The Good Shepherd
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on July 31, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 10. It is my intent to spend two-three weeks in this chapter. Today we will fly over the text at about 10,000 feet and we will unpack the main point of this chapter as it relates to redemptive history. The following two weeks we will start to get into some pretty interesting verses.
Before we read this chapter, I want to warn you that John 10 is one of the sections of the Bible that radically reoriented my life. The theology in this section has immense ramifications, and my guess is that some of you won't like what the Bible has to say.
As I stated several months ago in relation to John 6, I want to encourage all of you to camp out in John 10 for the next several weeks. Read it daily. Meditate on what Jesus is saying. Ask yourself about the implications of his Words. Think about the ramifications for your life. With that said, lets dive right in.
John 10:1-21 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words.20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
If you recall from last week, in John 9, Jesus had just given the sight to a blind for the purpose of displaying his glory as the Light of the World. This miracle set in motion a series of events that concluded with the blind man being cast out by the religious leaders. Jesus finds the blind man and reveals to him that he is the long awaited for Messiah which causes the blind man to worship Jesus of Nazareth. During this discussion, the Pharisees are eavesdropping once again, and engage Jesus. Chapter 9 then ends with Jesus declaring their guilt before God. The beginning of Chapter 10 appears to be the continuation of that conversation.
A Figure of Speech
Let’s begin by looking at verse 6, “This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.” The use of figures of speech are not uncommon. In the Gospel of John we see several: I am the bread of life, I am the light of the world, I am the door, I am the good shepherd, I am the true vine. With each statement, Jesus is using a figure of speech, he is not speaking literally. Jesus was not and is not a piece of bread. Jesus was not and is not a door. Jesus was not and is not a grape vine. Anyone who takes him literally are like those mentioned in verse 6 who do not understand what he is saying to them. So be on guard when someone tells you that they have some magical power to turn a wafer into the second person of the Trinity.
For this figure of speech of a Shepherd and his flock to make sense to us, we must put ourselves into the context of 1st century Palestine, which we will attempt to do over the next three weeks.
To state the obvious, the primary purpose of the Shepherd was to keep the sheep alive. This would entail keeping them safe, keeping them fed, and keeping them healthy. And if any creature on this planet needs help with this, it is sheep. Sheep are defenseless. One book I was reading this week said that the existence of sheep is proof that evolution is a lie. Sheep have always needed care. We can see this all the way back in the beginning. Genesis 4:2 with the birth of Abel, “And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.” Sheep have always needed a keeper. This is not an accident. God does not make accidents.
The number of the sheep that any one Shepherd would keep would vary, but generally speaking the flocks during Jesus time were not large. The picture that Jesus draws from in John 10 is one where the Shepherd would bring his small flock into what is called a sheepfold. A sheepfold is simply a large coral, or fenced in area. Its purpose was to house the sheep during the night hours for the purpose of protection. The fold mentioned in John 10 is a community fold, with sheep from several different shepherds. There was only one way into this sheepfold and it was a very narrow door. In fact, it was only the width of one sheep. The door was made deliberately small so that two sheep could not exit at the same time.
During the night a watchman would stand guard to ensure that the sheep were not stolen. If the watchman did not recognize someone approaching, the stranger would not be allowed in or out of the fold.
Having said that, just because there was a wall keeping the sheep in, and a watchman standing guard, it didn't mean that people didn't try to steel the sheep. Jesus speaks to this in verse 1. Thieves and robbers would attempt to steal the sheep, and the way they would get into the fold was not with the permission of the watchman, nor was it through the singular door, it was by jumping the fence.
Once they were inside the fold, amongst the sheep, they were far from home free. For sheep, if anything are skittish. An unfamiliar face does not bode well to them. They would not run to him, but as Jesus says in verse 5, they would flee from him. Why? Because they thief was not the sheep’s shepherd. So, this leaves the thief with a dilemma. If the sheep will not follow them, how do they get them out of the pen? They kill them, cut them up, and chuck them over the fence. This is the only way to get the sheep out. Death and destruction.
This picture of the thief stands in stark contrast with the Shepherd. The Shepherd owns the sheep. The Thief steels the sheep. The Shepherd knows the sheep. The thief is a stranger to the sheep. The Shepherd cares for the sheep. The thief destroys the sheep. The Shepderd gives the sheep life. The thief gives them death.
The Fold of Israel
As I stated earlier, the keeping of sheep is first mentioned in Genesis 4. This was the occupation of Abel, the second Son of Adam and Eve. He is the first of a long line of shepherds in the Bible. It is really quite interesting to think about how many people in the Bible were shepherds: Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Laban, Rachel, the twelve sons of Jacob, Moses, Moses Wife Zipprah, Amos. However, the most well known Old Testament shepherd was King David.
