90. How about you?

Have you ever wondered about yourself in history? Where would you have been in the village life of the Middle Ages, a noblewoman in a castle, a knight fighting for the duke, maybe the duke himself? It is difficult to think with too much ambition about women in history. I am no Joan of Arc. My ideal women in history go a bit further back to Deborah in the Book of Judges, or Huldah in 2 Kings 22. Go ahead and read about them.

Let us take an imaginary trip and place us around the shores of Galilee at the time when everybody talked about a man able to heal miraculously, arguing with the Pharisees and Scribes and reaching out to the poor. Can you imagine the talk around the squares and wells of the villages in rural Judea? Maybe you could have been a hard working businessman in the fish industry, preserving Galilee’s riches in salt; maybe an importer of delicacies from the rest of the vast Roman Empire supplying the Roman contingent in Caesarea or Herod’s palace in Jerusalem.

This past Easter I sat in church listening to a sermon on the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. When I looked at the beautiful picture they had on the screen, I looked at the crowds around Jesus and suddenly wondered where I would have been. I have to admit I have a vivid imagination, but I have had many instances where the Holy Spirit showed me faith pictures in my mind, where I could not have come up with anything remotely so wonderful. One of my most powerful experiences of being healed of a nagging fear, was experiencing the Holy Spirit taking control of my imagination to show me how God is providing for me.

While staring at the picture on the screen in church, I was at once heartbroken. I did not see myself at the forefront, waiving the palm branches and shouting Hosanna. Succumbing to my naturally suspicious and cautious nature, I saw myself at the edges of the crowd, staying close, as I imagined myself very much fascinated by this man, but reserving judgment for later. In prayer I almost wanted to apologize to the Lord about this. I admired Mary Magdalene and John who followed the trial and so courageously found them at the foot of the cross in spite of extreme personal danger, being seen as a friend of the “criminal”.

In that moment the Holy Spirit convicted me to the complete opposite of what I was thinking. He said I would have been exactly where I was now. I was made aware of the miracle of faith, the miracle of salvation and the miracle of spiritual insight into the deep mysteries of God and His Word. Coming to Jesus is a cold rational decision, followed by a miraculous personal rebirth, experiencing the Holy Spirit taking up residence in the deepest inner being of a person. I was overjoyed by this realization that Jesus was revealed to every person who asked God for spiritual insight into His life on earth. It happened then as it happens now.

For me, it was a moment of great rejoicing. I felt my spirit leap up and shout Hosanna. I know deep in my heart just how much I love Jesus and how I treasure God’s word above everything in this world. Throughout the sermon I was enjoying my own triumphant entry into Jerusalem right there by Jesus’ side.

How then did the people know this is the Messiah? In the first chapter of John, exactly this matter is the theme. He states the case for Jesus like a heavenly advocate in a court of law, calling the witnesses to testify to the authenticity of Jesus’ Messianic title.

1:32-34

And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

The baptism of Jesus removed all doubt in John the Baptist’s mind that Jesus was the Son of God. There by the waters of the Jordan God reveals himself as the Trinity, speaking from heaven and letting the Holy Spirit descend in the symbol of the dove. It was something, which only the eye of the mind and soul could see.

The baptism (Greek=baptizein – to dip or to submerge) of Jesus was a decisive event.

In Palestine the dove was a sacred bird. It was not hunted and it was not eaten. The picture of the dove was one, which the Jews knew and loved. The dove brought the olive branch, the symbol of provision to Noah in the Ark. (Matthew 3:16)

It was at his baptism that the Spirit came down upon Jesus with power in a way that was convincing to John the Baptist.

The Hebrew word for Spirit is ruach and it means wind. The Spirit of God brings us three things:

  • Power: in Acts 2 it is described as a mighty rushing wind.
  • Life: the very existence of man is by the breath of God.
  • God: it is the way by which we live beyond mere human achievement.

The Spirit controlled the prophets. (Micah 3:8,Isaiah 59:21,Isaiah 61:1, Ezekiel 36:26-7)

The Spirit: brings the truth of God, gives men the power to recognize that truth when they saw it and gives them the ability and the courage to preach that truth to men. The Jews knew the Spirit and knew it was God coming into a man’s life.

