The “I Am” Series: The Introduction

Bible

I’m starting a new series on the I Am statements Jesus makes in the gospel of John. The series will be made of up of 9 parts. Each post will be shorter in length; 350 to 400 words. Like all Biblical truths, the “I Am” statements are full of nuggets of golden goodness. The posts will be shorter to not overwhelm anyone who may be new to the Christian faith or anyone who is just checking out Who Jesus truly is.

John’s purpose for writing his gospel was to present Jesus as God by showing His Deity. John 20:30-31 says, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” From the beginning of the gospel, Jesus exercised His power as God. He exercised His omniscient mind upon meeting Nathanael; John 1:47-48 says, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”’[1] John is the only gospel author who records the “I am” statements of Christ. There are a total of eight “I am” statements in John; seven times “I am” is attached to a metaphor and the eighth claim Christ makes an even greater statement about Himself.[2] The “I am” expression had a connotation for the Jews; in the Old Testament, Jehovah revealed His name to Moses as “I am” in Exodus 3:14 (God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”).[3] The Jews in Christ’s time knew that when He said, “I am,” He was claiming to be Jehovah the self-existing One.[4] Each time Jesus made the statement, “I am,” He was claiming Deity.

 

[1] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999), 114.

[2] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), xiv.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

I Saw the Sign: The First Sign

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For my personal devotions, I read a Psalm daily along with some chapters out of the New Testament. I’m currently reading through the gospel of John. I enjoy reading the gospels because what better textbook to read for a pastor than reading about the Great Shepherd and see how He treats people and see His interactions with His followers. The book of John is full of great golden nuggets. I’d like to share some insights from John 2; what Jesus did at the Wedding at Cana and what it means.

NOTE: Some of the insights shown below were taken from two books; The NIV Application Commentary of John (Burge, Gary M.. The NIV Application Commentary of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000.) and Encountering John (Kostenberger J. Andreas. Encountering John. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999.).

John 2 opens with Jesus and His followers (along with His family) attending a wedding at the city of Cana. Most consider this to be Jesus’ first sign. There are a total 7 signs that John recorded in his gospel. They are:

  1. The changing the water into wine 2:1-11
  2. The temple cleansing 2:13-22
  3. The healing of the nobleman’s son 4:46-54
  4. The healing of the lame man 5:1-15
  5. The feeding of the multitude 6:1-15
  6. The healing of the blind man 9:1-41
  7. The raising of Lazarus from the dead 11:1-44

John does not use the word miracle to describe what Jesus does as the other gospels do. John’s purpose is different than the other gospels. John consistently refers to Jesus’ mighty works as “signs;” the Greek word semeion (say-mi’-on). A miracle underscores power and is generally received with awe. A sign reveals something from God; something that was once hidden. The signs are not merely acts of power and might, they reveal that God is at work in Jesus and is present in Him. All of Jesus’ signs were done in the first half of the Gospel of John which we refer to as “Jesus’ public ministry.”

While Jesus’ disciples see in Jesus’ signs a reflection of the glory of God, the very same signs reveal the hardening of the Jewish leadership in its rejection of Israel’s Messiah.The two events showed in John chapter 2 (Turning the water into wine and the Temple cleansing) shows Jesus as the restorer of Israel. In the wedding of Cana, Jesus is shown to fill up the depleted resources of Judaism. Remember, at this time Judaism had evolved into more of tradition and religious practices than a relationship with a living God. As a people, they were running on empty.

John 2:1-2 says, “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.” In verse 1, we are 3 days after the events of the close of chapter 1. In John 1, we were in the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, and now we are going 15-20 miles to the hills in the west, to a small village just north of Nazareth called Cana of Galilee. We saw in John 1 that Nathanael is from this village and it being some 5-7 miles north of Jesus’ hometown makes it natural for His family to be present for this wedding. We have no clue to the identity of the bride and groom, but most likely they are either relatives or friends of Jesus’ family. The presence of Mary and the invitation to Jesus and his disciples suggests this, as does the attitude of Mary in approaching Jesus and asking him to do something when the wine ran out.

In the village culture of Palestine, weddings were important events. They were announced well in advance and recognized by the entire village. They were major celebrations and provided imagery for messianic celebration. When Jews reflected on what heaven or the arrival of the Messiah would be like, they thought about banquets, and the wedding banquet was the model that came to their minds. Following a public betrothal that was far more permanent than a modern engagement, the family would announce the wedding date, and start the planning for the ceremony that would last as long as a week.

