you here. How can he so confidently declare that we should love others and are loving others in the same way he does? The answer is clear. Because across cities – states – nations – even across the centuries – the truth of God’s Word doesn’t change, it is certain, and it is fixed forever.

We have now seen the identity of those in view and seen the discerning loving activity between them. Now John turns to anchor all of this in certainty.

Certainty (v2-3)

In v2-3 we read, “…because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever. Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us; from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.”

By closing his introduction to his letter in this way, John gives his main motivation for loving others, and no surprise, we find him speaking of truth once again. Why does he love them in truth? Why do all others who know the truth love them and others in truth? John’s answer: because of the truth. This repetition of truth reminds us that it is impossible to define love in a biblical manner apart from the reality of truth. Our world around us seeks to do this very thing. For love to be true, love must be tolerant. Love never asks another to change. Love never challenges one’s views. Love never refers to anything as wrong.[2] No, love to our world is free, open, and given to all without any discrimination. Churches and other organizations that embrace such a belief are said to be ‘on the side of love’ while churches like our own and other organizations committed to orthodox doctrine are said to be hateful, close-minded, and out of touch with the modern world.[3]

Can it be any more obvious that the Bible takes a different view? For love, true discerning love, to have any real substantial meaning it must be seen as it truly is – inseparably linked to God who is Himself not only the truth but the standard of all that is true. John says as much in v2, that the truth of God is certain and abides forever because God is forever.

So, the grand lesson in v2 then, is this: we’ve already seen the pattern for life together in the churches under John’s care is one of discerning love. Because God is forever and because His truth is unendingly certain it means the pattern for their life together within the Church back then is still the pattern for our life together within the Church today. Or in other words, the God who commanded them in His truth to a life of discerning love in their churches, is the same God who commands us in His truth to a life of discerning love in our churches.

To hammer this home, John doesn’t merely repeat himself in v3, he goes into a gospel-centered celebration of God’s love to us in Christ.[4] “Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us; from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.” Grace and mercy are both expressions of God’s love. Peace is the consequence of receiving grace and mercy. These things, he doesn’t say, might be with us or may be with us, but will be with us. All this comes to us from the Father and the Son, in what? Truth and love.

This gospel-centered celebration in v3 reminds us that the wonders and glories of discerning love found v1-2 find their apex in the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Sent by the Father, empowered by the Spirit, His is an example of what truth and love look like. He didn’t deny the wickedness around Him, He addressed it and held out the remedy. He didn’t deny our unworthiness either, He looked at our sin honestly, truthfully, with blazing clarity, and even after seeing it’s ugliness He willingly chose to take it all upon Himself, bearing our curse, in our place, as our substitute, so that at the feather touch of faith the guilty go free. This is love. Love that’s honest about sin, love that gives us the redemption and righteousness we really need, love that brings us to God.


Church, discerning love was their pattern, discerning love must be our pattern too. Healthy churches love one another and the lost like this. Healthy church members will give love and seek to receive love like this. Healthy church leaders love like this.

The question really is: now that you know what love looks like among the elect lady of God, do you want it? Do you want to be loved like this? Do you want to give love like this to others? Do you want to be led by elders, who like John, will love you with a discerning love? Who will call sin sin and point you to the biblical truth and gospel grace that your soul really needs? Or, when you come in here, do you simply want what the world wants? Do you want a church full of attenders and members and leaders that affirm you regardless of how you choose to live your life?

One may feel welcoming and warm and fuzzy but will bring you nothing good. The other will be challenging but life giving, hard but satisfying, difficult but aiming at your eternal good.




[1] Daniel Akin, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, accessed on 1/3/18, via Logos Bible software.

[2] Douglas Sean O’Donnell, 1-3 John – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 177.

[3] Ibid., page 178.

[4] Ibid., page 176.

John 8:31-36 – Free Indeed!

Whether you’re brand new to SonRise or have been around SonRise for a while, let me briefly state what we seek to accomplish in this sermon moment each week.

During the preaching portion of our Sunday morning gathering we employ and enjoy a style of preaching called expositional preaching. Which means we do not aim at saying anything new but seek to only say what God has already said. So, each sermon will have more than a point or theme, but a text, and the point of that text will be the point of the sermon. In this sense I as your pastor or whatever elder preaches the sermon we aim to be the nothing but waiters, whose task is taking the Chef’s meal and bringing it to the table without changing it in any way, shape, or form. We don’t to do this randomly but orderly, as we work through books of the Bible. So when we come to specific passages week after week we come to them in their own context, having already examined the verses that come before and anticipating the verses that come after. Or to put it another way, we seek to sit underneath the authority and illumination of the Scripture, rather than standing over it using the Scripture to support our own message. This is our goal, we don’t do it perfectly, but we do aim to be faithful handlers of God’s Word.[1]

Today, at Year’s End, we find ourselves in John’s gospel. We began John this past January and plan to be in it until May 2019. If you do not have a Bible you can understand we have one for you in the back that you’re welcome to keep if you’d like. If you’ve already picked up one of those Bibles you’ll find our passage today, John 8:31-36, on page 522. I’ll pray, and then we’ll get to it.

Let’s pray.

For Christmas my wife Holly got me a survival fire starter. I’ve always been into camping and surviving in the wild, so it was an awesome gift. But along with it came with a survival guide that goes over the most important things to know when in a dire situation where there’s no one to rescue you. As I read over this guide I was encouraged to know what to do if I ever find myself in a situation like that, but I was also alarmed, and reminded that I don’t ever really want to be in a situation like that………John 8:31-36 is similar. In it there are two certainties for us to behold. One of them is gloriously wonderful, the other horrifically awful. In the first one God means to deeply encourage you, in the second one God means to acutely alarm you. Both of them, though, help us see things are they really are, and will lead us to a greater resolve to know God better and trust Him deeper in the new year.

Let’s dig in now and see these things as they come to us in v31-36.

The Freedom of Abiding (v31-32)

After Jesus gave some very hard teaching directed at the hostile Jewish crowd in John 8:21-29, we see a wonderful result in v30. From this hard teaching many of these Jews had come to believe in Jesus. After they believed in Him, Jesus turns to address them, saying in v31-32, “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

To these new believers Jesus makes something clear. Following Him is much more than a momentary action, it’s something continuous, it’s a way of life.[2] It’s not about warm feelings or finding some of His teaching agreeable. It’s not a one time decision. It’s not walking an aisle, praying a prayer, and signing a card. No, following Jesus is all about abiding. And this way of life Jesus calls abiding is what distinguishes true disciples from false disciples. Yes, these Jews did just make a profession of faith, and that is a good thing. Professing Christ may mean that you truly do have Christ. But just because someone professes to be this or that doesn’t mean they really are. I could profess to be a scratch golfer all day long, but my word doesn’t prove that I am, my actual golfing would. There is a world of difference between those who merely profess faith and those who truly possess faith.[3] See what Jesus is saying here. Who are His true disciples? Those who abide in…what? Those who abide in His Word. Those people are true disciples of Christ.

Notice in v32 the results of abiding in the Word of Christ. Those who abide in Christ’s Word will experience two things: first they will know the truth, and second they will be set free by the truth. v32 is a glorious progression isn’t it? Because Jesus said He is the truth in John 14:6 means that this freedom coming from knowing the truth is in reality a freedom from knowing not just things about Christ but actually knowing Christ, who is the truth. This is glorious indeed, but it begs a question. You who profess to know Christ, do you feel free? Do you feel liberated? Do you feel rescued from bondage? Or do you feel in bondage, taken captive, or enslaved? For those of you who do feel enslaved, could it be that you don’t truly possess what you profess? Or could it be that the reason some of you feel like this is because you’re not abiding in Christ’s Word? You continue to tell yourself that true freedom is in having no master over you, yet the more you distance yourself from the Scripture the more shackled you feel. If either of these scenarios fit you hear Jesus in v31-32 speaking directly to you. “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The way to freedom from the bondage of sin isn’t by being your own master and living life on your terms. The way to experience freedom from the bondage of sin is by placing yourself under the authority of Christ and His Word and living life on His terms.

In Boston there is what’s called The Freedom Trail. A 2.5 mile route that will lead you through all the major historical sites of the American Revolution: museums, meetinghouses, churches, and cemeteries. On the trail you can see the well known Boston Common, Park Street Church, King’s Chapel, the Old State House, the Paul Revere House, old North Church, the Bunker Hill monument, and more. Only one thing is required of those who would walk the Freedom Trail, you must follow the red line on the sidewalk. If you follow it, you’ll see all these sites and more. If you leave it, you’ll miss it all. Similarly but in a vastly greater way, only those who abide in the Word of Christ are Christ’s disciples. Profess what you will, only those who possess the Christ of the Word know Christ as He truly is.[4] Only those who walk the line He has set out for us know Him in truth. What does it look like to abide in the Word? To not only be a hearer of it, but a doer of it. To not only know it as true, but to see it beautiful. To not only study it, but to savor it.

The Slavery of Sin (v33-36)

When we come to v33 we come to a transition in the passage. We were told back in v31 that Jesus began addressing those particular Jews who had believed in Him. Then in v31-32 Jesus showed them what it really looks like to follow Him. Then we come to v33, and we see a response that carries a very different tone than belief. v33 is an angry toned response to Jesus words, scoffing at the thought of them ever being enslaved to anyone. I believe this to be a transition because I don’t think the ones angrily talking in v33 are the same people Jesus began addressing in v31. Jesus had been talking all along throughout the feast week context of John 7-8, most grew angry at Him and His words, but a small group of Jews believed in Him, so He began addressing that group, but as soon as He does so the angry mob intrudes back into the conversation in v33 with another angry remark and they then remain the group in view all the way until the end of chapter 8 when they try to stone Him.[5] Come back now to their intrusion in v33, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Apparently to them they don’t see themselves to ever have been under the yoke of or enslaved to another. Being the descendants of Abraham, being a people with such a high pedigree, slavery is something they’re above. They heard the implication of Jesus’ words in v32. For Him to speak of them being set free implies that they’re currently bound, and to them that is completely absurd. ‘Bound, we’re not bound, we’re Abraham’s offspring, we’re royal children of God.’ Yet, do you see how blind they are? They’re Jews. Did they not just finish celebrating feast week where they remembered how God led them out of oppressive slavery in Egypt under Pharaoh? Do they not remember their exile into Babylon? Do they not remember Rome who oppresses them even now? Clearly they’re deceived, and their proud boast of such self-sufficiency in v33 is itself evidence of the bondage Jesus is speaking of.[6] They’re boasting of Abraham’s blood running through their veins, but if their spiritual heritage only includes their earthly heritage, religious as they may be they’re still spiritual orphans.[7]

Yet don’t be too quick to judge them, many today do the same thing. J.C. Ryle comments on this passage saying, “The power of self-deception in unconverted man is infinite. These Jews were not more unreasonable than many now-a-days, who say, ‘We are not dead in sin; we have grace, we have faith, we are regenerate, we have the Spirit,’ while their lives show plainly that they are totally mistaken.”[8] As a child I believed myself to be a Christian simply because we went to church on Christmas and Easter. Others point to their family, ‘My grandfather was a Christian, my father was a Christian, my mother was a Christian, I was born a Christian…I come from a long line of Christians.’ Hear me friends, no one ever comes into the kingdom of God through biology, no matter how impressive our lineage may be.[9] This brings us back to their question.

Do not forget, they asked a question in v33, “How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answers their question in the remainder of our passage today in v34-36, giving first a beginning statement in v34, a brief parable in v35, and a concluding declaration in v36.

First the beginning statement. v34, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” In His response to their question Jesus points out that He is not referring to physical slavery but spiritual slavery. All those who practice, who give themselves continually to, who make a habit of sin, are slaves of sin. Though they think they’re free Jews, Jesus reminds them they’re not, and that they’re enslaved to the worst master of all. Think of it, if one is a slave to man there is freedom, peace, and rest to be found in fleeing that human master. But in slavery to sin there is no such freedom, peace, or rest found, for you can never flee it. When the fleeting pleasure passes, the sting of sin remains. Where can the slave of sin flee? He always carries his depraved nature with him. Indeed he cannot escape himself.[10] So these Jews and we ourselves are not sinners because we sin, no. We sin because we are sinners by nature. Whether ancient Jews or modern Americans, as much as we may fight against this, we deeply know that we are not ok and are enslaved to sin.

When our hearts first provoke us to dabble in some kind of sin, we think we are strong enough to handle it, that we remain the master and sin remains the servant. But how quickly we learn that the opposite is true. Sin always takes us deeper than we ever intended to go and holds us far tighter than we ever thought it would. First we resist, then we yield, and as we yield our resistance gets weaker and weaker each time we give in, until we hardly need to be tempted at all. Before long, instead of doing what we would like to do we see that we’re slaves to sin, for sin has mastered us.[11]

Next comes the brief parable. v35, “The slave does not remain in the house forever, the son remains forever.” This verse illustrates the previous truth and expands on it by giving us the example of a household. In a household a son can do whatever he wishes. He can go wherever and he can have access to whatever he wants, and he can stay as long as he desires to. The son has rights to everything in the house. The slave on the other hand is different. The slave cannot do whatever he wishes, cannot go wherever and cannot have whatever he wishes, and he cannot stay as long as he desires to. The slave has no rights, and is completely bound to the will of the master of the house.[12] There could not be two more different positions. The son is free, the slave is captive. The son will always be a son, the slave could be sold any day. A son remains forever, the slave is momentary. Jesus uses this brief parable to penetrate their understanding of God’s household. In the verses that follow our passage, v37-59 Jesus will unfold how this has a dramatic effect on who is truly related to and even greater than Abraham. For now, notice Jesus is saying these Jews are not sons in the house, they’re slaves. They have no rights, while the Son has every right.

