(last edited 5/7/16)
The four Gospels are written to four different groups of people; Matthew to the Jews, Mark to the Romans, Luke to the Greeks, and John to believers. Jesus is presented in these four Gospels as king (Matthew), servant (Mark), perfect man (Luke), and God (John). John makes it very clear that Jesus is God.
Notice these key words that John uses frequently that are not as common in the other Gospels: believe, receive, truth, light, love, saved, eternal life. John deals more with theology and less with the story of Jesus' life.
This Gospel was written quite late, probably about 90 AD, to later believers, not to the ones who had been eyewitnesses. So, if written to later believers, in a sense you can say this Gospel is written to the church. And we will find much said to and for the church rather than to the Jews. Particularly we see this in Jesus' last words, John 14-16, which are not about the fulfillment of prophecy in the endtimes, as the other Gospels stress, but are about preparing the disciples for the coming of the Holy Spirit and their relationship to Him, rather than with Jesus.
Perhaps the key verse is 20:31. Here is why John wrote this book and why he recorded the information he did. Which John wrote this book? We don't want to confuse him with John the Baptist. What else did John write?
The Bible uses many names and terms for Jesus. Let's see how many we can find in this chapter, in 1, 5, 9, 14, 17, 18, 20, 23, 29, 33, 34, 36, 41, 45, 49(2). The Jews understood the terms "Son of God" and "Son of Man" to both refer to deity.
1-5 How is this beginning different than Gen. 1:1? Which of these two beginnings takes us further back in time? The other three Gospels place Jesus in a historical and geographical setting; how does this book introduce Jesus in connection with history? How does it teach the Trinity? Compare Gen. 1:26. What is the Trinity? Three persons--Father, Son, Holy Spirit--all of which are identified in Scripture as God, equal with each other, yet we are told God is One. We never find the precise words "I am God" coming from Jesus, but in many ways, He, and the Bible, claim that He is God. This chapter tells us in many ways.
We talk about God's Word; here the Word is what? Compare Rev. 1:16, Heb. 4:12, Heb. 1:1-2. Jesus IS what God has to say. He IS God's message to us. No wonder we experience fellowship with God when we spend time in His Word. What role did Jesus play in creation? Col. 1:15-20 also tells of His role in creation and in everything that goes on.
The Jehovah Witnesses' New World Translation says "and the Word was a god." They do not believe Jesus is God but rather is a created being. There is no scholarly evidence for their translation, but this is their way of getting around the obvious statement here that Jesus is God. Most cults say that Jesus was a created being, not the Creator.
The Mormons also deny the Trinity. They claim they do, but use the term to mean something else. They believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three separate individuals, three gods. They are polytheistic, not monotheistic, as Christians are. Cults often use biblical terms to mean something not biblical. It's a good idea to ask questions and find out what someone means by the terms they use.
6-8 Who is being talked about here? What was his purpose? Testify/witness: to report, give evidence. Is this similar to what we are to do? John 15:27, Acts 1:8, 1:22, 20:22-23, I Pet. 5:1, I John 1:2, Rev. 20:4. Most of these seem to speak of the role of the apostles as eyewitnesses, but obviously Rev. 20:4 is not. What evidence do we give as witnesses of Christ? Did John try to argue people into belief in Christ, or did he just present his experience and what the Bible said about Him?
9-10 So is this saying that all men have the true light, that all are saved? (KJV, enlightens = lighteth) Strongs: shines, illuminates, gives light, brings light. So every man has heard? Perhaps because of His role in creation, like Rom. 1:20, or perhaps referring to every man that heard about Jesus? The context makes it clear that this is not some inner light; He is seen and heard by men, and so illuminates the world.
11-12 Who were His own? Mt. 15:24. This refers specifically to the Jews, God's chosen people, but also refers more generally to the entire world, God's creation. What two verbs tell what people need to do? What does "believe" mean? Does it mean that if the words "I believe" come out of your mouth, you are saved? If you do not believe in your heart, is God fooled by words? Some people think James 2:14-26, which stresses the importance of works, contradicts other parts of the Bible that say believing is all that is necessary for salvation. Actually, James clarifies for us just what is meant by "believe." James says that faith without works (obedience) is dead. So we see that the Bible tells us that faith, or believing, means a life-changing belief, one that results in actions--in obedience to God.
But we see here that if you DO truly believe, that IS all that is required--to simply believe in Jesus, that He is God, as He claims to be, and that He is your Savior, as He claims to be. And of course this implies that the person understands that they are a sinner in need of forgiveness, or else there would be no need for a Savior. Some teach that if the "magic words" come out of your mouth, you are saved, no matter what. This is false, and many people have been deceived into thinking they are saved when they are not.
Some believe that anything WE DO is works, even believing. They say that believing does not save us--only election does. So how can they know if they are saved, if they are the elect? They say you must continually inspect your life to see if your life exhibits marks of a Christian. This would take away from any assurance of salvation. You would always be hoping you are one of the elect, but never absolutely sure. Can you know for sure that you are saved? Read I John 5:13. What does it say is the criterion for eternal life?
On the other hand, some say we must DO things to be saved--keep the Law, be baptized, belong to a certain group or church, or just do more good things than you do bad things. But the Bible clearly teaches we MUST receive/believe, and that is ALL that is required for salvation. Believing is the work of faith, not works to gain righteousness on our own merit. John 6:29 says that our believing is whose doing? But WE must do it. Here is the balance of God's sovereignty and our free will, which will be talked about in greater detail in John 6. Who alone can give the right to become children of God? So indirectly, Jesus is here said to be God. Christians are described here as those who have received Him, who have believed Him, who are born of God, who are children of God. In John 3:3, what similar term does Jesus use? These are all ways of saying that we must have a personal relationship with Christ, not just an intellectual assent.
14-16 The Word has already been identified as the eternal God; now God becomes what? Flesh = man. This is called in theology the incarnation, "carn" referring to flesh. (Have you ever bought "chile con carne"? That means beans with meat--flesh). The New Testament talks about the carnal Christian, the one relying on the flesh rather than the spirit. His name "Jesus Christ" refers to the fact that He is both the Christ and the man Jesus. Christ = Messiah, the Anointed One. In the prophecy in Is. 9:6, who is this child/son actually? What does Micah 5:2 tell about the ruler of Israel who will be born in Bethlehem? Mal. 3:1 refers to the one who will come to His temple as who? So the promised Messiah was to be not just a man, but God Himself.
So who or what was Jesus before He was born as a man? What does this verse tell us about Jesus as a man? Only begotten: unique, only one of His kind. What does "full of" tell us? Does "full" mean "partly"? Was Jesus partly God and partly man? He was completely God and completely man; compare Col. 1:15, 19. What is grace? God's favor. Is any man full of grace? Nowhere in the Bible is anyone else said to be "full of grace." (The NASB translates Acts 6:8 as Stephen being "full of grace," but the KJV translates it as "full of faith.") Grace is found in Jesus Christ alone. As we read through the New Testament, we will find that we are now living in the Age of Grace (also called the Church Age); we are no longer in the Age of Law. We are living under grace, not under law, Rom. 6:14.
The Rosary begins, "Hail, Mary, full of grace," but can this be found anywhere in the Bible? The Bible does not teach that Mary was sinless--without original sin. Mary herself realized that she needed a Savior (Luke 1:47); only sinners need a Savior. Also, the angel's statement, "Blessed art thou among women" (Luke 1:28, KJV) does not mean she was sinless or more than human. "Blessed" simply means favored, happy. Many in the Bible are said to be blessed, such as those mentioned in the Beatitudes (Mt. 5:3-9), those who follow the teachings of Jesus (John 13:17), or those who find wisdom (Prov. 3:13). Our beliefs should be based on the Bible, not on any tradition, church teaching, later book or supposed revelation, on this matter or any other.
Is any man full of truth? Why not? Who alone is full of truth? What did John the Baptist know about Jesus? All through this chapter, we are continually reminded that Jesus is God, using many different terminologies, so that the point cannot be missed.
In 14, the author, who is unnamed although we know it is John, says "we" saw His glory, claiming to be an eyewitness of the transfiguration, which we know was witnessed by which three disciples, Mt. 17:1? Peter also refers to this incident in II Pet. 1:16-18.
In 16, does "we all" refer to all mankind? Is everyone saved--universal salvation? Keep in mind who John is speaking to--believers, the church. As in Paul's Epistles, "we/us" generally refers to the church, which he is addressing, and "they/them" generally refers to unbelievers, those outside the church ("the church" in the Bible means all believers, not a specific group of believers). Can you see how those who take one verse out of context, to fit their pre-conceived ideas, could come up with all kinds of wrong teachings? Unbelievers reading this could take "we" to mean themselves, wrongly concluding, as many cults and New Agers do, that God is in all people. But remembering that Bible authors are talking to a specific audience, "we/you/us/our" refers to the believers they are addressing. Unbelievers are often referred to as "they/them." A good example of this is found in I Thes. 4:13-5:11.
17 John contrasts two dispensations. What dispensation began in Moses' day? Another way to say it is, the Jews in the Old Testament were under what? What dispensation began with the resurrection of Jesus? Or, the church is under what? Rom. 6:14. Some Christians don't believe in or like the term "dispensations." A dispensation is merely a period of time during which God is dealing with man in a particular way, testing him under a particular set of circumstances. In every dispensation, man fails the test. God is proving to all that we are completely unable on our own to meet His standard of righteousness.
What other key word in this book is found in 17? Today many people do not believe that truth exists; they believe that everyone has their own truth (which really just means, their opinion), and all truths are valid (because everyone IS entitled to their own opinion). This view is known as Post-Modernism. What does the Bible say about truth in John 14:6 and 18:37? Did Moses give the Law, or write it? Compare Ex. 19:9-20:1. When you talk to people about the truths in the Bible, don't say "I think" or "I believe." Many people will say, "that's fine for you, but I believe this other thing…" Say instead, "the Bible says…" Let people know that there IS truth; whether they believe it or not is their choice.
18 Compare this verse to Gen. 18:22, Ex. 33:11, Judges 6:14-15, I Tim. 6:16, and I John 4:12. Is the Bible contradicting itself? Remember that God is a Trinity: John 4:24 tells us what about the Father? The Holy Spirit is obviously spirit also. According to this verse, when God appeared on earth as a man, He appeared as the Son, the Christ. His human name was Jesus. In the Old Testament, He also appeared, not as Jesus but as the pre-incarnate Christ. (Incarnate = in the flesh.) He appeared as the Angel of the Lord, who can be identified as God in many passages. See Gen. 22:11-18 and Judges 6:22. Is it true, as some say, that we cannot really know God or know anything about Him for sure, according to this verse? Compare John 6:46, Col. 1:15.
19-23 Which John is spoken of here, the disciple/apostle or John the Baptist? Does "confess" mean to admit to a crime? Strongs: profess, acknowledge. What does "Christ" mean? Is "Jesus Christ" merely the name Jesus had on earth, like a first name and last name? No; "Christ" means "anointed", "the Messiah," and is only used in the New Testament. The Old Testament speaks of the Messiah in Dan. 9:25-26, and the Lord's anointed in Ps. 2:2. "Jesus" was the name given to the baby born in the manger; "Christ" was His title. He is Jesus, the Christ.
So what were the Jews asking in 20? Was John the Baptist the Messiah promised in the Old Testament prophecies? Why would they ask if he was Elijah? See Mal. 4:5. "The Prophet" was a reference to Deut. 18:15 (a prophecy of Christ). John answers them by quoting Is. 40:3. Read about the circumstances of John's birth in Luke 1:13-17, in which the angel refers to Mal. 3:1 and 4:5-6, and Luke 1:76. John and Jesus were cousins, born 6 months apart. Do you think John already knew at this point that Jesus was the Messiah?
24-28 Baptizing was not an uncommon practice; many groups baptized their followers. It was a way of publicly identifying one's self with a particular group or leader. How did John compare himself to Jesus? What did servants do that John did not even feel qualified to do? Have you noticed that baptisms were done publicly, never in private? We are not to be "closet Christians."
29 What is Jesus called here? Why is He called that? This term takes us back to the Old Testament sacrificial system that God gave to Israel, Lev. 17:11, and which originated in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned, what did God do, Gen. 3:21? They had made themselves garments, 3:7, but their own efforts were not acceptable. The shedding of blood was required. Likewise Cain's offering was unacceptable because it was a bloodless offering, Gen. 4:3-5. What event in Ex. 12:1-14 pictured how the shed blood of the Lamb delivered those who obeyed from death? How does Gen. 22:7-13 prophesy of the coming Lamb that God would provide? Did God provide a lamb that day, 22:13? This verse in John fulfills that prophecy.
Why did Jesus come to earth? To show us how to love each other, to give us an example to follow? This verse tells why--He came to die in our place, to take the punishment (death) that we deserve because we are all sinners and our sin makes us unacceptable to God. "Sin" not "sins;" this is not talking about our specific acts, but our original sin. Compare Is. 53:5-6 (note 53:7, again pointing to the Lamb of God), 11-12, Rom. 5:9, 6:23, Heb. 9:20, 10:4, 12.
Some believe that all people on earth are now forgiven and will go to heaven because Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world--again, universal salvation. This removes the requirement that we repent and believe in order to be forgiven. Taking a verse here and there out of context can lead to such wrong theology. Reading elsewhere in this chapter, 1:12, clarifies that not everyone is forgiven, only those who believe and receive. All of john 3 also makes this very clear, emphasizing the necessity of believing and being born again.
31 Even though he must have known the stories of his and Jesus' conception and birth, what was John not sure about? Why was Jesus to be manifested specifically to Israel? Who were they looking for, 41? They were looking for the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.
32-34 The apostle John does not describe Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist as do the other Gospels, but he has John the Baptist referring to that incident here. The other three Gospels state that immediately following the baptism of Jesus, He was tempted in the wilderness by Satan for 40 days. Then He began His public ministry. The time frame here--the events of 19-28, followed by the comment "the next day" in 29--must be immediately following the wilderness temptation. At what point did John know for sure that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Eternal One? Apparently God told him this in advance. Not until this point in Jesus' life does He begin to act on His true identity. This is when His ministry as the Messiah begins. Note the two terms for God used here.
In what form did the Holy Spirit appear at Jesus' baptism? In what way do we see the Trinity at Jesus' baptism, Mt. 3:16-17? Who alone has the power to baptize anyone with/in/by the Holy Spirit? So again we see Jesus identified as God.
35-37 Who does John the Baptist direct this statement to? Was he concerned about keeping his own power or position, his own disciples? What was his role, 23? We see John's obedience and humility. What other kind of animal is Jesus likened to, Rev. 5:5, Gen. 49:9? In this book, we will see Him use many terms to refer to Himself, besides the Light and the Word.
38-40 Why did Jesus ask this? Doesn't He, as God, know everything? Are there other reasons to ask questions besides just getting information? Why do we sometimes do this with our children? We see Jesus often using this tactic; we saw it first in Gen. 3:9, 11, 13. What does "Rabbi" mean? What does "disciple" mean? A learner.
41-42 What was Andrew's first action after following Jesus? We aren't told a lot about the disciple Andrew, but what similar things do we see him doing in John 6:4-9 and 12:20-22? Who does he believe Jesus is? The word "believe" is not used here but obviously Andrew has believed in Jesus. Christ = Messiah. So these disciples knew that this was no ordinary man. Andrew's brother is known by what three names? Interestingly, the name "Cephas" (rock) is not used in the stories of Peter and Jesus; the only other places we find it are in accounts of his life following the resurrection. The name is prophetic; it has future significance.
43-51 How did Philip become a follower of Jesus? Comparing him to Andrew and Peter, do we see God working the same way in everyone's life? Does Philip think, as do many today, that Jesus was merely a good teacher? Many think Christians need only read the New Testament; does the Old Testament teach about Jesus Christ, 45? 46, what did Philip tell Nathanael? This is what each person needs to do. Does Nathanael believe instantly, as the others seemed to? Do all come to Christ in the same way? How does Jesus deal with his doubts? Will He deal with our doubts? If you are seeking truth, God will make sure that you find it, Mt. 7:7. Don't individuals sometimes experience, like Nathanael did, little private "miracles" in which God shows them He is truly God? "Under the fig tree" may have a literal meaning, or may have been used figuratively, as the Bible often does, to signify living in safety, comfort, leisure.
The men Jesus called were obviously godly Jews. They knew the Scriptures and were looking for the promised Messiah.
What Old Testament incident does 51 refer to, Gen. 28:12? So what light does this statement shed on Jacob's experience? What/who did Jacob actually see? Who alone can bridge the gap between earth and heaven?
In 51, what does Jesus claim about Himself? We see in this chapter that not only does Jesus claim to be God, but many others testify that He is God. "Truly, truly" (or "verily, verily") is a way of drawing attention to an important statement.
If you have not been clear in your mind that Jesus is God, this chapter should help you. It also makes it clear that salvation is through believing in Jesus Christ. It is a good chapter to use in talking to someone who is not yet a believer. Some Christians think it is not important to read the Old Testament, but we see from just this one chapter how many references there are to the Old Testament, and how understanding it gives a much better understanding of the New Testament. God gave us the whole Bible because it is all important, I Tim. 3:16.
1 The third day of what? Go back to John 1; the action begins in 19. Note the time words in 29, 35, and 43 (the third day). Where did Jesus go the third day, 43? And where is He now? It could also be the third day of the seven-day wedding feasts of those days.
1-11 Why is this miracle important, 11? Who seemed to instigate the action, 3? But did she really, or did Jesus? Doesn't God move us to do things that we think are our own idea, when really God is using us to accomplish His own purposes? John had baptized Jesus a few days earlier; now Jesus was beginning His ministry as the promised Messiah. For years Mary had thought about the events of Jesus' birth. For all those years, everyone had probably thought she had conceived Jesus out of wedlock, by Joseph. Do you think she might be anxious for people to finally know the truth about her Son, to finally have her good name vindicated? Or she may have been helping to put on this wedding and was thus concerned about the problem that has arisen. But how did Jesus chastise her in 4? Those who venerate Mary should notice that she defers to Jesus; she is not the main character, Jesus is. What does she tell the servants in 5? She points them to Jesus. We do not see her elevated to His level in the Bible. In the vernacular of modern English, calling her "woman" seems rude, but it was not at that time in that culture. Perhaps Jesus is pointing out to Mary that now their relationship has changed. Rather than relating to Him as His mother, she will now relate to Him as the Son of God.
The miracles of Jesus (and the apostles) actually confirm the creation account in Genesis of a literal six-day creation from nothing. If you believe in the miracles recorded in the Bible, then you should have no trouble believing in six-day creation. And if you believe that God can create the universe from nothing in six days, then you should have no trouble believing in miracles. Many people doubt the creation account because of the false claims of the unscientific theory of evolution; for more on this, see my online book, Evolution: Fact or Philosophy?
Who besides Mary and a few servants saw this miracle, 2? It wasn't done before multitudes; it was for whose benefit, 11? Later He would say His hour HAD come, which was when? John 12:23 (compare 12:1 for the time frame--the Passover at which He would have the Last Supper), 13:1, 17:1. John 12 to the end is about the last week of His earthly life.
The concept of dispensations is alluded to in 10. The new wine is also explained in Mt. 9:16-17. The old wine was what God had previously given them, the Law. The new dispensation of grace was not being added to the Law, it was something entirely new. John has already drawn attention to this in 1:17. Now we see that not only is it new, it is better, Heb. 7:19, 8:6.
It is significant that the scene of this first miracle is a wedding, drawing attention to the importance God places on marriage. In a wedding, who is the most important person? Yet is the bride even mentioned in this account? The New Testament presents Jesus as the what, John 3:29, with His bride being whom, Eph. 5:22-33 and Rev. 19:7? Isn't it interesting that Jesus' first miracle is in the setting of a wedding, yet there is no bride or bridegroom mentioned? The bridegroom is present in the person of Jesus Christ. Perhaps the bride--the church--IS pictured here. What do we see at this wedding that is how we (the church) are pictured in II Cor. 4:7 and Rom. 9:20-21? The pots are filled with what? What does that sometimes represent in the Bible, Eph. 5:26? Is the purpose of filling the pots with water to just keep the pots full, or to give out to others? What does Jesus talk about in Mt. 9:17 that we see in John 2:9-10? Yet in Eph. 5:18 He makes clear that it is not wine we are to be filled with but what? When the Bible uses symbols, it uses them consistently; they always have the same meaning, so we can understand how they apply in other passages.
Is drinking wine a sin? Would Jesus perform this miracle if drinking wine was a sin? What does the Bible say is wrong, Eph. 5:18, I Tim. 3:3,8? Some believe that wine in those days was not fermented, but more like grape juice. However, if this were true, why forbid to be drunk with wine? Juice does not cause drunkenness, or the changed behavior that the apostles displayed in Acts 2:13. If wine should be avoided on the grounds that drunkenness is a sin, then eating should also be avoided so that we do not then commit the sin of gluttony (Rom. 16:18, Phil. 3:19). However, we must remember that self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit, Gal. 5:23.
11 John only records seven miracles, or eight if you include the resurrection. He apparently chose ones that he thought best illustrate who Jesus is.
12-17 The cleansing of the temple. Animals and money brought by travelers were often declared unacceptable and worshippers were required to buy/exchange at highly inflated prices. Does this match the soft sweet pictures and impressions we often have of Jesus? What kind of man does He seem to have been? How did He display His anger--as emotional rage, or righteous indignation against what was wrong? This is an example of how we can have appropriate anger. Surely He raised His voice. Surely His actions were not done calmly and quietly. Yet He was not sinning.
Is anger wrong? A quick check of Strongs Concordance shows many references to the anger of the Lord. What makes God angry? Sin, injustice. The Bible says God is slow to anger, and that being slow to anger is good, Tit. 1:7. The Bible speaks negatively of provoking someone to anger (NOT of the one who is provoked as then being in the wrong and needing to forgive the provoker). Is anger prohibited in the Ten Commandments? Is Eph. 4:31 talking about righteous anger? Here it is classed with bitterness, wrath, slander, clamor, and malice; that type of anger is wrong. Proverbs often mentions the folly of an angry countenance, of being contentious and angry, of being an angry person (one who stirs up strife). This is different than experiencing anger as God does, over what is unjust. In Col. 3:21, is it the child who is told not to get angry, or is it the parent who is told not to provoke anger in the child? In Eph. 4:26, anger is not the sin, but can lead to sin if we are not careful how we handle it. Does Mt. 5:22 say anger is a sin? The rest of Scripture indicates that anger at what is sinful or unjust is proper; this verse doesn’t say that the brother had done something wrong to him, just that he was angry at his brother, perhaps without a real cause (as implied by the name-calling).
Might it sometimes be wrong NOT to feel or show anger? What if sin or injustice are done and Christians involved are not angry, because they think we should always show love? To stress love to the point that we are NOT angry at wrongdoing is to leave out half of Scripture and is wrong theology--what the Bible calls false teaching.
Jesus cleanses the temple not only here, at the beginning of His ministry, but again at the very end, Luke 19:45-46.
18-22 Jesus uses a different word for "temple" in 19 and 21 than is found in 14-15. In 14-15, the word used is "hieron" meaning the whole temple. In 19 and 21, the word used is "naos" which means the inner sanctuary of the temple. (In I Cor. 6:19 "naos" is used of our body as the temple--"naos"--of the Holy Spirit.) The word for "raise up" is "egeiro" meaning literally to wake up. Each time it is used, it refers to awaking from the dead, as in Jesus' resurrection and Lazarus being brought back to life. Because Jesus was speaking to them in their language, not in English, these distinctions should be clear to them. However, we see at His trial that this claim about raising the temple in three days was brought up, Mt. 26:60-61. In 22, does it sound like His disciples understood what He meant at the time, or only later?
What does John 14:26 say about remembering what Jesus has said? Which one of John's key words do we see in 22? This is the purpose of everything Jesus said and did. What is meant by "Scripture"? How much of the Bible did they have at that time? We often think the New Testament is about Jesus and the Old Testament is about Israel. But Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, which the Jews were familiar with, and the Gospels frequently point this out. "The word which Jesus had spoken" has now become part of Scripture, the written Word of God.
23-25 Note John's editorializing in 17, 21, 22, 24-25. This gives us more insight into what was developing here than just a straight-forward account of what happened. We will see more of this in John's Gospel.
It's interesting that the same word translated "believed" in 23 is translated "entrusting Himself" in 24 (KJV, "commit Himself"). Many believed in Him, but He was not "believing in" man. The rest of 24 and 25 tell why. This also sheds a little light on what it means to believe in Him--to trust someone, entrust yourself to them. It is not just an intellectual thought. So what was the purpose of the signs He was doing? Miracles were to prove He was who He said He was--God in the flesh. Does it comfort you or make you uncomfortable to know that Jesus/God knows what is really in us? We can't fool God; He knows our hearts and thoughts. But on the other hand, He understands how weak and failure-prone we are, Ps. 103:14.
This may be saying that many of those who believed did not have true saving faith, or perhaps like those mentioned in the parable of the seed and the sower, Mt. 13:1-23, believed but quickly stumbled. 23, what was their belief based on? Was their belief also based on a recognition of their sins and their need for repentance? We don't know if 23 means they were merely impressed by the supernatural, or if it means that in seeing His signs, they realized He was truly the Messiah-God in the flesh--prophesied in the Old Testament. Rom. 10:17 says faith is based on what?
1 In contrast to men who only seek signs (John 2:23-25), we now meet a man who seeks truth. What group was he part of? Why might he come at night to see Jesus? The Pharisees rejected, even hated, Jesus.
2-3 Jesus answers a question that Nicodemus has not asked, but it is the question that he needs to have answered. Is. 65:24. Some mock the term "born again" and think it was coined by the church, or by fundamentalist Christians. It can also be translated "born from above." Why did Jesus use this metaphor? What does it teach about how to get eternal life? If we could be physically born again (reincarnated), could we then get to heaven? Or would we still be sinful?
The other gospels, especially Matthew, speak much more about the kingdom than John does. They make it clear that there are two aspects to the kingdom: the earthly physical kingdom promised to Israel in the Old Testament which the Messiah will rule over, and the spiritual kingdom that believers are part of now. John only mentions the kingdom five times, all in the sense of the spiritual kingdom: 3:3, 3:5, and three times in 18:36. As mentioned in the introduction, here we see a difference between John and the other gospels, showing Jesus as the giver of eternal life rather than as Israel's Messiah.
4-8 Does Nicodemus understand the concept of the new birth, of spiritual birth? Was this concept presented in the Old Testament? Again we see evidence for a new dispensation; God is now dealing with man in a different way than He was. Man will now be tested under different conditions; rather than being held accountable to an external Law, he will be given the indwelling Holy Spirit, 14:16-17,26, 15:26, 16:7,13. Instead of a temple where sacrifices are offered, we now become the temple of God, I Cor. 6:19, with Christ's death being the final sacrifice, Heb. 10:10-14. How will man respond to His leading and teaching? 5, what is Jesus referring to by water? John 4:14, Eph. 5:26.
9-12 Is Nicodemus an educated man? Does he understand what Jesus is telling him? So are smart or educated people more able to understand spiritual truth? What is the key word in 12 that tells how to understand spiritual truth? Even a child can believe, Mt. 18:1-6.
