Study Notes 12-2-12

8:48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

They often used the Samaritans as a derisive term to indicate an evil or sinful person – because that’s how they viewed the Samaritans.

At this point I think its fair to say that these religious leaders are furious and getting more and more angry by the minute. But think of what they do in their anger; they slander the very Son of God who has come to save them from their sins. They verbally excoriate Him for His teaching, and here we see them even excuse Him of being possessed by a “demon.”  Can there be any more stark antithesis than the Son of God and a demon? Jesus is the very radiance of the Father (Heb. 1:1-3; 1 John 1:5) and yet He is being accused of having fellowship with a creature of the darkness – a creature that He created, and rebelled against His reign.

We casually look at this and perceive (rightly) that these folks are past the point of being granted the oft-used metaphor of walking on thin ice, for I think that at this point they’re walking over open flames!

Nonetheless, while we analyze this, let us not forget what it is that they are doing here that is so repugnant.  They are blaspheming Jesus.  Yet how many times have you personally taken His holy name in vain? How many times have you heard His glorious saving name used as a by-word in open derision and have not come to His defense and gently cautioned those who have slandered again their evil words?  It is something worth asking ourselves if we are as anxious to defend His name and reputation, as we are our own.  I wager this is a painful look inside…

8:49-51 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. [50] Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. [51] Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

First He says that they do not honor Him.  This might have been an odd thing to say at the moment, but it’s a sort of warning shot across the bow. There are several things like this He says throughout the conversation that would have served as strong hints to the Pharisees had they been paying closer attention.  For if He is saying they don’t honor Him, surely it means that they ought to honor Him. Therefore He is saying that He is worthy of such honor.  This may have gone over their heads, but not everything He said was ignored..

The next thing here is that He isn’t seeking His own glory.  It is as if He is saying “you aren’t giving me the honor I am due, but no matter, God is going to judge things at the end of the day and He is the One who ought to be honored in the end.”

We read in Philippians 2 about the utter humility of Christ and how He emptied Himself. This is yet another example of that fact displayed in His theology.

Lastly, He gives the spectacular promise that those who “keep His word” will never see death.  The means, undoubtedly, that all who follow Christ will never see spiritual death – the only real death that one need fear.

This is the gospel message.  By saying those who “keep my word” He is saying those who obey me and make me the Lord and leader of their lives. It implies obedience and a desire to submit to His rule (and His rules). This is a foreign and offensive idea to many today, and it was no less so to these men here.

8:52-53 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?”

They have no doubt in their minds now that this man Jesus was either possessed, or crazy. He was a man, yet he was claiming to have the power to keep men from dying.  I believe that these men were intelligent, learned men.  But they had not the Holy Spirit to offer them discernment or insight into the words of Christ, and here they are engaged in a debate with the Son of God. I’m sure they are flustered, angered, and outraged.  In such a mood can one think clearly? In such a mood can one think spiritually?

So they are completely mystified at what Christ is saying, and so will the world be when we declare the truths of the gospel – that is something we must be prepared for.

But what I really like from their response here is when they ask, Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?”  Well I’d say they stumbled into something for which we know the resounding answer is: YES.

First, this is something many in the church today don’t seem to understand from a practical standpoint.  What I mean by this is that we pay homage to Christ’s preeminence, but we often fall into the trap that the Galatians did who wanted to hang onto the traps of their old covenant legal system.

Brothers and sisters we are under a New Covenant – but not simply a NEW covenant, but a better covenant.  A covenant that says that Christ is first and foremost in all things.  A covenant that allows us the freedom to come to Him even though we haven’t kept the law, and have been previously rebels against His Father.  Nothing in the old covenants came close to offering what we enjoy under this covenant. So YES, Jesus is much much better and much much greater than Abraham! Indeed Abraham himself would agree with that – as we’ll see soon.