This brings us to the concluding declaration. v36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Here Jesus declares that He is able to do what no one else has the power to do. He has the power to break the bondage of sin, to set the slave free, to rip apart the thickest chains, and more so when He does this the former slave is not only free, the former slave is free indeed! This is what He was talking about back in v32 with those who had just believed. Believing in Him they came to know the truth, and having come to know the truth, what happened? They were set free! Set free from fear, set free from self, set free from the opinions of others, set free from the power of sin, and one day they will be set free from the presence of sin.

I do wonder how v36 hits you. Do you believe it? Do you want it? Or do you scoff at it? “The world imagines that to become a Christian is to lose our freedom. They suppose we’d be chained down with loads of restrictions and rules and laws to obey which would abolish our liberty. But the opposite is in fact true. It is the one outside of Christ, not the one who comes to Christ, who is in bondage to sin and its influence.”[13] It is those who think themselves good and happy and well enough on their own who feel the most lost in life. The Christian is altogether in a different position. We admit that we’re sinners, that we deserve death and hell, but we also admit that we know One who suffered in our place, bore our burden, endured our curse, and defeated it fully and finally. Christians are the ones boasting in song “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see.”


So Church, thanksgiving and Christmas have come and gone, and today is New Year’s Eve. From looking back on 2017 and looking into 2018, I’m sure many of you are thinking about and wanting to make some changes about your life. Getting rid of some habits and replacing them with new habits in their place. Maybe you want to change how to relate to your spouse, your kids, or your friends. Perhaps you want to get into healthier patterns of eating, entertainment, sleep, exercise, or giving. Whatever you’re thinking and whatever you’re desiring about 2018, most of you are thinking about one thing…behavior modification. I’d like to suggest something else…

I want to suggest that you aim a bit deeper, that you aim at the root of all your behavior, that you aim at your heart. 10,000 years from now only one thing will matter: if you know God or not, make your resolutions accordingly.



[1] The Response Church in San Diego (Acts 29) begins every sermon with a description very similar to this.

[2] F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, page 196.

[3] R.C. Sproul, John – St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 163.

[4] R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 250-251. See also, thefreedomtrail.org.

[5] There is much debate about whether this group speaking in v33 is the group that believed in v30. Phillips, Hughes, and Morris do believe it is the same group and explain it by pointing out that though John says they believed in v30, in reality they didn’t truly believe and we’re still unconverted. I do not agree with them and I, along with F.F. Bruce, believe v33 to be an intrusion of Pharisee’s or unbelieving Jews back into the scene.

[6] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 457 note 67.

[7] Gospel Transformation Study Bible, notes, page 1423-1424.

[8] Quoted in Morris, page 457, note 66.

[9] Sproul, page 164.

[10] Augustine, quoted in Morris, page 458 note 70.

[11] Ibid., page 550.

[12] Hughes, page 252.

[13] Phillips, page 554.

John 8:21-30 – A Frightful and Fantastic Sermon

Jesus challenged the Pharisee’s. He challenged their teaching, that it more reflected their own preferences and customs rather than God’s Law. He challenges their lifestyle, that they were little more than whitewashed tombs, squeaky clean on the outside and dead on the inside. Jesus challenged them so much and in so many various ways that they were sick of it, they wanted Him to quit stirring up trouble. They probably would’ve been happy to be rid of Him altogether, which is why we read of their many attempts to arrest Him and kill Him. In summary they wanted Him to just go away. Well, in our passage Jesus tells the Pharisee’s that a time is coming when God will give them exactly what they want. But He also warns them saying that when they get what they want, they won’t like it at all. 

We see these things come to us in two ways in John 8:21-30, both of which are centered around two “I AM” statements. The first “I AM” statement is in v24 and the second “I AM” statement is in v28. Each of these statements come with their own context and center around the subject of death. We’ll take them one at a time.

Our Death and the “I AM” (v21-24)

After hearing everything Jesus had to say all the way from 7:14 to the present and seeing the commotion He was causing throughout the events of feast week the Pharisee’s were surely sick and tired of Jesus and would be, as we’ve said, very happy to be rid of Him by this point.[1] In 8:21 Jesus speaks up again and says that they are about to get their wish, “I am going away (which they probably heard and quickly rejoiced!), and you will seek Me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” He had said things of this nature before back in 7:33-34, but here He ‘raises the bar’ of what it means to reject Him. Jesus had said He was the Light of the world, and promised that all those who follow Him wouldn’t walk in darkness but would have the light of life. As wonderful a promise this is to those who follow Him it is also a dreadful warning to those who don’t. We see something of this dreadful warning in v21. Those who reject His claims and His Person will walk in darkness and will not have the light of life. Jesus is leaving soon, and the time will come when those who now reject Him will want to seek Him and find Him, but they won’t be able to. The result of this vain search will be death, and not just any death…a specific death filled with judgment, wrath, and condemnation. Jesus says, “…you will die in your sin.”

Notice in v22 it says “the Jews” are the ones who respond here. He had previously been speaking with the Pharisee’s but now in v21 it seems Jesus opens up, perhaps gets a bit louder, and speaks not only to the Pharisee’s but the whole of the hostile Jewish crowd before Him. And once they hear it they don’t get it. They miss His frightful message, His threat of darkness, and His warning of judgment. Instead they wonder if He’s speaking of suicide by saying “Where I am going, you cannot come.” They wonder this because at that time suicide was believed to be the sin of ‘mad hands’ that sent you to the ‘lowest levels of the nether world.’[2] They were likely thinking, ‘If Jesus is going to kill Himself and be sent to hell, of course we won’t be there with Him and won’t be able to find Him, because we’ll clearly be in heaven.’ But O how deceived this religious crowd is! Jesus isn’t going to kill Himself and go into hell while they die and go to heaven. No, they’re going to be the ones who kill Him and while He’s being exalted in the heavens they’ll be sent to hell after death where they’ll wish they could seek Him and embrace Him and go to Him…but they’ll find that impossible.

Jesus sees how confused this crowd is so He, in v23-24, gets really clear about the difference between who they are and who they will become if they remain in their unbelief, and who He has been, who He is, and who He will remain to be in His deity. “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I AM He you will die in your sins.”

As oil is to water, as day is to night, as light is to darkness, so too is Jesus Christ in comparison to man. Yes, being truly God He became truly man, but His birth as a man was not the beginning of His existence. This is what we mean in the word incarnation. His birth was not the birth of a new person into the world. His birth was the entrance of an eternally old Person into the world. These Pharisee’s are missing this. v15 told us they judge Him according to the flesh and not according to reality, and so they miss who He truly is. They are from below, they are of this world, He is from above, He is not of this world. He is Creator, they are created. He is Definer, they are defined. He is Maker, they are made. He is independent, they are dependent beings. If He were not, they would never be. One of the reasons I enjoy the ocean so much is that it makes you feel really small as well as stunned at how big it is! There’s something very healthy for the soul in getting ourselves in front of objects vastly bigger than us. We ought to be reminded of how small we are compared to vast greatness. Increase my feelings about the ocean infinitely and see what Jesus is saying in v23. The gulf between God and man makes all the oceans of the world put together look little more than a drop in a bucket. The difference between us could not be greater. After reminding them of this great gulf Jesus repeats what He said earlier in v24 but with a very powerful addition. Again He gives the frightful warning, “I told you that you would die in your sins…” but now He adds more so we read more, “…for unless you believe that I AM He you will die in your sins.”

You see what He’s saying? The ‘he’ is an English add on, and shouldn’t be included, it’s literally just “…unless you believe that I AM you will die in your sins.” This statement is of massive importance to them and to every reader of John 8:24 in all of history. You can believe Jesus to be an inspiration, believe Him to be a great example, a great teacher, the founder of the largest movement in history, a unique person, a perfect person, truthful, honest, compassionate, loving, a prophet of God even…and still die in your sins.[3] True faith in Christ embraces the weight of Christ’s deity. True faith, faith that saves us from our sins, is a faith that believes very concrete things about Jesus Christ. You will die in your sins unless you believe Jesus is none other than I AM, none other than Almighty God. These Jews knew the Scriptures, they knew God revealed Himself to Moses as I AM on the mountain, and they therefore knew the weight of Jesus’ Words. Do you? Or is your ‘Jesus’ leave out doctrinal demands? If you leave this concrete reality about who Christ is out of your faith, you leave the faith. You leave hope, security, light, life, and eternal salvation behind. You may believe very spiritual things but in no way would you ever be considered to be a Christian. Such a belief is a sad confession, and the end of such a sad confession is hopeless. “You will die in your sins.”

It would surely bring all of us much happiness if this deep unbelief was something only found in these Jews and never present in ourselves or in anyone else throughout history. But sadly that is not the case. One such example is Thomas Paine A great mind of history and one of the founders of our country. As well as a great enemy of the gospel in his generation. His book The Age of Reason led many of his peers and a large portion of the population away from the gospel. As he approached his deathbed he expressed an immense remorse saying, “I would give worlds, if I had them, that The Age of Reason had not been published. O Lord, help me! O God what have I done to suffer so much? But there is no God! But if there should be, what will become of me hereafter? Stay with me, for God’s sake! Send even a child to stay with me, for it is hell to be alone. If ever the devil had an agent, I have been that one.”[4] These final words of Thomas Paine reveal how deceived he had been in life, and how frightful his death and life afterwards would soon become. Contrast those frightful final words with some of the fantastic final words of the late R.C. Sproul, “We are secure not because we hold tightly to Jesus but because He holds tightly to us.”

Church, I know medicine and science have progressed by leaps and bounds in the past century and will continue to do so as time goes on, but there is one thing that will remain ever incurable: 10 of 10 die. Because of this part of my role as your pastor is to prepare you for death. I know it’s hard, uncomfortable even, but pause and think…if the Lord Jesus tarries, in God’s timing and God’s way death will come to us all. See here what Jesus is saying. There are two ways to die. Either we die in faith or we die in our sins. How will you go? Will you die in your sins, vexed, miserable, and frightful of what’s to come? Or will you die in faith, peaceful, and eagerly awaiting what’s to come?

Christ’s Death and the “I AM” (v25-29)

What happens next in this dialogue reveals much about this Jewish crowd. They surely didn’t understand all of His words, but they did catch enough of it, probably from the I AM statement, to know Jesus was making a massive claim. So being a bit provoked they ask in v25, “Who are you?” This seems simple enough on the surface of things. But there’s more to it than meets the eye. If we were to follow the Greek word for word here the translation would be this, “So they said to Him, ‘You, who are you to say such things?’” One commentator says the question was ‘scornfully emphatic.’[5] And so Jesus gives a bit of a scornful response back to them, “Who am I? Just what I’ve been telling you from the beginning.” Have you not paid attention? Have you not witnessed the miracles and signs? Have you not heard my teaching? His reply makes is plain that they should know who He is by now. But their question reveals their blindness. So Jesus keeps on in v26, “I have much to say about you and much to judge, but He who sent Me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from Him.” Jesus being the Judge of all men knows He cannot stand by and leave their sinful unbelief unaddressed. But now is not the time to do so.[6] That day will come, after their death, and on that day they will not be happy to meet Him in the courtroom of heaven. They’ll know firsthand then what Jesus knows firsthand now: that the Father sent Him, that the Father is true, that what Jesus spoke to them did not come from Him but from His Father, and that He truthfully does have much to say about them.

But notice v27, as He’s sharing these heavenly realities with them He sees what He saw a few verses earlier in v23-24, confusion. This brings Him to a sort of climactic moment in this passage where He brings up the second I AM statement. Recall the first was about our death. If we do not believe that He is the I AM we will die in our sins. Now, its not our death in view, its His. “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you know that I AM He, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” As before the word after I AM, the He isn’t there in Greek it’s an English add on. Which means Jesus is saying something again very weighty. ‘You may reject Me and what I’m saying now, but when you have lifted me up you will know that I AM, and that everything I’ve spoken about My Father is true, that He is always with Me, and that My life always pleases Him.’ We know this ‘lifting up’ is a reference to the crucifixion. Jesus had earlier told Nicodemus in John 3:14, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so too must the Son of Man be lifted up.” It’s a sad story indeed that these Jews who refuse to identify Him as He truly is now, will identify Him correctly after they kill Him on the cross. When they see His exaltation in the irony of His humiliation…when the skies darken, when the curtain tears in two, when He hangs lifeless on the cross, they will know they’ve killed the Messiah they’ve been waiting for…they’ll know He was nothing less than the I AM, and they’ll be filled with dread.

Conclusion (v30)

Martin Luther once commented on this passage saying, “This is a dreadful sermon, an appalling and dreadful word of farewell.”[7] He’s right. So much in these words makes us uncomfortable with hard realities. There is coming a time when people who once rejected Christ will look for Christ, find that He is not there to save, that He is there to condemn, and they will die in their sins, with no hope. But as hard as it is to face these things, this frightful passage turns wonderfully fantastic in v30. “As He was saying these things, many believed in Him.” In the unlikeliest of moments, after some of the darkest and hardest teaching from Christ, many believed and were saved.[8] Hard hearts were softened by the hard preaching of Christ. This is where we see Christmas hope this morning. In what was one of the darkest and unlikeliest moments of history, a light burst through the darkness in a most peculiar manner. “Not with fanfares from above, not with scenes of glory. But a humble gift of love, Jesus born of Mary.” Sent by the Father, taught by the Father, upheld and sustained by the Father, ever with the Father, this One born on Christmas morning, would indeed change the whole world. Has He changed yours? If He hasn’t you’ve got every reason to be frightful as the day of your death approaches. If He has you know it’s Christmas everyday and you’ve got every reason to feel fantastic about what awaits you on the other side of death.




