John 3:14-21: Jesus Saves

Read: John 3:14-21

Jesus, after having discussed issues concerning the nature of the Holy Spirit in relation to spiritual matters, shares with Nicodemus the nature of salvation from a story in the Old Testament (Numbers 21:1-9).  This story tells about the Israelites becoming disgruntled as they came out of Egypt. For this, God sent fiery serpents as judgment. Moses prayed for the people and God told him to raise a serpent up on a staff, so that all who look at it would live. Jesus likens himself to this, in that he would be lifted up for mankind, and all who look upon him for salvation will have life.

John 3:16-17 explain this as being an act of God’s love – God loved the world (that is, all the inhabitants of the world). He showed his love by sending Jesus who would be lifted up. And everyone who believes in Jesus for salvation would not die, but have eternal life. Jesus’ mission was not a mission of judgment, rather salvation. Jesus says that those who do not believe are judged already, condemned to die (John 3:18) and Jesus does not need to judge them. Jesus explains that people do not believe because they love darkness, their own evil deeds. The ones who love truth do good works in God because they are compelled by love to obey God’s commandments (John 14:15). These works are prepared in advance by God (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Make no mistake: God loves the world and he demonstrated this by sending Jesus to die on the cross to provide a way to escape death. This escape can come only through faith in Jesus, because it is by faith that one is saved, not my works. If you have not already done so, believe in Jesus so that you will be saved. If you have already done so, rest in the promise that you are already saved. You didn’t earn it. You don’t deserve it. But God loves you and gives grace to you. This is the message that we preach to all people so they will believe Jesus.

Lord, I believe in you! Thank you so much for saving me and not condemning me!

John 3:1-13: Illumination

Read: John 3:1-13

Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a Jewish sect in New Testament times that were zealous about the law such that they made the law stricter than it already was to ensure they wouldn’t break it in the first place. Nicodemus himself was a “ruler” among the Jews as he sat on the Sanhedrin, a council that handled religious law and affairs alongside the civil government of the Romans. John records a few acts of Nicodemus his gospel. Nicodemus gives defense to Jesus in John 7:51-52 and brought embalming supplies in John 19:39. Not much is said about Nicodemus, but much is implied by his actions. He was apparently open to what Jesus had to say and came to him inquiring about Jesus. Also, what Jesus had said to him did not make an enemy of him, but rather a friend. His generous donation of embalming supplies for his burial was something of note. Nicodemus was apparently an educated man too as Jesus notes this based on Jesus statement in John 3:10 and his seat on the Sanhedrin.

First, Nicodemus acknowledges him as a rabbi, a religious teacher. Next, Nicodemus says that Jesus is of God based on the signs he is performing. While the observation of Nicodemus is not incorrect, Jesus says that one cannot see the kingdom of God unless he is “born again”. This phrase obviously confuses Nicodemus as he takes it literally, but Jesus was speaking metaphorically about spiritual things. Jesus describes a contrast between that that which is born of the flesh and born of Spirit, and what Jesus was saying was something of the Spirit. One of the roles of the Spirit in the lives of Christians is to teach (John 14:26, John 16:13). Apparently, Nicodemus had not received the Spirit or any illumination from the Spirit to understand heavenly matters (1 Corinthians 2:1-16, particularly v. 12 and 13). The contrast between earthly things and heavenly things is made apparent here, and Jesus says that no man to reach heaven accept one who descends from heaven, namely the Son of Man which is a reference to himself. Jesus is saying the same sort of things that Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 2 which, which is that heavenly wisdom can only be revealed by that which is heavenly – which is God himself. God is manifested as Jesus in John 3 and elsewhere as the Holy Spirit.

Nicodemus had not received the testimony that Jesus had given and it does not appear that Nicodemus is obstinate to the testimony. But because the Spirit has not illuminated his mind, he could understand even with all his education and knowledge. Faith comes by hearing the word of God, but without the Holy Spirit there to illuminate one’s mind, testimonies pointing to Jesus will fall on deaf ears. This can be disheartening for those who share with loved ones and friends who have not yet believed. This does not mean one should stop sharing or stop witnessing. As Jesus says, the Spirit is like the wind. It comes and goes, and nobody knows where it comes from or where it goes. When the Spirit works in one’s life, nobody can know this. All we can do is pray for wind and be faithful to witness, and when the spirit comes, say, “It’s windy.”

