Monthly Archives: October 2018

Jesus – who is he? (John 8.48-59)


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“A Samaritan and demon-possessed”? (8.48)

The bad-mouthed suggestion that Jesus was a Samaritan clearly reflected the racial and religious antipathy which burned at that time. Such mutual hatred between races goes right against Jesus’ teaching in his story of the Good Samaritan – it was a Samaritan who helped the Jew in need! We are called to love our neighbour. But in John 8 Jesus does not answer such an obviously malicious accusation.
He does, however, reply to the terrible calumny that he has a demon. This he denies categorically (8.49) and goes on to proclaim just the opposite. He does not belong to the devil, but on the contrary he says “I honour my Father”. His accusers were therefore guilty in dishonouring him. In dishonouring Jesus, they were actually dishonouring God the Father himself. The ultimate purpose in life lies in glorifying Jesus and through him bringing glory and honour to the Father.
Self-glory? (8.50, 54)
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So, does Jesus glorify himself? All glory does rightly belong to him, but it is his Father who seeks Jesus’ glorification and who judges us all (8.50). Several times in the Gospels Jesus is accused of glorifying himself, but he always rejects it. He never seeks his own glory, for the whole purpose of his coming to earth is that his Father in heaven might be glorified. In our life today, we too need to make sure that our life and worship is not solely directed to Jesus, but through him culminates in glorifying the Father.
None of us have a right assessment of ourselves. Some of us proudly think more highly of ourselves than we should. Others of us face personal insecurity and tend to underestimate our own worth. All of us need and enjoy other people’s loving reassurance that we are worth loving. How important it is therefore to verbalise our appreciation of each other! Above all, true self-worth comes through the assurance that Jesus has washed away all our sin through his cross and has imparted his amazing righteousness to us, so God himself sees us as his own beautiful children. We need to see ourselves through God’s eyes – and then, like Jesus himself, we shall not need to glorify ourselves.
Knowing God and keeping his word? (8.51, 55)
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From all eternity Jesus basked in the glorious presence of his Father in heaven. He therefore enjoyed an intimate relationship with his Father. He knows God personally. With such a close relationship with his Father Jesus also knows the Father’s will and desires. In his love for the Father he keeps the Father’s commands and precepts. Loving personal relationships include willing obedience. As we by faith come into such a relationship with the Father through Jesus, we too will earnestly seek to keep his word. So Jesus asserts that he does indeed know his Father and does keep his word.
Jesus unhesitatingly states of these Jewish leaders that they “do not know God”. In our multi-faith society we would hardly dare to say that such pious religious leaders might not know God. So I remember being somewhat surprised when a Muslim leader declared publicly that he could not understand what Christians mean when they claim to know God personally. In his experience worship, obedience, service and prayer to God characterised his relationship to God, but he felt that God was so akbar/incomparably great that no personal relationship was possible. Another Muslim leader also once said to me “an ant cannot know an elephant”. How right he was that a mere little human being cannot enjoy an intimate relationship with God in all his unattainable glory, power and holiness.
It is true that no religion can reach such heights. But how wonderful that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1.15). God is so glorious that he is indeed “invisible”, indescribable and unknowable. But amazingly we have Jesus as his “image”. And Jesus has come down to this world, been born as a human like us and so has made the invisible God visible. The unknowable God has become accessible to us and in union with Jesus we can enter into an intimate relationship where we “know God”. What fantastic good news!
Greater than Abraham? (8.52-57)
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Jesus’ audience totally misunderstood his teaching that “if anyone will keep my word, they will never see death”. Although the Greek words translated as “never” specifically refer to eternity, the Jews were only thinking of ordinary death. But Jesus was referring to eternal life which awaits us beyond the grave. These religious leaders rightly point out that Abraham and the prophets died. So does Jesus’ promise mean that he is claiming to be greater than Abraham, the great forefather of the Jewish people? The answer to that question is a categorical “yes”. In fact, Jesus adds to it by declaring that “your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day” (8.56). And Jesus affirms that Abraham did in fact see it and rejoiced. Jesus’ words “your father Abraham” underline the stark contrast between Abraham and his audience. By faith Abraham did see Jesus’ day and rejoiced. In contrast,  while the Jewish leaders actually saw and heard him face to face they still rejected him!
“Before Abraham was, I am” (8.58)
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This great teaching passage (8.12-59) begins and ends with a major ‘I am’ statement. In 8.58 we have the amazing word of Jesus “Before Abraham was, I am”. In later translations this old King James version translation is improved by such versions as “Before Abraham was born” or “Before Abraham came into existence”. The Greek verb used for ‘was’, ‘was born’ or ‘came into existence’ relates closely with creation. In the Septuagint Greek translation of the creation story, as also in John 1.3 and 10, it is used repeatedly for ‘made’ and ‘created’. Although this verb is also used quite ordinarily for anyone’s birth (e.g. 9.1), one wonders whether it is significant that it is used too in John 1.6 for the coming of John the Baptist and now in 8.58 for the coming of Abraham. Both Abraham and John the Baptist ushered in a radically new era of history. Their coming was like a new creation.
What a contrast 8.58 presents between Abraham and Jesus! The aorist tense of ‘was’/’was born’ with its significance of a once-for-all past event contrasts sharply with the continuous present tense in Jesus’ “I am”. Abraham was limited within a time frame, but Jesus lives eternally. He was with the Father before all time and returns to share the glory of the Father eternally. He was, he is, he will be – no time limitation.
A further contrast is seen in the fact that Abraham was obviously a created human being, while Jesus just ‘is’. The historic creeds of the church struggle with the apparently contradictory facts that Jesus always was, uncreated from eternity unto eternity, and yet Jesus and the Holy Spirit both come from the Father. So the creeds affirm that Jesus was ‘begotten’ of the Father – not ‘born’ which assumes a moment in time. We rejoice and worship the Father who is above all and source of all, while at the same time we praise and worship Jesus as our eternal Lord and Saviour.
Living as we do in the 21st century, we are aware that eastern religious thought infiltrates into the thought patterns of many around us. In Buddhism people seek to attain the state of anatta/non-being which climaxes in Nirvana, the absolute freedom of total nothingness or emptiness. Jesus presents us with a strong contrast. He is and the Father is eternally; he created the universe and each one of us personally. God intends us to be, to exist, and gives us an identity that is real. We are in him. The world and we personally are created with the divine purpose that we should be like our God who is. Let us never seek to escape from reality.
I am” – what glory!
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The truth will set you free (8.31-47)