13 What is Jesus claiming about Himself here? How does He refer to Himself?
14-15 How does the incident in Num. 21:6-9 illustrate what Jesus is telling Nicodemus? In 21:7, what had the people done? In 6, what was this resulting in? What did they need Moses to do for them, 7? What does the pole or standard picture? Compare John 8:28 and 12:32-33. How can the bronze serpent picture Christ? Bronze symbolizes judgment, and the serpent pictures sin; Jesus bore our sins and took our judgment on the cross. So what is Jesus prophesying here? Num. 21:6-9 is not exactly a prophecy of Christ, His death for sin on the cross, and our receiving of eternal life through believing in Him, but it does foreshadow--it is a "type" of Christ. One purpose of the Old Testament is to picture spiritual truth for the New Testament believer, I Cor. 10:1-11. John stresses over and over that all that is necessary to receive eternal life is to believe in Jesus Christ.
16 This is one of the most well-known verses in the Bible. What is God like? Where else do we find this taught? Rom. 5:8, 8:39, Gal. 2:20, Eph. 2:4, I John 3:1,16, I John 4:9-16. The Psalms speak of the lovingkindness of God. Deut. 23:5 and II Chron. 9:8 are the only Old Testament passages before the Psalms that speak of God's love; both speak of His love for Israel. God does not change; He loved the world even back in the Old Testament days, although that was not the main message He revealed about Himself at that time. Now, in this new dispensation, God is revealing more about Himself. Apparently in each dispensation God reveals a little more of Himself than He had previously.
What does it mean that God "loves" us? Does it mean He likes us? Does it mean He has warm fuzzy feelings when He looks at us, and says "oooooooooh!" Is love different than like? The Greek language has several different words that are all translated as love. "Eros" is sexual attraction. "Phileo" is friendship, fondness or brotherly love. "Agape" is a giving, benevolent, unselfish love. When the Bible says God loves us, this is the word used. Is it possible to love someone with agape love even if they are not likable? We are sinners and God is holy. Does He find us cute or attractive? But He chooses to love us--to do good to us. A good illustration of agape love is the story of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37. Note the context, 27-29.
Some people talk about (or sing about) how God or Jesus is "in love" with us. Is loving someone different than being in love with someone? Being "in love" is often termed "falling in love." "Falling" is something that happens to you, that you can't help, because the other person is so lovable. And of course, the implication is that you can also fall "out of love." Does God fall in love? Which kind of love is based on a choice--on the will? Which kind of love is based on feelings? Which kind of love puts the other first? Which kind of love is concerned with how the other person makes YOU feel? Which kind of love evaporates when the other person becomes or acts unlovable? Which kind of love gives even when the other person is not lovable, or even likable?
This is also the word used when we are told to love one another. We are not told to "phileo," which would be to like each other. We are told to "agape" our neighbor as ourselves, to "agape" the other members of the body of Christ. Even the passage in Eph. 5 dealing with husbands and wives reminds them to "agape," rather than "phileo" or "eros." I John deals quite a bit with the subject of love.
Who does God love in this way? Only good people? Only believers? Rather, all the inhabitants of the world. Does He love people because of what they are like, or because of what He is like? I John 4:8.
Because God is like that, what did He do? "Only begotten" means unique, the only one of His kind. "Begotten" is a form of the verb "beget." Christians are called sons of God, but we "become" sons, John 1:12.
Who is eligible to believe in His Son and receive this eternal life? Only good people? Only church-goers? Only the elect? Whoever/whosoever means anyone. Some Christians believe that Jesus only died for the elect, but this verse, John 6:37 and I Tim. 2:6 indicate that anyone may come to Him. Election does not limit the offer of salvation; all those who believe are the elect, Acts 13:48. Because God has elected some to salvation does not prohibit the rest from taking Him up on this offer; with our finite minds, we find it hard to understand how election and free will can both be possible, but God says it is.
So we see two possible outcomes. Some will believe and not perish; they will have eternal life. Some will not believe; they will perish, not receiving eternal life. Many people think there are many ways to heaven, or that all roads lead to heaven, that all will end up in heaven.
This is an important salvation verse but should not be taken alone. Read what the rest of the Bible has to say about salvation. This verse does not tell about man's need for salvation because of his sin, Rom. 3:10-12,23, or that Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, Heb. 9:26-28, or that He rose again, proving that He is God, Acts 17:3,31, or that Jesus is the ONLY way to God, John 14:6, or that faith alone without works is all that is necessary, Eph. 2:8-9. Nor does it tell that the old nature is totally beyond fixing, that we need a new nature which we cannot provide for ourselves but which God gives when we are born again of the Holy Spirit, Rom. 6:5-8, 7:18, 8:5-17.
17-18 Here is another example of how taking a verse out of context without comparing the rest of Scripture could give unbiblical ideas. The first half of 17 says Jesus didn't come to judge the world; this is true, but doesn't mean that judgment is not coming in the future. At His first coming, He did not come to bring judgment but to bring salvation. At His second coming, He will bring judgment, Mt. 13:36-43. Jesus made this distinction clear in Luke 4:16-21 when He quoted Is. 61:1-2; He stopped reading in the middle of Is. 61:2, because the second half of that verse referred to His second coming which would bring the day of God's vengeance. The part He quoted, which He said was now fulfilled, referred to what He would do at His first coming. The Old Testament prophets prophesied of the coming of the Messiah but did not know He would come twice; God had not revealed that detail to them.
The second half of 17 could also be taken out of context to say that the whole world will be saved. The rest of the Bible does not teach this; the next verse makes it clear that not everyone will believe, and that judgment awaits those who do not believe. What results in judgment? Is committing a sin, or a certain number of sins, the reason? No--again we see that belief in God's Son results in eternal life, and not believing results in judgment. So is God grading us, deciding if we are good enough to get to heaven? Is He like Santa Claus, watching to see if we're bad or good so He can decide?
19-21 Who is the Light? What has the Light done? How did men respond to the Light? Compare John 1:1-11. John contrasts those who do evil deeds with those who practice the truth--truth being one of those key words found frequently in John. Those who love/desire/seek/practice truth will do what? Truth is not whatever you happen to believe; the Bible talks about "the truth." Not everything is true.
We have seen Jesus referred to be three different metaphors so far: the Word, the Lamb, and the Light. Later in this gospel Jesus will give us more of these metaphors to help us understand who He is. Taking the literal interpretation of the Bible does not mean that we must assume Jesus is a light bulb or a wooly sheep. Figures of speech are commonplace in any language; Jesus used them as well as many Bible writers. The literal interpretation recognizes figures of speech.
So does Nicodemus become a believer or not? We are not told the outcome of this meeting. But John 7:50-52 and 19:39 lead us to believe that he did, along with Joseph of Arimathea, 19:38, who was also a Pharisee, Luke 23:50.
22-24 Here it states Jesus was baptizing, but compare with John 4:1-2 to see what was meant by this. Those who were following Jesus were being baptized, just as were those following John the Baptist.
25-28 John compares himself with who? Who does John say that Jesus is? John was actually the last of the Old Testament prophets. Just because he appears in the New Testament does not make him a New Testament believer--part of the church.
29 John refers to the church by what term? He calls himself what? He does not identify himself as part of the bride. He dies before the church comes into being, which can't happen until what two things happen, John 16:7? John does not have the indwelling Holy Spirit, who is given when the church comes into being in Acts 2. This is the beginning of the new dispensation--the dispensation of grace. So even though the gospels are found in the New Testament, the context of the events is the Old Testament dispensation, the dispensation of Law.
Here is the first New Testament mention of the bride, identified for us in Eph. 5:22-33 (although not by the word "bride") and Rev. 19:7, 21:9 and 22:17. John is the only writer that uses the term "bride" for the church. However, the other three gospels all refer to the bridegroom; who would that be? This Bridegroom is only spoken of in the three gospels. What is John's response to the bridegroom?
30 What term in Rom. 6:13,16,19 could describe John's response to Jesus? What term in Mt. 18:4 and I Pet. 5:5 could also describe his attitude? How do these attitudes relate to God's plan for us as found in Rom. 8:29? The words "He" and "I" could also be replaced by the words "the new man/nature" and "the old man/nature," or "the Spirit" and "the flesh/Self." Rom. 6:6,19, 7:6, 8:5-14.
31-35 How many ways does John use in these verses to tell us that Jesus is God? Do you see the reference to the Trinity in 34-35? 33, God is what? Therefore, 34, so are the words (testimony) of Jesus. To not believe Jesus is to call God what, I John 5:10? Compare I John 5:20. 34, the Spirit is not given "by measure" (Strong's: in a limited amount). Does God ever give us more of the Holy Spirit than we had before? Is it possible to have part of the Holy Spirit indwelling us? And then get a little more of Him? John 16:7 says Jesus will send the Holy Spirit to believers after He goes away; according to Strong's, another possible translation of "send" is "thrust in." He doesn't ease part way in. The Holy Spirit is a person, not a force. If we think we need more of Him, it's more likely that actually we need to give more of ourselves to Him. If we feel that we got more of Him than we had before, the truth is that we gave Him more of ourselves than we had given before.
36 Here we have more information on what it means to believe. If the words "I believe" or "I believe in Jesus Christ" come out of your mouth, does that mean you truly believe? Do those words bring eternal life? Are words the same as reality? What does Rom. 10:9-10 have to say about the relationship of the mouth and the heart? If true belief, saving faith, does not exist in your heart, then those words are meaningless and do not fool God. Can they fool others? Can they fool yourself?
This verse uses parallel construction to emphasize the point. "Believe" in the first half is used apparently synonymously with what word in the second half? KJV uses "believe" both times, but they are two different words in the Greek. In the first half, "believe" is "pisteuo," to have faith, believe, commit, entrust one's spiritual well-being to Christ. In the second half, "not obey" ("not believe" in KJV) is "apeitheo," to disbelieve, not believe, disobedient, obey not, unbelieving, willfully and perversely. Those who are guilty of this will have what two things happen to them?
Back in 18, we also read of those who do not believe. In that verse, "pisteuo" is used; they do not "pisteuo." This implies those who merely have not put their faith and trust in Christ. There is no thought of a willful decision against Christ--perhaps more towards apathetic or neutral toward Christ. So both those who are neutral toward Christ and those who willfully choose not to believe in Him receive what? Does God send anyone to hell? Or do people go there because of their own choices? I Tim. 2:3-4.
We also see that the parallel use of "believe" and "not obey" implies that true faith includes obedience as also found in Deut. 11:1 and Acts 5:32. Not just words, not just head knowledge, but life-changing faith.
1-3 Were there more than 12 disciples? Why did Jesus leave Judea at that point? Who was becoming concerned about the impact He was making on the people? This tension will continue to grow. Jesus knew what was going on with the Pharisees and what they were thinking and planning; does He know these things about each of us too?
4-6 Is Galilee a city? Is Samaria a city? Where was Jesus coming from, 2:13? Who had lived in this area long ago? The Samaritans were descended from the hated Assyrians who had intermarried with some Jews after they had conquered them. Jesus is God; does God get physically weary? Phil. 2:5-8. Can He empathize with our physical weaknesses? Jesus was fully God (John 1:14) and fully man (Heb. 2:17, 10:5). When God became man at the birth of Jesus (Mt. 1:23, Immanuel, God with us, God/man), He voluntarily laid aside some of His divine attributes. He voluntarily limited Himself. Can God really understand our human problems and weaknesses, Heb. 4:15? Also, Psalm 103:14.
7-9 Apparently the disciples went everywhere with Him. Is the well inside the city? Who drew and carried water in those days? The sixth hour, or noon, was not the usual time for getting water; why might this woman go to the well when the other women were not gathering there, 4:17-18? Jews and Samaritans did not mingle; men and women did not talk to each other, if they were strangers. But Jesus speaks to this woman as she is drawing water. This gets her attention.
10 In this gospel, the big question that constantly needs answered is, who is Jesus really? Do you see how Jesus is setting her up to answer this question? She doesn't ask it yet, but that is the direction this conversation is headed. Notice how Jesus turns this encounter into an opportunity to speak to this woman about spiritual things. We can imitate this approach. He starts with the mundane (a drink of water), then skillfully but naturally links the mundane to deeper things (living water), without being confrontational or obnoxious. His remarks appeal to her curiosity and are designed to get her to ask questions. Getting people to ask about spiritual things is often more effective than pushing unsolicited spiritual truth in their faces.
11-12 She is hung up on the apparent lack of His ability to give her water. She points out to Him the significance of this well, in case He doesn't know.
13-14 He compares her water and His. What particular benefit does His water give? Does He actually define or explain "living water"? He does in John 7:37-39. Who did Jesus speak to about eternal life in John 3? How did He explain to him how you could have it, 3:3-7, 16? We as Christians should not have a canned, one-dimensional "sales pitch" about the gospel, but be flexible enough to be able to approach and explain it in different ways, depending on who we are talking to.
15 Does she pick up on the idea of eternal life? What does interest her? Does she seem to believe Him? People want physical blessings from God. We need to help them see that spiritual blessings are what God really wants to give them: forgiveness, peace, joy, fellowship with God, eternal life.
16-18 This is a loaded statement, 16! Why might Jesus have said this? Couldn't He just explain it to her? What issue does He bring up that must be dealt with before one can have eternal life? But does He even use the word "sin" here? Does He give her a stern lecture or come across as judgmental? We are not told her response, but perhaps she averts her eyes, with a long uncomfortable pause while she struggles with feelings of conviction, and tries to think of what to say next.
19-20 She is intrigued, but thinks the way to "talk religion" is to argue about trivial matters, like where one should worship. Don't unbelievers or new believers often think that the outward actions or rituals are the important thing?
21-24 Jesus picks up on her mention of worship and uses it as an opportunity to point her to true worship. He also points out that things are now changing; no one place is more sacred than another place. She talks about worship in general; He points her to worship of the Father. 23, Jesus mentions "true worshippers." This implies there are what other kind of worshippers? He talks about worshipping the Father in spirit and truth--not in dead ritual, not focusing on objects or places. He neutralizes her argument by telling her it is not about Jews vs. Samaritans, but rather it is about being a "true worshipper."
He talks about God the Father being spirit; cults and false religions often present God as a physical being, but this is unbiblical. When God appeared to people, it was always in the second person of the Trinity, as Jesus Christ, or in the Old Testament, the angel of the Lord (the pre-incarnate Christ). He talks about the reality of truth. Today post-modernism denies the possibility of truth; many believe that truth is relative, and whatever you choose to believe is true for you. You may not be able to convince such people of truth, but you can present what the Bible says about truth (especially John 14:6), and pray that the Holy Spirit will bring conviction, Is. 55:11, John 16:7-15.
25-26 Has Jesus told her or even hinted that He is the Messiah, the Christ? So why did this woman bring up the idea of the Messiah? Apparently because of Jesus' revelation of the details of her life, and His insight into what true worship of God is, the woman is reminded of the Messiah, Christ--the Anointed One. Now Jesus reveals His identity to her. When Jesus answers her, does she argue or dismiss this possibility? He set her up to discover truth for herself; He didn't shove it in her face. Do you see how much more effective it is to allow someone to discover the truth (with your help) than to just blurt it out at the start, which would probably cause someone to become defensive and argue? It's a longer process, but sometimes, the long way is the short way. And the short way can end up being the long way. This is the way God generally works in our lives. He doesn't force Himself on anyone.
We never see Jesus saying the exact words, "I am God," but this is about as close as He gets; amazingly, this is said to one person, not to a crowd. The word "He" is supplied by the translators, but technically it reads "I who speak to you am," or, "I... Am." Compare this statement to Ex. 3:14-15. What does God say His name is? We will find more "I Am" statements later in John.
Compare how Jesus related to the woman in John 4 and Nicodemus in John 3. What did Jesus start talking to Nicodemus about (3,5) that the Jews were particularly interested in? What was the woman doing that Jesus started talking to her about? What does she bring up in 20 that Jesus then centers the conversation around? We can learn from this approach. What were each like? What did Nicodemus, a Pharisee, probably think God thought about him? What did this woman probably think God thought of her? Each one had different hangups. Does God deal with everyone in the same way? Is anyone already so good they don't need God, or so bad God won't accept them? But aren't these common attitudes among unbelievers?
Going to Scripture might not always be the most effective approach to an unbeliever, who doesn't know or believe God's Word. We see Jesus talking to Nicodemus, a Jew, about the kingdom, and He uses an Old Testament reference to Moses. Compare Jesus' conversation with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus following the resurrection, Luke 24:13-46; He teaches them from the Old Testament. In Jesus' conversation with an unbeliever (the woman at the well), He does not take her to Scripture.
Compare Paul's tactics in two different situations in Acts 17. At Berea, the Jews who accepted Paul's message already knew the Old Testament. He presented Christ in that context, and they used their prior knowledge of Scripture to compare to Paul's message, 10-12. But when approaching the pagan Athenians, instead of referring them to Scripture, he first appealed to their own religious views, then pointed them to the true God by identifying Him as the Creator. Rom. 1:20 states that the creation is the revelation of God given to all men; everyone can relate to it regardless of their religious background. Compare Acts 14:17; Rom. 10:18; Psalm 19:1-4, 97:6.
It is always good to use God's Word in teaching or in witnessing. God's words are powerful in a unique way, Is. 55:11, Jer. 23:29. But if someone does not even believe in God, or scoffs at the Bible, try appealing to their knowledge of the creation. Paul then followed his introduction of the idea of the true God being the Creator, with the fact of the resurrection of Jesus, which proved that He is God in the flesh. If they counter with evolutionary views, don't argue or ridicule those ideas, but, like Jesus, counter with more questions. How could something come from nothing? Science has no rational explanation for the origin of matter. How did life come from non-life? Science has no explanation for this either. How could things evolve from simple to complex? This "fact" of evolution contradicts the well-established Second Law of Thermodynamics, which says all processes move toward chaos, not order, without the intervention of some outside source of organization. Why does the world appear to have been intricately designed? Explain that it is just as logical, if not more so, to believe there is a Creator. It actually takes more faith to believe that the world is a product of evolution. Read up on the biblical creationist views so you can speak confidently about creation, God and the Bible.
27 Are the disciples in tune with what is going on here? Do we always know where and how God is working? Sometimes it looks like God is not working in a situation, but that might be just because we can only see outward appearances. The popular Christian workbook, "Experiencing God," says we should get involved where we see God working. How audacious to assume that if WE can't SEE God working in a situation, that He is not working there. The Bible makes it clear that God is always at work in every person's life, in every situation.
28-30 What does she do once she realizes who Jesus is? So we see this order: she recognizes who Jesus is, she believes, she immediately tells others about Him. Do you think all who understand who Jesus is, always choose to then believe? Some will do what, John 12:48? Do all who believe tell others about Him? Did she wait a couple years until she knew the Scriptures better, or could take some classes or read some books on how to witness or evangelize?
31-33 Is Jesus talking about literal food and literal eating? We often see Him using figurative language (16:25). Do the disciples pick up on this? Do they have much spiritual insight yet? Are we ever like this? Do we always "get it"? But keep in mind that they did not yet have the indwelling Holy Spirit; what does He do in us? John 14:26, 16:13.
34 Now Jesus explains His words. He takes them from the physical level to the spiritual level. We will see Jesus doing this over and over in this book. He uses the physical to picture the spiritual. This is an effective way to teach spiritual truth, and we can learn from this in our speaking to others. Look for pictures, relationships, object lessons that can be found all around us, and use them in conversations to then point out spiritual truth in a nonconfrontational way that the other person can understand and relate to.
35-38 What might Jesus be looking at as He says this? Again we see Him use something physical to point them to spiritual truth. "Gathering fruit for eternal life" may refer to the salvation of others so that they have eternal life. It could be talking about God as the one who is reaping as we are sowing. Or it could also have to do with something that is accumulating on behalf of the person working in the harvest, based on other passages such as II Cor. 4:17, 5:10 and Luke 19:11-19. All these meanings could be implied; none of them contradict the others. We often find several levels in meaning within the same Bible passage.
Reaping, sowing, gathering fruit, labor, harvest--He relates these to eternal life. What does each idea represent spiritually? Often witnessing is presented as soul-winning--"how many people have you brought to the Lord?" But reaping is only one aspect of harvest. Much of our witnessing is sowing seeds, watering seeds, cultivating ground so that seeds that fall later will take root, or waiting patiently for seeds to grow. This is the labor involved in harvest. When we speak to someone, or they observe our lives, do we know how God is using it in someone's life? That is not our business; it is God's. But we are to be faithful laborers.
39-42 Why did the people in that city first believe, 39? Then more believed--why, 40-41? Often the first knowledge someone has is not directly from God's Word, but from believers. Then as they get into the Word, they believe more. At first we believe, which is another word for faith--the conviction or assurance that something is true. Then, in 42, they not only believe, but they what? Perhaps knowing, being sure, is one step beyond believing; when you KNOW something is true, you no longer have to exercise faith to believe that it is true. This is the progression in our lives as we mature in our walk with God and our knowledge of His Word. Compare 6:68-69.
Why do some Christians not seem to mature? One answer is in 42. These people initially exercised faith because of what someone told them about Jesus. They had not heard His words themselves. But they were not satisfied with that; they wanted to hear for themselves what He was saying. Many Christians prefer to be spoonfed, always being taught by a pastor, Sunday school teacher, Bible study leader, books, conferences, even Christian music--but never get into the Bible themselves for serious personal Bible study. (Reading a verse from a box on the breakfast table doesn't count--that is not serious personal Bible study.) If your spiritual appetite can be satisfied by second-hand, pre-digested food, such as babies are fed, you have not grown past the baby stage. The Bible says we start with the milk of the Word and should progress to meat. If we kept our children on baby food for years, they would not grow and develop like they would if we fed them real food. A human baby naturally desires to eat what the adults around him are eating; do we always see this pattern in Christians?
The New Testament uses these concepts to talk about the Christian's life. I Pet. 2:2, what are new believers like? What should they long for? This milk causes them to what? What if they don't--is that normal for a baby? Heb.5:12-6:1, why are these believers being scolded for wanting milk? Milk here is likened to what, 12? So what would solid food be? Do some believers stay babies longer than others? Can you be a baby all your life? Is the writer pleased that these believers are still babies? 14, what else besides solid food helps the believer to mature? I Cor. 3:1-3, what the are believers like in the church at Corinth? That's why Paul has to correct them so much in his two letters to them. Some churches just preach the salvation message and never expose believers to the meat of the Word. But many believers just don't want to take the time or bother to read/study/digest/apply the Word. What does Paul say about this in I Cor. 14:20? In Eph. 4:11-16, Paul explains the process growth, and makes it clear that maturity should be our goal. 14, what can happen to immature believers? So how can we keep that from happening to us? Besides the growth of the individual believer, Paul is also talking here about the building up of what, 12? And the growth of what, 16?
Some Christians feel that to say we need to believe or receive Christ for salvation is salvation by works. They think that it is only a matter of whether or not you are one of the elect. The elect are saved and those who are not elect are not saved. But over and over we find John stating that people believed, and that this is necessary for eternal life. The elect will believe and those who are not the elect won't believe, this is true. But we are told to believe Him and to receive Him.
Apparently many believed in this Samaritan town. Amazingly, we don't find this type of response among the Jews. Who do they know that He is (end of 42)? This is interesting because the Jews were looking for their Messiah, the one Who was promised to come to Israel and deliver them, save them, be their Savior. We noted in the introduction to this book that John is writing to later believers, to the early church. The church includes both Jews and Gentiles. These Samaritans, these Gentiles, see that He is the Savior of the world, not just of the Jews. Apparently Jesus must have taught this in the two days He spent with them. We don't find this emphasis in the other three Gospels. In fact, if you look up "world" in Strongs Concordance, you will find only a few entries for Matthew, Mark and Luke, and a huge list of entries for John. John is presenting Jesus as the Savior of the world, not only of the Jews. Jesus initially presented Himself to the Jews as their promised Messiah, but as a nation, they rejected Him. We saw in Matthew how His message was first to Israel, but then at the end of Mt. 11, His message begins to broaden. His offer extends to all individuals. In Mt. 12, we see the beginning of His break with the Pharisees, which gets more pronounced until they finally have Him arrested and killed. God's plan all along was that Jesus is the Savior of the world, but we see His plan developing over time, not revealed all at once. This is the mystery spoken of in the Epistles (Eph. 3:4-6).
43-45 What would the feast be, 2:13,23? What did the Galileans do that takes us back to 1:12?
46-54 This nobleman had heard that Jesus could heal. He was desperate; if you have lost a child, or had one hover at the brink of death, you know how he felt. The action in 50 is amazing; the man must choose whether or not to believe Jesus. He believes, and then does what? He acts on his belief. It is not just head belief. 51-52, how long until he had confirmation that his son was healed? What do you suppose his thoughts and feelings were until that moment? Do you think he might have struggled with doubts, with despair, with "what if"? 53, what was the result in this man's life? When he first approached Jesus, do you think his biggest concern was eternal life, or was his only concern his son's life?
What was Jesus' main concern, their salvation, or the boy's life? Is God more concerned with the spiritual or the physical? Which are we generally more concerned with? Did Jesus come to wipe out all sickness and death? Or will that not happen until we are in our eternal bodies? If He had wanted to wipe out sickness and death, couldn't He just wave His hand and say, "Everyone be healed in the whole world!" Was that His purpose? So what purpose did signs and miracles serve? To authenticate His message. To bring people to a knowledge of God, to eternal life. We do not find that the early church was taught to expect release from sickness or death, I Cor. 15:26. Instead, we find that God uses even sickness and death to accomplish His purposes in our lives, for spiritual growth, to bring us closer to Him, to make us long for heaven, for freedom from these sad events. Ps. 119:75,92, Rom. 5:3-5, 8:28-29, I Cor. 12:9-10, II Cor. 1:1-11, I Pet. 1:6-9, 4:12-13 (remember that Paul and Peter were writing to Christians who knew the reality of persecution, imprisonment, and death for their faith). If God allows someone you love to die, when you prayed for healing, that does not mean He didn't hear you, that He didn't love you or them, that you didn't have enough faith, or that there was unconfessed sin in your life. It just means that was not His plan. Prayer is not for changing God's mind by giving Him our wish list; study the Lord's prayer to see what kinds of things we are to pray about, Mt. 6:9-13. Notice the emphasis is on God's will and God's glory, not our will or our wish list. Note some of the things that Paul prays for: Eph. 1:15-19, Phil. 1:9-10, Col. 1:9-12, I Thes. 1:2, 5:16-18, II Thes. 1:11-12, 3:1, I Tim. 2:1-4, II Tim. 1:3.
1-9 John records only seven miracles for the purpose of showing who Jesus is. This miracle is only found in John's Gospel. So is the water into wine and the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Who initiated this healing? Jesus knew the man's condition, 6. Does He know everything about our situation too? How long had the man been in this condition? He had probably given up hope; 7 tells of his hopelessness. The man didn't ask; we see God's grace and election illustrated here--undeserved favor. Does Jesus say, "Your faith has made you well," as He often told people? Again we see God's grace pictured; He does it all, and gives us the faith to believe. Did the man do what Jesus said? It took faith for him to obey; he could have said, "I can't!" Do we see partial, gradual healing or total, instantaneous healing? Even though it was against the Law to obey--a capital crime--does he argue with Jesus or refuse? He recognizes that anyone who can heal someone is obviously of more authority than the Law or the Jewish leaders. Does everyone want to get "well"? Does everyone recognize that they are "sick"? So what was the purpose of this miracle, since John only chose seven miracles to record? Is 9 a clue?
10-12 What does this show about the Pharisees? What was their priority? What was Jesus' priority? Jewish tradition: If you carry anything from a public to a private place on the Sabbath intentionally, you deserve stoning. His life was now in danger, so he answers that he was following someone else's orders. "Who??!!" Sabbath-keeping was THE important thing. Does Jesus tell this man to keep the Sabbath or to or break it? Does He ever tell anyone to keep the Sabbath? Keeping the Sabbath is the only commandment not repeated by Jesus.