[1] Richard Phillips, John 1-10 – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 529.

[2] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 446 (see note 34 on same page also).

[3] Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 243-244.

[4] Thomas Paine, quoted in Hughes, page 240.

[5] Morris, page 448.

[6] Ibid., page 451.

[7] Martin Luther, quoted in Phillips, page 529 and 536.

[8] Gospel Transformation Study Bible, notes, page 1423.

John 8:13-20 – Eternal Accusations

It happens every time we get on an airplane before take off. The flight attendants ask for our attention in order to go over and explain the safety instructions for that particular plane. And without fail, 99.9% of the passengers don’t even look up. You’d think people would look up, if there’s a crash it’d be nice to know what to do. Those instructions, in truth, could save your life. But nonetheless, few pay attention. In spite of this these attendants faithfully continue to do their job on each flight they work day in and day out, and for this they are to be commended. “…when it comes to preaching at Christmas time each year, pastors feel a bit like a flight attendant reviewing the familiar to those who’ve heard it all before.”[1] You’d think we’d look up and hang on every word, because this message and the instructions that come with it could save your life eternally. But similarly and sadly, few pay attention.

It is my prayer that we would not fall prey to the coldness of the familiar this season. But be, by God’s grace, warmed – encouraged – revived, as we encounter and once again explain the wondrous events of the incarnation of God.

In John 8:13-20 we find two moments of accusation and because of this text we as readers are brought to a final moment of accusation. So, prepare to see Christ accused. Prepare to see Him accuse the Pharisee’s. And finally, prepare to be accused yourself.

Christ Accused (v13)

In 8:12 Jesus gives one of His most monumental and memorable statements saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This verse stands forth from John’s gospel as a multifaceted diamond, shining brightly and brilliantly. Last week we examined this verse from three specific angles and we saw something of God’s blazing glory in the face of Christ. As we continue on in the very next verses there could not be a starker contrast. The brightness of the fiery glory of Christ is immediately followed with the darkness of the Pharisee’s unbelief. v20 tells us these things happened within the treasury in the temple…and once Jesus’ great statement in v12 hit their ears they were quick to chime in with their objection in v13, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.”

The first thing that ought to jump out at you is that their objection has nothing to do with Jesus being God’s true light, at all. Jesus had said in 5:31 that if He’s the only One testifying about Himself His testimony isn’t true and here 3 chapters later it’s as if the Pharisee’s had completely disregarded what Jesus proclaimed about Himself being the light of the world, waiting for the moment He finished speaking so they could catch Him in a technicality. ‘Remember what you told us back by the pool of Bethesda? You can’t testify of yourself alone, there has to support.’ Even here at the start we sense nothing good will come of their disregarding Christ’s statement of divinity.

We understand the first part of their response, “You are bearing witness about yourself…” Jesus Himself had made the statement in v12 about who He was, not John the Baptist or one of His disciples, no, Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the very light of God. This is why the Pharisee’s added the second phrase to their objection “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” They add this last phrase not just to make their opinion known, but to state the unlawful act they think Jesus is doing. Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15 mention that a charge is only established on the evidence of two or three witnesses. So because Jesus said what He said in v12 Himself the Pharisee’s conclude that Jesus’ statement is not only unlawful but false, because they don’t see anyone else affirming His words, they don’t see anybody backing Him up. But was that really the case? Think about it: couldn’t the lame man now healed in John 5 by the pool of Bethesda give testimony? Couldn’t John the Baptist? Couldn’t Nicodemus bravely bear witness as well? If they really wanted to find it, other sources of evidence were ample and abundant, which reveals their true motives. Unbelief is strange, though never having sufficient evidence, it never runs out of objections.[2] So they accuse Him, as if He were on trial before them.

There is thick irony to notice here.[3] The Pharisee’s say Jesus’ witness is invalid. The word witness they use in Greek is the word martyreo, which is where we get the word martyr. A martyr, you all know, is someone who dies for bearing witness to something others find horridly offensive and wrong. The irony is that for bearing this witness these Pharisee’s will soon make a martyr of Christ. Can it get any more backwards, that the creature should put the Creator in the dock and sit in judgment over Him? It’s one thing to say the testimony of a man is false, it’s one thing to say my own testimony is false as I’m up here preaching. I’m a man and nothing more, you must remember it and examine what I say before swallowing it like a good student of the truth. It’s another matter altogether to accuse Christ as false. Would anyone ask Einstein for his college diploma? Would anyone ask Michael Jordan to prove his ability to play basketball? Would anyone ask Gandalf to prove his wizarding credentials? Of course not![4] To accuse Christ is nothing else than high treason against the King of kings.

The Pharisee’s Accused (v14-19)

How does Jesus respond to such an accusation? He provides reasons why His testimony is valid. So, in v14-19 the accused becomes the accuser, the witness becomes the prosecutor,[5] Jesus turns the tables on the Pharisee’s and puts them in the dock.

First, in v14-15 He says, “Even if I do bear witness about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.” In this first accusation Jesus says the testimony He is bearing witness to is true. Or in other words, it’s more than mere opinion, it’s from firsthand experience. He had come from heaven and He is going back to heaven. This reveals that the Pharisee’s didn’t even know the simplest fact about Him – where He was from. They believed He was nothing more than a hillbilly Galilean. Why are they so clouded in their judgment? v15 gives the answer. They’re judging Jesus according to the flesh.[6] Jesus tells them as much and adds that He judges no one in this respect. Yes Jesus will stand in judgment over all men at the end of all things when the books are opened and every account is settled. When Jesus says He ‘judges no one’ He is not denying such truth. He is contrasting His own eternal judgment with their fleshly judgment. They judge with an earthly judgment, and therefore are wrong and false. Jesus judges with a heavenly judgment, and therefore is true and correct.

Second, in v16-18 He says, “Yet even if I do judge, My judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent Me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the One who bears witness about Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness about Me.” In this second accusation Jesus addresses the technicality they had tried to call Him on in v13. They said His witness was false because He was testifying alone and based on the Law, as we’ve seen, testimony is only valid if it is corroborated or supported by another. But, though it may seem to them that Jesus is alone, they are gravely mistaken. The reason the Pharisee’s are wrong, the reason Jesus’ testimony and judgment is true and valid is that He is not alone.[7] His Father sent Him, His Father is ever with Him, His Father judges with Him, and His Father bears witness of Him.

When boys play they often get into contests of strength. I remember as a young boy my friends and I would do this when we had a disagreement over what to do, where to go, or what to play. We would arm wrestle to see who was stronger, we would ride our bikes down steep hills to see who was brave enough to go the fastest, even if we just had a baseball nearby we would see who could throw it the farthest. Whoever won the contest of strength was the one who got to choose what we do. I was a small skinny kid, so I often lost these contests. I didn’t like that at all, as you can imagine. On one specific occasion I remember losing and then telling my friend, “Well, my Dad can beat up your Dad.” I may be small and skinny, but at that moment I appealed to a higher power. Of course then you know what happens next, the contest then becomes a back and forth dialogue about what your Dad can do and nothing is resolved because that kind of conversation is unending.

Well, in a similar and much greater way, to show the folly of the Pharisee’s technicality, Jesus appeals to a higher power. The highest power in fact, His Father. As you can imagine the Pharisee’s had trouble with this. When Jesus spoke of His Father, of His sending Him, of His judgment, of His bearing witness along with Him, they are thinking ‘Joseph doesn’t have that kind of authority, what is Jesus talking about?’ So naturally they respond with a question in v19a, “Where is Your Father?”

Jesus’ answer to this question is His final accusation in our text today. He answers them by sharply saying, “You know neither Me nor My Father. If you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” They had accused Him of being false, He showed Himself as true. He turned the tables and accused them, their unbelief stood out as clear as day.

Conclusion: Our Accusation

We have seen eternal accusations being made in our passage today. Jesus the accused becomes the accuser. I want to turn the tables once more and end with another accusation. I want to place us in the dock, because we too often read passages of Scripture like this, condemn the Pharisee’s, and think ourselves to be in the clear when the reality is, we’re not.

So here it comes, the moment that I (as a good flight attendant must) will review the familiar. Are you paying attention? Will you look up in give me your ear? Or will you disregard what I’m about to tell you?

Think about it. One commentator says of this passage, “The whole history of Israel was so designed that the Jews should have recognized the Son of God when He came; all their history was leading up to that coming. But they had become so involved with their own ideas, so intent on their own way, so sure of their own conception of what religion was that they had become blind to God.”[8] We repeat this same mistake when we devote ourselves to political, social, and personal agendas that reflect our own priorities rather than the Bible’s. In the past scientist’s have demanded an anti-supernatural Jesus, socialists have demanded a fair Jesus, capitalists have demanded a greedy Jesus, racists have demanded an ethnocentric Jesus, and patriots have demanded a nationalistic Jesus. Today there’s a more popular flavor of unbelief, we demand a Jesus who makes no demands and teaches no doctrine. Why? This Jesus can be whatever we want Him to be, this Jesus is comfortable, this Jesus is safe, this Jesus won’t stir the pot, this Jesus won’t make holiday conversations hard, this Jesus won’t separate you from the world. Yet, as easy as it is to accept that kind of Jesus, it isn’t the Jesus of the Bible and therefore it’s an idol of our own making. Which really reveals who we are inside. Standing against the bright and brilliant light of the world, is us, those in the world, black in darkness, corrupted in character, and horrid in heart. Before Christmas is a comfort to us, it exposes us. As we see the baby in the manger, and behold the very incarnation of God, we learn anew that God has broken into our fallen world because we are fallen and need a Savior! There can be no boasting at Christmas time of who we are, or, the only boasting that can exist at Christmas time can be that God has come to us to do what we couldn’t to make up for us doing what we shouldn’t. He came to save, and in order to be saved you must know yourself to be lost.

So Church, see things as they really are. Though we often put God in the dock and act as if we were judge and jury, the roles are in reality reversed. We are in the dock. God is Judge and Jury. We are accused, the evidence is abundant, and we are found wanting. If you believe this about yourself, you’ll find the relevance of Christmas repeatedly shocking. It will be more than mere festivities, more than ribbons, more than tags, more than packages, boxes, and bags. It will be more than once a year moment, it will be a lifetime of repeated rejoicing in the incarnation of God. Why? In it, in the baby born, in Christ is the salvation, forgiveness, and redemption we need from our sin. These Pharisee’s saw Jesus but didn’t see Him as the light of the world. They heard His voice but didn’t hear the very voice of God. Their unbelief is dark for sure. But if we approach this holiday season as just that, we’re just as dark. May the Light of the world be the light of your Christmas this year.




[1] C.J. Mahaney began a recent sermon with these thoughts, Zechariah’s Song, 12.10.17, accessed on 12.13.17 via Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville podcast.

[2] Richard Phillips, John 1-10 – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 519.

[3] R.C. Sproul, John – St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 157.

[4] Richard Phillips, page 522.

[5] Gospel Transformation Study Bible, study notes, page 1423.

[6] R.C. Sproul, page 157.

[7] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 441.

[8] William Barclay, quoted in Phillips, page 520-521. This whole section provided this application

John 8:12 – The Light of the World

Before we get into our text for this morning I’d like to give a brief explanation as to why we’re temporarily moving past John 7:53-8:11.

In most of our Bibles you’ll find brackets around this text with a little note that says, “The earliest and most reliable manuscripts omit this passage.” At first a comment like this can jar the soul, that something in the Bible may really not be in the Bible. All this means is that the earliest and best copies of Scripture do not include this passage, and because of this it is likely not something John the apostle wrote. Yet, rather than leave it out altogether we still find it in our Bibles, why? Well, though the earliest copies leave it out some of the later copies keep it in, placing it in a variety of locations. Some place it here at the end of John 7, others put it at the very end of John’s gospel, others even put it at the end of Luke 21. The bottom line is this – if John 7:53-8:11 isn’t original to John’s gospel, but a later addition, it doesn’t mean it never happened, it most likely did occur and we can glean a great deal from it. But because it’s location within the text seems difficult to place, it means the annual Feast of Booths or Tabernacles which began in chapter 7 continues on into chapter 8. Which means the very next thing Jesus says at this feast after making the ultimate offer of living water in 7:37-39 is the great I AM statement of John 8:12.

So this morning we will move on ahead to 8:12 to continue tracking with the events of the feast. We will come back to 7:53-8:11 once the scene at the feast is over at the end of chapter 8.

Recall Jesus had just given a powerful and vivid invitation and promise of ultimate satisfaction. Any who came to Him and believed in Him would find rivers of living water flowing in them and through them. This offer of living water would’ve been entirely understandable to this crowd who was gathered together during a dry time of year to celebrate God’s providing for them in the wilderness. But throughout this feast more than manna, quail meat, or water from the rock was remembered and celebrated. There was a special ceremony of illumination to remember the light of God’s guidance. At this ceremony four large lamps or candles were lit in the evening to symbolize the pillar of fire that led them by night. Some say these candles were as tall as the temple walls themselves, so that when they were lit the whole of the temple and much of the city would be lit up as well.[1] After being lit the Levitical orchestra would begin play and the people would light their own smaller torches in response and spend the entire evening dancing, singing, and rejoicing in that light.[2]

Into this context Jesus once again speaks up and says in 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

This verse stands forth from John’s gospel as a multifaceted diamond, shining brightly and brilliantly from every angle we look at it. So this morning, we’re going to slow down and take a look at three ways this verse shines out at us.

The True Fiery Glory

What Jesus has to say about Himself here would have been hard to misunderstand. Not only does He use the literal name of God “I AM” to make His point, but in the midst of this ceremony of illumination at the end of feast week, He proclaims Himself to be the very light of God.

