105. The One and Only, the One in All.

The package deal, is what we want. We have so many things pre-packaged. Somebody else thought long and hard and put things together to serve a combination of needs. Some may call it a hamper, some may call it the full meal deal, some may call it a wrap up – whatever the goodies inside may be, it is an effort to meet more than one need in one container tied together.

Here in John 5 we start with one of the first longer discourses of the Fourth Gospel. John writes his interpretation of what Jesus meant in all the words spoken to His disciples over the many months of His three-year ministry. John wrote to establish Jesus as the true Messiah, the Promised One, the Lamb of God, the Light of the World and every other title that could have been expected by Jews as well as Gentiles. His writing comes with a half a century of Holy Spirit insight in the life of Jesus, which he witnessed in person.

The passage (5:19-47) is packed with good things, explaining the superior and excellent good news, which is the answer to every query about life all contained in one man, Jesus. He is the only ONE you will ever need.

SON OF MAN

To the Jews who heard this passage it meant that Jesus is the Messiah.

  • Son of Man is a title we hear in Daniel (7:1-14). THE Son of Man – not a son of man.

The visions of Daniel were all about the cruel and ruling empires:

the lion with eagle’s wings was Babylon, the bear with ribs, devouring the nations was the Medes, the leopard with four wings and four heads was the Persians, and the fiercest of beasts with the ten horns and iron teeth was the Macedonian Greeks under Alexander the Great. They will all will pass away. All this cruel and savage reign, that could only be described in terms of beasts, will be replaced with a gentle and peaceful human.

In the coming of Jesus humanity was brought back to its original created purpose.

Between the Testaments there arose a whole literature, which promised the golden age to come in which the Jews called the Messiah the son of man. Jesus called himself the Son of Man. It is a clear claim to be the Messiah.

  • Miracles of healing are associated with the Messiah. (Isaiah 35:6 and Jeremiah 31:8-9).
  • Raising the dead is something that God alone could do . Only God could kill and make alive. Death is in God’s hands. (Deuteronomy 32:39; 1:17, 1 Samuel 2:6, 2 Kings 5:6)
  • Final judgment was also ascribed to the Messiah.

For Jesus to speak like this was an act of the most extraordinary and unique courage. He must have known well that to make claims like this would sound like blasphemy to the orthodox Jewish leaders and the consequence was death. Any man who listened to words like this had only two alternatives – he must either accept Jesus as the Son of God or hate him as a blasphemer.

Jesus’ obedience to the Father is not based on equality or submission of power; it is based on love, as ours should be.

Jesus was confident in his identity – against all the forces of Jewish orthodoxy. He was completely fearless. He could be misunderstood; His words could inflame and endanger His life. He knew full well.

It is more important to fear God than men.

God through Jesus is the giver of life. Not possible to live fully without God. Jesus changes our lives on the deepest level possible, both in this world and the world to come. He is the ALL in one for ALL times.

JUDGMENT

He judges. Jesus’ life and words are judgment in itself. Through Him, judgment of personal sin is solved. To accept Him is life, the ultimate way to peace and happiness. True judgment, how Jesus judges, only happens in full harmony to the will of God. (5:30)

I used to fear judgment. I often wondered how I can relax in the Gospel message if it speaks of judgment. My own sinfulness, especially the realisation of my own unworthiness, made me worry about a judging God.

God comforted me in my fears and revealed to me how this world needs judgment. We cannot confront sin and evil without the clear direction of what is good and right. That is judgment. God’s judgment is the solution to our broken world. It makes it better, not worse.

For us it is difficult to judge fairly. We suffer pride, prejudice, jealousy, intolerance, contempt, ignorance and self-importance. Have you ever seen court procedures and the paperwork involved? It takes thousands upon thousands of pages to come to a conclusion.

God alone is perfect. He knows everything. He judges from perfect love, sitting on the mercy seat.

Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)

Unsupported evidence by only one person is unacceptable (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1). A man cannot state his own case. It is his word against another. We are so privileged to have our case stated by Jesus. He is the Son of Man and have received the authority to judge from the Father (5:26)

SPIRITUAL DEATH

When Jesus was persecuted, He received honour in His suffering and opened up the path of honour through suffering to all of us. It does not matter what life throws at us – Jesus was there and promises hope and salvation from the worst. It is an unquenchable hope and an unconquerable certainty. Amid all the persecution of the early church they never doubted Christ’s ultimate victory.

Jesus is life and He is life now. Without Him death has already in this life, become a reality. We can live with dead works and dead thoughts. This is the core of the Gospel – spiritual death.

Life is promised by a new relationship with

  • God: fear becomes love, distance becomes intimacy;
  • fellow man: hatred becomes love, selfishness becomes service, and bitterness becomes forgiveness;
  • self: weakness becomes strength, frustration becomes achievement and stress becomes peace.

To be spiritually dead means to stop trying to be good. This life is a constant forward push. We can either slip back or move on. To have no courage means slipping back. Spiritual death is to stop feeling, become insensitive, comfortable with evil, with no compassion and a mind shut to truth. Nothing new can change the thinking or learning of such a man and that leads to a blunt conscience. (The best description of the spiritually dead while in this life is found in Ephesians 4:17-19)

This life determines eternity. The hour is now. Our new life in Jesus is for NOW. (5:24,25)

Jesus talks about another witness – meaning God. (5:31-40)

He cites John the Baptist who bore witness to Him.

He talks about a lamp that burns and shines. A lamp is lit, it does not light itself. It is “borrowed” light. The light comes from another source – fire or electricity. The message of John is warm; it was a guide to repentance. A light is temporary; it burns out. John decreased while pointing the way. A true witness burns itself out for God.

Another witness besides John is the witness of Jesus’ works. When John enquired from prison if He is truly the Messiah, Jesus answered that His works will testify as to His authenticity. His works also points to God. God is the supreme witness.

Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. (1 John 5:10)

The Jews were adamant that God is invisible and that no man has seen God, not even Moses (Deuteronomy 4:12). They believed God was only in the conviction of the mind and Jesus expresses that in this passage. It is God’s witness in our hearts regarding Jesus.

SCRIPTURE

To the Jews the Scriptures were everything. Jesus was evident in the Old Testament. They were the best Bible students in the world and they rejected Him – how come?

Here the word for Scriptures is graphe which means autobiography. The Bible is a document written by a divine author by the hands of humans. It is regarded as the eternal voice of God to communicate His character.

How do we read the Bible? With a closed mind, not to find God, but to support an argument? God is revealed throughout history as speaking through the Scripture, but also acting! The Bible is a record of God in action. It is not the words that are holy, it is the story it tells which is holy.

There is only one way to read the Bible and that is with Christ revealed in every chapter. He is the supreme revelation. The Jews were worshipping God’s words alone and not His actions. The words cannot give life; it is the One who speaks them that gives life.

The purpose of the words of Jesus is so that you might be saved. It is all for us, not His own glory that He speaks. He says: I love you and I want to save you.

Before and after Jesus there was a stream of impostors claiming to be the Messiah. Why did they even consider these impostors? Usually a false prophet speaks according to man’s desires. They promise empires, government and material prosperity. Jesus came with a Cross. Jesus died and lives on. The impostors all died and disappeared.

The scribes and the Pharisees desired the praise of men. Everyone recognized them by the way they dressed and behaved; they prayed a certain way; they loved the respectful greetings on the street. They were fully devout, but did not hear the voice of God and did not recognize Jesus. Why?

If a person measures himself by his fellow men, he will not hear God speak.

Jesus points out that Moses writes about Him (5:46). If you read the Scriptures you will find Jesus revealed. Moses himself would have condemned them all. They attached all this value to Moses and did not recognize the One of whom he spoke.

The greatest privilege of the Jews became their greatest condemnation. They had knowledge to no avail. When we have the knowledge, we have the responsibility of acting on it.