Lord, help me to understand heavenly matters by the illumination of the Holy Spirit so that I might know and believe.

John 2:13-25: Cleansing the Temple

Read: John 2:13-25

Jesus’ cleansing of the temple is one of the few stories that is recorded by all four of the gospels (Mark 11:15-18, Matthew 21:12-16, Luke 19:45-46). The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) record the even occurring during the week before Jesus went to the cross, but, John records it early in his gospel. Some think that Jesus may have cleared the temple twice: once early in his ministry and once late in his ministry. The order of events in the synoptic gospels is known, but John does not give any indication as to when the event occurred. One would have to assume that John is writing about the events in chronological order in his gospel to affirm that it happened between the wedding fest and before his conversation with Nicodemus. At the same time, because it does not say, it is also possible that John was not written in chronological order, and this event is indeed the same one in the synoptic gospels, which is probably the case. In either case, there is no reason to think that John got the facts about the event wrong because he recorded them early in the gospel.

Apparently, there was a bazaar-like atmosphere at the temple in which vendors were profiteering off of temple worship by setting up booths to sell sacrificial animals for temple worship. Jesus, who was obedient to the law, went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover as many religious men would do. While he was going to the temple, he drove out the money changers and vendors. Jesus alludes to Jeremiah 7:11 (John 2:16), which is centered in the middle of a chapter about God’s wrath. Jesus calls the temple a house of prayer for all nations in Mark 11:15. It is probably the case that they had set up shop in the court of the Gentiles. Gentiles were allowed to worship here, but were not allowed to enter the temple as a Jewish man would be able to do. The disciples recall a verse from the Psalm 69:9 that talk about “zeal for your house” that had overcome the psalmist. The psalmist is overcome with grief because of sin and apparently has zealously gone to the temple to seek repentance. Jesus never sinned, but it is likely that he felt the weight of the sins of the worshippers calling out to God, and sought to restore this sanctity of the temple.

The Jews came to Jesus looking for a sign of authority to vindicate Jesus’ actions. Jesus answers them with a reference to his own temple – his body – but clearly the Jews did not understand this. Jesus was saying the sign would be manifested in his death, burial, and resurrection. The construction of the temple of Jesus day had taken some decades to complete, and was not completely finished until 64 A.D. and was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. The disciples remembered what Jesus said here, and it became clear to them after the resurrection. Jesus had opened their minds to the Scripture in (Luke 24:27) so that they could understand this.

Some people did believe in Jesus as a result of the signs that he was performing. What’s interesting here is that Jesus did not go with them, but instead withdrew. While the people believe, Jesus in his omniscience knew the content of their hearts and didn’t need anyone to tell him about man, probably because these believers were fickle.

People here believed in Jesus – and this is a good thing – but what happens after belief can be detrimental. The Bible calls one’s body a temple (1 Corinthians 6:18-20) and commands us to flee immorality. Jesus is just as zealous, if not more so, for the sanctity of the temple of the Holy Spirit as he was for the temple in Jerusalem, and he too cleanses the filth therein. We can be lured into things that seemingly promote the worship of God but actually inhibit it. As Christians, we should come humbly to him in faith that is not fickle, asking for repentance so that he can cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Lord, I believe, but help me to not be fickle in my faith.

Cleanse my temple and make me strong so I can be an instrument to lead others to you.

John 2:1-11: Give Glory To God

Read: John 2:1-11

Jesus’ first manifestation of his glory was turning water into wine as John notes in John 2:11. This particular set of verses is problematic for some because this manifestation of glory involves Jesus creating wine. The Greek word “οινος” is the most common word for wine in the New Testament and can refer to alcoholic and nonalcoholic forms of the juice from grapes. The “good” wine served at weddings was apparently alcoholic because people were able to get drunk off it (John 2:10) and after having their senses dulled, they are less sensitive to wine of a poorer quality. There’s no way to determine from the text if Jesus was making alcoholic or nonalcoholic wine and the scriptures clearly condemn debauchery (Ephesians 5:18, Galatians 5:19-21, Romans 13:13) and encourage sobriety (1 Peter 1:13, 1 Peter 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:6).  Also, it would difficult to reconcile how Jesus could contribute to debauchery by making more wine. For these reasons, it is probably the case then that they had drunk wine, but were not intoxicated regardless of the alcoholic content of the wine. What is certain is that the wine Jesus made was of a superior quality, perhaps even better than the good wine that was served initially, and this superior quality is noted for a reason — it is a manifestation of Jesus’ glory.

