Study Notes June 16: The Triumphal Entry

12:12-13 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. [13] So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

How the Crowd Reacted

First, the crowd here seems to have been part of the large group that came from all over Israel to the annual feast, and not specifically those who were Jerusalem dwellers. As Morris points out, many of these folks probably knew Jesus from His ministry in Galilee, and so there was likely a familiarity with Him. Which leads us secondly to the fact that there is an intentionality of the crowd that is significant. John says that they “went out to meet him.”  It isn’t as though He was gathering a crowd around Him.

But what was their mindset? Morris says, “When on this occasion he (Jesus) did not reject their acclamation their enthusiasm knew no bounds.”

The ESV Study Notes have some solid insight as well:

Most of the crowd probably understood the title King of Israel in a political and military sense, still hoping that Jesus would use his amazing powers to resist Roman rule and lead the nation to independence. Like Caiaphas (John 11:49–52), however, they spoke better than they knew, as his disciples later understood (12:16).

What has always been interesting to me is this waving of Palm Tree branches. From what I read (Morris also mentions), Palm branches are symbolic of victory. Morris comments, “In John’s mention of them (palms) here we must detect a reference to the triumph of Christ.”

D.A. Carson gives an in-depth background on the use of the palm trees, as does John MacArthur. Carson says this:

From about two centuries earlier, palm branches had already become a national (not to say nationalist) symbol. When Simon the Maccabee drove the Syrian forces out of the Jerusalem citadel he was feted with music and the waving of palm branches which had also been prominent at the rededication of the temple. In short, waving palm branches was no longer restrictively associated with Tabernacles (the Feast of the Tabernacles).

MacArthur also mentions Simon the Maccabee and his victory and says, “Perhaps many in the crowd had that incident in their mind as they waved their palm branches. Maybe, they hoped, Jesus would prove to be the great messianic King and military conqueror who would liberate them from the yoke of Roman (rule) and establish the promises to Abraham and David (Gen. 12:-1-3; 2 Sam. 7:1-16).

What the Crowd Said…

First, the crowd began to shout “Hosanna!” which is literally translated “give salvation now” and as D.A. Carson notes, “had come to be a term of acclamation or praise. Every Jew knew of its occurrence in Psalm 118:25, for Psalm 118 is part of the Hallel (Pss. 113-118), sund each morning by the temple choir during the Feast of Tabernacles but also associated at this period with the Feast of Dedication and with the Passover…The connection was so strong that many Jews referred to their lulabs (used in the Feast of the Tabernacles) as hosannas.”

Secondly, they said “blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” – this is also from Psalm 118 (verse 26) and should be understood as a messianic title. They clearly see Jesus as their messiah, although as we have mentioned before, their version of what the messiah would be and what the messiah actually ended up being are completely different things altogether.

Lastly, Morris notes that the part “even the King of Israel” was not an expression that is from prophecy, but is rather the crowd’s addition. It also brings us to mind how Nathanael called Jesus the King of Israel in 1:49. This just further goes to show the fact that while the crowd saw Jesus as a political power and savior; in their ignorance they spoke truer words than they knew. For Jesus indeed was the King of Israel and of the whole of creation!

How Jesus Reacted…And What He Said

Luke records for us what Jesus said after reaching Jerusalem, and far from the “giddy” (MacArthur) crowd’s reaction to His coming to town, Jesus was heartbroken over the shallowness of the people.  He knew the nature of their interest in Him.  Listen to what He says:

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, [42] saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. [43] For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side [44] and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44 ESV)

This is a powerful, and painful, passage.  We see that Jesus was really the only one who understood the gravity of the moment.  He was the only one who really knew what was about to happen. Knowing what He did, how could He not have grieved over a people who were so faithless, and so blind.  The same holds true today. People lap up the teaching of prosperity gospel preaching because that’s what they think they need to hear. They want all that “positive reinforcement”! All the meanwhile they’re missing the gospel. They’re missing the atonement and the fact that they NEED an Atonement. While the people here in Jerusalem desired a savior from their political oppression, what they needed was the same thing we need, a Savior from the oppression of our own sinfulness!

Christ didn’t come to set us free from political bondage, but rather to free us from the bondage of sin that has enslaved the entire human race (see Paul’s discourse in Romans 6).

The Moment Had Come!

And so Christ came to set us free. That was His mission. When He began His ministry He quoted several prophecies that bore witness to this:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, [19] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19 ESV)

Furthermore, this entry into Jerusalem marked the fulfillment of Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy. Listen to what MacArthur says about this:

The exact day that the Lord chose to enter Jerusalem fulfilled one of the most remarkable prophecies of the Old Testament, Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks (Dan. 9:24-26). Through Daniel, the Lord predicted that the time from Artaxerxes’ decree ordering the rebuilding of the temple (in 445 B.C.) until the coming of the Messiah would be “seven week and sixty two weeks”, that it, 69 weeks total. The literal translation is “seven sevens and sixty-two sevens”, seven being a common designation for a week. In the context of the passage, the idea is 69 weeks of years, or 69 times 7 years, which comes to a total of 483 Jewish years (which consisted of 360 days each, as was common in the ancient world). Several different systems of reckoning have endeavored to determine the chronology of the 483 years after Artaxerxes’ decree, putting the date at either A.D. 30, 32, or 33, depending on the actual decree date and the complex calculations through those years…it is best to understand the triumphal entry as taking place on 9 Nisan, A.D. 30. But even the other dates offered by these authors leave one thing remaining undeniably clear: whatever may be the precise chronology, Jesus Christ is the only possible fulfillment of Daniel’s prophetic timetable.

Peter Gentry and Steven Wellum agree with Dr. MacArthur (although not on the dating):

Thus, the seventieth sabbatical is from A.C. 2-34 following Zuckerman or A.E. 28-35 following Ben Zion Wacholder. Halfway through this time, i.e., A.D. 31, the Messiah is cut off, but not for himself. Astonishingly he dies, but his death is vicarious. The phrase commonly rendered “and he will have nothing,” is better translated “but not for himself”…The point in the vision is that the coming king dies vicariously for his people.

And so as was predicted long ago, Christ came to set the captives free and lead a new exodus (a third one counting the Mosaic and Babylonian ones), only this one would be the beginning of a mass exodus spiritually from the bondage of sin and death that will one day culminate in the glorious day of the Lord.  Listen to Isaiah who mentions this:

In that day from the river Euphrates to the Brook of Egypt the LORD will thresh out the grain, and you will be gleaned one by one, O people of Israel. [13] And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain at Jerusalem. (Isaiah 27:12-13 ESV)

12:14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, [15] “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

The quotation here is from Zechariah 9:9 which says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Delivery From Oppression

“Fear not” is how John chose to interpret “rejoice greatly” (it could also be taken from Is. 40:9 according to the ESV Study Notes), and it is a poignant expression because when I think of the situation that the Jews were in at the time, they were being oppressed and under the rule of yet another foreign nation (this time the Romans). They longed for the day when a great king would deliver them – not from another nation, but from within their own people. They knew that the Scriptures spoke of such a Messiah, and they new that when that great leader came they could have no reason for fear of oppression any longer.

The people were right to expect a great leader who would deliver them from bondage, but this would not be a physical exodus but a spiritual one. Jesus came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18) and deliver His people (the elect) from bondage and usher in kingdom (Matthew 10:7; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 9:2, 60; Acts 28:31 etc.) that would not be of this world (John 18:36).

A Humble King

We also see the mode of Jesus’ transportation – a donkey. And as R.C. Sproul says in his description of the triumphal entry, these donkeys are not the traditional American donkeys we picture in our minds – they are much smaller.  In fact to our western eyes the sight of a grown man on one of these small animals might make us chuckle, but this is the creature that Jesus chose to ride into town on just days before He would die a gruesome death for His people.

As Leon Morris puts it, “But he rode intro Jerusalem on a donkey to symbolize a conception of messiahship very different from that of the crowds. They hailed him as the messianic King. He came as the Prince of Peace.”

