John 18:1-27 Study Notes

This morning I had the privilege of teaching on John 18:1-27.  This is a passage I had preached a sermon on some time ago, so the notes were the same and can be found by clicking here.

In addition to the notes, there was a sermon that proved very helpful by C.H. Spurgeon called ‘Human Inability’ and that can be located by clicking here. 

I hope you enjoy the notes!

PJW

Can You Pray for an Hour?

This past Thursday evening at our small group Bible study, we spent time simply in worship and prayer.  We read from Psalm 145, and we sung music to the Lord.  Then we took the remainder of our time to simply pray for all that was going on in our church, our small group and our nation.

During that time I challenged the group to consider praying on their own time for one hour in a single sitting. The reason I did so was because I have personally benefited from extended times of prayer, and know how wonderful that time can be.

Inevitably the question came up “how will I be able to pray for that long? I’m not sure I have enough to talk to God about for that long…” This innocent question is actually rather insulting when we consider the greatness of the God who we are addressing, however it is the first question I had myself several years ago as well. Therefore, I thought it would be profitable to mention a few ideas of how to enrich (and prolong) your time with the Lord:

Begin by Asking for Forgiveness – The first thing we ought to all do when we pray is to confess our sins before the Lord. If you have just confessed “generally” your sinfulness in the past, ask the Lord to bring to mind specific people and instances where you have wronged or been in the wrong. If there are instances that come to mind where you have wronged someone, I would encourage you to stop and call that person and ask for forgiveness. Then go back to your prayer (Matthew 5).

Pray for Humility and Faith – I know that there are some people who feel as though pride is not a big part of their lives, and that they also have faith – at least enough to believe in Jesus. I am here to disavow you of the notion that you don’t struggle with unbelief and pride because EVERYONE struggles with both of these items, even if they manifest themselves in different ways. You may not be a very haughty or arrogant person on the outside in speech, but you might be making very arrogant decisions every day with your life and not realize it. You might take life for granted and feel like certain things are “owed” to you. In a similar way, you might believe that Christ died for you and you have faith from Him to trust that is the case. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t acting out of unbelief on a regular basis. For instance you might feel sorry for yourself and be having an internal pity party about something – perhaps a lost job, or something else. You might be guilty of both pride and unbelief. Self-pity is pride masked as sadness, and it tells God that we don’t believe in His ability to provide for us, or that He has complete control over all things.  As you pray, ask God to reveal these sinful attitudes and for His help to overcome them.

Use Sunday School or Small Group Prayer Requests – our group sends these out in an email format, and your group may do something similar. Perhaps you have been in the habit of writing them down. But how often to do you really sit and pray over them? I would suggest printing them out (as opposed to viewing them on your phone which can lead to distraction) and praying over each concern and praising God for each praise. Also, pray for the people on the list in your own words, asking God to continue to work mightily in their lives, conforming them to His Son’s image.

The same idea holds true for those at your church – grab the church directory and start praying through the names! This is like a virtual prayer walk through the halls of your church.  As you begin to lift up individuals (some of whom you may not know very well if at all) you will come to appreciate all the God is doing in the lives of those who makeup your local body of believers.  Perhaps this experience will also spur you on toward getting to know these people more!

Pray for our Nation – This is something that is often urged, but few take the time to actually execute on the plea. When we lift up our nation, perhaps you ought to consider also looking beyond the normal request for just our President and Congress, and consider the people as a whole. As Americans we are falling into spiritual and moral morass. Pray for revival and for people to repent of their sins and turn to the Lord. Also, pray for our troops and the local leaders who govern our townships, cities, and villages. Pray not only for wisdom, but for their salvation.

Pray for Boldness – When Peter was released from prison in Acts 4 he joined the group of saints who were already praying for him. What did they ask God for? For boldness to continue the work of God. We also need to ask God for boldness, and discernment and for opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Acknowledge His Attributes and Work in Your Life – One of the things we can do as we pray for extended periods of time is to worship God and praise Him for all of His divine attributes.  Ask Him to give you insight as to how you can know Him more intimately, and to reveal His character to you through His Word. Take time to recount to God all that He has done recently, and in past years to bless you, and mature you. Thank Him for being Him! 