Gift-giving was carefully considered, not as a simple gesture of goodwill, but as a means of bringing honor on the couple and their families. Legal ramifications followed when the appropriate custom was not followed because it implied public shame on the couple. This gives us an interesting insight on why there was concerned when the wine ran out before the banquet was over. Running out of wine would not just be an embarrassing situation; it would be a dishonoring crisis for the host. Honor was everything in the Jewish culture and running our wine would not only be embarrassing but it could have ended being a legal matter. J. D. M. Derrett, an expert in Oriental law, points out among other things the strong element of mutual benefit about weddings in the Ancient Near East: it was possible in certain circumstances to take legal action against the man who failed to provide an appropriate wedding gift.

The bridegroom and family here might have been involved in financial liability for failing to provide adequately for their guests. This is most likely why Mary-Jesus’ mother-approached him in verse 3 (When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”). What was Mary asking for in verse 3? There is no evidence that Jesus had done any supernatural works prior to this event. Some think Mary was only reporting the situation, or asking Jesus to give some godly exhortations to the guests and thus relieve the bridegroom’s embarrassment. But the words, and the reply of Jesus in verse 4, seem to imply something more.

John 2:4 says, “And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.”’ It is not inconceivable that Mary, who had probably been witness to the events of the preceding days, or at least was aware of them, knew that her son’s public career was beginning. She also knew the supernatural events surrounding his birth, and the prophetic words of the angel, and of Simeon and Anna in the Temple at Jesus’ dedication. Mary had good reason to believe Jesus to be the Messiah, and now his public ministry had begun. In this kind of context, her request does seem more significant. In verse 4, Jesus’ response to His mother seems to us to be somewhat strange when you first read the “Woman . . .” The actual phrasing is “a term of respect or affection”.

This is Jesus’ normal, polite way of addressing women; Jesus addresses the woman at the well and Mary Magdalene in the similar way. But it is unusual for a son to address his mother with this term. The custom in both Hebrew and Greek would be for a son to use a qualifying adjective or title. Is there significance in Jesus’ use here? Most likely it probably indicates that a new relationship exists between Jesus and his mother once he started his public ministry. He is no longer or primarily only her son, but the “Son of Man”. Going past what Jesus calls His mother is His reply back to her; “. . . what does that have to do with us?”

Jesus’ response is best understood in the view of the Hebrew expression in the Old Testament. When someone was asked to get involved in a matter he felt was no business of his, he could say to the one asking him, “What to me and to you?” meaning, “That is your business, how am I involved?” Although some have taken this remark as a rebuke to Mary; I think a rebuke is unlikely. In the last part of verse 3, the immediate context the meaning is clearly “It is not yet time for me to act.” Jesus’ remark to his mother indicates that the time for this self-manifestation has not yet arrived; his identity as Messiah is not yet to be publicly revealed. Remember, we are in the second week of Jesus’ Earthly ministry.

Verses 5 through 11 of John 2 shows what happened:

5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

6 Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each.

7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim.

8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him.

9 When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom,

10 and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.”

11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

We’re not given the entire conversation Mary and Jesus had but we do know that at the end of it, servants were told to do what Jesus told them to do. We’re told that there were 6 large stone water pots that were used for Jewish purification rituals. Jews would not eat until they washed, and washed often. Jesus was going to transform some water used in Jewish ceremonies. This symbolized a transformation in Judaism, even the fulfillment of ceremonial washings.

Imagine what would happen if guests wanted to wash their hands again—they would go to the water pots and find every one of them filled with wine! There would be no water for their ritual. The spiritual cleansing of Jesus’ blood superseded ritual washings. Jesus has fulfilled the rituals and replaced them with something much better—Himself. Remember, the rituals have become empty at this time.

Jesus will use the water pots for something different than their original use. Jesus asks the servants to fill all 6 water pots with water from the nearby well. Once the servants had filled all the pots to the top, there were 120 to 130 gallons of water. In having the pots filled to the brim; to the top meant something. Jesus filled the rituals completely; rendering them obsolete. In the messianic age, no space is left for ritual washings.