Secondly, this reminds me of how just today a group of us men were talking about different theological heroes and perspectives and how there is a great wave of conservative Calvinists in our generation that have taken the church by storm. Someone then rightly pointed out that Calvin himself would have hated the moniker “Calvinist” as if what he believed or preached was anything more or less than the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He would have blushed and been furious to learn that a school of thought has crept up that bears his name. For Calvin understood what these men did not: Jesus is the greatest.  He is greater than Calvin, He is greater than Moses, and He is greater than Abraham.

8:54-55 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.

He reiterates what He already said in verse 50, namely that it is the Father who will glorify Jesus, and it is the Father who is jealous for the glory and reputation of His Son, and it is the Father who will judge the intentions of all men’s hearts – for He knows and sees all things.

Jesus is finished pulling punches.  He tells them outright who they are, what they are, and why they are wrong. He comes right out and names them as liars! This ought not to surprise us, for we have already been studying how being sons of Satan they are simply following the character traits of Satan – Satan is a liar and a murderer.

We talked about this earlier, and John elaborates on this a great deal in his first epistle:

I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. [22] Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. [23] No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. [24] Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. [25] And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. [26] I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. [27] But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. (1 John 2:21-27)

8:56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”

Can there be anymore delightful verse in this sting of disputations? There are a few things to note here.

First, the anticipation of Abraham that is described here is emblematic of all past saints who lived before the coming of Christ. They all eagerly looked forward to Christ’s coming – not only when they were on earth, but then especially after they had departed this earth and watched the pages of history unfold in great anticipation of the one whose righteousness would be imputed to their account, though they lived prior to His human life.

This is again what is meant by Paul’s statement, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed” (Gal. 3:8).

So scriptures and saints all looked forward to the day the Messiah would dawn the skin and frailty of a man so that He could bare their sins and they would be forever united with Him for all time.

Secondly, we see here something special in the knowledge of Jesus. Something that the Pharisees pickup on.  He’s talking from the perspective of someone who has not simply studied Abraham from reading Genesis, but knows him intimately and has even recently seen him!  What Jesus is, in fact describing here is the great emotion and celebration that Abraham and those righteous saint who had passed on, felt on the day of the incarnation!

Can you image? Can you make you mind to meditate on this great picture? Oh what a sweet scene!  In fact the celebration was so intense that it spilled over into the night sky. In Luke’s gospel we read how the angels can’t help but burst into song at the royal birth:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13-14 ESV)

8:57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”

They continue to be mystified by the words of the Savior, though they can clearly get the idea of what He is claiming.  There is no mystery there.  He’s being perfectly clear in His remarks, but their minds automatically reject His words:

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. (Romans 8:7)

8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

This is perhaps one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture! The deity of Christ is so clearly spelled out. He is so clearly claiming to be God incarnate that one cannot help but read these words with great relish and great awe.  The ESV notes are really well done and say this:

If there had been any uncertainty about Jesus’ identity in other passages where he said, “I am” (e.g., 6:35; 9:5; 11:25), there was no confusion here because Jesus is claiming to be the one who was alive before Abraham was, that is, more than 2,000 years earlier. Jesus does not simply say, “Before Abraham was, I was,” which would simply mean that he is more than 2,000 years old. Rather, he uses the present tense “I am” in speaking of existence more than 2,000 years earlier, thus claiming a kind of transcendence over time that could only be true of God. The words “I am” in Greek use the same expression (Egō eimi) found in the Septuagint in the first half of God’s self-identification in Ex. 3:14, “I am who I am.” Jesus is thus claiming not only to be eternal but also to be the God who appeared to Moses at the burning bush. His Jewish opponents understood his meaning immediately and they “picked up stones” to stone him to death for blasphemy (see John 8:59).

The Greek is: εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί

Transliterated: Iēsous legō autos amēn amēn legō sy prin Abraam ginomai egō eimi

This is a verse that ought to cause us to worship. It is one of my favorites because it so clearly paints that (accurate) picture in our minds of His reign, His eternality, His knowledge, and on and on. It’s simply a great expression of His deity.