So why a donkey? I think the picture of a grown man riding on such a lowly beast is the exact opposite of the picture that the Jews were hoping for. They wanted a powerful political warrior king who would ride into Jerusalem and kick the Romans out. But Christ came to be a servant, a meek man and humble king. This picture embodies His humanity – He is the Son of Man as well as the Son of God. We humans like to picture ourselves as more than we really are, but Jesus Christ shows us what we are, we are small and weak creatures in comparison to the King of kings and Lord of lords.  This is the picture He paints, that in His humanity He identifies with us – but He doesn’t puff Himself up as we do, instead He shows what true humanity is like, what it was meant to be like in the beginning with Adam (Romans 5:12-21). He is the last Adam, the perfect obedient Son who will deliver His people from their sins.

He is also the Greater Son of David who is fulfilling the Davidic Kingship role. He is going to not only deliver the Jews and be their King, but He is going to be a King for all His chosen people from all corners of the world (Matthew 28:19).

12:16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.

I love how John inserts editorial notes like this so we understand better the work of God, His character and will for our lives. John is saying here that the Holy Spirit, who came at Pentecost, illuminated the minds of the disciples and brought them into all truth and helped them understand all that had happened during the life and ministry of Jesus. The man they saw do some many amazing things had mystified them for years, they had only understood a very little. But when the Spirit came they began to understand all that had taken place – can you image all the pieces being put together for them like that! They had just lived a three-year roller coaster of learning through difficult and amazing circumstances, and not only were they beginning to recount all of that, but all of their learning of the Old Testament as well. Their minds must have been spinning! Like when you watch a mystery television show or a movie that’s billed as a thriller, its not until the end when all the pieces start coming together and you see the main characters start to get really excited (or really fearful) as “it all begins to make sense.”

Christ predicted this would happen, and we’ll look at this passage a little later in our study of John’s gospel:

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. [13] When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. [14] He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. [15] All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15 ESV)

What This Means for the Christian Life

As Christians we have an amazing advantage to learning and growing in maturity and understanding – not only of the things of Christ and His Word, but in understanding the ways things are in this world. What I mean by that is that for thousands of years philosophers and scientists have been trying to figure out the nature of being, life, the transcendent, mankind and more. The problem is that they start from the wrong places – they’re essentially trying to “solve for x” without allowing themselves to believe “x” exists!

And so these great minds have either begun their work from an incorrect premise that there is no transcendent personal God who created all things, or they work from the premise that there is a transcendent God or Creator or Mover but He is not personal and therefore He is unknowable. In other words they have an epistemological problem.

Francis Schaeffer saw this and pointed out that Christians don’t have an epistemological problem. We believe that God is a personal transcendent Being, and that we were created in His image. We believe that because we were created in His image and because we communicate using language, that therefore we are meant to communicate with Him and get to know Him. Enter revelation. As Christians we believe that because we can communicate and because we are made in God’s image, we inherently know we are made to communicate with God. He has made us for a relationship with Himself (as Augustine says in his Confessions).

And this is where the Holy Spirit comes in.  The Holy Spirit is God’s way of showing us that He wants a deep and intimate relationship with us, and that He cares for and loves us. We normally would look to the cross for this, and indeed we should! But as I consider the third member of the Trinity, I am amazed at the level of investment that God has made in us, His creatures. He so condescends to us that He indwells us with His presence and leads us into “all truth.” And why does He do this? Because He wants us to know Him. He seeks for us to have knowledge of Him. He is truth, and therefore being led into “all truth” is being led into a more clear understanding of who He is, His character, and His desires for us and this world.

There is simply no other religion that comes close to this kind of epistemology. All other religions are simply forms of ignorance and the inventions of man’s own mind. For though we can perceive that God exists and even have a sense of His moral norms from without our souls, yet He has revealed Himself outside of ourselves, both in His Word (special revelation) and in nature (general revelation).

This truth is amazing, and it ought to cause us to worship.

12:17-19 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. [18] The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. [19] So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

I love what Leon Morris says about the irony and hyperbole of the Pharisees’ statement in verse 19, “It is ironical. They are concerned that a few Judeans were being influenced. But their words express John’s conviction that Jesus was conquering the world.”

The religious leaders were beginning to see the situation go sideways. They were obviously concerned that the Romans would not welcome the noise and start clamping down on the people – though they were not truly concerned for the people, but for their own power.  The reaction of Jesus to their concerns is captured in another gospel:

And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” [40] He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:39-40 ESV)

The reason for this is that unlike the lying hearts of the Pharisees, the creation is subject to its Creator and knows its creator. It’s an apt analogy because indirectly Christ is saying that He is Lord of all the earth! Little do most people realize the power that God has over you as well as nature. We think that we hold complete sovereignty over our lives sometimes, over our minds and our souls. But this is simply not the case. For one word from the Spirit of God spoken sweetly to your heart is enough to forever awaken your soul and implant in you a love for Jesus you never knew before. He is the Lord of all creation, and we are part of that creation.

Paul agrees in his doxological burst of praise in Romans 11:

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36 ESV)

Conclusion: Ultimate Triumph

Although the crowds didn’t truly have a good understanding as to the nature of Christ’s impending triumph, we have the privilege of looking back at that week in history and seeing the pregnancy of this moment. The most heinous of all crimes was about to be committed, and these fickle people would soon be cheering, “crucify Him” instead of “hosanna!”  Yet we today have reason (a great reason!) to be shouting “hosanna!”  We can see the triumphal entry for what it really was: a precursor to Christ’s great triumph over sin and death, not simply for Himself, but for you and for me.

Acts Study Notes 11-1-12

PJ’s Notes on Acts

Acts 1:12-2:13

1:12-14 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. [13] And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. [14] All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.  

The first thing that is striking about this portion of the text is that the apostles were in a situation in which their Lord had once again been taken away, and now they were to wait for the promised Spirit, yet they didn’t all disperse.  They all gathered together, and made sure to stay as a group in proximity with one another so that they could, no doubt, encourage one another, and pray with one another.

The second thing, and perhaps the most obvious thing, that stands out here is their activity. They were “devoting” themselves to prayer. The men and the women were all praying together. Can you imagine being there? To see Mary, and Peter, and John and James and 120 other people gathered together in a room for corporate prayer…it must have been an amazing thing. The tension that they must have felt waiting to see what would happen, the expectancy of the moment would have been high, the words of these saints would have been precious. Oh to be a fly on those walls!

John Stott says this, “We learn, therefore, God’s promises do not render prayer superfluous. On the contrary, it is only His promises which give us the warrant to pray and the confidence that He will hear and answer.”

1:15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, [16] “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. [17] For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” [18] (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. [19] And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms, “May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and “’Let another take his office.’

God Foreordained it to Take Place

There’s a difficulty here for some folks because of the fact that Judas, it says, was prophesied to have defected – now his name is never mentioned of course, but God knew all along that this would happen and He spoke of it by the mouths of His prophets. But we need to recognize that just because God is completely sovereign, that does not mean that we are not personally responsible for our actions.  Stott agrees and quotes Calvin who says this, “Judas may not be excused on the ground that what befell him was prophesied, since he fell away not through the compulsion of the prophecy but through the wickedness of his own heart.”

Different Accounts?

Matthew’s gospel is the only other place in scripture that gives an account of Judas’ death, and he says that Judas hanged himself.  Here we read from Luke that Judas fell down in a field and his intestines burst out. Is there a contradiction?  No, there need not be.  For as Stott, Grudem, and many other scholars have pointed out, it is likely that Judas simply fell from the tree on which he was hanging and had his body burst open in the field. Greek scholars have said that this is perfectly plausible given the words used here (for more details see Stott’s commentary on the word “prenes”).

Matthew also says that the field where Judas died was purchased by the Pharisees with Judas’ money, whereas Luke says it was purchased by Judas – both can be correct.  It was still Judas’ money that was used to purchase the field.

Lastly, Matthew says that people called the field where Judas died the ‘field of blood’ because of the blood money that was used to purchase it, and Luke doesn’t directly say one way or another, but seems to infer that it was called this due to the way Judas’ body was found. It’s possible that it was called this for both reasons by independent traditions – so neither account is wrong, but are correct.

The Apostles’ Understanding of Old Testament Scripture

One of the things that we need to be keeping in mind as we study the book of Acts is the way that the Apostles understand the Old Testament Scriptures. During the time between the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, He spent time “opening up their minds” to the truths of Scripture (Luke 24:45).