John goes out of his way to point out that the Spirit remained on Jesus. It is not just a temporary inspiration; it is a permanent abiding. John states the descending of the dove as a Holy Spirit baptism, which implies that He was saturated and flooded with the Spirit of God.

In a Holy Spirit life we are illuminated to understand the Word, strengthened to do the Word and purified by the baptism of fire, burning away the worldly baggage. Spirit prayer is a cry of the heart with no thought of theology and liturgy.

The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:2)

That was the Messianic promise from the mouth of Isaiah. It stands as the promise to us who invites the Holy Spirit to saturate our inner beings.

1:35-39:

 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. 36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?”

They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?”

39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).

John the Baptist points to Jesus as the greater teacher, full knowing that his own disciples will leave him and follow Jesus. He had no jealousy towards Jesus. He was looking for the vision to be fulfilled.

The character of the true disciple determines that his eye remains on the vision.

What is your God-inspired vision for your life?

Take a moment to write it down. Ask the Holy Spirit to quicken your mind to see God’s heart for you with no attachment to your fellow men or this world. (Habakkuk 2:15)

Jesus turned to speak to the disciples who followed Him. He is always willing to meet us halfway, making things easier for us to get to Him. He is a door opener. (Isaiah 45:1, Revelation 3:8)

Jesus turning to talk to the disciples is symbolic of the divine initiative. God always takes the first step. The human mind seeks and the heart longs. God meets you on the way just like the beautiful image of the father in the story of the prodigal son, waiting for the first signs of his son and running out to meet him. That is a good heart picture to treasure whenever we think of our heavenly father.

We seek God when He has already found us – Augustine.

The fundamental question is: What are you looking for? Your desire needs to be expressed. They could have been legalists looking for an argument. They could have followed Him to enlarge their influence with the leadership. They could have been nationalists looking for political shortcuts. Or were they humble men looking for their Messiah? They could have been puzzled, bewildered and sinful, looking for light and not even sure how deep the need in their inner being might be. This is the perfect approach – dark lives looking for the Light of the World to change them forever.

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

Are you looking for safety and security, wealth and superficial satisfaction for your needs? It is not wrong to look for these things; it is only a very low aim. There is no security in the changes and chances of life. Some people are searching for personal ambition, having their own goals already shaped, believing God is the instrument to get there. Beware of the detour called life!

Here in John 1 the disciples answered with a question: Where is Jesus staying?

They called Him rabbi, which literally means: my great One. It was a title of respect given by students of wise men. John writes to the Greeks and uses the word for teacher.

What does their question mean?

They didn’t want a short answer. They wanted to sit down, share a meal, talk much. They were not satisfying a curiosity or a superficial need. They wanted to truly know Him.

Jesus answers: Come and see. Those words were a well-known answer to any question of a student of a Jewish rabbi. Jesus’ words imply: we’ll think about this together. If you are in for the long haul, I am more than willing.

John was probably one of these disciples. He notes the time. Almost like in a diary. He is thinking back many years and experiencing that moment, more or less 4pm one afternoon in Galilee that his own life changed forever.

 

 

 

 

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89. The scene is set, the call goes out.

It is only here in the later verses of the first chapter that the narrative begins. John makes sure that his readers have an understanding of the eternal value and timelessness of this story – the greatest story ever told. God who loves His created being so much that He became one of them to give His life as a sacrifice for salvation.

John is careful with details. He tells the story of the first week in the public life of Jesus step by step.

[Scripture for this is as follows: first day – John 1:19-28; second day – John 1:29-34; third day – John 1:35-39, fourth day – John 1:40-42, fifth day – John 1:43-51. The sixth day is left a blank and the seventh day – John 2:1-11.]

Throughout his Gospel John writes the testimony of Jesus with three witnesses to Jesus’ life: John the Baptist, the disciples and the miracles. John the Baptist states his own position in the greater scheme of things in John 1:19-28.

