John Jesus Teaches Nicodemus (3:1-21)

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Part 7: Jesus Teaches Nicodemus (3:1-21)

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The very outset of this chapter we receive an introduction that is quite different from the others we have seen in John’s Gospel, so far. He introduces a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a teacher of the nation of Israel, and a member of the Sanhedrin. (The Sanhedrin was the ruling council of the Jews, who were in charge of everything from politics to religion.) In other words we could say that this was a man who knew a lot and was in charge with that knowledge.

His interview with Jesus shakes him so radically that he later defends Jesus (John 7:50) and finally helps prepare Jesus’ body for burial (John 19:39). Tradition holds that he became a believer. He starts this conversation with an interesting confession, not just for himself but for all the Pharisees. “We know that You are sent by God.” This deconstructs the Pharisees’ whole stance against Him! The fun thing for me to look at is Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush but jumps right into the heart of His message, almost ignoring Nicodemus’ statement and answering the question that he is asking in his heart. This occurs in verse 3.

Nicodemus was understandably confused. I can almost see him taking a step back. The information Jesus just thrust his way is so vastly different from the rest of his knowledge as well as physically impossible. Nicodemus naturally points that out to us in verse 4. Jesus tries to move Nicodemus’ eyes from physical birth to spiritual birth showing that He is talking about spiritual rebirth rather than anything physical. Nicodemus, however, will have nothing to do with it.

With Nicodemus’ inability to understand comes a radical insight to Judaism and the belief of the Jews. The Jews did not see thing spiritually but rather physically. This comes directly out of their Holy Scriptures (the Old Testament). You can see in the way that blessings and curses are written: “Do this and you will be blessed with that; don’t do it and you will be cursed instead.” The blessing always being something physical (i.e. a long life, much wealth, much land etc.) the curses are also just as physical. It can be easy to see – at least in some cases – then why the Jews (even in many cases Jesus’ own disciples) did not understand Jesus. We automatically think of spiritual things, but the Jews? Religion was always physical to the Jews. One other place this can be seen is in their reverence for a specific location as where God is: the Temple.

In response to Nicodemus Jesus gives quite a strong rebuke: “You’re supposed to be the teacher of Israel and you don’t even understand the simple things?” This direct response is so poignant not only to this Pharisee, but any religious leaders. If Jesus were here teaching us would He say the same to us? “You’re supposed to be the teacher of My people” [the Christians] “and yet you don’t understand the simple things?” Could you answer Him?

This rebuke brings us to one of the most quoted and beautiful monologues that Jesus delivered. In my opinion it rivals the Sermon on the Mount in its content and beauty. He starts off with His iconic statement: “I tell you the truth” in other translations it is translated differently. In the WEB it is “Most certainly I tell you”; in the King James Version it is translated “Verily, Verily I say unto thee”; in both the New American Standard Bible and the ESV it is translated “Truly, Truly, I say to you”. This, in the Greek, is “Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι” which is literally “Amen, amen, I say to you”. This phrase is almost used as a punctuation to point out the reader needs to pay attention to what is about to be said.

Jesus moves onto expressing His deity (Godhood) here. How could He not be God if He is not only speaking from his own knowledge but from his own experience? He is speaking only from His own knowledge and His own experience as God the Son. Still Nicodemus (and many others) refuse to believe His words. His follow up question is blatantly challenging to the way that Jews think and their religious point of view.

From here Jesus moves into yet another expression of His deity: “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven”. He is simply telling Nicodemus that no one has gone up to heaven except for a certain person who was there already. This person is? Jesus doesn’t say “Me, you ninny,” instead He gives a term that He has used to refer to himself throughout His ministry: “the Son of Man”. For Jesus this is as clear a statement of who He is as you are likely to receive. You cannot skirt around this to try and say “Jesus never said He was God” because clearly here, He is saying He comes from heaven and is the only one who can do so.

In the next two verses Jesus moves into a beautiful metaphor. Nicodemus, being a Pharisee, had the entire Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) memorized by heart. Jesus points Nicodemus’ attention back to the Torah by bringing up Moses. Moses was told by God to raise up a serpent on a pole in order to heal the Israelites after they had spoken against God and Moses. Jesus points to this as the same thing that must happen to Him (the Son of Man). This is for us to look to the cross and be saved not just from physical ailments but from eternal, spiritual death.

