Friday, December 28, 2012
Jesus, reading their intentions, responds in verse 6 … “Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. [verse 7] The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.” Christ points out, that the thinking His family shares regarding His ministry is the same one the people and leaders cling to. They look for a deliverer from Rome, from poverty, from oppression. Because their thinking is in line with popular thinking, even with that of the religious leaders, they are not hated by them. But Christ is, because instead of aligning Himself with these goals and ideals, He points out that the source of the problems of Israel is not found in Rome, but in the hearts of each person there. It is the evil within us, that is the root of our problems. It is our slavery to self-service that is the core of the evil that enslaves us. We are powerless to defeat it, and equally consumed by it, blinded by it, and do not enjoy having it called to our attention. This is particularly true, when we are unable to cast blame back on the person who brings it to our attention. Often when confronted by someone else about the evil behavior we are engaged in, our first thought, is to defend ourselves, by pointing out the evil our accusers do as well. We feel successfully defended if we can point out bigger sins in our accuser, than in ourselves. But when the perfection of love reveals to us our error, we are unable to successfully “blame” it. In the mirror of Christ, our selfishness is revealed, and we are unable to blame “the mirror”. In that instance, the evil of selfishness, we embrace, we are stuck with. And for some, hatred of this revelation follows.
Even here, Satan is offering Christ, “an easy way out”. To win the love and respect and belief of His own family, all He needs to do, is give a little on the idea of reducing Rome’s power over them. OK, so maybe we don’t overthrow them completely, but at least you could send a little plague their way, and cause them to reduce their presence in Judea. But love does not manipulate to gain its objective, and love is not interested in control, but in choice. The love of Christ was ever based in truth, and so He could not align with the near sighted goals, even of His family. He must instead stay true to the will of His Father, who longed for an end to evil, the evil within us, not the evil around us. As for the timing of going to the feast, Christ continues in verse 8 … “Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come. [verse 9] When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee. [verse 10] But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.” Christ tells them to ahead and go to the feast, that he will be staying put for a while as His time is not yet fully there. I would guess, His family interpreted this to mean, that His time to raise an army, or confront the religious leaders, was not just yet. Though Christ may actually have been referring to His death and sacrifice for us, as not quite being the time. In any case, He delayed His trip, and went there secretly.
The salient question then, is “why?” Why on earth go back to Jerusalem, even in secret, when you know the leaders there are intent on killing you for the deeds you do, and the words you say? Why put your own life at risk? Surely the disciples, at least the original 12, did not need further “proof” you were the Messiah, they already declared they believed it. Surely the people of Jerusalem had heard about Christ, as verses 11 thru 13 reveal, He was quite the topic of conversation at the feast this year. So it was not as though Jesus needed a campaign of public awareness. One could argue that He went to save Mary Magdalene from being stoned for adultery which would happen soon. But then, that entire scenario was constructed to trap Christ, more than to punish Mary, had He not gone to Jerusalem, she might have been safely unmolested in her sins. So “who” was Christ there to reach? Who was He so stubbornly intent to love? I submit, He was there to try again, to reach those leaders who were intent on killing Him. I believe He went back, again, to reach them, His most ardent enemies. He did not return in a spirit of confrontation. Nor did he return in fame, carrying with Him a great crowd to protect Him, and display to the proud leaders, their inability to do anything about Him. Instead He returns alone, anonymously, and looks to teach His doctrine of love to any who might listen. Verse 14 states … “Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. [verse 15] And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?”
Deja vu anyone? When He was only twelve years old, He taught the leaders in Jerusalem for 3 days, having never had a “formal” education. Here He was again, teaching the people, and the leaders, doctrines and scriptures, without the benefit of a long career of reading and study in the formal religious training schools of His day. Christ knew scriptures the leaders did not believe Him capable of knowing. Perhaps He quoted scrolls only few had had access to read. Perhaps He cited little known prophets, or obscure references that only a man of deep education could possible know. In any case, it was the religious leaders who appreciated the miracle they were witnessing. He was doing something, saying something, teaching something, He should not have been able to teach.
Jesus knows what they murmur and responds in verse 16 … “Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.” Therein is found two key truths. The first, truth is not found within us, but in Him that sends us into the world. In the case of Christ, the doctrine of love He was teaching came from God His Father. In our case, the doctrine of love we bear witness to, the doctrine of love that transforms us into a new creation; does not originate within us, but comes from the Christ who saves us from ourselves. The second truth, is that doctrine that is used to glorify the messenger instead of the message, is not truth at all. Those conference leaders, or pastors, or evangelists, or television spokesmen, or laymen, or just ordinary Christians intent on witnessing – who look to present themselves as models of achievement, or sources of truth and understanding, reveal they know little of either. Even the precious truth of salvation, is not intended as a vehicle for us to prop ourselves up, and try to become “proud” in the victories He has bestowed upon us. The gospel at its core is not about pride, but humility. It is not about our fame as His messengers, but about our work done in anonymity. Christ, who was God of all, was the chief servant of all. Who are we, to model ourselves differently than our leader?
Jesus continues in verse 17 … “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. [verse 18] He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.” Christ was not looking for fame, as the greatest religious scholar of His day. He was not looking to replace the Rabbinical schools with new leadership. He was not even looking to replace the High Priest with Himself, or His own appointees. Instead, He was looking only to teach truth and love, and reach those who would listen. The fears and insecurities of the religious leaders should have been put at ease, as Christ was no real threat to their organization or authority. But those fears could not rest, because the message of truth and reform that comes from love placed within us, might truly undo the financial empire they had built around the forms of religion. Instead of abandoning misconceptions and misinterpretations of scripture that Christ revealed and embracing a new knowledge of old truth that might have truly revolutionized the teaching in Israel, they chose to meet truth with hate, and respond to love with intent to kill it. There would be no fundamental overhaul of doctrine that might actually change the world. Instead there would be a perpetuation of existing thinking, even if it had to kill God to accomplish it.