David was born around 1000 B.C. to his father Jesse. He was chosen by God to be the second King of Israel. These events are recorded in 1 Samuel 16. Verse 11 says, “Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.”
And there was no mistaking, the Lord was with David. Psalm 78:70 says, “He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; 71from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance. 72With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.” It was God who choose David and it was the Spirit of God that gave David the ability to keep Israel. Under the Shepherding of David, the nation of Israel flourished The Shepherding of David ushered in what is known as the Golden Age of Israel. He was the greatest leader Israel had ever known.
Unfortunately, David died, and the sheep began to scatter, the Golden Age of Israel slowly faded away. David’s son Solomon took over and the fold of Israel was split in two, the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. The reason for this was because of Solomon's wandering heart. From that point on, little by little, as Shepherd Kings came and went, the sheep of Israel slowly drifted away from the Lord. Why? Because they cared more about their welfare then the sheep's welfare. In summary they were not good Shepherd's.
The Servant of David the Prince Among Them
Turn with me to Ezekiel 34. In this passage we can see very clearly God's dissatisfaction with those who ruled over Israel. And there is very little doubt in my mind that as Jesus lays out the figure of speech in John 10, that he is referencing Ezekiel 34. The words of Ezekiel were written approximately 500 years after David lived and approximately 500 years before Jesus came in the flesh.
Ezekiel 34:1-6– “The word of the Lord came to me: 2“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; 6they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.”
The description matches perfectly the Pharisees of Jesus' day. They claimed to be the leaders of the Synagogue, the Sanhedrin, the Temple, but it was very clear that they could not care less about the sheep of Israel; the lepers, the destitute, the broken hearted. On the day that the blind beggar was healed they did not rejoice with him, but they mocked him, called him a sinner, and cast him out. They did not love him, they loved themselves. They were sheep without a Shepherd. So what is God's response going to be? Look at verse 11.
Ezekiel 34:11- “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.”
God's answer is that He will gather His sheep and he will provide for them. He will do the job that the wicked servants failed to do. In just 6 short verses, God says 16 times that he will be the one who does it. I will, I will, I will, I will. God will get all the glory for the keeping of his sheep. But how will he do it? Look at verse 22.
Ezekiel 34:22 – 24 – “I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.”
The means by which God keeps his sheep is by the One Shepherd, his servant David. In John 10 we see Jesus declaring the beginning of the fulfillment of Ezekiel 34. Jesus, the descendant of David, is the Prince Among Them. And the watchman, who I believe could be the role of John the Baptist, announces the arrival of the true Shepherd of God's. The Shepherd who loves the sheep, not himself. To do what the religious leaders before him failed to do. As we saw in John 9, the Pharisees cast out, but Christ seeks out and binds up and strengthens the weak.
And ultimately how does this Prince shepherd his flock? Turn back to John 10. John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The word “good' is kalos. This word can be translated to nobel or worthy. Jesus stands in stark contrast from those who went before him. He is not concerned about his life. He is concerned about the life of his sheep. He loves his sheep so much that he will die so that they may live abundantly.
So why must Jesus die for his sheep? It is not so as to be an example, it is because we have an enemy. And no, I do not mean Satan, though he plays a role. Our enemy, the enemy of the sheep of God, is sin. Sin is what kills us, not Satan. Satan merely accuses. It is your sin that robs you of your joy, your peace, and your life. It is your sin that will send you to Hell. Sin is the great destroyer and killer of the human race.
Once again, let us go back to Genesis 4 to the first Shepherd. Prior to Cain killing Abel, what did God say to Cain? “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Cain was consumed by his sin, and it destroyed him.
This is why Christ came; to destroy sin and to destroy the wage of sin, death. And he does it by sacrificing himself. Jesus throws himself in front of the wolf of our sin that crouches at our door and bears the penalty that we deserve. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Jesus is the Good Shepherd that the world has been waiting for. Perhaps he is the Shepherd that you are waiting for. If so, let today be the day that you hear his voice and follow him to the greener pastures of eternal life.
They Cast Him Out
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on July 24, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 9. Today we are going to re-read the section that I preached on last week, along with the rest of the chapter. This is a large portion of text, but it is the best way to get your bearings for what is transpiring. So this morning we are going to jump right in, pray, and then see what the Lord has for us this morning.
John 9:1-41 – “1As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
8The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
18The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22(His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.)23Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”28And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.
35Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”
A New Creation
A we discussed last week, the purpose of healing he blind man is found in verse 3, “that the works of God might be displayed in him.” This was why Jesus set his gaze upon him, so that he might use him as a vessel for the Glory of God.
The glory of God that was being displayed had two layers to it. First there was the physical. As the blind man stated in verse 32, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.” Jesus was doing something only God could do.
However, this physical miracle, pointed to a greater spiritual truth that Jesus desired to display. Specifically, that because of sin, all humanity is blind. And this is the reason why Jesus came, because he is the light of the world. In John 1:4 it says, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This blind man was a vessel used by Jesus to display this wonderful spiritual reality.
For the blind man, this encounter with Jesus changed everything. I can’t imagine the joy he felt in when he knelt down beside the pool of Siloam, washed he eyes, and saw the world for the first time, colors, shapes faces, the sun. My guess is that he felt like he was on the top of the world. This was a new beginning for him. A fresh start. What lies before him was not just surviving, but abundant living.
And this, once again, speaks to a greater spiritual truth. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Christians are like the blind man. For when Christ comes into your life and pours out his grace upon you, and opens up your eyes, you are transformed. And this transformation is not subtle, it is dramatic; so dramatic that you are a different creature. You are no longer the same spiritual species that you once were. Prior to an encounter with Christ you were a Son of Disobedience a child of wrath, now you are a son of God and will inherit unmeasurable riches.
A New Response
As it relates to this blind man, his transformation does not occur in a bubble. He is transformed in the midst of the world. As a new creation, he caused new responses. Everyone who knew him as the blind beggar now had to re-orient themselves to this new creature. In our text we see three groups of people: the neighbors, his parents, and the Pharisees. Today, I want to spend time looking at each group.
1. The Neighbors
First, let us look at the neighbors, their reaction is found in verse 8-12. The first thing we see is that there is a dispute between the neighbors as to whether this man who now has sight, is the same man who was once blind. Verse 8, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.”
Why was there a dispute? Because of the radical transformation. The change in this man’s life was a dramatic one. He was now doing things that they had never seen him do before. My guess that this change in him was more than just seeing, but was a change in confidence, purpose, hope, joy. He was visibly different after his encounter with Jesus and those who lived life with him knew it. And if you recall this was the point of the miracle, so “that the works of God might be displayed in him.” He was to live out the miracle so that people could see the transformation.
And this is true for all who have had the light of Christ shine in their heart and become a new creation by the grace of God. If you are truly born again you will be different and people will notice. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7 that we can tell a true or false prophets by their fruit. What they produce in their life. We are told in Galatians 5:22, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.” These fruits will be on display in the life of a Christian.
Jesus says these words in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” This is exactly what the blind man was now doing, and this is what we should be doing.
Too many Christians, live as if they are still blind. They say things like, “My faith is personal.” Or “I don’t want to where my Christianity on my sleeve.” This is not why the light of Christ came in your life, to hide it under a bushel basket. No, the light of Christ is to be set upon a pedestal, not for you glory, but for God’s glory.
And what was the result of this blind man living out a transformed life? Verse 10, “So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12They said to him, “Where is he?”
When we display the works of God, and bear the fruit of the Spirit, people will notice and they will ask questions. Questions such as, where does your joy come from? How can you have peace? How can you have hope? How can you endure? Your neighbors will ask questions when they see the transformation.
When we are asked, our answer should be the same as the blind man’s answer, “A man called Jesus.” He is the one who came into my life and changed everything. He is the one who gave me eyes to see. He is the one who gave me hope. He is the one who has given me life. He is the source of my joy.
2. The Parents
After the neighbors we see another group, the parents of the blind man. We see their reaction in verse 18-23. The Pharisees called the parents as witnesses to help explain the miracle of transformation. Their response is interesting. Verse 20, “His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22(His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.)23Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
The parents knew exactly how their son was received his site. They would have been just like the neighbors who asked how, and their son would have said the same “the man Jesus.” So why didn’t they confess Christ before the Pharisees? They were afraid.
The rulers had already decided that if anyone takes the side of Jesus, they are kicked out of the Synagogue. Which, as a Jew, was the highest level of being ostracized. The Synagogue was the center of their life. And the possibility of being kicked out of the Synagogue was just too much to risk. They had counted the cost of confessing Christ and they had determined He wasn't worth it. So instead of giving the glory of God, they exchanged it for the glory of man. They stood before clay and denied the Potter.