13-15 Where had the man gone following his healing? Why? Who initiated this second meeting? Now what does Jesus talk to him about? Perhaps Jesus was saying that this man's condition was due to some sin; perhaps it was a sexually transmitted disease. Or perhaps it is an admonition to now live a life that is not sinful, since judgment awaits those who do not repent. Jesus deals with the heart, not just the body.
16 Do you think it just happened to be the Sabbath when Jesus thought about healing this man? Or do you think He specifically did it because it was the Sabbath? Why didn't Jesus just do all His works on the other six days so as not to offend their beliefs? Why is He antagonizing them in this way? He not only doesn't repeat that commandment, He "breaks" it, purposefully and often. Why? Because Jesus is sinless, does He really break God's Law? So what does that tell us about the 4th commandment? Is the New Testament believer to keep the Sabbath--the seventh day of the week? We are never told to do so. Has the Sabbath been changed to Sunday? No. Are we told to keep any particular day? No. What is the meaning of the Sabbath for the Christian? As with many Old Testament "types," the Sabbath rest points to Christ, Heb. 4:1-11. The Christian is to rest from works by trusting in Christ alone for salvation, not in good works, or Christ plus good works.
17 Who else works on the Sabbath (and every day)? Why did God give the Sabbath? To remember what? He ceased His work of creation on that day; did He cease ALL His work? I Cor. 12:6,11, Eph. 1:11, Phil. 2:13, Heb. 13:21. Does God not do the things mentioned in these verses on Saturdays? Does He only work in us six days a week? God established the Sabbath rest in the Old Testament to continually point the Jews to the main event in the Old Testament that defined who God is--creation. In the New Testament, there is a new defining event that points us to who God is; what is it? Acts 17:31. Jesus is pointing out that a new dispensation is about to begin; a change is happening. God is the same, but He will be dealing with man in a different way now. This is what dispensations are.
18 Had Jesus just said He was God? But didn't they believe He had just claimed to be God? We see that to the Jews, "Son of God" was a term that meant deity, God Himself--not something lesser. Those who don't believe Jesus was God or even claimed to be need to read this verse. So now they think He has broken two of the commandments, the first and the fourth, and is guilty enough to die. These two issues are the big reasons why the Jewish leaders hated Jesus. They believed that God was One, which the Old Testament does teach. Even today, they believe that Christians are polytheistic because we believe in the Trinity. However, the Old Testament is also full of reference to the Holy Spirit, as well as several references to the Son, Prov. 30:4 and Ps. 2:7,12. Psalm 2 is about the coming earthly kingdom, when one day God will set His Anointed (2), His King (6), His Son (7) over the kings of the earth (2), over the nations (8), and how they will all worship (11) and do homage to Him (12). I wonder what the Jewish leaders thought this chapter was talking about? We also see numerous Old Testament references to the Angel of the Lord, used interchangeably with "the Lord." Judg. 6:11-24. This is obviously not the Holy Spirit, who is spirit, but is the pre-incarnate Christ. I wonder who they think the Angel of the Lord is?
19 "Therefore" indicates that the following discourse with the Jewish leaders is related to what just happened--this healing. What can we conclude that God is doing in the world, based on what we see Jesus doing?
20-21 "Just as…even so" says what about Jesus and God? Greater works--like what, 21? John 14:12. Only who can raise the dead, give life? What kind of life?
22 God is the righteous judge--which member of the Trinity? Do you ever wonder if God is really a righteous judge? You may think you don't, but have you ever questioned, doubted, or resented things that God has allowed to happen? If God is sovereign--in control of everything, as the Bible says--then isn't He right in everything He allows? Can we understand why He allows things? Does the Bible promise that we will understand? I used to think so, but I couldn't find any such promises. I did find Gen. 18:25 and Is. 55:8-9. Even Abraham didn't understand how a righteous God could allow what he saw as "bad things" to happen to those he saw as "good people." God does allow pain, sadness, tragedy, and injustice; these are the results of sin, which He allowed in Gen. 3. God did not step in and keep Adam and Eve from choosing sin; everyone is free to choose to sin if they wish. All these things can be traced to original sin and the curse upon the earth. Until these things are removed, God will use them in His plan to work in people's lives. Rom. 8:28.
23 "Even as" implies what? They are equal; equal honor. Many claim to believe in God but not in Jesus--like Alcoholics Anonymous--"just believe in a higher power." Jesus (God) says that is not valid.
24 This verse is similar to what other verse in John? What must we do? "Passed out of death into life" takes us back to what event in Ex. 12? The Lord would pass over when He saw the what, 12:23? This was from the what, 12:21? John 5:1 mentioned a feast at Jerusalem, very probably the Passover, so those Jews should have picked up easily on what Jesus was saying.
25 What is this talking about? The spiritually dead or the physically dead?
26-27 "Just as…even so" implies what? Do you see how many ways Jesus claims to be God, without using the actual words "I am God"? The Jews understood that this was what He was saying. Again, like 21-22, He refers to life and to judgment. He repeats that He has authority over both. Why? Because He is Who?
28-29 Is He talking about the same thing as in 25? Or is this the resurrection? Does 29 say that both these will happen at the same time? If you didn't read the rest of the Bible, you could think that--one big general resurrection. Never take one verse by itself; read and compare Scripture. But the Bible mentions several different resurrections, for different people at different times. When Jesus catches up His church to meet Him in the air, I Thes. 4:13-18, who will He bring with Him? 13, 14 and 15 use "asleep" to refer to those who have died--in this case, believers who have died. What will happen to those believers at that time, 16? what will happen to those who are caught up alive to meet Him in the air, I Cor. 15:50-54?
Those believers who died during the seven years of tribulation (Rev. 20:4) along with the saved of Israel and other Old Testament saints will be resurrected just before Christ's thousand-year (Rev. 20:1-11) earthly reign. Daniel 12:13 states that Daniel will rise to receive his portion in the next age--the kingdom that was promised to Israel throughout the Old Testament, which they did not receive at Christ's first coming because they did not accept Him as their Messiah, but which they will receive at the end of the seven years of tribulation when they do finally recognize and accept Him, Zech. 12-14 and especially 12:10. Job 19:25-26, Job knew that one day the Redeemer would come and take His stand on the earth--the kingdom--and at that time he would see God (the Messiah, Jesus Christ) in his flesh, in his resurrected body. Jesus said that in the kingdom, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would be there (in their resurrected bodies) along with many others, Mt. 8:11.
What about the unsaved? They are presently in hell, also referred to in the Bible as Sheol or Hades, a place of torment. But their final judgment does not take place until the end of the thousand-year reign, at the Great White Throne judgment, Rev. 20:11-15. These people, who have rejected Jesus Christ, have chosen instead to trust in their deeds, their own selves. So they will be judged by their deeds, as they desire. Because no one's deeds or works can save them, they will all be thrown into the lake of fire. The Bible does say that there will be different degrees of punishment somehow, Luke 12:45-48, Mt. 10:15. God did not send them there; they freely made their own choices. God desires that all would be saved, Titus 2:4. Why did He create the lake of fire, Mt. 25:41?
If no one's good deeds can save them, what does 29 mean? Does it say that the good deeds resulted in the resurrection of life? The Jewish leaders asked this same question in 6:28. The answer is in 6:29. What is the only work we can do that is pleasing in God's eyes? 29 says "those who did the good deeds." So who would those be? Those who have believed in Jesus. Does it say the evil deeds resulted in the resurrection of judgment? No--"those who committed them." Who would those be? Everyone else--all who do not believe in Jesus. The Bible makes it clear that there are only two categories of people--good and evil, righteous and unrighteous, saved and unsaved. Humanly speaking, yes, many unsaved people are not what we would call "evil" and do many good things. But in God's eyes, on His balance sheet, anyone who does not believe in Jesus, and all their "good works," falls into the category of "evil."
How do we become righteous? Rom. 4:3-5. We like to think that there is a big gray area in the middle of people who are just neutral--not saved, but not "evil." We see in Mt. 7:13-27, Jesus speaks of only two gates, two kinds of trees, two kinds of fruit, two kinds of houses, two kinds of people. In Mt. 13:36-43, 47-50, Jesus says there are only two kinds of people--the righteous (those who have believed in Him) and everyone else. Because we grade on the curve, we assume that surely God must also. The Bible does not teach this. It's not a matter of our good list outweighing our bad list. What if your bad list only has one sin on it, James 2:10?
But we need to careful in talking with unbelievers that we don't imply that all unbelievers are bad people and nothing they do is good. This is a real put-down to unbelievers, and it is not true, humanly speaking. It causes much misunderstanding with unbelievers. We need to clarify that God judges by a different standard than people do--the standard of holiness, of perfection, of sinlessness. We are all born with original sin so we are all already in the category of unrighteousness, of evil. It doesn't matter how much you miss His mark of perfection; if you aren't perfect, you are over in the other category. I used to be uncomfortable discussing this with unbelievers; I didn't want to sound so legalistic, so judgmental, so un-cool. I had the false belief of the big gray area in the middle where I thought many people were. If we are not clear on what God is like, we can't make it clear to others.
30 What is Jesus claiming about Himself? Is He separate from God the Father? Only whose judgment is just? So therefore Jesus is who? When He talks about the possibility of seeking His own will, do you think He may be talking of Hi will as a human? Compare Luke 22:42.
31-39 In this section Jesus talks about witnesses to who He is. Under Jewish law, truth was established by two witnesses. In 31, He is not saying that His testimony about Himself is untrue--just that by itself He recognizes that it is not established as truth under the Law. Who testifies about Him in 32? Who in 33-36? What does Jesus call him in 35? But what is Jesus, 1:8? What testifies about Him in 36? So here we see the purpose of healings and miracles--not that all should be healed from now on, or that miracles should continue to be done. They were to prove He is who He said He is. What work had He just done, 1-15? Whose testimony does He speak of in 37? But are the Jewish leaders even listening to this witness? We know they were students of the Scriptures, but what did John 1:1 tell us about the Word? Later, in John 15, Jesus will explain about the Word (Jesus) abiding in those who believe in Him. In 37, might Jesus be referring to Mt. 3:16-17? God spoke from heaven but they did not "hear" Him. What witness is mentioned in 39? How much of the Bible did they have at that time? Here we are told that the Old Testament is about Jesus Christ, beginning with the prophecy in Gen. 3:15 and following the genealogical line that will lead to His birth. It is also full of prophecies and types of Christ. Is it possible to read, study and know the Bible and not see, hear or accept its message of salvation through Jesus Christ? Does knowledge of the Bible save you, or faith in Christ?
40-44 Do the Jewish leaders not come to Him because they aren't sure who He is or because they haven't seen His signs? 40 says they are what? It's a matter of the will--they have made choices. 42, if you don't believe in Jesus, is it possible to truly love God or know Him? Compare what John says in his epistle, I John 2:23, 4:15, 5:1. This is not a popular message today either, where all beliefs about God supposedly lead to heaven. The Bible says there is only one way to God, John 14:6. 3, who is this person who they will eventually receive when he comes? Again, John speaks of this in I John 2:18,22, 4:3. This person will not come in God's name as Jesus did. Once you reject Christ, you are open to deception; who is the deceiver, Rev. 12:9? What is another word for deceive, John 8:44?
45-47 Jesus speaks of one more witness who testifies of Him; who? What does Jesus accuse them of in 47? But didn't they think they believed the writings of Moses? Some references to Christ in the writings of Moses are Gen. 3:15, 22:8,18, 49:10, Ex. 12, Num. 24:17, Deut. 18:15. They had selective belief, just like many do in reading the Bible. They believe the parts that suit them and don't look too closely at the rest, in case it might challenge their own personal agenda. They make sure they don't go "too far" with the Bible.
1-2 One Passover is mentioned in 2:13,23. There is one more Passover, the one during which Jesus is arrested and crucified. So this Passover is about one year before His death.
3-13 The feeding of the 5000 is the only miracle that is recorded in all four Gospels. Why do you think that might be? Doesn't it seem like raising someone from the dead would be the one repeated? Could it be because more people participated in this miracle than in any other--not just as spectators watching one person's miracle, but each having the bread and fish served to them, seeing it be multiplied right into their own hands? What does Jesus say in 6:48? Do you think this is the significance of this miracle? The next day, Jesus talks extensively about the bread of life, and eternal life, as we will read in the rest of this long chapter.
John records three details about individuals that the others don't. 1) 5-7, His question to Philip, and the author's explanation of why Jesus asked him the question. Why would John decided to tell us this detail? John is teaching us something about how God tests us. Are tests for the purpose of tripping us up? What are they for? Gen. 22:1-18, James 1:2-4, I Pet. 1:6-7. Is testing the same as tempting, James 1:13-15? Who tempts us? Can there be both a test and a temptation in the same situation at the same time?
2) John tells us that Andrew is the one that found the boy. What does this tell us about Andrew? Why would he even bring this lunch to Jesus' attention? What might this tell us about Andrew? What can his example teach us? When things look bleak, should we just sit and do nothing, just pray and wait? Or should we try to do whatever we can, meager as it may be? Should we think, "oh there is nothing that God can possibly do in this bleak, black situation," or should we exercise faith and be expectant that there IS something He can do, even if we can't possibly imagine what it is? Can God use our meager efforts or resources?
3) Also, John points out that the loaves and fishes belonged to this lad. The other Gospels just say that this is all the food they could come up with. We don't know if they found this boy's lunch, or if he heard they were looking for food and offered it to them. I like to think the boy offered it. If so, what do we learn about this boy? If he was there with his family, what do you think they might have said when he offered Andrew his lunch? I wonder if people around him laughed at him. I think he was not with his family, or they would have lunches too. I wonder if he was alone, or went with friends, how old he was, why he was there that day. What do you think happened in his life that day?
Twelve baskets were filled with leftovers; Strongs says small basket. Apparently baskets were common; people carried things in baskets on their heads.
I like John's version best because it reminds us that Jesus was always dealing with individuals. Everything He did and said was a teaching opportunity. It's like working with horses: if the horse doesn't respond the way you wanted, the horse didn't do something "wrong," but rather he just gave you another "teaching opportunity." I wonder if Jesus looked at people that way too.
14-15 What was the people's idea of the promised Messiah? Did they seem to have a concept that He would be God Himself in the flesh? The Old Testament gave clear indications of how to identify Him, yet these people are wondering if He might be this Prophet (according to Deut. 18:15, one of His roles would be as a prophet). If they knew and believed the Old Testament prophecies, would they need to "make Him king"? So do they seem to know the Old Testament well, or just kind of? Do they believe it is literally true, or just kind of? Are they much different than many people today, even Christians?
16-21 How long was this after the miracle of the loaves and fish? What does Mark's version of this miracle tell us about the disciples, Mark 6:52? What does Matthew tell that Mark and John don't mention, Mt. 14:28-31? What detail does John give in 21 that Matthew and Mark don’t mention? Do the four Gospels tell us everything that Jesus said and did, John 21:25? Each writer selected things and left out things, for their own purposes. John alone records the miracles of the wedding where the water was turned to wine, the man healed at the pool of Bethesda, and the raising of Lazarus from the dead, but not raising from the dead of the 12-year-old girl or the widow's son. Obviously, Jesus did many other miracles and said many other things that were not recorded.
Why does it seem that Jesus waits until darkness, until a storm, to come to us? Is He there when things are peaceful but we don't think we need Him so don't look to Him? Why are we more willing to look for Him in life's storms? Do we accept His help in the storm, or are we too busy blaming Him for the storm? You may say you don't blame God, but if God is in control of everything--if He is sovereign--and you are angry or bitter at what you see as unfair in life, then haven't you set yourself up as a judge of what God does? This elevation of Self--"I know best," "I don't deserve this!"--is called what in the Bible, James 4:6? What does this verse say is the opposite attitude? This is the attitude we need to cultivate. How do we do that?
Why do storms come in life? Is it because God doesn't care, because He was looking the other way, because He is punishing us for something? Sometimes they come because we have brought them on ourselves through our own choices. But what happened in Genesis 3 that changed our world from God's original plan? And what were the consequences, 3:16-19? Pain and death entered the world; frustrations, thorns and sweat would be our way of life. What did God intend to be the purpose of these troubles? To continually remind us of our sinfulness and of our need for God.
22-25 Did the crowd go home after the miracle of the loaves and fish?
26-27 What line of thinking does Jesus try to put a stop to? What are the people after (compare 15)? Just as with the woman at the well, Jesus uses something common, something at hand, something necessary for life, to point them to what parallel spiritual concept?
28-29 These people ask a question that many people have asked, and are still asking. What place does "works" have in our lives? What works can we do that are acceptable to God, that win His favor? What can we DO? Human nature tells us we must do something to get something.
But Jesus answers with a paradox. What is the only "work" they can do that is acceptable to God? Isn't this the opposite of "doing"? This word appears often in John; he emphasizes its importance. Does he say it doesn't really matter what you believe, as long as you believe something sincerely? Who specifically are we to believe in if we wish to be acceptable to God?
Many Christians (and pastors, and churches) focus on what we ARE doing and SHOULD be doing--outward things--rather than what we are being. Believing will make an inner change, and inner change will result in outward changes (read James). But to focus on those outward things (works) is to confuse the issue. This is where many Christians, pastors and churches appear hypocritical; they try to hard to ACT LIKE Christians, or to get others to act like Christians. Acting is what hypocrisy is about; the original meaning of the word had to do with actors holding a mask in front of their faces. Trying to act like a Christian is what makes Christians appear "churchy" rather than real.
What does it mean to be a Christian? To believe on Jesus Christ--that He is God, that He died to pay for my sin, that I will be with Him someday. If you believe this, you will want to know more about Him. The more you know about Him, the more you will love Him. The more you love someone, the more you want to please them and spend time with them, even be like them. If these things are happening, the outward things will take care of themselves.
30-32 Isn't 30 an amazing, audacious question, considering this is the crowd from yesterday's miracle of the bread? And this miracle is why they are still hot on His trail today! But did that miracle cause them to believe in Him? They impudently remind Him that Moses provided the Israelites with bread every day for 40 years! So what do they really want: God's truth, or a king who will give them everything they want? Jesus says that the manna in the wilderness pictures the true bread that God has given--Jesus Christ.
Did Moses really give them the manna? Do we sometimes have this same problem--seeing our needs met by some person or some event, so we fail to attribute that action to God, not realizing that God uses people and events to act in our lives? If we have a job and a paycheck, are we actually providing our own needs, without God's help? If we have good health, can we take complete credit? Obviously, we play a part, but only as God's grace and mercy allow. Those things can disappear in a minute, in spite of our best efforts.
33 Jesus likens physical bread to what? And how important is that kind of bread?
34 Do they think this sounds good?
35-36 Their request of 34 HAS already been granted; did they see or recognize? Do they believe in Him? Note how Jesus continually refers to bread--to yesterday's miracle--to get their attention, to explain spiritual truth. Note how often He mentions believing in Him. This is the key issue. Is He talking about physical hunger and thirst? What are the first two words Jesus says here? What is their significance--what is He claiming? Compare Ex. 3:14-15.
Does Jesus say anywhere in this passage that He GIVES the bread of life? Rather, He says what in 33, 35, 41, 48, 50, 51-58? Who is the one who GIVES the bread of life, 32?
37 This is an important verse because it addresses the theological concepts of election and free will in regards to who can be saved. Some Christians stress election, some stress free will. This verse says it is both at the same time.
The first half teaches that the elect will be saved (those whom the Father has elected). The Bible has many references to the elect--to those that God has chosen. Some Christians believe that we have no part in choosing to believe in Christ, because we are either the chosen or we are not. They think that if our believing had anything to do with it, then we would be saved by our works. However, we have seen in this book that we are repeatedly told WE MUST believe in Christ, WE MUST receive Him. 6:29 makes it clear that believing is not a human work but the work of God, that we ARE to do it, and that it IS acceptable to God.
The second half of this verse teaches that anyone can come to Christ who wants to. God has given us free will to choose. Our frail and fallible human minds, tainted by sin at the Fall (Gen. 3), are not capable of understanding how election and free will can both operate at the same time, but the Bible says it is so. We can accept by faith what we cannot grasp intellectually. The Bible says that God is so far above us that we will NOT be able to completely understand everything about Him, Is. 55:8-9. We should not try to limit God to only what we can understand about Him. We need to see what the Bible says about Him. To say that since we can't understand something, it can't be so, is arrogant and audacious.
All those who exercise their free will to come ARE the elect. The elect WILL come to Him, not because they have been programmed like robots; that is not what predestination means. The Bible does NOT teach that we are programmed to make certain choices. If that were true, then God could not hold us responsible for those choices. But because He does hold us responsible, we know that we do indeed have free will to choose right or wrong. Why didn't God just elect everyone? Then we WOULD be robots, having no free will, no choice. Compare I Tim. 2:4, Titus 2:11. Is it "fair" of God to only elect certain ones? Or does everyone have an equal chance of salvation? Read Mt. 22:14, Is. 65:12, Jer. 7:13. And of course, this always brings up the question, what about those who haven't heard? How can God judge them for what they didn't know? Read Rom. 1:18-20, 2:12.
38-40 "All that the Father has given Me" would be the elect--those who believe. "I lose nothing" says what about the eternal security of the believer? Everyone who is a true believer (not a make-believer) is promised here a resurrection with Christ. This is echoed in Rom. 8:35,38-39. According to these verses, a true believer, one who has exercised saving faith, cannot ever become "unsaved." If someone who appears to be a believer stops being a believer, or renounces his faith, either he was never a true believer in the first place, or is struggling with the unbelief and hardness of heart that Heb. 3:12-4:11 speaks of, that can happen in the life of a believer. Note that the writer is speaking to the church, to believers ("us," "you," "we"). He is using the example of those who believed enough to leave Egypt (picturing the world), but whose hard and disobedient hearts kept them from entering into the rest that God had for them. They spent their lives wandering in the wilderness (picturing the place of disobedience and hardness of heart that the believer can choose to live in).
41-42 What did the Jewish leaders find confusing about Jesus' words? So how can both be true? Note the two words He again begins His statement with. What is He claiming?
43-47 Does Jesus answer their question? Is that their real problem with Him? Instead, He speaks to the real issue. He again explains the way to eternal life: God draws people to Himself, yet each has the responsibility to come. Each must make the choice to believe in Jesus. 46 is similar to 1:18; remember that God is a Trinity. John 4:24 tells us what about the Father? The Holy Spirit is obviously spirit also. When God appeared on earth as a man, He appeared as Christ, the Son, the second person of the Trinity. His human name was Jesus. In the Old Testament, He also appeared, not as Jesus but as the pre-incarnate Christ. (Incarnate = in the flesh.) He appeared as the Angel of the Lord, who can be identified as God in many passages. See Gen. 22:11-18 and Judges 6:22.
48-52 He had been saying that He is the bread of life, that He gives them the bread of life, that they must come to Him. Now what does He say that they can't understand or accept? What does He say pictured Him in the Old Testament? What two words does He begin His statements with in 48 and 51? Are you noticing how many times and how many different ways He can use to tell people that He is God, as well as the many ways the writer of this Gospel tells us, especially in John 1? You can choose not to believe that Jesus is God, but you cannot say that Jesus never claimed to be God, or that the Bible does not teach that Jesus is God.
53-59 This passage is important because it is the basis of a big difference between Catholics and Protestants regarding their view of communion (the Lord's supper, the eucharist, mass). The question is: is Jesus speaking literally or metaphorically? The Catholic church teaches that the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ, and that by taking it, He imparts His grace to us. Some Protestants teach similar views. Others teach that these are symbols to remind us of Christ's sacrificial death for us. Let's consider these ideas. As always, we need to compare other passages on this topic.
In Mt. 26:26-29, Jesus says, "this is My body," "this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins." It doesn't specify whether Jesus also ate and drank of the wine and bread, but it would seem likely, since they were eating the traditional Passover meal together. Also, 26:29 implies that He is eating and drinking with them. Why would He eat His own body and drink His own blood, and how could He? Why would Jesus teach the disgusting practice of cannibalism? Wouldn't this mean that at His death on the cross, rather than burying Him, the disciples should have taken down His body, divided it up, and ate it and drank His blood? But they didn't see it that way. It would be more likely that He would be speaking metaphorically, since He often does. In John, He says He is bread, light, the door, the shepherd. Yet He is obviously not a loaf or piece of bread, a light bulb or candle, a wooden door, or a man with a flock of wooly sheep. He uses these metaphors to teach us truths about Himself.
The terms "true food" and "true drink" in 6:55 are also clues that He is speaking metaphorically; He is contrasting "true" food and drink with the regular or earthly kind. The true food and true drink is a relationship with Him--abiding in Him, 6:56. The New Testament speaks of being "in Christ"--Col. 1:17,28, 2:7,10. Likewise, He is the true Light (1:9) as compared to a regular physical light; the true Vine (15:1), as compared to the regular physical kind. Jesus has been explaining to them that physical bread is not the thing He came to give, but is to point them to the spiritual, true Bread. It is not logical that He would now tell them that the PHYSICAL--actual blood and flesh--would have spiritual value. Consider the context of this chapter.
In Mark 14:12, it sounds as if Jesus will be eating with them. In 22-25, Mark records basically with Matthew has recorded. In Luke 22:8,15,18, Jesus implies that He will be eating and drinking the bread and wine with them--His own body? In 22:16, He says the Passover will be fulfilled later in the kingdom, implying that the elements are symbolic. 22:19 says the bread is "My body which is given for you" although we know it had not yet been given. Even if it were true that eating His actual body could give spiritual benefit, His body had not yet been given, so had no redemptive value at this point. "Do this in remembrance of Me." Here He specifically states why they are to do this. 22:20, the cup is "the new covenant in My blood." Again, the symbolism is obvious. The Gospel of John does not record the taking of the bread and wine.
Does Jesus say that taking the bread and wine will impart God's grace to them? If this were true, surely such an important teaching would be found in Scripture. A search of the word "grace" in the New Testament does not show that it is received by physical means (baptism is not said to bestow grace either). All who believe in Christ are the recipients of God's grace.
In the early church, what is taught about the bread and wine? In I Cor. 10:15-21, Paul says that through the cup and the bread, we share in the body and blood of Christ, his point being in this passage that both Jewish and Gentile believers are now part of one body. In I Cor. 11:23-26, he gives the Lord's words, the purpose being to do this "in remembrance of Me." "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." Why the emphasis on remembering His shed blood? Some liberal churches today don't "remember" this, and don't even teach or talk about the shed blood or the cross, teaching instead that Jesus just came to show us the way to love others and try to live a "good" life.
In Hebrews it is made clear that Christ died once for all, 9:11-12, 24-28, 10:10,12,14. So how could His actual body and blood be given over and over and over? Heb. 9:6-14 also makes it clear that food, drink, washings, and other physical objects and activities are merely symbolic of spiritual truths. For example, unleavened bread was required for the Passover meal, because leaven in the Bible represents sin or evil. These objects or activities cannot save us or impart spiritual benefit. God uses things we can see to help us understand things we cannot see. Unfortunately, people often confuse the physical and the spiritual.
The Law of Moses had some specific things to say about blood, Lev. 17:11-12. Even though Christians, in the age of grace, are no longer under the Law, we can see from Acts 15:19-20 that blood was still unacceptable to Jewish believers, so it seems unlikely that they would have understood Jesus to be teaching them to actually drink His blood.
This is controversial subject, but be sure that your conclusions are based on Scripture and not just on what a church teaches or what you have heard all your life.
In this section (26-59), notice the frequent use of these terms: raise up on the last day, eternal life, live, live forever, not die. This is a great chapter to show someone about eternal life.
