John 1-11: An Overview

Well tomorrow morning my Sunday School class will be diving back into the book of John.  But before we dive headlong into where we left off 3 months ago, I wanted to provide a few notes by way of an overview of the first 11 chapters.  By no means are these comprehensive, but rather they express the key ideas from the first half of John’s gospel.  I hope they prove helpful – please note that they are my notes and not meant to be much more than an outline with some thoughts, so if I’ve erred in grammar or spelling feel free to chuckle and continue on!  (:

The Gospel of John: An overview of the first 11 chapters

Chapter 1

The Prologue

John begins his gospel by describing the eternality of the Second Person of the Godhead, and by stating in no uncertain terms that Jesus is that Person.  Jesus is the Messiah, He is the Christ, and the Word of God incarnate.  By Him and through Him and for Him are all things created and made that have been made.

Verse 14 says: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

The very word that called all being into being has condescended into His created being with the mission of inaugurating a new creation within His chosen ones in order that they would fulfill that for which He originally created them: the bear His image, to rule over all creation, and to bring Him glory and joy (Jn. 10:10).

The Calling of the Disciples and the Angus Dei

John the Baptist’s mission is described here, as well as his relation to the Christ, “he whose comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (vs. 27).

When John saw Jesus coming toward him the next day he proclaimed “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”  This is what is known as the “Angus Dei” (Latin for the Lamb of God), and by stating this John is saying that Jesus has come to die for the sins of His people – a people not limited to ethnic Israel, but rather from all nations and ethnicities (“the world”).

After this, Jesus called His disciples – and John makes special mention of the calling of Nathanael “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Nathanael marveled at the knowledge of Christ – supernatural knowledge that only God could know.  Yet Jesus surprised him further and invoked the image of Jacob’s ladder by stating, “truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (vs. 51).

Chapter 2

The Miracle at Cana – Water to Wine

Jesus’ ministry opens in this gospel not with a description of His desert temptation, but with a miracle at a wedding feast.  John’s intentions in his gospel are set forth near the end of his gospel:

…but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31)

Therefore, John sets forth 7 signs and 7 discourses throughout his book to show forth the deity of Christ and make the case that we ought to believe, and by believing “have life in his name.” Each sign points to something greater than itself (hence the name “sign” used by John as opposed to “miracle”).

At the wedding feast Jesus scandalizes our traditional thinking about wine, and what is “necessary.”  For He didn’t come to simply heal some people, but rather to give life and that more abundantly.  The wine He made was good wine, and it was abundantly served to a group of people who were already likely a bit tipsy.  The point is that the wine Christ has come to give overflows, as does His grace.  It is the best kind of wine, it is rich and full and deep and never ending. His wine is the new wine of the gospel and it makes the heart glad!

The First Temple Cleansing and Christ’s knowledge

One of the first things Christ did was enter into the temple at Jerusalem and drive out the corrupt businessmen who had been charging ridiculously high interest rates.  This was done in a premeditated way (vs. 15 states that He made a whip of cords which would have taken some time).  This wasn’t an uncontrollable anger, it was a righteous anger.

In this act of cleansing, He signified the importance of the temple as the house of God, and pointed to Himself as the greater fulfillment of the temple:

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” [19] Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” [20] The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” [21] But he was speaking about the temple of his body. (John 2:18-21)

After this John tells us that when He was teaching in Jerusalem many started to believe in Him, but that Christ didn’t “entrust himself” to any man.  The reason?  Because He knew what was in man.  Christ knew the nature of man; He knew his depravity and his deceit.  He didn’t entrust Himself or His mission to others but took upon Himself the entirety of the mission and trusted in the will of the Father alone.

Chapter 3

Nicodemus and Being Born Again

Perhaps one of the most important passages in Scripture is found in the first parts of the third chapter of John.  A ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus comes to Jesus in secret at nighttime and begins to ask Him what he needs to do to be saved. Jesus gives a seemingly enigmatic answer:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

What He meant was this: you cannot by the work of your own hands, or deeds be admitted into the kingdom of God.  You must be born again of the Spirit. The Spirit must quicken your soul to life before you can “see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus also sets forth the sovereignty of God in salvation:

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

In other words, it is God who chooses who is saved, and you cannot control this, but rather you must obey the Spirit and submit to the work of God, for He is sovereign and His ways are not our ways. The conversation ended with a rebuke of Nicodemus, who though he was a teacher of Israel did not understand these things. The implication is that as a teacher of Israel and one familiar with the Scriptures, he should have been able to put two and two together. Therefore condemnation would indeed have been just.

Moses’ Serpent, and the Love of God

Christ tells Nicodemus that the Son of Man must be “lifted up” as Moses “lifted up the serpent in the wilderness” – this is a reference to a time in Israel’s history when they were dying in droves of poisonous snake bites in the wilderness. Moses was instructed by God to set upon a poll a bronzed serpent, and whoever looked upon the serpent would be healed. Of course the implication here is that by looking to the cross and the work of Christ alone we are saved.  There was nothing the Israelites had to do other than look and have faith and God would heal them.  They simply had to obey and believe – now the implication is that some did not even do this. It seems so easy, so simple.  Trust and obey.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (vs. 15 says “whoever believes in him may have eternal life). But because of man’s depravity we still protest and refuse the great gift.

Jesus goes on to explain that God’s love has been made manifest to the entire world in His Son, and that because of this manifestation the entire world stands under condemnation. How many of us are familiar with verse 16 but stop without reading 19-21? Listen to these important verses:

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. [20] For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. [21] But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21)

The chapter ends with John’s description of John the Baptist’s desire to see Christ’s ministry set above his own and we read the famous words, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The reason the Baptist wants to decrease if for his own joy.  For he remarks:

The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. (John 3:29)

There was no improper pride in John the Baptist, his joy was completely in Christ, and he reveled in the glory of his own humility before the Son of God. He counted himself nothing before the ministry of Christ.

