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True Disciples - Letters to the Prison

From the series Letters to the Prison

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Last week, we saw many people believe in Jesus (John 8:30) as he taught in the temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Booths.  And they believed even as he predicted his own death at the hands of the crowd they would be a part of.  Here is perhaps another glimpse of the numerous other disciples Jesus had (besides the twelve).  But not all are true believers.  Not all are truly Jesus’ disciples.  Jesus offers them a way to know the difference:


  • “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” -John 8:31b-32


This is a profound reality that Jesus describes.  First, Jesus makes it plain that true disciples do more than just claim to believe in him.  True disciples abide in his word.  In other words, they live according to what Jesus says.  Jesus’ true disciples obey him.  “Abide” means to dwell, as we have seen.  So, to abide in Jesus’ word is to found one’s very life on the principles Jesus teaches and to model our lives after his.  Jesus offers a summary of all that he teaches in several places (Mark 12:29-30 is one).  In short, Jesus commands us to love God and love our neighbor.


Further, those who abide in Jesus’ words know the truth.  Many posts ago, we noticed the distinction between believing and knowing.  We believe the brakes on our car will stop the car (otherwise, who would ever drive the first time?), but we don’t actually know that’s true until we go and drive once and use the brakes to stop the car.  In a similar fashion, those who believe in Jesus and live according to what Jesus says will come to know that everything he says is the truth.  They believe and, as they abide, they will come to know the truth.


And, according to Jesus, that truth will set us free.  We’ll see, in John 14:6, where Jesus claims to be the very truth he’s speaking of when he says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”  What a claim to make!  And he is indeed the one who sets people free…


But free from what?  The believing Jews Jesus is speaking to want to know, too.  They say:


  • “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” -John 8:33


This is a strange “freedom” these Jews are claiming for themselves.  The history of the Jewish nation from its infancy in Egypt up to the very moment these Jews are speaking was fraught with oppression and enslavement by other nations…  including the Roman government that currently ruled them heavily –with maybe a few hundred years of relative independence here and there –and everyone knows it.  Surely, no one in this conversation means this kind of national or physical freedom.  Jesus clarifies with his 12th “truly truly” statement:


  • “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. -John 8:34


There is the true oppression. There is the true slavery all people face.  And Jesus is the answer.  We’ll look more closely at this profound statement next week!  We love you!


Dean A.

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True Disciples - Letters to the Prison

From the series Letters to the Prison

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Last week, we saw many people believe in Jesus (John 8:30) as he taught in the temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Booths.  And they believed even as he predicted his own death at the hands of the crowd they would be a part of.  Here is perhaps another glimpse of the numerous other disciples Jesus had (besides the twelve).  But not all are true believers.  Not all are truly Jesus’ disciples.  Jesus offers them a way to know the difference:


  • “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” -John 8:31b-32


This is a profound reality that Jesus describes.  First, Jesus makes it plain that true disciples do more than just claim to believe in him.  True disciples abide in his word.  In other words, they live according to what Jesus says.  Jesus’ true disciples obey him.  “Abide” means to dwell, as we have seen.  So, to abide in Jesus’ word is to found one’s very life on the principles Jesus teaches and to model our lives after his.  Jesus offers a summary of all that he teaches in several places (Mark 12:29-30 is one).  In short, Jesus commands us to love God and love our neighbor.


Further, those who abide in Jesus’ words know the truth.  Many posts ago, we noticed the distinction between believing and knowing.  We believe the brakes on our car will stop the car (otherwise, who would ever drive the first time?), but we don’t actually know that’s true until we go and drive once and use the brakes to stop the car.  In a similar fashion, those who believe in Jesus and live according to what Jesus says will come to know that everything he says is the truth.  They believe and, as they abide, they will come to know the truth.


And, according to Jesus, that truth will set us free.  We’ll see, in John 14:6, where Jesus claims to be the very truth he’s speaking of when he says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”  What a claim to make!  And he is indeed the one who sets people free…


But free from what?  The believing Jews Jesus is speaking to want to know, too.  They say:


  • “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” -John 8:33


This is a strange “freedom” these Jews are claiming for themselves.  The history of the Jewish nation from its infancy in Egypt up to the very moment these Jews are speaking was fraught with oppression and enslavement by other nations…  including the Roman government that currently ruled them heavily –with maybe a few hundred years of relative independence here and there –and everyone knows it.  Surely, no one in this conversation means this kind of national or physical freedom.  Jesus clarifies with his 12th “truly truly” statement:


  • “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. -John 8:34


There is the true oppression. There is the true slavery all people face.  And Jesus is the answer.  We’ll look more closely at this profound statement next week!  We love you!