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In our last blog we rejoiced that “many believed in him” (8.30), but now we are saddened to discover that these leading Jews who had believed him (not now “believed in him”, but just “believed him” – 8.31) utterly reject Jesus’ teaching and want to kill him (8.37, 40). As children of the devil, they are doing “the works of their father” (8.41) and “are not from God” (8.47). In this tragic disappointment we are reminded how Jesus saw through the apparent faith of people who only saw his miracles and basically believed on that basis (2.23/24).
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (8.31). Jesus shows no concern for any past conversion experience, but assures his hearers that if they are now continuing in faith and obedience to his word, then they are (present tense again) truly his disciples. As Christians we dare not rely on past faith decisions. The question is, ‘are we living in his word today?’. Does Jesus’ teaching determine the very character of our lives in the practicalities of everyday relationships and activities?  When asked to ‘give our testimony’, should we concentrate more on our current experience of the Lord rather than just on our past conversion?

Whose children?

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a) Seed of Abraham?  
The Jewish leaders quickly assert that they are the seed of Abraham and therefore have never been enslaved by anyone. While Jesus castigates them for wanting to kill him, he nevertheless agrees that they are indeed the children of Abraham (8.37). If they are really Abraham’s children, they should be “doing the works of Abraham” (8.39). But actually they are trying to get Jesus killed which would never have entered Abraham’s head (8.40). In rejecting Jesus who brings God’s word and is God’s word, they are certainly not following their father Abraham. Jesus has told them God’s truth, but they do not accept it.
As the seed of Abraham they think they enjoy true freedom, but Jesus points out that anyone who sins becomes the slave of sin. Sin dwells in them, so they are indeed slaves and thus have no permanent place in the family household (8.34). But Jesus as God’s Son has the right to impart the freedom that comes to us when we belong to God’s family. If the Son sets us free, we are indeed free (8.36).

b) Seed of the Devil?

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Evidently they can be children of Abraham and, at the same time, children of the Devil. Jesus cites two signs of this. Firstly, the Devil had always been a murderer (8.44) and they followed in his footsteps as they sought to kill him. Secondly, the Devil is “a liar and the father of lies” (8.44). Speaking of the Devil, Jesus asserts that “there is no truth in him”. Likewise these Jewish leaders refuse to believe in Jesus because he tells the truth (8.45). Their failure to hear Jesus’ word which is the truth proves that they “do not belong to God” (8.47).

c) Children of God?

