Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 29, 2016
Open you Bibles to John 7:40-52. Today, we are getting back on the horse after taking a Sunday off last week for the purpose of unpacking the Biblical doctrine of Church Membership. Because it has been a couple weeks since being in John 7, let’s start with a brief review before we read our text for this morning.
John 7 takes place during one of the great feasts of Israel, the Feast of the Booths. Like all Jewish feasts the celebration takes place in Jerusalem. For Jesus, Jerusalem was a hot bed. Since the healing of invalid at the pool of Bethesda in John 5, there was a price on Jesus’ head. We are told in John 5:18, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” From that moment until John 7, Jesus was spending most of his time in the Northern part of Israel, the province of Galilee. However, this changed in John 7 with the return of Jesus to Jerusalem. This marks Jesus’s march to the cross, for in approximately 6 months from the feast of the tabernacles, Jesus would be crucified during the Passover celebration.
The reason that things move relatively fast upon Jesus’ return to Jerusalem is first because there is a providential clock that is dictating exactly when Jesus will die. It is his destiny. Jesus will die at the time of the Passover celebration because this is the God ordained time because Jesus is the true Lamb of God that causes death to Passover those who believe in Him. However, the second reason, which is really connected to the first, is that Jesus is not avoiding his death, he is embracing it. Therefore Jesus is not lurking in the shadows, but is putting himself right in the midst of the turmoil.
And this is exactly what we see in John 7. Jesus, at the moment of this great celebration, puts himself right in the heart of it. And as we discussed last week, most likely at the moment of the water ceremony when all of Israel would be gathered and focused on the High Priest, Jesus cries out for all to hear, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.’” Jesus was not avoiding attention, he was seeking it. And this is where will pick up today in John 7:40-52.
John 7:40-52 – “When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people over him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. 45 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” 46 The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” 47 The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? 48 Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” 52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”
When the Heard These Words
Let us begin by examining verse 40, “When they heard these words.” What words are being referred to? The Words of Jesus that I mentioned earlier, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Let us take a second and think about these words.
First, let us state the obvious. These words are words. What do I mean by that and why might this be significant? It is significant because of Him who speaks them. Ponder it for a moment. Jesus, who is God, the creator of all things, including the mind, the tongue, sound, languages is in the midst of his creation, surrounded by a sea of people created by Him and He is speaking to them. John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The God of the Universe has left his glorious throne and come to the Holy City of Jerusalem. Jesus has descended from the Mountain of God and revealed himself to His creatures. And what does he do? He speaks.
Our God is a God who speaks. He uses Words. And as it says in Hebrews 1:2, “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” It is so crucial for people to understand the centrality of the Word of God. The God of the Universe has ordained the ebb and flow of existence to be centered on the Words of God.
I have heard people mock Christians who cherish the Word and say things like, “You don’t love God, you love the Bible.” Those people who say things like that, don’t get it. For you cannot separate the two. Imagine me saying “I love my wife, but I can’t stand listening to her.” Would you doubt my love for her? You should.
The Word and the Holy Spirit is how God sustains our relationship with him. It is his breath that pierces our hearts and sanctifies our souls. So let us not move past the awe that we have a God who speaks, and in the last days he has spoken to us by His Son.
Next, let us look at the words themselves. What is Jesus, God incarnate saying? “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” The primary message that Jesus came to the earth to proclaim is that He is the answer to everything. Jesus is the most self-centered man to ever walk this planet. He was unapologetically full of himself. How is this not sin? Why is this viewed as wrong for me, but not for Jesus? Because if I make myself the center of anything it is a lie. However, if Jesus makes himself the center of everything it is truth. In fact it is the highest of all truths. It is a truth that all other truths flow from and flow to. His is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
Colossians 1:16, “all things were created through him and for him.” Ephesians 1:10, “as a plan for the fullness of time, to bring all things in heaven and on earth together in Christ.” Philippians 2:10, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,” Revelation 5:12, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
This world was created for Christ. Jesus comes to proclaim that truth. This is what he came to preach. We see this over and over again as Jesus speaks to the people. The words that he preaches are words of self-exultation. And one thing that we should not forget is that these words that Jesus proclaims are not ultimately his words, but his Fathers. We saw this previously in John 7:16-18, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.”
And this is the difference between those who are cast into Hell and those who are not, who do you say Jesus is. Is he just a man, or is He the center of all things created?
I here many people talk about loved ones or friends and say, “They believe in God.” And they say it in such a way that is full of hope. As if believing in God is enough, but it is not. James 2:19 says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” The question is, “Have you drank the living water of Jesus Christ?” These are the words of Jesus that he proclaimed that night and that he proclaims to the world today through the mouth of the saints.
We have been commissioned by Christ to take this same message to the crowds of our lives. We are called to point to Jesus and plead with them to drink. Encourage them to taste and see that the Lord is good. We cannot merely speak of God, we must speak of Jesus the God/Man. For it is only his blood that saves a sinner soul.
When they Heard These Words
As we see in verse 40 of our text today, these words of Jesus had an effect on the listeners. Some of the crowd said he was the prophet, some said he is the Messiah, some wanted him arrested, and some were amazed. You can't just hear the Word of God being proclaimed and be unmoved by it. The Word of God always has an effect. Isaiah 55:11 says, “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” God's words are not like my words. God's word is not like the words of man. They are words of life. They are words that are active. They are words that have sovereign power, accomplishing all that God intended.