Once the servants filled all the pots with water, Jesus told them to take some to the headwaiter or master of the banquet. Only the servants, Mary, the disciples, and Jesus knew what was being offered to the master of the banquet was drew from water; NO ONE ELSE KNEW. When the master of the banquet drank, he tasted wine and not only wine but very fine wine. This wine had a stronger body, and better flavor, than ordinary wine. The master of the banquet points this out to the bridegroom, with an air of pleasantness. I wonder why John records these words.

Was it merely to show that Jesus makes good wine? No, I think it is reported because it has symbolic significance. The Jews were people who had been drinking wine (performing ritual washings) so long that they could not recognize when something better came along. When Mary said, “They have no more wine” (v. 3), it symbolized the fact that the Jews had no spiritual meaning left in their ceremonies. Jesus was bringing something new; something better. In the Old Testament wine was often seen as a gift and symbol of God’s blessing to the people of Israel.

Why did Jesus turn water to wine? I think Jesus turned water into wine to prove that He’s the source of life. Changing the water to wine offered a symbol of the new spiritual life Jesus brings. Jesus turned water into wine because changing one element into another symbolized marriage. The change represented Israel’s relationship with God. He betrothed her to Himself in Egypt, married her to Himself at Sinai, and repeatedly called her to be a faithful spiritual spouse. When she proved endlessly faithless, He called her a spiritual harlot. Ezekiel 16:1-63 is a brilliant allegory but one of many references to that relationship. Jesus turned water into wine to prove that the old covenant lacked the resources to meet Israel’s spiritual needs. Since the water pots were used for ceremonial washing of people and utensils, Jesus had them filled to prove that He fulfilled and overfilled ceremonial cleansing; then had the servants draw water turned into wine from the well to illustrate that God’s new life came from a different source; Christ Himself. Wherever the Old Covenant failed to meet the spiritual needs of God’s people, Christ’s resources flourished energetically, dynamically, and satisfyingly. And finally, Jesus turned water into wine to prove His real nature to the disciples. The ultimate purpose was to reveal His Glory, with the result being faith in Him.

John gives the point of the story, as far as he is concerned, in 2:11. John 2:11 says, “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” John tells us what the sign accomplished: through it Jesus revealed his “glory” and his disciples believed in him. Thus, the first sign has the same purpose that all the following signs will have: revelation about the person of Jesus. Scholarly interpretations to the contrary, John does not put primary emphasis on the replacing of the water for Jewish purification, or on the change from water to wine, or even on the resulting wine. John does not focus on Mary and her intercession, or on why she made the request or whether she pursued it further after Jesus’ initial response. John does not focus on the reaction of the master of the banquet or the bridegroom. The primary focus, as for all the Johannine stories, is on Jesus as the One sent by the Father to bring salvation to the world. The only reaction emphasized is that of his disciples when they believed in him.

Ego Trip

reading[1]I’m reading through the book of Esther and I can’t help but see the underlining cautionary tale of pride. I know through my studying through the Old Testament (thanks to commenters) that the book was almost left out of the cannon because it never mentions God. The main purpose of the book is to show how God is faithful in preserving His people, but it also shows (in my opinion) how pride affects people. Pay attention to Haman when reading Esther. Haman is made the right-hand man to the king by the king himself. He is over everyone in the vast Persian Empire. We are shown how he reacts when one man (Mordecai; uncle to Esther and a Jew) does not show him the respect he feels he is owed. His pride is so badly bruised, he schemes to destroy an entire race of people; the Jewish people. His plan fails and at the end, Haman is hung on the gallows he built to use on Mordecai.

I see the underlining story as an affirmation of what the Solomon wrote in Proverbs 16:18 (Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.). Haman was so prideful that because of one slight, he wanted to end an entire people group. That’s extreme, but can we say we are any different? We all have some level of pride that we must give over to God especially those of us who are in the forefront of a ministry. We can lose sight of what our function is. The function of any Christian (pastor, deacon, Sunday school teacher, etc.) is to direct people to God through His Son Jesus Christ. We start to think that we are doing this or we are doing that but in reality we aren’t doing anything; God is the One who is doing it.

Part of me picking up my cross daily and dying is giving my pride over to God. Haman is an extreme example of what pride can lead to so be mindful of it. Pride caused Satan to fall; it lead Adam and Eve to sin; and it can destroy you. Take a moment and read through what I call the “Pride Test.” Do a checkup from the chest up. If you can yes to anyone of these items, ask God to help you die to pride.