 

Dear Pebble pals,

I am travelling for the next month and will be back just after the middle of February. I know that a break brings new inspiration and perspective.

May God bless you richly for seeking Him in His Word. Remember He is always active where we read with a heart focused on Him.

Malachi 3:16-18.

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104. An old, old story for the new year.

Let us go back. To our birth? No further back. To the time of our forefathers? Even further back. Well okay, to the time of Jesus on the earth because we are studying the book of John. No, wrong again. Let us go back to the beginning. The beginning of what? The beginning of everything. Let us take our lesson today from the story of Genesis that gives us the believer’s account of Creation, the creation of everything in the mighty Hand and by the majestic Word of our Father.

Why would we go so far back? Is there anything there to learn that could be applicable to modern living? Let me quote our ancient friend and poet David.

Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law. (Psalms 119:18)

Let us look with enlightened eyes to one of the most liberating principles of ancient times with a prayer to apply it to our life this year in order to experience new things from God.

We have discussed the principles of a miracle in our previous piece. Jesus heals the man at the Bath of Bethesda in spite of his 38 years of illness and his focus on a useless superstition. This amazing miracle takes place on the Jewish Sabbath, which is meticulously observed by the church leadership.

We have talked about it in Pebbles before and I quote from: A royal encounter [95]:

An example of this meticulous law observation by the Pharisees, was the rules on the Sabbath, when no work was to be done by man or servants or animals. The definition of work was developed over generations. The Mishnah is the codified scribal law and it contained 24 chapters on the Sabbath alone. The Talmud is the explanation (commentary) of the Mishnah. On the subject of the Sabbath the Talmud runs 64 columns of fine print. In the Babylonian Talmud it runs 156 double pages. One rabbi spent more than two years to study one chapter of the 24 of the Mishnah on the Sabbath.

Just a quick example: To tie a rope knot was sin, to tie a woman’s petticoat was legal. If you needed to let the bucket down in the well for water on the Sabbath, you couldn’t tie a rope, but you could tie it to a woman’s underwear – fully legal and pleasing to God in their opinion!!

The Scribes worked out the details; the Pharisees dedicated their lives to live by it. Even in the deception of following the law so strictly, it must have been a special kind of man to dedicate his life to pleasing God. The word Pharisee meant: the separated one and so they lived: separated and away from ordinary life to keep every detail of the Law.

With that background let us look at the reaction on the miracle in John 5. The healing of an incurable disease should have been an occasion for joy and gratitude. The news was met with bleak judgment because it took place on the Sabbath. Apart from Jesus “working” in the healing process, the man carried his bed. The law said the Sabbath should be different from other days. The Jews set out thirty-nine different classifications of work, one of which was that it consisted in carrying a burden.

Jeremiah talked about the Sabbath (17:19-27) and so did Nehemiah (13:15-19). In Nehemiah it is clear that he wanted to prohibit trading on the Sabbath. The Rabbi’s (around the time Jesus came) argued that carrying a needle in your robe or walking with false teeth, or your wooden leg is not permitted. Every petty detail was escalated to a matter of life and death.

The healed man under cross-examination said the man who healed him told him to do it and he did not know his identity. Later he met Jesus in the Temple and told the authorities it was He. The poor man’s miracle joy was robbed in an instant as he was trying to save his life from stoning – the punishment for breaking the law. He wanted to say it is not his fault that he broke the law.

The accusations came to Jesus – the verb is in the imperfect tense (5:18), which shows repeated action in the past. John used this story as a sample of what Jesus habitually did.

His defense: God did not stop working on the Sabbath and neither does He.

Another writer said: “The sun shines; the rivers flow; the processes of birth and death go on the Sabbath as on any other day; and that is the work of God.”

 True, according to the creation story, God rested on the seventh day; but he rested from creation. His higher works of judgment and mercy and compassion and love still went on.