Lastly, John sets the stage for further arguments about the authority of Christ by stating:

He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. [32] He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. [33] Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. [34] For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. [35] The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. [36] Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:31-36)

Chapter 4

The Samaritan Women and the Official’s Son

Most of chapter four is spent describing the scene of Christ at the well with a woman of Samaria.  We find here in this encounter that Christ has a divine knowledge that surprises the woman, and that He is the bearer of eternal life, a theme which John weaves throughout the book.  Listen to what Christ says to this woman:

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, [14] but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

The woman doesn’t understand this saying at first, but Christ is so gracious and so condescending that He reveals to this Samaritan woman more than He does to the leader of the Jews. He tells her no parable, but give her a beautiful description of His person and gift:

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” [26] Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:25-26)

Furthermore, He reveals to her something we ought to note, namely that in His coming there was a change in paradigm. He came to usher in a new covenant, and with it a change in the nature and even geography of worship.

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. [24] God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)

Here is where so-called “temple theology” comes to the fore. We need to understand that there is a certain amount of discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament we see a central place of worship, God dwells with man but it is in a temple in the Holy of Holies. Now, the greater manifestation of the Temple has come, and when He ascends to heaven He will send His Spirit to indwell His children thereby making His dwelling with men, and transforming us into His temples.  No longer do we need a temple to gather close to God, for His dwells in each of us, just as Jeremiah predicted.

Lastly, in going to the Samaritans Christ is showing that salvation has come to all men, not simply to the Jews, and in this crucial way God’s covenant with Abraham is going to be fulfilled:

I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, [18] and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:17-18)

And what is perhaps most amazing to me about this is the call of Christ for us to enter into His work, for He states:

Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. [36] Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. [37] For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ [38] I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” (John 4:35-38)

Therefore John has laid forth both the sovereignty of God in salvation (chapter 3) and now the privilege of entering into His work as His hands and feet to take the gospel to the field which are white for the harvest.

The chapter ends with John telling of how Christ healed the son of an official – the second of the signs that John describes in his gospel. The key to this sign is understanding that it was these miracles that were confirming the word of Christ. The miracles in and of themselves were only a way to point people to the person and word of Christ, and that is why John notes that the miracle led to belief in the household of the official (vs. 53).

Chapter 5

The Healing at Bethesda on the Sabbath

By this time in John’s gospel we have seen how the signs that Christ is doing point to a larger significance about who He is and what He has come to do. In a similar way, Jesus has been showing how Old Testament traditions, laws, and even buildings such as the temple, point to Him.  Thus Christ is the great fulfillment of what was only previously seen in shadow.  The way Paul sums this up in 2 Corinthians is worth noting:

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

Now we find that as Christ heals a man who was both blind and paralyzed the Jewish leaders become incensed. Why? Because He healed on the Sabbath (vs. 16). They are not happy for the healed man, and have no joy over the work of God.  Christ’s healing on the Sabbath was meant to point to two great realities:

  1. He was/is the fulfillment of the Sabbath.
  2. He is Lord of the Sabbath

The former is a matter of typology, and the latter of authority.

About the fulfillment of the Sabbath, the author of Hebrews says, “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his (Hebrews 4:8-10).” And Paul says, “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord” (Rom. 14:5-6a).

Concerning the authority of Christ, John focuses on this for the remainder of the chapter, and he shows that the Jewish authorities were also focused on this point – for they saw that Christ was making Himself equal with God” (vs. 18).

In this chapter, Christ sought to show that His authority came directly from God, and that the prophets pointed toward Him (vs. 46-47). A few key passages are as follows:

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. [20] For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. [21] For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. (John 5:19-21 ESV)

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. [31] If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. [32] There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. (John 5:30-32 ESV)

But more than just describing the authority He had from God, Jesus also described how He had authority in himself granted by the Father simply because of who He was:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. [26] For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. (John 5:25-26 ESV)

This is an amazing statement of power.  Christ had been given the power to grant life, and the power to deal out judgment leading to death. Is there a greater authority in the universe as we know it?  No indeed.

Lastly, the blindness and depravity of man is set forth by Christ as the reason for their mishandling of His ministry:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, [40] yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. [41] I do not receive glory from people. [42] But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. [43] I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. [44] How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? [45] Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. [46] For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. [47] But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:39-47)

They cannot believe because they seek their own glory and have not the Spirit of God within them.  I don’t think He could have made the case any more plain to these puffed up men.

Chapter 6

Jesus Feeds the 5000 and Walks on Water

The 4th and 5th signs are performed by Christ in the first part of chapter 6 which boasts of some of the most difficult and profound doctrine we have encountered thus far.  First, we learn that the Passover is once again at hand (vs. 4 – probably the 2nd of 3 Passover feasts that mark His ministry) and thousands of men and women and children have been following Him to hear His teaching. This is perhaps one of the pinnacles of His ministry as far as shear mass of following is concerned, but as we’ll see soon, by the end of chapter 6 many of these people will fall away because they cannot stomach the difficult doctrine of predestination and God’s sovereignty.

When Christ feeds the 5000 here, there is a beautiful sense in which once again His bounty and overflowing grace is on display. We also see that He doesn’t want any of the food to be lost (vs. 12), perhaps pointing toward His own power of preservation for those who have been saved. After the miracle is finished, the people are so enraptured by His power that they move to take Him by force and make Him their king. He alludes them, however, and goes up onto a mountain by himself – a picture of what we ought to do when the world tries to force its will upon us, we need to flee to the mountain or the quiet place and commune with God, taking safety in the cleft of His might.

After the feeding of the masses Christ’s disciples have gotten into a boat and are attempting to cross over to Capernaum. But the sea, which often becomes tempestuous due to its geography, became enraged and made the crossing very difficult. It is then that John describes Christ’s coming to them – but not on a boat or another vessel – rather, He has come to them by walking on the very surface of what is not a surface at all: He is walking on water. It is worth noting that the reaction of the disciples is one of fear (vs. 19).  They were perhaps more frightened by the sight of Christ walking on water than of the prospect of losing their lives in the storm.