And what has changed? The original claimant of the Christian faith in Catholicism has amassed wealth, art, as well as political power and influence such as the world has ever seen; though Christ craved none of these things, shunning them all, instead serving in humility until His death. He needed no spectacle, no pomp, no gold, no flowing robes of brilliant color – He only sought to teach love and truth. Protestant Christian denominations have little more to say than their Catholic counterparts. While not steeped in the gold and art of spectacle, protestant churches strive equally for a place in the halls of power and legislation. They maintain elaborate organizational hierarchies, that are more intent on maintaining “their” particular brand of Christianity, than about serving in humility, poverty, and love. Today’s American churches look to invest themselves in politics, in order to make legal, the teachings of morality they believe. In an effort to defend themselves against the unbelievers, they would make themselves, the arbiters of morality and enforce it with controls of the government and effect of law. In short, our religious leaders seem very preoccupied with leadership and the preservation of church influence, than with the simplicity of love and transformation it offers. Were Christ to enter our pulpits of today, and advocate abandoning our doctrinal uniqueness, our wealth, power, influence, and spectacle – would we too reject Him, and look to kill Him to preserve what we have built?
Jesus knows His teaching will be met with hatred, by those who wish to preserve their influence and wealth over accepting the truth He espouses. To them he says in verse 19 … “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?” Here Jesus cites their “go to guy” and questions the motives that would kill love rather than accept it. Rather than have their innermost motives reveal, they accuse Christ of being crazy saying in verse 20 … “The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?” Had Jesus not been trying to win over those that hate Him, and attempt to undo their hatred, He could merely have responded to them by name. He could have said … well, Bob over there is thinking he should stone me, and George in the red cap, is planning to knife me when nobody is looking. He did not. He does not reveal the individuals who seek His death to the rest of the crowd that might have decided to do something to prevent that from happening. Again, Christ does not act in a manner that would preserve His own life, or incite the people to take “righteous” action in killing those who were intent on killing Him. Love does not meet evil with equal evil; it meets evil only with more love.
Instead, Jesus will try again, to correct the misinterpretation of teachings on keeping Sabbath holy, that the people suffered from. This time, He will point out an inconsistency that they allow for one kind of medical procedure to take place “lawfully” on Sabbath while decrying another. He says in verse 21… “Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. [verse 22] Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. [verse 23] If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? [verse 24] Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” If circumcision is allowed on Sabbath which does not accomplish any kind of healing, why is restoration on Sabbath something to be considered unlawful? The ‘work’ of recreation is not something that takes the Sabbath off. The ‘work’ God does to restore us unto Himself, is actually enhanced by the Sabbath. For one day, we make a choice to focus our time and attention on just hanging out with our God. Instead of all the things that vie for our self-centered vision of the world, we make a conscious effort to focus on God, and in so doing, service to others that mimics the behavior of God. And Sabbath becomes something new entirely. When love replaces our other motivations, obedience is truly possible. While love is superseded by other motivations, obedience is not possible. Unconverted, unchanged hearts, could not understand this. But there were others who were listening that could.
There were some in that crowd that recognized the truth of what Christ was saying. In verse 25 it reads … “Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? [verse 26] But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?” These people knew, the religious leaders did seek to kill Christ. They could see some of these very men in the crowd on this day at the temple. Here was Christ in plain sight, teaching and answering them, and none of the men bent on killing Him, were doing anything about it. Perhaps then, the religious leaders, KNEW, this was indeed the Christ. Perhaps this is the reason they took no action. Perhaps the truth of what He said, was true after all.
But almost as quickly as they had the thought that perhaps this was truly the Christ, doubt entered in. In verse 27 they stated … “Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.” This was a shot at the parentage of Jesus. Jesus after all, from their perspective, came from illegitimate parentage. Mary was found pregnant, before Joseph married her. People knew it. They might also have known, that Joseph’s first reaction was to put her away privately and not follow thru with the wedding. But knowing that, they would have also known, that Joseph did follow through because of a message from an angel. They would have also known, that the angel visited Mary, and told her she was chosen among all women from the house of David. They would have known that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus escaped the carnage of Herod to the new children in Bethlehem when they fled to Egypt on the word of an angel. They would have known Jesus was raised in Nazareth when His family returned from Egypt. They had heard many things. What they chose to believe was at issue here. Belief after all, is a choice.
Jesus declares in verse 28 … “Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. [verse 29] But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me.” Christ points out to them the truth they also know. The truth of the 3 wise men who bore gifts and followed a star from the east to the night of His birth. They knew of the angelic host, who tore the night sky open with brilliant light of daylight and sang anthems to announce His birth. They knew of the shepherds tending flocks by night, who also bore witness to the miracle of His entry into the world. And more importantly, these same men bore witness to His miracles, His love, His healings, and His truth. If they were to persist in refusing to know, it would be God they were refusing to know. For God was the God of love, and Christ was love revealed to the world. They had lost sight of the idea that God was a God of love. Instead they had cast God the Father as a God of vengeance, justice, and punishment. Christ aligned with none of these ideas. They missed all the elements of redemption from the Old Testament witnesses, and focused only on the violence. They missed all the tender mercy and love God had shown throughout all the stories of the Old Testament, and instead glorified the violent acts of men who thought to “help” God out in each of those situations. As such, they did not know God at all, nor could they recognize Him in the form of His Son who bore witness of what it means to love in this world.