Why is it important that we understand how the Apostles interpreted the Old Testament? Well its important because so often we come to the Bible with a man-made system of understanding it and we often end up “wrongly dividing” the word of God.  What happens is that many Christians grow up learning to view the Bible through a system, be it dispensationalism, or traditional covenant theology, and then a passage(s) in the New Testament confront us with the scary prospect that the way we’ve viewed the Bible may have been incorrect altogether.  Then what happens is that in our pride we adapt the passage in the New Testament to fit what we see as the metanarrative of our system.  We don’t do it purposefully, or maliciously, but since we assume our system is correct, then that must mean that our assumptions about this or that passage in the New Testament are correct, when they may by completely off base.

This may seem like a lot of theological mumbo jumbo, but it is from these pitfalls that we get disagreements about whether or not infants should be baptized, whether or not there’s a “secret” rapture, and so on.  These are issues that don’t materialize from simply misinterpreting a single passage; rather these issues materialize because when we read New Testament passages about this or that doctrine, we often come to them with presuppositions.  Some are good, and some are bad.  But we ought never to think so highly of our own systematizing of the Bible that we believe ourselves to be dogmatically infallible and averse to correction.

Therefore, when we see the Apostles dealing with the realities of the New Covenant, and the promise of the Spirit, and the mission they’ve been given, we see that their interpretive lens is a Christ-centered lens – because it was Him who opened up their minds to understand that He was the central focus of all Scripture in the first place.  They see the entirety of Scripture through the words and work of Jesus Christ. And that is how we ought to see Scripture as well.  So, throughout Acts, we will see the Apostles quoting Old Testament passages, and when they do, notice what they say.  Don’t glance over them quickly to get to the next part in the passage.  Take some time and see how they apply Old Testament passages to the realities of the New Covenant.

1:21-22 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, [22] beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

What are the qualifications listed here to be an apostle?  Well, it seems that they wanted someone who they knew and who had been with Christ from the beginning, but the main purpose of this was stated lastly, namely that this man “become with us a witness to his resurrection.”  So this man had to have been a witness to the resurrected Savior, and he had to have been taught directly from the mouth of Jesus Christ, or have spent a good deal of time with him.  These men spent three yeas with Jesus, and I don’t know if this is simply irony or not, but before Paul even came to Jerusalem and was counted among the brethren – before the launch of his public ministry – he also spent 3 years learning from Christ after seeing the resurrected Lord on the Damascus road (Gal. 1:17-18).  Just some food for thought…though some say that Paul didn’t fulfill this second more “full” (Stott) qualification.

The last qualification is that the Apostle had to be chosen by Christ himself. This was certainly true of the original Apostles and of Paul who came later, and we see it is true of Matthias.

1:23-26 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. [24] And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen [25] to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” [26] And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

SIDE NOTE: The name “Matthias” means “gift of God” (MacArthur)

The Method of Choosing

John Stott points out that there are three things that the Apostles used to pick out the one who would replace Judas.

  1. They used Scripture.  They went to the Scripture and were convinced that the Old Testament Scriptures pointed to a need for replacing Judas.
  2. They used Common Sense.  The Lord ultimately made the selection, but the apostles still combed through those whom were present of the 120, and found that two that met the qualifications.
  3. They Prayed.  What a crucial part of the process.  They prayed and acknowledged their dependence on the Lord for His help in the matter.

In these three things – plus the blessing we now have of the Holy Spirit – we ought to emulate their decision making process even today.

A Note About the Casting of Lots

I believe this is the last time that the casting of lots is mentioned in Scripture.  Notice that this is prior to the giving of the Holy Spirit – another great dichotomy between the old and the new. This is also the last time we see the Apostles, or any Christian, use this form of finding out God’s will in a matter.  It ought to throw into sharp relief the immense blessing we have as Christians in the New Covenant.  With the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to being God’s hands and feet all over the world.

You Know the Hearts of All

Peter begins his prayer in this way, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen”, and I think there are a few significant things he says here.  First, he exalts the knowledge of the Lord. Peter knows that the Lord cares about the hearts of men first and foremost (1 Sam. 16:7; Matt. 15:17-20), and that He knows the hearts of all men (John 2:24).

The second thing that’s significant is that Peter knows that Jesus has already chosen someone – He already knows the man who will replace Judas.  Note that Peter says, “you have chosen” in the past tense. This reminds us of the great truth that Jesus Christ, though He was a man, was also fully God.  He was and is and is to come.  He is a member of the triune Godhead, and as such He has foreordained all that is to come, and there are no surprises to Him.  He has orchestrated His plan from the beginning and is completely sovereign over all history – past, present, and future.

Conclusion of Chapter 1

The scene is now set for the first Pentecost.  The disciples are waiting in Jerusalem for the fulfillment of the promise of Christ.  It won’t be long now before they will be “turning the world upside-down”!

Chapter 2

2:1-4 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. [2] And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. [3] And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. [4] And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The Day of Pentecost

The word “Pentecost” means “fiftieth” and, as John MacArthur explains, is “the New Testament name for the Feast of Weeks (Ex. 34:22-23), or Harvest (Ex. 23:16), which was celebrated fifty days after Passover. In post-exilic Judaism, it also celebrated the giving of the Law to Moses. The Spirit’s coming on that day was linked to the pattern of the feasts in the Old Testament.” He continues, “Fifty days after the first Sunday following Passover, the Feast of Pentecost was celebrated (Lev. 23:15). At Pentecost, another offering of first fruits was made (Lev. 23:20). Completing the cycle of the typical fulfillment of the feasts, the Spirit came on Pentecost as the first fruits of the believers’ inheritance (cf. 2 Cor. 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14). Further, those fathered into the church on that day were the first fruits of the full harvest of believers to come.”

There are seven days in a week, and seven days in a feast, and so the “feast of weeks” is like 7×7 which is 49 days – Pentecost is the fiftieth day following this post-Passover countdown.

“Suddenly”

In the ESV version of this passage it says that, “suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind.”  The disciples had been told to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit. No doubt they waited eagerly for this amazing event, and it reminded me of how it will be when the Lord Jesus comes back again. No one will know that hour exactly, but we await it with eager expectation. We long for that day, and we pray for it to come soon – as John did at the end of his apocalypse.

John says, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20 ESV).

The Fire and Wind

It is significant that the coming of the Spirit was accompanied by “rushing wind” and that the tongues came as “fire.”  Both fire and wind or cloud are used to manifest the presence of God on this earth (This is wonderfully outlined in R.C. Sproul’s commentary on Acts).  This is a theophany of the most amazing kind. They saw what looked like fire and heard what sounded like wind.  But it was neither fire, nor wind, it was the outward manifestation of God the Holy Spirit in their presence.

When we read of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, we read that the Lord God descended in a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night.

So often we read this passage, and we marvel at the gift of tongues, and the sort of bewildering image of all these men and women speaking in different languages, and we completely pass over the significance of what is happening here.  God Himself, the Deity, has come down from heaven to indwell His chosen ones from among humanity.  His Holy Spirit, One of (and co-equal with) the Trinity, the eternal Godhead, has come down in a visible manifestation of wind and fire!  Yet how quickly we focus our attention back onto man.  How quickly we shift gears away from the awesome presence of a Holy God and to the outward manifestation of His gift to us.  It is fine to bless God for the gift, but let us first bless God for who He is, let us bless Him for His awesome character and condescension that He would inhabit us – lowly sinners!  That the pure and holy God of the universe would descend and empower us to do His will for His glory because it was His pleasure to do so! What an incredible reality.

John Stott comments, “We must be careful, however, not to use this possibility (the event being one of a kind in history) as an excuse to lower our expectations, or to relegate to the category of the exceptional what God may intend to be the church’s normal experience. The wind and the fire were abnormal, and probably the languages too; the new life and joy, fellowship and worship, freedom, boldness and power were not.”