Even on the Sabbath God’s love and mercy and compassion act. Jesus is God – it was the most natural thing for Him to reach out and heal in the time of need. How can we live if our compassion and acts of love are suddenly suspended on the day of the Lord? Can it ever make any sense at all?

The Jews reeled in horror – Jesus was putting Himself equal to God. Jesus was teaching that a human must always be helped. There is no greater task than relieving pain and distress. Our compassion is God-like and 24/7. Other work is to be laid aside on the Sabbath – never compassionate work and relieving suffering.

What do you think about the Sabbath here in our 21st Century? Is it applicable to modern living? Are you willing to incline your ear and hear the voice of God speak afresh on this matter? What do you hear?

“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words,
Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.
The mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:13,14)

Just HEAR how The Message makes the case:

“If you watch your step on the Sabbath
    and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
    God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,
    making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
    Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”
    Yes! God says so!

Remember, we live in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. Your Sabbath does not need to be on a Saturday or Sunday specifically. It can even change often as it is practical to observe this joyful weekly feast about the goodness of God.

The underlying principle is that God wants to bless you with rest and for that you need to set apart your time. If you do not enjoy a day where you can “pull yourself together”, sit back and reflect on life and God, do yourself a favour this year and build it into your week.

This might be one of the greater challenges for “something new”.

Jesus told the man to sin no more in case something worse happens to him. For the Jews sin and suffering were connected. They always sought first forgiveness then healing.

To be healed by God in a miraculous way of illness or any other affliction, brings great responsibility to live the life of one who has been richly forgiven. It is not “business as usual” after such a magnificent divine intervention. We do not deserve anything and is given everything in the grace in mercy of our loving Father.

Our life is forever changed to live the grace that has been extended to us miraculously.

Very important: we should never connect sin and suffering in the way the ancient Jews did. We live in a broken world and much suffering comes from the sin and brokenness around us. We are not carrying the burden of the sin of this world; Jesus did that on the cross. We are merely affected by our living space and do not “earn” sickness through our personal sin.

We never “explain” suffering and illness. We ask God to reveal Himself in every situation.

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.  And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. (John 9:1-3)

There were those in the church who used their liberty as an excuse for the flesh (Galatians 5:13). There were those who sinned in the confidence that grace would abound (Romans 6:1-18).

There have always been those who have used the love and the forgiveness and the grace of God as an excuse to sin. But we have only to think what God’s forgiveness cost; we have only to look at the Cross of Calvary, to know that we must ever hate sin because every sin breaks again the heart of God. [William Barclay]

Healing comes in the humble prayer of the one who bends his knee before God and Christ. Divine healing is not cheap – Jesus warns the man to live responsibly in his healing and not regard it as a ticket to sinful living.

After the miracle Jesus withdrew; quite literally it meant to turn aside, to bend the head aside, to shun, to avoid. He was slipping away to avoid applause and argument. Sometimes it is good to just walk away. Take your Sabbath.

We are not the “fixers” of wrong living and wrong thinking.

 

work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12)

 

103. Time for a party – of course!

 

The whole world throws a party! It is New Year. If one would like to sit glued to the television you can observe the celebration by fireworks in the various time zones, countdown upon countdown. Lots of bottle popping, elegant parties, drunken parties, dance parties, dress up parties and a public holiday to pick up the pieces and start the year which was so welcomed a few hours previously. Many a heavy sigh is heard in the unseen as the burden of life descends and weighs on the minds and hearts of people.

Has anything changed? Is anything new?

New could mean two things. It could mean: neos – more of the same depicting quantity as in a new pencil but many others already exist or: –

kainos – unique, has never been, depicting quality as in one of a kind.

Is this year going to be the same as always? Are you looking forward to something that has never been; never seen in this world before?

John 5 states that Jesus attended the feast.

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem…

There were three Jewish feasts that were an obligation to Jews living within a fifteen mile radius of Jerusalem: Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of the Tabernacles – two in Spring and one in the Fall. Passover was mid-April and Pentecost seven weeks later. Jesus delighted in the Feasts. Every feast is fulfilled in Him.