The Jewish leaders couldn't understand what He was talking about because they couldn't get past the physical to see the spiritual truths He was trying to point them to.
60 Who else had trouble understanding?
61-65 Is Jesus talking about physical, fleshly things, or spiritual things, 63? Again, is there any spiritual benefit conferred by physical items or activities, 63? There is life in His words; John 1:1-4 says He IS God's Word. God's words are not just words like man's words; they actually contain life. What does John 14:6 say about life? 64, He is obviously talking to more disciples than just the 12; some who were following Him at that time did not truly believe. 64 implies that Jesus knew even though it was not obvious to others; we can't assume people are believers just because they look like they are. 65, He again talks to them about the elect; God is in control of everything, even the things we THINK we are in control of.
66-68 Here is becomes obvious that "disciples" in 60 is referring to many more than the 12. What had He said that caused them to change their minds? Were they miracle seekers? Curiosity seekers? Had they been thinking it was all about stuff He would do for them or give them? Are there people that go to church for the social club? But are those kind the ones who are attracted to Bible studies? Are true believers even sometimes guilty of shallow faith?
Have you ever felt so discouraged or defeated in your Christian life that you consider chucking the whole thing? Have your trials overwhelmed you to where you have trouble believing? But what are your options if you do? Once you have been convinced that Jesus is who He says He is, and that He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), there really IS no other option. This was Peter's conclusion.
69 Where are the disciples at in their spiritual journey? Does this statement repeat the same thought, or are these two different concepts--"believed" and "come to know"? Is there is difference in believing and knowing? (KJV: believe and "are sure") Strongs: believe = to have faith, to entrust. Strongs: sure = know, perceive, be sure, understand. Think of how we might speak of the possibility of man landing on the moon, back before it ever happened. Would we say, "I believe man can land on the moon," or, "I know man can land on the moon." The second statement is a bit audacious until experience has verified it. At first we exercise faith to believe in Christ, but after we have had some experience with Him, we KNOW. We don't have to exercise faith for something we KNOW. This is where the 12 are at. They may be confused, but they know that the answers cannot be found elsewhere.
70-71 Is Judas a believer? Is Jesus saying that He made a mistake when He chose Judas? Is this possible, if Jesus is God and God knows and controls everything in advance? So then why did Jesus choose Judas? Compare Mt. 26:24,54,56, Ps. 41:9. Did Judas have a choice, or was he predestined to do this evil thing? According to Mt. 26:24, he will be judged for his evil deed; this would be unfair if he had had no choice. Just because something is prophesied does not mean that individuals involved have no personal responsibility; the Bible teaches that we will all be held responsible for our choices and actions. God did not force Judas to do anything that was not in his own heart. God uses the actions of even evil people to further His own plan. He is in control of everything. Then why doesn't He just stop evil? We are back to Gen. 3--man's free will and the entrance of sin into the world because of man's sinful choice. But Gen. 3:15 makes it clear that God will ultimately defeat evil; Christ will deliver the death blow ("he shall bruise you on the head") on the cross and at the resurrection. Meanwhile, Judas will be used by Satan to fulfill the first half of Gen. 3:15, "you shall bruise him on the heel." A heel wound is not fatal; a head wound is. Satan thought he had defeated Christ when he had Him sent to the cross.
1-5 Compare Galilee and Judea on a map. Where is Jerusalem? This feast would be in September or October, about six months before the cross. What do we learn here about Jesus' family? He has brothers; they don't believe in Him (yet). Why would it be hard for them to believe now? What about after the resurrection? The writer of the book of James is probably James the brother of Jesus.
6-9 6, their time for what? To believe? Why would He say that the world does not hate them? Why would the world hate believers but not unbelievers? John 7:14. What is meant by "the world"? It is kind of defined in this verse; "its deeds are evil" tells us that the world is those outside of God. John talks much more about "the world" than the other three Gospels; remember that John is writing to the early church (the others are to the Jews, the Greeks, and the Romans). If people are doing wrong and you tell the truth about it, what does He say may happen? At this point, His time has not yet come; compare 12:23,27, 13:1, 17:1. This is what Jesus came for.
10-13 What two groups of people are mentioned, in 11 and in 12? The Jews would be the Jewish leaders, the Pharisees. The other Jews are generally referred to as the people, the crowd, the multitude. 13, the speech police were around in those days too, listening to see if anyone said things that weren't politically correct. Might there come a time in our country in our day where we might also have to be careful what we say and who might be listening?
Comparing 8 and 10, did Jesus lie? The obvious answer is "no," so what was He saying in 8? There are several ways to look at it. "Not" can also be translated "not yet." How did His brothers want Him to show Himself, 4? Is that how Jesus wanted to do things? Perhaps He was saying that He would not go that way--publicly, but He did intend to go privately, as we see in 10. If He were lying or intending to mislead, then 7:18 would be a bald-faced lie and a contradiction, which we know is impossible.
14-18 Jesus shows Himself at the feast. What did the Jewish "elite" think about Him? 17, a key verse, a principle. We hear many teachings; how can we know if a teaching is true? You will know, if you are what? God's will is truth. If you desire truth, God will guide you into truth. The question is, do we always want God's will more than OUR will, if the two seem to clash? If you aren't truly willing, don't expect Him to show you. John 16:13, 17:17, 18:37. So looking at ourselves, or at other believers, might this be a reason why we aren't growing or drawing closer to God? If we are spinning our wheels, it's time for some self-examination. The first part of 18 talks about someone whose message is from himself, not from God. Who is the "He" in the rest of the verse? Jesus refers to Himself as "He." What two things does He say about Himself? Can these be said of any man? So what is He claiming here? 19-24 What does He accuse them of in 19? What incident is He referring to in 21-23? Which He did on what day, 5:9? According to Lev. 12:1-3, when was a male child to be circumcised? Would this sometimes fall on a Sabbath? So what is Jesus saying to them about the importance of the Sabbath? Whenever we hold a belief legalistically, we are in danger of making a mountain out of a molehill. We don't see Jesus buying and selling or carrying out His carpentry profession (Mark 6:3) on the Sabbath. He teaches that the Pharisees had gone way overboard in their interpretation of the Sabbath.
Many people like to quote Mt. 7:1, but that is not all that the Bible has to say about judging. Are we to judge things, according to 24? In what way? And not in what way? If Mt. 7:1 is taken in context, doesn't 7:5 say this same thing? To judge can mean to draw conclusions, but it can also mean to criticize. We are not to be critical of others, Rom. 14, in matters in which the Bible gives freedom of choice, or as one individual looking down their nose at another individual, especially if we have not got our own ducks in a row, Mt. 7:1-5, John 7:24, Rom. 2:1-4. We ARE to be concerned for God's truth, for right and wrong, James 5:19 The church as a body is to judge individuals who are blatantly sinning and refusing to deal with their problem, I Cor. 5.
25-27 The people are wondering if Jesus is the what? Don't they know the Old Testament, Micah 5:2? Interestingly, when the magi came to Jerusalem looking for Him, what did the chief priests and scribes say, 4-6? Perhaps not all the Jews had the same understanding of the Scripture (just like people today). Or perhaps the leaders did not teach this to the people, even though they knew it in their studies, perhaps as a way to maintain control by controlling information. Are all Christians equally concerned about the importance of Bible study, or about how literally to take everything the Bible says? Do you ever wonder why there are so many different kinds of churches? This is one big reason.
28-31 What does He tell them, end of 28? What does He say about God in 28? What had He said about Himself in 18? Remember, true/truth is one of the key concepts in this Gospel. 31, why were some believing on Him? So what was the purpose of the miracles/signs/wonders Jesus did? Some Bibles have a marginal note that "signs" can also be translated as "attesting miracles." (Attest: to bear witness, to affirm to be true or genuine, to certify, to authenticate, to verify) Jesus and the apostles (those who had been eyewitnesses of Him) did miracles to authenticate their message, to prove this was indeed from God, to usher in this new dispensation--the church age, the age of grace. Miracles are never presented in the New Testament as an enduring practice; what practices ARE to endure, I Cor. 13:13? The Bible does speak of miracles at a later time; who will be doing them? Mt. 24:24, II Thes. 2:9, Rev. 13:13-14, 16:14, 19:20. We need to be careful that we are not deceived. Be sure your beliefs are based on what the Bible says and not on what you or someone else has experienced. Experiences need to be interpreted in the light of what the Bible says. We should not change the Bible to fit what we have experienced.
32-36 Where will Jesus go? Why won't they be able to find Him? Why can't they go there? So what is Jesus telling them? Does Jesus teach that everyone will have eternal life, somehow or other?
37-39 Jesus said what is recorded in 37-38. 39 is John's explanation of what He said, written in retrospect. Water was an important part of this feast. Jesus again used what was at hand to explain to people about spiritual truth. So the living water is what/who? Where does the Old Testament speak of this water? I Cor.10:1-6 refers to the water that came from the rock which Moses struck. Paul calls it what kind of drink and what kind of rock? What does 6 say about that event? Real objects and real events in the Old Testament can also be symbolic of parallel spiritual truths in the New Testament. Moses struck the rock; how and when was Christ "struck"? The rock gave forth water; after Christ is "struck," He gives us what? When Jesus says "out of his innermost being," He is foretelling what new truth about the Holy Spirit? Rom. 8:9,11, I Cor. 3:16, 6:19, II Tim. 1:14. Can Jesus (God in the flesh) and the Holy Spirit both be with us at the same time, 39 and 16:7? So apparently when Christ physically returns and is ruling on earth during the kingdom age, believers will not have the indwelling Holy Spirit, just as the Old Testament believers did not. The indwelling Holy Spirit is only given to the church, during the church age. Again we see the concept of dispensations; God is doing different things at different times with different groups of people. In each dispensation, God is testing man under a different set of circumstances. In every dispensation, man fails. In every case, man is hopeless without God's grace.
And again in 39 we see two of John's key words: believe and receive. This is what we must do to have eternal life. This also says that the Holy Spirit will be given to all who believe, not just to some Christians, or only to those who have had a "second blessing."
40-41 John continually presents the question, "Who IS Jesus?" Is He who He claims to be? He claims to be God. He says that in so many ways that it is impossible to miss. Who did some think He might be, 40? This is a reference to Deut. 18:15-19. Who did others think He might be, 41? "The Christ" is another term for "the Messiah." Jesus' name was not Christ; that is a title. When He was born, He was given the human name of Jesus. That is what people called Him (or Lord, Teacher, Rabbi). No one called Him Christ. However, there was a lot of discussion about whether or not He was THE Christ, the Messiah, the Promised One. The term Christ is not found in the Old Testament; it refers to the Lord's Anointed, Ps. 2:2, and God's King, Ps. 2:6. Is. 53 refers mostly to "He," and in 53:11, to "the Righteous One, My Servant." Is. 60:16, "I, the Lord, am your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob." Job 19:25 talks about the Redeemer.
42-44 So did some know of the Bethlehem prophecy? 43, did all draw the same conclusions about Him? Jesus divides, just as He says in Mt. 10:35. People drew different conclusions from the Scripture, 42, just as they do today. Some believe it means just what it says; others say it doesn't really mean that, it means this. Or they say, it can't mean "that" today, people have changed. Has human nature changed? Don't people in the Bible exhibit the same attitudes and hang-ups that people have today?
45-46 These officers are different than the chief priests and Pharisees. What were they supposed to do, 45? Why didn't they, 46? What do we learn here about how Jesus affected people?
47-49 What are the Pharisees concerned about? Truth? Or maintaining a united front against a threat to their power? Are we more concerned about truth than about anything else? Or is the most important thing having our own way, or convenience, or maintaining the status quo, or maintaining control?
50-53 Who speaks up for Jesus here? We see that he is a Pharisee. Do we know for sure if he has become a believer yet? He is at least considering things, open-minded. If he IS a believer, he is a "closet" believer at this point. Have you ever been one? Do you know people who are? Why would someone be a "closet" believer? Why might you not want everyone to know, or why might you not want certain people to know? What did Nicodemus fear? What might people fear today? How do you get past that fear? What does that fear reveal about a person's concept of God?
1-11 The woman caught in adultery. Many Christians say, "Don't judge!" This passage appears to teach that, as well as the Sermon on the Mount. The subject of judging can be divisive, but we don't want to let one or two passages taken out of context determine our doctrine. We will look at what this passage teaches about judging, in the light of the rest of the Bible.
Who brought the woman to Jesus? Was this a set-up, 6? How else would they manage to catch her "in the act"? Was the man also caught in the act? Jewish law calls for both to be stoned. Because they let the man go, we might even wonder if the set-up included the male partner as one of their own. Were they truly concerned about righteousness and God's law? Who was Jesus more critical of: sinners (tax collectors, prostitutes, etc.) or religious hypocrites? Why? Which are more likely to experience conviction of sin? Even though we know most of the Pharisees were not saved, since they rejected Jesus, here is also a warning for all Christians.
The way they thought to catch Jesus was, "Let her go, break Jewish law. Condemn her, break Roman law." (Roman law didn't allow the Jews to carry out a death penalty.) His statement in 11 could be referring to the fact that under Mosaic Law, two witnesses were required, and all the witnesses had disappeared. Can we know what He wrote on the ground? We can only speculate: list of sins, list of names, Scripture quotation, etc. If indeed it had been a set-up with one of them being the man involved, perhaps Jesus wrote out the exact scenario. Whatever He wrote, what thoughts and feelings would these men have as they read what Jesus wrote--that He knew personal information about them and their exact sins? How did Jesus dodge their trap, 7? What happened when Jesus confronted them about their own sins?
Does Jesus say she didn't sin? Does He say she is forgiven? What does He tell her is required? Change, repentance. (Woman: Ma'am.) The woman calls Him "Lord." Does this imply that she is now a believer, recognizing that He is the Messiah? Not necessarily. The marginal note, and some translations, have "Sir" instead of Lord.
Does this teach we should not judge others, even those who are blatantly sinning? If so, doesn't it also say Jesus/God doesn't judge sin either? Is that what the Bible teaches? Compare II Tim. 4:1, John 5:22, 7:24, Acts 10:42, 17:31. However, Jesus didn't come to judge at His first coming, but to bring salvation, John 3:17. He comes in judgment at His second coming. He made this clear in Luke 4:16-21 when He reads from Is. 61:1-2 but stops in the middle of 2, showing that the Messiah must come again later to fulfill the rest of that verse (a concept not yet revealed in the Old Testament). So we see there is a time not to judge, and a time to judge.
"Casting stones" is one kind of judging. Are there other kinds of judging we are allowed to do, or even required to do? What kind of judging are we NOT to do? Mt. 7:1-5, Rom. 2:1-4, Rom. 14. Individuals criticizing other individuals. What kind of judging ARE we to do? Mt. 7:5, righteous judgment after Self has been examined and dealt with. I Cor. 5, church discipline--the church judging individuals that are part of the church. Many churches shy away from church discipline, but to do so can destroy the effectiveness of a church. See how much the Bible has to say about this subject: Mt. 18:15-17, Luke 12:51, Acts 5:11, Rom. 16:17, II Cor. 2;6-11, Gal. 2:11-14, Eph. 5:3,11, I Thes. 5:14, II Thes. 3:6,14-15, I Tim. 5:20 (speaking to a pastor), II Tim. 3:16, 4:2, Tit. 1:9 (speaking to a pastor), 2:15, 3:10, I John 1:6-7, Rev. 2:20 (speaking to a church).
We have just read numerous passages dealing with church discipline. Opponents of the Bible doctrine of church discipline say we should just forgive, because exercising church discipline is too uncomfortable for everyone involved. What do these passages say about forgiving? Do we find the church being admonished to just forgive? One passage does speak of forgiving--I Cor. 2:6-11. In what context are these people being admonished to forgive? Remember, this is a follow-up letter to I Corinthians and the incident referred to in I Cor. 5. According to II Cor. 2, what had the church done in response to Paul's first letter? And how had the offender responded to that action? Now Paul tells them they are to forgive--following the repentance that followed the church's disciplinary action. In none of the above passages does Paul tell them to just forgive and go on and act like nothing has happened. That is not the biblical approach to problems in the church.
Can church discipline be taken to an extreme? Is discipline to be carried out for every person's every little sin? The picture I get is that we are to be quick to overlook slights and hurt feelings, and differences in practice where the Bible gives us freedom to decide, but not sins that the Bible lists or the blatant or habitual practice of sin. God takes sin seriously, and He wants us to do the same. If we deal with our own sin, church discipline need never happen. If the individual or the church does not exercise discipline, then God will discipline. Also keep in mind that "judge" can mean various things: condemn, damn, conclude, determine, call in question, think, ask, discern, examine, question. That is a broad range of meaning. We need to use common sense, study the context of each passage, and interpret it in the light of the entire Bible.
So what does this passage teach? Is it about the Pharisees or the woman? What is Jesus showing about the Pharisees? Would the situation be different if this woman was a believer or was part of a church?
12 It's not clear if this next teaching segment directly follows or is a separate incident. 59 indicates this all took place in the temple, where the incident with the woman took place, but He is often in the temple. John talks a lot about the light, calling Jesus the Light and the true Light. Now what does Jesus call Himself? Lights played an important role in the feast, as did water. What is the difference between "a" light and "the" light? What two words begin His statement? What term do we find here that is synonymous with believe/receive/be born again?
13-18 Are the Pharisees accusing Him of lying in 13? They have never been able to accuse Him of sin. Another translation for "true" here is "valid." According to their law, why is His testimony valid? 15, what is the danger in all human judgments? 15 could be a direct reference to the incident with the woman, contrasting their actions with His. Can 17-18 be used to argue against the Trinity? Are Jesus and the Father two separate individuals? Compare John 10:30. Separate but the same--this is the mystery of the Trinity.
19 What is Jesus saying about salvation? Their question about His father could indicate that Joseph has been long dead.
20 They wanted to kill Him all along, but why couldn't they? Even though we have free will, can we thwart God's plans?
21-27 The Greek indicates a break in time, possibly later the same day, or this now could be days or months later. Do they get it at all? Why don't they, 23? What does John 17:14 say about believers? 24, how many ways are there to God? The "He" has been added after "I am" to clarify the meaning (not in the original); what is He saying to these Jews? Again, He claims to be God. 25, this is the question that John emphasizes in his Gospel, and that we need to get people to ask and answer today. John editorializes in 27 for the benefit of the reader; this is a characteristic of this Gospel.
28 What does "lift up" refer to, that we know since it has already happened, but which hadn't happened yet? Another "I am" statement. When will He truly be shown to be who He is claiming to be?
29 Is God the Father present on earth with Jesus? Who is? The one who sent Him (the Father) is with Him (by the Holy spirit). They are all one, yet three. Jesus also claims here to be sinless ("I always do").
30 Many Pharisees? We know some did believe. Since He was teaching in the temple, there were obviously many Jews there listening to this confrontation with the Pharisees.
31-32 This is addresses to the believing Jews, not the scoffing Pharisees. Is this talking about salvation? Is a believer the same thing as a disciple? The Bible does not seem to use the terms interchangeably. "Disciple" is not an Old Testament word, nor is it used in the Epistles. Strong's: disciple = learner. Do all believers go on to learn, to continue in God's Word, to know truth? Don't some believe that Jesus is God, that He is their Savior, and that's it? The Bible talks about baby Christians, and those who remain like babies or small children in their understanding--immature. I Cor. 3:1-4, Heb. 5:12-14, I John 2:12. We see in the Gospels that a disciple is one who follows Jesus, who walks with Him. According to John 13:35, what is one mark of a disciple? And what else, John 15:8? Do all Christians bear much fruit? So we see that Jesus desires that we continue to learn, grow, mature, and bear fruit, although those things are not required for salvation.
33-38 Is this true, 33? Right now they are under Rome's thumb. Is He talking to those Jews who are believing Him, or the rest of the Jews? At first it seems like those in 30-31, but 37-38 clarify who He is addressing. Do they know that they are slaves? So do they want freedom? I read a Christian forum where people were explaining the feeling they had when they first became a Christian. Most expressed an amazing feeling of freedom as the burden of guilt was removed. What brings freedom, 32? Do they want that? 37, why do they want to kill Him? What is He saying about them in 38? Are all biological Jews saved? Rom. 9:6,27. What does it mean that they are God's chosen people? Rom. 9:3-5, 11:28-29. In 33 and 37, He agrees that they are physically descended from Abraham, but in 39, He tells them to act like Abraham's children; what does Rom. 4:11 say about Abraham's children?
39-41 In 41 you can almost hear the sneer, as they emphasize "WE." What are they implying about Him? This leads us to think that all these years, Mary has borne the burden of gossip and slander.
42 Can someone who rejects Jesus as the Savior be saved by believing in God?
43 The Bible talks of having ears to hear and yet not hearing, Ez. 12:2. Are their ears the problem?
44-45 Is Jesus careful not to step on toes or damage their self-esteem? Why not? What do we learn here about Satan? Those that are not saved would rather believe a what than what?
46 Is Jesus sinless? If He wasn't, wouldn't His enemies say so? Who alone is sinless? So what is Jesus claiming about Himself?
47 So who will be saved? I Peter 1:2 calls these people what? This is the same thing He said in 6:37 in a different way.
48 They are partly right; if Jesus is not who He claims to be--God in the flesh--then He must be demon-possessed or a lunatic. A "good" man would not lie, saying he is God and he is sinless. The common belief that Jesus is just a good man, a good teacher, does not hold water.
49-51 Now what audacious claim does Jesus make?
52-53 Again, if Jesus is not God, then their conclusions are correct. Again they ask the all-important question, which they also asked back in 25. Has Jesus answered their question? But they refuse to accept His answer, so they insist it must be something else. Evolutionists do the same thing. Being naturalistic (rejecting God and the supernatural), they insist that since there is no God, the Bible's account of creation cannot be true. The only other possible explanation is evolution, even though scientific evidence does not support it. (Evolution has no explanation for the origin of matter, and claims life came from non-life.)
54-55 Now what does Jesus call them? When Jesus is talking to the Pharisees, does He fit the image of the warm, fuzzy, lovey-dovey Jesus? Why is this? Does He talk to His disciples this way, or the multitudes? Why not? What does this tell us about the nature of love--"agape" love? Is love about making everyone feel good, feel comfortable, feel accepted? Or is it about confronting people with truth, regardless of how it makes them feel? Human love often overlaps with our term "like," although that has little to do with the Bible's "agape" love. We often think to love others means to treat them as though we like them, which we don't always. Jesus defines love in Luke 10:27-37. When asked to explain what it means to love one's neighbor, He tells the story of the good Samaritan, who did what? Did he do this to someone he liked? We like people only if they are likable; we may choose to show love to anyone. Love is about the will, not our feelings.
56 When did Abraham see Jesus' day? Compare Gen. 22:8. What was Abraham prophesying? God did not provide a lamb that day; what did He provide, 22:13. Compare John 1:29. And who was it that spoke to Abraham that day? 22:11,15. The angel of the Lord is the pre-incarnate Christ, God in the flesh. (God the Father is Spirit, and cannot appear to anyone.) What two important things did Abraham do in this chapter, 5 and 18? Interestingly, this is the first place both of these words are used in the Bible, which makes them significant. What two other significant things did Abraham do in 15:6? These are also first mentions. What did Jesus tell the Pharisees to do in 8:39?
57-59 Now what does Jesus claim that they think is preposterous? In what two ways does He claim to be God? As God reveals Himself to them, what is their response? Compare the world's response to the revealing of God's power in Rev. 15:9. Are they able to kill Jesus before God's appointed time?
In this chapter we learn quite a bit about Jesus. We also gain insight into what man is like, particularly scoffing man. We see that all who appear to be religious aren't necessarily saved.
1-3 The Pharisees taught that troubles were the result of sin. So the disciples probably thought, if this man was BORN blind, either he must have sinned in the womb or his parents sinned. Jesus obviously is not saying that this man and his parents are sinless, but that their sins are not the reason why.
Do you ever have this same question about why bad, or good, things happen? What did I (or "they") do to deserve this? When something bad happens, have you wondered if it is God's punishment? Might it be? Gal. 6:7. But according to this passage, what is another possibility? So, God might allow you to feel pain or hardship for some time, in order to show Himself as God in your life? So, it's not necessarily God's will to remove all painful circumstances, or let us know why things happen the way they do? And why do bad things happen? Go back to Gen. 3. Sin entered the world--how, and with what consequences? Why didn't God heal Paul's infirmity, II Cor. 12:7-10. When "faith healers" heal, do they ever tell people that in THEIR case, perhaps God's plan is not to heal, or not just now, for this reason? If they were truly being used by God to heal, wouldn't they know who God wanted to heal and who He didn't?
Do some illnesses, trials, calamities just happen? Compare Amos 3:6, Luke 13:2-3, Rom. 8:28. The Bible says God is sovereign. Is He in control of everything, even little things, or just big important things? Might something that appears little or insignificant to us be part of something we can't see, or that God considers important? Mt. 10:29-30.
4-5 What are these works? 6:29. What does Jesus again claim about Himself (beginning with what two words again)? If Jesus is NOT God, isn't this claim extremely audacious and boastful? Would a "good" man boast like that? Does Jesus back up His claim to be the Light of the world? Some believe that the Light is some inner mystical experience, the divine spark within all men; is that what Jesus said?
6-7 The blind man is healed. Is this the method Jesus always used to heal? Was the clay even necessary? Does He have a "method"? Does God work the same way every time? Should we assume He will work the same way in our lives that He did in someone else's life? Why not? But don't people often tell us He will? Don't go by what people say, go by what the Bible says. Our theology should not come from personal experience but from the Bible alone.
8-12 What is the reaction of his neighbors? He is so changed that they hardly recognize him; does this sometimes happen to new believers?
13-16 Now who is he talking to? What day is this? Might Jesus have chosen this day on purpose? For what reason? What do they disagree over, 16? So the Pharisees were not unanimous in their opinion of Him. The question that everyone must answer is, who IS Jesus really? Does Jesus fit their pre-conceived ideas? Isn't this still a problem with many people? Do we see Jesus keeping the Sabbath (according to the nit-picking ways of the Pharisees)? They would say that making mud was work. Do we ever see Jesus teaching that we are to keep the Sabbath? In His teaching, He refers to the other nine commandments, but never that one.
17 At this point, who does the man think Jesus is? Did prophets ever do miracles? How would you answer someone that says, according to this verse, Jesus is just a prophet?
18-23 Being put out of the synagogue was not like being kicked out of your church. You can always go to another church; the synagogue was the center of social life also, and you would become a social and religious outcast. Because the leaders had already rejected Jesus as Messiah, they threatened to excommunicate any who believed in Him.
24-29 "Give glory to God," 24, is an idiom meaning to swear to tell the truth. "We know" is meant to intimidate him into agreeing with them. 25-27, he seems quite amazed that they can see this miracle and yet not believe. 27-28, he has now become a what? The more he speaks about what happened to him, the bolder he gets. 28, "revile" means to slander, insult, ridicule. Do they deny that the miracle has taken place? Do they deny Jesus is God? So what other power must be behind His miracles? In Mt. 12:22-24 they actually say this. In 25-32, what does Jesus warn about drawing this conclusion?
30-34 His testimony is simply to give the facts. He seems to even mock or challenge the Pharisees. 31, he is NOT intimidated; rather, he now boldly contradicts them with Scriptural truth. When you KNOW what the Bible says, don't let someone pressure you into backing down on it. 34, they say that someone like him is not qualified, has no right, to be teaching them. This is spiritual elitism and unbiblical. If you believe your pastor or teacher is wrong, there is nothing wrong with tactfully and lovingly showing him in the Scripture what you are concerned about. Is he afraid of them? Why might he not be, at this point in his life? He is a changed man; his values and priorities have also changed. Isn't this what happens (or should happen) when we are born again? Compare the man's attitude to that of his parents; they also saw the miracle, but are concerned about what? Aren't some new believers bold and outspoken while others are fearful of what people will think and remain "closet Christians" for awhile? Why is that?