The passage does not seem to note that the miracle itself was somehow problematic, rather only the timing of the miracle. Jesus tells his mother that his hour has not come. Jesus announces that his hour had come in John 12:23 before the beginning of the Passion Narrative that continues after this verse until the end of the book. John notes that the hour had not tome two other times before chapter 12 when some were thinking about arresting him for various reasons (John 7:30, John 8:20). Jesus knew the timing of the Passion Narrative, and the wedding at Cana was not were it was suppose to begin. But nevertheless, he manifested his glory and some believed.

For believers today, the hour of Jesus’ glorification has come, and his glory has been revealed and continues to be revealed in the life of every believer (2 Corinthians 3:18). When God’s glory manifests itself in our lives through word or deed, it should point people to Jesus so that the nonbeliever might believe in Jesus. We should always give God the credit rather than take it for ourselves so we can point people to Jesus!

God, the glory is yours. Help me to help others see this and so they can believe in Jesus!

John 1:35-51: Bring People To Jesus

Read: John 1:35-51

“Behold the Lamb of God,” John declared. John had already declared this the day before in John 1:29. While it’s not explicitly stated, John could be referring to Jesus as the Messianic Lamb spoke about in Isaiah 53:1-12 because Andrew acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah (John 1:41). Isaiah describes a lamb that lead to the slaughter that would bear the sin of the people. 1 Corinthians 5:7 and 1 Peter 1:19-20 liken Jesus to the sacrificial Lamb and John explicitly calls Jesus a slain Lamb in Revelation 5:9 and Revelation 13:8. Undoubtedly, John knew that Jesus was the sacrificial lamb the law required as a sacrifice (Exodus 29:38, Numbers 28:1-13) and the significance of the lamb as Passover (Exodus 12:1-13). At the Passover Seder Jesus had with his disciples, he commissioned the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper which he use the elements of bread to signify a broken body and wine to signify blood spilled (Luke 20:14-20). The Lamb of God that takes of away the sins of the world is the ultimate sacrifice (Hebrews 10:1-14), and when John points to Jesus calling him this, they leave John to follow Jesus. Andrew was one of those two following John who left John to follow Jesus, and Andrew brought Peter to Jesus.

Nathanael’s conversion is rather interesting. After Phillip followed Jesus, Phillip calls to Nathanael and when Nathanael first hears about Jesus, he’s skeptical because of his origins in Nazareth. This was probably because many Jews felt that people from Nazareth were traitors of sort because many of the Jews in Nazareth worked for the nearby Roman encampment, the occupying army and enemy. When Nathanael comes to Jesus, Jesus makes a statement about him saying there is no deceit. Nathanael apparently had no problem speaking his mind per his statements about Nazareth and his question to Jesus, “How do you know me?” to one revered as a rabbi. Jesus says he saw (“ειδον” means “see” in the original Greek and can mean to literally see or perceive in one’s mind) him under a fig tree and then Nathanael declares that Jesus is the Son of God and King of Israel. Jesus seems surprised by this when Nathanael believes. What’s not clear is if this is because Nathanael was incredulous or if Nathanael believed based on a demonstration of Jesus’ omnipotence as there was something unsaid about Nathanael that was going on while he was under the fig tree. It’s probably the latter because Jesus knew the content of Nathanael’s character rather than his mere appearance. In any case, Nathanael believed in Jesus.

What’s interesting here is what’s going on with people bringing others to Jesus. John brought Andrew and Andrew brought Peter. Jesus called Phillip and Phillip brought Nathanael. Already, early in Jesus’ ministry, people were bringing others to Jesus so they could encounter Jesus for themselves. John declares Jesus is the Lamb and some turn to follow (John 1:36). Andrew calls him the Messiah (John 1:41) and some call to follow him. Phillip declares that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and prophets (John 1:45) and some go and follow. In any case, they are declaring something about Jesus and people are coming to Jesus and having a personal encounter with him. When we declare Jesus, we should be as these early converts, point to Jesus as the one who takes away sin and the one who delivers us from our sin. This message is a quintessential part of the gospel. Romans 10:14-17 says that some are sent to preach, and that faith comes by hearing. This process of believing then bringing others to Christ is what is happening here in John and it continues to this day.