Pride comes as I. . .

  • Think about myself
  • Talk about myself
  • Use the personal pronoun “I” as often as possible in my conversations
  • Mirror myself continually in the opinion of others
  • As I listen greedily to what people say about me
  • Insist on consideration and respect
  • Demand agreement with my own views on everything
  • Sulk if people are not grateful to me for favors show them
  • When I never forget a service rendered

It comes when I. . .

  • Expect to be appreciated
  • When I’m suspicious of others
  • Are sensitive to any slights
  • Are overcome with jealousy and envy
  • Never forget a criticism

Significance of Jesus’ Resurrection

Bible

Jesus’ resurrection has significance for Christians because it reveals Christ to be God in the flesh. The significance in the event of the resurrection is intertwined with the significance of the person who was raised. Throughout His life, Jesus had claimed to be the Son of God, for which reason the religious leaders sought to put Him to death (cf. John 8:31-59). At the sight of our Lord’s death, a soldier standing nearby declared, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). Beyond this, the resurrection was proof positive that the Lord Jesus was the Son of God, even as He had declared (cf. Rom. 1:3-4). In his message at Pentecost, Peter taught that the resurrection of Christ by the Father (through the Holy Spirit) was God’s vindication of His Son, His message, and His work: Acts 2:23-24, “this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles. But God raised him up, having released him from the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held in its power (NET).”[1] The spiritual truth that the resurrection points to is that God has made Himself known to man through a series of events recorded throughout the Bible. The coming of Jesus of Nazareth was the climax of this series of redemptive events; and his resurrection is the event that validates all that came before.[2]  If Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11:1-44 shows His divine power over death,[3]  His resurrection goes even further showing that death has no power over Him because He is God.  Our Lord’s resurrection was the first genuine resurrection in the history of man. His resurrection is referred to as “the first fruits,” for there will be many who will follow after Him; 1 Cor. 15:23 says, “But each in his own order: Christ, the first fruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to him (NET).”[4] Acts 1:9 describes Jesus’ exaltation-ascension which brought Him to God’s side as Peter says in Acts 2:33.[5] The eyewitness motif is key because it will stress that the point of the resurrection was not merely to vindicate Jesus’ claims and show Him alive but also to bring Him to the side of God to indicate His current and future authority.[6]

 

 

[1] Robert L. Deffinbaugh, “The Significance of the Resurrection,” Bible.org, May 28, 2004. https://bible.org/article/significance-resurrection

[2] Daniel B. Wallace, “The Resurrection of Christ: Theological Implications,” Bible.org, May 28, 2004. https://bible.org/article/resurrection-christ-theological-implications

[3] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), xiii.

[4] Robert L. Deffinbaugh, “The Significance of the Resurrection,” Bible.org, May 28, 2004. https://bible.org/article/significance-resurrection

[5] Darrell L. Bock, Acts. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 68.

[6] Ibid.

Cyber Footprint

I’ve been writing a blog for almost 11 years now. I started writing a blog back in 2007 to cyber-coverage[1]chronicle Teresa and my adventures in church planting. I used the blog server Blogspot. I’ve been writing this blog in WordPress for a few years now. My goal in writing down my thoughts is to be able to sleep at night (writing helps me slow my brain down so I can rest) and to share my thoughts on the Bible, Theology, Ministry, and encourage fellow Christians in their faith walk.

In this post, I’d like to encourage everyone to be mindful of your cyber footprint. We live in a day where you can share your thoughts in any social media site; be it FaceBook, LinkedIn, Snap Chat, etc. When I started writing in 2007, I came across a fellow Church Planter who wrote a blog. I enjoyed his writings and read his blog once or twice week depending on when he wrote a new post. One day he shared some ground rules he used in how he governed his blog posts. I’ve tried to use them in my blog posts. I think the ground rules he uses in his blog writings would and should be used in any social media posts.