8:59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

Can it be doubted that these people knew what Christ was claiming by His above statement? No indeed.  They knew perfectly well that He was claiming to be God incarnate, and now all of the threats, anger and plots were all set aside, now they simply picked up stones and took matters into their own hands.

Death was proscribed to anyone who blasphemed God (Lev. 24:16), but as some rightly point out, that was only a sentence carried out after a just trial with two or three witnesses, not a mobbing (Deut. 17:2-7).

Study Notes 5-14-12

4:25 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.”

  • The Samaritans knew of the teaching of the Messiah, even though they didn’t hold any of the Jewish prophetic books to be part of their cannon, they had the Pentateuch, and that was surely enough to recognize that there would be a Messiah.  For Moses even said, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen” (Deut. 18:15).
  • The Samaritans viewed the Messiah through the eyes on the first five books of the Bible because they rejected all the other books.  Kostenberger points out that they actually saw the Messiah as a teacher, and someone who would reveal to them “all things” in the spirit of Deut. 18:18.
  • The Jews, of course, saw the Messiah as a political savior who would liberate them from the oppression of the Romans etc.  Calvin says, “Although the religion among the Samaritans was corrupted and mixed up with many errors, yet some principles taken from the law were impressed on their minds, such as that which related to the Messiah.”

4:26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

  • Nowhere else in Scripture (to my knowledge) does Jesus so clearly state “I am the Messiah.”  This is a magnificent verse that ought to serve as a sort of highlight to the entire chapter.
  • First He lays out the excellency of the gift He has to offer, then He reveals to her that He is the Savior of the World!  Ryle says, “There is no heart satisfaction in this world, until we believe on Christ. Jesus alone can fill up the empty places of our inward man. Jesus alone can give solid, lasting, enduring happiness.  The peace that He imparts is a fountain, which, once set flowing within the soul, flows on to all eternity.”
  • What amazes me is that here, to a foreigner, to a sinner, He reveals the nature of His person.  Amazing.  Paul certainly felt the same thing, that as the “chief of sinners” He felt the weightiness of this reality.  That Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had revealed Himself to him, seemed too much to be grasped.  It was too good.  Such is Christ, and is a mark of His character.
  • One of the things that ought to be mentioned here that Boice brings up is that Jesus uses the phrase “I am” to describe himself.  The English version of the Bible adds the word “he” in there to modify the phrase so that it points back to the title Messiah, however, it also should indicate something deeper to this woman. Namely, the phrase or name “I am” is the name for God – Jehovah.  On the mountain top when Moses asked God who he should tell the people of Israel that sent him, God replied “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Ex. 3:14).
  • By saying “I am” Jesus was, at least in a veiled way, asserting His deity.

4:27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”

  • They marveled, but they didn’t say anything.  They were speechless.  Carson points out that there was sexism among the Jews to the points that Rabbis who talked with women were thought to have been wasting their time – time that could have been spent studying the Torah.

4:28-30 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, [29] “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” [30] They went out of the town and were coming to him.

  • Note the influence of this woman.  Certainly God was using her.  Before she was shunned, now she is a herald of good news.  Isaiah says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (Is. 52:7).  Sproul says, “…she was so excited by her conversation with Jesus, that she left her water pot and hurried away. We have no record that she ever filled it.  She couldn’t wait to get into town, to go to that very city where she was a despised outcast, to tell of her experience.”  This reminds me of when Jesus was calling disciples and urged the to leave the dead to bury the dead.  When He calls us, we don’t want to resist, we want to accept Him.
  • This is why we talk about the doctrine of “irresistible grace” because when God the Holy Spirit quickens us to life we suddenly see ourselves for who we are and the offer of living water for what it is!  We drop our water pot and go tell everyone we know – no matter how shameful they may see us – about the gift we just received.
  • You see, when we see God’s grace for what it is, suddenly our shame doesn’t mean anything.  Paul says, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:33-34).
  • So when the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the beauty and beneficence of what Jesus did and who we are (condemned men) we naturally grasp onto Jesus with all of our might!  Some foolish men who haven’t studied the nature of regeneration proclaim that Calvinists believe God “drags men into heaven kicking and screaming.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Every so-called Calvinist I know believes and understands that when the dead man is made alive by the Spirit of God, they don’t get dragged into heaven, they go sprinting into heaven!  They run quickly to the cross and embrace their Salvation!
  • Lastly, this ought to show us, more than anything else, that God can use anyone to spread the gospel.