Do you know people like this? People who “know” the truth about Jesus Christ, but are too afraid to speak it. They claim to be Christians but you would never know it because they are too afraid to let the light of Christ shine because the risk is too great. Perhaps It is someone of you. Let me warn you about something, this is dangerous ground to be standing on for in Matthew 10:33, “but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
The mark of a born again Christian is not timidity, it is boldness. Look at the blind man, he is far from afraid. He spoke like a man who could care less about the institutions of man. He could care less about the ramifications of speaking the truth. Verse 27, “He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Then again in verse 30, “The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.” Why was this man so bold and his parents so timid? Because he had a personal encounter with Jesus, and his parents had not. They were living off the faith of their Son and had not been given the faith that comes from God. Therefore, their faith was a weak faith, a counterfeit faith, a false faith.
In this day in age we are seeing more and more people who have this type of faith. A faith that does not endure. It is a faith that cowers to culture. A faith that doesn’t want to rock the boat. A faith that yokes itself with Satan and tolerates the wickedness of sin. A faith that is dead. A faith that is not from God, but is from man.
True faith does not cower, it contends. Those who have true faith embrace the words of Hebrews 13:6 and “confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
3. The Pharisees
Which leads us to our last group of people, the Pharisees. The irony of this last group of people is that they were the most religious and yet the most blind. Verse 39, “Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”
What is Jesus saying? What Jesus is saying is very similar to what he said in Mark 2:17, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” The Pharisees, were blinded by their pride. They believed the Mosiac law would save them, the sacrafices, and the festivals, and the washings. But as Jesus says in other encounters with the Pharisees, they are merely white washed tombs. Clean on the outside, but dead on the inside. The light of Christ had not shown in their heart.
The Pharisees reaction to the blind man's transformation was substantially different then the other two groups. They stood in complete opposition to it. Even though the asked questions, they were not listening for answers. They were looking for arguing points. When they realized that they couldn't refute the obvious, they cast the blind man out of the temple. The light of Christ that was shining through this blind man was more than they could bear, so they removed it from their presence.
Once again, this is a reality, not just for this blind man, but for all Christians. Living as a new creation in this cursed world will bring persecution. Jesus said it very clearly in Matthew 10:22, “and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
These people who hate you will be your co-workers, your neighbors, your friends, and even your family. In Luke 12:51 Jesus says, ”Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.53They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Perhaps some of you have experience this rejection in your life from people who are very close to you. They don't understand what happened to you. They see your new life in Christ as a threat to their comforts and their dreams. Your presence reminds them of their sin, so they mock you as self-righteous, closed minded, intolerant, fools. If this hasn't happened, it will. So don't be surprised when it comes.
But you know what? They can push back against the miracle all they want, but they will never rob you of your joy. Because you were once blind and now you see. Your eyes have been open to the truth of the Universe and what you know have in Christ is better than anything this world has to offer.
After the neighbors argued about who he was, his family threw him under the bus, and the Pharisees cast him out, who came and found him? Jesus.
This is the greatest reality for all Christians. No matter what this world throws at you, you still have Jesus, and he is the greatest treasure. This world can take your job, take you social status, take you money, take your home, take your freedom, even take you life, but they can never take away Jesus. And as the Psalmist says in Psalm 63:3, “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”
God on Display
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on July 17, 2016
As we begin this morning, I want to talk about the central philosophy of Cornerstone Church. It is the philosophy that holds up the Cornerstone Community. It is the philosophy that is implemented week after week, month after month, and year after year. It was a philosophy that was implemented this week at Camp Cornerstone.
This philosophy is the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, and by God’s Word, I mean the Bible. Cornerstone Church’s philosophy, our strategy, our practice, is to open up this book and read the Words of God, and let these Words shape us into who God desires us to be.
Why? Why do we put so much emphasis on this book? The answer is simple. Because God puts so much emphasis on this book. Listen to what is says in 2 Timothy 3:15-17.
2 Timothy 3:15-17 – “from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
These sacred writings that Paul is speaking about is the Word of God. The Bible. It is the Bible that makes you wise to salvation. Meaning, the Bible reveals to you that you are a sinner who needs saved. And then, once again, the Bible tells you about the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ.
Second, once you are saved, you are not done with the Bible, you are only just beginning. For the Scriptures, we are told are “profitable.” Meaning the Bible is useful, valuable, beneficial to you. Useful for what? For teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. It is useful in that it helps you to live life according to God’s good purposes and design for you. The last verse says that it helps you become complete and equipped.
