Sunday, April 18, 2021



The Sign


This passage continues the story of Jesus after his teaching that he is the light of the world. We cannot tell exactly when this happened, but it was between the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Dedication, which happens three months later. That feast is first mentioned in 10:22. 

Jesus’ healing of the blind man demonstrates what happens when Jesus shines the light of the revelation of God upon people. Some come to see and other turn away from the light. 

The event does seem to happen in Jerusalem, since no new location is announced. As Jesus was walking, he came upon a blind man. In fact, the man had been born blind. (1) When the disciples noticed this, they asked Jesus a theological question. Was the man blind because his parents sinned or because he sinned? 

The question shows the disciples absorption of some common beliefs of the time. First, it was a common belief that a person could be punished for the sins of a parent. There are Old Testament passages that indicate God would punish sins for several generations. But, in Ezekiel 18, God declares this will not be the case any longer. A person would only be accountable for his or her own sins. 

For example, Ezekiel 18:20 says “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son”.   

The Jews also believed a person could sin in the womb. Especially, if the mother sinned while pregnant with the child, the child could be considered a participant of the sin. 

Jesus did not deny that sin could cause suffering, but says it is not the case here. His blindness was not because of any person’s sins, but was so the works of God might be displayed in him. (2) 

Jesus also expressed an urgency to his work. He said “we” must work, meaning him and his disciples. Jesus was the only one sent by the Father (“him who sent me”). But Jesus joined them to his work while he was physically present on earth. 

The time in which Jesus is on earth and able to directly do these works was limited. He said “night is coming”. Jesus is using the symbolism of light and dark here. It was day, and light, while he is with them, because he is the light of the world. 

But he will be taken from them, taken to the cross to die and be buried. The time of his shining brightly into the world in person will be over. It will be night in this symbolism. 

After Jesus is ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit will come and empower the followers of Jesus to do his work and to shine the light in his name. 

After saying these things to the disciples, Jesus demonstrated them physically and symbolically. He gave sight to a man who was blind from birth. He did the works of the one who sent him. He really did this. It is a real event. 

But it is an event with symbolism and meaning behind it. Jesus showed that he is the Messiah and is shining light on those who live in darkness. It is as John set out in the prologue, in John 1:5. 

Beginning in verse 8, John again records the various reactions of those who see what Jesus has done. Some were astonished at the blind man seeing. (8) Some denied he was the same man. (9) But the man continued to insist that he was the same one who had been blind. He also told what he knew of the story: a man named Jesus caused him to receive his sight. (11-12)

The Pharisees Investigate


The people took the man to the Pharisees, likely to get an explanation of how this could have happened. They were seen by the people as those who could discern things according to Scripture. The Pharisees asked and the man repeated the story. 

John here lets us know that the healing occurred on the Sabbath. Some of the Pharisees focused on that rather than on the miracle. Keeping the Sabbath was important. But the Pharisees had lost the meaning of the Sabbath. It was for rest and restoration of people.

Healing on the Sabbath was actually forbidden except when life itself was in danger. Kneading was also forbidden. Jesus’s working of the mud could be considered a form of kneading. Some Pharisees also believed that putting anything on the eyes for relief was also a breaking of the Sabbath.

Having determined that Jesus broke the Sabbath, these Pharisees declared that Jesus could not be from God. (16) Others, however, focused on the miracle, and said a sinner could not do this. This created a division among the Pharisees. John is again showing us the different reactions people have to Jesus, including his miracles. 

In light of this division, the Pharisees turned to ask the opinion of the healed man, although there is no indication he had any theological learning. This man did not hesitate. He said Jesus was a prophet, which would mean he was indeed from God. (17)

This man was not concerned with the intricacies of the Sabbath regulations. Instead, he knew a work of God had been done to him. 

Not satisfied that the man had actually been blind, the Pharisees summoned the man’s parents. They admitted the man was their son and had been born blind, but refused to speculate on how it happened. They were afraid of being put out of the synagogue by the Pharisees for confessing that Jesus was the Christ, or Messiah. (23) Your Bible probably has this verse in parenthesis, showing that it is John’s explanation of the actions of the parents. 