After Christ comes to them, the boat immediately finds itself on the opposite side of the water. His words are telling “It is I; do not be afraid.”  When Christ is with us, all objects of fear melt in the face of His calming power.  Indeed, the God incarnate was the only object worth of their “fear”, and He was the one ministering to their souls, and bringing them safely (if not instantly) across the sea.

The Bread of Life and a Hard Saying

In this difficult discourse, Jesus shows men for who they really are, and sets forth a doctrine that is most difficult – the doctrine of the sovereignty of God in salvation. Let’s look at how the chapter unfolds in a few succinct bullets:

The Nature of Man: People come seeking Jesus but really only seeking his bread – we seek after the things he can give us but not himself (vs. 26). We want the benefits of God. But no one seeks after God himself (Rom. 3:11-12).

Faith Alone: How do we do the works of God? This is the work of God, to believe in him whom he has sent. (vs. 28-29) This passage shows faith alone apart from works is what leads to salvation.

The Claims of Christ and Eternal Life: I am the bread of life (vs. 35) – whoever comes to me shall never hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Assurance: All who believe in Christ are those whom the Father gives to Jesus, and these people He doesn’t cast out (vs. 37-40) and will raise up on the last day. What a powerful statement! We can lean on His power to keep us until the end.

Sovereignty: Christ proclaims now that no one can believe – or “come to Jesus” – unless the Father draws him! (vs. 44-46) Therefore, God is the sovereign initiator of the drawing of men to Christ and therefore salvation.

The Response: The disciples say, “This is a hard saying!” (vs. 60) Not because it is tough to understand, but because it is tough to swallow. But Christ responds and says that the flesh will not help them understand the things of the Spirit (vs. 63).  Then in verse 65 Jesus says that it is the Spirit who gives help in coming to the Father.  Therefore we see that the role of the Spirit is being set forth here: it is the Holy Spirit who brings us into newness of life and draws us to the Father.

The Result: The people can’t stomach His doctrine, just as they can’t stomach it today!  How dare He impinge upon the freedom of mankind to make their own choices without aid from God! So they leave Him: “After this many of disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (vs. 66). But the disciples stayed with Christ, but even in this Jesus exalted His own work in them (“did I not choose you, the twelve?” vs. 70).

Chapter 7

The chapter opens with Jesus being rejected by his brothers (vs. 5), and ends with Him declaring himself to be the bearer of “living water.” Chapter 7 is the first of three chapters whose background is the Feast of the Tabernacles, and this is the final fall feast before the last 6 months or so of Christ’s earthly ministry.

The progression of events once Christ goes up to the feast is as follows:

He speaks with divine knowledge even though He’s never been formally trained – people marvel at this (vs. 15)

He once again asserts His authority, and claims that His teaching is from the Father (vs. 16-18)

The Sabbath question comes up again and Jesus uses the rite of circumcision as an example of “lawful” work that takes place on the Sabbath as a way to show their lack of understanding of (and lack of ability to keep) the law. (vs. 19-24)

The reaction in Jerusalem is mixed – but all are fearful of speaking outwardly about Him – such is the tension in the city over this man from Galilee (vs. 13). People even begin to declare that He is the Messiah (vs. 31).

Christ begins teaching about half-way through the feast, and due to the response of the people, the Pharisees issue an arrest warrant but are unable to apprehend Him (vs. 32, 45-49) due to the power of Christ’s speech (vs. 46), the sway of the populace (vs. 43-44), and the sovereignty of His timing (vs. 30).

The chapter ends with an interesting vignette of Nicodemus discussing the matter of Christ before others on the council, and their rejection of all justice or lawfulness indicates that the spirit of lawlessness has completely taken hold of the religious leaders of the day (vs. 50-52).

Chapter 8

The Woman Caught in Adultery

John now takes us to an incident that presumably occurs during the feast, where a young woman has been brought before Jesus as a way of testing His teaching and knowledge of the law. The woman has been caught in adultery, but given the circumstances it seems likely that this is a vile and reprehensible setup that the religious leaders have used in order to take Jesus down (see James M. Boice’s excellent commentary on the passage).

Christ’s response to the circumstance is one we’re familiar with: “let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  It is an amazing rebuke of the crowds.  So often we are hungry to judge others – we want justice until it comes to our own sentence, then we want mercy!

The Light of the World and the Freedom of Christ

Christ began again to teach in the temple and proclaimed that He was the “light of the world” – He used the metaphor of light and darkness to draw people to Himself, and show them what kind of life he came to impart to them.

It was here also that Christ taught about the freedom He offered to all who believed:

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. [35] The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. [36] So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:34-36)

Paul also expounded on this:

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, [18] and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18)

The Sonship of Christ, and the Children of the Devil

One of the key concepts of Chapter 8 is the Sonship of Christ. He begins to explain this to the leaders and other listening in verse 19:

“They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” (John 8:19)

He is claiming to be the very Son of God – a bold and clear statement of deity.

Another key concept from this chapter is that there are only two kinds of people: sons of God and sons of Satan.  You are either under the power of the Devil and a pawn in his control, or you have been born again and adopted into the family of God, having Christ as your brother.

These statements irked the Pharisees who thought of Abraham as their father, but when Christ explained to them that they were not sons of Abraham, they winced and desired to kill Him.

Once again Christ was explaining what it meant to be a true son of Abraham.  Paul explains this to the Galatians:

“Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” (Gal. 3:7)

What had merely been a physical promise to Abraham of blessings of land, children, and blessing the nations was now being realized in a spiritual way. This angered the Pharisees to no end as I mentioned above, and the resulting conversation ensued:

Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” [52] The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ [53] Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” [54] Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ [55] But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. [56] Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” [57] So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” [58] Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” [59] So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (John 8:51-59)

These are just excerpts of one of the most intense and important conversations that Jesus had amongst the people during the feast.