The Hebrew word for “feasts” (moadim) literally means “appointed times.” God has carefully planned and orchestrated the timing and sequence of each of these seven feasts to reveal to us a special story. “God’s parties” remind us of His lovingkindness, His provision, His unmerited grace throughout the calendar year. God’s year is marked by seven parties.

The seven feasts of the Jewish calendar all found fulfillment in Jesus. The Feast of the Unleavened bread depicts Jesus’ sinless life, the Passover depicts the Lamb that was slain and the Firstfruits depict the resurrection. Just as the first sheaf of the harvest is waved before the High Priest so Jesus was glorified in heaven after the resurrection as the first fruit of the Church. Pentecost celebrates the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.

The Feast of the Trumpets depicts the announcement through the prophets and the Church of His atonement and second coming), the Atonement (Yom Kippur) depicts the character of the Church as a repenting and forgiven people and the Feast of the Tabernacles depicts the reign of joy and peace through the Church and the wedding feast of the Second Coming).

Feasts are anointed parties, consciously celebrating blessing. We should build them into our year and if we have children or family with us, we should include them when we dish up something special. Just a meal together is marked by the testimony of God’s grace. Blessed is he, who distinguishes between the holy and the ordinary. Make the ordinary holy. Holy means to set it apart for a specific purpose. It is not something falsely elevated to be boring or unreachable. Just go ahead and declare an ordinary meal a celebration of blessing. Say it with joy and praise God in the process.

Psalm 90:12:

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Jesus enters Jerusalem through the sheep gate. It is the gate through which the lambs entered, destined to be slaughtered at the Temple at Passover. He fulfills the symbol of the slain Lamb.

Bethesda could mean House of Mercy or Bethzatha, which means House of the Olive. The pool was deep enough to swim in. Beneath the pool was a sub stream that bubbled now and then. According to the superstition it was believed that an angel stirs the water and the first person to jump in would be healed.

Sound like superstition, but such beliefs were rife in those days. Ancient people were impressed with holy waters. Water was precious and the people held a certain reverence for water.

Jesus was the friend of the friendless. The man had nobody to help. He did not lecture him on his belief in the useless superstition. Jesus just went ahead and healed him.

Events unfolded and words were spoken:

  • Jesus asked if he wanted to be cured. 38 years – maybe his hope died and left him passive and despairing. When healed he had to take up living. Some people are so comfortable in their affliction that they do not want to live normally with all the responsibility of caring for oneself. He responds with a big YES.

 

  • Jesus told him to get up. The power of God never overrules the power of men. Miracles happen when we cooperate with God.

 

  • He had to attempt the impossible. Getting up was probably not the words he was waiting to hear. He lived in defeat for 38 years – for some people a lifetime. What would you like to hear?

 

  • On the word of Christ our own effort becomes the miracle.

 

  • Superstitions are agreements with evil. It is words of defeat spoken over yourself by yourself in words or thoughts.

Let us note very carefully what takes place. This man of defeat and disease agrees with the words Jesus speaks to him and walks away in victory. A moment before he was still in the grip of wrong thinking and negative dependence on evil agreements in false promises of outcome. His meeting with Jesus changes everything. He agrees in thought and responds to the question of Jesus as an expression of his desire for a miracle. In raw faith he attempts the impossible.

Do you believe Jesus when He says He will do something new this year?

Will you attempt the impossible?

 

 “Do not remember the former things,

Nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I will do a new thing,

Now it shall spring forth;

Shall you not know it?

I will even make a road in the wilderness

And rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19)

 

[This story could also be interpreted as an allegory:

The man = people of Israel, the five porches = the law. People are sick under the law. They find shelter but no healing. For 38 years they were wandering in the desert, waiting for the promised land, waiting for the Messiah. The stirring of waters = baptism – rising up healed and redeemed.]

 

John writes it as the truth of actual events. Every story has so much more…