And what is neat about Isaiah 55:11 is what proceeds verse 11. In verse 1 of Isaiah 55 it says, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.“ As Christ encourage all to come and drink he Words moved across the sea of faces like a mighty wind and created waves in accordance to His will.
The Power of the Gospel
Let us first look at those who believed Jesus to be the Messiah. John does not say much about this group, in verse 41 it merely says, “Others said, “This is the Christ.” Perhaps some of you may question, are they truly saved? With that I would pose a question back. Was the thief on the cross saved? Was Peter saved when he said in Matthew 16:16 when he simply said, ““You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”? We know the answer for those two questions is yes. Both the thief and Peter drank deeply of living water only he can provide.
The Bible tells us that one of the first evidences of true saving faith is confession. Luke 6:45 says, “for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. “ As the Word of their Savior hit their ears, their hearts were filled with the light of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus and they confessed him to be the long awaited for Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ.
And this is the power of the Gospel. Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The Gospel has power. The Gospel is the means by which God calls you into his family. If you want your loved ones to repent and put their faith in Christ Christ, it will not occur by the means of your actions, they must here the Gospel, for “It is the power of God for salvation.” The greatest evangelist ever to exist, the Apostle Paul understood this fundamental truth. Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Likewise in 1 Corinthians 2:1, “And I, when I came to you, brothers,a did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” then in verse 5 he says, “so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” Paul knew that true faith comes from the simplicity and power of the Gospel.
They question I have for you today is, do you believe that the Word of God does not return void? Do you believe that saving faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ? Do you preach Jesus Christ and him crucified knowing that true faith must rest in the power of God? Are you ashamed of the Gospel or do you trust it to bring salvation into the lives of those who have ears to hear? Let us be a people at Cornerstones who have the Gospel on the tip of our tongues at all times. Let us be like Christ and not wait for an opportunity, lets us create opportunities.
No One Spoke Like this Man
The next group I want us to look briefly at are those whose who heard the words of Jesus, felt the power and life of those words, but did not have a place for those words to take root. In our text today those are to a lessor extent the ones who said that Jesus was the Prophet, but we see it most pronounced in the Jewish Officers.
First, the ones who said that Jesus was the Prophet, what is that about? What these people are talking about is the Prophet that Moses refers to Deuteronomy 18:15, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—“ Is Jesus that Prophet? Yes, but he is more than just a Prophet. Muslim's believe that Jesus is a prophet, but they do not believe his the Christ, therefore they do not drink his blood and eat his flesh, and therefore, the will die in their trespasses and sins. Believing that Jesus is some spiritual figure is not the road that leads to eternal life.
The people in who believed Jesus was the Prophet said that because they could not argue with the evidence of Christ. They recognized that He is more than the average man, but because the Word of God did not purpose to call them unto salvation, they merely responded in a logical way.
This is more clearly seen in the Jewish Officers. They had been commissioned by the leaders of the Sanhedrin to go and arrest Jesus. This was their task to go into the crowds, arrest this Jesus of Galilee and put him on trial for his disruptive and blasphemous proclamation. The officers had one task, and they couldn't do it. Why? Because it wasn't Jesus time. These words of Christ affected them in a way that they couldn't comprehend. They didn't have a category for him. They weren't sure what to do with Jesus but arresting him didn't seem right.
I would argue that this group is what fills our churches. People whose hearts resonate with the teaching of Jesus, but who are not willing to bow their knee and worship Him as Lord. These people may appear to be disciples, but they are not, for there is no root in them. The Word of God has scattered upon their heart but their hearts is not of good soil, so it does not become the implanted words that grows unto eternal life.
The Gospel Brings Division
As we end, I want us to focus on one more group, those who aggressively oppose the the Words of Christ. In our text today it is the Pharisees. The words of Jesus did not soften their heart, but instead hardened it. These are the people who we were told in John 5 wanted Jesus dead. The words that Christ spoke were so offensive that it revealed their murderous hearts. It should be noted that these Pharisees were “good” people. They gave to the poor. They prayed. They read the Bible. But in reality they were wolves in sheep's clothing, and Jesus was a threat to their way of life. Coming to drink from the fountain of Jesus Christ meant that they could no longer drink from the
sins of the World, and this infuriated them.
Now what is interesting about these hard hearted people is there approach to Christ. They wanted Jesus to just shut up. They were like spoiled children covering their ears and screaming “Shut, up! Shut up! Shut up!” And if anyone appeared to take the side of Jesus they called you stupid. Verse 47, “Have you also been deceived?”
Does this sound familiar? Welcome to America, where the new mantra is that Christians are stupid. The enlightened ones of this information age, believe we have been duped. They believe that we have naively bought into the greatest lie that has ever existed, that Jesus of Nazareth is God's son.
What is interesting is the irony of the Pharisee's statements. First in verse 42, “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” Where was Jesus born? Bethlehem. Why was he born their? Because both Mary and Joseph came from the line of King David. Likewise in verse 52, “Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” First of all both Jonah and Nahum were from Galilee, and don't forget about Isaiah 9:1 where Isaiah prophecies “in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Just a few verses later in Isaiah 9:6 what does it say, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Those who call Christians ignorant are quick to display their own ignorance. I have run into this a multitude of times. People wanting to argue against Christianity and taking positions that do nothing more than to demonstrate their cluelessness. What they see as intelligence, shows nothing more than their foolishness. But this does not stop them from trying; maligning, mocking, arresting, murdering.