Dean A.

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Son of Man Lifted - Letters to the Prison

From the series Letters to the Prison

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Hello, everyone.  We miss our time in fellowship and worship with you.  We pray that you are finding ways to worship God together as you are able.  Worship in community is so important to us… and so pleasing to God.  We hope we can return to worship with you soon!  


Last week, we caught sight of a terrible warning from Jesus:  A warning of death and judgement… all in a conversation during which Jesus is unambiguously claiming to be God.  As we continue our examination of John 8:14-29, we’ll see that Jesus has something even more shocking and dire to say:


  • “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”  - John 8:28-29


That Jesus refers to himself as the “Son of Man” shouldn’t surprise us.  That’s his favorite way of simultaneously claiming to be both the fulfillment of all the Old Testament predictions about the coming Messiah and a flesh-and-blood human.  That he here predicts his own death by referring to being “lifted up” isn’t new, either (John 6:51 is one example of a previous allusion to Jesus’ coming sacrifice on the cross).


But the idea that he predicts what people will think about him after they’ve murdered him on the cross is stunning.  Jesus is basically saying, “you’ll recognize that everything I’m saying right now is true once you’ve crucified me on the cross.”  This is a shocking and bold display of Jesus’ comprehensive knowledge of all people at all times.  Despite the crowd’s repeated denial of their intent to murder him (“you have a demon!  Who is seeking to kill you?” -John 7:20), Jesus nevertheless predicts that many will repent and “know” that Jesus is who he says he is after they’ve “lifted him up” on the cross.  So, he’s claiming knowledge of their hidden motives…  he’s predicting their failure to resist the “crowd mentality” that will eventually lead to Jesus’ murder… and he’s predicting what they will think of him once it’s done.  


AND, Jesus is claiming to speak these things “just as the Father taught him.”  So, he knows all these things because God has shown them to him… AND these things Jesus speaks must be true and therefore are going to happen according to God’s authority.  AND…  Jesus claims that God is with him… right then and there, at that moment.  AND… Jesus claims that God is with him because everything he does –including what he says at that very moment about the people he’s talking to-- pleases God.


These are bold claims (understatement)…  shocking claims (understatement)…

And yet, “As he was saying these things, many believed in him.” - John 8:30


So, here Jesus is claiming to be God and predicting his own death by murder on the cross and the people he’s predicting will participate in his murder believe him.


And Jesus has something even more stunning to say to those people who believe in him…  we’ll see next week!  We love you!


Dean A.

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Well-pleased and Loved

At our core, we all long to hear the words "you are beloved, with you I am well-pleased." Those are the words said to Jesus by his Father, our God.


"As he (Jesus) was praying, heaven opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in a physical appearance like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased." - Luke 3:21-22


The world will tell you that you deserve to hear those words; reality tells us a different story.


We all do things that don't please others, even God. A lie, slander, breaking a town law, hurting someone we love intentionally or unintentionally. All things that keep us from receiving the prestigious "perfect human being award."


The good news is that because Jesus received these words and then acted on them, we too can hear God tell us, "you are beloved, and I am well-pleased with you."


If you are in Christ, then this is how God sees you as He sees Jesus. Do you live in this truth?


Jesus heard from His Father and walked in that truth.


We have now heard it from God our Father, and we need to walk in that truth as well. This means living a life that follows the example Jesus set before us.


Jesus followed the commands and will of God, and that is our task as well. Not out of duty as if we have something more to prove in self-righteousness, but out of privilege as we have been called sons and daughters of God.


Go forth and walk in that truth. God loves you and is pleased with you.


Pastor Nick

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"Who Are You?" - Letters to the Prison

From the series Letters to the Prison

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Hello, everyone.  If you’ve been enjoying these posts, be sure to thank the people who’ve made them available to you.  Also, if you need a Bible, ask for one!


We’re seeing, in John 8:14-29, that Jesus continues to say profound, shocking, and challenging things about himself to the Jews as he continues to teach publicly in the temple during the Feast of Booths.  He repeatedly equates himself to God in ways that cause the Jewish leaders to want to arrest him.  But no one does “because his hour had not yet come” (John 8:20).