2:5-13 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. [6] And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. [7] And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? [8] And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? [9] Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, [10] Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, [11] both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” [12] And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” [13] But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

People from All Over the World

Luke takes great care in naming all the regions from which there were representatives at this amazing event. He moves from East to West in his minds eye (Stott) and, though he may not even fully realize this, those whom he names includes members of all three major branches of the Noahic family.  Stott comments, “Luke does not draw attention to what he is doing; but in his own subtle way he is saying to us that on that Day of Pentecost the whole world was there in the representatives of the various nations.”

What does this mean?  I think it shows how the message of the gospel was being prepared to go out to every tribe tongue and nation!

In his commentary on Acts, John Stott has some amazing insight into the significance of this event, and the reason for such diversity in people being present:

“Nothing could have demonstrated more clearly than this the multi-racial, multi-national, multi-lingual nature of the kingdom of Christ. Ever since the early church fathers, commentators have seen the blessing of Pentecost as a deliberate and dramatic reversal of the curse of Babel. At Babel human languages were confused and the nations were scattered; in Jerusalem the language barrier was supernaturally overcome as a sign that the nations would now be gathered together in Christ, prefiguring the great day when the redeemed company will be drawn ‘from every nation, tribe, people and language.’ Besides, at Babel earth proudly tried to ascend to heaven, whereas in Jerusalem heaven humbly descended to earth.”

The condescension of Christ is sometimes overwhelming to us as we stare up at the cross, or peak down into the manger. But we often overlook how the entire Godhead is of one mind and one heart, and here we see the condescension of the Spirit of God.  That the Holy Spirit would come down to dwell within us is a remarkable thing.  That He would empower us to do the works of God is an amazing thing.  That He would touch our minds and hearts and breathe the breath of new life into us so that we can see God, that is an astoundingly gracious and merciful thing, too great to fathom, too deep to plumb.

In Their Own Languages

It is significant to me that the text says several times above “in his own language” because there are some today who say that these tongues that are speaking are some kind of heavenly language.  It seems that from the text that this is not a heavenly language, but rather human languages. In fact the text even tells us which languages in verses 9 through 11.

MacArthur comments, “The text, however, is not ambiguous. Far from being ecstatic speech, the tongues spoken on the Day of Pentecost were known languages.”

The purpose of tongues was a sign for unbelievers and, as MacArthur argues, was associated with being filled with the Spirit – not with being baptized by the Spirit. Paul lays out the purposes of this in 1 Corinthians: “In the Law it is written, ‘By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.’ [22] Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers” (1 Corinthians 14:21-22).

Modern Day Tongues?

One of the things that the modern day Pentecostal movement would like to point out is that the tongues as describes in Acts 2 differ from the ones described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12-14.  The differences, they say, are that the tongues in Acts 2 are known languages, and the tongues in 1 Corinthians are some form of ecstatic speech.  They also say that the purpose of the tongues in Acts 2 was to communicate the things of God to men, whereas the tongues in 1 Corinthians seems to describe the edification (or lack there of in the case of the Corinthian church) of the body of Christ.

Despite this, there is no specific description of the tongues in 1 Corinthians.  The only place in the Bible where we have a specific description of this phenomenon is in Acts 2, and its very clear what the purpose and type of activity was going on there.  As John Stott wisely says, “Acts 2 is the only passage in which it (tongues – glossolalia) is described and explained; it seems more reasonable to interpret the unexplained in the light of the explained than vice versa.”

Because we now see people in the church speaking these odd tongues that are often not interpreted (as Paul instructed in 1 Corinthians), it leads me to be very skeptical on the matter of modern day tongues.  Because this is a matter of interpretation, and one of the important “rules” of interpretation is humility, I am open to correction on this matter. But from what I have studied, the overwhelming evidence points to a more cessationalist position on this matter.

“New Wine”…the Reaction

The world’s reaction to the mysterious working of the Holy Spirit is to call these men ‘crazy’ or ‘drunk’, when in fact they had been given a divine gift as a confirmation of the empowerment and filling of the Holy Spirit.

We often face similar reactions today when we explain Scriptures or give testimony of the Lord Jesus.  It comes across as “foolishness” to those who we share with, when in fact it is the very word of God.

Study Notes 9-16-12

Chapter 7

Introduction and First thoughts on Chapter 7

Chapter seven begins a new section of the book of John.  In fact, chapters 7-8 could easily be lumped in together under one heading ‘Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles’ as Carson says.  John is now wrapping up the portion of Christ’s life and ministry that contains many of his miracles, and the work He did in Galilee.  This is the portion of His ministry that the synoptics spend the most time on.

A.W. Pink introduces the chapter in this way, “Our Lord’s ministry in Galilee was now over, though He still remained there, because the Judeans sought to kill Him. The annual Feast of tabernacles was at hand, and His brethren were anxious for Christ to go up to Jerusalem, and there give a public display of His miraculous powers. To this request the Savior made a reply which at first glance appears enigmatical. He bids His brethren go up to the Feast, but excuses Himself on the ground that His time was not yet fully come. After their departure, He abode still in Galilee. But very shortly after, He, too, goes up to the Feast; as it were in secret.”

The feast itself was one of the most popular feasts (the most popular of the three major feasts according to Josephus cf. Carson), and people would have been flocking to Jerusalem.  Carson explains, “The institution of the Feast was associated in the Old Testament with the ingathering of harvest (Ex. 23:16; Lev. 23:33-36, 39-43; Deut. 16:13-15; not grain, which was reaped between April and June, but grapes and olives).”

“People living in rural areas built makeshift structures of light branches and leaves to live in for the week; town dwellers put up similar structures on their flat roofs or in their courtyards” says Carson.

I think that it’s worth noting here that what has just occurred in 6:66 (many of His disciples leaving Him) precipitates some of the events in chapter seven.  There’s no doubt in my mind that the ministry of Christ, at this point, is about to reach some very great heights of influence, and create a tension within Judaism that leads to His death on a cross.  John spends a lot of time on the final week of Christ’s time here on earth, and the lead up to that final week is relatively short by comparison to the other gospels.  The tension will reach its ultimate heights at the end of chapter 11, and beginning in chapter 12 we have the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the final week of Christ’s ministry here on earth.

Finally, since there is at least a six-month span of time between chapter six and chapter seven (one taking place around Passover and the other just before the feast of the Tabernacles), I think its worth while to consider how Christ spent this time.

John MacArthur notes that during this span of time, the synoptics spend many chapters covering His healings, the Transfiguration, the feeding of the 4000, and many other things He says and does.  But John is writing from another perspective.  John’s goal is to show us the Messiah, and as such he spends the most time of any of the gospel writers on the final week of Christ’s life.  We’re not hopping forward, as it were, through some of the most important miracles He did in order to get to the teaching.  Not that John is unconcerned with miracles – but he obviously puts them below the teaching of Christ in their importance, even labeling them “signs.”

Another point that MacArthur asks us to ponder is how Christ spent His time leading up to this seventh chapter.  Certainly He was healing and performing miracles, but most of His time (it could easily be argued) was spent teaching and pouring His life into His disciples.  He invested so much time into 12 men (one of whom He knew would fall away) that one wonders how Christianity ever got off the ground.  But God was pleased to use these men, from diverse backgrounds and varying education, to proclaim His word to the world.

We each of us have groups of people that God has been pleased to surround us with.  We each of us might also wonder from time to time “why doesn’t God use me in a way that He uses other highly prominent people?”  “Surely” we erroneously conclude “my impact for the kingdom will not be very significant.”  But there we fail to consider Christ’s own methodology.  It is His method to use seemingly insignificant people to invest in others for the glory of God.  He took from “the least of these” and created a kingdom.  Christ ushered in a kingdom that has included tens (if not hundreds) of millions of people throughout the past 2000 years.

Therefore, we ought not to despair of our influence for the kingdom.  Look at your children, look at your friends.  Pour your life and love into those whom God Almighty has surrounded you with, for the glory and expansion of His kingdom.

7:1 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him.

So when the text says “after these things” or “after this” it is probably not necessarily referring to an immediate event, but rather simply stating a matter of chronology.

Until now, Christ had been going back and forth between Judea and Galilee in His ministry, and now was about to leave Galilee for Jerusalem – not for the final time (Matt. 19:1; Mark 9:30), but His ministry there seems to have reached a conclusion.