I don’t know about you, but I desire those are two things, completion and equipped. There are so many times in life that I feel ill-equipped and incompetent for what life has for me. Maybe I feel like I am failing at being a husband, or failing at being a father, or that my life seems out of sync, or I am depressed, the list can go on and on, this is what the Bible helps us with. The Words of God shapes us, refines us, builds us up, molds us into the person that God desires us to be. It is the Word of God that saves us and sanctifies us.
The bottom line is that the Word of God is for everyone, not a select few. All of you should be reading this book every day for the rest of your life. As Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
So if you ever plan on coming to visit us at Cornerstone Church, which we hope that all of you do, this is what you can expect, the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. So what I am going to do today, God willing, is to demonstrate this in the preaching and teaching of John 9:1-12. So if you have a Bible, please turn with me to this passage.
John 9:1-12 – “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
Why is this Written?
As we begin, we should remind ourselves who wrote these words we just read. They were written by the Apostle John. John was qualified to write these words because he was an eye witness. In 1 John 1:1, John tells us, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—” John was present when the events of John 9 occurred.
So as we study God’s Word, it is important to understand what John is doing. He is not writing a theological discourse. He is not expounding on some philosophical thought about the inner workings of the universe. What John is doing in John 9 is reporting the news. He is giving an account of what he heard and what he saw. It would be the same as if you were an eye witness to a car accident and an officer asked you to write out a statement of your observations.
This event is just one of thousands of events that John would have seen during his three years of following Jesus while he was on this earth in the flesh. John, in writing this Gospel, only wrote seven. Why only these seven? John tells us why in John 20:31, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John was writing with a purpose, and the purpose was so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ. The “you” that John is directing his writings to is you; all of you who sit within earshot of my preaching. And I want you to feel the force of John’s words. The goal of today is for you who don’t believe in Jesus, to believe in Jesus. And you who already believe in him, to believe in him even more. And why is believing so important? Because by believing you will have life. So the stakes are high today, as they are every day.
The Works of God on Display
To understand the flow of what occurs in John 9, it is helpful to know what happened in the chapter preceding it, chapter eight. In John 8, we see Jesus making some astronomically big claims about himself. In John 8:12, Jesus stands in front of thousands of Jews in the midst of one of the largest festivals of the year and cries out “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” He then goes on to say in John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” And with this statement, Jesus was declaring that he is the “I Am.” The name “I Am” was a tile reserved for God alone, Yahweh. Jesus, in chapter 8 was proclaiming his divinity.
So the question at the end of chapter eight is, “Are these things true?” Is Jesus the light of the World? Is Jesus the “I Am?” Is Jesus God? Or is he a liar or a lunatic? Chapter 9 is to help us with those questions. Chapter 9 is the physical proof that supports the previous spoken truth.
In verse 1, what do we see, or perhaps better still, what does Jesus see? Jesus sets his gaze upon a blind man. Jesus is the instigator of this event. And his disciples pick up on it, and they ask, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Why did they ask that question? Because that was the common belief of the day. Most likely it was the common teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees; that the individual trials and tribulation were always correlated to a specific sin of you or your parent. It was somewhat along the lines of the false teaching that is so prevalent today, Karma.
What is important, however, is not the disciples question, or the cultural misunderstandings of trials, but what is important is what Jesus says in verse 3, “ Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” The reason that this man was blind from birth, was not because of Karma, it was for this moment. Think about the implications of this.
This man was born blind. Psalm 139:13 says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” This man's blindness was not an accident. God purposed him to be blind, designed him to be blind. Why? So that Christ could use him in his weakness to display His power, through His Son.
Because of his blindness, we can only imagine how hard his life would have been. We are told in verse 9 that he was a beggar. He had to depend upon the scraps of this world to live. There is no doubt, that his life would have been full of many challenges, both physical and emotional. I would guess there were many days that he would sit in darkness, perhaps weeping, crying out to God, “Why? Why did you make me this way?”
If I were to guess, every single person in this room has had a conversation with God like this, “Why? Why are you allowing this pain in my life? Are you punishing me? Why?” Let me tell you something, your trials and your tribulations are not accidents. God does not make mistakes. What ever your circumstances, you need to know that God has given you your lot in life, not because you drew the short straw, but because he wants to do something marvelous in your life to show those around you how awesome God is.
Blind from Birth
So why does Jesus pick this blind man out of all people to display his glory. Because, spiritually speaking, his condition describes all humanities condition. Every person who has been born has been born spiritually blind. We are unable to see past creation to the Glory of God. Why? Because because of sin. Sin has blinded our eyes, and this reality is true for everyone from the moment of birth. Psalm 51:5 says “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” If you recall back in John 3: Jesus says “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” If God does not give them spiritual sight they are blind to the things of God. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says this, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” The natural person is everyone who has been born of women. You and I, and all of humanity. We are “not able to understand.” Why? Because we are sinners and therefore, we are blind to spiritual realities. Therefore, we are like the blind beggar, struggling to get by. Not really living, just surviving, eating the scraps of this world.