While the parents protected themselves, they unwittingly gave witness to the miracle. The man was indeed born blind and now the man can see.

Now that the parents had testified in such a way as to prove a miracle had happened, the Pharisees went back to further interrogate the healed man as his parents suggested.

It was not an impartial questioning, however. It was designed to make the man recant his story. They said “give glory to God”. (24) In effect, this was saying, stop trying to glorify this man Jesus, tell the truth before God; agree with us that this man is a sinner. 

The point was that Jesus was a sinner for breaking their Sabbath rules and, as a sinner, could not be empowered by God to accomplish this miracle. 

In contrast to many people questioned by the Jews in the gospels, this man stands his ground and even got combative. He admitted not knowing if the man was a sinner. But the thing he knew was that he had been healed from his blindness. (25) His words, “though I was blind but now I see” have made into into some of our hymns.

For example, the first stanza of Amazing Grace is:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found

Was blind but now I see.

The hymn “The Light of the World is Jesus” has this refrain (chorus):

Come to the light, ’tis shining for thee;

Sweetly the light has dawned upon me;

Once I was blind, but now I can see:

The Light of the world is Jesus!

It was a simple, but great testimony: “this is what happened to me”. 

The Jews, however, focused on the way Jesus healed rather than the miraculous healing itself. They asked the man what Jesus did and how he healed him. They appear to be trying to establish that Jesus broke the Sabbath. 

The man, however, did not play along. Here in verse 27, he gets combative. He says I already told you and you did not listen. Why do you ask me again, do you want to become his disciples?

That question outraged the Jewish leaders, since they were trying to destroy Jesus, not follow him. So, they reassured him they were disciples of Moses and not Jesus. And they insulted Jesus saying they knew God spoke through Moses but they did not even know where this man came from, implying there was, therefore, no way God could be acting through Jesus. (29)

The man really took a dig at them at this point. He sarcastically said it was amazing that the supposed leader did not know where Jesus came from, but that he must come from God because does not listen to sinners, but does listen to those who worship him and do his will. (31)

The man went on to say that no one since the world began had given sight to a blind man, so, if Jesus were not from God, he could do nothing. (34) His argument was correct and unassailable. 

The Pharisees had no way to rebut the man’s statements, so they just told him he was born in utter sin (because he was born blind) and could teach them nothing (although he did). To make sure they made their point, they cast him out of the synagogue. (34)

The Pharisees did not realize that in accusing the man of being born in sin because he was blind, they were admitting that the man was born blind and could now see, meaning they admitted a miracle had occurred. 

Jesus met the man later and asked him if he believed in the Son of Man. (35) Again, Jesus used the title from Daniel 7. When Jesus told the man he was the Son of Man, the man confessed his faith and worshipped Jesus.

Verses 39-41 show us why John placed this story after his teaching that he is the light of the world. Jesus said he came to give sight to those who do not see. This he did literally to the blind man by giving physical sight, but also spiritually giving him the ability to believe who Jesus is. 

In contract, he gave those who falsely claimed to have knowledge of God, “those who see”, a blindness. The Pharisees asked if they were blind, understanding the metaphor. Jesus said, in effect, yes. Had they been blind, meaning ignorance of who Jesus is, they would not have guilt. But since they claimed to see, but did not, their guilt remained. (41)   

John was also telling his readers that opposition from the Jews was to be expected and their opposition proves their blindness to the truth. The same is true now. Opposition from people or from governments proves that those people are blind to spiritual proof. 

John also shows us that the best way to meet such opposition is with the courage to speak the truth. And what we speak is the simple message of the gospel and that we are believers who are saved from sin and hell by the Jesus they oppose. 

Sunday, April 11, 2021



Jesus And Glory


This passage continues and concludes the dialogue between Jesus and the Jews since his statement that he is the light of the world. (8:12)

The Jews have become outraged at Jesus’ claims to be God and his accusation that they do not know God and are, in fact, children of the devil rather than children of God (or Abraham).

Having failed in their theological argument, they now make a personal attack and accuse him of being a Samaritan with a demon. (48) 

The Jews hated the Samaritans and considered them to be heretics. This insult was, therefore, both racial and theological. The Jews probably knew Jesus was not a Samaritan. By this time they likely knew who his parents were and what town he was from. Nazareth was not well thought of, and Judeans looked down on Galileans to a degree, also. But to consider him a Samaritan would still be an insult. Jesus, however, chose to ignore this accusation.