See this scene in your imagination.

Four towering candles are blazing high above the people and they are reminded of the pillar of the fiery glory of God that led them by night in the wilderness. This pillar was a real life display of the great glory of God. The same glory that was revealed against Pharaoh in the plagues, the same glory that led Israel out of slavery in Egypt, the same glory that they then saw shroud Mt. Sinai. It was this great glory that threatened anyone who came near the mountain, that thundered as the Law was given to Moses, that fell on the tabernacle and later the temple once they were completed. This same glory was the substance of the cloud that guarded them by day and the substance of the fiery pillar that guarded them by night. In this regard the pillar of fire not only would’ve proved dreadful and terrifying to anyone who’d tried to attack Israel, at times it also proved dreadful and terrifying for Israel because they too couldn’t go near it without being struck dead.

Yet here is Jesus Christ, making the astounding claim that He is the truer fiery pillar of glory come in human flesh, the light of God’s holiness come to God’s people once again. This time though, unlike before that glory is accessible, touchable even. Anyone could come to Him and learn from Him, all were invited to believe in Him, and those who came, those who believed…were filled with the “light of life.”

Of this moment the old man Zechariah rejoiced in Luke 1 saying “Because of the tender mercy of our God…the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79). Later when Jesus was born do you remember what the Shepherds saw? In Luke 2:9 it says, “…an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.” There is something about the glory of God that shines out a terrible wonder. That warns us to not come near unless we are right with this God of glory. Lesson? As creation began with a light of glory in Genesis 1, so too the dawn of new creation began with the birth of Jesus Christ, who would grow up to one day stand in the midst of the ceremony on feast week and proclaim Himself to be the true fiery glory of God, the blazing center of all His manifold wonder, the very light of the world.

Jesus has throughout the past three chapters of John shown Himself to be the fulfillment of all of God’s provision in the wilderness. In chapter 6 Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the bread of life that’s greater than the manna from heaven. In chapter 7 Jesus proclaimed that by coming to Him and believing in Him we experience rivers of living water rushing in and out of us that’s greater than the water which gushed out of the rock. And here in chapter 8 Jesus proclaims Himself, not to be a light in the world, but the very light of the world that outshines the pillar of fire that led them through those dark wilderness nights. This means as Israel followed the pillar of fiery glory by night, we follow Christ, the true pillar of fiery glory. This brings us to the next this verse shines out at us.

Following Fiery Glory

Notice when Jesus says He is the light of the world that He isn’t a light for the whole world, He is only the light for those who follow Him. When the cloud and pillar moved, Israel moved. When the cloud and pillar stopped, Israel stopped and made camp.[3] This shows us what it means to follow Christ. Where Christ goes, we go. What His Word commands, we obey. What His Word promises, we trust. In other words, following Christ means we are not free to map out our own course through life.[4] To follow Christ means we follow His lead, not our own. J.C. Ryle puts it like this, “To follow Christ is to commit ourselves wholly and entirely to Him as our only leader and Savior, and to submit ourselves to Him in every matter of doctrine and practice.”[5] Do you know what this means? In regard to doctrine we follow Christ, meaning we’re not free to believe what we think is true, what we’d like to be true, or what we want to be true. We’re to believe what the Word says, no matter the cost to us. Similarly, in regard to practice we follow Christ, meaning we’re not free to live how we want to, make up our rules, or disregard God’s truth for our opinions. We’re to live as He would have us, again, no matter the cost to us.

So you see, it really doesn’t matter if you profess faith. Many people profess to be Christians and live wickedly everyday. No, true religion, true faith, true following Christ is more than a mere profession of faith, it’s possessing that faith that matters, or perhaps being possessed by it that matters.

Allow me to illustrate. I truly do appreciate the ministry of David Platt, and what God is doing through him. I’ll never forget the first few times I heard him preach. The preaching was strong, the call was deep, and the reward of Christ was clear! I remember thinking ‘WOW, God has made a new John Piper!’ But really, his book Radical really helped me see through the fog of American consumeristic Christianity and see what it really looked like to live life as a disciple of Christ. But, for all the good I’ve gleaned from Platt you know one thing I don’t like? Calling the book Radical gives the impression that this kind of forsaking all to follow Christ is for those who really want to know God and mature in faith. You know what the book should’ve been called? Normal. Why? Because living radically for Jesus isn’t something mature Christians do, it’s something Christians do. The radical life of following Christ should be normal for Christians, so if it’s not normal for you, you may be a Christian in name only and function as a kind of practical atheist.

Church, this is kind of life we’re called to in following Christ. If we choose to follow our own will we must also see that we’re choosing to reject God’s and if we choose to follow God’s will we must also see that we’re choosing to reject ours. So, what will you choose? Who is sovereign in you? God or you? Your choice will determine whether your life is in the light or in the dark. I wonder if all of you sitting here today are following this Christ. Are you? Or do you embrace the world’s values, serve the world’s priorities, and dream the world’s dreams?[6] Perhaps you’re not acting on these things in any external way, but internally do you wish you could live life as if God didn’t exist so you could give free reign to your passions and pleasures? Perhaps some of you are acting on these things in an external way and you believe you’re doing a wonderful job of secretly managing two opposing lifestyles. Do not be deceived, repent, and see clearly the terror of the fiery pillar of Christ.

I get it though, really. We live in a dark world where what ought to happen doesn’t. The upright should be the ones ruling our cities, states, and nations. But it’s often the wicked who rise to power and prominence in our world. Those who labor diligently to care for their families should be the ones who advance and get ahead in life. But it’s often the dishonest and crooked who move ahead in life. Justice should flow like water through our cities, yet injustices all of kinds reign. Isaiah 8:22 describes what we experience, “Justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.” Even in our hearts, the good we often yearn to do we don’t do and by not doing it we make way for the evil we hate to consume us. No wonder why Paul speaks in Ephesians 6:12 of the “cosmic powers over this present darkness.”

Our world is a dark place indeed, no doubt about that. Even so, Jesus, the true pillar of fiery glory is the light of the world and all those who follow Him will never walk in darkness.

This brings us to our final point.

Becoming Fiery Glory

Think back with me to John 1. As John begins his gospel he says in v4-5, “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.” This light of Christ is the light of men. Yes it’s true that Jesus is the true fiery pillar of glory shining out a terrible wonder. It’s true that whoever follows His fiery glory doesn’t walk in darkness but walks bright in this dark world. But it’s also true that those who follow His fiery glory become, in a very real sense, a fiery glory of their own. How so? Remember Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The light of life flows into our dark sinful souls and changes everything with its brightness.

Paul speaks of this in Ephesians 5:8 when he says, “…at one time you were darkness…” Notice he doesn’t say at one time we were in the dark, but that we were darkness. “…at one time you were darkness, but now (because of the gospel) you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light…” The light of life has changed us into an entirely new person.

It is said that the moon is the lesser light in the sky, and in one sense this is true. The moon doesn’t shine near as bright as the sun. But in another sense this is not true, for the moon doesn’t shine at all of it’s own accord. The moon shines yes, but all of it’s light comes from another source, it’s only a reflection of the sun. In the same manner, saved sinners don’t have any brightness of their own that shines. No, our light is derivative…it comes from another source, from Christ Himself. So Jesus can truthfully say of us in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world.” And again in 13:43, “The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Or if I can say such a thing, when we become a believer we become a moon of Christ. 


There is something very Christmasy and Adventy about John 8:12 isn’t there? In it the great promise of Isaiah 9:2 comes to fulfillment before our eyes, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.”

Do you feel dark? Do you feel the deep and cavernous darkness within you? Or do you feel that much of your days, though perfectly sunny, are spent walking around in the darkness? Take heart, with the birth of the Christ, came the light of the world. This light would shine for a time, but would be rejected and snuffed out on the cross, for us. But the darkness of men could not snuff out the light of life forever, and with His resurrection came light powerful enough to resurrect our dark and sinful hearts, causing them to shine like stars in the sky with gospel grace.

In Him there is light for thousands of dark nights, and in Him there is warmth for thousands of cold hearts.




[1] Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 232.

[2] John MacArthur Study Bible, notes on John 8:12-21, page 1598.

[3] Richard Phillips, John 1-10 – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 515.

[4] William Hendriksen, quoted in Phillips, page 515.

[5] J.C. Ryle, quoted in Phillips, page 515.

[6] Ibid., page 516.

John 7:37-52 – A Satisfying Division

In the Bible the idea of ‘the week’ really matters. God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day satisfied with His work. This gives us the pattern and structure of what a week should be and look like. That’s why we see the command of the Sabbath rest as the fourth commandment. But with the dawn of Christ comes something new. All over the place Jesus presents His Work as the true meaning of the Sabbath and Himself as where our souls find true Sabbath rest. We see this as John’s gospel begins. In chapters 1-2 we see the very first week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. It begins in John 1:29 the moment John the Baptist cried out “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” and it ends at the famous wedding in Cana where Jesus turns water to wine. When all the guests present at the wedding felt the satisfaction of the best wine they’ve ever tasted, what they didn’t know is that Jesus (on the seventh day of this first week) gave a taste of what His kingdom looks like. And it looked like satisfaction.

We also see this as John’s gospel ends in the very last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. This is the week containing Jesus’ triumphal entry in chapter 12, His Upper Room discourse in chapter 13-17, and His Passion from chapter 18-20. As we saw satisfaction at the end of Jesus’ first week we see satisfaction at the end of Jesus’ last week. Not in the richest of wine as before, but in the crucified, died, buried, but now risen Christ![1] These two weeks form bookends to John’s gospel. But there are many other important weeks present throughout John, and one of the most important is the Feast of Booths in John 7. John 7:1-13 showed Jesus begin this week privately, but our text today, v37-52 shows Jesus end this week publicly. Knowing how Jesus’ first and last week ended in John’s gospel – with the kingdom power of satisfying rest – it should not surprise us to see the same here as Jesus stands among the crowd on the last day of feast week to offer none other than ultimate satisfaction. Yet, we see more on this last day of feast week in v37-52. We not only see satisfaction, we see deep division that comes as a result of Christ’s offer of ultimate satisfaction.

So that’s where we’re headed this morning, let’s examine this passage and see it’s power for us today. 

Christ the Satisfier (v37-39)

The feast week has now concluded, all the ceremonies and rituals are at an end, and all those who came to Jerusalem will soon depart for home. But before they leave there is one more grand gathering. Notice v37? This last day of the feast is called ‘the great day’ where everything would be wrapped up and concluded. Into this context Jesus comes forward again. Not to merely answer objections from His foes, but to teach. It says in v37 He cried out, He exclaimed, shouted even. See here a passion in Christ to preach the truth here. This large crowd is leaving soon, back to their homes and villages around the nation. This moment may be the last chance Jesus has to speak to many of them. And being a particular dry time of year this group is likely thinking of their need of physical rainwater to live, and so Jesus’ words have a unique relevance to their true need.[2] He stood up and cries out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow streams of living water.’” He had once told the same thing to the Samaritan woman, and He had on a few occasions shared the same things with small companies and local crowds before. But never before in John’s gospel had Jesus so publicly declared that He is the source and great fountain of salvation.[3]

The great claim and great invitation is held out in v37, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” Then the great promise comes in v38 that explains what coming to Christ looks like. “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” So to come to Christ is to believe in Christ, and to believe in Christ brings the great fount of satisfaction into the soul that quenches the soul’s deepest desires. And adding glory onto glory here, v39 brings more clarification about what this means. This soul satisfaction found in the living water of Christ, has everything to do with the life of the Spirit in the heart of sinners. John’s add-on comment in v39 points this out. That this is how the Spirit will function in us, but for them this must wait until Jesus has been crucified, died, buried, risen, and ascended. Then and only then, will the Spirit come. And sure enough, after Jesus was glorified in His humiliation and exaltation Pentecost happened. And everything changed. Those who formerly ran away in fear of being killed along with Jesus were now boldly preaching the gospel and rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer with and for Christ.

But backup a bit and think of how these words would’ve hit the ears of this crowd. They had gathered together all week to celebrate the many ways in which God had provided for them in the wilderness wanderings. Remember some of the ways God did this? The cloud of glory by day and fiery pillar of glory by night? Manna from heaven? Quail meat? When these words of Christ about streams of living water hit the ears of the audience they would’ve recalled one way in particular God had provided for them. At a particularly low moment in their wilderness wanderings, when all the people were grumbling and ready to kill Moses, God commanded Moses to strike a rock, and do you remember what happened? Water gushed out for them to drink. And they drank and were satisfied. You see the parallel Jesus is speaking of? Jesus is saying He is the true fountain of life and reliever of all spiritual wants.[4] He is the Rock God will one day strike with the full force of His wrath. Though He was ever obedient and fully deserving of all the covenant blessings He received all the covenant curses for us. And from this wrathful blow against Him, a billow of living water will flow forth, at conversion, by the Spirit, into the souls of all who will believe. And as a river flows to bring life and refreshment to weary dry land, so too the Spirit flows in the believer to satisfy and refresh the weary and dry soul.[5]

Anyone thirsty? Anyone lived a life of going from well to well to well to well and found nothing but emptiness of hollow promises? O do I have good news for you today. In Christ crucified, risen, and reigning there is flowing forth a mighty rushing river. A river which Psalm 1 mentions, that gives drink to all those who meditate day and night on the Law of the Lord, making them evergreen in every season. A river which Psalm 46 mentions, that makes glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. A river which Revelation 22 calls the river of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb. This water is none other than the living water Christ is extending to them here and extending to you today.

Church, I know you’re thirsty, the question is: will you, as Psalm 36:8 says, drink of the river of God’s delight?