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Were these Jewish leaders smiling nastily with reference to Jesus’ virgin birth when they declared that they (unlike Jesus?) were not born out of (Greek ek) fornication? They proceed to assert that they have only one father, even God himself (8.41). Jesus counters this with the fact that he was sent by God and came from (Greek ek) God (8.42). If they really were the children of God, they would love Jesus. But sadly they cannot hear or receive his word.

Truth
Following his earlier teaching in John 8, Jesus once again underlines the vital importance of truth. This whole passage resonates with the centrality of truth in Jesus’ life, thinking and teaching. As so often in John’s Gospel we note again the emphasis on Jesus’ word. His oral teaching carries divine authority which demands entire obedience. It is totally trustworthy because his word is truth; it is the word of Jesus who is the truth; and Jesus comes from the Father who is in himself the author of all truth.

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With the words “you are truly my disciples” (8.31) truth is directly associated with believing faith and Jesus’ word. Faith, word and truth determine whether we are in reality Jesus’ true disciples. Truth should be the foundation and a central characteristic of genuine discipleship. As a result of becoming his disciples we shall know (future tense) the truth and the truth will set us free (8.32). Only through knowing the truth can we enjoy true freedom. Pastoral counsellors some times observe that freedom from past hurts and scars can only come when we truly face past traumas. In life generally a sense of freedom from the tensions and pressures of life can only be fully experienced when the truth of Jesus undergirds our lives. In the truth of Jesus lies freedom from bad habits and pervasive sins. In the light of Jesus’ teaching on truth we may hardly be surprised that our ‘post-truth’ society faces such fearful intractable problems.

In the 21st century we face the temptation that spiritual experience replaces truth as the basis and heart of our Christian faith. As we have seen, in 8.31 Jesus declares in very non-21st century fashion that “if you remain in my word, you are truly my disciples”. Genuine discipleship is founded on Jesus’ word and teaching. And genuine discipleship is characterised by truth which comes through and in God’s word. Indeed the word of Jesus is absolute truth because it comes from God, whose word is truth (8.45/46). As Christians throughout our history we have therefore believed that the whole Bible (not just the specific words of Jesus), God’s word, is the truth. So we do not accept the high church idea that a reading from the Gospels is somehow holier than a reading from some other part of the Bible.
In contrast to the truth of Jesus’ and God’s word, Jesus points to the lying deceit of the Devil. We should not be surprised therefore when a society (or individual person) which rejects Jesus, and so comes under the sway of the Devil, downplays the vital importance of truth.
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“I am the light of the world . . . the light of life” (John 8.13-30)

“I am the light of the world . . . the light of life” (John 8.13-30)
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This passage fits neatly into two sections (8.12-20 and 8.21-30), each introduced with Jesus speaking or saying to people. In the first section Jesus declares that he is the light of the world, the light of life. But the Pharisees immediately changed the subject by accusing him of witnessing concerning himself with the added biblical conclusion that such testimony is not true. Countering this, Jesus points out that his witness is nevertheless true because he knows where he comes from and where he is going. So he is not alone (8.16), he is with the Father who sent him and the Father joins him in his witness. Biblical Law states that ‘the witness of two people is true’ (8.17). Also in his witness all that he says is as the Father taught him. He neither says nor does anything off his own bat.
“I am the light of the world . . . the light of life” (8.12-20)
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With his use of the divine name in another ‘I am’ statement (cf.8.28) Jesus again declares his divinity. As in John 1.1 Jesus, the Word is indeed God. Through him as the light, light came into the darkness of the world (Genesis 1.3). As John himself says, the light shines in the darkness not only of Israel, but of all humanity of all ethnicities (John 1.4-9). Reminding us of the fourfold use of the word ‘world’ in John 1.9/10, we read here that Jesus is the light of the world. As the “light of life” he longs to shine his heart-warming and life-giving light into all nations and peoples everywhere. Once again we note therefore the vital nature of worldwide mission.
“I am going away” (8.21-30)
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In these verses Jesus continues his teaching in 7.33-36. Again and again in John’s Gospel we learn that Jesus was with his Father in glory before he was sent into the world and that he will return to the Father. With this teaching he further encourages his believing followers that they too will ascend with him to the Father’s glory, but unbelievers will only seek him in vain. Without living faith they cannot follow him and will not find him. Believers’ assured future of eternal life with Jesus in the glory of the Father stands out brilliantly against the dark background of unbelievers’ hopeless future in the darkness of life without the light of Jesus and his Father. Jesus warns unbelievers, ” you will die in your sin” (8.21) and almost repeats this in 8.24 with the further threat “you will die in your sins”. The singular “sin” denotes the overall character of sin which forms the very nature of a person. Sin characterizes their personality and attitudes. It also leads to the more specific outworking of actual “sins” (8.24). We all need a radical change of heart and inner nature which will then determine our actual daily behaviour. Sin leads to sins and faith must lead to sanctified good works.
Themes in John’s Gospel
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In noting the various themes in this passage, we have already been reminded of John’s Prologue. In John 1.1-18 the whole teaching of John’s Gospel is foreshadowed. As we observe the various topics we shall therefore refer back to the Prologue.
Divinity and Relationship
We have already noted Jesus’ emphasis on his divine nature as one with his Father. John 1 not only places before us the bald claim that “the word was God” (1.1), but also underlines the intimate relationship between Jesus Christ and his Father (1.14, 18). In chapter 8 Jesus declares that he is not only sent into this world by the Father, but the Father also witnesses to him as if with the same voice (8.18). The Father is with him (8.29) and Jesus always does what pleases the Father. He only does the works of the Father and speaks the words of the Father (8.28/29). The unity of the Father and Son lies at the heart of John’s Gospel. This oneness in the godhead leads to our unity with the Father through our faith in the Son. And as believers in Jesus and the Father we become children of God and therefore sisters and brothers of each other. We become one family together, one body. Such loving fellowship comes as fantastic good news in our contemporary societies which are riddled with loneliness. Then, as we love one another in deep fellowship and unity, Jesus’ love spills out through us to the world.
True, truly and truth