It is interesting to note that the Jewish leaders understand what Jesus is saying about himself well enough to want to arrest him for it… but when he makes it plain to them (and to us) that unless we believe in him, we will die in our sins (John 8:24), they respond by asking:


“Who are you?” (John 8:25)


So, they’re faced with the question (as we all are):  Is Jesus who he says he is?  And when Jesus says who he is plainly –he reminds them that he has done so from the beginning (John 8:25)—they refuse to accept his answer… and perhaps even mockingly ask “who are you?”… like “who do you think you are?”  So, their questions aren’t borne of a lack of clarity about what Jesus is saying about himself, they are an extension of their unbelief.  They don’t want to believe, so they keep questioning.  Is that like us today?  Do we really trust what Jesus says about himself?  Or do we beg the question in order to buy more time to not obey him?  “But Jesus… how do I really know you’re who you say you are?  I’ll keep doing whatever I feel like doing until I get a clearer answer from you…”  


That’s a dangerous game for us.  Jesus makes it plain that our work is to trust and obey him –to believe in him (John 6:29).  If we’re busy begging the question while continuing in our sin, we will die in our sins (John 8:24).  It is a clear warning… a dire and urgent warning.  And it is given in a passage where Jesus makes his authority to judge clear, also:


“I judge no one.  Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me…” and… “I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.”  -John 8:15, 16, 26


Jesus, as he was speaking to the Jews in the temple that day, was not there to judge them –even though he had full authority to do so in accordance with the Father’s perfect will.  Today, we too are living in a time of grace, not judgment.  But the day when Jesus will judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:41; 2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5) is coming.  There will come a day in each person’s life –the day we die—when Jesus will indeed judge each of us (Hebrews 9:27-28).


What will our fate be?  What is our answer to the question:  Is Jesus who he says he is?  And do our actions match what we claim to believe?


Pray, brothers and sisters, that we would each be courageous in our obedience to Jesus… that our words would match our acts… that our true belief in Jesus would show itself in our love for him and for one another…  Amen!  Until next week…  we love you!


Dean A.

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Judgy, Judgy - Letters to the Prison

From the series Letters to the Prison

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Hello, everyone.  Last week Jesus began to say something shocking in John 8:14-18.  


The short version is this:  Jesus claimed that He was sent by God from heaven and that His judgment is true because it is God’s judgment.  Further, the truth of this claim is attested by God himself, according to Jesus.  And, He accuses the Pharisees –arguably the most religious group of men in all of Jerusalem-- of not knowing God.  He says this because they don’t recognize Him as God.  When they ask Jesus where His father is in verse 19, Jesus responds by saying “you know neither me nor my Father.  If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”  When the Pharisees ask where Jesus’ father is, they are looking for a human, biological father.  They don’t recognize that God is Jesus’ Father, and that God and Jesus are one.


Jesus explains to the Pharisees that their problem is that they judge “according to the flesh.”  They only see Jesus as a man from Nazareth of Galilee – a man who, by most human standards, appears to be crazy.  Picture someone in our day claiming to be God… sent from heaven… and then, when people are skeptical, that person accuses them of having poor judgment… of being blind.  How would we respond to such a person?  Would we believe him?  Would we follow him?  Would we worship him?  Or would we try to have him arrested like the Pharisees do (John 8:20)?


What if he told us that he’s leaving…  going someplace where we can’t go –back to heaven… and that if we don’t believe in him, we would die in our sin?  How would we respond to that?  Jesus says this very thing to the Pharisees (John 8:21 and again in 8:24).  And the Jews respond:


  • “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” -John 8:22


They presumed that the only way Jesus could go where they cannot follow is if he killed himself.  Suicide in that culture merited an eternity in the darkest corner of hell.  Ironically, Jesus did indeed forfeit his life… he died willingly on the cross for the sins of the world (Matthew 26:53-55)…and he did indeed spend three days in the grave preaching the good news of the Gospel to those who were already dead (1 Peter 4:6)…  those who were already in the darkest corner of hell… and he rose again from that grave to prove that he does indeed have the power and authority to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42)…  and he did all this so that we today could have supreme confidence in this: 


Everything Jesus says is true because Jesus is who He says He is.  


