The “I Am” Series: I am the Door and the Good Shepherd

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The third and fourth “I am” statements go together sense both speak about Jesus caring for His sheep. The sheep are those to whom He was speaking to in each event.

The third “I am” statement recorded in John is in chapter 10. In verse 9, Jesus says, “I am the door.” This statement follows the Good Shepherd proverb. It is likely that Jesus had contrasting images of Zechariah 12 in mind as He spoke the proverb.[1] Zechariah 12:10 says,

“. . . the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced.” On one side is the worthless shepherd who deserts his flock and on the other is the shepherd who is stricken for the sake of the sheep, publicly pierced and eliciting great mourning and grief.[2] When Jesus says, “I am the door,” he is saying that He is the only means the sheep enter life; there is only one entrance into a sheepfold so Jesus was using what the people knew. Jesus is saying that He is the only way into life; He alone is the door.[3]

Following on from the conversation about being the door, the fourth “I am” statement is in verse 11 of John 10. Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd.”[4] The idea of Jesus being the ‘good shepherd’ goes with what the prophet Ezekiel says in Ezekiel 34.[5] Ezekiel 34:12-24 says,

“12 As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day. 13 I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the inhabited places of the land. 14 I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down on good grazing ground and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord God. 16 “I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with judgment. 17 “As for you, My flock, thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I will judge between one sheep and another, between the rams and the male goats. 18 Is it too slight a thing for you that you should feed in the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pastures? Or that you should drink of the clear waters, that you must foul the rest with your feet? 19 As for My flock, they must eat what you tread down with your feet and drink what you foul with your feet!’”20 Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them, “Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep.

21 Because you push with side and with shoulder, and thrust at all the [t]weak with your horns until you have scattered them abroad, 22 therefore, I will deliver My flock, and they will no longer be a prey; and I will judge between one sheep and another.

23 “Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I the Lord have spoken.”

Based on this passage, Jesus has placed Himself squarely in the context of this messianic portrait.[6] God’s people, His flock, have been run astray by irresponsible shepherds, and Jesus will care for them and bring them back.[7] God is called “the Shepherd of Israel” (Ps. 80:1; Ps. 23; Is. 40:10-11), and Jesus identifying Himself as “the Good Shepherd.”[8] The heart of the gospel is concerned with the provision that God has made for the salvation of His sheep and this involves the death of the shepherd.[9]

 

[1] Andreas J. Kostenberger, Encountering John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999), 122.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Leon Morris, Jesus is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 114.

[4] Ibid, 115.

[5] Andreas J. Kostenberger, Encountering John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999), 123.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Leon Morris, Jesus is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 117.

The “I Am” Series: I Am the Light of the World

20170219_Email[1].jpgThe second “I am” statement recorded in John is in chapter 8. Jesus says in verse 12, “I am the light of the world.” The setting of this “I am” statement is the Feast of the Tabernacles. In addition to the water ceremonies at the Feast of Tabernacles, there was a light ceremony; Zechariah 14 sets the theological context for both ceremonies.[1] Zechariah 14: 7 says, “For it will be a unique day which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light.” Light is a natural figure of speech for what is good and upright and it is often found in contrast with darkness; John makes this contrast from time to time.[2] The Feast of Tabernacles had just concluded so the idea of the lighting ceremony was fresh on people’s minds. Jesus was saying that He is what the light symbolized; He is the pillar of fire and cloud that lead Israel in the wilderness. Jesus is the only light and that people must respond to Him; people’s eternal destiny depends on their reaction to Him.[3] The symbolism in the rituals and ceremonies of the Old Testament all point to Jesus Christ.

 

[1] Gary M. Burge, The NIV Application Commentary of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 255.

[2] Leon Morris, Jesus is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 112.

[3] Ibid, 113.

The “I Am” Series: I Am the Bread of Life

BlogIAMBreadofLife-1024x482[1]The first “I am” statement is recorded in John 6. In the discourse that followed the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus tells the people, “I am the bread of life” (6:35).[1] In the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus supplied people’s physical needs and in his discourse He was showing that He is much more.[2] After the miracle of the feeding, the crowd was asking Jesus to duplicate the miracle of Moses in providing bread (or manna) from heaven.[3] The crowd misunderstood that it wasn’t Moses who gave them manna but it was God; Moses told the people this in Deuteronomy 8:16 (In the wilderness He [God] fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end.). There is a difference between the manna that God gave Israel in the wilderness and Jesus; the manna brought nourishment, but failed to give life and Jesus is the bread of everlasting life.[4] Only Jesus can supply what we need.

 

[1] Leon Morris, Jesus is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 109.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), 63.

[4] Ibid.

The “I Am” Series: The Introduction

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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

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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.