Jesus now says the most famous verse in the Bible. Many people, Christian or not, can recite this verse from memory. In the King James Version (KJV) it was translated this way: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The meaning of this verse, and the ones following it, resonates deeply in the hearts and minds of not only Christians but people around the world.

These verses, here, point out the eloquence of this particular response and in Jesus’ speaking in general. The next two verses I really like and they have really resonated with me. In the ESV they are translated: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:17-18 ESV). These verses point out not just the purpose of Jesus’ Ministry but also point to the freedom from accusation of the believer.

He starts out in verse 17 pointing Nicodemus’ focus back to the Torah, again, in equating His Ministry to the blessing of Abraham in Genesis. In Genesis God tells Abraham (still Abram at this point) that through him all nations (or families) will be blessed. Jesus uses similar verbiage here to explain His own ministry. This is not just His earthly ministry, but the spiritual ministry after His death, resurrection and ascension. He moves from there to explaining the spiritual state of the believer. This is a great statement. We’re not under condemnation! The WEB translates that word (which is κρίνεται – krinetai) as judged and one thing that is just awesome is there is a period after it.

We are not condemned, Period!

Here, in the end of this section, Jesus explains what the judgment is. This judgment shows what exactly the human heart is like. “The Light came into the world, but the people wanted the darkness more than the light because the things they did were evil.” This is exactly the way that the human heart works. We’re given the most amazing opportunity and we turn it down in order to be able to just keep doing what we’re doing. We don’t want to be exposed for how bad we actually are.

For anyone who actually does come to the light. They won’t be scared because their work will clearly be seen for the work of God. That is who we want to be: Those whose work is clearly seen. That is the only place that as a believer we will feel comfortable. God knows that we will mess up, but because of His grace He loves us anyway and there is no condemnation.

That is my hope for my life. What is your?

John Jesus Cleanses the Temple (2:13-25)

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Part 6: Jesus Cleanses the Temple (2:13-25)

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We are now moving into Jesus’ first public Passover. What is the importance of the Passover? To answer this question we must go all the way back to the book of Exodus. Specifically we want to turn to Exodus chapter 12. In this chapter we have what the Passover is laid out in clear language. The Passover was when the Lord passed over Egypt killing every first born man or animal except those of the people who had put the blood of a pure lamb on their door frame. (As we will see later Christ is our Passover Lamb.) God later gave commands about this being a covenant between Israel and Himself, and the lamb was sacrificed to God to fulfill this covenant and cover the sins of the people for that year.

Passover has a special meaning for us because Jesus was the final Passover Lamb. The Passover Lamb was sacrificed for the sins of the people for one year. Jesus as the Passover Lamb, gave Himself as a sacrifice for sin for all time. And so because of Jesus’ sacrifice during the judgment God will Passover our sin and read from the book of life. This is the importance of Passover to us as believers. During Passover Jesus goes to the temple and finds that the Jews have turned the sacred things into a form of business. This brings out His wrath. Why did this make Him so angry?

This made Him angry because these people were bringing sin into the Holy Temple (known as the House of the Lord). They were exchanging money (at a price) and selling animals (probably for more than they were worth). One thing to note here is that Jesus didn’t just fly off the handle, but instead sat down and methodically thought the whole thing out. We know this because in verse 15 it tells us that, “He made for Himself a whip of cords”. This is a task that He would have just done in a few moments but would take some time (maybe as much as a whole day). That means Jesus was thinking it out before hand, then, when He was done is when He “drove them all out of the Temple, along with their animals.” He throws over the tables scattering coins everywhere. Then He delivers the line that exclaims the heart of the issue: “Stop making My Father’s house a place of business!”

The next interchange is the first of many that takes place between Jesus and the Jews. The Jews (as recorded several times in the Old Testament; one specific time is Deuteronomy 9:6) were (and are) a stubborn bunch. They considered themselves right and everyone else wrong. This caused them to argue with everyone, even themselves. This is not atypical for the Jewish people.