The reaction of those men, who did know the truth, but refused to accept it was swift and intense. Verse 30 reads … “Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.” The only thing that prevented the death of Christ on that very day, in that very minute, was the preordained timeline God had established. Angels literally had to restrain those who would have put an end to Christ on the spot. They did this, because love had not yet been fully revealed. We were to have yet a little more time with Christ among us. We were to yet have a little more chance to see what it means to love like God loves. When hatred is embraced however, and love is rejected, the only response left is one of murder. Those who think the nature of evil is not so bad, those who believe not all evil is the same, forget the lessons written here of love rejected. Murder was their response. Death is the ultimate path and destination of every evil, no matter how small or innocent it looks. It is the reason there is only one result, for there can be only one result, when one turns away from life and love, it is misery and death. Thus the supernatural prevented, what evil would have determined.
The bright spot in this otherwise dark storm however, was that not all the listeners were so determined to reject the truth of the words of Christ. Verse 31 reads … “And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?” Common sense won out, in those who were willing to use it. It was painfully obvious to those who were not so consumed with hate as to ignore it. Christ was teaching truth and love. He was reciting texts and doctrines of love that He had never been formally educated to present. He was working miracles in the plain sight of the people. Who would ever come, that would do MORE, than He was already doing? Healings, feedings, teachings, and packaged in humility, truth, and love – what more was there to wait for? This had to be the Messiah. This had to be the one they had so long waited for. The intent of Christ to reach even His most ardent enemies had some limited success; for there were among the people those who made a choice to believe.
Friday, December 21, 2012
It is interesting to jump ahead a bit to verse 59, just to set the location of the conversation that would follow; as the dialogue between Christ and those who had followed Him there, as well as those already in Capernaum was going to take place in the Synagogue. Even though the religious leaders of the day had rejected the cornerstone of their faith, even though the growing hatred of Christ was getting so intense, that believing Jews who declared Jesus the Messiah would be put out of the temple altogether; Jesus Himself had not rejected the faith He had founded so long ago with Abraham and his descendants. Jesus goes to teach truth in the places where spiritual seekers go to find truth. Jesus did not endorse competing ideologies for spiritual growth or awareness. He did not teach in the pagan temples, or in places where substitute deities attempted to take the place of the true God. Nor did Jesus glorify “wisdom” as the Greeks had done, attempting to place wisdom and reason ahead of all other ideas for attaining truth and enlightenment. Instead Jesus went to the synagogues where the scriptures, the writings of the prophets, the study of the Old Testament, was practiced and taught. He went to teach truth, and not once in His ministry, did Christ ever deny the Old Testament, attempt to rewrite it, or revise it, or call it’s miraculous stories mere allegories or fables. Instead He affirmed the scriptures written to that point in time. And He worked to correct the misinterpretations His people and their leaders suffered from.
So being in the Synagogue at Capernaum, Christ takes the opportunity to respond to the question, by beginning to change the subject towards what is more important than the free miraculous meal they had recently enjoyed. He wants to reach the hearts of these followers, with a message of truth that is more important than the needs of today; instead turning the focus to the needs of eternity. In verse 26 Jesus responds … “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. [verse 27] Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.” The food they experienced the day before was now gone. It is here today and gone tomorrow. Yes we have need of food every day, but there is food of another kind. Food for our souls, and in the same way God meets our physical daily needs for food that sustains our body, He also longs to share with us, food that can meet the needs of our souls as well. Notice that Christ again uses the words “shall give unto you”. The food our souls need is not something to be earned, or even deserved, it is purely a gift of Christ.
One of the deceptions the devil was offering the people in the day of Christ was that they did not need a Messiah to come to God. Since they had the scriptures, and were born in the lineage and bloodline of Abraham, their faith in the true God alone was enough to save them from evil. The Messiah then, was only useful to liberate them from Roman oppression, not as the vehicle by which all mankind would come to God. Jesus states here in His initial response that it is He alone who gives the gift of bread that does not perish. In this He is saying to the people, you cannot get this gift outside of Me. You cannot come to God outside of Me, for God is one. You cannot reject the Son, while still honoring the Father. The work of the Messiah is to bring light and life into the world, and into our souls, freeing us from our slavery to self and evil. This work prepares us to think, love, and live in harmony with our God. We cannot ignore it, and expect to go to God directly, on our own, and be accepted. We must be made free from the evil within us, if we are ever to stand before perfect love without the desire to run away and be shielded from it. Christ is here stating that the work of the Messiah in our salvation is work He alone will do, and offer to us as a gift.
The same snare the devil used then, he continues to use today with spectacular results. Americans today believe in spirituality, but not in religion. They believe that one can come to know God, through any means that makes sense to them. In short we prefer to believe that any method of coming to know God is perfectly acceptable. Today we have no more need of a Messiah, than did the religious leaders of His day. We prefer to use God to answer prayers for success, financial gain, increased health, and blessings on us and those we love. We do not need Christ to remove our evil, and reveal to us our absolute dependence on Him to be made free from the evil of self that consumes us. We do not pray for the salvation of those who despise us, nor to be rid of the burden of wealth, nor to learn how to love like God loves. For those prayers begin with a change in our thinking, and our desires. We have replaced our need for Christ to save us, with a reliance on self-will, and self-determination, to save us. And despite our failures, we continue to believe in our own wisdom as being superior to the writings found in a Bible. We do not want or accept objective truth, but instead embrace subjective truth that feels right to each of us. We delude ourselves into thinking we are “good” people because we are less evil that those around us. And in so doing, we walk away from Christ as our method of salvation, content to think we have this work covered on our own, and that God will accept us as we tell Him how we get to Him is perfectly acceptable. But like Cain whose best efforts, and personal ideas, were not accepted by God so long ago, the wisdom of man is not sufficient to find God, or save us from our slavery to self and evil. It is only the gift of Christ that can accomplish this for us. Our ideas simply do not succeed.