So, when Jesus says, “unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:24), how do we respond?


The true and terrible irony is this:  Those who refuse to believe that Jesus is God are the ones who are forfeiting their lives eternally.  Jesus has given us every reason to believe that He indeed is who He says He is… and if we refuse to believe, we are effectively committing spiritual suicide.


No other question in life is so important… and with so much at stake:  Is Jesus who He says He is?  What is your answer?  We pray that you’ve answered yes.  We love you.


Dean A.

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Light of the World - Letters to the Prison

From the series Letters to the Prison

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Last week, we interrupted our consideration of what happened at the Feast of Booths in Jerusalem in order to quickly examine a passage that was likely inserted into John’s gospel many centuries after he wrote it.  So, let’s get back on track.  John 7:52 flows very nicely into John 8:12 and we see Jesus saying something profound about himself:

  • They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” -John 7:52
  • Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” -John 8:12


So, we see the conclusion of the angry private conversation between Nicodemus and other Jewish leaders about Jesus as he is teaching publicly in the temple, and then we are returned immediately back to where Jesus is in the temple at Jerusalem during the Feast of Booths, and he is continuing to have a difficult public conversation with other Jewish leaders (the Pharisees).


His claim to be the light of the world is stunning in a number of ways.  First, it’s another “I am” statement…  so, Jesus is using God’s favorite way of referring to himself.  Second, Jesus is claiming that those who follow him have the “light of life” while those who don’t “walk in darkness.”  It’s a “yes” or “no” circumstance.  Worse, it’s a “life or death” circumstance.  The implication of “light of life” is that those who walk in darkness don’t have life.  So here, Jesus is clearly claiming that a decision about him is a matter of life or death.  There is no middle ground with Jesus.  We need to consider such thing carefully and be serious about our answer because Jesus also makes it plain that it’s not enough to simply say “sure, Jesus is who he says he is.”  We also have to follow him.  In other words, our actions and behaviors need to match our beliefs.  Our walk needs to match our talk.


The timing of this claim is significant, also.  Jesus likely made this statement during a ceremonial lighting of lamps that occurred during the Feast of Booths to commemorate God’s promise of a Messiah.  Interestingly, a prophecy by Zechariah speaks of both “living waters” and a “light in the darkness” (Zech. 14:5-8).  This goes along perfectly with what Jesus is saying here at the Feast of Booths about himself (John 7:37-38 and John 8:12).  So, Jesus is once again claiming to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of God’s promised Messiah.


And the Pharisees don’t believe him: “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” (John 8:13)  How Jesus responds to this accusation is shocking:

  • Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. -John 8:14


From a merely human standpoint, what Jesus says here is nothing short of crazy.  But Jesus is not merely human.  We’ll consider what he says here next week!  We love you!


Dean A.

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Showing Mercy - Letters to the Prison

From the series Letters to the Prison

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Last week, we saw how the Jewish leaders were in such a rage about Jesus that they were willing to ignore basic points of Mosaic law and insult one of their leading members (Nicodemus) for attempting to take a rational legal approach to what Jesus was saying and doing.  Interestingly, we’re about to see how Jesus himself applies Mosaic law in a difficult circumstance…  but the record of the circumstance itself is difficult, as we will soon see.    


John 7:53-8:11 is widely believed to have been inserted into John’s gospel long after John finished writing it…  by someone other than John himself.  Ancient manuscripts do not agree on where this passage belongs in Scripture…  and ancient theologians don’t even comment on these verses until over a thousand years after John wrote the book.  And when they do comment on it, they point out that this passage likely doesn’t belong in Scripture at all.  Further, if you skip the section by reading John 7:52 followed immediately by John 8:12, the flow of thought makes more sense.  These along with many other reasons indicate that the story of the woman caught in adultery was probably not included by John in his gospel.


This is one more reason why we can trust what we read in Scripture.  The manuscripts available to examine are so thorough and extensive that even the well-intentioned insertion of what appears to be a legitimate account of Jesus’ activity on earth is easily detected.  This story was likely told and retold through the ancient church so often that some ancient scribe decided that it needed to be written down…  but they just didn’t know where or how to include it.  So, it’s worth examining and considering even though it wasn’t part of John’s original gospel.


So, we’ll put the narrative of Jesus’ activity at the Feast of Booths “on pause” temporarily to consider this brief story.