And today nothing has changed, nor will it until Christ returns. Jesus says in Matthew 10:34, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” Division is a reality of the Gospel. Did Jesus know that inviting people to drink from him would cause division? Of course he did. Did it stop him? Absolutely not. Why? Because this is why he came.
And this is why we are here. We, like Christ, are called to share the Gospel, the power of God for salvation. What will be the result? Salvation? Yes, some. But not all. Others will be confused and others will hate you. This is the reality of the world we live in. Jesus tells us that he is sending us as sheep amongst wolves. Do not expect anything less. This is part of the narrow way. Right after Jesus speaks of the reality of division he says this Matthew 10:37, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
So what are we to take from this? We are to follow our Lord and Savior and stand in the midst of the crowds of our lives and call them to drink from the fountain of Jesus Christ, and we shall do this expecting division, expecting to be crucified. We must lay down our life, so that we can find it, and the Word of God will not return to him void.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 22, 2016
Today we are stepping away from our walk through the Gospel of John, so that we can focus our attention on the topic of Church Membership. As many of you have heard me say several times over the last few weeks, at Cornerstone take Church membership seriously.
Cornerstone Church has existed as a formal and local Church for a little over three years. Since that time we have had two membership classes and we will be having our third class this June. Currently we have, if I am not mistaken, 28 official members of Cornerstone, and with each year that passes, it is my hope that our membership continues to grows.
If you look around, you will notice that in this room there are more than 28 adults. Why the disparity?
The first reason is that we have membership classes once a year, therefore some of you will in fact become members this summer, and that disparity will be reduced for now.
The second reason is that some of you in this room are not Christians. And to be a member one must be a Christian. It is a requirement. If you are merely a Church attender, and Jesus Christ is not your greatest treasure, then membership is not for you. So if you are not a Christian, don't even bother coming to class, because we will not let you in. Having said that, we do want you to continue to come to Church and participate in Bible study because we want you to hear the Word of God and repent and place your faith in Christ.
The third reason, and perhaps the most pervasive is that some of you are Christians but you are not convinced that membership is important. Today, this message is directed to you. In Matthew 28:19-20 it says – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” My role as a disciple is to make disciples and teach those disciples to observe all that Jesus has commanded. Observe all. Not observe some. All. And to observe means to actually implement the command in your life. Jesus does not command you to ignore all that he has commanded, but to obey it. This is the essence of being a follower of Jesus, to follow him. And I believe being a member of a local church is a command of God. So where shall we begin?
God of Covenant Commitment
To begin, I want to start with a big picture understanding that God is a God of relational commitment. That God is not a casual kind of God, his core is covenant commitment. Commitment is in his DNA.
So, what does this tell us about God’s view of commitment? It tells us a great deal. He has revealed to us over and over and over again in the Scriptures that he puts a very high value on relational commitment. God is not a casual God. He is repeatedly calling people into a deep and rich relational commitment. So for those of you who say, God doesn’t care if I commit myself to a local Church, I just don’t agree. I see a God who deeply cares about your level of devotion to the gathering of his people.
Membership is Biblical
Next, since we are talking about membership into a church, let us take a deeper look into the institution of the Church. Perhaps the most frequent argument against membership is that nowhere in the Bible does it explicitly tell us that we are to be members. I disagree. Where do you think we get the name member from?
Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[e] yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
The word member is used eight times in the passage. What is it referencing? It is referencing the relational commitment to a local church. And once again, not just any commitment, but a commitment so deep that all the parts form a singular whole.
What a vibrant illustration of what the local Church should be. We are to be so interconnected and intertwined that you cannot see where one person ends and the next begins. We just flow into each other. As I was writing this sermon I was thinking about how seamlessly and unified my body worked. My brain was thinking, my eyes were looking, each finger typing the exact button at exactly the right time, my heart beating, my lungs moving in an out. I would grab for a drink of coffee and my arm would extend and then bend towards my mouth and I would swallow without thought. My body was totally in sync with the task at hand. Not one member of my body sitting on the sidelines, they were all in the game. The human body is beautifully harmonious. Every member of the human body working together for the greater of the whole.
Does this metaphor describe your relationship with the other people in this room? This is to be our goal at Cornerstone Church, to be so committed to each other in the pursuit, knowledge and proclamation of the Glory of God that we are not only seen as one, but we feel that we are one, and this is because we are truly one.
Membership is one way we move ourselves towards this end goal of interdependence. For everyone who becomes a member at Cornerstone Church is saying, “I'm in. I want to depend on you and I want you to depend on me. I want to intertwine my life so much with you people that when you cry, I cry. When you laugh, I laugh. When you are sick, I am sick. When you are well, so am I.” Imagine what this Church would look like if we pursued the call to commit at this significant and Biblical level. Imagine what effect that would have on the those on the outside looking in.
Additional Evidence of a Biblical Call to Commitment
Based on only what I have said so far, some of you may still be saying, I can be a Biblical member without becoming a member at Cornerstone. You are still looking for reasons to reject membership. Well...there is more. Unfortunately, due to time, I will only address four more proofs of Biblical membership. There are more, but time just doesn't allow for us to cover this topic exhaustively in one sermon.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 15, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 7:25-39. If you recall from last week, John Chapter 7 is a point of geographical transition. It marks the point in Jesus’s ministry that he leaves his lifelong home of Galilee, never to return until after his death. The event that brings him out of Galilee and to Jerusalem is the Feast of the Booths.