When it comes to believing in Christ, this is the issue…the blindness of humanity. Why don’t people believe in Jesus? They can’t see him. Why do some of you not follow Jesus? Because you have never seen Him. 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
Sure some of you are religious, but being religious doesn’t save you. Hell will be full of people that are religious. Religion doesn't save, Jesus saves. And he stands before you today with his eyes fixed on your and you are oblivious. The problem for you, or your family, or your friends, or your neighbors, or your coworkers is that they have no clue that they are blind. They think they are just fine. No worries. No problems. Living the dream.
So what does it take? It takes Sovereign Grace. It takes the Potter to pick up some mud and put them on your eyes. Look at Verse 6, “Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent).” This blind man was entirely passive in this interaction. He did not choose Christ, Christ chose Him. It was not the blind man’s will, it was God’s will. We saw the same thing in in John 5 when Jesus heals the invalid and the pool of Bethesda. The invalid was just lying there and Jesus walked by a number of people to pour out his sovereign grace upon just one person. We see the same thing in our text today in John 9. And the physical miracle points to the greater spiritual miracle of salvation.
And this is a reoccurring teaching throughout the Gospel of John. John wants everyone to know that the reason a man believes and follows Jesus is not because the man was smarter than everyone else, but that it is because God has poured out his mercy upon you. John 1:12, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 3:8, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 5:21, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” John 6:37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. “ John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:70, “Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you?” John 8:47, “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
Over and over and over, we see the Gospel of John proclaiming that all of the glory goes to God for salvation. In fact look forward to John 9:32, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.” Oh the depths of the spiritual truths of this man's comments. No one, no thing, no philosophy, no religion can give you spiritual sight, it is only the power of Christ that can free you from the prison of your darkness.
In Luke 4:17, Jesus is in his hometown of Nazareth and while in the Synagogue reads from the book of Isaiah these words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” It then goes on to say in verse 20, “And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Go, Wash in the Pool
So where does this leave us? It leaves us with the question, has God put the mud of your sin upon the eyes of your heart? Has Christ approached you on the curb of your life to rescue you from surviving so that you can start living?
How are we to know? The same way the blind man knew. He obeyed. Verse 7, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.”
As Christ spoke to him and commanded him to rise and go wash his eyes, he did not hesitate. He heeded the Words of Christ as they were spoken into his life and he submitted to his commands. He followed Jesus Word.
So the questions is, will you? Jesus commands that you should turn from your sin and follow Him. To do all that he commands. That is the test. Will you listen to the voice of Jesus and repent of your sin and trust Christ as your Lord and your Savior? If you do, then the light of Christ has shown in your heart. If you don’t you remain a beggar and will remain in the darkness grouping about.
Jesus is the light of the World, he is the I Am, he is God, you were created for Him and through Him. If you life is not entirely oriented around Jesus, then you are merely surviving, and your are not living. Today, that can all change.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20).
Before Abraham Was, I Am
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on July 3, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 8:39-58. Today ends the study of Jesus’ tumultuous return to Jerusalem during the Festival of the Booths. If you recall we started examining these accounts at the beginning of John 7. The Apostle John has chosen this specific encounter between Jesus and the Jews of Jerusalem to flesh out some massive realities of who Christ is. Why? Well, let us not forget what the primary purpose of this Gospel is. In John 20:31 the Apostle John states, “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his named.” John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was led to spend substantial time focusing on the Feast of the Tabernacles because Jesus was proclaiming significant truths about who he is, such as in John 7:37-38, “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.” And then in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” And then in John 8:31, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” And then in verse 36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
As we reminded ourselves last week, the Jewish officers were correct when they said in John 7:46, “No one ever spoke like this man!” Jesus was speaking with authority, he spoke with great confidence about who he was and his purpose in this world. And as we said the main message of Jesus’ sermons was not religion, it was not sacraments, it was not liturgy, the main message was himself. He placed himself in the center of the Festival of the Booths, and proclaimed himself as central to humanities existence.
And as I said, His Words were creating quite a stir. He was rocking the religious boat of the religious class. The Jewish leaders did not like this outsider proclaiming this new Gospel and disrupting their festival, their tradition, their religion.