The first thing we notice is in John 8:3 –the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery…  but where’s the man?  It takes two to commit adultery, and Jewish law demands that both parties be stoned to death (Leviticus 20:10).  Further, the accusers are the ones who need to cast the first stones (Deuteronomy 13:9 and 17:7).  In ancient Jewish law, such transgressions were met with instant, public, and lethal consequences.  But there is another requirement before such a brutal punishment could be administered…  Jesus notes it in John 8:7: “let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  So, the consequences were dire, but the only way one could “throw the first stone” is if they themselves were innocent.


This is why, in Matthew 7:1-2, Jesus says, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”  This is also why, when Jesus said, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” all the woman’s accusers slowly crept away…  leaving her alone with Jesus.  And why did Jesus stay?  Because he is utterly without sin… and he is the only righteous judge.  And what did he do at that moment?  The Sinless Righteous Judge of All showed mercy by not condemning her, either.


Beloved friends, we pray that today we would all remember Jesus’ mercy towards us and that we would thank Him and praise Him for it.  Until next week!  We love you!


Dean A.

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Just the Facts Please - Letters from the Prison

From the series Letters to the Prison

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This week we’re considering the last few verses of John 7.  The Jewish leaders, faced with the disobedience of their own temple guards (who were ordered to arrest Jesus, but didn’t -John 7:32, 45-46), were now in an absolute rage.  They were scolding the officers and cursing the crowd (John 7:49).  They were “off the rails” in their willful unbelief about Jesus to a point where they are uncorrectable and blind about it, as we’re about to see.  One Jewish leader stands out, though.  He happens to be Nicodemus, the one who had visited Jesus by night back in John 3.  Here, in John 7:50-51, we’re catching yet another glimpse of him.  And he doesn’t seem to be “following the crowd” of raging, willfully ignorant Jewish leaders.  He asks them a very simple procedural question about the very law they’re accusing Jesus of breaking:

  • “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” -John 7:51

 

Here, Nicodemus is not asking them to believe what Jesus says…  nor is he claiming to be in agreement with Jesus about anything.  He is simply asking his fellow leaders a basic legal question that seems to have an obvious answer.  He’s asking them to consider how to deal with Jesus in rational ways using their own law as a guide.  But look how they respond:

  • They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” -John 7:52


Their question is at once an accusation and an insult.  Galileans were “back woods” people from one of the most remote parts of Israel.  They were often thought of as rough and uneducated –not among the “social elite.”  And Jesus spent much of his life in Nazareth of Galilee.  So here, they’re accusing Nicodemus (the teacher of Israel -John 3:10) of being an ignorant bumpkin in league with their enemy –Jesus of Nazareth.


Then, the Jewish leaders betray their own ignorance of the Scriptures when they say “search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee” as well as their ignorance of where Jesus was actually from.  Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7).  So, despite the fact that Jesus moved several different times in his life, he still originally hailed from Bethlehem –not Galilee.  This was a documented fact recognized by the Roman government.  Further, a prophet did indeed come from Galilee.  His name was Jonah.  He was from Gath-hepher, a town situated within 20 miles of the sea of Galilee (2 Kings 14:25).  So, the very Scriptures these angry Jewish leaders claim to know and follow so well prove that they are incorrect.  So, these men are ignoring their own Scriptures.  They’re ignoring plain and publicly accessible facts about Jesus.  And, they’re ignoring their own legal procedures.  And when confronted about it –even by rational people in their own circle-- they respond with angry personal attacks… insults and accusations. 


It is so sad to see that this very thing goes on constantly in politics and social circles today.  People get so invested in their agendas and their rhetoric that they are willing to ignore simple facts and basic laws and bully other people into compliance with threats and insults in order to get their way.  And such things are done on both sides of many debates today.  Beloved friends, let it not be so among us!  Pray that we would not participate in such terrible and toxic things. 


Dean A.

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Still Talking About Jesus - Letters to the Prison

From the series Letters to the Prison

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Last week, Jesus made a stunning claim:

  • “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”-John 7:37b-38


And in John 7:40-44, we see a “division among the people.”  Everybody’s talking about Jesus, and everybody’s got a different opinion.  Some believe him and some want him dead.   Some have the right ideas about Jesus, but they’re working with faulty information.  For example:

  • “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?”                                                                                                   -John 7:41b-42


Scripture does indeed predict that the Messiah comes from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:4).  But apparently some in the crowd don’t know this.  Did they bother to ask?  Shouldn’t they know before deciding?