The fact that Christ knew what His enemies intended for Him, and yet also knew that He was destined to die on a cross for the sins of the world, plays heavily into our thoughts as we see that His timing for all things is in His own hands.  He will not be allowed to die before the time He and the Father have ordained.  We’ll read more about this later, but look at John 10:17-18:

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.

Can you imagine spending your life knowing that you were destined to die – not only knowing that you would die, but knowing what kind of death you would die? This was the knowledge that Jesus Christ had to bear alone.  We sometimes think of the stresses and anxieties of waking up on Monday morning with a long list of things to do throughout the week.  We think of the meetings, the presentations, the children, the places we need to be, the things we’ll have to do.  And yet none of this compares with the weighty burden that our Lord faced day in and day out. Surely He can sympathize with our weaknesses.

But He was not going to allow any man’s timing to change the time of His death.  In fact, He didn’t live any part of His life by man’s timing, but by God’s as we’ll see in a few verses.

7:2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand.

As I explained above, this was one of the three major feasts that the Jews celebrated.  The three feasts are: the Feast of Weeks, the Passover, and the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths.

The commandment for these festivals is found in Exodus where we read the following:

“Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me. [15] You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty-handed. [16] You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. [17] Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord GOD.” – Exodus 23:14-17

The feast of the “Unleavened Bread” is Passover and is in April or May in the Jewish month of Nisan (called “Abib” in Scripture).  The feast of the “Harvest” is the Feast of “Weeks” (the English word “weeks” is from the Hebrew “shavuot”) which comes 50 days (or 7 weeks) after Passover and celebrates the giving of the law to Moses at Mt. Sinai.

The Feast of the “Ingathering” comes at the end of the year (in September or October – the Jewish calendar is lunar whereas our western Gregorian calendar is solar, so their holidays can shift accordingly) and is the feast of Tabernacles that we’re discussing in this chapter here.

7:3-5 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. [4] For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him.

A Different Kind of Agenda

His brothers certainly didn’t have a good idea of what Christ came to accomplish on earth.  We learn in verse five that they didn’t believe in Him, and here we see them sort of egging Him on to go up to the feast and perform as if He’s a trained monkey.

Carson comments that it wasn’t as if they didn’t believe He was capable of doing the miracles, but that they just “could not perceive the significance of what they saw.”

Why would they want Him to go to Jerusalem then?  I think Carson’s explanation is spot on here as well:

(In Jerusalem) not only would He enjoy the biggest crowds of His career, but the word would spread very quickly…What better place for a religious leader to parade his wares? If Jesus is interested in religious prominence, His brothers reason, sooner or later He must prove the master of Jerusalem. Otherwise He will always be regarded by the authorities and by the upper echelons of society as no more than a rustic, rural preacher.

It seems obvious here that they have no idea of God’s plan for Jesus – simply look at the way they tell Him to “show yourself to the world” – their minds were not above but here on earth.

The Unbelief of His Brothers

In his commentary on John, R.C. Sproul says that verse five in this chapter is one that really disturbs him. It’s a cautionary verse that we ought to examine a little bit on its own merit for a moment.

It’s obvious that Jesus’ brothers believe that He can do miracles, that He has a sort of following, and that He’s got a destiny of leadership – though their ideas of these things are radically different than God’s plans, as it turns out.

Sproul says this about the brothers, “They were following Jesus for what He could provide…they were rooting for Him to go to Jerusalem to manifest His power. This tells us they were still unbelievers, outside the kingdom of God.”

He then makes an interesting point about these brothers, “If we could have asked Jesus’ brothers, ‘do you believe in your brother?’ they would have said: ‘Of course we believe in Him. Why else would we want Him to go to Jerusalem and make Himself known?  We want the people to know about Him. We want to see His ministry grow and expand. Just like John the Baptist, we want Him to increase.’ Nevertheless, the Word of God says Jesus’ brothers were unbelievers. That is why we have to ask ourselves, ‘Is the Jesus we believe in the real Jesus?’”

What he means, of course, is that we humans have a tendency of making out God to be something different in our minds than He is in reality.  We shape and fashion him in our own image.  When we do this, Sproul says we “become like Jesus’ unbelieving brothers who looked to Him only for what they could get, for worldly power and worldly success.”

The Sovereignty of God in Salvation

The next thing that occurs to me is that His brothers had been with Him growing up.  They had seen the miracles.  They had seen His ministry and heard His words, and yet they were not true believers.

Later on these same unbelieving brothers would become His followers – but not until after the resurrection.  What an amazing proof text to the sovereignty of God in all things – including the timing of when people come to faith in Jesus Christ.  Seeing and hearing Christ is not enough.  There has to be repentance and faith accompany these two things.

As J.C. Ryle says, “That great Scriptural doctrine, man’s need of preventing and converting grace, stands out here, as if written with a sunbeam. It becomes all who question that doctrine to look at this passage and consider. Let them observe that seeing Christ’s miracles, hearing Christ’s teaching, living in Christ’s own company, were not enough to make men believers. There mere possession of spiritual privileges never yet made any one a Christian. All is useless without the effectual and applying work of God the Holy Ghost. No wonder that our Lord said in another place, ‘No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.’”

The Isolation of Christ

I remarked already before how this chapter comes on the heals (not immediately chronologically) of what must have seemed in some ways as a low point in Christ’s ministry.  John 6:66 tells us that He lost a lot of followers, and even though its been some time between that time and the beginning of this chapter, chances are that He has not accrued as many followers as his brothers seem to think necessary to lead a movement (against Rome for example).

Ryle says, “Our blessed Master has truly learned by experience how to sympathize with all his people who stand alone. This is a though full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort. He knows the heart of every isolated believer, and can be touched with the feeling of his trials.”

Isaiah predicted that Christ would be treated in this way, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Is. 53:3).

But because of this, He can identify with our suffering, and He comforts all those who come to Him (Heb. 2:17-18). What a beautiful truth to rest our hopes on.

7:6-9 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. [7] 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.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee.

What Kind of Time?

It is an extremely familiar saying for us here to read that Jesus said “my time has not yet come” because we encounter Him saying something like this – or we read different gospel writers saying it – in relation to times where Jesus could have been killed.  In fact Jesus escaped death at the very beginning of His ministry after enduring 40 days in the wilderness and a test by Satan.  The first thing He did was go into the synagogue and proclaim that a certain prophecy had been fulfilled, and for this the people (recognizing His claim to deity) attempted to hill Him.

However, in those instances, the scripture is almost always referring to “His time” as His time to suffer and die – the crucifixion.  The time when He would fulfill the very thing He was born into this world to do – He was born to die.

But this is not what Christ is referring to here.  When He says, “my time has not yet fully come” He is using a different word (kairos) here than in previous instances (hora).  What He is saying, in essence, is that His brothers can go up to the feast any old time they want, but He must tarry a little while longer, for He has not yet been told by the Father to go up to the feast.  He has not yet fully fulfilled His time where He is now.

If we read this in the way that Christ is saying His time to die and fulfill His passion has not yet come, then we must also read the inverse into His statement to His brothers…i.e. their time to die is “always here!”  This would certainly have scandalized them! It would also make verse 10 almost impossible to understand, because we’d think Jesus had either told a lie, or Scripture had contradicted itself.

And so we also see that Christ is saying to His brothers not only something of His own time frame, which is dictated by God, but of theirs, which is dictated by their own whims.  Carson says this; “All appointments that ignore God’s kairos are in the eternal scheme of things equally insignificant.”  In other words, the brothers’ opinions on what Christ ought to do hold absolutely no significance or bearing on the plan that God Almighty has laid out for His Son!

7:10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.

His Timing is Not Our Timing

Now we see that Jesus has left Galilee and gone up to the feast – this time going up not publically but “in private” – the opposite of what His brothers had suggested.

This leads us to consider the nature of how God works in time.  We see His Son, the Timeless Son of God, step from eternity into finitude.  He has marked out a time whereupon He will walk with us and step on the very dirt He breathed into existence.  This is quite something to ponder, is it not?

Often our mindset on the way in which God works timing in our lives is finite at best – and completely ignorant at worst.  Of course we are all of us ignorant of the mystery of God’s mind, but it is wise for us to understand a few principles here that articulate for us not only how He works, but also something of His character in doing so.