Just in this short passage we find five references to truth (8.13, 14, 16, 18 and 26) – some times obscured by different English translations. “Truth came through Jesus Christ” (1.17) and indeed Jesus himself is the truth (14.6). It can hardly come as a surprise therefore that in a society which is turning its back on Jesus, truth begins to go out of the window – ‘the post-truth society’. Without truth society loses objective moral grounding, it becomes more difficult to trust people and their promises, isolated insecurity stalks ordinary everyday life.
Light

“I am the light of the world”, Jesus affirms (8.12). The parallel with 1.4 is clear – the glory of life in Jesus shines out brilliantly and illumines not only Jesus’ own Jewish people, but all people in all the world (1.4; 8.12). Wherever darkness reigns Jesus longs to shine with his life-giving light. One with Jesus by faith, we too are called to fulfill that longing in the heart of Jesus. So he says to his disciples, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5.14). We are called to shine with the light of Jesus in such a way that people “may see your good (= beautiful) works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5.15). Both for Jesus and for us the ultimate aim is not for our own pride, but to bring glory and praise to the Father.
Life and Faith

Once again Jesus promises life to those who will believe in him (cf. 8.11). Having this “light of life” contrasts sharply with the horror of ‘walking in darkness’. But Jesus teaches that even Gentiles can join the Jews as children of God (John 1.12) if they believe in him, follow him (8.12) and change the whole direction of life from ‘walking in darkness’ to the abundant new life with Jesus and the Father. Such faith not only believes what Jesus says about himself as the one sent by the Father and now returning to the Father. It also introduces a new trust in Jesus and the Father because they are Truth and therefore utterly trustworthy. We now rely on the Lord for his gift of abundant resurrection life in this world and of eternal life with the ascended Jesus in the glory of the Father’s immediate presence.
Eis/into
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Jesus sees himself as the agent who brings what he has heard from the Father and speaks it into the world (8.26). Once again we notice John’s emphasis on words of movement. As John 1 says, the Word comes into the world. Sadly we note both in John 1 and John 8, the world does not hear or receive this word. Although the Word comes into the world, it meets a blank wall of unbelief. But our passage ends with the warmly encouraging statement that “As Jesus was saying these things, many believed in (eis/into) him.  The words that Jesus had learned from the Father (8.28) moved into the world and there was an appropriate response – many people moved towards Jesus in faith.
How encouraging that it was not just a few who believed in/into Jesus! The word “many” should move us to pray and work with the aim of multitudes coming to faith in Jesus. We are seeing such movements of the Holy Spirit in many countries, let us also beg the Lord to do this also in Europe.
Although the use of the preposition eis/into indicates a more gradual movement towards faith, the verb ‘believed’ is in the more Pauline Aorist tense. This signifies a specific once-for-all action in which they crossed the line between the darkness of sin and the light of faith in Jesus. In Paul’s letters he teaches about the definite event of our justification and redemption –  we were justified and we were redeemed. Likewise in John 8.30 many did believe. Because this use of the Aorist is rare in John’s Gospel, it is all the more significant. We not only look for people to move gradually step by step towards faith in Jesus, but we also pray that they may come to the climax decision of putting their faith in Jesus and thus coming into his gift of life.
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Sin no more! (John 7.53-8.11)