Christ the Divider (v40-52)

Sometimes when the clarity of the pleasure and satisfaction that can be had in the gospel is preached there is not only satisfaction that results. Sometimes the result is division. And this shouldn’t surprise us, for Jesus Himself had said in Matthew 10:34-35, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother…” We see this in the rest of our passage in two ways. First, in v40-44 there is division among the people. Second, in v45-52 there is division among the Pharisees.

Among the people in v40-44 see the opinions present. Some said “He is a Prophet!” Maybe these people heard Jesus make the offer of living water and think He is the greater Prophet like Moses as Deut. 18:15 calls for. Others said “He is the Christ!” This group seems to be on the right track, after all this is the truth! But the way it’s stated in v41 seems to give the notion that it was just an opinion for conversation and not a cherished belief.[6] Whatever depth of belief that group had when they said ‘He is the Christ’ their statement instantly got shut down by others in the crowd who said “He can’t be the Christ, remember he comes from Galilee, the Christ will come from Bethlehem where David was.” For another time in chapter 7 we see variety of reactions from those who hear the preaching of Christ. We find the same thing at work today. Anytime the gospel is preached, we find reaction to it for better or for worse. The one thing that never happens when the gospel is preached is nothing. In this crowd at the feast some believed in Him others wanted to arrest Him. But, despite the varied reactions to Him, we read in v44 that no one could lay hands on Him. Why couldn’t they? Because as 7:8 says before, His time “has not yet fully come.”

Division wasn’t limited only to the crowd, but existed among the Pharisee’s too, we see this next in v45-52. In v45 we learn an interesting detail, that the Pharisee’s didn’t even think Jesus worthy of coming out of their ivory tower but stayed deceptively behind the scenes and sent city officers to go arrest Jesus.[7] These officers were sent out in v32 to nab Him but here in v45 we see them come back empty handed. Understandably the Pharisee’s were furious and asked “Why did you not bring him?” Their answer in v46 is one of the most famous statements about Jesus in all of Scripture. They didn’t blame the crowds for being hostile or too riotous, that was not the reason they didn’t arrest Him. It had everything to do with Jesus Himself. They said, “No one ever spoke like this man.” These officers recognized that when it came to the quality of Christ, they found Him pure and wise. When it came to the characteristics of Christ, they found Him serious and earnest. When it came to the matter of His message, they found it unmatched and incomparable. They were sent to arrest Jesus, but Jesus’ powerful preaching arrested them! They were sent to take Jesus captive, but Jesus’ offer of ultimate satisfaction captivated them![8]

The Pharisee’s response to these officers not arresting Jesus is appalling. “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” They haven’t believed been captivated with Jesus and His teaching, and since they’re the ones who clearly define what is religiously appropriate they can’t believe anyone else has as well. More so, because this crowd has been so captivated by Christ they condemn the very crowds of people they’ve just spent the whole week ministering to and conclude that they know nothing of the Law. Can you get a sense of the religious elitism and arrogance in view here? We see this and get disgusted and think, ‘Ugh, I know some Christians like this. Who think they’re the crem de la crem of Christianity and that whoever doesn’t believe like they do are worthless.’ This is sadly too often true in the Church and we should repent of such sinful pride. But don’t be deceived, we may recognize how disgusting these Pharisee’s are being, but we don’t often recognize that this is what most of the unbelieving world thinks of us! Snobby religious elites who’ve got everything figured out and who are content to watch the rest of the world go to hell.

Yet remember the example of the apostle Paul. When the truth came and transformed him he didn’t conclude himself to be superior to everyone else, he considered himself to a servant to everyone else. May such an attitude be present among us and be true of as a congregation.

Before we write off all the Pharisee’s as arrogant religious elites, there was one among them who stood out. In v50-51 it is none other than Nicodemus, the one who’d had the secret evening visit with Jesus back in John 3, who speaks up now in Christ’s defense. If he came out and boldly testified for Christ, as many do throughout John’s gospel, it would’ve surely further enraged his already raging colleagues. So he goes to the Law, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” Notice his caution. They had condemned the crowd for not knowing the Law, they had boasted in their own mastery of the Law, but here Nicodemus points out their own disregard for that very Law. They were using the Law to condemn Jesus, but weren’t following the Law themselves.[9]

We know with certainty that Nicodemus had come to believe in Jesus by the end of John’s gospel when he is there taking Jesus down off the cross and preparing His body for burial. Though he and Jesus had a lengthy chat about being born again in chapter 3, we do not know if Nicodemus had been born again by this time here in chapter 7. But we can see him growing nearer to the kingdom in what he says. Nonetheless, the rage of the Pharisee’s continues on, even against him. v52, “Are you from Galilee too? (in other words – are you in league with this Jesus too?) Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” Well, not technically. In their rage they seem to have forgotten their own Law as Nicodemus pointed out, and that the prophet Jonah was in fact a Galilean. Be warned…religious prideful rage can blind us from the deepest of beauties.


Satisfaction and division. These two things, which we tend to separate and believe they have little to do with one another, have clearly been set before us. If we could sum up this passage into one statement and one question it would be this. Jesus offers ultimate satisfaction to those who come to Him; this satisfaction is gained by believing in Him, and experienced in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But this offer of satisfaction is on His terms, and will at some time or another produce deep division between you and those around you. That’s the statement.

Now the question: are you still willing to drink?





[1] Richard Phillips, Reformed Expository Commentary: John 1-10, page 479-480.

[2] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, NICNT, page 421.

[3] Charles H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 31, page 674.

[4] J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John, vol. 2, page 45.

[5] Richard Phillips, page 485.

[6] Ibid., page 491.

[7] Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics, page 327.

[8] Richard Phillips, page 493.

[9] R.C. Sproul, John: St. Andrews Expositional Commentary, page 146.

John 7:25-36 – Seeking the Face of Christ

With our pastor out of town for the thanksgiving holiday we’ve invited Reverend Brian Zitt to come and preach to us. He picked up where pastor Adam left off the previous week, in John 7:25-36, enjoy!

John 7:14-24 – Christ the Scholar

This Sunday we move into our second week of John 7-8. Here the enemies of Jesus bring more objections against Jesus than any other place in Scripture. And Jesus answers them all. With Thanksgiving a few days away and Christmas and New Years right around the corner, it’s good for us to see this. Why? I’ve found it is this time of year when most people often air their opinions of and objections about Jesus as well. With so much talk of Jesus in the air it’s good for us to see Him clearly answer every objection thrown at Him. Specifically for us here in John 7:14-24 Jesus decides to become very public in a very hostile environment. What He does, what He says, and how the crowds of people respond to Him is all very instructive for us.

Recall, as John 7 began we saw in v2 that the annual Feast of Booths or Feast of Tabernacles was about to begin in Jerusalem where all Jews were to come to the city and remember and celebrate how God led them and provided for them in their wilderness wanderings. Jesus, who had been going about for sometime in Galilee, is given the advice to go to this feast and reveal who He is publicly and powerfully. This advice, given from His half brothers, Jesus rejects…telling them He will not go and reveal who He is at this feast as they want Him to do. We then saw in v10 that after His brothers left for the feast, Jesus also goes to the feast, not publicly as they desired, but privately. And apparently even though everyone believed Jesus wasn’t at the feast He was still the talk of the feast.[1] Even in His absence He was the One providing all the conversation.[2] Then a moment comes that changes everything for all those at the feast. v14 tells us, “About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching.”

So Jesus, though coming to the feast in private because the Jewish leaders want to kill Him, decides to no longer remain private. And not only does He no longer wish to remain private, He goes up and makes Himself known in the most public setting He could, at the temple, where He begins teaching. This is where the scene begins for us today in v14-24. And coming to this passage we see a sort of back and forth conversation, or question and answer dialogue between Jesus, the Jews, and the crowd. Interestingly enough, John doesn’t reveal to us what Jesus taught in this moment, which tells us for John’s purposes in writing this gospel, at least in this section, has more to do with the interaction between Jesus and the general Jerusalem population rather than what He taught. So after He spends some time teaching the Jew’s respond with the first question in v15, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”

At first you may think, ‘Why we’re they surprised at His teaching, haven’t they hard it before?’ Well, perhaps they haven’t. This festival brought many Jews from all around the nation and Jesus hadn’t been back to Jerusalem in quite a while. So for many of these people, this would’ve been the first time they we’re exposed to His teaching.[3] That they asked “How is it that this man has learning?” means they were wondering how Jesus, who wasn’t a Rabbi or a Rabbi’s disciple, could teach like or better than most Rabbi’s.[4] He hadn’t devoted much of his life to any of their educational systems, He was nothing more than a carpenter’s son to them. That word “learning” in v15 literally means letters in Greek, indicating that His teaching displayed a vast depth in and knowledge of the sacred letters of God, i.e. the Scripture. Jesus’ answer in v16 would’ve shocked them, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.” Unlike the Jewish leaders and other Rabbi’s who often quoted other teachers and many various opinions of the day Jesus makes it clear that His teaching isn’t based on His own experience, schooling, or knowledge of the scholars of their time. No, His teaching was entirely unique.

I believe this is something too often forgot today. We live in a time when preaching and teaching largely consists of those who have thunk up something to say and then go in search of Bible verses to back it up. What Jesus says here “My teaching is not mine…” ought to be every pastor’s motto.[5] The question I am often reminded of when I sit down to study is ‘Who gets to decide what is preached in the pulpit?’ The answer to that question isn’t me! The answer isn’t any man! God and God alone decides what is said behind His sacred desk. We do not invent things to say and then try to justify them with Scripture. Rather, the content of Scripture is what we must say because God alone has the authority to speak to His people. These Jews were used to being in academic circles, used to hearing Rabbi’s with proper credentials. Even so today many churches look to the same things in their own pastor, and though a proper education isn’t a bad thing, it isn’t everything. We should be remember, a pastor may have been to a great seminary where he had the best training possible, a pastor may have a very dynamic and appealing personality, a pastor may draw crowds and crowds of people. But the diploma hanging on the wall, his personality, and the size of the church isn’t where true authority comes from. The only preaching that carries God’s very authority is preaching that submits to and is derived from the sacred letters of God. This is in a sense what Jesus says, and in this He helps us learn how to distinguish between true and false teaching. Where was His teaching from? “My teaching is…His who sent Me.” In other words, His teaching has no earthly source, His teaching cites no earthly scholar, His teaching is of divine origin.[6]

Jesus’ response in v16 would’ve been enough to cause quite a stir but He continues on. In v17-18 He keeps going and says, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on My own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of Him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” This means that what Jesus said in v16 should be clear and evident to those who are sincerely seeking God. Anyone who wills, or desires, or wishes, or resolves, or purposes to know God’s will will gain a true sense and discernment that Jesus’ teaching isn’t from His own authority, but is from God, and also that Jesus in teaching (as v18 says) is seeking the glory of Him who sent Him. If these Jews were really seeking God, if they were really listening to God’s Word, they would get it. But they aren’t, so they don’t. Theologian Leon Morris says here, “His hearers raised the question of His competence as a teacher, He raises the question of their competence as hearers.”[7]

So the question for you today is similar. When Jesus’ teaching hits your ears, whether it be about His divinity, His humanity, His sovereignty, or His role among the Trinity – do you sit at His feet eager and willing to learn though these things may be hard? Or do you stand before Him arguing, unwilling to bend your will to His will? For those of you standing and arguing there is a needed rebuke here. How dare you stand before the Son of God Himself – God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God – and act surprised that He would know wisdom at all like these Jews. You need to be rebuked for your arrogance. But for those of you sitting at Jesus’ feet, eager to learn but finding it hard to understand there is a promise for you in v17. If you will to know God’s will, you will. You may initially hear and think of the Word of God as an external thing, but the more you sink the teeth of your soul into it the more you’ll find God making His Word an internal thing for you. You’ll feel the sap true Vine alive and well flowing through you causing growth and change. And as you grow in your capacity to understand and know God’s will you’ll find the resolve and readiness to do God’s will growing also.[8]

Jesus in v19 continues to call them out saying, “Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill Me?” He brings Moses up because these schooled Jewish theologians questioning His credentials claim to follow the Law of God. Yet, despite what they claim they are trying to kill Jesus, even though the Law says “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13). Jesus had clearly implied in v18 that He is true, but another implication of v18 is that the Jews who question His teaching are false. They would’ve picked up on this, were probably beginning to boil in anger and in wounded Jewish zeal. Few things are as dangerous as wounded pride. Just as an acorn, though small, contains within it a whole forest, so too pride, though thought of as a small sin, contains within it a host of wickedness.

It seems before they’re able to muster up any kind of response to Jesus, this back and forth dialogue continues with the crowd blurting out their own response in v20, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” I find this moment ripe with tension. Notice it’s the crowd here speaking “Who is trying to kill you?” Remember, most of the citizens of Jerusalem likely remember the hostility present between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees but this is feast time. Sure all the normal citizens are there but the city is overrun with visitors from all around the nation who know nothing of the hatred brewing in the Jewish leaders toward Jesus. They hear what Jesus has to say, that people are trying to kill Him for what He’s teaching and they conclude that He has some kind of martyr complex, or is demon possessed. All the while, who is silent in this tension filled scene? The Jews. The crowd may be thinking Jesus is a fool here, but the Jews say nothing. Do you wonder why? John never tells us but I think they’re silent because they know it’s true. They do indeed want to kill Him, they know it’s ungrounded and wicked, but they won’t change, the crowd won’t stay in the dark for long, but for now the Jews remain silent.

But Jesus doesn’t. He keeps going, and tells the crowd why their leaders want to kill Him.

v21-24, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with Me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?”