But then as we find all too often today, even the people who thought they had the truth, continued to think they could “work” their way to salvation. Despite all the miraculous stories of the Old Testament scriptures they studied, where the salvation of God, came only after man realized his own inability to save himself; they persisted with the idea that self-determination of salvation was possible. To Jesus’s attempts at offering them the gift of bread that does not perish they respond in verse 28 … “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” How often do we Christians respond to an offer of salvation in exactly the same way? Christ says to us, I have a gift for you of infinite value. And our response is, wonderful – how do we earn this gift? What can we do, to get it for ourselves by the actions we take? The question sounds legitimate. It sounds as though we are simply trying to do the will of God. But it is coming BEFORE we have actually been saved by God, it is coming outside of the context of having accepted God’s gift, and instead is coming in lieu of it. We are trying to obey BEFORE we have been remade and are capable of obedience. If I do not know how to love yet, then my efforts to love are going to be meager at best. Once love is so fully a part of who I am remade to be, and reflected in such a large measure through me that I am unable to contain it, my efforts to love will be unavoidable, profound, and carry immediate results. But loving like this does not come BEFORE, instead only AFTER I accept the gifts of Christ.
And so again, as He does now, Jesus attempts to reveal the entirety of the gospel in the simplicity of the gospel. To their question about how they can work the works of God Jesus responds in verse 29 … “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” Wow! Your work – is to BELIEVE in JESUS. Period, end of story, end of requirement, end of effort. Notice Jesus does not say your work is to pay your tithes and offerings to the ministers who preach the gospel. He does not say you are to keep the Sabbath Holy. He does not say you are to believe in a rigid set of doctrines that your particular brand of Christianity supports to the exclusion of all others upon pain of death and damnation. He does not say to the people of His day, you have the truth and you are correct in what you are already doing. He says INSTEAD – your whole effort is to believe in Jesus Christ and be saved as a result. Your doctrines, your truth, your ideas are going to be completely remade once you accept that salvation comes from Christ, not from you. You are going to look at people differently once love is the overwhelming motivation of your life. You are going to look at evil differently once you see the pain it causes you, and everyone it touches, and you are going to yearn to be free of it. You are going to see that no doctrine can save you, no accumulated knowledge will free you, only Jesus can do that, and only then will truth be made plain, and obedience finally possible.
It is not our prerequisites that save us. It is not our accumulated wisdom of scripture that saves us. It is not our actions or lack of them that save us. It is Christ alone. Until we have been remade, our reluctance to part with our precious money, keeps us from the joy of giving. Until we have been remade, our ideas about keeping Sabbath holy are more about what we are not “allowed” to do, than about treasuring every moment with our God without the distractions of our normal routines. Until we are remade, the truths of scripture present more of a barrier to God and come across in a spirit of condemnation, than the entirely redemptive way they were intended. Without Christ as the foundation of everything we believe, our doctrines are meaningless. This was the truth the people of His day, had lost sight of. The Messiah was not to be a liberator of financial gain, and physical prosperity, He was to free them to love, to obey, to be saved from themselves. The doctrines of Moses only have relevance against the hope and fulfillment of the Messiah. Outside of the Messiah, there was no point. All the symbolism of the wilderness temple service, the sacrifices of unblemished lambs, the colors, the altars, the candles, everything pointed to the Messiah. Without the Messiah, the entire system of worship was pointless. Without Christ, our doctrines are just as empty; our truths, just as irrelevant.
Despite everything these questioners had seen and heard, they were still not ready to accept the idea that Christ alone was to be the method of their salvation. They would need proof of who He was, if they were to accept Him as the Messiah. In verse 30 they continue … “They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? [verse 31] Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” You could say the Jews were hung up on Moses at this time. He was sort of their reference guy, their go-to-guy, for all things spiritual. So if Christ was to be their Messiah, and salvation was to be His gift, they would ask for something bigger than Moses did. If Moses gave their forefathers manna in the desert, what would Christ do to show He was greater than Moses was?
At this point, Jesus must correct an error in their premise, and then point them to a greater truth. In verse 32 Jesus responds … “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. [verse 33] For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” First, Moses did not give you anything, God the Father did. And what is more the same God the Father is now offering you “the true bread from heaven”. Manna like almost everything else, was also a symbol of the coming Messiah and the true bread of heaven He would offer the world. Manna sustained the people in a desert where growing wheat or oats or corn was simply not going to happen. Manna was a daily provision, that would not last if attempts to hoard it were made. Each day, the supply was to be enough for that day. There was no guarantee against the needs of tomorrow, only the promise that tomorrow would again see the faithfulness of the gift of God received. Only on Friday, was an extra portion of Manna sustainable against the next day’s needs. Only on Sabbath would yesterday’s supply of Manna prove sufficient, so that no gathering of Manna was required or available. God wished to free His people from the need to focus on food, to focus on Him, for one special day in seven. For those who believe it does not matter which day we worship God on, it would certainly seem He took extraordinary provisions to make a particular day special in the gathering of manna for more than 40 years of wandering. The symbolism and analogy was lost on His listeners. All they could hear was the possibility of bread they may only need to eat once and forever be filled with on a purely physical needs level. They respond … “Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.”