What does he say about prayer in 31 that is taught throughout Scripture? Remember, at this point there were no "Christians." In Acts we read that believers were first called Christians. This man describes the Old Testament believer. Does God hear the sinner's prayer of repentance? Does He promise to hear and answer everyone's prayers? Why not? Is. 59:2. Is there any Old Testament record of the healing of a man born blind? But who is prophesied to heal blindness in Is. 35:5 and 42:7 (read context, 1-9)? Doesn't the Bible teach that we are all born blind? What price does this man pay for his words?
35-38 When we act on the light we have, God gives more light. Who does the man think Jesus is in 11? In 17? In 33? In 38? The Jews understood the term "Son of Man" to mean the Messiah, who the Old Testament says will be God Himself. Compare Ps. 110:1, Is. 7:14 ("Immanuel" means "God with us"), Is. 9:6, Mic. 5:2, Mal. 3:1. Is this man willing to believe that Jesus is the Messiah? Why? This was the purpose of miracles, signs and wonders. What is his response in 38? Because he worships Him, who does he know that Jesus is? What does "worship" mean? Is it the Sunday morning service? Is it the song service? Is it the feeling you get from either of those? The Old Testament defines worship in Daniel 3; note the other term that is often connected with the word "worship," and note the terms used with it in 3:28. Does Jesus try to stop the man from worshipping Him? If He was not God but merely a good man, would a good man permit this? Not even the angels permit this, Rev. 22:8-9. So was it the end of the world to be excommunicated by the powers that be? I wonder what sort of conversation he has with his parents after this.
39-41 Jesus speaks of two groups of people in 39--who are those in each group? What paradox do we find in 39? Is this the point of this incident, this chapter? We often find paradoxes in the Bible--statements that are "seemingly" contradictory but on further examination prove to both be true. Our little pea-brains (corrupted by the Fall) have trouble comprehending the truth of an infinite God. This is why it is so important to read ALL the Bible, not just a verse here, a chapter there, or just the New Testament. Here He also speaks of judgment; is this a contradiction of 3:17 and 8:15? The Bible does not contradict itself, nor does God--God obviously cannot lie, mislead or deceive. The answer is in 3:18. He doesn't come in judgment because those who don't believe are judged already. Also, we know that at His first coming, He brings salvation; at His second coming, He then brings judgment. Here He is obviously not speaking of the final judgment, but judging right and wrong. So does He judge or not? Yes and no; another paradox. 41, how does Jesus define sin here? Compare Rom. 2, I John 1:8,10. They claimed to see and know; knowledge creates responsibility. Can anything be done for those who do not admit their sin? Does the Light of the world light everyone's eyes?
1-5 What metaphor does Jesus use now to describe Himself? Shepherds were common in Israel; the picture would be easily understood. God was sometimes pictured as a Shepherd in the Old Testament; Ps. 23, Is. 40:10-11, Jer. 31:10, Ez. 34:11-15. So were Israel's spiritual leaders. Many well-known Bible characters were shepherds--Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David. The fold of sheep would be Israel; entering by the door would be to come in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah.
The mathematical probability that anyone could fulfill several hundred prophecies, or even a handful of them, is zero. Skeptics say that Jesus tried to fulfill them, or other people manufactured a story that fulfilled them. This is impossible. If Jesus was not who He claimed to be, why would the apostles and other believers die for something they knew was a fake? So Jesus is contrasting Himself with false leaders. 3, do all sheep hear and respond to His voice? But all who are His own--the elect--will hear His voice and follow Him.
6 How is Jesus speaking to them? So we know that Jesus is not talking literally about wooly animals and men who care for them, just as we know He was not talking earlier about literal bread, John 6, or that literal water would flow out of our bodies, 7:36. When taking the literal interpretation of the Bible, you recognize figures of speech when they are used, but you do not say that everything therefore is allegorical. Why do suppose people are likened to sheep, rather than cats, dogs, horses, etc? What are sheep like? (stupid, defenseless, blindly follow others)
7-10 What important phrase is found in 7 and 9? What is Jesus claiming about Himself when He says that? Is Jesus a literal door? He uses another word picture that these people can relate to. Entering through Him brings what, 9 and 10? We see an allusion to the 23rd Psalm. What kind of life can we have? Many unsaved people think that becoming a Christian means giving up everything fun in life; is this the picture Jesus paints? 8 and 10, are false leaders interested in the good of the sheep? Do they truly care for the sheep?
11-13 What phrase does 11 begin with? What is Jesus prophesying about Himself in 11? Jesus contrasts the false shepherds and their self-centered motives.
14-15 What phrase does 14 begin with? Jesus talks about "My own." This would imply that not all sheep belong to Him. 15, what kind of relationship do Jesus and the Father have? He equates this with the relationship His sheep can have with Him, 14. Again He tells of His death for the sheep. Did the Jews or the Romans take His life against His will?
16 "This fold" would be Israel; the other sheep would be Gentiles. We find this happening in Acts and the Epistles--the church is made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers. Under the Law, Jews were to be separate from Gentiles. In this new dispensation that is coming--the church age--that will change. Is. 65:1, John 11:52, Eph. 3:4-6.
17-18 Twice more He states that He will die, and that He is in charge of the matter. What else does He prophesy, twice? The Gospel message is not just that Jesus died for our sins, but that He then rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, something that no one else has ever done. This is the essence of Christianity. This is why Jesus came to earth--not to show us how to live a good life. All that is necessary to disprove the Bible is for someone to produce the body of Jesus.
19-21 Who is Jesus really? Is He just a good man? Is He a mad-man? Is He demon-possessed? Or is He who He claimed to be? How can anyone know for sure? Read His words, read about His deeds. Read about what happened to those who followed Him, what they said and did, how they changed.
22-23 The time is now December, the celebration of Hannukah. It is only a few months until the crucifixion. We see that the Gospel of John focuses not on Jesus' entire life, but mostly on the last six months, with many chapters devoted to the last week of His life.
24-30 In John's Gospel, how many way and times have we seen Jesus tell who He is? Why don't they believe His words or His works? Do you ever wonder why some people you know just don't "get it"? Not everyone will believe; not everyone will be saved. Once you receive eternal life by believing in Jesus, what can never happen to you? "No one" includes you yourself; nothing you do can take you out of His hand. This is called "eternal security." Some Christians believe you can be saved, then not saved, then saved, then not saved. The Bible does not describe any such process. If eternal life can come and go, then by definition it is not eternal life; it would be temporary life. Are we saved because of our good works, or are we saved because of who we have put our faith in? 30 is a pretty clear statement of who Jesus is; they are one God, Deut. 6:4--the Father and the Son being two Persons of the Trinity.
31-33 Why do the Jewish leaders want to stone Jesus? Compare Lev. 24:16. If Jesus is indeed just a man, then they are right. But what if He is not? Do they understand that He is claiming to be God?
34-36 What does 35 teach about the Bible? In 36 we see that the term "Son of God" means divine. They know this, but today some think Jesus is the Son of God but is not equal to God the Father, that He is some lesser being. Often the Jews try to trip Him up by asking loaded questions, but here we find Jesus asking them a question. 34 is a quote from Ps. 82:6, "the Law" here referring to the Old Testament. Note that "gods" is with a lower case "g." Obviously Jesus is not saying that any humans are Gods; the Bible does not teach this. "Gods" can also be translated as judges or magistrates. In Ps. 82:6, the writer is addressing the judges, who in a sense are taking the place of God, the Judge, on earth; God has given men the right to act as judges of other men. You can see that the context of the entire Psalm is about judging. In 1, the margin note gives "gods" as an alternate translation for "rulers." But they were not judging justly. 7 points out they are really just men, and they had better remember that. So in John, Jesus is using this example to say that they don't get bothered if they--mere men--are referred to as "gods." So why should they be bothered because He, the actual Son of God, tells them who He is?
37-39 He is saying that even though they have trouble believing what He says, His works prove He is who He says He is. Many of us also have trouble understanding; what does He say is the path to knowing and understanding? Our human minds want to hold off on believing until we understand, but before we become believers, our "natural" minds cannot comprehend spiritual truth. But after we are saved, we have the mind of Christ and we are taught by the Holy Spirit, I Cor. 2:9-16. Obedience/faith precede understanding. This principle is true for believers as well as for unbelievers.
In 39, we see the proof of 17-18. Yes, He came to die, and yes, He will allow the Jews to put Him to death. But not until He says it is time.
40-42 We have been reading about those who refused to believe. Now we read about others who heard the same words and saw the same works, but came to different conclusions. Did these people need to see miracles in order to believe? Yet those who had seen many miracles refused to believe. These people were lovers of truth, 41. We see one of John's key words, "true," as well as many references in this chapter to another key word, "believe."
1-2 Jesus had close friends, besides the 12. We are told very little of the life of Jesus; surely these three played an important part in His life, but further details are not recorded for us. John, the writer, points out that this Mary (there were several) was this particular one. We read about this incident in John 12:1; when does it take place? Later. This is not the same incident described in Luke 7:36-40, even though some commentaries say it is. How is that woman identified? Not as Mary. Where does that incident take place?
3-6 The word for "love" in 3 is "phileo" or fondness. The word for "love" in 5 is "agapao," a form of agape, the kind of benevolent love that God has for us, and that He wants us to show to others.
What is Jesus' response to the message, 4? Several things can be noted here. Did Lazarus die? Did his family watch him die, and suffer the grief of death? Was this death a situation where it just happened, and afterwards God decided He could somehow make the best of it and work it into His plan? Or did He know before it happened, and allow it, and allow the family to suffer, all in His plan? How might God/Jesus be glorified more if Lazarus died than if he didn't? So is God's perspective always the same as ours? Everything that happens, 4, is for whose glory? Is life all about us--ME? Or is it about God and His plan and His glory? We need to continually remind ourselves of this truth.
Now, thinking about us, we see bad things happen and we wonder if God merely allows things to happen, or if He is actually in charge of everything, even the hard and painful things. Should we assume that, since we are told about God working through this death, that He is likewise working in all deaths? Or is this just a special case? Also, according to 4, is it God's will to heal every illness? Why? So a loving God lets us go through painful things? How can that be loving? Was God loving when He let, and obviously planned for, His Son to die on a cross? How did that express God's love? Why are these things so hard for us to accept? What is the most important thing to humans? Freedom from pain, stress, discomfort? What is the most important thing to God? Knowing God better helps us to accept life better.
Did Jesus go to Lazarus as soon as He heard He was wanted? Of course, the messengers would return with what message? (It's possible that by the time the messenger returned, Lazarus had already died.) So would the disciples be thinking, "why isn't He hurrying?" No, Jesus had already said it wasn't "unto death" so it would seem there was nothing to get excited about.
7-15 Where was Jesus? We don't know exactly--not in Judea, so some distance away. What were the disciples worried about? 9, who is the light of this world? So if we walk in His light we will not what? Don't we tend to stumble more when we are not in close fellowship with God, when we are not staying in His Word? What does Jesus say about Lazarus in 11? What does He mean? What do the disciples think He means? What does Jesus announce in 14-15? Do the disciples understand what He is planning to do? Perhaps; perhaps not.
16 Thomas speaks up. Perhaps he is speaking for the rest of the disciples, who share his resolve. Or perhaps the rest do not, and Thomas is trying to rally them. What little information we have about Thomas is all found in John's Gospel--here, in 14:5, and in 20, following the resurrection. What do you see in Thomas in this account? What is he willing to do? What does he encourage the others to willingly do? Why would he feel this way? Does he feel this way because he understands what is going to happen in the future? Does Jesus' plan to head toward danger seem logical? But does he exercise faith in Jesus anyway? Is he willing to take a risk to stay loyal to Jesus? Did some of the disciples later actually die for Him?
What can we learn from Thomas' example that can help us in our walk with Christ? Do we ever know what is going to happen in the future? We sometimes think we do, but it often turns out completely different. But should that hinder us from trusting God completely with our future and obeying His Word? Often our worst fears never materialize. Often the test is not having to actually go through the scary thing we fear, but just choosing to be willing to do so, if it comes to that.
Meanwhile, think what the sisters have been going through. What message did Jesus send? But what happened? What might they be thinking about Jesus? Do you think they might be struggling with bitterness and anger (besides their grief) that He didn't come, or that He was wrong? Do you see how many people at this point are under false impressions about Jesus and about what is going on around them? Yet we are given the information, so we KNOW. When things are happening in our lives, do we know what is really going on, from God's point of view? Does studying this story help ease our doubts and enable us to have faith when we don't feel like it?
17-20 So between the time it took the messenger to go to Jesus, the two days He waited, and the time it took for Him to arrive, the sisters have watched Lazarus die (while thinking of Jesus' assurance that his sickness would not end in death), had the funeral, and he's been in the tomb for four days. If you have lost someone close, you know what you are going through in those four days. All this time God has allowed them to struggle with pain, to doubt Jesus--His power, His concern. Yet all this time God knew what He was going to do, and when. Isn't this a mini-picture of the pain we feel in a death or serious trial--our doubts and wavering faith, and how in the end we will see that God really is in control, even though for us it may not happen for many years, maybe not until we are in heaven? My pastor preached a powerful sermon on this the Sunday after my little grandson died.
We can't know for sure, but why might Mary stay at the house instead of go with Martha when she heard Jesus was finally coming? (KJV: she "sat still in the house") Do you think maybe she was having trouble dealing with bitterness toward Him? Because it was specifically mentioned that Mary didn't go to meet Him, I think it must be significant. Or perhaps she had no strength or will to go; a death can leave you feeling you have no emotional or physical strength--any exertion is just too much.
21-27 The conversation between Jesus and Martha. What do her first words show? Faith, or accusation? Her words probably reflect what she and Mary have been saying to each other. Doubt and bitterness. Hot tears of anger. After all, Jesus was summoned, and didn't even hurry. And they were His close friends! How COULD He?
In 22 I don't think she is hinting that perhaps Jesus will raise him from the dead, because of her words in 24. Maybe she is saying, "Even though You didn't heal in THIS situation, I still believe You can heal, and that You have a hotline to God--that You ARE who You say You are." Does her reference to God indicate that she is not aware that Jesus, the Christ--the Messiah--IS God? Perhaps, but I think not, based on 27; she is probably referring to the Father.
When Jesus tells her what is about to happen, she reinterprets His words. Instead of taking Him literally, she assumes that He must be talking in general terms, about the distant future. She refers to the "last day." When is the last day? What word does she use with it to explain what she means? The Bible uses a number of phrases to refer to the end times: the day of the Lord, in that day, in those days, in the latter day. The term "last day" is only used in John, in 6:39,40,44,54, 12:48 and here. Jesus uses it in the context of the judgment and the resurrection.
Where do we see another "I am" statement? Again Jesus is claiming to be God. What else does He say in 25-26 that no mere man can claim? He makes an amazing claim in 25, but He is about to prove His claim. Does He say He is the "way" to the resurrection and to life? What key word does He use here three times? Jesus is fortifying Martha's weak faith.
Besides encouraging her, He is laying out some clear teaching about Himself. Eternal life is gained by believing in Jesus Christ. There is life after death; death is not the end. (Not reincarnation, not a return to this earth in another body.) But not all will experience this life. Christians are not exempt from sickness and death. To believe in Him is not to merely hold an intellectual belief that has little to do with the way you live; He equates "believes in Me" (25) with "lives and believes in Me" (26). And, for the Christian, physical death is not truly death, but it is for the non-Christian. Physical death is merely the instantaneous exchanging of our temporary, mortal body ("tent," II Cor. 5:1-8) for our eternal, immortal body. I Cor. 15:42-53, Phil. 1:21-24.
Like Peter in Mt. 16:16, Martha makes a clear and bold confession of faith in Jesus as the Christ--God in the flesh, the one prophesied throughout the Old Testament. She is not saying that at this moment, she finally believes. She says "I have believed." Her present doubts don't have to do with who Jesus is, but with how and why He does what He does. Does doubting mean you are not saved? Like Martha, Christians often struggle with doubts about what God is like, and about understanding the way He operates, especially in a situation we find painful. The more we come to know God, the less we struggle with doubt.
28-29 She privately lets her sister know that Jesus wants to talk to her. Do you think Martha's talk with Jesus has strengthened her? Doesn't Mary need to talk to Him too, instead of dwelling on thoughts like "if only He'd been here"? Don't we sometimes prefer to wallow in self-pity? When we are upset at life, or mad at God (aren't those really the same thing?), don’t we sometimes avoid God? But that only makes things worse. When we finally seek His presence and take our concerns directly to Him, He does what, John 14:27?
30-32 What do Mary's first words to Jesus reveal about her attitude toward Him? Compare her words to Martha's first words in 21. This is why I suspect they are echoing what they have been discussing at home. But Martha went on to immediately add what? Did Mary? Is her faith weaker than Martha's? Is this why she refused to go out to meet Jesus with Martha? Why does Jesus not have a similar conversation with Mary as He had with Martha?
Perhaps Mary illustrates the unbelief and hardness of heart that the believer can fall into, as described in Heb. 3:12-4:11. But if we exercise faith, what do we experience, 4:3-11? What if we don't "feel" an attitude of faith? Is faith a feeling? Or an act of the will? Even when we don't feel like it, we can choose to exercise faith in God based on what the Bible says about God. Then Heb. 4:12 goes on to explain that God's Word is like a what? What can it show us about our hearts? We may be unaware or dishonest with ourselves and God about our thoughts and intentions, but if we are in God's Word, we will be convicted of these things, so that we can effectively deal with them.
Can you relate to Mary's attitude? I know I have felt and acted this way to God. But isn't this a way of saying to God, "I know better than You. My plan would have been better than Yours. You blew it. And now I'm not sure I really want to trust You completely." This is pride, elevating Self above God. But because we like to be self-deceived, we often refuse to recognize that this is what we are doing. This is an attitude that needs to be confronted and confessed.
33-36 The Greek in 33 implies that Jesus was angry. Who or what might He be angry at, that caused this situation? (Think about Gen. 3.) Does God care about our pain? Or is He so focused on His big plan that individuals and their pain are unimportant? Here we see God's compassion illustrated, 35. We also know that Jesus experienced much personal pain, as He was misunderstood, rejected and ridiculed by His own people, who should have welcomed Him with praise and worship. He suffered not only excruciating physical pain on the cross, but the even greater pain of experiencing sin--the sins of the whole world--and the separation from the Father than sin brings.
37 Here is a big question many of us have asked. "Couldn't God have kept this from happening?" Could He? Of course. Does He always? No. Why not? Consider the possible reasons why He doesn't. Is it because He doesn't love us? I John 4:8,16. (Make sure your answer, and all your doctrinal beliefs, come from the Bible, not from feelings or personal experience.) Is it because He is not truly all-powerful? Ps. 62:11, 139:7-12, Rev. 19:1. Is it because He doesn't know in advance what will happen? Ps. 139:1-6, Eph. 1:11. Does the Bible tell us why God sometimes allows pain? If keeping us from pain is not His priority, why isn't it? What is? Read Gen. 50:20, John 9:3, Rom. 5:1-5, 8:28, 12:1-2, II Cor. 1:3-7, 12:7-12, Eph. 1:12, James 1:2-3,12, I Pet. 1:6-9, 4:1-2,12-16.
Why is there even pain, suffering, and evil in the world? Is God the author of evil and pain? The Bible has the answer to this question also. It is found in Gen. 3. Who is the author of evil? Who is being punished for choosing sin? What did God bring into our lives to continually remind us of our sinfulness? What was cursed that also adds to our troubles? Some of our pain is not the result of our sinfulness, but that of others. Why are they like that? Gen. 3. Some of our pain is the result of things that "just happened." Why are there natural disasters, diseases, illnesses and accidents? Gen. 3.
We will never escape these things while we are on this earth in these mortal bodies. But we cannot attribute these things to God; they all result from man's sin. Yet because God is completely sovereign, and nothing escapes His control, He is able to use even our sins in His plan for our spiritual growth and His ultimate plan for the world. This is illustrated in several ways in Genesis--in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, and in what Satan thought was his victory in Gen.3. Satan thought he had mortally wounded Jesus on the cross, thwarting God's plan, but instead God used that to bring His ultimate victory over Satan, as prophesied in Gen. 3:15.
If God is sovereign, why doesn't He choose to stop the actions of evil people? Because He has given us free will. If He were to stop every evil action--every sin--He would make us into His robots, only doing right because we have no choice. Just as He gave Adam and Eve a choice in the garden, so all humans are given free will to make choices, even though many choose wrong. Ironically, we would like God to give US free will, but we would like Him to take it away from OTHER people. We must accept that it can't work both ways. Again, an understanding of the Bible, especially the foundational truths of Genesis, helps us to accept life. Our foundation needs to be found in the Bible, not in our feelings, experiences, or human observations. We should interpret our experiences in the light of the Bible, rather than interpreting the Bible in the light of our experiences.
38-44 Does Martha have any inkling of what Jesus might be about to do, 40? Is Lazarus raised or resurrected? What is the difference? What kind of body does Lazarus have? Will he die again, or is he now in his sinless eternal state? Is this the only time the Bible records the dead being raised? The prophet Elijah raised a boy from the dead, I Kings 17. What was the purpose of that miracle, 17:24? So we cannot say that raising someone from the dead is proof that Jesus is God. Is this the only instance of Jesus raising the dead? Mt. 9:18-25, Luke 7:11-16. Might there be other instances not recorded in the Bible? John 21:25. Like other miracles, this miracle authenticates Jesus message as being from God, Acts 2:22. Only one miracle actually proves that Jesus is God, Acts 17:31. 42, was this miracle only for the benefit of Mary and Martha? Might things that happen in our lives also be not only for our own spiritual testing and growth, but for the benefit of those around us who see how we act in the various circumstances God gives us?
What key word in John's Gospel do we find in 40 and 42? This is one major purpose of what God allows in our lives. In 40, who is Jesus saying should believe? But doesn't she already believe? She is a believer. Believers must also learn to believe more. We believe in Jesus for salvation, but then we must learn to believe in Him more and more, to exercise more faith. Do believers sometimes not believe, in this sense? Who does Jesus want to believe in 42? So we see that in everything that happens, God is working both to bring people to faith in Christ, and to increase the faith and spiritual growth of those who are already believers. We find this principle throughout the Bible.
45-46 How did some of those people respond to this miracle? Did all who witnessed it respond the same way? How did others respond?
47-48 What were the Pharisees concerned about? Their own salvation and eternal life? The salvation of others? So can we conclude that even today, some spiritual leaders are not really concerned about the spiritual welfare of others, but are using their position for their own selfish ends? The Bible often tells us to "beware," not to be naïve, but to be on guard. Don't believe everything you hear that "sounds" Christian, or has a sprinkling of Bible verses thrown in. It is not "unchristian" to be skeptical, to be a "fruit examiner," Mt. 7:16-20.
49-52 In 49-50, we have the words of Caiaphas. In 51-52, we have the words of John, explaining the significance of those words. We learn that even those Caiaphas was not a prophet from God, God used him to prophesy about Jesus. Ironically, what he meant was not what God meant, but God used his words to get across God's own truth. Caiaphas meant that having Jesus die would put a stop this movement of the people who thought Jesus was going to immediately bring in a political kingdom, delivering them from under the hand of Rome. If they let Jesus and this movement go on, Rome might step in and tighten the screws on Israel even more. So he is saying that if they can put Jesus to death, they will save Israel from this fate.
But God used his words on another level, without his even knowing it. Actually, Jesus would die for the nation, not to deliver them from Rome, but to deliver them from a worse death--eternal death. And yes, Jesus would die for "the whole nation," but also for "the people," including who else? Eph. 3:4-6.
53 So what is their plan? And yet we also know another reason for this plan, 10:33? And yet who is really behind His death, 10:17-18? Do you see how God's sovereignty allows men the freedom to make their own choices, even sinful choices, yet that does not in any way diminish His control over the situation or thwart His plans? We find this hard to understand intellectually, but the Bible tells us it is so and gives us many illustrations of this truth.
54-57 What will happen at this Passover? So we see that Jesus is in the final days before the cross. 56-57, the tension was thick in the religious community over the issue of Jesus.
We see this chapter of full of instances in which various people didn't really understand what was being said, or the true meaning of words. Do you ever feel bad because you just don't "get it" sometimes? You are not alone. We are all dense, and slow to get it. It's human nature. But one day we will see all things clearly, I Cor. 13:12.
1-3 What is the time frame in Jesus' life? Comparing the last few verses of the preceding chapter, we see Jesus had been staying somewhat secluded from the public, but now, a few days before the Passover, He heads toward Jerusalem, and stops to visit His good friends.
Here we have three interesting people; this is the third account we have of them. We just read of the miracle with Lazarus in the preceding chapter, and Jesus' dealings with his sisters. We have Mary and Martha mentioned again here. What are they doing here? Let's look back at the other passage about them, Luke 10:38-42. How would you describe each of these two sisters? Martha is often compared unfavorably to Mary because she is so wrapped up in her hostess role while Mary chooses to be with Jesus. But in John 11, how did we see Martha relating to Jesus, compared to Mary's response? Do both women have faith in Jesus? Do both know who He is? But don't we see their different personalities, interests, struggles, and emotional make-up?
What activity characterizes Martha in both John 12:2 and Luke 10:38-42? What activity characterizes Mary in both passages? Martha is more into active service, greeting, welcoming, inviting her guest in, preparing and serving meals. Mary is into sitting, listening, learning, showing devotion and reverence, taking in God's Word. Aren't both of these approaches good and necessary? Should we do only one or only the other? Whether in our daily lives or in the context of a church, aren't both needed? "Serve" is not a bad thing, not implying busy work. "Serve" is to minister, from the same word as "deacon." Compare how "serve" is used in Dan. 3:28; it is used with what other word? So these words are related. Both women are worshipping, in the way that comes most naturally to each.
Both women are also shown in a negative light. In Luke 10:41, we find that Martha is so wrapped up in her activities that her attitude isn't right. She's complaining about her job, being self-righteous and critical of others. In John 11:28-32, we see Mary avoiding Jesus in her time of need, and not exhibiting the faith that her sister seems to show in 20-27, apparently because of her pain, doubt, bitterness, lack of faith, lack of understanding.
Both women have positive approaches, but neither approach need exclude the other approach. Both flow naturally from each woman's personality type. Don't our personality types strongly influence how we serve the Lord? There are many ways to serve the Lord every day. Some have the ability and interest to visit others, help them out, do things for them. Some have the ability and interest to speak easily to others about the Lord and share God's Word. In the church, do all have the interest and ability to teach? Do all the have the interest and ability to run the nursery, organize church dinners, or handle the budget? Compare I Cor. 12:14-21, Eph. 4:11-12, 15-16.
And what do we see Lazarus doing? Nothing? Or does just his presence make an impact on those around him, because of what Christ has done for him--his testimony? A changed life is the best testimony. He didn't have to collar people and tell them they ought to believe; he just lived his life in front of people and let them draw their own conclusions. He had a powerful testimony, even without speaking. Many of us aren't good at witnessing with words, but we all witness by our daily lives. This works the other way too--if we let others know we are Christians but don't always live like it, they will see this too and draw their own conclusions.
