Archive for category Gospel of John
The following post is worth reading. I found it during my Easter sermon study and preparation as I prepare to trace the New Creation theme through the Gospel of John. I have read the book he’s referring to by N.T. Wright. I, too, am a huge fan and student of Wright. Get the book! Enjoy! -JB
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; we beheld his glory, glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1: 14)
It’s official: I’m an N. T. Wright fan.
I think every Christian should at least read one book by N. T. Wright. You may or may not agree with everything he writes (for instance, I’m not quite sure if I agree with his take on justification), but he’s one of the most top-notch and accessible biblical scholars today. Go to any major bookstore and you’ll find several of his works in the Christian/religion sections.
Basically all of the thoughts here on this post are from the 4th chapter of his book Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship titled “The Glory of God: John.” His brief, yet profound insights into the meanings and nuances of the gospel of John really opened my eyes to not only the text itself, but more importantly, how everything in it connects (eschatologically) with the message of the whole Bible and how it ties to what it means to be a Christian, or more specifically, a disciple of Jesus Christ today.
So let’s get right to it.
The gospel of Matthew takes us into the synagogue if you will, where the people of God are learning to recognize Jesus as their King.
In Mark, we’re given a handbook on discipleship and how to be a follower of the Servant King.
Luke presents Jesus to the cultured Greek world and is presented to a predominantly Gentile audience.
With the letters of Paul, we feel as if we’re in a seminar room: we argue things out, look up references, take notes, think deeply about things, reflect, and analyze what the gospel means and then we’re sent out to preach the gospel to the nations.
But then we get to the gospel of John and we’re not even given a chance to breathe or to even take a moment to catch a breather. Almost immediately we’re thrust up to the mountain top. He invites us to be still and peer deeply into the human face and eyes of Jesus of Nazareth. As we read his text, he leads the reader to be inundated with the awesome reality that we’re not just looking into the face of a great prophet, teacher, or revolutionary, but rather, we’re brought face to face with the living God as we look at the face of Jesus of Nazareth. Read the rest of this entry »
27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him. 31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” 33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:27-34).
There’s a rich interplay of 3 images in this dynamic story that correlate to the three main characters. They are as follows:
Buffet / food……..disciples
another kind of food……Jesus
Each of these images provides a lesson for the reader of the story. Each one invites us to ask: Who am I most like in this story? Read the rest of this entry »
The active reader of John will ask many questions of the text. John’s Gospel is many-layered and rich in texture. So, what does he mean when he says Jesus “had to” go through Samaria?
To get from Judea to Galilee the fastest, most direct route did indeed pass through Samaria. But there was no geographical necessity that led Jesus through Samaria. In fact, many Jews — especially the more devout — would avoid contact with Samaria at all costs. They went around Samaria. The Samaritans were held in contempt as religious apostates who had mixed the purity of Israel’s worship with idolatry and the worship of pagan gods (cf. 2 Kings 17:24-41; Ezra 4:1-3).
Jesus’ barrier breaking ministry required that he go through Samaria. Jesus was always mingling with the “wrong people” Read the rest of this entry »
Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee (John 4:1-3).
First, we should ask what led Jesus to leave Judea and go to Galilee? His popularity was on the rise, as more and more people were coming to him, being baptized and joining his entourage. The clue is in the text. The Pharisees were concerned that Jesus’ movement was now surpassing John the Baptist’s in numbers. They were intent on creating trouble for Jesus. Here’s 2 reasons I believe Jesus left Judea and a few lessons for the church today. Read the rest of this entry »
We have spent only a few weeks in our sermon series on Nicodemus and Jesus in John 3. We could spend months exploring all of the rich treasures and profound theological realities found therein. But we must move on . . . move out onto the open road with Jesus in John 4 as we learn how to make and become disciples of the Kingdom!
In summary, here are some of the main points we have explored in this series (with verses in parentheses):
1. Like Nicodemus, we all must come and have our own personal encounter with Jesus (2).
2. Like Nicodemus, one can recognize Jesus as a great teacher come from God and still not be born again (2).
3. Like Nicodemus, one can be a religious leader and Bible expert and still not know Christ (1).
4. Some of us come to church/Jesus for the “big show,” wanting to be entertained (2).
5. Some of us are ashamed to go public with our faith, and so we come at night in secret (2).
6. Some of us are so desperate that we’d seek Jesus out at any hour — even late at night (2).
7. Jesus will receive us even when we come to him in “spiritual darkness” with doubts, confusion, prejudice, and blind spots (7,10,12).
8. Religion is often the greatest barrier preventing us from embracing Jesus (1). We must “beware of the yeast of the scribes and Pharisees.”
9. Jesus replaced/fulfilled religion with himself. Jesus is the new way to connect with God (e.g., new temple, incarnate Word).
10. Sin has placed a veil of darkness over everyone’s eyes that only God can remove (3). Read the rest of this entry »
I brought in the car for a $25 oil change this week, and came home with a laundry list of significant repairs estimating over $3,550. The car has 200,000 miles on it — so we knew this day was coming. Nicodemus probably came to Jesus hoping for a simple religious tune-up — a new teaching to consider or an old teaching with a new spin. Like me at the car shop, Nicodemus found out he had a bigger problem to address.
Recently I had a serious steering alignment problem. My alignment was so bad that if I let my hand off the wheel for a split second my car would veer sharply to the right into the ditch. Instead of getting it fixed, I decided to just fight it for months by gripping the wheel tighter. Eventually my wrists began to ache from holding the steering wheel straight.