Careful what you wish for. Jesus responds … “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” Here is Jesus attempting to tie the symbolism to the reality of who He was. The method of our salvation was to be Jesus. Like the manna that preceded Him, He would provide both our daily physical needs, as well as our daily spiritual needs. In Christ our hunger would be met and satisfied. In Christ our thirst for something more would be met; our needs to be fully met in Christ and in Christ alone. But His listeners had asked for something they could see and point to as a sign they could put their faith in. To this Jesus continues in verse 36 … “But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.” As far as that sign you were looking for, here I am. Everything Christ had already done should have been more than enough to testify that He was the Son of God. Most of these men had only one day earlier eaten a full meal from a miraculous origin.
But despite their reluctance, and lack of faith, Christ opens the doors to salvation to all of them and all of us. He continues … “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Here Jesus points out that the work of Salvation is not a singular work within the Godhead, but is a united effort. It is God the Father that gives to Jesus those who would seek Him out. And Jesus affirms that everyone that comes to Him would in no wise be cast out. It is not Jesus who rejects us coming to Him. It is we who refuse to come and sometimes leave Him after we do. It is we who feel no need of a Messiah as we trust to our own wisdom. But when in humility we realize our need of a Savior, we come to Christ, and no matter who we are, or what we have done, He accepts each one of us. The point of redemption is to redeem, not to condemn for what we are, but to remake us into what we should become. Jesus continues to echo the true mission of the Messiah … “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” Jesus is not here to work for Himself, but to do the will of the Father. Even here is perfection revealed, it is found in perfect submission to God. The will of Christ perfectly submitted to His Father results in a life of perfection and complete absence of sin.
Then Jesus reveals the will and motives of His Father, an insight into God the Father that to this point in time, man had never even conceived of in verse 39 He states… “And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” Here Jesus plainly states that God the Father wished to save every single one of us. He wishes for Chris to lose nothing. Jesus further states that life would again be restored to those who died, as they are raised up again at the last day. This shows the author of life is God. God is the source of life. It is not inherent in us, but given to us by God. God is immortal we are not. Christ does not say that He intends to place dis-embodied souls back into their mortal containers at the last day, but instead to raise up the dead back to life again. The power of resurrection granted to the Messiah, the source of life truly within our Savior.
Jesus continues to give us insight into the mind and motives of His Father God in verse 40 He repeats … “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” To see Jesus, to believe in the saving power of Christ, is to find everlasting life, a life worth living. The transformation that Christ begins and finishes within us is the definition of what life is. Life is to be more than mere existence. Life cannot be fully measured while pain exists. To have true life, pain must cease to exist. Life which is found in Christ, is defined by His remaking us, freeing us from our slavery to self, to sin, and to the pain that comes with it. An eternity of pain is not everlasting life. Everlasting life is an eternity where pain and death will exist no more. This is the goal not only of Christ, but of His Father God. This is the gift THEY wish to give us, through the mechanism of Jesus Christ. These profound insights into the mind and motives of God the Father were offered by Christ to those worshippers in that Capernaum Synagogue.
But these profound insights were lost on them as their unbelief was revealed in their response in verse 41 … “The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. [verse 42] And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?” How often do we lose the profound insights Christ offers us while we focus on the unimportant or trivial, allowing our doubts to cloud our thinking, until what we wish to address is only our concerns, and not His truth. Christ had just given an insight into the very mind and motives of God the Father, yet this was ignored. The focus was on the “facts” the people knew to be true, they “knew” the parents of Christ, therefore how could He have come down from heaven into the world?
Christ however, was undeterred by their questions and murmurs, and attempts to keep the focus of the dialogue on what is important so in verse 43 He repeats … “Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. [verse 44] No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” It is the Father that draws us to Christ. If we heed that invitation and go to Christ we will find ourselves saved by miraculous power we cannot explain. We will find our lives altered inexplicably by the lure and power of love that alone can rid us of evil evermore. That resurrection from death, is more than a literal declaration of life restored at the end of all things. It is about life restored in the here and now. We are dead as we embrace our self and our pain. Christ offers us a resurrection from the death of sin, the life of perfect service to others. It is in serving others that we finally mimic the work of God Himself. It is our God who serves us. It is our God driven by infinite love who forsakes His throne and glory, and defines glory in the humility of a manger, and walks amid the contempt of those He longs to save. Love knows no limits in redeeming the lost. And we, the lost, are raised out of our state of death, to a life of love and brilliance the mind can hardly contain. This act does not need to wait until our physical perfection is attained, it can begin as the Father lures us to the feet of His Son, and we find ourselves transformed as we let go self, and embrace the Messiah of our salvation.
Christ remains in this dialogue in a synagogue, a place where the Old Testament scriptures are taught, venerated, and studied. His surroundings are not lost on Him. So He points to the scriptures they are familiar with and continues in John’s gospel account chapter six and verse 45 … “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” Here Christ fulfills the very words that were prophesied of the coming Messiah. He, the Son of God, is literally teaching all who were there. Mankind is literally learning from the mouth of God Himself, in the form of His Son. But to be taught, one must be willing to learn. Too often both then and now, we come to God to affirm our ideas and verify our version of truth. We expect God to conform to what we “know”. Instead of coming to find out what He knows, and is longing to share with us. All in all, it would have been easier to gain the love of the people, to simply free them from Roman oppression, answering their prayers, and aligning with their highest hopes and dreams. But love is not love, if it is not based in truth. Love could not align, with their expectations, instead it must be true to itself, from ancient times past through the mouth of the prophets to His arrival in their synagogue, Christ only spoke truth. Here again, Christ demonstrates the truth of the Old Testament scriptures. He does not deny them. Rather, He again directly affirms them, and attempts to correct the misinterpretations the people had applied to them. Christ is plainly stating He is the long awaited Messiah, and this prophecy is being fulfilled in their presence. They, like John who penned this story, bore witness to the fulfillment of divinely inspired prophecy.