The mind of God in eternity is described well by James Boice.  He says, “We can make the same point also by imagining time to be something like a motion picture We view it in a sequence. God views it as though it were millions of individual frames, all seen at once. From His perspective, God sees Adam and Eve, Abraham and Isaac, Christ on the cross, you and me, simultaneously.”

Boice points out that this has an effect on how we view God’s interaction with us, and how we view His “decision making.”  He says, “We make decisions constantly, and we do so in an effort to cope with variableness, ignorance, previous indecision, and other things. Our decisions are attempts to deal with problems not previously considered.  God’s decisions are not like this because of the nature of His relationship to time.  There is no variableness or indecision with God. Consequently, His decisions are rather in the nature of eternal decrees, unchanging and unchangeable.”

So from eternity past God had a perfect will and timing for when Christ was going to go up to Jerusalem to die on the cross, but He also had a perfect ordering to every day of Christ’s ministry – just as He has a perfect ordering to every problem and blessing you experience in your life.  Consequently, ordering your life around your own whims rather than the will of God is an exercise in futility.  God has a plan for your life, a beautiful, difficult, worthwhile plan to bring Him glory and pleasure, and bring you joy and an eternity with Him.

Read how James Boice concludes these thoughts by saying, “God does not make decisions because He is suddenly confronted with a problem that He has not foreseen.  He determines both the problems and the solutions in advance. He is never surprised, never caught off balance.  Thus, there is never a problem that baffles Him, or a work that He does not intend to finish. Because of this we can rest in Him, and trust Him for the ordering of our days.

Study Notes 7-1-12

6:1 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.

  • Commentators note that there is a special emphasis on this event (the feeding of the 5000) in the gospels.  Carson says, “This is the only miracle during Jesus’ ministry that is recorded in all four Gospels.”  This is the fourth major sign recorded for us in John’s gospel.
  • Some say this was not an actual miracle of Christ multiplying/creating new fish and bread.  I dismiss this, as do most serious scholars.  Leon Morris says that, “there are three principle ways of understanding what happened.”  Those include Christ working a “miracle in people’s hearts”, thus having them share all their packed lunches with each other. This is more a miracle of ethics, rather than creation from nothing, and its strain upon the text cannot stand.  A second way to look at this would be that Christ divided out the small amount of food into tiny samplings, and a kind of sacramental communion was held – of course this doesn’t square well with verse 12 which indicates that they were all “filled.”  The last way in which this could be seen is the way it actually happened, which is how I believe it to be.
  • Sproul points out that theological liberals state that Jesus and His disciples hid food in a cave ahead of time in a sort of clandestine attempt to show a false miracle. This liberal viewpoint runs contrary to the obvious thrust and text of Scripture.
  • When it says “after this” the text seems to indicate some time between Jesus’ talking in chapter 5 and the event we’re about to read of.  The ESV study notes say that as much as a year could have been indicated – and several other commentators indicate something similar.  It all depends on whether or not the undisclosed “feast” in 5:1 was the Passover Feast.  As Carson notes, “The expression is vague: it establishes sequence, but not tight chronology.”
  • The Sea of Tiberias was the same, as we see here, as the Sea of Galilee.  It was named after Tiberias Caesar, and was a more common name among gentiles and those living several years after Christ.  Tiberias was also a city on the seaside that Herrod Antipas had built (about A.D. 20).
  • Calvin tells us that, “the whole lake did not bear that name, but only that part of it which lay contiguous to the bank on which Tiberias was situated.”

6:2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.

  • It is not insignificant that John notes the motivation for the following Jesus was producing.  Ryle comments, “There seems to reason to suppose that this multitude followed our Lord for any but low motives.”

6:3-4 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. [4] Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

  • These verses serve to give us the context of where we are, and that it was again a time of an annual feast.  And as to the location, Carson notes, “The Greek to oros does not necessarily refer to a particular mountain or hillside, but may simply mean ‘the hill country’ or ‘the high ground’, referring to the area east of the lake and well known today as the Golan Heights.”
  • Calvin notes (and there is agreement among others on this point) that Jesus was undoubtedly looking to sit down and rest here.  But the crowds were not going to allow this to happen.  Calvin says we ought to take a lesson from this, “We are therefore taught by this example to form our plans in conformity to the course of events, but in such a manner that, if the result be different from what we expected, we may not be displeased that God is above us, and regulates everything according to his pleasure.”  He talks about how Christ submitted to God’s will in everything, and that here, despite wanting to rest, Christ submits to the Father’s plan for him in that moment.

6:5-6 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” [6] He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

  • John adds the editorial disclaimer in verse six so that we understand the deity and vast knowledge of Jesus.  It is almost as if to say, “Jesus had a plan already, but He was using this as a teaching moment for Philip.”
  • Carson notes that the word “test” here is peirazo and is “commonly used by the Evangelists in the bad sense of ‘tempt’, to solicit to do evil. The word itself, however, is neutral, and is entirely appropriate here.”
  • Mark’s gospel makes it clear that Jesus had already begun teaching them and had perhaps taken a break to consider or begin to deal with feeding them.

6:7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.”

  • So here is Philip’s response to the “testing” of our Lord.  Does he pass the test?  How do you think Christ would have had him respond?  I wonder if some faith would have been appropriate in the circumstances, given the number of amazing things Christ had already done.  In other words, instead of just giving a mere accounting of their financial situation, it would have been better if Philip had said, “Lord, we only have 200 denarii, but with you all things are possible, what would you have us do?”  Instead Philip answers by giving the accounting, and adds to it a negative inflection that what they have in money won’t be enough to satisfy the needs of all of these people.  What was predominant in his words are what can’t be done, rather than what can be done.  So, in my estimation, Philip failed to give a faith-filled answer (Sproul agrees with me and says he “flunked” the test).

6:8-9 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, [9] “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

  • Similar to the response of Philip, Andrew says “what are they for so many?”  What is at the heart of this?  Unbelief.  They were not quick in prayer and supplication, but were quick to doubt what could be done for these people.
  • John’s gospel is the only one to tell us that this bread was “barley.”  Barley was really inexpensive bread.  D.A. Carson provides more detail, “The ‘small fish’ were probably pickled fish to be eaten as a side dish with the small cakes of barley bread. Andrew’s point of course, was that this tiny meal was ludicrously inadequate to the need. John mentions it to heighten the miracle.”

6:10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number.

  • First, we see that the grass is still green (from Mark’s account) and this tells us that it is likely the spring time (Passover connection grows stronger), before the sun had burnt the grass.
  • Secondly, it’s evident this number is only a count of the men.  The ESV study notes say, “The men numbered about five thousand, plus women and children, totaling perhaps as many as 20,000 people.”  Carson says it could have even well exceeded this number.
  • MacArthur brought something to my mind about what this organization must have been like – when he says “can you imagine twelve men serving 15,000 people!?”  What an amazing spectacle.  It also brought to mind the fact that it would have taken a long time to get everyone food.  The people would have to wait on the Lord, and be patient for His provision – how much do we need to take that lesson to heart!

6:11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.