Chapter 9

The Man Born Blind

This chapter centers on an amazing miracle (the 6th one of the 7 major signs) of healing to a man who was born blind. Like Job’s friends, the disciples saw the man and naturally thought that he or his parents had committed a sin in order for him to wind up in such a state. But Christ corrects their misunderstanding, and adds to it a level of profundity that places the will and prerogative of God above our understanding:

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:3)

Indeed it was the sin of mankind that has led to disease and calamity, but it isn’t necessarily specific sins that cause sicknesses or trouble in this world. Rather, God works through all things to sharpen us, and cause us to be conformed to the image of God, thereby bringing Him glory (Romans 5:1-8) and us great joy.

The resulting upheaval from the healing was amazing. The religious leaders questioned the man’s parents, then questioned him, and since he didn’t know who Jesus was he didn’t really have much to answer. After questioning him and his parents they questioned the man a second time (vs. 24) and demanded that the man recant of giving any credit to Christ, but rather demanded that he give “God glory” (vs. 24).  The response of the man is truly great reasoning and evoked the following exchange:

He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” [28] And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. [29] We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” [30] The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. [31] We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. [32] Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. [33] If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” [34] They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. (John 9:27-34)

It was after this that Jesus found him, and the man became a believer.

Chapter 10

The Good Shepherd

The I AM statements of Christ are prevalent throughout the gospel of John, and here we have two more of those famous statements: I am the good shepherd, I am the door.

The key to understanding Christ’s teaching here is understanding the role of a shepherd and the role of the sheep. The sheep come at the voice of a shepherd. Shepherds in the ancient near east did not herd their sheep, they led their sheep, and the sheep would only follow those whose voices they recognized.  Also, the door of the sheepfold was the one way in or out of the sheepfold. By saying that He was the door, Christ was saying that He was the only way into the kingdom of God.

The themes here tell us of God’s sovereignty in salvation (vs. 4, 14, 15), His goodness in provision for His sheep (vs. 10), and His abundant love for us that ensures not one of His sheep will be lost (vs. 16) and that He will lay His life down for the sheep (vs. 11, 17, 18).

The Divinity of Christ and the Deadness of Man

This next section takes place “during the feast of the dedication” which was in winter, about three months from the final Passover of Christ’s earthly ministry.

The crux of what occurs here is a dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees over His divinity. Christ claims that His works bear witness about who He is (namely the Messiah). But the Pharisees still can’t find it in their hearts to believe, and Christ addresses this using the same motif He used earlier in this chapter (no doubt why John chose to put these two in sequence):

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, [26] but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. [27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. [28] I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. [29] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. [30] I and the Father are one.” (John 10:25-30)

So Christ tells them in plain language that:

  1. They don’t know Him because they are not of God
  2. They aren’t of God because they aren’t His sheep
  3. They aren’t His sheep because they don’t have His spirit
  4. Those who aren’t His sheep will perish: therefore they will perish
  5. He is the giver of eternal life: eternal life is for His sheep
  6. He gives eternal life by the power of His Father who is more powerful than all
  7. The Father will not allow anyone to snatch His sheep out of His hand
  8. He and the Father are one

It is this last statement that offends them so much because, like in 8:58, He is using the divine name as His own personal moniker, and saying in plain language that the God of the universe and Himself are “one.” What an astonishing claim!  The response to this is:

The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. (John 10:31 ESV)

Jesus ends up talking them down from their folly, but leaves and goes into the countryside across the Jordan River. This is the last time many of these people will see Him before the triumphal entry.

If there are two things we can learn from this chapter, they are that the nature and operation of salvation is a mysterious thing that God sovereignly ordains and brings to pass, and secondly, that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God and equal with God the Father the creator of heaven and earth.

Chapter 11

The chapter begins by Jesus learning that Lazarus is ill, and we see Him making plans to visit Lazarus, but only in His divinely appointed time. Throughout the chapter the great love of Jesus for people in His care is made manifest (vs. 3, 5, 33, 35 etc.), and His humanity shines through so that the chapter combines the power and wisdom of His divinity with tenderness and empathy of a man who fully understood what it meant to suffer.

The entire chapter is a grand display of Christ’s majestic character, but perhaps the most significant texts are as follows:

Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, [15] and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (John 11:14-15)

Christ says that the purpose of Him staying behind was so that they might believe.  He did all of this for His purposes.  He heard that Lazarus was sick, and He knew that Lazarus was going to die, and what was His response?  He waited. He stayed put.  Can we doubt His complete control over all things?  He is sovereign!

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, [26] and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Christ asserts that He is the resurrection and the life.  The Jews (other than the Saducees) believed in the resurrection of the dead on the last day. But here Jesus is again taking a truth understood from of old and claiming that HE fulfills that truth.  He is the second Adam, He is the great son of David, He is the prophet that Moses spoke of, He is the fulfillment of the temple, He is the center of all history and He is the resurrection and the life. There is no life that has life or will have life or did have life apart from Him. He claims here nothing less than full control and power over life and death, and therefore nothing short of ultimate divinity.

The upshot is that we are to place our faith in Him – see how He leads Martha to that “Do you believe this?”  This is the question that all people who live are faced with. Do we believe the claims of Christ?

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. [34] And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” [35] Jesus wept. (John 11:33-35)

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. (John 11:38)

We forget the sense of what it means here that Christ was “deeply troubled” – this essentially means that He was not pleased, perhaps even angry.  He was disturbed, but not by the death of Lazarus, rather He was disturbed by the unbelief of the people, as well as being saddened for the loss.  These people were likely professional mourners, so their display of grief would have (perhaps) been less than sincere. It is hard to know, of course, but the sense of the situation here is that it is the unbelief of the people in the power of God that has caused Christ to be “deeply moved” and therefore He responds in vs. 40, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” [44] The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:43-44)

The picture of Christ’s sovereign power over death is unmistakable.  Not only that, but the method in which He loosed Lazarus from the grace was emblematic of how He called life into being thousands of years before. By His voice He commanded Lazarus out of the grave – like the Divine Fiat (Augustine) He commands life into existence.

Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” [51] He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, [52] and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. (John 11:50-52)

Caiaphas unwittingly and prophetically pronounces the coming of the kingdom and the further fulfillment (assuming a partial fulfillment in the work of God through Joshua) of the Abramatic Covenant in verse 52 and, of course, the atonement offered by Christ in verse 50. An amazing thing to consider from this passage is the way in which God uses the mouths of the wicked to show forth the excellencies of His plan. Not that these wicked men have been singled out by some kind of privilege, but rather the plan that was put in motion from the beginning of time was not going to be stopped by any evil force – they even confess the plan of God and His sovereignty unknowingly, so complete is His power and so inevitable is His victory.

Study Notes 12-9-12

John Chapter 9

Introduction

In the last two chapters we have seen how Christ angered and amazed the people and the religious leaders of His day by His teaching and His knowledge. Now John is going to tell us of another physical miracle that Christ performed – a “sign” – that would point once again to who this great man was.

The ESV Study notes tell us that “This miracle is one of several events in John in which the events in the physical world are a “sign” that points to a deeper spiritual meaning. Here Jesus gives sight to a man born blind, but this is also an evident symbol that Jesus, “the light of the world” (v. 5), brings the light of the knowledge of God.”

D.A. Carson says, “This chapter portrays what happens when the light shines: some are made to see, like this man born blind, while others, who think they see, turn away, blinded, as it were, by the light.”

9:1-5 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. [2] And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” [3] Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. [4] We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. [5] As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

A Man Lost in Blindness

Perhaps no one that I read on this passage does a better job of existentially reading the passage, and getting inside the thoughts of this blind man than R.C. Sproul. Here is what he says in his commentary on John:

How many years did that man grope in the darkness, asking: ‘Why me, God? Everybody else can see, but I can’t see anything. My whole life I have listened to people talk about what they’re seeing, and I can only imagine. I don’t even have any memories to aid me in my imagination because I’ve never seen anything. Why me?’ Imagine the frustration, the torment. Year after year he dealt with this affliction. He had no idea that one day the Son of God would come to him and heal him. But that was the plan of God for his life from all eternity.

The reason I quoted Sproul here is because I think we often forget that we are called to identify with others in their trials and struggles. As we share the gospel with others, as we care for others, we are called to love them. John’s entire first epistle is crying out “Christians show they are Christians by showing love to others.”

Imagine yourself in your neighbor’s place, in your husband’s place, in your wife’s place. Imagine the ultimate fate of your co-worker, and the difficulties of their struggles. This is important because it helps us remember that these people are all important to God. They are all to be objects of our love.

The Universality of Sickness and Death

Jesus gave sight to this man, just as He would give men spiritual sight. That is why He called Himself the “light of the world.” He is the One true God who imparts right knowledge of God to a lost and dying world.

It seemed like a common, and even obvious question for the disciples to ask whether or not it was sin that caused the blind man’s sickness. And indeed original sin is the cause of all blindness, both physical and spiritual. Sin is at the root of all sickness and disease. The entire world was plunged into darkness because of the Fall.

John MacArthur says this, “Sickness is a universal effect of the fall, as a result of which sin, death, and decay exist in this imperfect world. It afflicts all human beings, periodically reminding each of them that they ‘are but dust’ (Ps. 103:14), and that one day ‘to dust (they) shall return (Gen. 3:19).”

J.C. Ryle agrees and says, “If Adam had never fallen, we cannot doubt that people would never have been blind, or deaf, or dumb. The many ills that flesh is heir to, the countless pains, and diseases, and physical defects to which we are all liable, came in when the curse came upon the earth. ‘By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin (Rom. 5:12).”

But Why?

But the assumption that the man’s blindness was a direct result of either his sin or the sin of his parents was incorrect. For this man would have had to have sinned prior to birth, which is impossible (although MacArthur notes that it was a popular thought among Jews of the day that a baby could sin in the womb).

Also, it seems wrong that the man would have been responsible for the sins of his parents. MacArthur addresses this:

The disciples may also have been thinking of certain Old Testament passages in which God seems to promise punishment on children for the sins of their parents (Ex. 20:5, 34:7; Num. 14:18; Deut. 5:9)…Such passages, however, must be understood in a national or societal sense. The point is that the corrupting effect of a wicked generation seeps into subsequent generations. This is axiomatic, an obvious reality. The idea that a child will be punished for the sins of his own parents is a concept foreign to Scripture (cf. Deut. 24:16).

What the disciples did here was setup a false dilemma, a logical fallacy based on only believing that the answer for the man’s condition was one of two things (Sproul and MacArthur both note this logical misnomer).

But what Christ told them was that they were wrong on both accounts. The reason the man was born this way was because God was going to be glorified. What a thought! From the foundation of the world God had prepared this man to show forth the riches of His kindness in him.

F.F. Bruce has framed this truth brilliantly (as MacArthur also notes):

This does not mean that God deliberately caused the child to be born blind in order that, after many years, his glory should be displayed in the removal of the blindness; to think so would again be an aspersion on the character of God. It does mean that God overruled the disaster of the child’s blindness so that, when the child grew to manhood, he might, by recovering his sight, see the glory of God in the face of Christ, and others, seeing this work of God, might turn to the true Light of the World.

Sproul says, “The blind man’s life is a concrete example of suffering that went on and on for year after year until it finally resulted in glory. That’s why the apostle Paul wrote, ‘For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us’ (Rom. 8:18).”

Finally, D.A. Carson notes that Christ has been the one initiating all of this, and in this way it is a picture of salvation (as MacArthur notes later). He says, “Now the man (who of course has still not seen Jesus) obeys and washes, and came home seeing. John’s readers know that, although the healing is as thorough as the blind man’s obedience, the power itself came not from the obedience, nor from a pool called ‘Sent’ (Siloam), but from the ‘sent one’ Himself.”

