Letters to the Prison - Week 36

Greetings!
We hope you’ve decided to follow along with us as we consider the gospel of John.  We’re taking a slow tour through chapter 3, so there’s plenty of time to catch up.  If you need a Bible, ask for one!
Remembering the main focus of our study, which is to answer the question: “Who does Jesus (or others in the Bible) say Jesus is?” John the Baptist has a lot to say about Jesus in the last few verses of chapter 3.  Let’s take a look:
•32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. -John 3:32
John is saying that Jesus, being “from above,” bears witness to what he has seen and heard… above –in heaven.  Jesus said this very thing about himself to Nicodemus (John 3:11-12).  Jesus has the authority to testify about the things of heaven because Jesus has been there and is from there.  And John reiterates that there are two types of people:  Those who “receive Jesus’ testimony and those who do not.  Regarding those who do, John says:
•33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.  -John 3:33
 
Here, John is saying that those who receive Jesus’ testimony trust that God is true.  They “set their seal to it.”  A modern equivalent to that phrase might be something like “I bet my life on it.”  Setting one’s seal to something was like a personal endorsement.  People in those days used a personalized seal (often the impression of a signet ring in hot wax) to notarize a letter or other important document in order to prove that they personally approve of its contents.  So, those who believe what Jesus says believe in the truth of God who sent him.  As John continues:
•34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. -John 3:34

John is saying quite clearly here that Jesus was sent by God to speak for God and that –unlike other prophets in the past (including John the Baptist himself) who were “filled with the Spirit” in some limited way for God’s purposes, Jesus has God’s Spirit “without measure.”  Jesus has unlimited access to God’s Spirit because of his unique relationship to God.  This is what John says about that:  
•35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. -John 3:35
Not only is Jesus the Son of God, but God has “given all things into his hand.”  This means Jesus has sovereign authority over all things.  Ultimately, Jesus is the one in control.  If you don’t like how this year’s presidential election went –or even if you did—don’t concern yourself too much about it.  Worldly leaders come and go, but Jesus is the one who rules over all things and always will.  Things in the world may not look great now, but when Jesus returns, he will make all things new.  What a great time that will be!  John has something to say about that future also:
•36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.  -John 3:36

Once again, John draws a distinction between two types of people:  Those who believe in Jesus and those who do not obey Jesus.  Those who believe have eternal life, those who do not obey do not.  This is important because John says something unique here:  Those who believe in Jesus obey him.  While those who don’t obey him don’t believe in him.  John is connecting words to actions.  It’s not enough to say “yeah, Jesus is who he says he is” and then do nothing about it.  Our beliefs drive our actions.  What we do is based on what we believe.  So, if we say we believe something but then our actions don’t back that up, we’re really only fooling ourselves.  We’ve discussed in weeks past how a person’s walk needs to match their talk.  This is John’s way of saying that very thing.  So, we can say that we believe Jesus is who he says he is, but if we aren’t behaving as if that were true, we’re being disobedient and, according to John the Baptist, the consequences are clear either way.

John the Baptist has said some profound things about Jesus in these last few verses:
•Jesus is from heaven.
•Jesus was sent by God to speak for God.
•Therefore, Jesus’ words are to be trusted –and obeyed.
•Jesus is God’s Son.
•As God’s Son, Jesus has been given authority over all things by God.
•Those who truly believe this about Jesus have eternal life.
•The ones who truly believe are the ones who trust Jesus’ words --and obey them.

This is the last we’ll hear from John the Baptist in our study of the gospel of John.  John, the greatest among all men, will soon be arrested and eventually executed for speaking boldly about his belief in Jesus and for speaking against the sins of Herod the Tetrarch (Matthew 14:1-12).  We learn from this that Jesus’ true followers were being persecuted and murdered even as Jesus was still walking the earth.  John the Baptist’s words are extremely important, so we do well to remember them.  As we move on, we encourage you to talk to God about your beliefs and ask him to help you match what you do to what you believe.  Still not sure whether Jesus is who he says he is?  Ask God to help.  And keep reading.  We’re moving into John chapter 4 next week!

Dean A.

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