Use Scripture in Your Prayer – We are so trained to close our eyes during prayer (usually for the sake of concentration and to lessen distraction) that we often forget that its not a sin to pray with our eyes open! If you can get comfortable praying in this way as you spend time alone with God, then you can open up your Bible and pray certain passages to Him, acknowledging His greatness, His sovereignty, and His grace. Using the Psalms for this is a wonderful experience.  I find it best to know passages ahead of time so that I’m not searching the Scripture during my prayer time. As you begin to do this, you’ll likely see the benefit of memorizing Scripture so that when you don’t have your Bible nearby you can still repeat God’s truth back to Him in humble adoration for all that He has done for you and for the church.

Pray for Your Pastor – I think that sometimes we spend more time emphasizing the need to pray for our nation’s leaders than our church’s leaders. I would encourage you to spend time lifting up the pastoral staff, elders, deacons, and sunday school teachers in your prayers. These people are God’s servants and are spending their time, talents and treasure serving you and the body of Christ every week.  I am also convinced that for this reason they also get more spiritual attacks than the average Joe.  So lift them up and thank God for their work. Ask for protection for them and their family. Ask God for Him to reveal ways in which you can serve them or encourage them – consider dropping them a note to say that you prayed for them today.

Pray for Your Wife and Family – Perhaps this is one that doesn’t need to be mentioned, but sometimes we spend our prayers for these loved ones asking for the same thing over and over again “health, success, safety” and so on. Spend time in this extended period of prayer thinking over each person and asking God for specific things, and for spiritual growth. Ask God to help you serve them better. Ask God to show you ways in which you can help them grow, and ways in which you have failed them and need to ask for forgiveness.

Pray for the Fruit of the Spirit – In Galatians Paul lays out a list of what a Christian ought to look like, and he calls it “the fruit of the Spirit” because it is the Holy Spirit who is working out these beautiful traits in the Christian life (i.e. its not you who are responsible for this transformation). Ask God to help develop your character in order to become more like His Son Jesus, specifically taking inventory of reach “fruit” and asking God for help with specific fruit which may not be so evident in your life.

Conclusion – These are just a few ways you can spend your hour of prayer, I’m sure there are many others I’ve missed here, but I wanted to jot down a few to get your wheels turning!  It is a beautiful thing that God has allowed us to spend time with Him in this way. I’ll close by quoting Theologian Bruce Ware on this matter:

To know the riches of God and the poverty of our human lives is one of the key foundation pillars for prayer. As we pray in humble dependence, God grants from the storehouse of his treasury. And as we are enriched by God, we then give to him our heartfelt thanksgiving and honor and worship. It is the heart of God to give, so he calls his people to ask. 

2-12-12 Study Notes

1:19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”

  • The men would have come from the Sanhedrim, which was the high council of the Jews at the time.  This council was composed of both Pharisees and Sadducees, and was in charge of the religious affairs of the Jewish people, along with other things (cf. Barnes Notes), though I’m not sure exactly what else fell under their purview.  It seems likely that they would have been a sort of representative voice for the Jewish people to the Roman occupiers.

1:20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”

  • His correct answer here assumes that they asked the question, or at least meant to ask the question as to whether or not he was the Christ.
  • Barnes says that this is the true mark of a gospel minister, “all Christians, and especially all Christian ministers, however much they may be honoured and blessed, should be willing to lay all their honours at the feet of Jesus; to keep themselves back and to hold up before the world only the Son of God. To do this is one eminent mark of the true spirit of a minister of the gospel.”