Isn’t that like many of us today?  The world is still talking about Jesus all these thousands of years later and the opinions about him are just as diverse.  But very few people actually go to the source to see what Jesus says about himself.  So, they’re trying to answer the central question of everyone’s life (is Jesus who he says he is?) with faulty or incomplete information.  Sadly, they do that even when all the information they need is reliably recorded right here in the Bible. 


Meanwhile, the guards sent to arrest Jesus still haven’t arrested him (John 7:44-45).  When asked why, they reply: “No one ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46).  To be clear, these guards were not Roman soldiers.  If they were, they would likely have followed orders regardless of what Jesus said.  But the Jewish leaders couldn’t send Roman soldiers to arrest Jesus because he wasn’t committing a crime.  So, the men sent were Levitical guards who were responsible for keeping the peace at the temple.  They were religious authorities who were likely well-trained in the Old Testament Scriptures.  So, when they say “no one” has ever spoken like Jesus, they know what they’re talking about…  and they could find no fault in what he was saying.  So, maybe they failed to arrest Jesus because God prevented them, but more than likely they chose not to arrest Jesus because Jesus convinced them with the truth of his words.


Which is why the Pharisees respond to the guards with an accusation:

  • “Have you also been deceived? 48 Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? -John 7:47b-48


Ironically, the Jewish leaders –those who should recognize the truth of Jesus’ words—are accusing those who believe Jesus of being “deceived.”  The crowd was clearly mis-informed about some things, and they might have a responsibility to learn the right information before deciding about Jesus, but we couldn’t really expect the crowd to know everything about what the Scriptures say.  Meanwhile, the Jewish leaders --who should know everything about the Scriptures-- are being willfully ignorant… accusing those who believe of “being deceived.”  This is a dire warning to us:  What will we do with the truth about Jesus as we study it together?


Dean A.

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Will You Believe - Letters to the Prison

From the series Letters to the Prison

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Hello, everyone!  Last week, in our study of John 7, we saw how the Jewish leaders sent officers to arrest Jesus (John 7:32).  They found him but haven’t arrested him…yet.  Meanwhile, Jesus is warning his listeners that time is running short.  Someday, Jesus will be where we cannot find him, and he will be where we cannot go (John 7:33-34).  Both things show how Jesus is on God’s plan… God’s timetable –and so are we… whether we care to acknowledge that or not.


Many of the Jews hearing Jesus certainly didn’t want to acknowledge his warning.  Look how they respond:

  • The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?” -John 7:35-36


What they say here about Jesus is clearly borne from their unbelief.  Since they don’t believe that Jesus is God and that he will one day return to heaven (from where he was sent), they assume that when Jesus says he will go somewhere, he means some place on earth… that he will escape from Jerusalem and go to some far distant land.  This goes back to the idea of belief being the key to understanding what Jesus is saying about himself, as we are once again about to see.


Meanwhile, the guards sent to arrest Jesus in John 7:32 are still standing around…

And in John 7:37a, we see that some time passes.  We are now “on the last day of the feast” and Jesus has something amazing to say about himself:

  • Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” -John 7:37b-38


What’s interesting about this is the timing of it.  Tradition holds that Jesus made this loud, bold proclamation right as the high priest was literally parading a pitcher of water to the altar as a symbol of the “living waters” prophesied in Ezekiel 47:1-12 and elsewhere.  So, this was Jesus’ way of loudly and publicly proclaiming that he was the fulfillment of these prophecies.  This was also yet another way Jesus claims to be God, who describes himself as the “fountain of living water” (Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13).  Yet the “living water” Jesus (being God) offers is clearly a spiritual provision, not a physical one, as John explains:

  • Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  -John 7:39


This again is all about God’s perfect timing.  Jesus is indeed now glorified in our day (Hebrews 12:2) and the Holy Spirit was given long ago (Acts 2).  Countless believers have already received the Holy Spirit which becomes in them “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).  Is it your time now?  Have you come with a spiritual thirst to Jesus?  Ask him for that Living Water.  If you’re having trouble believing, ask Jesus to help.  You might be surprised by how Jesus answers.  He won’t disappoint you.  Until next week, We love you!


Dean A.

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