Today we will close out this fascinating and tense conversation and we will see the climax of truth and with it, the climax of persecution. So let us read our text, pray, and examine what the Lord has for us today.
John 8:39-58 – “They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” 48The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54Jesus answered,“If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’c 55But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.”
In verse 48 we see the phrase, “the Jews.” Let’s begin by understanding who Jesus is having a conversation with. Who are the Jews? Look back in verse 33 and we can see how they define themselves, “We are offspring of Abraham.” Then again in verse 39, “Abraham is our father.” What does that mean? It means to be a biological Jew is to be a biological descendent of Abraham.
Abraham was the man who existed around 2000 B.C. whom God chose out of the world to be the Father of the Hebrew nation. We see this event in Genesis 12:2 when God says to Abraham, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Jesus, in verse 37, acknowledges their biology, “I know that you are offspring of Abraham.” Jesus does not deny the physical realities of who they are, but Jesus is not focused on the physical he is focused on the spiritual, for he goes on to say in verse 44, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”
These are some explosive words spoken by Jesus. He just called his own people, the Jews, children of Satan. This is not seeker friendly, this is the cold, hard, blunt truth and he is proclaiming it, not behind closed doors but in the heart Jerusalem and to the face of those he accuses.
Why can Jesus claim they are children of Satan? Let me ask you, have you ever looked at a child and said, “You look just like your Father.” Of course you have. My children have a similarity to their features that match mine. I have passed those physical traits on to them. They bare my mark. It was the same for the Jews, they did not bare the spiritual marks of Abraham, instead they bore the spiritual marks of Satan.
So what are the traits of Satan? Our text tells us that he was a murder from the beginning. What does this mean? In Genesis 3 we see the first appearance of Satan, and what is he attempting to do? Kill Adam and Eve through temptation. We see him again in the book of Job and what is he doing? He kills all of Job’s family, and would kill Job also if God would allow him. We see him again in 1 Chronicles 21 when “Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.” What was the result of this sin of David? God killed 70,000 men. Satan’s goal is to murder humanity. As Peter says in 1 Peter 5:8, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Satan has an insatiable desire for the blood of man.
We are also told that he does not stand in the truth. What does that mean? Very simple. It means that truth has its boundaries, and Satan is not found within those boundaries. He operates outside of truth. But not only does he not stand in the truth, we are told there is no truth in him. There is not reservoir of truth that he can draw from when he does or says something. Don't get me wrong, he masquerades in the truth, tryin to lure you into death, but ultimately He stands in lies, contains lies, and is the Father of lies. These are his characteristics.
And this is what Jesus sees when he pears into the heart of the Jews that he is addressing. He sees a heart that does not stand in truth, a heart does not contain truth, a heart that does not speak truth, and ultimately a murderous heart. Perhaps the people of Israel do not see it, but Jesus sees it and does very well in drawing it out of them at the Feast of the Booths. For the proclamation of the Gospel produced quite a response from the Jews.
First, we see in verse 41 a backhanded comment about Jesus’ birth, “We were not born of sexual immorality.” Most likely these Jewish leaders were eluding to Jesus' mysterious birth. As we know Jesus was born by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Jews were spreading the lie that Mary was promiscuous before her marriage to Joseph. They then called him a Samaritan. If you recall, to a Jew there was not a more derogatory remark then to be called a Samaritan. Then they claimed he had a demon. Verse 52, “Now we know that you have a demon!” If you recall, this was not the first time this accusation has been lodged against Jesus. In John 7:20 the crowd said the same thing. Most likely the Jewish leaders are the ones who came up with this explanation as to why he had such miraculous powers. With each statement, they displayed their heart, they displayed their traits. They were spiritually not of Abraham, but of Satan. And then ultimately, Jesus pulls back the curtain of their hearts and says, “before Abraham was, I am.” And what do they do? They did just what their father would do, picked up stones to throw at him. They wanted to murder God. They were a chip off the old block. Their actions were proof of who they really were.
As the light of Christ shown in their eyes they did everything they could to put it out. John 3:19, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” In my day job as an attorney, I always say that my best witness is always the accused. Eventually, they will show their true colors. This is true then and this is true now. Your lives and how you live them will be the evidence that proves who you follow. Satan or Christ.
The Mark of Abraham
And the Jews behavior stands in stark contrast with how Abraham would have acted. If you look back to Abram’s commission in Genesis 12 that I read to you earlier, what is interesting is Abram’s response, Genesis 12:4 “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.” Abraham was obedient to the Word of the Lord. He did not mock, slander, or see God's Word as demonic, he submitted to God’s Word. He obeyed. This was the mark of Abraham.