The first rule he shared is keep your thoughts positive. For me, it’s easy to keep my blog post positive because I have a goal or purpose for writing it. I wish I could say the same with my FaceBook posts in 2016. First of all-as a Christian-we represent Christ in all we do and say (or write). 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “. . . we are ambassadors for Christ . . .” According to Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary, an ambassador is an authorized representative or messenger. As a Christian, we are told to go and share the gospel to others. We are an authorized messenger of the Great King so we should govern our behavior and our speech accordingly. A friend of mind is a retired Army Major. He enlisted and went up through the ranks becoming an officer. He would be in meetings with generals. In these meetings, he would represent his general so the others listened to him accordingly because what he was saying they knew as coming from a fellow general. His words had power not because it came from him but because it was coming for his general. Our words and actions have power because we represent a powerful God.

The second rule is know what you want to say. Before you go on a trip, you plan out the journey. If you don’t, how do you know if you made it or not? If you don’t plan out what you want to say in a blog post ahead of time, you go on and on about any and everything. In preaching or speaking, we call this going down rabbit holes or rabbit trails. You go from covering one topic and end up on a different one if your thoughts aren’t planned well. Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.” This rule helps in writing and speaking but also in posting your thoughts on social media. Knowing what you are trying to say ahead of time will help prevent having your thoughts misinterpreted. Be clear and precise.

The last rule he shared was know your audience. I know my audience in this blog is mainly those who are Christians or interested in growing in their knowledge of Christianity. If you are like me, you social media friends (FaceBook), connects (LinkedIn), and followers (Twitter) are made up of likeminded and other. Not everyone has the same views and opinions. Social media is not the place to discuss thoughts and opinions anymore. At one time maybe but in our current culture thoughts can divide more than unite. It’s sad but true. Knowing who is on your feed will or should dictate how you post and reply back. As a Christian, we are to speak truth in all matter. Ephesians 4:15 says, “. . . but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” Writing and saying something with love enables a person to hear the truth you are trying to share.

The 3 rules I shared in this blog helped me in writing my blog. I wish I could say I used these in my social media feeds more than I do. Since I’m writing about this, I want to say I am working on it. My last thoughts on the cyber footprint is what I use in my social media dealings now. I write now, because it’s been maybe 3 months since I’ve used these rules for social media.

Rule #1: How will my thoughts be taken? I know you can’t please everyone, but we must ask ourselves, do my thoughts please God? Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Rule #2: Will my post unity or divide? As an American, we have liberty to say what we want. We have the First Amendment on our side. As a mature Christian, we must be mindful of those younger in the faith than we and even consider the unchristian who may read our post. Romans 14:1-23 says, “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind…”

I hope this post gave you food for thought. The reason I feel it’s time for such a post is because an event I experienced this past weekend. My family visited a great church where I was able to preach and meet with fellow believers. In meeting and speaking with a group of the church’s leadership, I was told a story that broke my heart. The former pastor shared some thoughts on a topic and ended it with abbreviations that offended some people. When they shared their thoughts back, he blew them off creating issues for the church he had left. I know every one of us are human and struggle with our own thoughts and opinions but I want you to take a moment before posting and reply to a post and ask yourself the above questions.

I think for most of us (and that includes me) that our cyber footprint doesn’t always glorify God. That is our main purpose in life is to being honor to our God. I’m praying about it and working on improving my social media cyber footprint. Please pray about it on your end. God Bless.

 

Food is Energy (or Learning to Feed Yourself)

healthy-diabetes-diet[1]Have you ever had your body just stop because you had nothing in your stomach it could use as fuel? I have, and it’s a weird feeling.  Most of the time, I push through this feeling but man it can be tough.  During my workout today, I swam 30 minutes at the YMCA and in the middle of it I heard my stomach yell, “feed me!”  The food I had eaten before was all gone.  I had enough energy stored to finish with no problem but last week was a different story.  I had decided to forgo a small snack before heading out for a short 3 mile run.  Right in the middle, my body told me that I was dumb and I could feel my energy slowly dissolving. It was as if I could see the needle on the gear of my body slowing moving to zero.

I’m slowly learning that the more I exercise, the more I need to eat. That’s hard for me because I do not want to regain the weight I’ve lost; it’s always in the back of my mind.  Teresa has told me I need to treat food more like an athlete instead of a dieter. My body needs the fuel to burn as I weigh train, run, bike, and swim.  Having a balanced diet with exercise will keep me healthy and moving.

I can’t rely on the food I ate yesterday to fuel my activities today. It’s the same with Spiritual nourishment. We think that Sunday’s sermon is all we need to be a healthy Christian.  We think that being spoon fed a spoon full of Bible will get us through our week. WRONG!