As we saw, Jesus went up to Jerusalem, not publicly but privately. The reason for this is because Jesus was avoiding a premature “Triumphal Entry.” That day and that hour would come when Jesus would ride into Jerusalem with great fan fair, but this was not to happen at the Feast of the Booths it was to happen at the Passover. Therefore, Jesus delayed his departure and took a shortcut through Samaria, according to Luke 9, so as to fly under the radar screen regarding his arrival.
Once arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus did not hide out. The reason Jesus traveled incognito was not because he was afraid, it was merely about timing. Why can we say this? Because last week we read in verse 14, “About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching.” Jesus was not afraid, he was obedient. He trusted in his father’s sovereign plan and knew that he was immortal until his destiny with the cross. So with that introduction, let us pick up the story in verse.
John 7:25-39 – “Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? 26And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? 27But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” 28So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” 30So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” 32The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. 33Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. 34You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” 35The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? 36What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?” 37On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.“
The Feast of the Booths
In order to understand this passage, we must understand the Feast of the Booths. Another name for the Feast of the Booths was the Feast of the Tabernacles. According to the Jewish Historian Josephus, the Feast of the Booths was one of the most festive celebrations for the nation of Israel. This Feast was one of the three Jewish feasts that God commanded in Deuteronomy 16:16 that all males appear before the Lord. And as I also stated last week, it was celebrated in the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar which would fall in late September and early October.
A description of the feast can be found in Leviticus 23:39-43. This is what it says, “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. 40 And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. 41 You shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
The primary focus of the feast of the Booths was the grace of God when he brought Israel out of Egypt in the year 1500 B.C. and provided for the people as they wandered in the wilderness. If you recall, one way the God provided for Israel was by giving them food and water.
We talked about the food aspect of that in John 6. If you recall, after Jesus fed the 5,000 he said in John 6:48, “I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.” Manna was a bread like substance that was the primary food source for he Israelites. However, it was not merely manna in the wilderness that God provided. He also provided water.
We see this giving of water to the Israelites in Exodus 17, “Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. 2Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” 3But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me.” 5Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6“Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us, or not?”
The people of Israel where desperate for water. They yearned for it. Their body craved it. Why? Because their bodies were designed for water. God has ordained that life does not exist apart from water, and the people of Israel, as they wandered in the desert knew that without water they would perish. So what did they do, Moses cried out to God and he told him to take his staff and strike the rock and water would flow out for the people.
You Do Not Know Him
And this is the backdrop of the events of John 7. This is why thousands of people, if not a million, had come to Jerusalem; to remember what God had done for his people 1500 years earlier. And Jesus puts himself right in the middle of this celebration. He is not on the outskirts of this festival, he is smack dab in the middle. He is at the temple teaching. What is he teaching?
Verse 28, “So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” This teaching of Jesus is in response of the crowd not knowing what to do with Jesus. He was mysterious. He was someone just like them in appearance, born in Nazareth, but yet, unlike anyone they had met before. He was a category all of his own.
What is interesting is about Jesus's teaching is how blunt it is. Jesus was not one who minced words, he preaching directly. Jesus point blank tells them that the reason they can't figure him out, they did not know God.
For a Jew, these are fighting words. Remember, the Jews were God's chosen people. They are the only nation to be handpicked by God to reveal himself to the World. They had received the oracles of God and God had used them throughout history to display His glory. And Jesus tells them, they don't know God.
Jesus, on the other hand, knows God. Why does he know God? Verse 29 says that Jesus knows God because he comes from God. Jesus seems to be saying, that the reason they don't know God is that they don't come from God, like he does. So let us follow the logic, to know Jesus, you must know God, and to know God you must come from God. Which leads to the question, how then is it possible for us to know God?
This teaching was confusing to and it also stoked the fire of the anger of the Jews. Their response of Jesus saying these things was to issue an arrest warrant. As I stated, Jesus was not some passive, tolerant, don't rock the boat kind of Messiah. He was uncomfortable. He was divisive. His words stung. And you can see why Jerusalem was such a hotbed for Jesus. His presence, and his teaching, was explosive and it didn't take longer than a few days that the rulers wanted to put an end to him for good.
So what does Jesus say in response to this warrant for his arrest? Verse 33, “Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. 34You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” The Jews, because they don't get it, can't figure out what he is talking about. But for us, on the other side of the cross, and with open eyes know exactly what Jesus is talking about. He is talking about his death, resurrection, and ascension.
Come to Me and Drink
What is interesting is how Jesus is talking about his death. His main focus is on his location after his death. Instead of saying that he is going to die for the sins of the world, he says that he is going to a place that is not accessible to the Jews. Why talk about his death this way?
It has to do with the Feast of the Booths. In verse 37, our attention is drawn to the last day of the feast. This is important because what happens on the last day. According to D. A. Carson's commentary on John, the last day is the pinnacle of the entire feast. On that day they held what is called the water-pouring rite. What would happen during that rite was that in the morning a golden pitcher was filled from the pool of Siloam and carried by the High Priest to the Temple. While doing so, a choir would be singing Pslam 113-118. As the choir reached Pslam 118 the High Priest would pour the water into a bowl. Next to the water was a bowl of wine. At that time, the water and the wine were poured out together, as an offering to the Lord. This water-pouring rite was to symbolize both the water that came from the rock that we looked at earlier, and the pouring out of the Spirit in the last days.