The body of Christ, like a human body, is made of many different kinds of parts, each doing a necessary job, even though quite different from each other's jobs. Even small jobs are necessary. Many people think they are unnecessary in a church, especially a large church. They can encourage others by thanking, appreciating and encouraging the pastor, a teacher, an usher or greeter, a child or young person, janitor, etc. They can be warm, friendly and welcoming to others--not all have this ability! They can keep an eye on kids playing outside before or after church. They can give a ride when needed, help start someone's car who is stuck in the parking, or offer to mow a lawn or help with kids for someone they heard is sick. They can offer help with someone's computer problem. They can write or email a missionary, or lend a good book to someone who might appreciate it. There are many ways to serve God, even if they seem small or unnoticed by others. Interacting with other Christians is not the only way to serve God; doing these things for unsaved friends and neighbors is serving God. We are to be salt and light in the world. All our service should be as unto the Lord, not as unto others, or to make ourselves feel or look good. Eph. 6:7, Col. 3:23-24. If you ask God to show you something you can do for Him, He will put a thought in your mind or bring an opportunity your way. That is a prayer you can know He will answer, because the Bible tells us it is God's will that we serve Him.
4-6 What things do we learn about Judas in these verses? Because this was written later, John can comment on things he now knows about Judas. Might the disciples have known about Judas' stealing at the time? But we have seen that he appeared to be just like the others. Other than the betrayal, these are his only recorded words. What do we see about his attitude?
7-8 What kind of answer does Jesus give Judas in this one recorded incident? Do you think Mary had a pretty good idea what was going to happen to Jesus, and did this on purpose? The disciples don't seem to have much insight, but don't women often have more insight than men--a feeling for what's going on beneath the surface? Whether Mary's actions were practical or a silly waste of money, doesn't God look at our motives? Judas had wrong motives; Mary had right motives. Sometimes we wonder if we should have done this or should have done that instead; God is more interested in our motives for what we did.
9-11 How did the miracle impact Lazarus? How did it impact people around there? We can almost understand why the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus, why as unbelievers they saw His claims as blasphemy, but what is their excuse for wanting to kill Lazarus? This is just plain murder--to get rid of someone who is inconvenient.
12-13 Where does Jesus go the next day, and what happens there? Do they think He is the Messiah? But what do they think this Messiah is going to do for them?
14-15 John points out the fulfillment of prophecy about the Messiah. Who is Zion, and who is the daughter of Zion? Strong's Concordance says Zion is figuratively the church. Would you agree? Does the Messiah come to the church? The Old Testament prophecies that the Messiah is coming to whom? Because He was rejected by Israel and then calls out a new group of believers called the church, does that mean then that the Old Testament prophecies really say the Messiah is coming to the church? According to Paul, the promises were made to what people, Rom. 9:3-5? He says the gifts and calling of God are what, Rom. 11:29? Who is Peter speaking to in Acts 3:25-26? Who was the Messiah sent to first, as promised? The Messiah was not promised to the church but to Israel. I think we are seeing an editorial slant in Strong's that is not supported by Scripture. Their Old Testament references to Zion do not say the church; Zion is the hill on which Jerusalem sits, and often refers to Jerusalem. In the Old Testament, daughter of Zion is obviously the Jews. This quote from the Old Testament would therefore have the same meaning. Jesus came to His people, the Jews, and even though in this incident they sound like they accept Him, in a few days they change their minds. The "triumphal entry" is only labeled that by Bible editors; the Bible does not use that term because it is NOT triumphal but a sham.
Remember that books written about the Bible, and the notes in your Bible, are NOT inspired by God and may or may not be correct. How can you know if they are? Read and compare Scripture. I heard a pastor say that the best way to study the Bible is to stay right in the text you are reading, not to jump around and bring in other Scripture. I disagree strongly! Let the Bible comment on itself, shed light on itself, and interpret itself. The better you know the Bible, the less you will be deceived or confused by men's ideas. If you let someone else do your thinking for you, you are open to confusion, deception, false teaching.
The day of this event is the exact date prophesied in Dan. 9:24-26, from the decree (Neh. 2:1-8) to the cutting off of Messiah. The 69 sevens have now been fulfilled and an undetermined length of time will now begin (the church age). When the church is removed and the Antichrist signs the 7-year treaty, the final seven years will begin, the tribulation. At the end of those seven years, the 70 weeks of years will be fulfilled and Christ will return to rule over His earthly kingdom for a thousand years--the millenial kingdom prophesied in the Old Testament, Rev. 19-20.
16-19 Do the disciples recognize, as things are happening in Jesus' life, that Old Testament prophecy was being fulfilled? So is it likely that the rest of the Jews did, at that time? We have wondered about this as we have read the Gospels. Do we sometimes not understand things until much later too? How were the disciples able to understand later on, John 14:26? So how is the Bible made clear to us when we read it? Can the Holy Spirit bring it to our remembrance if we haven't read it in the first place? The more we read it, the more it will be brought to our remembrance. Isn't this why unbelievers can read it and totally fail to understand what it is saying? 19, the Pharisees are getting desperate. Yet we know that many who seemed to believe were only miracle-seekers, not truth-seekers.
20-23 What do we see going on with these three disciples here? Why might these Greeks have approached the disciples instead of Jesus Himself? Might we also try to be the type of followers that others seeking Jesus might feel comfortable approaching?
Even though the Passover was a Jewish feast, Gentiles could also come and worship God. Gentiles could worship the God of the Jews; we have many instances in the Old Testament of Gentiles who come to know God. Here we see a foreshadowing of the change of dispensations; God has been dealing with Israel as a nation, but now the times of the Gentiles are about to begin (Luke 21:24, Rom. 11:25), or what we call the age of grace, or the church age.
Jesus goes on to talk to the disciples. We don't know for sure if He is talking here to the Greeks also; perhaps. Does He seem to answer the request of the Greeks? We have been noticing through the Gospels that Jesus was sent first and primarily to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, as the Messiah promised to them in the Old Testament. Perhaps the answer Jesus gives in 23 alludes to the fact that what He is about to do WILL open the door to the Gentiles--the mystery Paul speaks of in Eph. 3:4-9.
Does this happen in the next hour, literally? The Greek word for "hour" can make day, season, time. So again we see that even when taking the literal interpretation of the Bible, some words are obviously used in a non-literal, broader sense. In all languages, words are often used this way, and the context usually makes it quite clear. And always keep in mind that we are talking about words used in one language (Hebrew or Greek) translated into another language. That's why it's good to check Strong's, or to have a pastor that is knowledgeable in the original languages.
What is Jesus referring to by this hour? "Glorified" would obviously refer to the crucifixion and resurrection, which are to take place in a few days. Glorify = magnify = make larger. When Jesus rises from the dead, He will obviously be shown to be not merely a man, but God in the flesh.
24-25 What is being pictured in 24 in this paradoxical example from farming? He has told the disciples He is going to die and be raised again, but they don't get it. Death sounds like a bad thing to them; what will they not understand until later, that Jesus is explaining here? What application of this principle does Paul make in I Cor. 15:36? Where else in John do we read about bearing "much fruit"? For His followers to bear much fruit, they must first die--to Self. Life comes from death: 1) Identifying ourselves with Christ's death on the cross for our sin brings eternal life. 2) Our physical death brings the fulfillment of that eternal life. 3) Our daily dying to Self brings Christ's resurrection life into our daily experience.
That is exactly what Jesus goes on to explain in 25, in the form again of a paradox. He is talking about our attitude to Self ("his life"), and what we choose to do about Self. He is describing salvation--the way to get eternal life. Psychology, the religion of humanism, is all about exalting and magnifying Self--finding yourself, loving Self, gratifying Self. Listen to all the commercials that tell you what you want to hear about Self: "You're WORTH it! You DESERVE it!" Psychology says this is the way to true fulfillment, to self-actualization, to self-esteem. The Bible also has a great deal to say about Self, but it says just the opposite. The paradox is that when God, not Self, is exalted and magnified, then you will find true fulfillment. The Bible tells us that we are not to focus on SELF-esteem, but on God's esteem. Col. 3:2. Only then will Self find its proper relationship to God and to others. We are to put others first, not Self. Rom. 12:10,16, Phil. 2:3. Humility is the mark of the believer, not high self-esteem, I Pet. 3:8, 5:5.
26 What does Jesus desire from us? Serving, following as a disciple. Do all who are saved go on to follow and serve, to the same extent? Will all believers be honored equally by the Father? I Cor. 3:12-15, II Cor. 5:10, Rev. 2:23. Do all bear the same amount of fruit, 15:1-5? Perhaps He is also saying that serving (works) must be the result of following Jesus (believing on Him, which gives eternal life). Doing good will not save you if your faith in not in Him.
27-28 Does the context indicate that "hour" is referring to 60 minutes, or to a time? How did Jesus feel about what was about to take place? Might this be because Jesus was a man as well as God? Or might it be because God the Son was about to experience the sins of the entire world, as well as the temporary separation from God the Father? According to 27, why did Jesus come to earth? We see Jesus praying to the Father. What is His request? What can we learn here and apply to our prayers? How will God be glorified by what is about to happen? We will read more in John about God being glorified by the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Are we always desiring that God be glorified, or are we desiring our own glory?
29-30 Do those around Him understand the voice of God? This reminds us of what Jesus just said back in 11:42, at the tomb of Lazarus. Do all hear God speaking to them when they read His Word? Only those with ears to hear will hear.
31 What is Satan called here? Compare John 14:30, 16:11, II Cor. 4:4, Eph. 2:2, 6:11-12, I John 4:4, 5:19. What did Satan offer Jesus in Mt. 4:8-9. Did Jesus laugh at this temptation? No; it was a valid temptation, because it was Satan's to give. Jesus came to receive His earthly kingdom as prophesied in the Old Testament; accepting Satan's offer would mean not having to go to the cross to receive it. How can Satan be in control of this earth if God is indeed sovereign over all? Read the first two chapters of Job to get more insight into God's sovereignty over all things, even Satan and his activity. Knowing that Satan can do nothing without God's permission, for God's own reasons, should comfort us.
God has given Satan a certain amount of power, temporarily. To learn when and how that temporary reign will end, read Revelation. Note Rev. 12:12. Satan's defeat was made certain at the cross when Jesus rose from the dead, but God has allowed him to rule on this earth from the time of original sin until Christ's second coming. It was a done deal at the cross, but has not yet been worked out in history. Why would God allow this? We are not told, but he will be removed from the earth during the millenial kingdom, only to be given one last chance to influence men at the end of that dispensation, Rev. 20:1-3, 7-10.
32-33 What was Jesus prophesying? What Old Testament incident did this refer to? Num. 21:9. So now we know that the incident in Numbers was a foreshadowing of Christ's crucifixion (foreshadowing is not the same as prophecy). What symbolic elements can be found in the story in Numbers? The people sinned by grumbling and were bitten by serpents; who is the serpent in Scripture, the author of sin? A bronze serpent was hung on a pole; who was judged at the cross? When the people suffering from the poisonous bite of the serpent looked at the pole, what happened to them? Many things in the Old Testament foreshadow New Testament truths. How was Christ lifted up from the earth in Acts 1:9? Besides this physical lifting up on the cross, in what other way can Christ be lifted up, or elevated, or exalted? And when He is, what effect does it have? Are "programs" necessary to draw people to Christ? Or do we just need to present Christ and the cross? He says all men will be drawn to Him; do all who are drawn, actually come? Mt. 22:14. Do you see how three different aspects of being lifted up are all referred to in this verse? All are true; none are contradictory. We often find these various levels of meaning in the Bible.
34 The Jews understood that the Old Testament taught that the Messiah's reign would be eternal, Ps. 110:4, Is. 9:7. It was not revealed in the Old Testament that the Messiah would come twice, accomplishing a different purpose each time. Even the prophets themselves were not shown this. We must always keep in mind that no matter how much we think we understand about Scripture, God has not revealed everything, and our understanding of God's timetable may be limited. We need to especially keep that in mind when we discuss possible interpretations of the end times.
So they understood "lifted up" to mean that He would be leaving. Again they echo the question that is being presented all through this book: who is Jesus really? This is the primary question that all people must answer. Your eternity depends on how you answer.
35-36 What is Jesus prophesying about Himself here? What name does He refer to Himself by? According to Jesus, if you are not walking with Him (the Light), you are walking in what?
37-41 What key word in John do we find repeated in these verses, which Jesus just told them to do in 36? Do all who see and hear, believe? Why would God blind anyone's eyes or harden their hearts? Does God blind the eyes of anyone who truly desires to see and believe? Is there anyone saying, "I REALLY want to see God's truth so I can believe in Him," but God refuses to let that person see? God hardened Pharaoh's heart, Ex. 7-11, but did Pharaoh ever want to believe and obey God? The Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, according to Ex. 9:12, 10:1,20, but what is said before that, in 7:13,22, 8:15,19,32, 9:7? God will set things up so that we will act on what is in our own hearts, because of our own free will. The response of the Jews was prophesied in the Old Testament. Jesus also makes it clear that He Himself is the one being spoken of in the Old Testament.
42-43 Are you a "closet believer"? Or have you been in the past? Do you know someone who is? Why? How can this weakness be overcome? Does hiding your belief in Christ mean it is not true saving faith? Not according to this passage. Here is a good reason not to be judgmental about whether or not others appear to be Christians. Can we always know? Do we always look like Christians to those around us?
44-45 Who is Jesus equating Himself with?
46-48 Jesus (God) says that if you don't believe in Him, you are in what? Is He saying in that the person who doesn't believe in Him won't be judged? Does that fit with everything else Jesus and the Bible say? Or is He saying that He will not judge them NOW, because that is not what He came for at this time? What did He come to do at His first coming? When will judgment take place?
49-50 The Bible tells us that God no longer speaks today through prophets or in any other way He did in the past; He has said everything He has to say through His Son, Heb. 1:1-2. We are not to assume that because God spoke to the prophets, He will speak to us in that same manner. Do you want to hear God's voice? We "hear" it as we read His Word. Some people believe in continuing revelation; they claim that God continues to speak today, through them or others, but yet we do not see them recording those words and adding them to the Bible. Why not? If God is saying anything new today, it is just as important as what He said in the past; all God's words should have equal authority. Nothing in the Bible indicates otherwise. However, if He is not saying anything new, then there is nothing for Him to say today. He has said everything He had to say to us through Christ, Col. 2:9-10, Jude 3. II Tim. 3:16-17 says that through Scripture, the believer may be complete and thoroughly equipped; nothing further is needed.
This is the end of the public teaching of Jesus to the Jews. He has spoken clearly and laid out the basic truths of who He is, and of believing in Him for eternal life. The teachings of the next few chapters will be limited to His followers, in the last days before His death.
1-5 This is the night of the betrayal. Jesus' public ministry is over. Now He speaks only to His disciples. This is the last supper, but John omits the details we find in the other Gospels--how it was arranged, the details of what we now call communion. The other Gospels do not tell about the foot washing. John editorializes in 1-3; what is John trying to tell us about Jesus? Here is His last time with His disciples, and He chooses to teach them something by washing their feet. John is letting us know about all the things going on in Jesus' mind as He does this. Verses 1 and 3 both speak of Jesus "knowing," highlighting His sovereign knowledge of all things.
We read in 2 that Satan had planted in Judas' heart the thought of betraying Jesus. Does this mean Judas was not responsible for what he did? Some believe that he was not. Some believe that because of predestination, he had no choice, and therefore was not responsible for this sin. This is a misunderstanding of predestination. Whenever the Bible speaks of predestination, it refers only to believers. It does not used the term to describe a programming of our wills so that we act like robots and have no choice. The Bible clearly teaches that we have free will. Every person will be held responsible for their choices, right or wrong. Satan cannot make you sin; he can tempt you, but the choice is yours.
6-11 We have seen earlier that the disciples were pretty hung up on who was the greatest, and what true greatness was about. Luke 22:24-27 records that at the last supper, a dispute arose among them again about who was the greatest, and Jesus talked to them about the greatest being the one who served others; Luke does not record the foot washing that followed the dispute. John does not record the dispute but records the foot washing. This is a good example of why we need to read ALL the Bible to get the complete picture of what God wants us to know. John and Luke apparently had different ideas about what was important or interesting when they chose what to record. Likewise, if you and I were each to tell someone what we thought about the Bible, about God, about church, etc., wouldn't we each have different perspectives to share? This is why it is good to listen to different teachers, preachers, and Christian writers. No one person gets the whole picture. We can all learn from each other. Of course, everything needs to be evaluated in the light of God's entire Word.
Because of the dust and sandals, servants washed feet; wives often washed husbands' feet, and children the parents' feet, or you just washed your own feet. Why didn't Peter want Jesus to wash his feet? Was he looking at the physical or the spiritual? Again Jesus uses something physical, an object lesson, to explain a spiritual truth. Why doesn't Jesus wash the rest of him? What is Jesus saying? What does He mean by "bathed"? Do we need to be saved again every time we sin? What do we need to do instead? So this passage teaches eternal security; sin does not cause us to lose our salvation. Confession cleanses us. 8 is not a reference to baptism saving us; baptism is not in view at all--rather, confession of sin, service and humility.
We see Peter telling Jesus what to do here, again. He seems to have tendencies in that direction: Mt. 14:28, 16:22, 17:4, Mark 8:32. That sounds audacious to us, yet if we listen to our own prayers, how often do we do the same thing? Does God need us to tell Him what He ought to do in a given situation? Isn't that what we mean when we say, "I just don't know how to pray in this situation!" We think God is just waiting for our direction as to how to proceed. We can't go wrong if we pray, "Thy will be done." Can our will be better than God's will? Can we trust Him enough to give up our will and say that?
Some churches practice foot washing. Is Jesus teaching that believers are literally to wash each others' feet? Does the New Testament teach that rituals impart any spiritual benefits? Do the Epistles give any indication that the early church practiced foot-washing? I Tim. 5:10 refers to the reputation of older widows for doing good works; it could refer to literal washing of feet as showing hospitality in her home, or could refer figuratively to service to others. It does not seem to refer to a ritual in the church.
Today, dust and sandals are not the norm. In fact, foot washing is awkward because ladies wear nylon stockings. Why does Jesus say in 7 that Peter doesn't understand it now? He must be referring to something more--something harder to understand. He is demonstrating humility, service to others, what greatness is, and what a true leader is like.
Who is He talking about in 10-11? So is Judas truly a believer? Jesus washed his feet, but that did not indicate Judas was saved.
12-17 This passage makes more sense when compared to the account in Luke 22:24. Isn't it amazing what the disciples were concerned about at this point? Imagine the conflicting feelings Jesus is experiencing: His great love for them, possibly sadness or frustration at their lack of understanding, what He knows His friend Judas is about to do, what is going to happen to Him the next day, as well as understanding the big picture of God's plan for the ages.
According to 17, what will make us happy? What do we generally think will make us happy? Blessed = happy, fortunate. We see "blessed" used in this way in the Beatitudes, Mt. 5:1-11. Yet so often when we speak of God's blessings, we are referring to God giving us good things or good times. God's blessing is spoken of as more of an attitude He gives us.
18-20 Because He is God, Jesus has known all along that Judas would betray Him, 6:70-71. He has already told His disciples that He would die (Mt. 16:21, 17:9,12,22-23, 20:18-19, 21:38-39), and that He will be betrayed/delivered to the Jewish leaders, but He has not chosen to tell them that it is one of them that would betray Him until now. In 19, what does Jesus say is a result of fulfilled prophecy? Much of the Bible is prophecy which has already been literally fulfilled. This cannot be explained by any naturalistic means. What Old Testament passage does He quote and apply to Himself? (It should be in your margin notes.)
This is an interesting example of how the Old Testament prophesies of Christ. Read Psalm 41; according to the heading, who wrote it? What is his situation as he writes this (3,10)? Who is he concerned about at this time (2,5,7,11)? Who is he especially upset about (9)? What has this person done to him? He is probably referring to Ahithophel, II Sam. 15:12-17:23. Is the coming Messiah the context of this Psalm? But Jesus quotes this one verse from this Psalm and applies it to Himself; He says that Judas is the fulfillment of this passage. So we know that Jesus treated Judas as a close friend; Judas was offered every opportunity to believe. Yet we never read of him calling Jesus "Lord" as do the other disciples.
So we see that the primary meaning of the passage in Psalms involves a friend of King David who has turned on him. Yet there is a further meaning there--a future fulfillment--which we would not know except for the fact that Jesus tells us this was also speaking of Him and Judas. This is one type of prophecy. Another type of prophecy speaks obviously of the Messiah, such as Psalm 2, which speaks of: God and His Anointed, 2; God installing His King upon Zion, 6; the begotten Son, 7,12; and that the Son will someday rule all the nations of the earth, 8-9.
In 20, Jesus equates Himself again with the Father. The first part of His statement can be found in other Gospels, but makes most sense in John's account when compared with Luke 9:46-48. Jesus is making a statement relating to their dispute about who was the greatest. Also compare Gal. 4:14.
21-22 Judas is not mentioned, but what can we learn about him from these verses? Did he seem like the likely one, or did he seem just like the rest? Apparently he did not seem suspicious to the rest. Jesus, even though knowing what he really was, did not treat him differently than the others. Judas must have been held in high regard to be given the responsible position of treasurer. Can we always tell if someone is a true believer by how they appear to us? Because someone holds a high office in the church, does that prove they are a Christian?
23-26 The disciple mentioned in 23 is thought to be John (the writer). This is apparently how he refers to himself, rather than by name. Compare 19:26, 20:2, 21:7,20.
Many people are surprised by the idea of one of the disciples leaning back against Jesus' chest. Some have even made the ridiculous and unscriptural accusation of homosexuality. Actually, the explanation has to do with the customs of the day. The rabbis taught that the Passover meal was to be eaten, not in the usual sitting or standing positions, but reclining on couches, which were also commonly used by the Romans. They reclined while propped on the left hand, eating with the right. To the right of the host (Jesus) would be the assistant host (John). To the left of the host was the seat of honor. Given the type of seating, we know this was given to Judas because Jesus gave him the sop He dipped, and that is who He could reach. It was the custom for the host to dip the bread and pass it to the guest of honor, and was a sign of friendship. Because John reclined on the couch at the right of Jesus, John leaned back to privately ask Jesus the question Peter wanted him to ask. So it is NOT like they were "cuddling" or anything.
This may also explain the dispute about who was the greatest and Peter in particular having a problem with what Jesus was demonstrating to him about greatness. According to Luke 22:8, Peter and John had prepared the supper and therefore were the two hosts. Peter probably thought he and John, as co-hosts, should have the seats on the left and right of Jesus. Yet Jesus had given Judas the seat on His left. This is also an interesting comment on Jesus' treatment of Judas, especially considering how Judas was about to treat Jesus.
Peter's question to John seems to indicate that John was the closest to Jesus of all the disciples--that surely John would know what Jesus was talking about.
27-30 Do we see the disciples being suspicious of Judas, even at this point? Who knew he was the betrayer, 28? Can Satan enter a believer? There is no Bible record of a believer being possessed by Satan or by a demon. Who does indwell every believer, according to Rom. 8:9-11, I Cor. 3:16, II Tim. 1:14, I John 4:15? Those who think they are casting demons out of believers have no scriptural basis for their belief. We do not read in the Epistles of this problem or this practice in the early church. It is tempting to believe that "Satan made me do it" because that takes the responsibility off ME. If that is true, you would not even need to confess that sin or be forgiven of it because you were not responsible for it. But Satan cannot make us sin; he can only tempt us. We are responsible for all our actions.
We learn here that Satan does not know everything. He does not know the future. He does not understand what the Bible teaches, even though he may know what the Bible says. If he understood, he would NOT have tried to use Judas to have Jesus killed. If he knew about the resurrection, he would know that this would be the worst possible development if Satan was hoping to win the spiritual war with God. Instead, he apparently thought that having Jesus killed would bring victory to himself.
31-32 Now that Judas, the unbeliever, has left, Jesus gives His final teaching to the 11. These teachings, through John 17, are for believers, for the church, which will be born shortly. What word does Jesus use here five times to describe what is about to take place? The disciples are probably thinking and hoping that now Jesus is about to come into His kingdom, although Jesus has made some statements about dying. We can imagine their confusion as they listen to Jesus in these next few chapters. How are Jesus and God the Father glorified in the events of the next few days? What does "glorify" mean? To make glorious, to render esteem, to honor, to magnify. What happens when you put something under a magnifying glass? What does it mean to magnify God? Psalm 34:3 and 69:30 tell us to magnify God; how can we do that?
33-35 "Little children" seems to be a term of affection used by John toward believers in his Gospel and Epistles. Jesus prepares His disciples for His departure. What new commandment does Jesus give them at this point? Has this not been said in the Bible before? Compare Lev. 19:18. The Greek word "new" has more to do with freshness rather than how recent. HOW are we to love others now? Jesus just demonstrated humility and service to others; soon He will demonstrate the ultimate sacrifice of love for others.
What does it mean to love one another? Does it mean we must like everyone? Is this possible? Are we to love people because they are likable? What if they are not? Can our emotions be commanded? Can our wills? So is love to be an emotional reaction, or an act of the will? Which way does God love us? This type of love--"agape" love--is to characterize followers of Jesus. Some might think the mark of the Christian is how well he knows the Bible, or how correct his theology is. Many Christians do not have the opportunity to learn the Bible or correct theology thoroughly. But all Christians, even "baby" Christians, can display the love Jesus is talking about, because it comes not from Self but from the indwelling Holy Spirit, whom Jesus will be teaching about shortly.
How is this a new commandment when the Old Testament says to love your neighbor as yourself, Lev. 19:18? Is loving your neighbor as yourself the same as loving others as Christ loved us? How did Christ love us? Loving your neighbor as yourself would be, taking care of his needs, just as you see that your own needs are taken care of. Loving as Christ loved us would be sacrificial love.
36-38 Do the disciples understand what Jesus is telling them? We may be tempted to scoff when we read Peter's declaration, because we know the rest of the story. But many of us are very much like Peter; we have truly good intentions and desires, but our human weakness gets in our way and keeps us from those ideals. To lay his life down for Jesus IS the desire of Peter's heart; can we say the same? Does Peter know himself as well as he thinks he does? Do we really know ourselves? But God does. Peter's devotion to Jesus is emotion-based at this point, and therefore weak and vacillating. Following the resurrection, we will see a bold, transformed Peter, whose love is now the product of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
We need to be careful what we promise God that we will do; fulfilling those promises are another matter. One of my pet peeves is songs that promise God how we will love Him, serve Him, follow Him, honor Him, etc. Yes, these are the desires of my heart, but I know all too well how I constantly let Him down and fail to do those things. I heard a song that I really like: "It is my desire to love/serve/praise you, Lord." Now that is a song that I can honestly sing.
Jesus prophesies Peter's denial. How do you suppose Peter felt when Jesus said this? Jesus could have chosen not to tell Peter this in advance; why might He have chosen to tell Peter ahead of time? Peter felt like a failure after he denied Jesus; what effect did the element of prophecy add?
1 There are no chapter breaks in the original manuscripts, so these words could directly flow from 13:38. What things had Jesus just said that might be causing their hearts to be troubled? We know that our organ that pumps blood has nothing to do with our spiritual lives; "heart" refers to our inner man, our thoughts, our minds. What are some other words for "troubled"? Anxious, stirred up, agitated. Anxiety is a major problem in our world. Does becoming a Christian remove all anxiety? Why not? What are some common ways people deal with anxiety? Some people are naturally more anxious than others; can anxiety be controlled, according to this verse? What does "let not" imply? Do we have to allow our feelings to control us? If you want to do a study on this subject, some related Bible words to look up (depending on your translation) are: fear, afraid, anxious, taking thought for, worry. One way to deal with anxiety is to meditate on verses such as this one and Mt. 6:25-34. Learn to replace the thoughts of Self with God's truths.