Here Jesus refers back to one of His miracles. Two chapters earlier in John 5:1-17, we see Jesus heal, in Jerusalem and on the Sabbath, a man who’d been an invalid for 38 years. This caused such a stir among the Jewish leaders, that they sought to kill Jesus. This is the incident Jesus refers to here in v21-24. But notice what Jesus says about it. These Jews held so closely to the Law that they would judiciously avoid anything remotely resembling ‘work’ on the Sabbath, in order to keep it pure. But God in the Law (and even further back with the Patriarchs) commanded every male born in Israel to be circumcised at 8 days old no matter what. This they did; even when a circumcision fell on a Sabbath these Jews would circumcise the boy without hesitation. Jesus’ argument is simple but pointed. If they would perform a circumcision on a Sabbath without hesitation, and circumcision was thought to make that boy ritually or ceremonially clean, why are they angry when Jesus healed a man on a Sabbath, and that healing made his whole body well?[9] Jesus is pointing out that these Jewish leaders pridefully keep the letter of the Law, while Jesus understands and lives by the spirit of the Law. Their religious habit had blinded them from seeing the true meaning of circumcision, and so when Jesus comes along teaching and doing miracles, pointing out that true meaning, they get so worked up that they try to end His life.

Again we see that wounded pride is as dangerous as a cornered lion. Even more precisely, see in these Jews the great danger of wounded religious pride. See what it leads to? A murderous rage. So Jesus’ concluding instruction for all His hearers, at least for now is found in v24, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” This is where our text ends, but it’s not where we end this morning.


I’d like to end by pointing out how these words met those who originally heard it, and how these words ought to hit us today.

What did right judgment look like for this crowd?

For these Jews and for this crowd v24 means they ought to judge or discern Christ rightly. From the appearance of things these Jews looked like the most devoted religious people in the world, but their heart in observing the Sabbath so strictly (v18) was all about seeking their own glory, not God’s. And so though they look religious, they’re the furthest thing from it. They have claimed to walk with and know God, but the live by and vex others with the commandments of men. Remember the parable of the prodigal son? We often misunderstand it thinking the only son who’s lost is the younger brother. But the older brother in the story of the prodigal son was just as lost as the younger. In fact, he was more lost. Though his life looked well ordered and faithful, he was furious when his father threw his younger brother a party when he returned home. This reveals that he too only loved his father for his stuff. All this to say, v24, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” for this crowd is a rebuke to the Jews and a warning to the visiting crowd. The rebuke is that these Jews are false, the warning is that there are a lot of people who look very religious in this world who are on their way to hell. Don’t be one of them.

What does right judgment look like for us?

People often quote Matthew 7:1 in opposition to those who show any hint of a judgmental attitude toward others, “Judge not, that you not be judged.” This happens outside the Church for sure, but it also happens within the Church. While Jesus’ statement here should encourage us toward a gracious posture to all people, Jesus is in no way recommending us to put our critical thinking on the shelf in the Christian life and be 100% accepting of everyone or everything. Rather, for us v24 is a call to a right judgment, to a true discerning, and to a willingness to make proper distinctions. What kind of distinctions are we being called to make in v24? A distinction between what is true and what is false. On one hand we should deeply and personally embrace the truth. On the other hand we should seriously and solemnly warn against what is false. It is not popular, it is not hip, it sounds judgmental to our modern sensibilities, but if we do not judge, all things, with right judgment we won’t have renewed minds we’ll have polluted minds.

When I was a kid every time our family went on vacation, we drove. We never flew, ever. We enjoyed this though, and developed certain habits in our road trips over the years. One of the habits was stopping at antique stores off the highway. I was always eager to go in and see what baseball cards they had, but would then end up walking around with my mother looking at dishes. Not any kind of dishes, no, mom only wanted authentic blue willow dishes. So as the years went on, and we went to these antique stores I grew in my ability to spot a real blue willow from a fake. I knew what to look for in the color, in the images on the plate, in the engraving on the back, even the weight of the plates. Such that by the time I was a teenager I only had to look at a blue willow plate to see if it was genuine or not. I think Jesus is telling us the Christian life looks like this. We don’t study heresy, we don’t lean into polluted doctrine, or wrong theology, heavens no. Judging with right judgment means we know the real thing so well that we can spot a fake a mile away. Can you? Or do you get confused at all the varying gospels preached around the world today? Remember the promise in v17. Anyone who wills, or desires to know God’s will, will hear Christ’s teaching and will know and feel that this Christ is genuine. That is, the preaching of the gospel falls on the ears of those who want to know God, and they hear a symphony of glory, while the proud and arrogant hear nothing but static.

I would be no preacher of the gospel if I didn’t ask, do you hear the symphony of God’s grace when you hear Christ’s teaching? When you hear the gospel? That Christ, the eternal Son of God became Man to enable men to become sons of God. Or does it do nothing within you? If you hear the symphony of glory you’ll end up at the opposite conclusion than this crowd.[10] They thought Christ had a demon after hearing Him. No, to those who have ears to hear, they know He was then, is today, and always be Lord over all. By God’s grace may you judge Christ rightly.




[1] R.C. Sproul, John – St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 129.

[2] F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, page 174.

[3] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 404.

[4] Ibid., page 405.

[5] Richard Phillips, John 1-10, Reformed Expository Commentary, page 460-461.

[6] Leon Morris, page 405.

[7] Ibid., page 406.

[8] Richard Phillips, page 460-464.

[9] Leon Morris, page 408.

[10] Richard Phillips, page 468.

John 7:1-13 – Strife About & At the Feast

As we begin John 7 we must remember what just took place in John 6. Jesus has just given His ‘Bread of Life’ discourse and as a result of it many of His followers chose not to follow Him any longer because His words didn’t suit their fancy. They wanted a political general, someone powerful to physically defend them not someone bringing a spiritual kingdom to them. The drama of their rejection of Him doesn’t stop when chapter 6 is over, it continues on into chapter 7.[1] And now that it has begun, we see this rejection steadily slide into greater and greater hostility ending with His crucifixion. I think this is timely for us as we enter the thanksgiving and Christmas season because this is the time of year when questions and objections abound concerning Jesus. Who He is, why He came, what He taught. In fact, when we enter into chapters 7-8 of John’s gospel we enter the arena of Jesus’ enemies who say more against Jesus in these two chapters than any other place in all four gospels. Therefore, as we enter into the holiday season, prepare not only to hear many objections to Jesus, prepare to see them answered.[2]

Narrowing down into our text today, John 7:1-13, there are two moments of strife for us to see and learn from.

Family Strife (v1-9)

v1-2 sets the stage for us, “After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand.”

Here we see the hostility had risen so high, that Jesus could not walk freely in Judea because the Jews wanted to not only arrest Him, but kill Him. Most likely some time had gone by between the end of chapter 6 and the beginning of chapter 7. We see a hint of this in the words “After this” and “went about in Galilee.” After the events of chapter 6 Jesus moved around freely, spoke freely, lived freely in Galilee, because there He was out of the sight and reach of the Jewish leaders. Remember we also saw a hint of this back in John 6:4 when it mentioned the time when Jesus fed the multitude was during Passover. So the time between that moment and this moment, or the time between the Passover and this Feast of Booths, was around 6 months. This tells us much. Usually disputes and hard feelings lessen as time passes, I’m sure you’ve found this to be true in your life many times. Here in this case we find the opposite. As time had gone on, the words of Christ throughout chapter 6 lingered in the ears of the Jews, so much so that their ill will toward Him persisted and increased. So Jesus avoided Judea and Jerusalem and remained in Galilee. But it was feast time. The Feast of Booths was about to take place and all Jews from all over the nation were to attend this seven day celebration of God’s provision for them in wilderness and the end of harvest time.

Naturally then, Jesus’ brothers come to Him in v3-4 and say, “Leave here and go to Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works You are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show yourself to the world.” You may at first think these words are encouraging words from Jesus’ own family. Words that respectfully guide and give instruction. v5 tells us otherwise, and helps us understand and interpret the manner in which their ‘advice’ is given. v5 says, “For not even His brothers believed in Him.” Interesting that such advice would come from unbelief isn’t it? This clues us in that they do not have Jesus’ interest in mind, but something else. There are many opinions as to the motive of this advice. Maybe[3] the brothers had seen the great works of Christ and simply wanted others to see them. Maybe they want all those who’ve just left Jesus to see more wonders and that’s why they tell Him this. Maybe they sense a coming revolt and encourage Jesus to go show Himself publicly so that those wanting revolt will be stirred and some kind of political turmoil will result in Jerusalem. Maybe, there’s a tone of arrogance in these words, that they believe they know better than Jesus and speak down to Him in a kind of condescending manner. Maybe they just give simple advice, that Jesus has to get more public than Galilee to get noticed. If He wants to be seen as the Messiah He needs to do these works out in the open, where everyone would see them, in the nation’s capital, in Jerusalem.

Whatever they were thinking, whatever the reasoning behind their counsel we see one thing clearly, their counsel is worldly and their eyes are blind to the beauty of Christ. For 30 years they had grown up with Him, played with Him, slept in the same room as Him and yet couldn’t see the truth about who He was. Most of us see this and are baffled that people so close to Christ missed it! And yet, we are often blind to the fact that we can be faithful church attenders, faithful givers, and faithful in serving the local church, maybe even for 30 years and still miss it! Do not be so quick to accuse these brothers for their blindness while the same blindness exists, probably, all around us.

This scene is eerily similar to the first miracle of Jesus, at the wedding in Cana when He turned water to wine, remember that? The groom didn’t provide enough wine, it embarrassingly ran out, and Mary the mother of Jesus went up to Him and asked Him to solve this issue publicly so that they all would know who He was? Remember what Jesus said to her? John 2:5, “Woman, what does this have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” Notice how Jesus responds to His brothers request in v6-8, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” Many people close to Jesus wanted Jesus to show Himself, to show His power to many, and put on a massive show of wonders to prove who He truly was. But as He did with His mother back in chapter 2 He does with His brothers here in chapter 7. He separates Himself from them, refusing to do what they set before Him and bow the knee to their misguided and blind agenda for His life. So there in Galilee Jesus remains, and off His brothers go to the feast, doubtless believing Jesus has dramatically failed to live up to their expectations of what a true Messiah ought to be.[4]

This past August a few of us went to Vietnam to visit some missionaries. I knew we were going to go out into the villages and I knew that in those villages we were going to partake in some cuisine that is very foreign to my tastes. I had certain expectations, that we’d be having a nice time, talking of gospel growth and gospel gatherings in that area, and that eventually someone would bring out a plate of thumb thick grub worms for us to eat. My prior expectations produced some real concern in me. I knew it would’ve been rude to not try it, I wasn’t worried about trying it, I was worried about how would I react once it was in my mouth and I chomped through the bug’s thick juices and bones. Sure enough the time came and our team was offered a plate full of grasshoppers. I was a bit relieved that it wasn’t grub worms but nonetheless I’ve never eaten a grasshopper before. My prior expectations stirred up my concern anew, my angst grew high, I knew I had to do it to be courteous, so I grabbed one and ate it. To my surprise it wasn’t half bad. In fact, it was tasty enough that I grabbed another one from the plate and threw that one in my mouth and while the first bug didn’t in anyway match my dreadful expectations, the second bug did in everyway. It was bigger and therefore didn’t get cooked all the way through, and so as you can imagine juices flowed out and I immediately stopped chewing and swallowed to get rid of it.

I share this story to simply say, expectations really matter. My expectations about eating bugs produced a certain amount of nervousness in me and that caused me to worry about our meals. The expectations of the brothers of Jesus about what a Messiah would be deeply distorted their view of Jesus. The question for us then is simple: do you, like these brothers, believe that God has failed to live up to your expectations? Have you become angry with Jesus when Jesus doesn’t bow the knee to your agenda? When He does something you think He shouldn’t, or doesn’t do something you think He should? Feeling like this is understandable, we experience loads of things that can push us in this direction whether it be sickness, sorrow, or scandal. We often respond to God in these moments with anger and unbelief. But as understandable as these moments are they are enormously inexcusable. We are the ones in the wrong, we are the ones who need to repent, and we are the ones who need to readjust our expectations according to Scripture. Remember, God is not under our judgment, ever. Why do we live as though He were? I’ll tell you why. It’s because we’re fallen sinful people, ever in need of continuing renovation of the soul. Praise God He does this, right?

We’ve see His own brothers murmur about Him, as the text moves on we see the murmuring doesn’t stay with them, it expands to the general public.

Public Strife (v10-13)

What happens next catches us off guard. Jesus had told His brothers in v6-8 that it is not His time to go to Jerusalem and reveal His power, but in v10 what does He do? He goes to Jerusalem. Is this deception, inconsistency, or even a change of mind here? No.[5] Well then what is going on? Much. Earlier in v6-8 when Jesus responds to His brothers He said He would not go up with them because His “time has not yet fully come.” By speaking like this He was not saying the time was wrong chronologically, as if He just needed to wait to right time on the clock to go. No, He was saying the present moment wasn’t the suitable time or the right time to publicly show Himself to the world as they wanted. That time would one day come, when all would see His manifold power displayed very publicly in the seeming weakness of His death on the cross. If He went as the brothers suggested the Jews would kill Him, because the world hates Him because He calls out their sin. He will not die at a Feast of Booths. That’s not the plan. He will die, yes. And His death will be a very public event, yes. But His death will be at a Passover yet to come when He will take up the role of the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. That time was soon approaching, but it had not come yet. Jesus never told His brothers He wouldn’t go, He just said He wouldn’t go and do according to their plans. What then are His plans? Or more precisely, what are His Father’s plans? To go up secretly. So off He goes, never to see Galilee again before His death.[6]

In v11 the scene transitions to this feast and we read, “The Jews were looking for Him at the feast, and saying, ‘Where is He?’” The Jews mentioned here are the same Jews v1 referenced who want to kill Him. They must have been thinking that if everyone is supposed to come to the feast Jesus will be showing up as well. So they were on the lookout for Him, likely walking among the crowds, ever observing to notice anything that happened out of place, but at least for now there is no sign of Him. Apparently even though everyone believed Jesus wasn’t at the feast He was still the talk of the feast.[7] Even in His absence He was the One providing all the juicy conversation.[8] Yet, there was a sense of fear among the people. Though all we’re talking about Him, about His works, and about His teaching everyone was afraid to talk too loudly for fear of the Jews. We see this in v12-13, “And there was much muttering about Him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, He is leading the people astray.” Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of Him.”