Christ continues trying to reach his listeners, He longs to share with them truth, they could not possibly know, or have gained from the writings they studied. He wants to share a personal account, a personal testimony, something only He could know. So in verse 46 he says … “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.” Christ is saying, I have been there. I have seen what you have not. I have seen, what no man has seen. Just me, Only me. I have a personal account of God that you could not know, and I want to share these truths with you. God the Father is interested in your salvation. God the Father sent me here to offer you this gift. It is the will of God the Father, and His desires, I am fulfilling. And here is an even more personal testimony Christ wishes to share in alignment with His Father’s will and goals, instead of those of the people, God says in verse 47 … “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” Christ is literally saying, I know God the Father personally, and the two of us are united in offering you the one hope, the one method of transforming your life from one of torture, death, and slavery to evil – to one of abundant and eternal life of joy, love, service, and bliss. Believe in my truth, in my desire to save, and be saved.
Christ again returns to his analogy they referenced of Moses and the Manna God provided before. He again attempts to reset their expectations and call their attention to the real redemptive work the Messiah is there to accomplish. He continues in verse 48 … “I am that bread of life.” It is not Manna you need, it is not the meal I provided that you really need, to find real life, you need Me. To be saved, we must see our need transcends our ability to save ourselves, and seek an answer that is outside of ourselves. We need a Messiah. We need a solution to our slavery to self that comes as a gift, as we never be able to afford it, or earn it, or acquire it on our own. The path of salvation for us, is the only one by which we could ever be saved. For once bound to the chains of evil we became forever powerless to break its grip. We need the eternal bread, the eternal solution, the eternal needs met in the only God who offers it to us. It is Christ we need, both then and now and forever.
Jesus continues to attempt to explain how His work of our redemption will be accomplished. He continues in verse 49 … “Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. [verse 50] This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. [verse 51] I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Christ must give His own flesh in order to restore life to the world. He must die, and bear the consequences of our sin, take our punishment, so that we can be freed from it. It is only through His sacrifice that the demands of Satan for justice of our crimes can be pardoned, the punishment must be met, but it will not be met by us. To be redeemed will cost love everything. To be redeemed will cost Christ His own life in our stead. This is how far love would go to redeem, it would sacrifice itself, the very life of God, to see His children restored to His side. Christ came to end our slavery and bear our punishment. He is not there to conquer Romans, He is there to conquer our evil within us. We will be made free from within. Slaves no more from within. Then no matter where we find ourselves, whether in a mansion with millions of dollars, or in a prison a ward of the state, we will be free indeed. Free to love, free to serve, and free to discover what life truly is. This is a wisdom that Christ alone can reveal. But in His continued analogy, His listeners lost sight of the spiritual, and focused back on the physical, to them the pearls of wisdom and truth were lost. All they heard sounded like cannibalism. And the beauty of truth was transformed into the most abhorrent of ideas. When we refuse to let go of our ideas, and our understanding, and be taught, we wind up not hearing, not understanding, and getting about as far from what was intended as those listeners did in the Synagogue.
In verse 52 came the inevitable response … “The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus could have dropped this analogy some time ago, but He did not. He continued with it, trying to tie the Moses they venerated, with Himself and His work. I believe His continued response revealed an even more subtle truth starting in verse 53 … “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. [verse 54] Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. [verse 55] For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. [verse 56] He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. [verse 57] As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. [verse 58] This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.” In effect Christ doubles-down on His analogy. His words now go beyond just a hint at cannibalism and look more like full blown vampirism and cannibalism if one applies them merely physically. Perhaps these extreme images were intended to show his listeners that He was not talking physically. Or perhaps the more subtle truth, was that our truth was not going to dictate our salvation, but instead the words that come from God. We can reject God, but if we are to find the truth, we have nowhere to look but to God. When the words of God conflict with our ideas, it is our ideas that require an adjustment.
Christ plainly states that those who reject His sacrifice, have no life in them. To turn away from the source of life, is to leave life altogether. Our breath does not define our lives, our continued heart rhythm itself is not enough to define a life worth living. A life of evil, is one of torture, pain, and the craving for death, the death of everything around it. This is the path Satan has pioneered and refused to abandon. Those perfect angels who followed him and broke trust with God, now join him on a highway to self-destruction, and a demonic desire to drag as many as God would love with them. It is not a threat that Christ makes, it is a statement of fact. In Christ, in God, is life. Outside of them, is only torture, pain, and death. This stands as a stark warning to those who like Lucifer would embrace their own ideas, and wisdom, over the wisdom of God – what awaits you, is not life. Life can only be found in one place, in one God. Scripture does not save those in that synagogue. The truth of Moses does not save them. Their accumulated wisdom and knowledge of God found in the study of nature, and the prophets does not save them. If they reject the source of life, refuse to take Christ into them, refuse to submit, all those other things matter nothing. There is but one source of life, without Christ, there is no life in them. The same is true for us. It is not our Christianity that saves us, nor our denomination, it is Christ alone. It is our individual submission to Christ that results in our transformation. This is not a corporate act, it is a personal one. It will be determined one soul at a time. You cannot rely on the choices of your loved ones, to transfer to you by proxy. Either you submit personally, or you cling to self, your own wisdom, and your fate.