Jesus is saying that they already believe in God; they have faith in Him and have entrusted themselves to Him. Why should they respond this same way to Jesus? What is He saying about Himself? This is the prescription for a troubled, agitated heart.
2-3 Does God dwell in a physical house or building? In the Old Testament, God promised to meet with the Israelites at the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies in the tabernacle or the temple. Today where is the temple of God? I Cor. 3:16. The Father's "house" is the place where He dwells--heaven. Jesus reveals something new: where we will dwell some day? This is the first place the Bible mentions anyone leaving this earth. The Jewish hope is the earthly kingdom, Luke 19:11, Acts 1:6. This Gospel is written to the church, which is still future at the time Jesus says these things.
What end time event is promised in 3? Is this the second coming where He comes to judge the nations? Now we learn that there are two aspects to the second coming--first coming to take believers to be with Him, I Thes. 4:16-17, and then appearing on the earth to judge the nations and institute the earthly kingdom, Mt. 24:29-30. This parallels the Old Testament teaching of the coming of the Messiah which is later revealed to include two separate aspects and events. So what is Jesus doing now?
Thomas Ice and others point out the fascinating and significant parallel in the rapture teaching presented by Jesus in John 14:1-3 and Paul's rapture teaching in I Thes. 4:13-18 (which Paul received from Jesus), even to the very wording. Note the key terms and their order. In John 14:1-3: trouble, believe, God/me, told you, come again, receive you, to myself, be where I am. In I Thes. 4:13-17: sorrow, believe, Jesus/God, say to you, coming of the Lord, caught up, to meet the Lord, ever be with the Lord. The Bible tells us that when we die, we GO to be with Christ. At the second coming, He returns to earth WITH us, who are already with Him heaven. But here we have something different: He will COME for us and RECEIVE us.
Jesus is not teaching them of the rapture, but He is alluding to it--foreshadowing it. (For more foreshadowing, see 20:29 and the comments on that verse.) Only later will they understand what He is referring to here. Why did Jesus not teach about the rapture, or even about the church? Why did He wait to reveal these things to Paul? It is interesting that Jesus does not give this hint of the rapture to people in general, in His earlier teaching, but only to His disciples, at the end--to those who were about to become the church. If He had revealed these truths, Satan, understanding His plan for the future, would have tried to prevent Him from going to the cross, I Cor. 2:7-8. But Satan was clueless; he thought he had defeated Christ by having Him crucified, not knowing this was God's ultimate plan for victory over Satan. This is what is prophesied in Gen. 3:15. The promised one--the Messiah--the seed of the woman (an allusion to the virgin birth)--gives Satan a head wound (fatal) but Satan only gives Him a heel wound (non-fatal).
This parallels Jewish wedding customs of the time. During the lengthy betrothal (engagement) period, the bridegroom goes to prepare a dwelling place for the bride. Then he comes to take the bride away, to the home he has prepared. There the wedding takes place, followed by the wedding feasts with invited guests.
4-6 Do the disciples get what He is referring to? Remember, this is a totally new concept to them. We find another "I AM" statement--actually three of them. So what are three more ways Jesus defines Himself for us? How would it change the meaning if He had said He was "a way" or "one way"? Did He say He came to show us the way? Is "the truth" different than "some" or "part" of the truth? Did He come to improve or enhance life? Are there many ways to God? Do all religions lead to heaven, if you are sincere?
7-11 What is the main point here?
12-14 Does "works" refer to miracles, or Jesus' deeds in general--His way of life? How could believers do greater works? What will believers have after Jesus goes to the Father? So how many bodies will Jesus have to work through? What is the church called in I Cor. 12:27, Eph. 1:22-23, 4:12, 5:30?
Are 13-14 a blank check for the Christian? Does this say God will give us anything we want? What key phrase is repeated in 13 and 14? What does that mean? Does is mean if you tack those words on the end of any prayer, God is required to say yes? What kinds of things do we find Jesus asking the Father to do? Do we find Him asking for "stuff" for Himself or for others? Does the Bible teach that it is always God's will to give us "stuff" or to get things to turn out the way we want? Compare Mt. 20:21-23. Aren’t many of our prayers about what "I" want—either to get, or to happen? What does Jesus tell them that they don’t know? Do we? Can we know how something will turn out in the future? Should we ask God to make anything happen a certain way? Isn’t it audacious to suggest to God how He should run things? How might we pray instead?
What does the Bible teach that IS God's will for all of us? The Bible says God desires to "bless" us; does "bless" mean to give "stuff," or to give us joy? What gives true joy? More "stuff"? Read about joy in Rom. 5:11, 14:17, 15:13, II Cor. 8:2, Gal. 5:22, I Thes. 1:6, James 1:2, I Pet. 4:13? Did you notice that some refer to joy AND affliction? How can this be? We tend to think that the way to joy and blessing is for God to remove all affliction.
15-17 If Jesus is first in your life, what should not be hard to do? According to John 3:36, what should characterize the believer? So believing, loving and obeying all go together.
What new thing does Jesus teach them in 16-17? Who is the Helper? (KJV: Comforter) The Greek word is Paracletos: advocate, intercessor, consoler, one who is called alongside to help, to plead a case or give legal aid. Does the Bible refer to the Holy Spirit as "it" or "He"? Do you see the three persons of the Trinity in this verse? The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity; He is God the Spirit. We will be given other names for Him later. Many people think of God as being "with" them; for the believer, God is also where? Does the Holy Spirit come and go in our lives, according to this verse? Do we lose our salvation when we sin, as some think? If we do, the Holy Spirit would have to leave us; this verse says no. How is He identified in 17 that is equal to how Jesus described Himself in 6? The "world" would be unbelievers; they have not believed in God or else they would have believed in His Son Jesus, and would then receive the Spirit.
Jesus uses a change of verb tense here; the Holy Spirit is now where? But in the future, He will be where? When will this happen? Acts 2. Here we see the concept of dispensations; things are about to change, and God will be working with man in a different way. The Old Testament never speaks of the Holy Spirit as indwelling believers, but rather as coming upon people temporarily as He uses them. They also were required to obey the Law; the emphasis was on external controls. Now the emphasis will change to internal controls; we are no longer required to keep the Law, as Jesus has fulfilled it in our place, Mt. 5:17, and we now have God's Spirit dwelling in our bodies.
18-20 "Orphans" is "comfortless" in the KJV; the word can also be translated fatherless or parentless. When Jesus leaves, we will not be without the Father. So how does 18 teach the Trinity? Jesus equates Himself, the Holy Spirit, and the Father. In what form will Jesus come to them? Rom. 8:10, Col. 1:27.
In 19 we read of resurrection life; after His death He leaves but lives. This is a new kind of life which the church will also have. In the Old Testament, we often saw references to "that day." What time period does that usually refer to? Jesus also uses "that day" to refer to the endtimes (which includes the rapture, seven years' tribulation, and 1000 year millenial earthly kingdom) in Mt. 7:22, Luke 17:31, 21:34, John 16:16-23,26. 18 says He will come to us (Pentecost, Acts 2); will we actually see Him at that time? When we will see Him? At a later time, "in that day," 20.
21-24 What does it mean to love Jesus, according to 21? Is it about warm fuzzy feelings, singing or saying how much we love Him? What about all the popular praise and worship songs that talk about Jesus, our love for Him, and His love for us, almost as if He were our boyfriend? Is this what the Bible means by love?
Jesus is not talking about keeping the Law, or He would probably use the words, "the Law," as He does in other places when talking about the Law. He is talking about everything He has been teaching. If you want Jesus to disclose (manifest, KJV) Himself to you more, what can you do? Zech. 1:3, James 4:8. The disciples do not understand; Jesus is not fitting their preconceived notion of what the Messiah will do. But Judas seems to get a little insight.
"Abode" in 23 is the same word translated "dwelling places" (mansions, KJV) in 2. Do you see the three persons of the Trinity in 23? The Bible does not use the word "Trinity;" that is a word that we use to refer to a particular teaching we find in the Bible. Because that word does not appear in the Bible, does that mean there is no such thing as the Trinity? Some use this type of illogic to refute the rapture. I have heard preachers say that because the word "antichrist" is only used in I John, it is a non-issue, even though the Antichrist is described in many places and given various other titles. I have heard preachers refute the literal thousand-year earthly reign of Christ because the thousand years is only referred to in Rev. 20; the earthly kingdom is referred to in numerous places in both the Old and New Testaments. We must let the Bible say what it says and always compare Scripture with Scripture.
25-26 Again we see reference to changing dispensations; Jesus speaks of the present dispensation, with Him there to speak to them and teach them. He contrasts this ("but") with the coming dispensation in which who will teach them? He is preparing them for a change that is about to take place. We see the interaction and interdependency of the Father, Son and Spirit. Can you understand the Bible if you don't have a good church, pastor, Bible study group, books, etc? If you don't have access to these things, ask God to teach you. The Holy Spirit will help you remember what? This implies that you have heard/read them. Read the Bible to learn about God.
Back in 13-14, we wondered what it meant to pray in the name of Jesus. In 25 we are given a "definition" of the phrase "in My name"--in His place, as if He Himself were doing it.
27 What does Jesus promise them? How is His peace unlike peace we find in this world? The world system apart from God can only give peace based on circumstances; God's peace is not dependent on circumstances. When circumstances threaten our peace and our emotions are agitated, we can still have God's peace inside--in our heart, thoughts, mind. Compare Phil. 4:7. Again we see the command "do not let" so we know this is something that CAN be obeyed, if we so choose. We do not have to be controlled by our circumstances or emotions. How will He leave us this peace? The indwelling Holy Spirit will give us this peace.
28 Jesus repeats His promise to go away and to return for them. Why can we rejoice when a believer dies? Not that we should not grieve at our loss, but we can find comfort in this verse. They were grieved to think He was going to leave them, but at the same time they can rejoice. What do we learn about the relationship within the Trinity? God is God, but the Father is the head, just as we see that man and woman are equal, but man is designated as the head within the relationship. We (the bride) rejoice because we know the bridegroom is going away to prepare a place for use and will soon return for us and the wedding.
29-31 Again we find that fulfilled prophecy has what effect? Who is the ruler of this world? God? Yes, the Bible teaches that God is sovereign over all, but He has given this world over to Satan for a time, beginning in Gen. 3. Yet Satan's power is subject to God, Job 1-2, Luke 22:31. Nothing Satan does can thwart God's plans; all his temptations, lies and evil deeds are used by God in our lives as tests of our faith, James 1:1-15. Can we claim, like Jesus, that Satan has nothing in us? No; we are not sinless. We can be tempted to sin; Jesus cannot, Mt. 4:1-11. What does Jesus say about loving God that is parallel to 21?
Now they leave the Upper Room. Apparently John 15 and 16 are spoken by Jesus on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane.
1 Jesus gives us another "I am" statement--claiming to be God at the same time He is teaching us something about Himself. He calls Himself what here? Jesus uses some symbolism that is familiar to His Jewish listeners. The Old Testament sometimes spoke of the vine and the vineyard symbolically, conveniently explaining that symbolism in several places. We see the vine referred to in Gen. 49:11, in Jacob's prophecy about which of his 12 sons? According to 49:10, who shall come in his line? What further prophecies in 49:11 confirm this? Compare these verses with Mt. 21:1-5; Rev. 19:13,15; Is. 63:1-3; as well as John 15:1.
"Vine" is not always used symbolically, but in Is. 5:1-7 the symbolism is spelled out for us. Who is identified as the vine in Jer. 6:9 and Hosea 10:1? We see in Rev. 14:9 that the vine does not always represent Israel, but in Is. 5:1, Israel is God's choicest vine. Compare the parables about the vine and vineyard in Mt. 20:1-16, 21:28-31, and 21:33-41. In these parables, who is the owner of the vineyard? What does He want from His vineyard?
Now we have some background for understanding John 15:1-8. What might be the difference between the vine and the true vine? Jesus has also called Himself the true what, John 1:9 and 6:32? Throughout this Gospel, John has been stressing the concept of "true" and "truth."
2 Who are these branches "in Me"? What does He want them to do? How does He get them to bear fruit? The Greek word can be translated "prune, lift up, purge, cleanse." Why do you prune a tree? What type of branches do you cut off? Why? Does pruning weaken or strengthen the tree? Might pruning be painful or stressful? Would a loving God really do anything to His children that might cause them pain or distress? Have you ever done anything in love to your child that he might perceive as painful or unpleasant? (vaccinations, scolding, losing privileges, swat on bottom, requiring chores, etc.) Were you more concerned about his immediate feelings, or his long-term development?
At that time, grape vines were grown lying on the ground. Before harvest, the branches would be picked up off the ground and cleaned. So we see how "prune, lift up, purge, and cleanse" are all related concepts here.
What is "fruit"? Many interpret fruit as souls won for Christ. Can this be substantiated biblically? John 4:36 may be talking about winning souls, but uses the term "gathering" fruit, not "bearing" fruit. One of the best-known New Testament passages on fruit is Gal. 5:22-23. Compare this with Mt. 7:15-20 and Col. 1:10. According to John 15:2, is God satisfied with minimal fruit? What does He desire?
What is meant by branches being taken away that don't bear fruit? More light will be shed on this statement when we get to verse 6.
3 What does God's Word do for us? God's Word not only cleanses us in the sense of showing us our need for forgiveness from sin, and the remedy, but it also prunes us, as we spend time reading it, studying it, meditating on it, and applying it. It also lifts us up.
4 What are some other words for "abide"? Strong's: stay (in a given state, place, relationship), dwell, endure, remain. Are we to abide "with" Him? Does He promise to abide "with" us? How do we abide? By being "in" Christ--believing in Him, receiving Him, being born again. Abiding in Christ speaks of the eternal security of the true believer. We're not in and out; abiding or remaining does not mean to come and go.
"In" tells us of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Compare Col. 1:27, Rom. 8:9-11. This is a new concept Jesus is teaching the disciples. The Old Testament does not speak of the indwelling Holy Spirit. In that dispensation, the Holy Spirit "came upon" people, to give them God's power for periods of time, for ministry. Num. 11:25, Jud. 3:10, I Sam. 10:10. But a new dispensation is about to begin; now God will be dealing with men in a different way. The church is all those who are "in" Christ; this terminology was not used in the Old Testament either. The church is also called the body of Christ. When Jesus catches the church up to Himself prior to the tribulation (I Thes. 4:15-18), the dispensation of the indwelling Holy Spirit will come to an end. II Thes. 2:7 refers to the Holy Spirit as the "restrainer" of evil, just as Mt. 5:13-14 speaks of believers as salt and light in the world.
When the indwelling Holy Spirit (in the church) is removed from this earth, the man of lawlessness will then be free to reveal his identity, II Thes. 2:8. The church will not be present when God pours out His wrath on the earth, I Thes. 1:10, 5:9, Rev. 6:16-17. It is impossible that God should pour out His wrath on His Son, the church being the body of Christ, I Cor. 12:27, Eph. 4:12. Christ suffered once for all time and all sin on the cross, Heb. 10:10, 14. People will continue to be saved, during the tribulation and then during the earthly millenial kingdom. But the Bible does not speak of them as being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Another dispensation will begin, and God will then be dealing with men under different conditions of testing. Christ Himself will be ruling on the earth for 1000 years, and Satan will be bound, no longer the ruler of this world, no longer deceiving mankind, except for a short time at the end of the thousand years, Rev. 20:1-8. The Holy Spirit will still be present and active in the world, as He was before the church age, and people will continue to be saved by faith in Christ, just as they were before the church age.
Are these fruits the result of self-improvement? Unbelievers may naturally have a measure of these qualities, but those believers who are walking by the Spirit, Gal. 5:25, will be characterized by them.
5 Jesus repeats His "I am" statement, again clarifying our relationship with Him, likening it to a vine with many branches growing from it. Again He tells that He will be in us (true believers) and that all true believers will abide or remain in Him. Whenever we find repetition in the Bible, we want to pay close attention. He has talked about bearing fruit, about bearing more fruit, 2, and now about bearing what? This is God's desire for us.
Is it true that apart from Him people can do nothing? Isn't it true that many people, even unbelievers, do things that are good and kind? Humanly speaking, yes. In God's eyes, and on His scale of measurement--in His ledger book--no. Outside of Christ, nothing we do has any eternal value. Good works cannot save anyone. As an interesting side note, one of the first things God commanded man was to be what, Gen. 1:28 and 8:17? Obviously this referred specifically to multiplying, but the implication is also there, especially in the light of the rest of Scripture, which shows God as always looking for fruit in the lives of His people.
6 These concepts of "not abiding," "thrown away," "cast into the fire" and "burned" can be looked at in various ways. The Bible teaches that we do not lose our salvation when we sin, so it can't mean that. Some see "abiding" as a state of close fellowship, and "not abiding" as not walking in close fellowship. In that case, it could be talking about some believers who will be removed from the place of service, whose works will be burned up, as in I Cor. 3:10-15.
Another view sees abiding or remaining in Christ as referring to the true believer, and "not abiding" as referring to the one who does not believe. I lean toward this view for several reasons. What is the context of Jesus' remarks? Just before Jesus began speaking to the disciples, what had happened, 13:21-30? Judas appeared to be a branch, to be "in Christ," but he did not abide or remain. Because he did not, he showed that he was never a believer in the first place. I believe Jesus is talking about Judas and all those who, like Judas, appear for awhile to be believers but who don't abide or remain.
Also, in this picture, the vine (Jesus) commands the branches to remain in the vine. Do real branches have to be commanded? Do some hang farther off the vine than others, as in the example of those who think this pictures believers in a close walk vs. believers not walking in close fellowship? Do real branches vary in how connected they are? They are either connected or they are not.
My other reason is the picture in 6 of the branches that don't abide or remain. To me this sounds like the judgment promised to unbelievers, more than the testing of the believer's works. So I think Jesus is saying that not every branch--not everyone who looks like a believer--will remain in the vine. He explains this same concept in Mt. 13:24-43 in the parable of the wheat and the tares. They look the same, but only at the end can we know for sure. In the church age, the new dispensation that Jesus is teaching them about, this will be the situation.
So looking back at 15:2, we see that true branches bear fruit, as Jesus said in Mt. 7:16-20. They don't all bear the same amount of fruit; some will bear more fruit than others, and some will bear much fruit. Jesus also taught this in Mt. 13:1-23. The branch with no fruit at all proves itself to be not connected to the vine, and it will be removed from the vine. Can the believer ever be separated from Jesus? Rom. 8:35-39. The true believer will experience pruning and cleansing, Heb. 12:5-11. God will use events in our lives to accomplish His purposes, that we might become more Christlike, Rom. 8:28-29.
7 Are these words a magic formula to get anything we want? Does the Bible teach such a concept of prayer? Should our doctrine of prayer rest on one passage of Scripture? Or should it be considered in the light of all the passages on prayer?
Even if we just took this one verse by itself, there is plenty in this verse to give it a scriptural context. What are the two conditions for answered prayer? 1, "If you abide in Me." This refers to the person first of all being a true believer. (Some would say it means a believer walking in close fellowship with Christ.) 2, "and My words abide in you." Have you read His words? Did you read them once, or do you continue to read them so that they DWELL in you--become a part of your own thoughts, your approach to life, and they shape your understanding of God?
#2 is a very big condition. If indeed we meet that condition, then we will not pray for things that the Bible does not teach us to pray for. Does the Bible teach us to pray for "stuff"? Does it teach us to pray that our self-centered desires would be carried out, or, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done"? The Bible teaches us to pray for others, for their salvation and spiritual growth, and that God would be glorified in everything. Is God like Santa Claus? Do we give Him our wish-list, then push the right buttons (be nice, not naughty) so that we force Him to do what we say? There are many books on the secrets to getting your prayers answered, but God cannot be manipulated. The Bible does not support the idea that prayer is for the purpose of getting stuff or making things happen a certain way.
8 As we saw in 5, God's desire is that we bear what? And "more" of it. And again, "much" of it. "Prove to be" may also be translated "become." Is this saying that if you don't bear much fruit, you are not truly a Christian? Is a disciple the same thing as a believer? Are all disciples believers? But, are all believers disciples? Do all believers go on to follow Jesus on a day-by-day basis, continually learning from Him? For those who do, "much fruit" will be the result.
9-10 What is the relationship between the members of the Trinity? Does the Bible say anywhere that God/Jesus is "in love" with us? What is the difference between loving someone and being in love with someone? Being, or falling, "in love" is something that happens to you, an emotional state. Loving is a choice, an action. Here we are commanded to remain in His love--to continue. An "if/then" condition is given in 10; what is the condition for remaining in His love? Obedience. Is obedience a feeling or a choice? It almost appears that obedience and love are synonymous here. If there is no obedience to Christ's commandments (God's Word) in your life, then you might question whether there is truly saving faith in your life.
11 Is joy the same thing as happiness? Strong's shows that joy is "calm delight." Compare Neh. 1:11, Psalm 37:4, Prov. 23:26. Happiness is a response to good fortune, to circumstances. When we have God's joy, that joy is not based on what is going on around us or in our lives. It is our response to God. Can we have God's joy when things are going bad and we are unhappy? Why? A common misconception about Christians is that their lives are dull, boring, full of "don'ts" and long faces. Unfortunately, for some this may be true. But what does Jesus say?
12 How are believers to love one another? How does Jesus love us? Based on how lovable or likable we are? Based on what we are doing or have done or how we appear? Is "love" the same as "like"? Does the Bible command us anywhere to like everyone? Is that humanly possible? So how can we love everyone? God's kind of love is defined and illustrated in Luke 10:27-37, particularly 37.
13 What is Jesus prophesying here? Why would it do no good for any of us to offer our lives so that someone else would not have to die for their sins? Heb. 4:15, 9:28. What was the Old Testament requirement for an animal whose blood was to be shed to atone for sin? Ex. 12:5.
14-15 We are no longer what, but what? "No longer" tells us that something is changing now. In the coming dispensation (the church age, the age of grace), believers will be in a new kind of closer relationship with God. What are WE to do? What will HE then be doing?
16 Did we as believers initiate the choice to believe in Christ and receive Him? We thought we did, but Jesus says otherwise. Compare John 6:44, Mt. 22:14. What is God's purpose for our lives? In 7, what was the condition for answered prayer? Here, what is the condition? This tells us more about the subject of answered prayer, what kind of things the Christian should pray for, and what kind of Christian will have his prayers answered.
17 Can emotions be commanded? If someone commands you, "Fall in love with that person!" can you do it? If someone commands you, "Like that person!" can you do it? What if that person is despicable, obnoxious, or has hurt you? But what CAN we do on command, according to Luke 10:37?
18-21 Sometimes the Bible speaks of "the world" as the creation, or everyone living on this planet, like in John 3:16. What is meant here by "the world"? John 17:25, I Cor. 2:12, 11:32, I John 2:15-16. Are we "of the world"? See John 17:11, 14-16. What does it mean to be "in the world" but not "of the world"? "If the world hates you"--this may happen, but might not. Why this clash? We as individuals may experience hatred because of our beliefs. We may experience in a more general way the hatred of the world for Christian beliefs; today we see some trying to remove all references to God and religion from our society. Some Christians actually experience persecution and death because of their stand for Christ. Some Christians are hated, but it is not for Christ's sake. Might it be for our OWN name's sake? Might we bring it on by our own obnoxious ways?
Because we are not "of this world," Christians sometimes feel they don't "fit in." They are uncomfortable around unbelievers and things of the world. What about the idea of withdrawing from the world as much as possible? What are some ways people do that? Does the Bible encourage us to do this? What can't we do if we withdraw?
Jesus says hatred and persecution are to be expected. Again we are told that we have been chosen. Elsewhere the Bible calls this "election." What truth does the world not want to be confronted with? A belief in evolution is an attempt to do away with the need for God, and therefore, for a moral standard, and for the concept of sin and personal responsibility and guilt before God. Humanistic psychology tells us that our shortcomings are the result of early family life or a dysfunction.
22-25 If you only read the first half of this verse, you might think it is saying that some people actually do not sin. However, this illustrates the danger of taking verses or portions of verses out of context. The second half of the verse explains what Jesus is talking about. Rom. 2:12-16 also clarifies this verse. Those who do not know the Law of Moses will be judged, but not held to that particular standard. The more knowledge of God you have, the more you will be held responsible. Light creates responsibility. Luke 12:45-48. Because men saw the works Jesus did, they will be held to a higher standard than people who never saw. Some people never think much about Jesus, and could care less. But what kind of people is Jesus talking about? What is He claiming in 24? Today there are many definitions of God, and many people claim to know God, love God, or have a relationship or experience with God. If these people have rejected Jesus Christ, can their claim be true? Can people deceive themselves about this? If someone claims to be spiritual or have a spiritual experience but Jesus Christ is not at the center of it, or present at all, that experience is false. It is not a part of biblical Christianity. The person might be self-deluded, or might be demonically deceived. How do Satan and his demons (fallen angels) sometimes appear, according to II Cor. 11:14-15? Beware of those who speak of seeing and hearing angels. The Bible does not tell us that God will be communicating with us through angels.
Jesus quotes two passages in Psalms in which David is speaking of his enemies. Jesus now applies those to Himself and calls it fulfilled prophecy. Just reading David's words in 35:19 and 69:4, one would not realize they were referring to the Messiah. Apparently David did not realize when he wrote them that they applied to the Messiah. Their meaning was fulfilled in David, yet the Bible tells us that there was also another meaning, a future application, a further fulfillment, a prophecy of the Messiah. This gives us some insight into how God used men's words to speak His truth. Apparently they did not always know when the words they spoke or wrote were prompted by God, to be used later for His purposes.
26-27 Who will soon be sent to them? This is the third time Jesus refers to the Helper; each time He identifies Him as the Holy Spirit, 14:16-17, 14:26. "Helper" can also be translated as "advocate, consoler, comforter, intercessor"; the Greek word literally means "to come alongside." Is the Holy Spirit "He" or "it"? Is the Holy Spirit a force, like "may the Force be with you"? We see the relationship of the Trinity; Jesus asks the Father to send the Spirit, the Father sends the Spirit in Jesus' name. Remember that this is something new that God is doing. What have the disciples learned about Him so far? End of 14:16, He will what? End of 14:17, He will what? 14:26, what two things will He do for them? 15:26, what will He do? To testify is to act as a witness. 27, who else will testify? In their legal system, there must be two witnesses to establish something as true.
Also, we see here that the 11, who are to testify, have been with Jesus from the beginning, as eyewitnesses. Following the resurrection, they are no longer called disciples (learners, pupils) but apostles (ones that are sent). Apostles were eyewitnesses of Jesus' resurrection, Acts 1:21-25, I Cor. 9:1, 15:7-9. Rev. 21:14 indicates there are never more than 12 apostles. Today some churches teach that the spiritual gift of apostles is still active, but the Bible does not indicate that the apostles appointed other apostles to follow them after they died. II Cor. 11:13 and Rev. 2:2 speak of false apostles; there were no other apostles.
1 What will God's Word do for us? Compare Ps. 119:11. What does "stumbling" mean? To lose your salvation? It is the same word translated "fall away" in Mark 4:17, where some think it refers to believers losing their salvation. The Bible does not teach that eternal life comes and goes (it is eternal), and we see here that the word is about sinning or offending God. It is a form of the same word used in Rom. 14:13. In Mt. 24:10, it gives us a picture of what will happen among new believers in the tribulation (all believers will be new believers, since the church--all those with the indwelling Holy Spirit--will have been caught up to meet the Lord, I Thes. 4:15-18). When will the disciples stumble? Compare Mt. 26:31. How does Peter answer in 26:33?