  • Note that the first thing Christ does is “give thanks.”  Unlike the disciples, His first action is to prayer.  Carson notes something that I never would have thought of before, and it’s really got me thinking about our own prayers before meals.  He says, “If Jesus used the common forth of Jewish thanksgiving, He said something like this: ‘Blessed are though, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who bringest forth bread from the earth.’ Jesus ‘blesses’ God, i.e. He thanks God; He does not ‘bless’ the food.”
  • I can’t help but think about how much sense that makes.  When we pray prior to a meal, are we asking God to somehow do something miraculous to the food by “blessing” it?  I’ve often thought about what we are actually asking of God here.  Are we asking Him to make sure that the food does its job?  Are we so small in faith that we need to ask God that He look out for the digestive work to be done while also ensuring that all the necessary protein and vitamins get properly distributed to our bodies???  Are we not better off blessing/thanking the Lord God for His provision for us, in order that we may give glory and worship to Him for taking care of our needs?  I think this may seem a small thing, but it is important that when we pray to the Lord God Almighty, that we are cognizant of our words.  We must not allow ritual to replace reverence.
  • Note secondly that He distributed “as much as they wanted.”  This is similar to the way He operated at Cana when He filled 180 gallons of wine for the wedding.
  • I always think of how abundant His blessings are to us.  We cannot comprehend the how good Heaven is going to be – and how horrible Hell is going to be. But everything Jesus did and said was a “sign” of something even more full that was to come, I think.  When He feeds 20,000 people here, and then goes on to say later that He is “the bread of life”, our thoughts immediately ought to run to what we know about Jesus and His actions here on earth.  Everything points to Him going above and beyond our expectations.  It reminds me of my dad growing up.  There were so many times when I would ask for something, or desire something – maybe I just wanted to make a trip with Dad to the store, or go with him golfing – but what would normally happen would be his going above and beyond my expectations.  It was his modus operandi to bless me beyond my limited expectations.  He would always make those times just wonderful.  There would always be something he’d do to go above and beyond.
  • That is how Jesus acted.  And His actions mirror His teaching about how the Father acts toward us in comparison to our earthly fathers.  Matthew 7:11 tells us that Jesus said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”  Calvin says, “But as flesh solicits us to attend to its conveniences, we ought likewise to observe that Christ, of his own accord, takes care of those who neglect themselves in order to follow him.”
  • But not only is Jesus the great giver of good gifts, but secondly, He is also the creator of all things, and the fact that He could make something from nothing is not lost of J.C. Ryle who says, “he can call into being that which was not before, and call it out of nothing.”  To Ryle this has a specific application for the gospel, and follows up by adding, “We must never despair of anyone being saved.”
  • Thirdly, Calvin points out that this miracle shows not only the specific power of the gospel to certain men, but in another way, it shows God’s earthly provision of food for all mankind – in theology we call this “common grace.”  He notes, “we shall be compelled to discern the blessing of God in all the creatures which serve for our bodily support; but use and frequency lead us to undervalue the miracles of nature.”
  • Fourthly, I think this section of scripture, and this miracle in particular, show us that Christ identifies with us in our humanity, and feeds His children.  He knows that they have needs, He knows that we have needs (Matt. 6:8), and He moves to fulfill them, while pointing to His even greater fulfilling power – that of the bread of life.
  • This leads to my fifth point, which Ryle called “the sufficiency of the Gospel for the wants of all mankind.”  And what I think he is getting at is what I just mentioned above, namely that Jesus Himself is the “bread of life” (6:35) and that those who come to Him will no longer hunger.  His gospel will satisfy that vacuum in your life, that longing for something better – what R.C. Sproul calls “The soul’s quest for God.”  As noted above, the abundance of Christ’s blessings in salvation are evident in the blessings He showed here to these people.  As Ryle puts it, “There can be no doubt that this was meant to teach the adequacy of Christ’s Gospel to supply the necessities of the whole world. Weak, and feeble, and foolish as it may seem to man, the simple story of the Cross is enough for all the children of Adam in every part of the globe. The tidings of Christ’s death for sinners, and the atonement made by that death, is able to meet the hearts and satisfy the consciences of all nations, and peoples, and kindreds, and tongues. Carried by faithful messengers, it feeds and supplies all ranks and classes.”

6:12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.”

  • It occurs to me that John left this part of the even in the gospel account for a reason.  And it is an unusual thing to remark upon, but let me try to explain why it is significant (for all scripture is significant and we can learn from each verse 2 Tim. 3:16).  This verse is about stewardship.  But it does beyond what we might normally apply it to.  Specifically, there are two things that I think must be noted here.
  • First, He is reminding us by this instruction to his disciples, that we ought to always be thankful for what He has provided us, and to be good and careful stewards of His blessings so as to not seem unthankful and capriciously waste our blessings, and in a manner, show a distain for His provision and an arrogance toward God for what He has given, as if we will certainly be blessed again (this is an attitude of self-righteousness).
  • The second thing, and probably the most significant, is that He is showing His disciples that they are to be stewards of the men and women who He entrusts to their care here on earth.  J.C. Ryle says that this is one of the main themes of this section of Scripture, in fact.  He says this section shows “The role and office of a minister – to distribute the bread of Christ with no power in himself, but all from Christ.”  At the heart of this role, the minister is Christ’s hands and feet to carry out His purposes and spread His gospel here on earth, “That none may be lost.”  The fact that Jesus uses this phrase “none may be lost” is significant because it sets the stage for the teaching He is about to lay before them about His role as the Good Shepherd.  We will see in the following verses that in this role, He loses none of His sheep.
  • Note also here that they were gathering “fragments” of what remained – this is significant because as part of the picture of this great miracle, Jesus is not only concerned with the whole pieces, but also the fragments which represent the sick, the needy, the sinful, those in need of salvation (Matt. 9:12).  He came into this world to seek and save the lost so that no one of His children, His elect, would be lost (Luke 19:10).  If this isn’t comforting to you, then you must have no feelings at all. For this is the most wonderful thing to me.  Jesus Christ cares about me.  He cares about the least of His children.  No detail is left to chance, no small thing beyond His notice, no weak soul will be unaccounted for when the Book of Life is opened.
  • Now you might be thinking, “I am not a leader in the church, so this doesn’t apply to me.”  But there you would be wrong.  For every parent, every father, every mother is a leader in their home.  We are all stewards of God’s gracious gift.  We ought to always bear that in mind and act with care so that “nothing is lost.”  That is our charge as careful stewards of the gifts we have been given (1 Pet. 4:10) – especially the most important gift of salvation, which we are stewards of (1 Cor. 4:1).

6:13-15 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. [14] When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” [15] Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

  • The reaction of the people here was perhaps different than what we ought to take from it.  In fact, at first I thought about taking verses 14 and 15 separately because they both seem to have plenty to say on their own, however, I think its vital to put them together, and this is why: when the people react to the miracle in verse 14 by calling Jesus “the prophet”, it is tempting to think that they have finally got it right.  They finally see Him as the Son of God and the Messiah in the full spiritual sense for which He wanted them to see Him.  But our hopes are dashed by verse 15 which tells us that they wanted to make Him “king” – evidently their hearts and minds were still set on a political ruler being the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies.  In other words, they still didn’t “get it.”
  • Calvin deftly points out that, “…they erred egregiously in taking upon themselves the liberty of making a king; for Scripture ascribes this as peculiar to God alone, as it is said, I have appointed my king on my holy hill of Zion (Ps. 2:6), again what sort of kingdom do they contrive for him? An earthly one, which is utterly inconsistent with his person.”  He goes on to say that we need to learn an important lesson here, “Hence let us learn how dangerous it is, in the things of God, to neglect His word, and to contrive anything of our own opinion; for there is nothing which the foolish subtlety of our understanding does not corrupt.”
  • What precipitated their desire for Him to be “king”?  I think it was probably a combination of what has been mentioned above, along with an understanding of the role of the Passover feast and how that would have been drumming up nationalistic fervor among them.  Carson notes that, “It was a rallying point for intense, nationalistic zeal. This goes some way to explaining the fervor that tried to force Jesus to become king.”  Carson goes further and explains that, “The juxtaposition of vs. 14 and vs. 15 presupposes that the people who think Jesus may well be the eschatological Prophet understand this Prophet’s role to be simultaneously kingly. If the first prophet, Moses, had led the people out of slavery to Egypt, surely the second would help them escape servitude to Rome.”
  • Sproul also says something similar about the nature of the Passover being like our 4th of July, “it was the supreme celebration of national pride,” he says.  “So while this frenzy was going on, stoking the people’s hopes for someone to deliver them from the yoke of Roman tyranny, the perfect political candidate appeared on the scene. He even provided that which wins political votes everywhere – a chicken in every pot, or a loaf and a fish in every lunch. It doesn’t get any better than that. The people said, ‘This is the kind of king we want – one that will care for us from the cradle to the grave.’ But Jesus read their hearts, and He knew that the kind of king they were looking for had nothing to do with the kind of kingdom He had come to inaugurate. They were looking for the kingdom of man; He came to bring the kingdom of God. It was His mission to provide His people with so much more than bread and fishes.”
  • The next thing we need to note here, and perhaps it seems a small thing in comparison with the large political and spiritual issues at hand in the verses prior, is that Jesus had times of solitude.  This is something we often neglect in our own lives, and something we ought to keep in mind as we seek to model the behavior of Christ.
  • Now, you should ask, “to what end?”  The end for Christ was to spend more time with the Father. In Luke 5:16 we’re told that, “…he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”  We too ought to withdraw for times of solitude for the purpose of prayer.  We need to free ourselves from the distractions of this world, and spend some time in prayer with our Father.