 

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Some Greek texts and English translations banish this passage to a footnote or omit it altogether, for its style and language clearly differ from John’s. Likewise the content lacks John’s usual emphases – for example, there is no mention of Jesus’ gift of life, even eternal life to those who believe in him as the one sent by the Father. It also rather interrupts the development of John’s Gospel at this stage of its teaching. But there is some evidence that this story stems from very early memories of Jesus and it has the ring of truth about it. Jesus’ wise and clever avoidance of the Jewish leaders’ attempt to trap him reminds us of other such occasions. And the very dramatic scene of misery and mercy meeting together moves our hearts.
The story of the woman caught in adultery appears already in the Latin Vulgate translation in the early 380s A.D. and is accepted in all the Reformation translations, including the English King James version. And with its ring of genuine authenticity as a true story of Jesus, it definitely merits our attention.
Without sin?
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The tables are turned! The scribes and Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus into illegally advocating death for the adulterous woman or seeming to reject the revealed Law of Moses. Instead, Jesus corners them into facing their own sinfulness (8.7). These leaders were only thinking of the woman’s sin (they appear to have ignored the sin of the man involved), but Jesus’ words force them to see the moat in their own eye. They may have thought of themselves as righteous before the Law, and the common people may have looked up to them as their spiritual leaders. But actually, like other people too, sin dogged their footsteps. Self-righteous pride is a constant threat to religious leaders. And, as Amy Carmichael pointed out, “lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds”. We all need to realise that even the best of our leaders have clay feet, so we should not be stumbled when they some times fail to live up to our expectations.
The old King James Version adds the explanation “convicted by their own conscience” (8.9) which may not be in the Greek text, but aptly describes how the woman’s accusers one by one slink away, knowing that they are not without sin themselves and therefore dare not cast the first stone. And the first to realise their sinfulness were the ‘elders’. Who were they? Was it a question of age, as in KJV, because perhaps the old are more aware of sin than younger people? The Greek word used here is very occasionally used with reference to age – e.g. ‘young people will see visions and old people will dream dreams’ (Acts 2.17). But normally this word signifies the Elders/Presbyters of Israel and of the Church. Was this emphasis on the sinfulness of Elders one reason why this story was not accepted as an integral part of the Bible?!
Interestingly, John never uses the word presbuteros. It is found more commonly in Matthew than in Mark or Luke’s Gospel, although commentators feel that the language of this passage is more akin to that of Luke.
No condemnation
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Some commentators have the less tongue-in-cheek suggestion that this story was not accepted as part of the New Testament because the strict character of the early church did not like Jesus’ apparently lax attitude to the woman’s sin – “Nor do I condemn you” (8.11). But these words parallel his statement that He did not come to this world in order to judge/condemn, but rather to save (John 12.47).
In the Christian life we are called to have a sensitive conscience and deep awareness of our sinful inadequacy, but at the same time we rejoice in the Lord’s amazing grace and undeserved love. Heartfelt repentance should go hand in hand with the joyful confidence that Jesus does not condemn us, for he has come with the fixed purpose of bringing salvation and eternal life to us. In spite of our sin he does not condemn us. Grace lies at the very heart of our Christian faith and life.
Sin no more (8.11)

In his approach to the woman caught in adultery Jesus should not be accused of an easy-going tolerance of sin. In his final words to her he exhorts her to “sin no more”. Jesus’ grace and salvation must lead to a renewed life of holiness and righteousness. A casual attitude towards sin should never follow from Jesus’ saving grace and his non-condemnatory love for us. The Bible calls us to become like God himself in his holiness (e.g. Leviticus 11.44 and 19.2). And we are working towards that great day when we shall see him face to face and “we shall be like him” (1 John 3.2).
Later in John’s Gospel Jesus declares that he sends us in the same way as the Father had sent Jesus into the world (John 20.21). He fitted perfectly into first century Jewish culture and historical context with all their Genesis 3 fallenness, but nevertheless he remained perfectly holy without sin. Although we live in a society which very largely rejects the moral holiness of God, Jesus requires us to follow him and his model of sinless righteousness for our lives. Both as men and women we all require repentance and a renewed determination to cut all ungodliness and sin out of our daily lives, words and thoughts.
“Go and sin no more”!
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Rivers of living Water (John 7.25-52)