One of the important role players in this Gospel is the Jews. They are always in opposition, always cross-examining John. They are mentioned more than 70 times. He tells of their rejection of Jesus. God offers salvation and they refuse, Jesus invites and they reject. It is as if the Gospel tells of love, but warns against rejection of that love.

John the Baptist was the son of Zacharias, a priest (Luke 1:5). Priesthood was inherited by descent of the tribe of Levi, originally through Aaron. A Levi was born into the priesthood whether you like it or not.

The Pharisees, who were scholars of the Law in strict observance of it, also watched Jesus. Their name means separated. Apart from the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin also watched Jesus closely. They were functioning as a council of society leaders in every city in Judea, Their name means sitting together and part of their function was to judge doctrine and warn against false prophets. They were very suspicious of anything new. John the Baptist did not fit the picture of a priest.

The Jews as a nation and their leaders lived in expectation of the Messiah. They were awaiting a reign of peace; a great national champion from the tribe of Judah, who would lead the Jews as rulers of the whole earth; a prince from the line of David. Many people over the centuries claimed to be the Messiah and caused rebellions. They all believed Elijah would come and announce the Messiah. Elijah would establish the rights and wrongs so that the Messiah could reign (Malachi 4:5). Some thought John could be the return of a great prophet like Isaiah of Jeremiah. John denied it.

John was a true preacher and pastor. He was continually pointing the way to the true king. The preacher himself must be forgotten and the people should be directed to focus on Jesus.

Why did John baptize?

Baptism was not for Israelites, only for foreigners becoming Jews. Jews did not need baptism as they already belonged to God. John was leveling the field. He was treating Jews as Gentiles and the people of both these groups and all walks of life flocked to him to be baptized in the hope of a renewal of faith and in expectation of something more. When interrogated he answered indirectly by saying: “I am baptizing only with water; but there is One among you–you don’t recognize him–and I am not worthy to untie the straps of his shoes. (John 1:26,27)

The Baptist could not have mentioned a more menial task. It was the work of a slave. The Rabbis said a disciple could do anything for his teacher except tie his shoes. It was too menial. John said that he could not even be Jesus’ slave. By saying that he announced the King of Israel.

John was only preparing the way as we should and any preacher should. We have the same great calling as John the Baptist: pointing to Christ. People should forget us, as we should forget ourselves so that the image of Jesus be exalted and taught.

It is the test of true Word ministry. How clear are Jesus and His words in the teaching of the church of Jesus Christ today? The same John wrote the “test” for salvation and true loyalty in his Epistle.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. (1 John 4:1-3)

Where is the devil most active? Right here in our churches and amongst the children of God. He would like to spread doubt with false teaching. We know the Truth – Jesus. PRAY the gift of discernment over prejudice, preconceived ideas and secular culture. Not one of these vices can be present in our teaching of the Word. We need to rise up above ourselves, and preach the Gospel as it is presented by John the Baptist:

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

In this one statement we can see four pictures:

  • The Passover lamb, when they smeared the blood on the doorposts in Exodus 12:11-13. Paul confirms it in 1 Corinthians 5:7.
  • The sacrifice at the Temple when the lambs are slaughtered and the blood sprinkled on the foundations. It was to the shepherds who were watching over these lambs, that the angels brought the message of Jesus’ birth. The lambs were specially bred to sell to the tradesmen of the Temple who were part of the scene of moneychangers in the forecourt of the Temple in Jerusalem.
  • The Prophets called out the title of Jesus: But I was like a docile lamb brought to the slaughter… (Jeremiah 11:19) and He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent… (Isaiah 53:7).
  • The Maccabees struggle of 163BC was fresh in the memory of the Jews at the time. The horned lamb was the symbol of the great conqueror as a champion of God. He mastered over sin in a single contest.

John used this title of Christ 29 times when he wrote the Revelation.

It becomes one of the most precious titles of Christ. In one word it sums up the love, the sacrifice, the suffering and the triumph of Christ.

Could anybody be afraid of a lamb? Could anybody reject a lamb?