It was on this day, and most likely, during this water-pouring rite that Jesus stood in the midst of perhaps a million people and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
What on earth was Jesus doing? Didn't he know that he had an arrest warrant out on him? Why in the world would he, at the climax of one of the most festive events of the year with perhaps a million people watching cry out such a thing as “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Talk about stealing the thunder of the moment.
But let us be absolutely clear. Jesus stole nothing! This moment was not for the pomp and the circumstance of religion. This moment was for Jesus! This was the hour that was ordained since this feast was first implemented 1500 years ago. This Feast was for the purpose of Jesus yelling at the top of his lungs to the lost sheep of Israel that he is the source of water for their perishing souls.
Jesus was proclaiming that he is the rock. In fact in Psalm 118, the last Psalm that the sung before the poured out the water and the wine it says this in verse 22, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Jesus is the stone that was rejected by having a spear stuck into his side as he hung on the cross, and what poured out of his side? John 19:34, “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” Blood and water. Wine and water.
Everything about this celebration was about Jesus. And there he was crying out in the midst of the dessert of Jerusalem, “Anyone! Anyone!” Did they come and drink? Some did, many did not. And what was their end? The ones who drank, they lived. The ones who rejected, they perished.
The call of Christ 2000 years ago is the same call of Christ today? This world is full of those who are perishing. Their souls are thirsty. They are wandering through the dessert of this life and they must find water before it is too late. Some may be in this room. Perhaps you are just like the sea of faces that surrounded Jesus. Perhaps you are not sure what to make of him. Perhaps you think the stories about him are intriguing. Perhaps he makes you uncomfortable in regards to what he says. But you have never drank from him. You have never recognized your desperate need for water and come to him to quench your deepest thirst. If that is you, drink before it is too late. The vultures are circling.
Rivers of Living Water
For those who do drink, what is the result? Life yes. But what kind of life? Abundant life. Jesus describes this new state of reality as Rivers of Living water coming form your heart. This is very similar language that Jesus used earlier in John 4:14 when speaking to the women at the well, “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
What is this spring? What are these rivers? John tells us. It is the Spirit of God. Verse 39, “Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
When Jesus, the Cornerstone, is rejected and struck by crucifixion, he is glorified both in his death and his resurrection. After his resurrection, as he stated earlier, he will be leaving. He will be going to a place that those who rejected him can't go to. The place he goes is the right hand of the Father. But when he arrives, something very important happens. He speaks of this in John 16:5-7, “But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”
And this is what Jesus says in John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
Their is a fundamental difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. A Christian, one who has drunk from the well of Christ, inside of him dwells God himself. The Spirit of God takes up residence in your heart. And the Spirit of God is not something that can be contained, it burst out of you like rivers flowing out into the world. Soaking everyone and everything around you. For the non-Christian, they have no water to give, the are but empty cisterns, but we are a walking oasis, producing life abundant, loving, sacrificing, proclaiming, believing, enduring, rejoicing.
Christian, does this describe your existence? When those who are perishing look at you, do they see rivers of living water pouring out of your heart, or merely a trickle. If you are in Christ, rivers of life is your reality, it is a fact. So become on the outside what you already are in the inside. Do not dam up the waters of God, let them flow out upon the perishing of this world.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 8, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 7:1-24. Today, in John, we begin the upward ascent to the ultimate humiliation and simultaneously the ultimate glorification of Christ. For today, in chapter 7 John begins to move our attention towards Jerusalem. He focuses us on the primary reason that Jesus had become flesh and dwelt among us, so that his flesh could be torn and given to God as a sacrificial lamb for our sins. Chapter 7 marks the last time that Jesus was in area of Galilee. As it says in Luke 9:51 “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” John 7 is the hinge of this moment. So let us read our text, and likewise set our sights on Christ as he has his sights set on his death.
John 7:1-24 – “After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews' Feast of Booths was at hand. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him. 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee. 10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. 11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him. 14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man's whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
Your Unbelieving Family
Today’s message is one of great hope. At first glance, you may not see why, but I know many of your stories. I know that many of you have heavy hearts for people in your family who do not believe in Jesus. And because you do believe in Jesus, you know what it means that they do not believe. John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
Their rejection of the Son means that their destiny is Hell. You know that Jesus is the only solution to their greatest and eternal problem, the unrelenting, eternal punishment of a Holy God. And because you love your family, whether it be a parent, or a child, or a sibling, a grandparent, or grandchild, your heart aches. You mourn for them.
If that is you, which I know for many of you, it is. This message gives you hope. Because you feel like you have tried everything, to get them to believe. You have pleaded with them, you have read scripture to them, you have prayed for them, you have shared the Gospel with them over and over and over again, with zero results. It feels like you are moving backwards, and you don’t know what to do. You are ready to give up.
But you shouldn’t. As long as there is breath in their lungs, there is always hope. And our hope is in God. And our God is able to change a lepers spots and melt a heart of stone. So with this in mind, let us look at our text.