They come to Him and demand what His authority for cleansing the temple is. Jesus’ answer is cryptic at first glance. He tells them that if they “destroy this temple,” He would rebuild it in three days. For the meaning of this statement and the following one by the author (v. 21) we must look at three passages. Let’s start systematically by looking at the Old Testament first. The first two passages are 2 Samuel 7:1-17 and its parallel passage of 1 Chronicles 17:1-15. This is where God makes His covenant with David (known as the Davidic Covenant). In these two passages (which some believe to be a Messianic Prophecy) God promises David an heir who will build God a house and whose throne would last forever. You’ll notice that the language of where this house and throne will be is non-specific.

In the time before Jesus there had already been two candidates to fill this position. These two were Solomon – who built the first temple – and Zerubbabel – who built the second temple. Both of these men were direct descendents of David in the Kingly Line. Solomon in fact was his heir who took the throne before he died. Neither of these men, however, had a throne established forever, and both of their temples were destroyed (Solomon’s Temple in 587 BC and Zerubbabel’s Temple in 70 AD). These two men had both been viewed as a completion of this promise until it was seen that they weren’t.

Now what does Jesus say about the place of worship? We find His words in chapter 4 of John. In verse 23 He tells the Samaritan Woman that a time was coming – and had come already – when people would worship God in their spirits. These words turn the believer into the house of God! This fulfills the words that God told David but in a completely different way than Solomon or any other heir of David ever could. This establishes a house for God that all human kind could worship in. So this must be what Jesus is talking about here. Verses 21 and 22 help clarify that really Jesus is saying kill me and I’ll be back in three days.

Finally at the end of this chapter we come to a conclusion about this Passover and one more point to show us Jesus’ deity. We have here a statement that points to Jesus being completely understanding of human nature. We know from other scripture that man only looks at the outward appearance but God knows the heart. In this section many see His miracles and believe in Him, but He is still keeping His own council. It says that, “He knew what was in man’s hearts and minds.” Most translations put it this way: “He knew what was in man.” This is a statement to say what I paraphrased it as. If it was the more literal meaning then it really has no meaning or purpose. But He knew what was in our hearts and minds.

He knows what is in our hearts and minds still He loved enough to come to Earth and die for us. Can you think of anyone who loves more? I can’t.

John Wedding at Cana (2:1-12)

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Part 5: Wedding at Cana (2:1-12)

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Now we get to move into chapter 2. Three days after Jesus calls Philip He is invited to a wedding. Not just Him, but all His disciples as well. This is a really interesting scene. Here we have Jesus, who has started His public ministry and His mother who was apparently helping with the catering of the party. This probably means that it was the wedding of a relative of Jesus. During this party they had drank all the wine and Mary comes to Jesus and tells Him so. This interchange is quite interesting and kind of comical. Jesus’ response to His mother is – at first glance – pretty typical of a parent/child relationship. The last sentence of Jesus’ response makes the reason for His response clear. “It’s not my time yet.” The WEB translates it this way: “My hour has not yet come.” His appointed hour of revelation was not yet here.

His mother doesn’t even respond to this statement, but immediately turns and orders the servants. Her words are simple and she gives the servants a simple order. Have you ever heard your mom make such a simple command but you couldn’t help but do anything but follow it? Mary does that here giving the servants a command to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. Jesus doesn’t question His mother again but moves on to the task that she appointed to Him. There is a lot of imagery and metaphors in the miracle (Jesus’ first miracle). We start out with the first verse (verse 6).

In this verse we have water pots, large water pots. They held about 20 to 30 gallons of water. These pots are important because they were used for something specific: Purification. These were used for rituals of purification in Judaism. Jesus then tells them to fill the six water pots. After they do so Jesus doesn’t make any loud words or calling to the Father. He just simply says, “Now take some to the host of the party.” The scene shifts from Jesus and the servants to the party. We’re told, here, that the wine that comes out was the best of the day. It’s interesting to consider if we look at this miracle through the last supper we see something interesting happing. These pots, which were used by the Jews in their purification rituals, were useless for such rituals. God comes in and gives his perfect Lamb as sacrifice and the Old Testament Laws are fulfilled.