We need to view Bible studying the same way an athlete views eating enough protein and carbs. It’s about fueling the machine.  The church as a whole has done the members a disservice in recent years by not teaching them to study the Bible on their own along with weekly insights shared by the pastor.  We have way too many malnourished saints who live defeated lives because they have not a clue what the Bible says about how they should live their lives.

We have Christians who have been saved for decades who don’t know how to lead anyone to Christ because they don’t know the scriptures. They only know that they are heading to heaven and that’s good enough. Wrong! The church has traded being a place of learning to being a social club where all you’re “felt needs” are met.  Instead of having 6 steps of how to be debt free, we need a series on what the Bible says about homosexuality, sex before marriage, unmarried couples living together, and so on.  It’s a sad state when a church has to do a 6 week series on why the book and/or movie “The Da Vinci Code” is only a story and is not based on facts because your average Christian is clueless.

It’s time that the church trains its members to be the warriors of Christ instead of being “dumb and dumber.” It’s my passion as a man called to pastor to do what Ephesians 4:11-12 (“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ”) has told me to do.  Like the athlete in me that loves sharing the value of exercise and eating right, the pastor in me wants to walk up beside my fellow Christian and make sure they know how to feed themselves the wisdom of God’s word. This blog is part of me walking beside my fellow Christian.

 

A New Commandment: Love Each Other

Bible

John’s gospel is often divided into two major sections. The most common titles used by scholars today are the Book of Signs for John 1 – 12 and the Book of Glory for John 13 – 20. The Book of Glory has four major sections. They are The Introduction in John 13:1-30; The Last Discourse of Jesus in John 13:31-17:26; The Passion Narrative in John 18:1-19:42; and The Resurrection Narrative in chapter 20.

In the Book of Signs, John usually presented a narrative describing an event (preforming a miracle or “sign”) followed by the discourse explaining the deeper meaning of that event. That pattern is impossible in the Book of Glory. The event is Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection; his glorification as John would say. It would be quite distracting to insert all the explanation of the meaning into John 18-20. Also, the disciples needed to know the meaning before the cross. Thus the Last Discourse deals with Jesus’ departure to return to the Father.

In literary form, the Last Discourse can be called Jesus’ testament or last words. Another term is farewell speech. This was a common literary form for Judaism. We can see it in the Old Testament. Jacob’s final speech and blessings appear in Genesis 48-49. Joshua’s farewell to the nation is found in Joshua 22-24. David’s final speech appears in 1 Chronicles 28-29. In one sense the whole book of Deuteronomy presents the farewell speech of Moses.

John 13:1-30 deals with the foot washing and the prediction of Judas’ betrayal, the Passion, and the Resurrection is primarily narrative. John 13:31-17:26 is a unique section of the gospel in that it is one long discourse uninterrupted by narrative. It is the longest discourse section in the gospel of John, containing 125 verses. In the middle of this discourse, Jesus tells His disciples to love one another. He calls it a New Commandment.

John 13:31-38 starts this narrative. It starts after Judas leaves the upper room. The departure of Judas, mentioned in verse 30, means that all the disciples, and especially Jesus, are now focused on the will of God that will lead to the cross. The word now and the five occurrences of glorify in verses 31 and 32 point to a new level of intensity. The departure of Judas means a purity in the group that enables Jesus to declare, “Now the son of man is glorified.”

Several things should be noticed with regard to Jesus’ emphasis on glorify in these verses. First, the Greek word for glory means brightness, radiance, and splendor. In stark contrast to the mention of night in verse 30 as the context of Judas. Jesus now is able to express the brightness of his obedience to the Father. Second, there is a note of triumph in verse 31. With Judas departure, Jesus’ statements about being glorified ring out with much more joy and excitement.

In John 13:31-32 Jesus confidently proclaims that glorification has come about (The first three “glorified’s” are past tense in the Greek. The last two are future.). The crucifixion and resurrection are viewed both as completed, but still to come. By Jesus’ death and resurrection God will visibly manifest His (God’s) majesty in acts of power. That is glorification and verse 32 concludes that it is about to happen immediately. The cross looms before Jesus; it is urgent that he give the disciples their final instructions before he goes the way of the cross. Because the time is short Jesus begins in verse 33 with a statement he has already made to the Jews twice in the book of signs, “You will seek me and . . . where I am going you are not able to come.” In John 7:34 Jesus had said this and noted that the Jews would not find him. In John 8:21 he had added that they would remain in their sins. Here, he addresses the disciples and instead of the negative conclusions he had given the Jews, Jesus begins a discourse full of promises and hope. The condition of those promises is the love command of verse 34.