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Opposition to Jesus is growing. Sending the temple guards to arrest him, the chief priests and the Pharisees combine in their determination to get rid of him. In contrast to their implacable hatred Nicodemus hesitatingly questions their failure to investigate what Jesus is saying and doing (7.50-52). As was true also of the crowds (7.41), they didn’t even know that Jesus had been born in Bethlehem in Judea, not in Galilee as they supposed. How very much to the point Nicodemus’ criticism was!
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In John 3 Nicodemus had come to Jesus secretly at night with his questions. Now he is slightly more open about his interest in Jesus, but definite faith and commitment still eludes him. He is just beginning to stand out against the violent unbelief of his Pharisee peers. Later (John 19.39) he would openly declare his love for Jesus in sharing with Joseph of Arimathea in the burial of Jesus. Unlike Paul’s usual approach which, following his own conversion experience, stresses the critical event of our once-for-all redemption and justification, John emphasizes a more gradual process of movement towards faith in Jesus. So John’s description of Nicodemus’ coming into faith fits his overall teaching in his Gospel. In today’s world too most people come to faith gradually, one step at a time.
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While the Jewish leaders joined together in fierce opposition to Jesus, the crowds were divided. Many believed in him (7.31), but others doubted with questions about whether he was indeed the long-expected Messiah. They failed to understand what he meant when he declared that he would return to the Father and they would not be able to come where he was going (7.33-36). In describing the crowds’ debates about Jesus John again uses the word ‘grumble/complain’ (6.41 and 43; 7.12) like Israel in the wilderness. Their debates were critical and unhappy!
In this passage John also refers to various other things which we have noted in previous blogs. Again we observe that Jesus comes with boldness (7.26) and through his Spirit we have lifeTrue, truth and truly strike us again in our post-truth society, for in Jesus and the life of discipleship truth is foundational.
The Spirit (7.37-39)
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 As with his teaching in the temple (7.28), so also in his words about the Spirit Jesus “cried out” boldly (7.37), “If anyone is thirsty, let them come to (literally ‘towards’) me and drink”. Deep within us all lies the heart-felt cry that ‘there must be more to life than what we’ve got’. Desire for more negates any hope of absolute contentment. Non-Christians may long for a totally new form of life, while Christians may feel their need to know Jesus better and thus have a deeper relationship with the Father. As Christians we become aware of our sin, our failure to live out the love and holiness of the Lord. In our thirst for the fullness of life Jesus exhorts us to come to him. In Jesus we can find perfect life. As we come to him and drink in the glory of his grace, we can know the beauty of his Spirit coming into us and filling us. “Rivers of living water” – not just ‘streams’! What an amazing description of the reality of the Spirit in us! In John 10 Jesus will promise us life abundant; it comes to us by the Spirit within us. In verse 38 the Greek original underlines “rivers” and so gives us the feeling of limitless abundance. The Spirit does not come into us in moderation, but in mighty rivers. Likewise the Greek stresses the “living water”. The Spirit satisfies our longing for ‘more to life’ with his gracious gift of super-abundant life, filling all the emptiness and inadequacies which have dogged us. Hallelujah! Let us rejoice!
John notes two conditions for the coming of the Spirit to fill us and flow out of us in service to the world. Firstly, the Spirit can only come to us when Jesus has been glorified. Of course, John is thinking specifically of Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. But surely this remains true also for us. It is only when we have come to accept for ourselves Jesus’ sacrificial death for us, his resurrection unto new life and his ascension to glory with the Father that we can experience his Spirit within us. We are called to exalt Jesus and glorify him in our lives. Then we can know the rivers of living water flowing from us.
We may link this with the second condition. Receiving the Spirit comes to those who have believed in Jesus (7.39). Entrusting our lives to Jesus is inseparably linked to the wonder of us receiving Jesus’ gift of his Spirit.
We should note carefully that we do not receive the Spirit just for our own benefit and satisfaction. Of course he will work in us to give us the fullness of life, love, grace, holiness and power for which we thirst, but his aim is always that the life of the Spirit should flow out of us and bring true life to others.
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