It would be hard enough, that those in the synagogue that day, could not see the truth of His words. But even among those who called themselves His disciples, among those who followed Him, to learn the truth, these words appear to have just gone too far. In verse 60 they respond … “Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” This was simply, just too much. Even those who professed to follow Him, had interpreted His words physically. Jesus attempts to get to the heart of the matter He continues in verse 61 … “When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? [verse 62] What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?” Here is Christ asking, what the real problem is? Are they offended by the idea of cannibalism, or by the idea that He is in fact God, and came from Heaven, not a mere prophet or mortal man? He continues in verse 63 … “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” Okay, says Christ, let’s take cannibalism off the table. I am not talking about the actual flesh, I am talking about this concept in a spiritual capacity. Remember now, the center of attention has moved to a conversation between Christ and those who had chosen to follow Him and call themselves His disciples. But even with the idea of cannibalism put to bed, the idea that salvation could come to man alone through the Son of God was a truth that could not be denied. It would be this belief that would save them. They would still have this hurtle to overcome; their own ideas about truth.
Jesus then states openly the thoughts of many there … “But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. [verse 65] And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” Christ knew who would betray Him, and who would refuse to believe in Him. But this did not prevent Him from accepting them anyway. Those who would choose to leave Him were free to do so, but it was not because they were rejected, it would be because they chose to leave. Love cannot compel, it can only offer. Even Judas who was among the 12 and would eventually betray the Savior was there at the will of the Father. The salvation of Judas was just as important to Christ as was that of Peter or John. Judas was no less a disciple, and no less loved or treasured by God. Judas did not do anything to Christ, that you and I have not done 10 times just today. Every time we betray the Son of God back to His crucifixion to cover the sins we choose once again to commit, we knowingly betray Him anew. Yet God remains keenly interested in our redemption, as He was with Judas, and those there who would refuse to embrace His words.
But verse 66 reveals the disturbing nature of mankind when the desire to cling to our wisdom exceeds the lure of love … “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” Christ lost followers. His message was more than unpopular, it revealed the need of a Messiah, and the eventual death He would embrace for our freedom. There would be no popular uprising against Rome. There would be no earthly kingdom of power and wealth. Instead poverty would remain. Instead the yoke of Roman oppression would remain. The ideas and hopes and dreams of the people were rejected by Son of God, who had higher goals and dreams in mind. Those who walked so close to God, and heard the words of truth, decided to walk away from them. They chose to leave. Do we? Do we hear the beauty of truth of submission, and change, and decide we prefer ourselves and our lives the way they are? Do we, like those who were numbered in His closest circle, walk away, then the ideas of God conflict with our own?
But praise God, sometimes those who do not understand, can still cling to love in spite of their lack of wisdom. Jesus asks in verse 67 … “Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? [verse 68] Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. [verse 69] And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter spoke for the 12 when He acknowledged they may not get it, they may not understand everything Christ was trying to teach them, but they knew He was God. There was no place else to go. There would be only one source of truth, even if the truth was still something they could not fully comprehend. That is faith that saves. That is belief that transforms.
But even among the 12 was one whose faith was still not quite so certain. But before Judas can betray God, Christ must make every attempt to reach him. Jesus reveals to Judas, that the thoughts of his heart are known to the savior. He continues … “Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? [verse 71] He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.” Even for Judas, all was not lost yet, the sin he was bent on committing was not yet done, and there would still be time to let go of his own ideas. The words of Christ had offended not only Judas, but the religious leaders as well. Chapter seven of John’s gospel reveals the quick epitaph of the results of His sermon in Capernaum, and partially because of His healing of crippled man on Sabbath. It reads … “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.” Judas would betray Him, because of his refusal to accept the truth of Christ. The Jews would seek to kill Him for the same reason. When we reject the truth of Christ, to embrace our own ideas, we embrace the path of Lucifer, and his fate. This is the nature of choice; there is only one that leads to life, all others to death.
Friday, December 7, 2012
Verse 16 picks up with a passage of time, presumably from lunchtime to evening perhaps dinner time when the disciples decide to go down to the Sea of Galilee and take a boat over to the city of Capernaum. Perhaps after not knowing where Christ was for a period of time, they thought He might have gone ahead of them there based on prior discussions with Him. Perhaps it was just their best idea of where they might find Him. Whatever their thinking, they entered the boat, and made for the other shoreline. Verse 17 makes it clear, that it was now dark, and Jesus was not already with them in the boat. This distinction was important to John to specify for this part of the story. And as their luck would have it, or perhaps as Satan often does with us when we find ourselves outside of the immediate presence of Christ; verse 18 continues … “And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.” Enter the storms of life.
We do not exist in a neutral world. The life that surrounds us is not passive to our decisions and actions. Battle lines are drawn in every aspect of life we find ourselves within. The forces of evil are not simply dormant or uninterested in our fate. They have but one recourse left to them. They are doomed, with a certainty they cannot escape. They have no illusions about winning the final war with God. They lost the first one in heaven and were cast out. They lost the second one at the resurrection of Christ when not even death could hold back the love of God. And they will lose the third one when fire will rain down and consume the remnants of their now tortured existence ending their lives forever. This fate is inescapable. Given that, the only meaning they have left, in a doomed existence, is to spread the pain of loss to God, by dragging as many of us with them into the abyss as is possible. This is their entire purpose now, as after their failure at the resurrection of Christ, no hope is left to them for conquering God. So to cause us pain, is to cause God pain. To see us fail, is to “win” against God, to deprive God of the only treasure He is invested in, our freedom from pain. It is against this battle, that seas will arise with a great wind. It is against this battle, that your life will not be free from the pain this world can bring. Evil forces are not sleeping where your life is concerned, they are actively attempting to bring you pain, and thereby cause pain to God.