The Urgency

I also think we need to note the urgency of the mission of Christ. He says, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.”

MacArthur notes that “Here the plural pronoun ‘we’ includes the disciples, who also were empowered to do the words of the Father who sent Jesus…the phrase ‘as long as it is day’ conveys a sense of urgency. It refers to the brief time that Jesus would still be physically present with the disciples.”

Ryle says, “He (Christ) knew well that his own earthly ministry would only last three years altogether, and knowing this, He diligently redeemed the time. He let slip no opportunity of doing works of mercy, and attending to His Father’s business.”

We also ought to have this sense of urgency about our mission here on earth. Paul tells us:

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, [16] making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. [17] Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV)

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. [6] Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:5-6 ESV)

Ryle concludes, “The life that we now live in the flesh is our day. Let us take care that we use it well, for the glory of God and the good of our souls. Let us work out our salvation with fear and trembling, while it is called today.”

9:6-7 Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud [7] and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

The Miracle

John MacArthur rightly points out that Christ’s healings were amazing, “He virtually banished disease from Palestine during that time in an explosion of miraculous healings.” MacArthur goes on to note in some detail some of the characteristics of Christ’s healings. Here is a condensed point-by-point list as Dr. MacArthur sees it:

  1. He healed with only a word or touch
  2. He healed instantly – “unlike some of the alleged healings of modern faith healers, none of His healings were progressive or gradual.”
  3. He healed completely
  4. He healed everyone who came to Him
  5. He healed organic, physical diseases and infirmities – not invisible ailments such as lower back paint, headaches etc.
  6. He raised people from the dead “unlike modern fakes”

Carson goes into a lengthy explanation as to exactly what the significance of the use of mud and saliva might have been, but admits, “It is extremely difficult to decide just what this signifies.” He notes that “Not a few church Fathers saw an allusion to Genesis 2:7: since God made human beings out of the dust of the ground, Jesus, in an act of creation, used a little dust to make eyes that were otherwise lacking.”

There is also a possible sense in which using saliva would have been a social and religious taboo, and that Christ was attacking the norm of thinking – once again making Him Lord of all things. Though it is hard to say for certain whether this is the statement He is making here in chapter 9.

I like what Ryle has to say on the matter as well, “The reason why our Lord used the action (spittle) we cannot tell…He is not tied to any one means of doing good, and that we may expect to find variety in His methods of dealing with souls, as well as with bodies.”

Historical NOTE: As an aside, there have been several archeological discoveries around the Pool of Siloam. You can see some of the pictures if you click here. Or you can visit: http://www.bibleplaces.com/poolofsiloam.htm

Study Notes 9-30-12

Here are my notes from Sunday’s class.  We talked about the dual nature of Christ, touched on justification, and even (of course) the gospel.  Enjoy!

John 7:20-31

7:20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?”

At this point we see that those who were pilgrims to Jerusalem (coming in from the Diaspora) didn’t have an understanding of the full picture of what was going on with the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem.

7:21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it.

Last time Jesus was in town, a year ago, He had healed a lame man (cf. 5:1-15) and I think that most scholars feel this is what He is referring to.  This had made such an impression on them that they still remembered Him for it.  For not only had he made a “man’s whole body well”, but He had healed that man on the Sabbath, which had caused an even greater disturbance.

Boice sets the scene, “What Jesus had done in the north was not really much in the minds of these religious leaders. But there was not one of them who had forgotten that on his last visit to Jerusalem a year before, Jesus had violated their understanding of the Sabbath by healing a paralyzed man. That was work, according to their understanding.”  He went on to say, “If Jesus could do such things of the Sabbath, he was obviously dangerous. He was a sinner, and he was teaching others to sin. At the time of this miracle the leaders had, therefore, tried to kill him. Jesus had escaped.  But he had now returned, and they remembered.”

7:22-23 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. [23] If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?

Legalism gives Birth to Hypocrisy

Admittedly, this example that Jesus gives puzzled me a little bit until I started to dig into the context, and read what others had to say about it. Here’s what James Boice has to say on the matter:

His argument went something like this. It was the law of the Old Testament that a male child should be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth (Lev. 12:3). Naturally, the eighth day would often fall on the Sabbath. But it was the teaching of the rabbis, recorded in the Mishnah, that, ‘everything necessary for circumcision’ could be done on the Sabbath day. ‘Well’, said Jesus, ‘don’t you see what you are doing? You say that you fully observe the law that was given to you through Moses, including the laws concerning the Sabbath. The laws of the Sabbath forbid work, and you have interpreted that to mean every kind of activity except that which is absolutely necessary to save life. Technically, this should exclude circumcision. Yet you permit it, and it is right that you do. Moreover, you notice that circumcision is a form of mutilation. How hypocritical then for you to blame me for curing a man’s body, making it whole, when you for the sake of religion actually mutilate it on the seventh day!’

When he mentions “mutilation” Boice might be making a good point, but perhaps missing the deeper significance (literally “sign” relevance) of circumcision.  For instance, as Wellum and Gentry note in their biblical theology on the covenants, “circumcision, as a physical act, signified the removal of the defilement of sin, the cleansing from sin, and it pointed to the need for a spiritual circumcision of the heart.”  Given this, perhaps deeper meaning, what Christ is doing in healing an entire man on the Sabbath is essentially a much grander way of showing His power to cleanse us from our sins (this is probably also closer to Sproul’s interpretation, though I don’t think he is very clear explaining it).

This is a difficult and rather intricate legal argument that Jesus is making here, but it points to the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders at the time.  And, as Boice points out, what Jesus is saying in essence is that their “legalism gives birth to hypocrisy.

This is why I labored the point in prior sections that the law cannot save us, but only lead us to Christ.  The reason, of course, is that the law is always condemning us.  But the gospel is always bringing us into a saving knowledge of Jesus’ work on our behalf – so that while we were “yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).  So even though we have all violated the law – a law which so many people want to try and live every day by still – we are found with favor in the eyes of God because of Christ’s work, not ours (Eph. 2:1-10).  For no man is justified by the law because no man can keep the law (Gal. 3:11), and this is why we need the gospel. We need Christ’s work, His righteousness, credited to us (to our account).