Opinions of Christ were not in short supply at the feast and ironically amid all this talk about Jesus, Jesus remained hidden. That He remained hidden while all this talk is happening about Him is the epitome of irony. He who will one day return to judge the living and the dead remains silent and secret while the world judges Him. In a true sense we see Jesus here silently bearing the judgments of the world. All this talk, all these opinions in v12 that He is bearing is but a preview of the coming day when He will publicly bear the greater judgment of God in behalf of scoffers like these who will one day believe.

But I think there’s more to press into here in v12-13. I think we see this in the reality that even though 2,000 years have passed since this moment, our world today is still very much caught up in the same conversation. The world around us is ever speaking of Jesus in the exact same ways aren’t they? Some saying He’s a good teacher, others saying He’s a false teacher who created His own religion. You should be concerned about what other people around you are saying and believing about Jesus. The more you know about what your friend, neighbor, and co-worker believes about Jesus the more eager you ought to be about sharing the gospel with them. Since this conversation is ever taking place, we ought to be the ones who jump in because we know the truth about who He is. Even if these conversations take place within our own families or in the general public, we should never shy away from them.

As important as this is for us to learn, there’s a greater and more pointed challenge for us here. Sure the world may be ever caught up with discussing who Jesus is, what matters most isn’t what the world says about Jesus, what matters is what you say about Him.[9] Who do you say He is? Is He just a good teacher? Is He a false teacher leading many astray? Do you believe in Him? Do you take Him at His word? Do you just like to be in on the conversation because it’s juicy and controversial? Or maybe for fear of those around you, you don’t ever speak of Jesus at all? They don’t know you’re a Christian and you prefer it like that because you know that if they knew it your life would be a lot harder.

Church, God is holy, you are sinful, Christ came to redeem sinners, and now God is calling the whole world to repent and believe in Him. You will see many people around you respond to this gospel message in multiple ways, what will you do? That is the question that begs an answer today.




[1] R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 215.

[2] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 392.

[3] Ibid., page 395 gives this whole list of options.

[4] F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, page 172.

[5] Charles Erdman, The Gospel of John, page 68-70, this section was very helpful to me in understanding this passage.

[6] F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, page 173.

[7] R.C. Sproul, John – St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 129.

[8] F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, page 174.

[9] Richard Phillips, John 1-10 – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 458.

John 6:60-71 – The Bread of Heaven, Part 5

Whether you’re brand new to SonRise or have been around SonRise for a while, let me briefly state what we seek to accomplish in this sermon moment each week. During the preaching portion of our Sunday morning gathering we employ and enjoy a style of preaching called expositional preaching. Which means we do not aim at saying anything new but seek to only say what God has already said, such that the point of the text is the point of the sermon. In this sense whichever elder preaches the sermon we aim to be the nothing but waiters, whose task is taking the Chef’s meal and bringing it to the table without changing it in any way, shape, or form. We don’t to do this randomly but orderly, as we work through books of the Bible. So when we come to specific passages week after week we come to them in their own context, having already examined the verses that come before and anticipating the verses that come after. Or to put it another way, we seek to sit underneath the authority and illumination of the Scripture, rather than standing over it using the Scripture to support our own message. This is our goal, we don’t do it perfectly, but we do aim to be faithful handlers of God’s Word.[1]

Having just finished our celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, today we’re picking back in our series on John’s gospel, which we began in January and plan to be in for some time. John’s gospel may be new for some of us, it may be very familiar to others of us, but nonetheless it’s a true story for all of us.[2] If you do not have a Bible you can understand we have one for you in the back that you’re welcome to keep if you’d like. If you’ve already picked up one of those Bibles you’ll find our passage today, John 6:60-71, on page 520. I’ll pray, and then we’ll get to it. Let’s pray.

Two things to see today: False Converts (v60-66) and True Converts (v67-71).

False Converts (v60-66)

During the first part of Jesus’ ministry many people were attracted to Him. Some indeed wholeheartedly but certainly some only loosely. As chapter 6 progresses we see Jesus put this crowd to the test. His claims about who He is and what He has come to do are becoming clearer, they are rising to the surface, and because of it we see a sifting taking place between those who are true and those who are false.[3] In v60 we read, “When many of His disciples heard it, they said ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’” After hearing their question we should ask our own. What did they hear from Jesus that was so hard? Answer: all Christ had to say to them in chapter 6.

In the beginning of John 6 Jesus performs a great miracle in taking a young boys lunch and making it into a meal for a multitude. That same multitude, right after the miracle and for sometime after, seeks to make Him king because He seems (to them) to be someone who can truly take care of their needs. But Jesus didn’t come to meet physical needs, or to merely meet materialistic expectations, or to be the political leader they wanted Him to be. He came to meet the deepest need of man, the eternal satisfaction of the soul. This is why He worked the wonder of feeding the 5,000, to show that by being able to feed them physically for one evening, He is truly able and willing to feed their souls forever. He takes time to explain this to the crowds clearly telling them He was the very manna from God, the true bread of heaven that gives life to the world. In v27 He called them to labor for the food that endures to eternal life. He spoke about this heavenly food in v33 saying the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven. Then in blazing clarity Jesus says in v35, “I am the Bread of life.” Again in v41, “I am the Bread that came down from heaven.” After some grumbling Jesus makes a statement in v44 about God’s sovereign grace saying the only ones who’ll sink the teeth of their souls into the Bread of life are those whom the Father draws. In v50 Jesus remarks those who eat this bread will not die. In v51 we see another moment of blazing clarity in when Jesus says, “The Bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Upon coming to v52 we see a shift in the crowd. They had quietly grumbled about His teaching earlier in v41, now they are openly disputing about it in v52. And by the time v60 comes around it is no longer just the crowd who is having trouble with Jesus’ teaching, it’s His very own disciples.

That they said “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” doesn’t mean that they didn’t understand these things Jesus had just taught. They got it that Jesus was speaking metaphorically and not literally about Him being the true manna from heaven, and eating His flesh and drinking His blood. They understood these to be claims of divinity. They understood the necessity of sovereign grace to reveal divine truth to sinful man. By saying that these were hard words they meant they were severe words, offensive words even, words that they found hard to accept, words that were more than they could endure.[4] In his commentary on John’s gospel John Calvin comments here saying, “The hardness wasn’t in the teaching of Christ, but the hearts of those who heard it.”[5]

So, Jesus knowing these things said in v61-65, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray Him.) And He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

Jesus doesn’t say anything here to help ease their grumbling or soften His teaching. If anything His words here call them out and therefore probably increase their grumbling. He says if they had seen His ascension to glory, where He was before He came to walk among them, they would believe and wouldn’t grumble. Why then do they grumble at His teaching? The answer is simple but it is difficult for us to hear: they grumbled in v60 because His Word isn’t enough. This then is why Jesus in v63-65 says only the Spirit, not the flesh, can give life. The words He has spoken are that very life-filled vocabulary and because they respond to it with unbelief shows that, though they have followed Him for a time, they are false. This doesn’t surprise Jesus, as v64-65 remind us, He knows the hearts of men. Then we see a sad scene after this rebuke in v66. “After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.”

I wonder how v60-66 hits you. When many others would have changed or altered their message to make it less offensive, Jesus doesn’t. Here we see false converts, those who followed for a time but turned back and left Him in the end. They had been interested in Jesus not for who He is or for what He teaches but for how they thought they could use Jesus for their own purposes. They’re false because when Jesus’ teaching doesn’t fit with their preconceived ideas and agendas they leave Jesus.

This sounds an awful lot like today doesn’t it? Perhaps this sounds an awful lot like you. I meet with a group of pastors once a month for fellowship, prayer, and study and at our last meeting one of them told us he had been preaching through the book of Romans and found that his congregation responded in a way that saddened him. During the series he said there were two times when people left the church. He said they left when he covered the sinfulness of man in chapter 1, and he said even more left when he covered the sovereignty of God in chapter 9. What happened? Why did they leave? The clear teaching of the Word of God didn’t fit into their predetermined box. Rather than submitting to what the Word says and living underneath it these people left and found another church that didn’t preach things foreign to what they already believed to be true.

Be challenged Church, most of you will say v60-66 doesn’t describe you, but ask: are you deceiving yourself? What this crowd in John 6 wanted Jesus would not give. What Jesus offered they would not receive. Does that describe you? If so, you have every reason to fear the wrath of God because regardless what you say you are, you’re lost and you too are a false convert. Or perhaps you truly do believe in Jesus but have come to the point where you’re frustrated with the teaching of Jesus, or have become frustrated with the Christian life because it isn’t as easy as you thought. If this is you, may I ask you a question? When did Jesus ever promise a life of ease in following Him? When did Jesus ever say His teaching was simple? Too many Christians in our day are coddled by the church and not encouraged to grow up and press on toward maturity. Too many of us are content and comfortable in our faith, and because of this we shy away from anything or anyone who’ll rock the boat too much.

Is this the kind of faith you’ve bought into? Let’s be real for a moment – the idol of comfort is one of the great sins of the American church. We love to be comfortable. If we thought about it long enough, we would see that we’ve unloaded all of this into our spiritual lives and have come to believe that Jesus exists to make us more comfortable in this life. That He exists for us rather than we for Him. Passages like this, where Jesus intentionally disrupts the comforts of others and does nothing to alleviate discomfort make me want to say – if the Jesus you’re following never makes your life uncomfortable, you’re not following this Jesus in John 6. Jesus doesn’t give participation trophies, He gives a crown of life to those who persevere by sovereign grace!

May you do just that.

True Converts (v67-71)

v60-66 showed how many of the disciples of Jesus were repelled by His teaching, now in v67-71 comes the big test. “What will the twelve do?”[6]

This is exactly the question Jesus poses to the twelve in v67, “So Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’” That Jesus asked this to the twelve does not show any weakness or worry on Jesus’ part. He’s asking this to push them to one way or another, and displaying for them just how costly it is to truly follow Him. I think as much as the previous section of this passage challenged us, there is as much in this last passage to encourage us. Are some of you prone to doubt, prone to be rash, prone to be hotheaded, impatient, slow to understand, weak, small, insignificant, or foolish? All of these attributes are present in the twelve and more, and yet here they are in v67-71; probably feeling as much of the hardness of Jesus’ teaching as those before, but rather than leave like the rest they’re staying.

There’s only one question that comes to mind when we see them stay: why?

Why would they continue to follow someone whose teaching is so hard that it decreases His influence? Why stay when everyone else is leaving? Why stay when it costs this much to do so? Well, could we not ask similar questions of one another today? Being a Christ follower today doesn’t make one popular, if anything, it puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to advancement in most arenas within our current culture. Why do we stay? Why do we come to worship this One who is thought to be so out of touch with modern society? Why are we a part of this thing called Christianity?

That Peter answers Jesus’ question is no surprise to anyone familiar with Peter’s actions in the gospels. He is often the one who, for better or for worse, immediately says what he is thinking. There are places this did not help him, but what we see in v68-69 of him is beautiful. It is not only the answer Peter gives for himself and the twelve, it is also the answer we must give to the same questions in our present secular age. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.” This confession of Peter shows that Peter, though not fully getting it, knows a few things really well, so well that he seems to be mastered by them. Peter knows that there is no one else worth going to. Peter knows what Jesus Himself said back in v63, that His words are spirit and life that give eternal life. And Peter knows what He believes, that this Jesus is the Christ He claims to be. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have moments in them where they record a similarly great confession from Peter. This is John’s. And in all four gospels, it’s after Peter’s confession that things begin to get very hard for Jesus and those following Him.

These words put Peter and the rest of the twelve at odds with the rest of the society around them because they publicly display that they are with the Jesus. In contrast to the false disciples who defected from Christ, Peter and the twelve stood out as true disciples who were devoted to Christ. And yes, if we claim the name of Christ this great confession must be our confession too even if what these words did for them they also do now for us; separating us from the world because they publicly display to the world that we are with Christ.

This is all good and true, but let’s come at this from another angle to peer deeper into this. What was it that separated Peter and the twelve from the false converts of their day? And, what is it that separates you and I from the false converts of our day? Answer: while Peter did not deny that the teaching of Christ was hard, he acknowledged that Jesus’ words were words of life.[7] Do you? This was the one thing the separated the twelve from all those who left. They heard the teaching of Christ, felt the difficult weight and reality of what He was saying, and trusted Him anyway. Do you do this when the teaching of Christ doesn’t mesh with you? Or, when the Bible disagrees with you, do you understand that you’re the one in error and not it?

Did you see how Jesus ends the passage in v70-71? “Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for He, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.” They have just been through a trial where they had to choose to follow Jesus even if that decision brought very public and unpopular consequences. Now Jesus, by ending this way, prepares His disciples for an even greater trial. It’s as if He’s saying, “You twelve now remain out of what was once a large following. If your faith hasn’t been shaken by the unbelief of many, get ready for something harder. For our number, though small, includes one who is a devil.”[8]


So church, God has set before you this morning two examples of what to do when following Jesus gets hard; defection or devotion, what will you choose?