If Jesus was possessed by a demon, though, it would justify their attack on him. He really would be the enemy of God and of Israel. It would also explain his supernatural power. 

Jesus’ denied having a demon. He honored God, his Father, which a demon would not do. He could not have a demon if he lived to obey and honor the Father. 

However, they dishonored him, the Son of God. (49) The implication is that, by dishonoring the Son, they dishonor the Father.

The proof that Jesus honored the Father is that he did not seek his own glory. (50) Anyone who seeks his own glory, as the Jewish leaders did,  does not seek to honor and glorify the Father. 

Jesus said there is one who seeks glory for him. (50) It is God the Father. This theme will be developed more in chapters 14 and 17. Jesus asked the Father to glorify his Son so that he might glorify the Father. (17:1) The Father did this, as is explained if Philippians 2. The Father exalted the Son so that every knee would bow to him and every tongue confess his Lordship, all to the glory of the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11) 

There is one who has glory, is entitled to glory, and seeks his own glory. That is God. We are to be humble before him and not seek to glorify ourselves. God said “my glory I will not give to another”. (Isaiah 48:11) The Psalmist wrote “not to us, but to your name give glory”. (Psalm 115:1)

Instead, we are to glorify God. We glorify him by speaking of his glory and by living a holy life that brings glory to him. For example, we sing a song written by B. B McKinney called “Glorious Is Thy Name”. The Psalms are full of tributes to God’s glory. 

1 Corinthians 6:20 tells us to glorify God in our bodies. 1 Peter 2:12 tells us to do good deeds that will glorify God. We are commanded to be holy, as God is holy - our holiness reflects God’s holy character and glorifies him. (1 Peter 1:16)

God not only seeks his glory, but is the judge. (50) Jesus did not seek approval from anyone but the Father, because only the judgment of the Father really counts. If we live to please and glorify the Father, those who do not will be displeased.

Jesus & Abraham


Seeking the glory of the Father and knowing that the Father will judge all, Jesus offered them eternal life. He said “if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death”. (51) We keep his word by believing he is who he said he is, the Son of God. Those who believe in him, receive eternal life. (3:16) They do not see death. (51) 

Jesus was not speaking of the death of the body, but of the eternal separation from God and eternal punishment. This is what Revelation 21:8 calls the “second death”. 

But the Jews focused on the first death, the death of the body. So, the said Abraham and the prophets died. The implication is, Abraham kept God’s word and he died, so how can you say the one who keeps your word will not die? (52) Are you greater than Abraham? 

The Jews could not think of anyone greater than Abraham, the first of their race. Jesus could have simply said “yes, I am the Son of God, so I am greater than Abraham” and that would have been true.

But Jesus again refused to glorify himself. But he knew the Father and he kept the Father’s word, as did Abraham and the prophets. (55) Therefore, he meant that Abraham and the prophets were not greater than he in the keeping of God’s word.

Jesus went on to say that Abraham, who kept God’s word, rejoiced to see Jesus’ day. (56) God told Abraham that his descendant would bless all of the families, or nations, of the earth. (Genesis 12:3) And, in some fashion, God allowed him to see the coming of Jesus, his day. And Abraham, the father of the Jews, rejoiced in the coming of Jesus.

The Jews continued to focus on the physical, reminding Jesus that he was not even 50 years old, so how could he have seen Abraham. And so Jesus told them he was eternal, saying “before Abraham was, I am”. This again is a truth John introduced in the prologue. He said Jesus was in the beginning, before the world was created. (John 1:1) 

Not only was Jesus saying he is eternal, as God, but he used the term in Greek for God’s self declaration. The Greek words “ego eimi”: are the words, translated into Greek in the Septuagint,  by which God identified himself in Exodus 3:14, the account of God speaking to Moses in the burning bush. We translate them into English as “I Am Who I AM” or “I AM”. 

This is Jesus clearly declaring that he is God, that he is deity. 