Believing a Different Jesus
In verse 1 it states, “After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him.” “After this” is referring to what took place in John 6. So what took place in John 6? Jesus effectively reduced his disciples from 15,000 people to 12. He then took those twelve disciples and, as it states in verse 1, went about in Galilee. This going about covers approximately 6 months and the reason we know this is because in John 6:4 there is a mention of the Passover and in verse 2 of our text today it mentions the Feast of Booths. These two celebrations are about 6 months apart.
If you recall, Galilee is Jesus's home-base. It is Galilee that has the town Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus and also contained Capernaum, a place we are told Jesus moved to in Matthew 4:13. And this is one reason we see this dialogue take place between Jesus and his brothers. This is not the first time we see John mention Jesus brothers. If you recall, in John 2:12, “After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.” The Greek word for brothers is adelphos. This Greek word is made up of two root words, alpha and delphus. Alpha is the beginning letter in the Greek alphabet. A term Jesus used to describe that everything begins with him, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” The Greek word delphus means womb. So it is abundantly clear that the word adelphos is referring to brothers who got their start from the same womb, the same origin, the same mother. In this case, Mary.
In John's text we are not told the names of these brothers of Jesus. However in Mark 6:3 it states, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother (adelphos) of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?” Therefore, these brothers mentioned in our text today John 7 are James, Joses, Judas and Simon.
We are told in verse 5 that these brothers of his do not believe in him. What does that mean? Jesus's brothers obviously believed that he existed. They obviously believed his name was Jesus and that he had followers and disciples. They would have believed he was a very powerful teacher and preacher. They would have believed that he had the power to do signs, for they probably watched some of them take place before their eyes.
So what does John mean when he says that they don't believe in him? He means that they did not believe that he was God in the flesh, who came to take away the sins of the World. They did not believe that through him everything was made. They did not believe that he was the light of the World. They did not believe that he was full of Glory, as the only son from the father. They did not see him as full of grace and truth. They merely saw him as a man. Therefore their view of Jesus was a partial view, they believed in his humanity, but they rejected his deity. Therefore they did not believe, and if you don't believe the wrath of God remains on them.
Why is this important? It is important because in this world and in our communities we are surrounded by such people. People who think they have a close relationship with Jesus, who think they know him, but they don't. Two that come to mind are Morminism and Jehovah's Witness. These false religions claim to believe in Jesus. They believe Jesus was a great teacher. They believe he did miracles. They even believe that he died on the cross for their sins, but they do not believe Jesus is God. Last night I found this on jw.org, the primary Jehovah Witness website “we do not worship Jesus, as we do not believe that he is Almighty God.”
Their “belief” is no different than the unbelief of Jesus's brothers. They may claim to know Jesus, they may claim to be following Jesus; they may claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus. But their belief in the eyes of God, is no belief. And no belief means no salvation. In 2 Corinthians 11:4 Paul warns the Corinthian church about false teachers who proclaim another Jesus. This is what Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses do when they proclaim that Jesus is just a man, and not God incarnate. They are declaring their unbelief in Jesus, just like his brothers.
Realms of Glory
This unbelief of Jesus's brothers placed them in two completely different realms. You can see this in their exchange over whether to go to the Feast of the Booths or not. Verse 3, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” His brothers wanted him to join the large crowd that was going to be making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The Feast of the Booths was one of the most festive events of the year, and his brothers thought it would be a great opportunity to make a grand appearance and perhaps get his numbers back up to 15,000 or more.
The reason this plan seemed like a good one is because of what motivated them. What motivated them is what motivates all non-believers, self-glory. You can see this in verse 18, “ The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory.” Jesus's unbelieving brothers spoke from their own authority, their own sinful flesh, their own fallen nature, and the only thing that made sense to them was pursuing self-glorification.
Jesus, on the other hand, had a different plan. Verse 6, “Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” Jesus's plan was different then his disciples. Why? Because he was working off a different playbook. His brothers were seeing the world the lens of their flesh. Jesus was seeing the world the the lens of God's providential will. He makes it clear that he is not going to the feast because his time has not yet fully come. He says it twice to them.
We have talked about this reality before. Everything Jesus did was perfectly in sync with God's will. John 5:19, “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” John 5:30, “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” We also discussed it in regards of Jesus' divine appiontment with the Samaritan Women at the Well in John 4. Jesus was concerned about God's will in everything he did, down to the exact moment that he would go to the Feast of the Booths. This is why he did not go with his brothers, publicly, but instead waited and went later, privately. The timing for Jesus's Triumphal entry would come at a later time, a week before the Passover, not the Feast of the Booths.
And why did Jesus desire to live his life in line with the will of His Father? There are several ways you could answer this, but let us look at the second half of verse 18, “but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” Jesus does the will of God because he operates in the realm of glorifying God. The brothers of Jesus do their will because they operate in the realm of man's glory, Jesus as the perfect man, operates in the realm of God's glory.
And this is the fundamental difference between believers and unbelievers. For those who are believers, they see their ultimate purpose in life, just as Jesus did. To do the will of God. Why? Because by doing the will of God, you are magnifying His glory. For unbelievers, the opposite is true. Unbelievers do their will, why? Because it magnifies their glory.
This is what the fallen world is all about, a battle over glory. Satan desired glory. The demons that followed him desired glory. Adam and Even desired glory. Every human being born on this planet pursues their own glory. This is why the fall of all humanity is described in Romans 1:22 this way, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things..” Another way to define sin is to say an exchange of glory. The brother's of Jesus had a glory problem, why? Because they didn't believe.