Lord, I believe. Help me declare you and bring others to you so they too can believe!

John 1:30-34: A Testimony About Jesus

Read: John 1:29-34

The next day, Jesus comes and John announces to the world that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and reveals that his purpose was to reveal Jesus answering the investigators question. John gives the testimony to Jesus talking about the Spirit coming down and resting on Jesus. Jesus said to John that the one on whom the Spirit remains is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, and that person was Jesus the Son of God. John witnessed this all when he baptized Jesus. (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11)

Baptism in New Testament times was a common practice that was often used as a rite in conversion to Judaism or a cleansing ritual performed by the Essene community. Given this, what John was doing was not something out of the ordinary, but perhaps something the people were used to seeing or at least had heard about. A baptism of repentance and forgiveness was somewhat of an anomaly because forgiveness of sin was something was seen as only coming through sacrifice at the temple. While water baptism was something that was common, Jesus’ baptism of the Spirit was something unique. The Bible asserts John baptized with water, but Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, Acts 1:5, Acts 11:15-16, Acts 19:2-9) differentiating these two, Acts 19:2-9 in particular. Some people in Ephesus had heard about John and were baptized for repentance, but were rebaptized in the name of Jesus at which they received the Holy Spirit.

While it is clear that Baptism of the Holy Spirit (that is, receiving the Holy Spirit) is distinct from water baptism, but this does not diminish the importance of water baptism for its symbolism. Romans 6:3-8 sees baptism as a picture of the death, burial and resurrection believers go through with Jesus for new life. Baptism is also a symbol of unity among believers that all baptized believers can identify with, no matter who they are or where they come from (1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:27-29, Ephesians 4:5). Given this, it is important that believers who identify with Christ undergo baptism in his name.

The testimony of John to surrounding Jesus’ baptism, John’s baptism of repentance, and water baptism in general were all given to point people towards belief in Jesus. The common rite is given new meaning under Jesus such that it unifies us around Jesus and testifies to what he did for us. When we think about our own lives, do we consider our lives a worthy testimony that would point people to Christ or turn them away? Is there blatant sin that needs confessing and repentance that needs to be administered? In any case, we need constant washing and renewal that only comes from Jesus whose grace is sufficient!

Lord, help me have a testimony that points people to you!

John 1:19-28: Humility and Belief

Read John 1:19-28

It is no secret that there was a great deal of confusion surrounding John the Baptist. He showed up on the scene, apparently unknown before this time, and started baptizing people. Mark 1:4 says that John was preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. Obviously, this piqued the interest of the religious establishment in Jerusalem – who was the man out in the wilderness preaching repentance, forgiveness, and baptizing people? So they sent someone to investigate. When the investigators arrive, they ask John, “Who are you?” (John 1:22) John denies that he is the Christ, Elijah, or a prophet of any kind for that matter, as there were many false prophets and false messiahs in those days and Jesus warns against such in Matthew 7:15-20. What he does tell them is that he is the one the prophets spoke about in Isaiah 40:3. He was the voice calling out in the wilderness preparing the way for the Lord. The investigators did not understand this as they were expecting him to cite some sort of authority. Jesus was asked a similar question about his authority in Matthew 21:23-32 and Jesus asked a question about John’s baptism. It was apparent by this time that the people believed that John was prophet sent from God, but they knew the right answer was the John was sent from heaven and not baptizing in the name of some other man.

The problem with the investigators was that they were looking for something that wasn’t there. They came to John with presumptions and when John answered them it violated these presumptions they were confused. When we come asking questions, do we come asking with presumptions? More often than not, we probably do. This excess baggage can create confusion about how we understand Jesus and his message. Jesus encourages us to turn and become as children with humility and with hearts that will believe and be taught (Matthew 18:1-6) rather than presuming to know the answer. It is much easier to believe the gospel when you don’t presume you already know!

Lord, help me to humble so that I may understand and believe!

John 1:1-18: The Word

Read: John 1:1-18

Often times, this passage is called the “prologue” to the book of John, and in many ways it is. This passage is poetic and communicates some basic theology about who Jesus is in relationship to man, the world, and this witness of John the Baptist.