1:21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

  • Note the two different people they mention here.  They mention Elijah (Malachi 4:2-5), then they mention “the Prophet”, this is the prophet that Moses spoke of in Deuteronomy 18:15, “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.”  The Jews thought of this prophet as someone who would arise prior to the Christ, but they were wrong.  The Christ (Jesus) and the Prophet spoken of this in passage are actually one in the same.
  • Calvin notes that, “But in this passage John has a different object in view, which is, to show that he has no special message, as was usually the case with the prophets, but that he was merely appointed to be the herald of Christ.”
  • So there is a sort of comparison between an expected Prophet and John the Baptist here.  John denies that he is the prophet saying “no”, but Christ later will say that he is the greatest of the prophets (Matt 11:9) and fulfilled the role of Elijah as well (Matt. 11:14; Mark 9:13).  He is a combination of the two, so to speak, though he has no specific prophetic message.  As Calvin states, “The distinction lies in this, that the voice crying, that a way may be prepared for the Lord, is not a prophet, but merely a subordinate minister, so to speak; and his doctrine is only a sort of preparation for listening to another Teacher. In this way John, though he is more excellent than all the prophets, still is not a prophet.”
  • So it is appropriate to say that Christ Himself was perhaps the ultimate prophet that Moses was speaking of.  In fact, Peter makes this very clear in Acts 3:19-22 when he says, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.”

1:22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

  • Note how they demand that he must give some kind of account.  They really seem pushy.  It is obviously a test of John that God is allowing to bring Himself glory.  We will all face this moment, when people see the way our lives are changed as a result of Christ’s work in us.  The question will inevitably come, but what we say on behalf of Christ is a matter of obedience.  Will we give honor and glory to Him?  Or will we shrug off the compliment and puff ourselves up?  What our response is to this question shows how gospel-focused our lives really are.

1:23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

  • This phrase is referring to John’s mission to prepare the hearts of those men and women who would be soon hearing the message of the Christ.  He is making their hearts and paths (so to speak) straight.  He is baptizing them in a baptism of repentance in preparation for the gospel message.
  • This was not the same kind of baptism that we receive today.  When we are baptized today we do so as an outward signification and identification with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Those who had been baptized in the baptism of John were not identifying with the coming Christ, but rather showing an outward desire for repentance.

1:24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) [25] They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

  • The reason this was such a poignant questions was because it was unusual to baptize Jews the way John was baptizing them.  It was customary to baptize proselytes (converting gentiles), but it was not customary to baptize Jewish people who by their natural descent from Abraham would not have been considered so unclean as a pagan gentile.
  • Baptism, then as now, was a sign of cleansing and repentance and John was here adding something to the normal religious rites and order, and this (combined with his popularity) were worthy of attention from the highest officials.

1:26-28 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, [27] even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” [28] These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

  • It is significant to note that the sandal of a man was a very dirty and disgusting piece of clothing.  Slaves weren’t even required to unleash the sandal off their master’s feet, because that was considered below a slave and ill treatment.  Such was the humility of John. How unlike the typical young pastor in popular evangelical circles!  Instead of grabbing for the brass ring, he got down on his face and counted himself unworthy to even touch the dirty sandal of the man coming after him.

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

EXAMPLE:  This morning we learned more about the mission of John the Baptist.   John was a man who was sent from God to prepare the hearts of the people of Israel for the coming of their Messiah.  Who was the Messiah (savior) they were looking for?  (JESUS).  Right! Jesus.  And John’s job was to help all of the people of Israel repent of their sins and prepare their hearts to hear what Jesus was going to say.  Do you know what it means to “repent?”  Well, to repent means to “turn” from your sin and your wrong actions and ask God to forgive you.  That’s what John the Baptist was sent by God to do!  Just like the people of Israel were supposed to repent of their sins and ask for forgiveness, we do the same, by asking Jesus to forgive us of our sins.  Only Jesus can forgive us of our sins, because only Jesus died and paid the penalty for our sins.

2-5-12 Study Notes

1:15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”)

  • Christ was above him and that he wasn’t the Christ.  He wants to combat any misunderstanding of his own ministry, which is by nature subservient to the ministry of Christ.
  • John the Baptist is saying is that even though his ministry was a priori, it was not superior, but rather inferior to Christ’s.