Some people say that Jesus never claimed to be God. For example, Bart Ehrman, who bills himself as a former Christian and present agnostic, said once in an interview about his book “How Jesus Became God: 

Well, what I argue in the book is that during his lifetime, Jesus himself didn't call himself God and didn't consider himself God and that none of his disciples had any inkling at all that he was God.

That is false. Certainly, Jesus claimed it here. If he had wanted only to say he was eternal somehow, but not God, he would have said “before Abraham was, I was”. Instead, he explicitly applied the sacred name of God to himself, to claim he was indeed superior to Abraham.

But, contrary to Ehrman, the other gospels both quote Jesus’ words and show his actions to claim he is God. 

Matthew wrote of Jesus being born of the Holy Spirit (1:21), of fulfilling Isaiah 7:14, that Jesus would be called “God with us”, of the wise men worshipping him (2:11), of telling the devil “you shall not put the Lord your God to the test”. (4:7) 

Matthew also portrayed Jesus’ deity via his actions. Jesus identified his appearance with the arrival of the kingdom of God. (4:17) He calmed storms by rebuking the wind and the sea. (8:26) He forgave the paralytic’s sins. (9:2) He raised a man’s daughter from the dead. (9:25) He gave the disciples authority over unclean spirits and the ability to heal every disease.(10:1)

Jesus claimed God as his father. (10:32-33) He claimed to be sent from heaven by God the Father. (10:40) He claimed to be the Son of Man (12:8), the figure from the Book of Daniel who ascends to the Father on the clouds and receives an eternal kingdom. He claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath. (10:40) 

Jesus walked on water. (14:26) The disciples worshiped him after calming a storm and called hm the Son of God. (14:33) He multiplied loaves and fishes to feed thousands of people. (15:32) 

Jesus said he would return with his angels in the glory of his Father. (16:27; 24:30) He was transfigured in the presence of Peter, James and John (17:1-8) and God called him his beloved Son. He claimed the temple, the house of God, as his own and cleansed it. (21:13) He cursed a fig tree and made it die immediately. (21:19)

Matthew recorded Jesus claiming to be the Lord mentioned in Psalm 110:1, sitting at the right hand of the Father. (22:44) Jesus claimed the right to judge at the final judgment. (25:31)

Mark and Luke record many of the same events and words of Jesus as Matthew. There are abundant words and actions showing that Jesus is God. The purpose of the Gospels was to show people that Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ, and the Savior. They would not have forgotten his deity.

Back to the current passage: the Jews were fully aware that Jesus was claiming to be God. So, they sought to stone him for blasphemy. (58) 


Sunday, April 04, 2021




Freedom From Sin

Verse 30 ends the previous passage by saying many believed in him after his message on being the light of the world.

Beginning in verse 31, Jesus addressed those people in this passage and tells them what genuine faith looks like. He has already encountered those who claimed to be disciples, but walked away when he said something difficult. Here he confronts their dependence on their race more than on their faith. 

Jesus said “if you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples (31) The mark of the true disciple is perseverance until the end. Our time is marked by the defection of many who claimed to be believers. They have gone after theological liberalism, secularism, humanism, and agnosticism. 

But the true disciple stays with Jesus. He “abides”, or stays with Jesus through his word. The disciple constantly hears, reads, and studies Jesus’ words. If he or she reads a verse they do not understand, they do not leave, they stay and pray and think and study until they understand it. If they read something that is troubling, they do not abandon the faith, they adapt their thinking to God’s thinking until they understand and love that word. They are the true disciple.

By abiding, disciples come to know the truth. They know Jesus, who is the embodiment of truth, and the truth of his teaching. Especially, they know the gospel, the way to salvation unto eternal life.

Here is an example: after causing many to leave him because he said they must eat his flesh and drink his blood, Jesus asked the Twelve if they would also leave. Peter replied that there was no place to go, because Jesus had the words of eternal life. (6:68) Jesus had taught the truth, that he was the way to the Father and eternal life.

So, true disciples abide in Jesus’ word. True disciples know the truth. And, the truth sets them free. And it is at this point the Jesus’ point strikes home. If you must know the truth of Jesus to be free, there is an implication that you are otherwise not free, but a slave.