[9]Jesus may confuse us at times. He may perplex us and may even provoke us with things He says. And yet, do you see enough beauty in Jesus, do you see enough worthy of your trust in Jesus to say with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…No one ever spoke like you. No one ever acted like you. No was ever so strong and meek, authoritative and gentle, profound and simple, powerful and yet willing to be killed, just and yet willing to be treated unjustly, worthy of honor and yet willing to be dishonored, deserving of immediate obedience and yet patient with people like us, able to answer every question and yet willing to remain silent under abuse, capable of coming down from the cross in flaming judgment and yet committed not to use that power…no one is like You Lord, You are the Holy One of God.”




[1] The Response Church in San Diego (Acts 29) begins every sermon with a description very similar to this.

[2] Kevin DeYoung, The Biggest Story, page 120.

[3] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, NICNT, page 382.

[4] F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, page 162.

[5] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentary’s – The Gospels, page 711.

[6] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, NICNT, page 388.

[7] R.C. Sproul, John: St. Andrews Expositional Commentary, page 126.

[8] John Calvin, Reformation Commentary on Scripture: John 1-12, page 255.

[9] John Piper, You Have the Words of Eternal Life, Desiring God Sermons, 12.20.2009, accessed on deisringgod.org.

Five Solas – Soli Deo Gloria

It was a privilege to have Tanner Cline as our guest preacher this Sunday. Pastor Tanner is a good friend of Pastor Adam, he spoke at the Publicans conference yesterday, and serves as pastor to Hopewell Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Covington, GA. We we’re encouraged to hear from him this past week, you’ll be encouraged as well. Enjoy!

Five Solas – Solus Christus

Here in the 500th anniversary of the Protestant reformation we find ourselves at part 4 in our sermon series through the “Five Solas” or the five large themes of the reformation. We’re doing this to find out why they mattered then and why they still matter today. On this anniversary we have a need to answer some questions: do the ministry and writings of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the other reformers still matter? Is there still a need to reform the Church? Are we as Protestants, still protesting? The answer to these questions, as we have said, is a resounding yes. And though there is truly a danger in idolizing the past, there is a greater danger in forgetting the past altogether.[1] So let’s once again turn to the past, to gain insight for today.

The Five Solas are:

-Sola Scriptura, Scripture Alone

-Sola Gratia, Grace Alone

-Sola Fide, Faith Alone

-Solus Christus, Christ Alone

-Soli Deo Gloria, to the Glory of God Alone

We now turn our attention to the fourth of these, Solus Christus (Christ Alone). To show us what this is and why it matters our text this morning is Hebrews 1:1-4, you heard Andrew read it before, let’s see what God has for us in it.

The author of Hebrews, whoever it was, in these first four verses quickly brings his readers to his main point: Jesus is better than all that’s come before. Specifically for us, there are three things to see in this text: Christ the Prophet, Christ the Priest, and Christ the King.

Christ the Prophet (v1-2a)

In these first two verses of Hebrews we see a great deal not of what man has done to get to God but what God has done to reveal Himself to man. It is here we see Christ as Prophet. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke…” God is not a silent God, God is a God who speaks. If God had remained silent nothing that has been made would’ve been made.[2] Yet, into the dark void of Genesis 1:2 came God’s strong and divine words of creative power in Genesis 1:3, “Let there be light!” And there was light. God not only spoke all of creation into existence, but as the author of Hebrews says “…God spoke to our fathers by the prophets…” This means the same voice that crafted the world, called out to God’s people through the prophets. The calling of the prophet was to stand in the gap between God and man representing God as His mouthpiece. God would reveal His secret counsels to these prophets and then they would reveal the same to God’s people. They weren’t to edit, alter, amend, try to improve, or take away from the message to any degree. They were to simply give the message as is. This they did in many ways from Moses to Malachi whether by writing, proclaiming, miracles, or visions. This was how it worked back then, God revealed Himself, to His people, by His Word, through His prophet.

In v2 there is a transition to something new. “…but in these last days God has spoken to us by His Son…” Notice the author of Hebrews believes we’re not waiting for a future period of time called the ‘last days’, no, we’re already in the last days. And more so, the event that the marked the transition into the last days was when God, who once spoke by prophets, began speaking by His very own Son. So, we see here that God reveals Himself to His people in two stages: first to Israel by the prophets, and now to us, the Church, by His Son. It is these two stages that correspond to what we call the Old and New Testaments. Or the Old and New Covenants.

God’s divine revelation then, is truly progressive. I don’t mean the idea of God evolves from one generation to the next, of course not, He is the same forever and ever. I also do not mean God’s revelation progresses from something less true to more true, or less worthy to more worthy, or from less mature to more mature. The progression of God’s divine revelation from the Old Testament to the New Testament is a progression from promise to fulfillment, from shadow to reality. So we see a true progression here, but be sure to note that God’s progression in how He reveals Himself to His people is a progression up to Christ, and a progression no further than Christ.[3] Prophet after prophet was sent by God to God’s people with messages of hope, justice, mercy, judgment, and the promise of a coming Redeemer. Then it happened. When the fullness of time had come the unthinkable took place when the Son of God Himself came in the flesh to be our Redeemer.

The contrast being made in v1-2 is vast. God once spoke in many ways to Israel by the prophets, God now speaks in one way to the Church by His Son. Then, the prophets spoke the Word of God to God’s people, now Jesus Christ is the very Word of God come to God’s people.[4] Therefore, Christ is the perfect, full, and final revelation of who God is and what God requires of man. He is the Prophet of prophets.

Christ the Priest (v2b-3a)

In this third verse of Hebrews we see a great deal, not of what man has done to become right with God, but what God has done to make man right with Himself. It is here we see Christ as Priest. But before we get the great priestly statement at the end of v3, look what comes before it in the end of v2 and the beginning of v3. “…whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He (Christ) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.” These identity statements about who Christ is are loaded with life-altering reality, so loaded in fact we could do a whole sermon on each on of them. But for our purposes today just notice them briefly. Who is Jesus Christ? What does He do? Jesus Christ is the heir of all things, for His Father owns everything and has given all things into His hands. He is the Creator of the world, for He is the very Word of God which was God and was with God in the beginning. He is radiance of the glory of God, for He is the ultimate display of the God we see in the Isaiah 6 vision. He is the exact imprint of God’s nature, for God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him. And lastly, He is the upholder of the universe, for He is not only the powerful Word which made the world, He is the powerful Word which sustains the world. This Christ, who created all, sustains all, and is fully God, this majestic and sovereign Christ did something very priestly for us. See it in the end of v3? He and He alone, made purification for sins.

Here we come to the great Priestly work of Christ. In the Old Testament, as the prophet would go before the people as God’s representative, so too, the priest would go before God as the people’s representative. And being the representative of the people these priests would have to make sacrifices. Sacrifices for their own sins, sacrifices for the people’s sins, sacrifices on feast days, and sacrifices on festival days. Sacrifice upon sacrifice standing in the gap for the people before God. This was the calling and duty of the priest, and in that calling we see with clarity the work of Christ. He too made a sacrifice for sin. He too stood in the gap between God and man. But He made no sacrifice for His own sins, He didn’t have any, and He didn’t make repeated sacrifices, He made one.

The glory of His priestly sacrifice is twofold: first, His sacrifice is a one time event, which, covers all the sin, of all God’s people, for all of time. Second, He not only made the sacrifice for the people, He was the sacrifice for the people. The catechism quoted earlier says it so well, as our Redeemer “Christ executed the office of priest, in His once offering up of Himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us.” So this Great High Priest Jesus Christ not only created the heavens but came down from them to make new creations out of us. He not only sustains and upholds the universe by the Word of His power, but He allowed Himself to be prevailed upon so that we would know the power of the cross. He is the Priest of priests.

Christ the King (v3b-4)

Notice what quickly follows the author’s description of His priestly work? “After He made purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” It is worth noting that in the instructions for the furniture for the tabernacle and temple there was no instruction to make a seat for the high priest. This is because he was always up and doing work, making all kinds of various sacrifices for this and for that. But here we see something different in Christ. After He made, once for all, purification for sins, what did He do? He sat down! Why did He sit down? Because it was his way of physically saying what He audibly said on the cross “It is finished!” And He didn’t sit down in lawn chair, or a cushy lazy boy recliner, He sat down on a throne. And not just any throne, it God’s throne. What does this mean? This Christ is not just true Prophet, not just true Priest, He is true King. The King of kings who rules and reigns over all things.

This makes me think of that moment in Tolkien’s The Return of the King when all the heroes labored and toiled and fought to aid Frodo and Sam in getting the ring into the fires of Mt. Doom to destroy the enemy. What happened after the enemy was destroyed? Aragorn took up his rightful place in Gondor, and sat down on the throne as king. What was the result of his kingly reign? All of Middle Earth was ushered into a lasting peace. How much greater then are those events that have truly taken place in our own world when Christ the King put the devil to an open shame in His crucifixion and resurrection? How much grander is the throne He sat down on? How much deeper is the peace that comes to the citizens of His kingdom as a result? Infinitely so.


Let’s now answer our last question, why did Solus Christus matter so much during the reformation, and why does it still matter today?

We’ve talked much about Luther’s life these past weeks. Let me describe one more moment from his life to answer this question.

Once Luther began seeing the power of gospel grace and the powerlessness of our own works to save, he heard reports of a preacher who had just come to Wittenberg. This preacher’s name was John Tetzel. Tetzel came into the town square and said, “Good people of Wittenberg, have you not at one time or another burned your hand in the fire? And felt it torment you day and night? How greatly you ought to fear, then, the fires of hell, which are able to burn and torment your soul for all eternity. Your Pope, Leo X, offers you grace for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Tonight and only tonight you can snatch any loved one or rescue yourself from the fires of hell for a few coins. “When a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.” The technical term for this is called an indulgence. And Tetzel just happened to be the most famous indulgence preachers around.

Luther heard this and was vexed in his soul! Why? Because Tetzel’s message was clear: give money to the Pope, and you will be saved. In response to Tetzel Luther wrote his 95 theses and numerous other books against the wicked doctrines of the Popes, past and present. For writing what he did, Pope Leo X sent Luther warning letter, called a Papal Bull, telling him to repent or else. Luther refused to repent and responded instead by publicly burning a copy of the letter. A few weeks later he preached about this in one of his Sunday sermons saying, “Yes you have heard, it’s true. I’ve been summoned to Rome. While I’m gone remember, we obsess with indulgences…God isn’t an angry God who only wants your money. Those who see God as angry do not see him rightly…If we truly believe that Christ is our Savior, then we have a God of love, and to see God in faith is to look upon his friendly heart. So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this, ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? For I know one who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also.’”

Christ’s work alone saves, not ours. This was what vexed Luther.

Now why do these things matter today? You may think the preaching of indulgences was a thing of the past, but you’d be mistaken. The Roman Catholic Church not only still uses and offers indulgences, but Pope Francis has been known to use them often. Remember, when an indulgence is offered, what is being communicated is that if you do this, if you go here, or if you give this amount of money, you’ll be saved from the fires and torment of hell. There seems to be no place for the truths of Christ standing forth in majestic wonder as the true Prophet, true Priest, and true King, alone in His exclusive identity, and alone in His sufficiency to save. The center of Tetzel’s preaching was that man could buy His way into heaven, Luther heard it and it vexed his soul because Christ’s work to save was being thrust aside! Today it’s really no different. By and large the center of protestant preaching is that man can use God to gain self-esteem, purpose, and worth, and even though Christ crucified is thrust aside and absent from this message…we hear it and our souls aren’t vexed at all! Where is Christ???? Where is His Prophetic, Priestly, and Kingly work for us? Sadly, though we say we reject Catholicism our message is eerily similar to Tetzel’s message. Sure, we may not say that we can buy our way into heaven, but we do say we can use heaven to buy whatever we want.

Church. We need to repent and return to Christ. When we turn to this particular Sola we turn to the linchpin, the hub, the apex, and the center of all reformation theology, indeed, of all biblical theology. Christ is the glory of Sola Scriptura, for He alone is the Word made flesh and He alone is the interpretive end of all Scripture. Christ is the glory of Sola Gratia, for He alone is the grace of God personified. Christ is the glory of Sola Fide, for He alone is the object of saving faith. And Christ is the glory of Soli Deo Gloria, for He alone is the radiance of the glory of God.[5]

Far be it from us to think the reformation or any theology coming from it that boasts the label of ‘reformed’ centers on men like Martin Luther or John Calvin, or any other famous man or woman in the history of the Church. Far be it from us to think God exists to make much of us! May you be vexed at the man centeredness of the Christian world around us, and rid your soul of such narcissism. We have no need for any other prophet to provide us with new revelation, we have no need for any other priest to mediate between us and God, and we have no need for any other king to rule God’s Church.[6]

Christ alone stands at the center of God’s eternal purposes, so, Christ and Christ alone must stand at the center of all our life and doctrine.[7]




[1] Jonathan Leeman, The Reformation and Your Church, 9Marks October 2017 Journal, page 7.

[2] F.F. Bruce, NICNT: Hebrews, page 2-3.

[3] Ibid., page 2-3.

[4] Kay Arthur, Hebrews: The Key to Living by Faith, page 21.

[5] Michael Reeves’ foreword in Stephen Wellum, Christ Alone: The Uniqueness of Jesus as Savior, page 14.

[6] Ibid., page 13.

[7] Michael Reeves’ foreword in Stephen Wellum, Christ Alone: The Uniqueness of Jesus as Savior, page 13.