Christ comes as a human baby, the most helpless newborn in all of creation. He does not come to condemn or condescend. He comes to save. It is a picture of profound contrast. How can a lamb be anything than a helpless creature to be cared for? Christ as the Lamb of God is the conquering Saviour of the World.

It is a picture that draws attention because of the stark contrast, the inherent discord. It calls for a second look.

It is the greatest confrontation of thought ever.

88. Always enough – never running out.

Walking through the last verses of the first chapter, more words in the tradition of grace and truth are used to describe the fullness of the character of Jesus. To know Him is to know what life should be all about.

Part of earthly living is to handle scarcity and provide for our own basic needs. Fear of deprivation is a basic struggle for life. To keep us from running out of supplies is what our job and providing for others are all about. Is that not often reason for deep-rooted fear and stress?

God is called El Shaddai, the God of enough. Those words have constantly been a strong source of encouragement to me. His name is His character. If He is the source that will never run out, He will make provision for us, His children. His provision is never sparse.

We sang an old song with exactly those words to drive out fear of the future:

He is more than enough, more than enough

He is El Shaddai, the God of plenty

The All-sufficient One, God Almighty

He is more than enough

The meaning of El Shaddai is closely related to the majestic Creator-God, who is Almighty and who knows how to provide enough. He can create from nothing. He can call the seas its boundaries and declare enough.

In His provision and in His creation His glory is displayed. Glory is defined as high renown or honour won by notable achievements, magnificence or great beauty. God’s glory is the full weight or substance of his splendour, His reputation and good standing.

He manifested his glory in miracles. (John 2:11) For Jesus His own glory was the glory of God, the glory of the One who sent Him. His Father glorified Him, which meant that He had the full weight of the Creator-God at His disposal. (John 5:41; 7:18; 8:50,54) Jesus states that the glory of His Father was his own before the world began (John 17:5). That same glory, His reputation, and His sufficiency he has given to his disciples (John 17:22). This mighty wonder includes us.

Jesus is God’s reputation, a manifestation of God’s love.

1:15-17:John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John the Baptist gave Jesus first place. In every word the Baptist spoke he emphasized the superior calling of Jesus. This is very important to John the Apostle.

Jesus was actually six months younger in age than the Baptist. John is saying: “He who is my junior has been advanced beyond me. I prepared the way for Him”. Jesus is the one who existed before the world began.

The word that John uses for fullness is a great word. It is pleroma and it means the sum total of all that is in God. He meant that in Jesus there dwelt the totality of the wisdom, the power and the love of God.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him…

For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.  (Colossians 1:19, 2:9,10).

The spring of divine life, becomes available to men.

1:18: No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

 When John said that no man has ever seen God, everyone in the ancient world would fully agree with him. Men were fascinated and depressed and frustrated by what they regarded as the infinite distance and the utter remoteness of God.

God is represented as saying to Moses: “You cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20)

Plato said: “Never man and God can meet. “God is way beyond everything.”

It was unthinkable to call God father.

John makes the startling statement that Jesus has fully revealed to men what God is like.

Jesus is unique. He is described as monogenes which means only-begotten. He is one of a kind, specially beloved.

To be in the bosom of someone is the Hebrew phrase, which expresses the deepest intimacy possible in human life. Therefore Jesus can reveal the Father, as He comes from the bosom of the Father.

In Jesus Christ the distant, unknowable, invisible, unreachable God has come to men; and God can never be a stranger to us again.

This was not a new idea. It was often expressed in the Psalms and the longings of the prophets. To them the ultimate excellence of living was to be found in the presence of the Most High. Even from their perspective of God as distant and fierce, there was a deep longing for the intimate fellowship of a love-relationship.

Hosea writes of a heavenly engagement, expressing the love-relationship conveyed by God to His people.

“I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me In righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy. (Hosea 2:19)

God speaks to Jeremiah and says that He remembers the time of Israel’s first love, when following Him, even into the wilderness, was a sign of their love for Him. (Jeremiah 2:1)

It is all about love. Jesus is God’s love. The only life worth living is only possible in the fullness of love.