But as Satan and his forces are not dormant in the battle, neither are the forces of the Lord. In verse 19, John begins as if to offer a prelude to coming events, by stating how far they managed to move the boat by rowing it (around 25 to 30 furlongs). How poignant that our best efforts against the storms of Satan show such meager results. But verse 19 continues … “they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.” Here in the middle of a storm no less, is Jesus walking on the sea heading right towards them. And their first response was fear. In the middle of a battle against the storms of life, we see approaching us, the miraculous presence of Christ, we see our hope on the horizon, and our first response is … fear. How could a miracle really happen to us? How could something we “know” to be impossible, be happening in spite of our “knowledge”. How could the impossible become possible? Enter Christ. Experienced fishermen knew how to handle a boat. They knew the effects of gravity on water. They knew that walking on water was simply and clearly impossible, particularly during a storm. These are all facts upon which science would side with the knowledge of the fishermen disciples; undisputed facts. Yet that is exactly what their bewildered eyes are giving witness to. Christ is doing what they simply “knew” He could not do. In the human vernacular, we call this a miracle.
And what is the response of our loving God to our irrational fears? I use the word ‘irrational’ because our God has done nothing to ever make us question His motives, or His love. Every act of God in our lives whether miraculous or mundane has demonstrated it is always in our best interest. But despite our history with Him, we still react in fear to what we do not know, or rather, when our “knowledge” is undone by what He does. Verse 20 says … “But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.” Christ begins by identifying Himself to his disciples. This is not some dark apparition, or evil spirit, it is Christ, in the flesh, God in man. And as such, you have no reason to fear. When the storms of Satan surround us, the sea is high with waves and winds that threaten to tear apart our lives, and we see the miraculous presence of Christ, we have no need to fear. We can relax. We can set aside the facts we “know” to be true, and begin to experience the miracles Christ is doing in front of our eyes, and despite our knowledge. Facts, and accumulated scientific knowledge, are often set aside in the face of love.
Verse 21, brings a third miraculous demonstration to John and his contemporaries. But it does more than that. It once again outlines the entirety of the gospel in a single verse. It states … “Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.” They by choice, “willingly” received him into the ship. They took Christ in. They accepted Him into their company, into their lives. This is our part in the act of salvation. We must choose to accept what Christ is offering, namely His transformative presence in our lives. When Satan rages against us, our defense is not to keep on rowing. Our defense is not to wage war on Satan, for Satan is the master of war and will swallow us up in a second. Our defense is not to look to the strength of our boat, or our oars, or our will power, or our determination. Our defense is to take Christ into our boat. Our defense is to accept that what we cannot do, Christ can do. Our defense is to recognize our defeat, unless we are to be given a victory from outside of ourselves. This victory can only come when we “willingly” accept it from the only God who offers it. When we accept Christ into our lives, when let go of the oars, and take the hand of God, there are results. Immediate results emerge. The disciples found themselves IMMEDIATELY transported to the shore they were aiming for.
Zero delays in the gifts of God. Zero further rowing on the part of the disciples, they took no further action to arrive at their destination, they simply found themselves there, by a miracle they could not explain. This is how salvation works. We do not cure ourselves from evil, we are cured by Christ, in a method we will never be able to explain, as it is NOT OUR WORK. It is the work of Christ that saves us. The rowing stopped, but the destination was reached anyway, and at a rate the disciples thought to be impossible. Again, our accumulated scientific knowledge of facts, is set aside in the face and presence of Christ. Again, what is impossible to us, is accomplished by Christ. We are NOT able to save ourselves from the bondage of self-service. But Christ is. Christ does what we cannot. Christ alters the rules, we have been bound by. He transcends our knowledge and facts, and does what we cannot do. This was no act of partnership on the part of the disciples; they did not accept Christ into the boat, and then keep right on rowing it themselves. They took Him in, the storm became irrelevant, and they reached the destination in an instant. Christ did the “work”, they only took Him in.
The words of John echo through the ages. They outline in physical form, the same process we must engage in from a spiritual perspective if we are ever to see ourselves freed from the bondage of evil. The point of this witness of John was not merely that Christ could bend the laws of physics, or redefine them at will. The point of this witness of John was not that they could defeat the storms of life through the actions they took. The point was only to take Christ into the boat. The point was to set aside what we know to be true, and accept what Christ offers in spite of what we know. It is not our definition of the rules of physics that we must allow Christ to remake; it is our definition of truth. Truth will not be found within us, it will be found only in Christ. Facts are only relevant in Christ. Salvation is only possible through the outside gift of Christ to us as we allow it. Rapid transit is not our goal. Rapid reformation of who we are is. If we are to be remade in the image of Christ, we must learn to let go the entirety of who we are today, and be willing to be remade completely. There is no shred of us, worth holding on to in this process. The new creature He wishes to make of us needs no stain of our past to ruin the new model He will create. And His results are guaranteed. His work beyond our understanding, but effective, and complete none the less.
The potential of who we are to become, can only be found when we let go of our ideas of control, and allow Christ to recreate us, and show us what we are yet to be. It is not our job, or our focus, to figure out “how” Christ does what He does, but simply to accept it. We gain the benefit of the work of Christ, without knowing exactly how He does it. The storms that today are so ever-present, become so completely irrelevant when Christ enters our presence. Whether it is our health that threatens us, financial ruin, relationships in total decay, even imprisonment for the crimes we have committed; a life made free by Christ can make all these storms of no concern. For it is a greater freedom He offers. It is a greater purpose He offers. It is a greater love He offers. It makes every second of the life we have one that is worth living. It makes every opportunity we have to share love even more precious. It makes every soul around us, of infinite value, a prize to be shared through the eons of time in a place where pain will exist no more. People we once thought to be our ‘enemies’ can through the love of Christ reflected through us, become our closest friends. When we see life, through the lens of an infinite God, who plans for us to share a life of complete freedom on a timeline without end, what is important to us here changes. It is not that storms cease to exist, but that they cease to be relevant. Transformation is potential that Christ alone can bring, to offer us a vision of life and truth, beyond what we know. This is His gift. This is what He offers.