Perhaps you do not realize this, but Abraham is a significant figure in the Muslim faith. He is considered one of their patriarchs. Tradition of Isalm considers him the Pioneer of Islam. The word Muslim means “one who submits” and to the Muslim faith they see Abraham as the archetype of the perfect Muslim, one who submits. In September they have a holiday commemorating Abraham’s submission to God’s when God command him to sacrifice Isaac. This is called Eid al-Adha (the festival of the Sacrifice) and according to Wikipedia it is the holiest Muslim holiday, even before Ramadan.
This is interesting. Just think about it. Christianity, Judiasm, and Islam all trace their biblical roots back to Abraham. We should not be surprised by this, for God ordain this. We read about it in Genesis 17:4 when God said to Abraham, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.”
The Muslims, like the Jews, consider Abraham to be their father. But likewise, they like the Jews in this passage, are of their father the devil, not Abraham. Why? Because they are putting their faith in something other than Jesus. In this moment, as we speak Abraham's body is buried some place in Israel. Abraham cannot save them from their sin. He can not reconcile them to God. He is just a man, born under the same sin as they are.
And Abraham knew this better than anyone. He knew that he was not the end, but was merely the means to the end. God made this very clear to Abraham when God reconfirmed the covenant with Abraham in Genesis 22:18, “and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,” Who is this offspring? It is Jesus. This is what Jesus is saying when he says, “our father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” Abraham did not put his hope in himself. He put his hope in the coming Christ. He knew the first Gospel promise that was given to Adam and Eve in the garden about the seed of Eve crushing the head of the great Serpent, Satan. And he knew that he played a part in the continuation of the promise. The Apostle Paul in Galatians 3:16 reinforces this understanding, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.”
Before Abraham Was, I Am
So how is it that Abraham is a means to an end, but his offspring, Jesus Christ is not a means, but the end itself? Why is Jesus different that Father Abraham? Why is he greater than all the prophets who have died before? Verse 58, “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Abraham is limited by time. He had a beginning. As I stated, that beginning was around 2000 B.C. Jesus on the other hand has no beginning. He is always existing, always present. Why? Because Jesus is not just a man. He is not just a prophet. He is God.
It is no accident that Jesus uses the two words, “I am” too explain this point. These two words in Jewish culture have significant meaning. In fact they are the two most significant words in the entire Jewish vocabulary. Why? Because those two words are reserved for God. “I Am” is the way in which God describes Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14, “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”a And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” When Jesus says, “Before Abraham was, I am.” He is saying very clearly he is God.
Make no mistake, the Jews who heard him knew exactly what he meant. How do we know this? Look at their response. Verse 59, “So they picked up stones to throw at him.” They were going to kill him on the spot because he made himself equal with God. We have already seen this once before in John 5:18 when it says, “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.” Jesus now upped the ante. Anyone who takes the position hat Jesus never claimed divinity is either ignorant of what the Bible says, or is just not being intellectually honest with the text. The truth is that Jesus is God, and he came and proclaimed that truth to everyone within earshot. And to believe in Christ means to believe in his eternality.
You Shall Never See Death
But this leads us to the so what question of every sermon. Who cares? How does this truth effect us? Jesus answers that question in verse 51, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Because Jesus is more than a prophet, because he is more than a man, because he is God (the Author of Life), he has the power to save us from our biggest problem, sin and death. Abraham cannot do it. Moses cannot do it. David cannot do it. Muhammed cannot do it. Buddha cannot do it. Your religion cannot do it. Only Jesus, the I Am can deliver us from death. How? By submitting to His Word. What is His Word? It is the Gospel that we spoke of last week. Believing in his sinless life, his death on the cross, his resurrection, and his ascension back to the Glory he had with his Father. Before time began Submitting to this truth overcomes your greatest enemy, sin and death, and gives you life everlasting.
And let us be abundantly clear. Christ is able. Jesus does not need anyone's help, including yours. Repenting and trusting in the blood of the cross is what it takes to have eternal life. The Gospel of John cannot be more clear on this subject. We have seen this time and time again as we have studied the Bible. Faith alone. Grace alone. Christ alone.
And this reality leads back to where we ended last week. Verse 32, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Not only does Christ set you free from sin and death, but he frees you to live without fear. If we are not afraid to die, than we are free to live sold out for Christ. The last fiery dart of Satan, death, is put out with the shield of faith. We can live like our Savior, standing in the midst of the greatest of enemies and without fear proclaim the glories of Christ. Why? Because we can say confidently say as Paul did in 1 Corinthians 15:55, ““O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”