How are we Justified?

This is a good opportunity to just briefly remind us of why and how we are justified. We covered this just last week, so I will not spend too much time on it.  But we are not justified by our work in keeping the law, but rather in the life, cross work, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We must also be sure to make a distinction between justification and sanctification/transformation.  Christ’s work (His righteousness/His merit) is imputed to our account, as it were, and therefore in the final analysis we are counted as “righteous” before the throne of God.

In his new book on the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism, R.C. Sproul explains the classical Protestant view on imputation as drawn from Scripture:

When Paul explains the doctrine of justification, he cites the example of the patriarch Abraham.  He writes: “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness’” (Rom. 4:3 citing Gen. 15:6). In other words, Abraham had faith, and therefore God justified him.  Abraham was still a sinner. The rest of the history of the life of Abraham reveals that he did not always obey God. Nevertheless, God counted him righteous because he believed in the promise God had made to him. This is an example of imputation, which involves transferring something legally to someone’s account, to reckon something to be there. So, Paul speaks of God counting Abraham as righteous, even though, in and of himself, Abraham was not yet righteous. He did not have righteousness inhering in him (‘Are We Together?’, pg. 43).

But that doesn’t mean that we are sinless, perfect people.  As Jerry Bridges rightly points out, the Holy Spirit is still working in us to affect this transformation. Bridges says that the Holy Spirit brings conviction, creates desire, and creates change. He enables us and abides in us so that with Christ’s help (John 15:5) we are able to do the things that please Him.  In this way we are being made righteous and more and more like the Son everyday (2 Cor. 3:18).

So once again, we see that as human beings we try to justify ourselves by the law, and our view of the law.  We tend toward legalism.  But as believers we must be very cautious not to do this; we must remember the gospel in all things, and at the heart of this gospel is the centrality of Christ and His work for us in His life, death and resurrection.  I do not think we can talk enough about this, so I will continue to bring it up whenever Christ discusses how the law interacts with the gospel.

7:24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Finally we see Christ’s admonition to be discerning in judgment.  Note that he says that we are to not judge simply by appearances – this, of course brings to mind how God told Samuel to not judge His new king by outward appearances (1 Sam. 16:7). So Jesus is doing the same here; He is admonishing them to not judge as men judge, but to judge as God judges (God’s judgment is always “right” and just/righteous judgment).

In light of this, and as Christians living under the New Covenant, we should ask ourselves these types of questions:

  • Is my parenting being informed by legalism, or by the gospel?
  • Is my marriage based on gospel principles, or on legalistic expectations of our mates?
  • To I hold others to the high standard of the law without affording them the grace Christ gives them in the gospel?

7:25-27 Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? [26] And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? [27] But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.”

Here we see the reaction of the people to Christ’s preaching in Jerusalem, and His ministry as a whole, I think. Their reaction is mixed.  The first thing they note is that their leaders are seeking to kill Him (whereas others of them didn’t seem to understand this cf. vs. 20).  MacArthur makes a distinction between the people in verse 20 and those in verse 25.  He says that the people in verse 20 are pilgrims coming to Jerusalem, whereas the folks in verse 25 must have been those living inside Jerusalem who were well aware of their leaders’ intentions.

The second thing the people note is that their leaders won’t debate Jesus openly – as we talked about before, this was because every time someone tried to debate Jesus they got shut down.  The Scripture that comes immediately to mind is this:

There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.” And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him any question.  (Luke 20:27-40)

This of course set the people to asking, “Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ?”  This is the key verse of this section in my opinion.  The people are starting to figure out that their leaders may not be fully accepting of a man that may actually be the long awaited Messiah.  So they sense potential corruption in their leaders. This is a very dangerous time politically for the leadership of the Council.

The last thing the people ask is why it is that they know where Christ is from.  This seems odd in hindsight, but we need to understand how they viewed the coming Messiah, and what pretences they were holding in their minds.

The people got this idea of ‘no one knowing from where the Christ will come’ from tradition, and popular opinion, as well as what MacArthur calls a “misinterpretation of such passages as Is. 53:8, ‘who will declare His generation?’ and Malachi 3:1 ‘The Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple.’  Several commentators also say that the apocryphal book of 4 Esdras informed the people’s thinking on the matter, “He said to me, ‘Just as no one can explore or know what is in the depths of the sea, so no one on earth can see my Son or those who are with him, except in the time of his day.’” So since they knew something of Jesus’ background, they assumed that He couldn’t be the Messiah.

Of course this popular belief didn’t square with what the Old Testament teaches us about the Christ coming from Bethlehem.  MacArthur notes that this was “a point that others in the crowd would later acknowledge(d) (verse 42).”

7:28-29 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. [29] I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”

The Dual Nature of Christ

The first thing that we see here is that Christ doesn’t correct their misunderstanding of the Old Testament, but “instead, He responded by directly confronting their heard-hearted unbelief (MacArthur).”

Then Christ goes on to reiterate what He had said before about authority, namely that He did not come of His own, but He came instead from the Father.  He was giving all glory to the Father, and pointing to God the Father as His divine source of authority.

One of the signs of His authority and that He was coming directly from the Father (God) was His divine knowledge.  All of this knowledge had been given to Him directly by God.  This is something we talked about before, but I failed to mention much about exactly how He got this knowledge, and the importance making a distinction between the divinity of Christ, and the humanity of Christ. Not that the distinction is important as a thing in and of itself, but rather it is important that we understand (as best we can) the nature and person of Christ.  It is important because we don’t want to slip into wrong thinking about our Lord, and it is these types of statements He is making here that lead us to ask important questions like “how could Christ have known all of this, and yet not known the time of His own second coming (Mark 13:32)?”

These are important questions, and ones that tend toward the person and nature of Christ, and we should briefly address them here.