Passover Parallels to Christ

Today we talked a little about the parallels between the Passover celebration and the things that Christ accomplished during His time here on earth.  Using Exodus 12, I have gone through and extracted some of these parallels for you to take a peak at:

Passover Parallels – Exodus 12

12:5 Your lamb shall be without blemish – Jesus was called the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus lived a sinless life, He was without blemish and He made atonement for our sins.

12:7 Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. – Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, shed His blood on the cross for us, and it is this blood of the lamb that separates the Christian from the unbeliever just as the blood on the doorpost separated the Israelites from the Egyptians, the elect from the reprobate.  It is the blood of Christ that will separate us when Christ comes back and the world is judged.  We don’t have a righteousness of our own, but are clothed in the righteousness of Christ that will allow us to stand before the throne of God on that day.

12:12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. – The blood of the lamb that is a sign to the Lord’s angel not to kill the first born in that house is a foreshadowing of how the blood of Jesus saves us from the judgment of God (Heb. 10:19-22; Eph. 2:13; Rom. 3:25) and our just end (eternal death/separation from God).  2 Cor. 5:21 tells us that Christ became sin for us that we might not taste God’s wrath.  And Romans 3:25 might say it best, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”

12:14 This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. – The Passover was celebrated even during the time of Christ. Just as the Passover is a sign of God’s deliverance for the Israelites, the Lord’s Super is a sign and remembrance of the deliverance Christ provided. During the ministry of Christ here on Earth, Passover was celebrated three times (John 2:13, 6:4, and 11:55) indicating that His ministry lasted about three years.

12:22 Take a bunch of hyssop – while Christ was on the cross He was given wine and vinegar on a hyssop branch (John 19:29).

12:46 It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. None of the bones of Jesus were broken, though it was customary that the legs of a man would be broken on the cross, this did not occur with Jesus (Ps. 34:20; Num. 9:12; John 19:36)

Pastor John Sittma notes that, “Passover was both a family and communal feast.  The lamb chosen ‘for the nation’ was staked out in the temple courtyard on Passover at 9am, and slaughtered publicly at 3pm.  So was Jesus – nailed to the cross at 9am, He died at 3pm, just as the four-footed beast died in a liturgy that concluded, ‘it is finished.’[i]


[i] Tabletalk Magazine, April 2011, ‘Meeting Jesus at an Old Testament Feast.’

3-11-12 Study Notes

2:13-14 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. [14] In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there.

  • Money changing was a common practice in the temple area because a certain special coinage was accepted by the priests for offering, and because of this, people who were coming from all over the area exchanged their coinage for this pure silver (more highly refined) coinage.
  • By the word “temple” here we understand that this area to be the “outer court”, otherwise known as “the court of the Gentiles.”
  • Some say that the reason for the exchange of coinage was because the priests wouldn’t accept coinage with Cesar’s image on it (because it would have been a pagan or idol image), but this is refuted aptly by Morris who says that the coinage they did accept had pagan markings on it as well.  The money exchangers would sometimes charge up to 12% commission on the exchange.
  • It is perfectly fine to have this convenience of money exchange and the selling of animals for sacrifice.  After all, it would be most difficult for travelers coming from foreign lands to bring their spotless animal to the temple.  But this is not what Jesus is objecting to.  He is not focused on what they are doing as much as where they are doing it.

2:15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.

  • It says that He made a “whip of cords”, which would have taken some premeditation on His part.  It could have taken at least an hour to make something like this.
  • Also He didn’t actually whip anyone – at least it is not recorded in the text that He whipped anyone.  Sproul notes, quite astutely, that, “the purpose of the whip was to drive the animals out of the temple complex” not to actually whip the people who were in the temple.  MacArthur agrees and adds, “Jesus was neither cruel to the animals (those who object to His mild use of force on them have never herded animals), nor overly harsh with the men.”
  • There has been a significant scholarly debate about the timing of when Jesus did this temple cleansing.  All of the synoptic gospels tell the story of Jesus cleaning the temple around the Passover time just before He was crucified.  Here John seems to very clearly indicate (by use of chronological language) that this temple cleansing occurred shortly after His ministry began.  Because of this, Morris, MacArthur, Sproul and others lay out a solid argument for there having been two times where Jesus cleansed the temple.
  • The differences between the record of this second cleansing and the one mentioned here in John are significant.  Beyond the significant difference of when the incidents are mentioned time-wise (the synopitics place this during the passion week, John places it at the beginning of Christ’s ministry), there are other particulars that don’t fit together to form only one event.

2:16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”

  • Here we see specifically the text that indicates that is the location or the selling that is the issue and not the selling itself.  Jesus is not declaring Himself to be against the sacrificial system here, nor is He railing against capitalism as some have supposed.  Jesus is bringing honor to God by reminding these men that God’s temple is a holy place.
  • I wonder if we treat our bodies, which are the temple of the living God, with as much zeal and respect…

2:17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

  • Sproul notes that, “Seeing Jesus cleanse the temple, His disciples connected His zeal to the zeal David had expressed.”  Jesus had this in common with His forefather, and David’s zeal and expression of love for God was a foreshadowing of Christ’s greater zeal.
  • David might not have had in mind the coming Messiah in Ps. 69, but the same Spirit who inspired David to write what he did also caused the disciples to see what they did in this Psalm, and that it was a foreshadowing of the greater zeal by a greater Son of David.
  • Not only was David’s zeal a pre-figuring of the zeal of Christ, but MacArthur notes that Christ’s zeal here was a pre-figuring of the zeal with which He will return at His second advent (Zech. 14:20-21).

2:18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”

  • They didn’t arrest Him, but simply demanded to see a miracle or sign of some kind to show that He was a legitimate prophet.  But, as MacArthur notes as well, the cleansing of the temple should have been sign enough!

2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

  • The response He gives is indeed a sign, though it is not the one they expected, nor did they understand what He meant.  For the sign He mentioned was the ultimate sign, the sign of the resurrection. The sign that would indicate that He was the Christ and had all authority in heaven and on earth to carry out His will and plan for mankind.

2:20-21 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”

  • At this point in time the Temple building wasn’t even done.
  • The temple that stood in Jesus’ day was the one built after the Jews returned from the Babylonian Captivity.
  • About 20 years before Jesus was born, Herod had begun a massive renovation project that was finally completed only a few years before the Romans destroyed it in 70 A.D.

2:21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.

John doesn’t leave us hanging, but explains to us what Christ had meant.  Certainly at the time of these words John could not have known what Jesus was talking about.  But now having several years past since these events, John is able to shed greater perspective on what Jesus was meaning.

2:22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

  • Jesus says elsewhere that when He would leave, He would cause them to remember “all things” so that they would be able to tell others accurately about Him (John 16:13).

2:23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.

  • He stayed in Jerusalem for the whole of the Feast and that He was also starting to manifest many signs among the people.

2:24-25 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people [25] and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

  • He knew the depravity of men and that no one needed to prove that to anyone – it seemed as though it was common knowledge that men were/are sinful creatures.  But there’s also a subtle contrast here with the nature of man and the nature of the Son of Man.  No one needed to bear witness about what mankind was like, but bearing witness about Jesus is a theme throughout the book of John.

How do we teach this to our children?  If you were to tell your children on the way home today that you learned about how Jesus was and is the Word of God, what would you say?

EXAMPLE:  Today we learned about how Jesus drove all of the animals and moneychangers out of the Temple in Jerusalem.  He did this because He loved the temple and He loved the worship of God.  When we come to church, we need to be mindful of the fact that we’re entering into a holy place; a place that is special and consecrated (set apart for a special task) for the worship of God.  When we don’t take that seriously, its like us saying that we don’t take God seriously, and don’t care to worship Him in a serious way.  Jesus wasn’t like that though, He loved and revered God and wanted to make sure that others did as well.