The Bible describes a world completely out of alignment with God’s will and purposes. Human sin and rebellion have jerked everything out of whack. If we simply leave things, people, nature, government, etc. to do what comes naturally, we’re all veering into ditches, colliding head on and driving off cliffs.
Religion steps in at this point and provides some guard rails to help keep us on the road and out of the ditch. God gave us his Law to show us the righteous path, the holy road, that if followed will keep us from self-desctructive twists and turns, reckless off-roading adventures. But unlike my car’s steering, the misalignment of the human will caused by sin has no quick and easy fix. Read the rest of this entry »
This Sunday I have the honor of preaching a message on one of the most significant truths and experiences in all the universe: God’s supernatural work of New Birth in the human heart. “No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again/from above” (John 3:3).
How do you talk about something that is necessary to experience firsthand? It’s like describing a Mozart piece instead of listening to it. It’s like talking about a Rembrandt painting rather than looking at it. It’s like trying to describe love to someone who’s never been in love.
These sermons drive a preacher to his knees, and bring him to the end of himself. I can only invite people to follow Nicodemus into that face-t0-face, personal encounter with Jesus, and pray that the Holy Spirit will come among us and open people’s eyes and transform hearts. Come Holy Spirit!
Here’s a good quote from Gary Burge’s commentary on The Gospel of John:
“Religion is not necessarily a matter of personal knowledge or ethical behavior. Nor is it fidelity to religious traditions, no matter how virtuously they evoke higher ethical, religious behavior among us. Jesus is claiming that true spirituality is not discovering some latent capacity within the human soul and fanning it to flame. It is not uncovering a moral consciousness that is hidden by sedimentary layers of civilization’s corruptions. It is not a “horizontal” experience that takes up the materials available around us in the world.
Rather, Jesus claims, true religion is “vertical.” It has to do not with the human spirit, but with God’s Spirit. It is a foreign invasion, sabotage of the first order. True religion unites humanity with God’s powerful Spirit, who overwhelms, transforms, and converts (in the full meaning of the word) its subject. Our role in this transformation is belief(3:16,18), and yet is is a belief that is aided by God’s work within us since we live in the darkness and have our spiritual capacities handicapped with sin” (Gary Burge, Gospel of John: New Application Commentary, 126).
Come Holy Spirit! Invade our presence, and sabotage our hearts! Blow mightily among us at MainStreet this Sunday and every day!
Here’s a wonderful contrast between RELIGION and THE GOSPEL by Tim Keller:
RELIGION: I obey, therefore I’m accepted.
THE GOSPEL: I’m accepted, therefore I obey.
RELIGION: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.
THE GOSPEL: Motivation is based on grateful joy.
RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God.
THE GOSPEL: I obey God to get to God, to delight and resemble him.
RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.
THE GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his fatherly love within my trial.
RELIGION: When I am criticized, I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a “good person.” Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.
THE GOSPEL: When I am criticized, I can take it. I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a “good person.” My identity is not built on my record or my performance, but on God’s love for me in Christ.
RELIGION: My prayer life consists largely of petition and only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of my environment.
THE GOSPEL: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with God.
RELIGION: My self-view swings between two poles: If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure, inadequate, and not confident. I feel like a failure.
THE GOSPEL: My self-view is not based on a view of myself as a moral achiever. In Christ I am “simul iustus et peccator”—simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time, neither swaggering nor sniveling.
RELIGION: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to “the other.”
THE GOSPEL: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for his enemies and who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace, so I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. It is only by grace that I am what I am. I have no inner need to win arguments.
RELIGION: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols. It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, regardless of what I say I believe about God.
THE GOSPEL: I have many good things in my life: family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc. But none of these good things is an ultimate end for me. None of them is something I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency such things can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.
There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:1-3)
One of the most shocking aspects of this exchange is that Nicodemus is a very religious, devout man. He is called “a Pharisee”, a member of the ruling counsel (Sanhedrin), and “a teacher of Israel.” The Pharisees were the most remarkable, scrupulously religious adherents to the Jewish Scriptures. Pharisees were, in the words of Barclay, “those who had separated themselves from all ordinary life in order to keep every detail of the law of the scribes” (123). His entire life’s purpose revolved around honoring God, understanding the Scriptures, and observing the appropriate religious customs and rituals. He was very religious.
But he will soon find out in his exchange with Jesus that religion isn’t enough. Nicodemus was still in the dark. This is the main significance behind the author’s telling us that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. The darkness of night symbolizes the darkness in Nicodemus’s unregenerate mind and soul.
It’s often been said that “religion is man’s attempt to reach up to God” by good deeds and religious observances; and Christianity is the story of “God mercifully reaching down with the offer of salvation in Christ.” Nicodemus is busy with many religious tasks and obligations. Had he lived today, he would have perfect church attendance, possibly be the chair of the church counsel, living a morally upright life as a responsible citizen with a good standing among his neighbors and friends.
But he is still spiritually dead. As Barclay puts it: “Nicodemus was a puzzled man, a man with many honors and yet still lacking in his life. He came to Jesus for a talk so that somehow in the darkness of night he might find light” (124). All of us, religious or not, must make this same passage from spiritual darkness into the light of a New Life in Christ. Have you come into the light? Have you been born again from above?
Oh, LORD, breath your Holy Spirit upon all the religious people in our churches who have yet to be born again from above. Rescue us from our tendencies to try to be religious enough to please you, and help us to receive your gift of New Birth as we surrender our lives to you. Amen.