The Cause of True Belief
They question I want to tackle now is why? Why doesn't James, Joses, Judas, and Simon believe that Jesus is God incarnate? Those four have spent their entire lives with him. Jesus was the first born of Mary, therefore each on of them was born into a house that literally wreaked of Jesus. They heard him speak, they watched him live a sinless life, they observed him constantly being about his father's work, day after day after day after day. But they still didn't believe?
Look at verse 16, “So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”
This answer seems odd, doesn't it. Jesus says if your will is to do God's will, you will believe in Jesus. To go from not believing to believing is dependent on your will matching God's will. They have to be the same. But let us ask another question, what is the will? Jonathan Edwards in his book entitled, “Freedom of the Will” defines will as “that by which the soul either chooses or refuses.” This definition is a simple one, but it gets to the heart of the issue. The will of man is determined by the soul of man. Therefore, if our soul must match the soul of God, in order to believe in Jesus, what hope do we have? Think about it? If you can't believe in Jesus unless you soul yearns for the same thing that God's soul yearns for, is that even possible?
As Jesus so famously said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. ” The only way for a man's soul to be changed to match God, is by God himself. This is the recurring truth that John has been laying out in his gospel.
And this is good news. For without this truth, the brother's of Jesus have no hope. And likewise, without this truth, your family has no hope. As I stated earlier, many of you have wept for your unsaved family and your hearts aches for them. Desiring that they would believe, yet in their life, the continue to live for their glory and not God's. But do not lose hope, instead hope in God. His timing and his way is always perfect.
At the moment in time when the events of John 7 took place, God did not desire that the brothers of Jesus would believe in him, for their time had not yet come. Eventually it did. When exactly, we don't know. But in Acts 1:14 right after the ascension of Jesus, the group of people who believed in Jesus are described this way, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” The wind of the Holy Spirit blew into their life, we can't see it coming and we can't see it going, but we can see its effects.
So do not lose hope, instead hope in God.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 1, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 6:35-71. This will be the third and last Sunday we spend this amazing chapter of John 6. We have a lot to cover so let's start with a quick review regarding what we have learned so far. At the beginning of John 6, Jesus and his disciples are in the middle of nowhere. Jesus's ministry he had become quite popular due to the signs he had performed and large crowds started to follow him. On this occasion they followed him into the wilderness where there was no food. Jesus had compassion for them and took five barley loaves and a couple of fish and fed all of them. 5,000 men, but with women and children included the number would have been more like 15,000.
After this Jesus retreated to a mountain and his disciples headed across the sea. In the middle of the night, Jesus crossed the sea by walking on the water. Once at the other side, Jesus and his disciples head to the Synagogue. At the same time, the crowd awakens and hears their belly's grumbling and goes looking for Jesus. They cross the sea and they find him. Without hesitation, Jesus rebukes them for seeking him for the wrong reasons, their grumbling bellies. So with that, let's pick up now in verse 35.
John 6:35-71 – “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me-- 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.”
True and False Disciples
At the beginning of our text, verse 35, everything seems to be going great for Jesus's ministry. He is the Pastor of a mega Church. 15,000 people strong. The Synagogue at Capernaum was packed. Why? One reason, because Jesus was there. To the outward observer, all appeared to be well; For wasn't this the point of Jesus's earthly ministry, to gather disciples?
But as we saw from the earlier passages, these thousand of disciples were following Jesus for the wrong reason. If you recall, the previous day these disciples wanted to force Jesus to be King. They were not looking for a Savior, they were looking for a political figure. Likewise, as I said earlier, after the crossed the sea and found Jesus at the Synagogue, He immediately rebuked the crowd for seeking them because of the groaning of their belly, not the groaning of their heart.
He then launches into the reason why he fed the thousands. He wanted to say something about who he is and why he came. Verse 35, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” With this statement, Jesus begins a series of “I am” teachings that he proclaims in his ministry. As we continue to walk through the Gospel of John we will hear Jesus say, “I am the light of the World,” “I am the door,” “I am the good Shepherd,” “I am the resurrection and the life,” “I am the way, the truth and the life,” and “I am the true vine.”
With each one of these statements, Jesus was symbolically declaring man's complete and utter dependence on him. He was not merely teaching a moral lesson, he was proclaiming his necessity. His superiority. His preeminence.
This sermon of Jesus was starting to make the crowd squirm. Verse 41, “So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” The people were having a hard time squaring the humanity and divinity of Christ.
At this point, Jesus has a choice to make. He had 15,000 people eating out of his hand and they were starting to squirm in the pews. At this point he could become seeker friendly and tone down his message, so to appease the crowd, sugar coating his message; or he could stick to the truth, with all of its sharp edges. What does Jesus do? He doubles down.
Verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Once again, the congregation balked at this hard teaching, so what does Jesus do, he goes even deeper.
Verse 53, “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
Almost all of Jesus Sermons are point blank and intense, but this may be one of the most in your face teachings of Jesus. He was proclaiming hard truth. He was not pulling back. He was pressing in. He was using extreme symbolism to jolt the congregation from their stupor.