4:31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”

  • They had just come back from their trip to get Him food, so naturally they wanted to make sure that He had something to eat.
  • Ironic that they address Him as “Rabbi” in front of the Samaritan who now suspected He was the Supreme Teacher, the Messiah.  I wonder if this saying further confirmed in her mind what she just heard in her heart.

4:32-34 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” [33] So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” [34] Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

  • This is the second time in just a short while that Jesus has taken advantage of an opportunity to share the gospel or teach a parable.  He was always looking to turn conversations into teaching opportunities.  That shows you where His head was at.  We know that He must have been at least a little hungry after His journey, for we know that He was thirsty. Yet, He still is intentional about His mission.  I must admit that when I’m tired, thirsty, and hungry, the last thing I’m often thinking about is how to spread the gospel or teach anyone anything.  Calvin also recognized this and said, “…his anxiety about the present business urges him so strongly, and absorbs his whole mind, so that it gives him no uneasiness to despise food…and thus he shows, by his example, that the kingdom of God ought to be preferred to all the comforts of the body.”  I absolutely love that phrase and think that Calvin captures the essence of Christ’s mind – fully absorbed with expanding the kingdom.  I want to have that mind as well.
  • Carson points out that Jesus must surely have been using this as an opportunity to teach His disciples “something of His priorities.”  And further says that Jesus must certainly been thinking of Deuteronomy 8:3, which says:  “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
  • Another thing that we need to realize here is how well this response from Jesus ties into His affirmation of deity AND his messianic role. The passage most people think of when they think of the Old Testament prophecy of Messiah is Deut. 18:15-19.  In verse 18 it says, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.”  In other words, Jesus was speaking for the Father and not of His own initiative.

4:35 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.

  • Why was Jesus always sharing and looking for these opportunities?  Because He viewed the world in a way that we do not, He saw the harvest and no laborers.  He came to recruit laborers. And as I mentioned earlier, he was so fully “absorbed” in this work that he dominated His mind.  He was always looking to expand the kingdom of God and here He urges His disciples to see the need and necessity of doing so.

4:36-38 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.”

  • Kostenberger says that the “others” who have labored are Jesus and the prophets who came before Him (notably John the Baptist etc).
  • Jesus wants His disciples to take a step back and realize that they are entering into a time in redemptive history that was brand new.  A new age was about to dawn and Jesus Christ was the One ushering that age in.  Jesus came to usher in the harvest.  This was a time many others in history had longed to see (Matthew 13:17), and now these farmers and fishermen got to witness it and be a part of it (Luke 10:2).  This harvest continues until today, and we are all called to be a part of it as well. Amazing.

How do we teach this to our children? Here’s an example:  Today we learned about how Jesus revealed to a Samaritan woman that He was the Messiah.  “Messiah” is a name for Jesus, and it means, “anointed one.”  To be “anointed” is to be chosen for a certain task. What was the task of Jesus?  (To save the world)  When Jesus’ disciples saw that he had shared with this Samaritan woman they were amazed because the Jews and the Samaritans didn’t get along.  But Jesus taught them that He was bringing eternal life to people from all nations, colors, races, or ethnic backgrounds.  That’s what it means in John 3:16 that “God so loved the world.”  Heaven will be made up of people from all corners of the earth and it is our responsibility and joy to share in the work of spreading the good news (gospel) about Jesus.  That’s why Jesus said we are to “enter into the harvest” with him.