  • The Word present at the beginning (John 1:1)
  • The Word was present with God (John 1:1-2)
  • The Word was God (John 1:1)
  • The Word was present at Creation (John 1:3)
  • All that was created was created through the Word (John 1:3, John 1:9)
    • By implication, man…
  • Life was in him and life is light to man (John 1:4)
    • John the Baptist was a witness to this light. (John 1:6-9)
  • The Light and Word came into the World (John 1:9-11, John 1:14)
  • The Word and Light are the Son of God who is Jesus, full of grace and truth (John 1:14-18)
  • Those that believe become children of God (John 1:12-13)

The word translated “word” in the original Greek is “λογος”. This word in is a rather ambiguous term as it encompasses many things: a literal word, a thought, wisdom, a decree, an axiom, or a doctrine among many other things. In Greek thought Logos was thought of as being pure reason – the ideal or the essence of that which is. In Hebrew thought, the analog to “Logos” communicated the “Word of God” in the acts of creation (Genesis 1:3, Psalm 33:6) and as a manifestation of the mind of God.

What is clear, however, is that John is establishing that the Word is God and the Word is Jesus. He establishes that the Word was God by asserting this directly in attributing things to the Word that only God can do namely create all that was created (Genesis 1:1) and bring life to men (Genesis 2:7). John establishes that the Word was Jesus saying that the Word became flesh, the word was the Son of God – a title attributed to Jesus, and attributing the grace and truth to both the Son of God and Jesus. There can be no doubt here that Jesus is God as it is firmly established here and elsewhere in Scripture. (John 10:30-38, John 20:26-28, Romans 9:5, Philippians 2:6-8, Titus 2:13,  1 John 5:20)

John the Baptist came before Jesus as a witness to Jesus, and John knew this. John the Apostle wrote that John himself was not the light, but came as a witness to the Light so that those who here his message might believe and become sons and daughters of God. John was among the first witnesses to Jesus and saw a number of people repent. Matthew 3:3 establishes John as the witness from Isaiah 40:3 as the one calling out in the wilderness to make a way for the Lord. John did just this.

This prologue sets the stage for the rest of the gospel that picks up with John the Baptist. The Apostles John’s purpose in writing is to so the reader might believe and receive eternal life from Jesus. John testified to the truth about Jesus and the command to Christians today is no different. Jesus before leaving the earth told his disciples that they would be his witnesses to the ends of the Earth (Acts 1:8) the question is this: Do you know God such that you can bare witness to him and lead others to eternal life?

Lord, help be to know who you are so I can tell others about you!

The Gospel According to John

Read: John 20:30-31

The Gospel According to John as it is called in some translation of the Bible is as the title describes: good news from the perspective of the author, John the Apostle of Jesus. It was probably written in the late first century, and a tradition attributes the gospel to John, the Apostle of Jesus and one of the inner circle of Peter, James and John. John is unique among the four gospels in the Bible in that it differs in content and structure. Because of its authorship and the internal differences from the other gospels, most think that the content of the book of John is largely based eye-witness accounts of John himself and the eye witness of others. For more info on the Date and Authorship of John, check out the introduction to the book of John at bible.org.

John wrote his gospel with the intent of spelling out the life of Christ so that people would believe in Jesus and have life in his name(John 20:30-31). The content of the book should therefore point its readers towards faith in Jesus so they can have eternal life through him. John gives glimpses into the life of Christ before the week of his crucifixion. The content of these glimpses almost always attempt to establish some sort of spiritual truth about who Jesus is. Also, John places a great deal of importance on the crucifixion week as well giving it emphasis. The events surrounding the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus are quintessential elements to the Christian faith.

Theologically, John makes several points in his gospel throughout the book.

  • Jesus is God
  • Jesus is the Messiah
  • Jesus is the only way to God
  • Jesus came to make a way to eternal life
  • Jesus’ love compels us to love others

As mentioned, John’s gospel was written so that its reader might believe in Jesus. The testimony of John points to Jesus and we can take his word for it. But when someone experiences Christ for the first time, they become like the Samaritans who heard who heard the woman at the well’s testimony. They were drawn to Jesus by the testimony of another but believed even more so when they experienced Jesus himself (John 4:42).

Your testimony of Jesus’ work in your life (and the lives of others for that matter!) is a powerful tool when talking to people about faith. Think about how you can be like John and communicate spiritual truth of Jesus through the events of your life and others.

Lord, help my life be a living testimony to who you are.

1 26 27 28