So, the Jews said that, as the descendants of Abraham, the were free and never been enslaved to anyone. (33) They had, though, been slaves in Egypt and had been conquered as a nation many times. But they felt special as Abraham’s descendants, having a relationship with God that no other nation had.

Jesus answered them with an important truth, shown by his use of the word “truly” twice. He explained that he was referring to the slavery to sin: everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Paul taught this truth in detail in Romans 6. 

Ironically, while the Jews argued with Jesus, they demonstrated his point. They were proud.  They took so much pride in being descendants of Abraham and feeling special that they could not accept who they were as sinners and, therefore, who Christ was a savior.

So, Jesus taught them about status. The son remains forever in the father’s house, but the slave can be be sent away. Jesus is the true Son and those who abide in his words are sons by adoption. Since the Son is permanently in the father’s house, if he sets you free you are truly free. 

Hebrews 7 teaches this truth in the context of Jesus being the high priest of our faith. Since he is the high priest forever, he saves us forever since he always lives to make intercession for us.

Jesus was confronting their sin and their need to permanently abide in is word. He was telling them he could set them free from sin if they would abide in his word. Perseverance in faith would result in salvation, but their heritage would not. 

Of course, this freedom of which Jesus speaks is not the freedom to do anything we please, even sin, but rather is freedom from sin to do what we ought to do to please God. 

Jesus knew the Jews were the physical offspring of Abraham. Of course he knew that, he was raised as  Jew and had heard that all his life. But, he also knew that Abraham believed in him. Abraham believed God’s promises, including that the blessing of all nations would come through his seed, or descendant. That seed was Jesus, who came and fulfilled the promise made to Abraham. If the Jews were the spiritual descendants of Abraham, they would also believe in Jesus.

But these Jews wanted to kill Jesus because they did not abide in his word.  Jesus said “my word finds no place in you”. (37) Since abiding in his word is the sign of true discipleship, Jesus was saying they were not true disciples. And, they were not true sons of Abraham. 


Who’s Your Daddy?

Jesus pressed this point (of them not being true sons of Abraham) by saying he spoke of what he had seen from his Father, meaning God the Father. In contrast, the Jews did what they heard from their father. (38)

The Jews, still thinking that Jesus was speaking of Abraham, responded by insisting Abraham was their father. (39)

But Jesus pointed out that, if they were children of Abraham, they would do the works Abraham did. Abraham believed and obeyed God. These people do not. So Jesus said, you have shown that Abraham is not your father and you are doing the work of you real father. (41)

By denying the claim of the Jews to be children of Abraham, Jesus was making them spiritually illegitimate children. In response they say they were not born of sexual immorality, but were instead children of God. (41) 

This statement has a couple of extra possible meanings. It could refer to a Samaritan belief that the Jews were the product of Satan seduced Eve and produced Cain, and that the Jews descended from Cain and not Seth. 

It could also be that this was an insult directed at Jesus because of rumors about his parentage by those who would not acknowledge his birth via the Holy Spirit. 

The Jews claim that their real father was God had support in Scripture. There are Old Testament passages to support this. In Exodus 4:22, God said “Israel is my firstborn son”. In Jeremiah 31:9, the Lord said “I am Israel’s father”. 

Jesus did not deny the Old Testament texts. But he denied their applicability to his audience. Since he came from God and said what God told him to say,  if they had God for their father, they would love his son and believe him. (42)

This teaching set the stage for Paul’s later teaching that the true descendants of Abraham were those who believed in Christ, not those who were physical descendants only. (Romans 9:7; Galatians 4:21-31)

But they do not believe. In fact they cannot bear to hear Jesus because their real father is the devil. (43-44)

Because their father was the devil, they desired to do the devil’s will and murder Jesus. The devil was a murderer and so they wanted to be murderers, too. It was a terrible indictment. And it turned out to be true.

The devil is also a liar. He has no connection to truth at all. (44) So, those who are his children, also cannot bear the truth or believe it. 

Jesus’s summary here is a word for us to hear today: whoever is of God hears the words of God. Those who cannot hear the words of God, which we have in the Bible, show to whom they belong. They may claim to be Christians, but if they reject Christ’s words, they show they are not and are, in fact, enemies of Christ as was their father, the devil.