1:16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

  • We know that all good things come from God (James 1:17).
  • Morris notes that the word “fullness” indicates, “Christ is the source of all our blessings. There is a hint at the infinite extent of his resources.”
  • “Fullness” is not in the active tense to it means really to fill one time.  Morris says that the Evangelist probably “prefers to concentrate on our becoming participators in the fullness when we first received Christ.”
  • The phrase “grace upon grace” is literally translated “grace instead of grace” and is continuous in the sense that John is likely meaning “that as one piece of divine grace (so to speak) recedes it is replaced by another. God’s grace to his peoples is continuous” (Morris).
  • I can personally identify with this in the area of Christ’s forgiveness (Matt.18:21-22).
  • But we must not regard forgiveness as the sum total of what it means when Scripture says “fullness.” For the truth is that “fullness” paints a much deeper, richer meaning.  It is the fact that we are receiving in Him a life that is “more abundant”, more “conformed to the image of Christ”, indeed as are receiving from Christ every good thing that makes this life worth living at all, and what helps prepare us (sanctify us) for the life to follow.

1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

  • Here we see another elusion to Moses, and here we get the full weight of Christ’s superiority.  For the way of the law is not superior to the grace bought us by Christ.
  • Furthermore, not being under the law, we are not bound to the legalistic standards of the law.  This doesn’t mean we have a license to sin (Rom. 6:1-2), but it means that when we do, we can run to the cross of Christ and know that there is full forgiveness there.

1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

  • Jesus has united us with God, and reconciled us to God through His atoning work on Calvary. This is the climax of John’s prologue.
  • John is reminding us again exactly who we’re talking about here – the eternal God – this is the Being who made us and created all living things. The fact that we as humans have never seen God emphasizes the barrier to knowing Him (Exodus 33:20).
  • Calvin helps us understand, “When he says that none has seen God, it is not to be understood of the outward seeing of the physical eye. He means generally that, since God dwells in inaccessible light, He cannot be known except in Christ, His lively image.”
  • So when John concludes by telling us that Christ is going to make this God known, it is worthy of us wondering in awe and thankful reverence at the mercy and grace He has poured out upon us.  It also points out once again His goodness.
  • But more than that, Christ has helped make God known to us because He put flesh and blood to God.  He came and showed us what it was like to be a perfect human being, and what it was that God wanted for us.  I’m reminded of Joel Olsteen’s book ‘Your Best Life Now.’  Olsteen is perhaps the truest type of antichrist that we can point to in modern terms, but there is a lesson to be learned from his heresy.  What we want is a good life.  What Jesus wanted for us was the same.  The problem is that we had different ways of defining what this means.  Christ showed us the true definition, Olsteen shows us Satan’s false one.  Jesus, by revealing the nature and character of God, showed us more clearly what kind of life a fulfilled human being ought to live.  Jesus lived the most fulfilled human life of all time, and yet he was neither rich, nor comfortable, nor educated, nor powerful (in the way that we desire power).  He showed us that true fulfillment in life is to be found in eating of the Bread of Life, and in “doing the will of the Father.”
  • We must beware of false christs who whisper lies of material wealth, corporate or political power couched in biblical terms.  These are the antichrists and the spirit of this age, and they will not fulfill us.  Taking part in these false blessings is like feasting in an open grave.

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

EXAMPLE:  Today we learned about how Jesus gives us all that is necessary to be happy in this life.  We talked about how often we get distracted with things like sports, games, books and so on that promise fulfillment and happiness but always end up disappointing us.  The reason we can’t find happiness in all these things is because they are just temporary.  Basketball and football games end, and the players get old and can’t play anymore. Books get read and get old and fade away.  Games get boring.  TV shows and movies become outdated, boring, and even silly.  But Jesus and His Word (the Bible) are eternal.  What does eternal mean?  It means to never get old.  To last forever.  Not only does Jesus last forever, but His promises last forever, and He has promised that if we trust Him as Lord, and surrender our wills to Him, we will live forever in happiness and joy with Him in heaven.  It doesn’t mean that life here on earth will be easy, but it does mean that He will always be here to give us joy through difficult times, and encourage our heart when we are sad.  His promises never get old or fade away because Jesus never fades away (“He is the same yesterday, today and forever”).  That is why we find happiness and fulfillment in Jesus.