When we talk about the person of Christ, the first thing we need to understand is what I hinted at above – His dual nature. As Bible-believing orthodox Christians, we affirm that Christ is vera homo, vera Deus” which is to say that He is truly man and truly GodOne person with two natures.  As Sproul says, “If we are to have a correct understanding of Jesus, we have to understand that His divine nature has all the attributes of deity while the human nature has all of the limitations of humanity.”

Wayne Grudem says that some of the key aspects of His humanity included the virgin birth, His human body, His human mind, His human soul (which I like to define as “the mind, will, and emotions”), His human appearance to mankind (others near Him saw Him as human).  Grudem also lists several aspects of His deity: The direct scriptural claims He made, His miracles of healing, His power over nature, His eternity, His omniscience, and His immortality (among others).

Some theologians say that Christ laid aside some of these attributes and so while being human didn’t possess many of the divine attributes – the so-called “kenosis” theory derived from Phil. 2:7.  But this has been proved to be a misunderstanding of scripture (see Grudem’s systematic theology pg. 549-552). In fact, the theory completely misunderstands the context of the text.  The text isn’t talking about Christ’s emptying Himself of His deity, rather in humility, emptying not grasping onto (“a thing to be grasped”) the rights of His deity.  This “emptying” is addressing His attitude and complete surrender to the will of God.  I’m reminded of Heb. 12:2 which tells us that Jesus endured the “shame” of the cross while looking forward to the “joy” of being reunited with the Father.  He actually “despised” the shame of the cross, and yet submitted to the humiliation of the thing on our account.  Christ didn’t empty Himself of His deity, but only the right to be worshiped unreservedly by those who He breathed into creation. Because in heaven there is none who do not bow the knee to this King – and so it will soon be on earth at the close of this age!

Continuing on this same theme, Scripture shows us that the Christ was the Word, and that while He was made flesh (John 1:14), it doesn’t say that Christ stopped being the Deity.  Michael Horton explains: “The verb ‘became’ (egeneto) here does not entail any change in the essence of the Son. His deity was not converted into our humanity. Rather, he assumed our human nature.”  He continues, “Each nature is entirely preserved in its distinctness yet in and as one person” (Heb. 2:14-17).

So if Christ was vera homo vera Deus, how did his humanity know/have supernatural knowledge?  Sproul answers, “It came from the communication of the divine nature to the human nature.” I think Horton is helpful here as well:

When we give due attention to Christ’s humanity as the servant of the covenant, more spece opens up for the person and work of the Spirit. There is no mention in the gospels of Jesus’ divinity overwhelming his humanity. Nor do the gospels refer his miracles to his divinity and refer his temptation or sorrow to his humanity, as if he switched back and forth from operating according to one nature to operating according to another. Rather, the gospels routinely refer Christ’s miracles to the Father and the Spirit, accomplishing their work in and through Jesus Christ.  Jesus was conceived by the Spirit, was filled with the Spirit, grew in wisdom and understanding by the Spirit, was led by the Spirit into the desert for his temptation and was there upheld by the Spirit, and spoke what he heard from the Father and as he was empowered y the Spirit. Jesus is therefore not only God turned toward God, but humanity turned toward God in the power of the Spirit.

Therefore, His human nature was not omniscient, but in His divine nature He was obedient to the Spirit and could therefore “know all things” that the Spirit gave Him from God.  In this way, Jesus was divinely omniscient.  He had a well of knowledge that was eternal. This is why He – in His humanity – didn’t know the time of His second coming.  The divine nature of Christ didn’t communicate it to His human nature (we don’t know why…but it is not for us to question the “why” of God!). Therefore, he could rightly and correctly say He didn’t know. Horton says, “Without surrendering his divinity (which included omniscience), the eternal Son fully assumed our finite humanity.”

Again, Sproul explains, “There were things that Jesus didn’t know, but whatever He taught was impeccable, because He never taught on the basis of His own human insight. So the Christian church has understood for centuries that, touching His human nature, Jesus is not omniscient, but He is infallible, because if He teaches something that isn’t true, then He’s held accountable.”

This is an extremely hard concept to understand. But it is important to realize that all things that Christ knew He received from the Father.  He had a divine communication with His Father.  He and the Father were of one mind, and the teaching authority of Jesus came directly from God the Father.

NOTE: The doctrine of Christ’s deity and human nature was affirmed at the Council of Nicea in 325 where a formal statement on the nature of the Trinity was written down and at the Council of Chaldedon (451) the doctrine of Christ’s “one person in two natures” was affirmed.

NOTE: For more information about this see Michael Horton’s Systematic Theology, or Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.

A Stinging Indictment

What He said after that, however, was the greatest rebuke of the conversation.  He states, “him you do not know” speaking of the Father. Here Jesus is looking at the religious leaders and telling them in no uncertain terms that they do not know the God they claim to be representing.

He is not merely saying, “you have misinterpreted Scripture” but that “you don’t even know the God of the Scriptures!”  BOOM!  This must have just infuriated them to no end.  What a stinging rebuke.

7:30-31 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. [31] Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”

The reaction of the crowd at this point is mixed – many believed in Him, but the leaders’ reaction makes a lot of sense doesn’t it?  They are fixated on arresting him. They wanted to take Him down! But because of the providential work and plan of God, “no one laid a hand on him.”

No one was going to take His life from Him – no one – unless He laid it down.  Look at what John 10:18 says, “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.”

So Jesus Christ came to speak truth into the world, and when He did so He was misunderstood, and hated by the world.  This is why his brother’s didn’t believe that He was the Christ, and why the religious leaders didn’t believe He was the Christ – they were of the world, and they didn’t know God.

Some truths to take away from this:

    1. Jesus has authority to do what He pleases
    2. Jesus had authority over His life, and He has authority over your life as well – both spiritually and physically.  Isn’t this a great truth?
    3. If you know God, you know Christ – by knowing Christ you know the Father.  What a great truth!