In this metaphor we can see that man through his attempts to fulfill the Law was utterly useless, but we see the sacrificial of Christ (the wine) is miraculously added to the situation and the best thing happens: We are saved from sin and death. How great is that? After man’s attempts to fulfill the Old Testament (the wine earlier in the party) God miraculously sends down the best. Is there anything better?

John adds on a tag here to let us know that this is the first sign that Jesus gave as a glimpse of His glory. This is important as we see many glimpses of Jesus’ glory in the Gospel of John. In fact in the first half of the book there are seven signs that will be presented to us in order to prove Jesus’ deity and His messianic identity. The final statement of verse 11 is key to the premise of the book. It says, “His disciples believed Him.” This is important, because how would we find out about Him if His disciples didn’t believe Him?

This is His first sign to show us His glory. How great is that? What signs can you think of that Jesus performed?

John Jesus’ First Disciples (John 1:35-51)

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Part 4: Jesus’ First Disciples (John 1:35-51)

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Here now we’ve come to Jesus’ Earthly ministry. There is a short prelude to His Ministry. Just as the day before John the Baptist sees Jesus, but this time he is standing with two of his disciples. He – John the Baptist – repeats his words of the previous day and his disciples hear. Now why would these two men trust John’s words so heavily that they would seek out Jesus? Well discipleship – at that time – was not just being a student of a teacher. You gave up everything and lived with the teacher. You would believe them fully. These men exemplified this quality in this scene.

Now these two guys go and follow Jesus. They don’t announce themselves, they just kind of follow behind Him. One of these men we know the name of because it tells us: Andrew brother of Simon Peter. Jesus knew they were following Him, He was just waiting for the right time to talk to them. He finally foes by asking them, “What do you want?” Their answer is interesting in the fact that they don’t answer His question but ask one of their own. They call Him Rabbi – or Teacher – ask Him where He’s staying. His response is so easy and simple: “Come and see for yourselves.” They do. They go with Him and stay with Him for the rest of the day.

One of these two men – as we saw before – is Andrew the brother of Peter. Peter and Andrew were obviously very close because the first thing that Andrew does is go find Peter. He tells Peter that the Messiah is found, and brings him to meet Jesus. When Peter meets Jesus he is not called Peter, yet, he is known as Simon. Here we have something happening in the New Testament that we have seen time and again in the Old Testament. Simon is given a new name! He was born Simon son of Jonah (or John depending on the manuscript) and now Jesus tells him that he will be known as Cephas. (Cephas and Peter are the same name one is Hebrew and the other is Greek.) Name changes are important in the Bible. They mark people who have been called for a specific task.

I can think of a few off the top of my head: Abram/Abraham, Sarai/Sarah, Jacob/Israel and Hoshea/Joshua. All of these people had their names changed as they were called to specific ministries. What was Peter’s task? For our answer we can go back to Matthew 16:18: “and on this rock I will build my church and even Hell and the enemy won’t be able to stand victorious against it.” That’s Peter’s task to be the foundation of the Church. This was not who Peter was when Andrew brought him to Jesus, but this was the man that God grew Peter into. This is a huge lesson for us. Peter was not a courageous man, when asked if he was a follower of Jesus he denied Him three times. Just as Peter was grown into a great man by God, God takes us up out of our mire and sin and grows us into the likeness of His Son, Jesus.

We see Jesus calling more disciples to Him: Philip who goes and gets Nathanael to follow Jesus also. Here at the end of the first chapter we get our first taste of Jesus’ teaching. He shows us an example of His omniscience (all-knowingness) when He speaks to Nathanael. Jesus tells Nathanael things about himself that only Nathanael could have known. From this Nathanael recognizes Him to be the Son of God. Jesus tells Nathanael that He will do things far greater than just tell Nathanael that he was sitting under a fig tree.

In fact Jesus calls their attention back to the Patriarch Jacob and his vision of a ladder (Genesis 28:12). This was to show them that He was the link between God and them. It is not only to them, but also to show us. This is similar to His words in John 14:6. He is the only way! The link between us and God. No one comes to the Father except through Him. With these words of angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man like a ladder chapter one closes.

This is an important transition from introductory material to Jesus’ open ministry. With the statement that Jesus is the only link between man and God Jesus sets the tone for His ministry. What do you think this tone is? What does Jesus being the only way to God mean to you?