Eating and Drinking is Believing
But what does Jesus mean by eat my flesh and drink my blood? To answer this, we merely have to look at two verses side by side, verse 54 and 40. Let us start by looking at verse 54, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Now let us look at verse 40, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Do you notice the similarities? They are structured exactly the same, and they end the same, “has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” So who has eternal life? Who will be raised up on the last day? Verse 54 says those who feed on his flesh and drink his blood. Verse 40 says everyone who looks on the son and believes in him. So what does it mean to eat and drink Jesus? It means to look upon Jesus and believe. But Jesus is teaching that this belief is not a lukewarm belief it is a fully committed belief, no turning back. By this symbolism, Jesus is pointing to the fundamental truth that to believe means that you are all in, hook, line and sinker.
Many “Disciples” Left Him
So what was the reaction of the crowd regarding this preaching of Jesus? Verse 60, “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” Then in verse 66 it says, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” This hard preaching of Jesus caused people to stop following Him. What Jesus was saying wasn't tickling their ears. It wasn't welcoming enough, or tolerant enough, or sensitive enough. So they left, to look for another preacher who would enable their sinful desires.
How many left? No one can be for sure, but you get a sense at the end of our text today that only 12 of his disciples remained. Jesus, with one in your face, hard preaching, truth packed sermon effectively lost 99.9% of his Church. He went from 15000 people to 12, and one, Jesus tells us is, the devil. If Jesus wanted to get his face on the front cover of Christian Today, this was not the way to do it. Hadn't Jesus read the 12 steps to Grow a Church? Why would Jesus preach such a difficult sermon? To get rid of the false disciples.
The people who looked like disciples, talked like disciples, walked like disciples were not disciples. And Jesus knew it. He knew that they were frauds. They were false converts. And they didn't even realize it, until they heard, for the first time some very hard preaching. Jesus, by the Sword of his tongue, the Word of God, cut off the dead branches that were attached to him. How do we know that they were dead branches? Verse 63, “ It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)” Those who did not believe (eat the flesh and drink his blood), did not have life. To not have life is to be dead. It wasn't that these disciples had believed and now don't believe. They just never truly believed. It was not as if they had life and lost life, they just never had life. These 15,000 followers were dead weight to Jesus. He did not want to build a Church full of dry bones, he wanted spiritual life coursing through the veins of his followers. So he cut them away by the preaching of hard truths.
Their is a philosophy among American Churches to be “seeker friendly.” What is meant by that is to preach sermons on Sunday morning that won't offend non-believers, or immature “believers”; to preach sermons that are sugar coated. To avoid preaching about hell, and sin, and death, and blood. But instead to preach about community, and inclusiveness, and love.
We at Cornerstone utterly reject that approach. Why? Because it stands in total opposition of the Bible. In fact Paul warns young Timothy, a Pastor, about this problem. 2 Timothy 4:3, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” America is full of these types of Churches, we will not be one of them. Because by the preaching of solid truth we find out, who is a true disciple and who is a false disciple. And we desire Cornerstone to be full of true disciples, not frauds.
The Apostle John said these words in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” To be of us, is to continue. If someone does not continue, then it means they never were believers.
The Father's Eternal Gift to His Son
But this leads us to a question. Why was their so many false disciples and so few true disciples in this story? Why not 50/50? Why does it appear that only 12 remained? The answer lies in verse 37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me” and verse 39, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me” and verse 44, “ No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” and verse 45, “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me--“ and verse 65, “And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” and verse 70, “Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve?”
In this short sermon, Jesus expressly states six separate times that true disciples are the ones that God gives to Jesus. The followers of Jesus are a gift from the Father to the Son. If your name is not written in the Lamb's book of life before the foundation of the world, then you will not be saved from Hell. This truth that Jesus is speaking like a broken record is called election. The word election is not my word, it is a Biblical word. It is found all throughout the Bible and it is speaking about what Jesus is speaking about in John 6. It is the understanding, that before time began God had in his mind those who he would give to his Son. These are the chosen ones. The Elect. The arranged Bride.
If you have come to Jesus and believed in Him as your Lord and Savior, it is because God has given you to Jesus. It is because God has drawn you to Jesus. It is because God has opened up your ears and taught you by the Spirit who Jesus truly is. It is because God has arranged your marriage.
And as Jesus says, “all that the Father gives me will come to me.” No one who is given to Jesus will reject Jesus. You can see this with Peter's own words in verse 68, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Peter was welded to Jesus. It didn't matter how hard the preaching was. It didn't matter what the cost would be. Jesus was his greatest treasure, and he was never going to let go of Him.
And when I say never, I mean never. For not only are believers a gift from the Father to the Son, but we are an eternal gift. Verse 37, “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” Verse 39, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” Verse 40, “I will raise him up on the last day.” Verse 44, “I will raise him up on the last day.”
If God has chosen you, to be a gift to Jesus, you will believe. And if you believe, you will always believe. Why? Because Jesus is holding you in his hands until the end. You will be raised, you will be resurrected. You will live forever in the Glory of Christ's Kingdom. There is no power on this planet that is strong enough to break the union that was secured for you by the blood of Jesus. This is why we can speak in the present about having eternal life. The inheritance becomes vested at the point of union with Jesus, in his death and resurrection.
This is why Paul says in Romans 8:29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” This is the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God has loved us and set his affection on us before time began, and despite our sin and our rebellion, he draws us to his Son and births us into a living hope, and we are predestined to make it to the finish line of Glory. Why? Because God is faithful. And this is the difference between a false disciple and a true disciple. One is a fraud, and the other is the eternal gift of the Father to the Son.