The command to love one another is not new in the sense that it had never been given before. The Greek word for new that is used here does not refer to an innovation – something never before existing. Rather, it refers to renewal and restoration. The love command’s newness comes from the fact that the work of the cross and the gift of the Holy Spirit were about to make it possible to really love one another for the first time. The commandment was renewed by the work of Christ that was beginning.

We will never successfully love one another without the work of Christ – the cross and the gift of the Spirit – in our lives. When we find ourselves locked in hatred and paralyzed from loving we need to be crucified to ourselves and raised to the will of God. In fact, the love that flows from that work of Christ in our lives is the only real sign of discipleship. That is Jesus’ message in verse 35.

Any of the spiritual gifts can be and have been imitated by anyone. Any of the external marks of piety that Christians have adopted can be faked. Sustained, on-going love for each other, love modeled after Christ’s love for us cannot be counterfeited. Such love is the true mark of the Christian. Peter’s question in verse 36 seems to change the subject. Being dissatisfied with the command of love, Peter takes up v. 33 in his desire to follow Christ at once. Knowledge and religious experiences are more attractive than obedience.

If Peter is to love the other disciples like Jesus loved them, he realizes that it will mean washing their feet. It is time to change the subject. But his very effort reveals his failure to share the heart of Jesus. Jesus had just told them that they could not follow where he was going. Peter persists, “Where are you going?” The implication is that Peter will be the one to decide whether or not he can follow if he just knows where Jesus is going. Jesus’ response is prophetic. Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow me later. Christian readers who know the tradition of Peter’s crucifixion would immediately see the point. Peter cannot and will not follow Jesus to the cross now, but years later he did.

Peter’s response, “Why can’t I follow you?” sounds like a young child. He refuses to accept Jesus’ distinction between now and later because, down deep, Peter does not acknowledge that the Master is greater than the servant. A disciple cannot follow where the Master has not led. After Jesus has blazed the trail Peter can follow only if he has died to self and been raised to the will of the Father.

John very subtly and ironically reveals Peter’s problem. Though the other gospels contain Peter’s boast to give his life for Christ, John’s choice of words for Peter is very revealing. “I will lay down my life for you.” John makes Peter assume language which is only applicable to Jesus. To lay down one’s life in the sense in which Jesus lays down his means complete obedience to the Father and perfect love for men, neither of which does Peter possess. In fact, the truth is the reverse of what Peter thinks.” Jesus is the one who will lay down his life and it will be for Peter. That great love will be demonstrated in spite of the fact that three times Peter will deny Jesus before the sun rises the next morning.

God the Father gives commands to the Son, and Jesus gives commands to His followers. The Love Command is not a suggestion any more than the Father’s words to Jesus Christ were suggestions. This command to love bears all the weight of the person who uttered it. The command to love was one of John’s foremost concerns. Throughout 1 and 2 John, he refers to it again and again as the hallmark of those in whose lives the presence of God is being reflected.  The love command puts words to the action of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.  Jesus said, just as I have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet.  In the love command, Jesus is saying that as I have loved you –by taking your sins on myself and going to the cross – you should love one another and putting each other’s needs before your own. The command to love one another follows immediately after the foot washing.

The gospel of John speaks generously of God’s love for the world (John 3:16). Jesus’ mission is to save the world (4:42), to give life (6:33), and light (12:46). The disciples are commanded to go into this world and continue Jesus’ work (17:18 and 20:21). But Jesus has specialized interests in the present setting. Jesus wants His followers to show a quality of love that is unparalleled in the world. Jesus – by giving this new commandment – is telling His followers not that they should love the world less, but they and we are to love each other more. Their and our love for each other ought to be a reflection of our new status as children of God.

 

NOTE: Information shared in this blog was taken from the below resources.

Burge, Gary M.. The NIV Application Commentary of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000.

Elwell, Walter. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.

Kostenberger J. Andreas. Encountering John. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999.

Morris, Leon. Jesus is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989.

Townes, Elmer. The Gospel of John: Believe and Liv