2-3 What group today are killing, or wanting to kill, Christians in the name of serving their god? Who in the book of Acts was wanting to kill Christians, thinking that pleased God? Throughout history, misguided religious zealots have done this and are still doing it. What does 3 say about those religious people? So are all who are sincerely religious, going to heaven? Compare John 14:6. In that day, being put out of the synagogue was a very serious thing to religious Jews.
4-6 Why does Jesus tell them things before they happen? So what is one purpose of Bible prophecy? Can any human predict the future with 100% accuracy? All fulfilled prophecy has been fulfilled exactly; what does this tell us about prophecies that are as yet unfulfilled? Jesus didn't tell them things they didn't need to know yet; why is He telling them this now? Can we understand the importance of everything in the Bible the first time we read it? Why do we not get some things until later, perhaps in a time of crisis?
7 Who is the Helper? Why is it better to have the Holy Spirit rather than Jesus in the flesh? Jesus is making it very clear now that He is leaving them. Is Jesus saying that while He is on earth, the Holy Spirit is not present on earth, working in people's lives? Or is He talking about the indwelling Holy Spirit who will come at Pentecost, bringing in the new dispensation, the church age? The word "send" also has the meaning in the Greek, to "thrust in."
Apparently the Holy Spirit can not dwell in believers at the same time Christ is physically among believers. Apparently during the Millenium, when Christ is ruling on earth, believers will not be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Some think Ez. 36:26-27 or Is. 32:15 speak of the indwelling Holy Spirit during the Millenium, but according to this verse, I think not.
8-11 What word in 8 tells us one role of the Holy Spirit? "Convict" can also be translated "admonish, convince, tell a fault, reprove, rebuke." A judge or jury convicts a criminal based on the evidence, in a similar way. Apparently here "the world" means unbelievers, according to 9. So He was not doing those things before He came at Pentecost? If so, He will not be doing them on earth after His role of dwelling within believers ends, when we are caught up before the Tribulation. This fits with II Thes. 2:6-7. Apparently He fulfills this role through the believers He indwells. All three of the things He convicts the world about, have to do with Jesus and what He did. The Old Testament does not speak of the Holy Spirit doing those things. It mostly speaks of His work in creation and acting in the lives of believers, coming upon them temporarily for service or ministry, moving them to do something, speaking through them.
12-15 In 4 we saw that Jesus is now teaching them things they were not ready for earlier. Are they ready and able now to accept and understand all truth? When will they learn more things? Who will they learn them from? There will be more of His teachings coming (such as the rapture), but they aren't ready to understand it yet--perhaps for two reasons: they have yet to witness the resurrection, which will transform their lives, and they do not yet have the indwelling Holy Spirit, Who will teach them these truths that are yet to come. They are now referred to as disciples--followers, learners--but following Christ's resurrection and ascension, they will become apostles: eyewitnesses of the resurrection who are sent out to establish the church and lay its foundation, Acts 1:21-25, 16:5, Rom. 1:11, Eph. 2:20, I Thes. 3:2.
What word does Jesus use twice in 13 that He also used in 7? This is one of the key words that John uses often; he also uses it 21 times in his short epistles, I, II and II John. This is a concept John is extremely concerned with, and so should we be.
Who and what does the Holy Spirit speak to us about? About Himself? Is the Holy Spirit Himself to be the focus of our thinking?
12 teaches two important facts. One, learning and growing take place over time. Give several reasons why do we not grasp everything we read in the Bible the first time we read it. Some Christians think or at least imply that if someone believes in Jesus for salvation but does not yet understand about His lordship over their lives, they did not truly believe and are probably not saved. In I John 2:12, John speaks of spiritual "children" as those who know their sins have been forgiven because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. In 2:13, he says they know the Father. This may be ALL someone knows or understands, but they are saved; they are spiritual children. Paul refers to the same idea in I Cor. 3:1-3 where he speaks of spiritual infants. If spiritual infants have not grown past the desire for only spiritual "milk" and do not yet desire spiritual "meat," even after a period of time, does that mean they are not saved? Not according to Paul. He chides them for this, but does not tell them they need to be saved. They are infants "in Christ." They are saved.
Two, Jesus tells here that more truth will be revealed later. What books of the Bible were written after Jesus ascended? What men were the authors of the Epistles? But who guided them into that truth? So who was the real author of the later books of the Bible? Compare I Cor. 2:10,13, II Peter 1:21. What does "epistle" mean? Several of the apostles wrote letters to various churches to teach what God had been revealing to them about the new dispensation--the church age, the age of grace. Paul, the one apostle that did not walk with Jesus during His earthly ministry, learned from who? Gal. 1:11-12, 2:1-2. Apostles were to have been eyewitnesses of the risen Lord (Acts 1:22, I Cor. 9:1, 15:7-8); was Paul? How will the apostles learn more truth, John 16:13-14?
This brings up an important topic over which Christians disagree. After God's written Word was complete, does the Holy Spirit continue to impart new truth? Is there continuing revelation? Some believe this continues to happen through the spiritual gift of prophecy. Others believe that the spiritual gifts mentioned in the Epistles were temporary and do not continue to function. Some believe the "sign gifts" were temporary but the others continue; does the Bible teach this? You cannot draw a conclusion about one spiritual gift without addressing the entire Bible teaching on spiritual gifts. The issue of continuing revelation is extremely important; is the Bible complete or not? If God is continuing to reveal truth, who is He revealing it to? How can we know God's inspired truth from man's words? If more is being revealed, is it being recorded and treated with the same respect given to the written Word? If not, why not? We must digress here to see what the Bible says about this important issue. I believe they were temporary, and will try to demonstrate this from the Bible.
Rom. 1:11. Gifts were for the purpose of the church at Rome being “established.” Strong’s: to make stable, place firmly, set fast, fix, to strengthen, make firm, to render constant, confirm one's mind. The church in that day was something new, and the church was not yet firmly established. Spiritual gifts were to help bring this about.
I Cor. 14. Spiritual gifts were not an end unto themselves, but were for what purpose? What important word is found in each of these verses? 14:3, 4, 5, 12, 17, 26. According to these passages, who is to be edified (built up) by these gifts, the individual using the gift, or the church?
Eph. 2:20. Those who had the gift of being apostles or prophets provided what for the church? The church was something new, a new dispensation, a mystery that had not been revealed to God's people before and was shown to be of God by the miraculous sign gifts. But once the foundation of the church had been laid, they were no longer necessary. We do not read about them in the later epistles.
Eph. 4:12-13, these gifts were for the equipping of believers and for the building up of the church, “until” what? Until they had unity, knowledge, maturity, things that accompany the fullness of Christ. What did the early church lack? Mature believers, mature leadership, the complete written Word of God. The early church was not like our churches today. Can you imagine a church of several thousand brand new Christians, led by immature Christians? In those first years, when the epistles were written, not enough time had passed for there to be mature Christians, able to accurately teach, lead and evangelize. 4:14, apparently, because of this problem, the believers were like children, easily swayed by wrong doctrine.
Heb. 2:3-4, the purpose of signs and wonders and miracles was to “bear witness,” (Strongs’s: to attest together with, to join in bearing witness, to unite in adding testimony), to confirm (Strong’s: to make firm, establish, confirm, make sure) God’s message of salvation. Keep in mind that at that time, this message was new; Jewish believers were struggling to reconcile these new teachings with the Law they had grown up with. Also II Cor. 12:12.
I Cor. 13:8-13. The gift of prophecy will be done away, tongues will cease, knowledge (the gift of the word of knowledge) will be done away. 9, these things are partial. (This cannot be referring to knowledge of God in general; the entire Bible stresses the importance of the knowledge of God, of Christ, of God's Word.) 10, when the perfect (Strong’s: brought to its end, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness) comes, the partial (spiritual gifts) will be done away. 11, like comparing a child to a man; once maturity is available to the believer, once the complete written Word of God is available to the church, those other things will no longer be necessary. In fact, they will seem childish in comparison. It would be strange if grown men continued to hang on to childish things they used to do. 13, “now abide,” apparently the other things he mentioned don’t abide, don’t continue on.
Let’s look at several of the gifts. Apostles had to be eyewitnesses of the risen Lord, Acts 1:21-26, I Cor. 15:5-9. Today there are no eyewitnesses. The gift of healing is not apparent throughout the epistles. Paul had a thorn in the flesh that he did not heal or try to have healed, II Cor. 12:7-10. Instead, he tells that God may inflict physical problems upon us for our good, and we should be content with that knowledge. Epaphroditus was sick and almost died, but Paul mentions nothing about healing as an option, Phil. 2:25-27. Paul gave Timothy advice about his ailments without suggesting he get healed, I Tim. 5:23. Apparently this sign gift had already passed away.
What about prophecy? Prophets in the Old Testament spoke God’s Word to the people, Deut. 18:18-19. Those messages were written down and became the written Word of God. The Bible speaks much of false prophets; how could the people know if a prophet was true or false? God gave them a litmus test, Deut. 18:20-22. A prophet was to foretell an event in the immediate future; if it happened as he said, he was from God. If it didn’t, he was a false prophet, and they were to kill him. How many leaders in the church today have made predictions that have not come true, proving that they are NOT prophets (so they either lied about being a prophet or were self-deceived), yet continue to teach, preach, write popular books, and are followed by many Christians?
The gift of prophecy in the New Testament, in the early church, was for the purpose of imparting God’s truth because they did not yet have the complete written Word of God; when it mentions “scriptures,” it is referring to the Old Testament, which is all they had at that time. Eph. 3:4-5, for understanding about Christ; I Cor. 14:24,26,31, for conviction, teaching, edification, learning, exhortation; I Cor. 13:2, for the purpose of knowledge. Paul visited and taught at various cities, and letters were passed around. But once the teacher or the letter was gone, they had to rely on their faulty human memories. God supernaturally met their need by speaking through individuals; because those individuals were subject to error, the others were to listen critically. Before they accepted his words as from God, they were to compare his words to what they had been taught from the apostles or their letters, I Cor. 14:29. Some say the gift of prophesy is what a preacher has today, but that can't be true because Eph. 4:11 lists the gifts of pastor and teacher as separate from that of prophet.
Earlier it was stated that Paul had revelations; I Cor. 14:26 speaks of individuals in the church having revelations, but obviously this would not be the impartation of doctrine contrary to what had already been taught. And it sounds like Paul is actually chastising them for the fact that when they assemble, each one is trying to do these things; the context, 23-34, is teaching that only a few are to exercise spiritual gifts in an assembly, and one at a time, not all at once. This would create confusion, 33, and cause visitors to think they were out of their minds, 11, 23. The church was NOT being edified when each vied for attention with some gift, real or conjured up. It sounds like these carnal Corinthians were being ruled by selfish motives rather than the motive of edifying the church. Many charismatic churches fall into the same error the Corinthians were guilty of. In the context of 14:26-33, it appears that "revelation" is used synonymously with "prophesy." (Sometimes we say we had a revelation or that God revealed something to us, meaning that the "lightbulb" came on, that we just had an "aha!" moment.) Women were not to exercise tongues or prophecy in the general church assembly because these were teaching gifts, and what does I Tim. 2:12 say about women teaching men? Why does the Bible teach this? Because the original sin was that of a woman disobeying the man's God-given authority, Gen. 2:16-17, 3:6, I Tim. 2:13-14; her punishment would be that she would forever desire to usurp that authority but would not be allowed to, Gen. 3:16. Hence the warnings of Eph. 5:22 and I Tim. 2:12.
So is God still revealing truth today? Or is the Bible complete? Today when someone claims to speak a prophetic word, are they writing down their messages from God and compiling a new revised version of the Bible that is more complete than what we already have? If not, why not? Deut. 4:2 and Rev. 22:18-19 are sober warnings to these people. Those today who claim to prophesy must believe that the written Word of God is not complete, but that God has more to say. They believe in continuing revelation, but they don’t value God’s Word enough to put it on the same level as the Bible.
If their messages are merely repeating what is already in the Bible, then there is no need for such messages. Heb. 1:1-2 makes it clear that in the past God spoke through His prophets, but that in these last days, He has spoken through His Son. He is not continuing to speak through prophets. I Cor. 13:8-13 makes it clear that the gift of prophecy would pass away when the perfect/complete comes—the completed Word of God. I heard a speaker, who believes in spiritual gifts, emphasize that the gift of prophecy is not to bring new truth, but to take a Bible truth and rephrase it to someone, telling them that this is God's word to them right now, and speaking it in such a manner as to imply that God is giving that speaker words right at that moment. I agree that this is what many do, and rightly so, not adding to the revealed Word of God. But this is misleading, if not outright untruthful, and unnecessary, since the "prophet" could simply take that person to Scripture and show that what God has to say about their particular need. Any believer can do this; the "gift" of prophecy is totally unnecessary. And it would be much wiser, since you would then be teaching that person how to hear God's voice in Scripture, and how to be "accurately handling the Word of truth," II Tim. 2:15, which is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness," II Tim. 3:16. These are skills which are sadly lacking among many Christians, and need to be taught by those who know the Word.
Interestingly, the only passage dealing with the use of gifts is to Corinth, a church with many problems and full of immature Christians (I Cor. 3:1-4). Paul spends much time correcting the misuse of gifts, as well as correcting their many other problems. Epistles to the other churches do not give any instructions for using spiritual gifts.
What about speaking in tongues? Without going into a detailed study, think about why God might have given people in the early church the ability to speak in languages they did not know. Look at the first instance, in Acts 2:5-11. In that region, at that time, there were many language groups. God wanted everyone to hear the gospel; He made a way for others to not only hear and understand, but to see that this miraculous phenomenon was indeed from the true and living God. It was also a way of demonstrating to Jewish believers that God was indeed saving Gentiles, not just Jews. As the church became established and spread into many regions where people could be taught in their own language, this would not be necessary. In fact, any teaching about speaking in tongues is only mentioned in the epistle to the Corinthians. We don't even know that speaking in tongues was found in any other church. If it was important and was to continue as a part of the church, why didn’t Paul teach about it in every epistle?
Another reason for the gift of tongues was as a visible sign that someone had received the Holy Spirit--in other words, a visible sign that they received salvation. Why was this important? The Jews had trouble with the idea that salvation was even for the Gentiles. Read Acts 10:1-11:18, especially noting 10:44-48 and 11:15-18. In the beginning of this new dispensation, tongues was necessary as a sign--a proof--that God was doing a new thing. Also compare Acts 15, especially 8 and 12; tongues were a sign.
Today, is this phenomenon necessary to reach those in our churches? Of course not. Is it necessary to validate the truth of the scriptures? Not any longer. Is it necessary to prove that all men can be saved now? Not any longer. This fact has been established. If it was for today, missionaries would not have to go to language school; they would just go to a foreign country and rely on the gift of tongues. But everyone knows this is not the case. When tongues are practiced today, does anyone know what the message is, or if it’s even really from God? Paul had this gift, I Cor. 14:18. 14:6-28 discusses the true gift of tongues and its purpose; 28, without an interpreter, the individual is to remain silent. This is not what usually happens. Tongues without interpretation is unbiblical. Anyone can let something that sounds like tongues come out of his mouth; that does not mean it is the true gift of tongues, or that it is from God. Tongues are easy to counterfeit. Cults and pagan religions also speak in "tongues." True tongues were actual known languages; they are not repeated nonsense syllables. We are to have discernment; we are not to be deceived.
Since it appears that biblically speaking, at least some of the gifts are not for today, then one wonders if others have ceased too. The early church was made up of young or baby Christians; there were no mature believers to teach and lead. They did not have the complete written Word, only the Old Testament Scriptures. Today the church is equipped with believers of all levels of maturity, and we have the complete written Word of God. The indwelling Holy Spirit works through yielded believers to impart wisdom, knowledge of God, faith, the desire and ability to give, to help, to teach, to evangelize, to serve, exhort, show mercy. These are the natural outworkings of yielding to and being led by the Spirit. I think it is very possible that spiritual gifts are not in operation today, that they were given to the early church to fulfill a need that no longer exists in the church.
Look again at Rom. 12:6-8. Today, should we really think that we need a supernatural "gift" to serve, teach, exhort, give, lead, or show mercy? Aren't these abilities that arise naturally out of a maturing walk with the Lord? Why is there so much confusion and uncertainty about what gift you have? If you had one, you would know it. These humanly-designed "questionnaires" to determine one's gift are not only unbiblical, they are a travesty of Scripture. If these required supernatural gifts, then many in the church could claim they can't or don't need to do these things because that is not their gift. But in the early church, filled with baby Christians with a minimal amount of knowledge, special abilities from God helped the church to function. The faith, hope, and love mentioned in I Cor. 13 and 14:1 are not spiritual gifts; they are being contrasted with spiritual gifts. Everyone is to exercise faith, hope, and love.
What about those today who seem to display these gifts? When you take the approach of looking and listening for messages from God, trying to interpret feelings and circumstances, you become open to subjective influences, whether from Self or from Satanic counterfeits and deception. Some believe this is the way to hear from God rather than reading in His Word what He has revealed to us. These messages may be lies, may be your own (innocent) inspiration, or may be from Satan. Even a passing familiarity with psychology makes it clear that auto-suggestion is a very powerful force. Mt. 7:22, Jer. 23:25, 26, 32, 27:10, 14-16, 29:9, Ez. 13:2.
In churches which stress the gifts, there is often pressure (spoken or unspoken) to display a gift, to prove you are baptized in the Spirit or are Spirit-filled. It isn't hard to let babbling sounds come out of your mouth, especially if you REALLY want them to, but how can you know if that is actually from God? Wise counsel or biblical messages may come from your lips, and you may claim they are a message from God, but are they really supernaturally from God? How can others know for sure? Even someone who claims to interpret tongues may be giving a subjective message, not truly from God. They may just be speaking something from the Bible that they already know God has said. Many who speak in tongues repeat a couple of sounds over and over; is this truly another language? Language specialists have taped people speaking in tongues and tried to analyze the sounds to see if they actually resemble the syntax of a language; they do not. These things may be real, but we must be careful we are not deceiving ourselves. Some churches stress gifts and signs more than they stress knowing God, the study and application of God's Word, or the importance of spiritual growth and yielding to God in all aspects of our lives.
Why do spiritual "gifts" appear for the most part in churches that teach this phenomena? If God was still in the business of imparting spiritual gifts to the church, wouldn't we see Him bestowing them equally among all kinds of churches, wherever there are true believers? I find this quite suspicious, and an indication of the power of suggestion within those groups. Some say that people in "traditional" churches don't ask for gifts, because they are taught gifts are not real. I know people outside of charismatic circles that have sincerely sought spiritual gifts, wondering if they are missing something God has for them--studying, praying, seeking, even repeatedly having hands laid on them by others who have "gifts." Why did God not give them any gifts? Some say, maybe they have them and just don't realize it. The account in Corinthians does not give us any reason to believe that gifts were secretive, that believers had to use questionnaires to discover whether or not they had them or what gift they had. Their gifts were obvious; they just needed to learn to exercise them properly.
It is possible that in some circumstances God still uses these gifts, particularly as reported by missionaries in foreign countries. I do believe God heals and does miracles today, but I'm not sure that He gives individuals the gift of doing so consistently and completely. If so, all they tried to heal, not just some, would be healed, instantly and obviously, as when Jesus and the apostles healed. When people aren't healed today, they are sometimes told that they are, and now it is their responsibility to "claim" their healing so it will manifest itself; if they entertain doubts or negative thoughts, it won't happen. This is NOT biblical. We need to be sure that our theology is based on the Bible, not on experiences, appearances, or feelings.
Now back to John 16…
16-22 What events is Jesus referring to here? At what point will their grief be turned to joy? At His resurrection, or at the second coming? The Bible does not record grief as their reaction to His ascension to heaven. We will see both time periods referred to in the next few verses. Why will this joy never leave them? Is joy related to pleasant circumstances? How can we have joy even when awful things are happening? Joy: cheerfulness, calm delight, gladness.
23-24 Jesus is talking about when they will see Him; He uses the term "in that day." What time period does this phrase in the Bible often refer to? Again we wonder if Jesus was referring to them seeing Him again at the resurrection, or at the second coming? This implies the second coming. When He is resurrected, will they indeed not question Him about anything? More on this in 25 and 26.
What words are repeated in 23 and 24? Is Jesus saying that they have not ASKED yet? Or that they have not yet asked IN HIS NAME? We have trouble understanding what it means to ask in His name; apparently the disciples did too. They probably had asked for plenty of things, which they had not received because they were not asking IN HIS NAME. We have the same problem. We saw that 14:25 defined "in my Name" as in the place of Jesus. It's not wrong to pray to Jesus, but note that the New Testament speaks of praying to the Father in the name of Jesus, who intercedes to the Father on our behalf.
What kinds of things did Jesus ask for? Did He ask for "stuff"? Did He ask that things would turn out nicer for Himself and everyone else? The one time He did ask this, how did He qualify the request? Mt. 26:39,42,44. Study the account of Jesus in the Gospels to learn what kinds of things Jesus requested from God. Study the Epistles to learn what kinds of things Paul prayed for. Is answered prayer of this type for the purpose of giving us happiness, or joy? What is the difference? Isn't happiness about pleasant circumstances?
25 Does Jesus ever use figurative language? Can you think of some examples? What has Jesus compared Himself to in the Gospel of John? What did He say to take out of our eye in Mt. 7:5? In 7:6, is He teaching about pearls and pigs? In 7:15, will we really be able to spot false prophets because they will be wearing sheepskin? In 7:24, is He saying that all good Christians will build houses on granite rather than dirt? In Mt. 25:33, is He really going into the livestock business? What does He liken Himself to in Mt. 26:26-28?
When Jesus sees them following the resurrection, is that when He will tell them plainly of the Father? Or will that happen when He returns and they are no longer bound by their earthly bodies and minds? Perhaps both are in view here.
How can we know when we should take the words of the Bible literally or symbolically? Sometimes the Bible tells us that something is a story or parable or picture. Sometimes it is obvious that the normal meaning cannot be in view. When we are not sure, we should consider both possibilities, and see if the Bible uses the terminology elsewhere in a figurative way. For example, in the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree, Mt. 21:18-19, assuming the story is about hunger and figs makes Jesus look petulant; it is out of character and therefore should make us wonder if this is picturing something else. We can look up "fig" or "fig tree" and learn that the Bible often uses these terms to picture Israel. We see in Mt. 24:32 that Jesus again speaks of the fig tree symbolically.
So we see that taking the literal or normal interpretation of the Bible takes into account the natural and common use of symbolic language. The Bible itself will give us the interpretation of its symbols and allegories; meanings of symbols cannot be randomly assigned at the imaginative whim of the individual. Scripture itself consistently points back to the literal interpretation of what was written earlier. In the allegorical or spiritual interpretation, the historical and grammatical meaning is often ignored or downplayed in favor of some higher, deeper, speculative or more mysterious meaning known only to the teacher. This is why some people come up with such imaginative, off-base, or off-the-wall interpretations of Scripture completely independent of meanings found by others. Then there is no objective truth and the Bible becomes virtually a book of fiction, void of knowable truth.
When the New Testament gives an allegorical meaning to Old Testament passages, such as in I Cor. 10:1-11, it is not saying that there was not a literal Moses, cloud, rock, or wilderness journey. The Israelites were a real people and the Old Testament is their real history. Paul is teaching us that God, in His inscrutable sovereignty, caused there to be, within these historical events, spiritual lessons to be studied and applied to the Christian life. We find that the Bible is such a unique book that God has designed it so that several layers of truth may be found in the same passage, all of which are true at the same time.
Some take the normal interpretation in most areas, but use the spiritual interpretation in areas of prophecy--in areas in which they do not wish to accept the normal meaning. However, because fulfilled prophecy has been literally fulfilled, we can know that prophecies not yet fulfilled will also be literally fulfilled. A good rule for Bible interpretation is: study every passage in context of the whole Bible, take both testaments into account, and consider that the Old Testament revelation was partial while the New Testament completes God's revelation. Compare Scripture with Scripture for an accurate interpretation.
26-28 Jesus repeats the phrase "in that day." What will they do at that time? They WILL ask in His name, which is something He says that are NOT doing now. While we are in these bodies, we continue to ask with human, flawed motives. Does this change take place following His resurrection, or at the second coming? It could have reference to both. In 28, He clarifies 16-22; they see Him now, He will return to the Father, He will come again, and they will see Him again then.
29-32 They act like NOW they get it! Do they really? What declaration of faith do they give in 30? Is Jesus impressed by their declaration? What does He know about them? Do they understand that they are capable of such actions? Many popular "praise and worship" songs are full of declarations and promises to love, follow, worship, yield, surrender our all; should we be glibly saying such things to God? Should our songs even be about what WE are doing and will do? Who or what should our songs be about? Eph. 5:19-20, Col. 3:16, I Chron. 16:9,23, Ps. 30:4. The Bible says we should sing about what HE has done and will do for us, not what WE are doing and will do for Him.
What hour is He talking about? They are apparently walking to the Garden of Gethsemane; do they have any idea what is just about to happen? Do we, in our lives? But does God? Does it help to know that? In a few hours, everything is about to change for them!
33 What can we have in Jesus? (Strong's: quietness, rest) Does every Christian have this? Why or why not? Compare John 14:27. What are we not to let our hearts do? So does that mean we can choose? What other emotional state are we to choose, according to this verse? Which is the opposite of what? Do feelings have to control us, or does the Bible say we can choose to control them? Compare Rom. 8:6, Col. 3:15. Gal. 5:22, what is the source of this peace? Is it a feeling we have to conjure up? Compare Rom. 5:1; do we have this kind of peace all the time, regardless of our emotional state?
Sometimes Christians who feel they are lacking in peace, love, faith, etc., think they need more of God, more of Jesus, more of the Spirit. Is it possible to have part of God, part of Jesus, part of the Spirit? Each is a person; can you have part of a person? Does the Spirit indwell us in parts and pieces? He either indwells you or He doesn't. So what is really lacking? How much we have of God, or how much of ourselves we have given to God?
What will we have in this world, in this life? Many Christians feel, and even teach, that we should not have this. But in Mt. 10:34, did Jesus bring peace on earth? Will He? When? Psalm 72, Isaiah 9:6-7. What happened in Gen. 3 that explains why we experience tribulations on this earth?
Many Bible teachers claim that obedient and faithful Christians will not experience such tribulations. They base their teaching on the Old Testament covenant God made with Israel, Deut. 28:1-14. God promised Israel physical blessings IF they obeyed Him in ALL things, and curses (Deut. 28:15-68) if they did not obey Him in ALL things. The New Testament does not record any such promises made to the church. What is promised to the church in Eph. 1:3? How might these differ from what was promised to Israel? Where are they found? The church is told in many places to expect tribulations: Acts 14:22, Rom. 8:35, II Cor. 1:5, Phil. 1:29-30, I Thes. 3:3, II Tim. 3:12, I Pet. 4:12-19. Even the Old Testament speaks of testing coming from God, Ps. 11:4-5, Prov. 17:3. If we desire treasure, read Mt. 6:19-21, 19:21, Col. 2:3.
As we go through this chapter, note several key words: know, believe, receive, truth. We also find these words emphasized in John's three short epistles. This is a great chapter because it deals with a very important topic--prayer. By seeing what Jesus prayed about, we will learn more about Him, but we will also learn more about how WE should pray. This seems to be an area of concern for most Christians. We will talk not only about how Jesus prayed, but how He taught His disciples (including us) to pray.
1-5 How does this chapter fit in with the account in the other Gospels? My first thought was, Jesus praying in the Garden, saying, "Let this cup pass from Me if possible, yet not My will but Thine be done." But we don't see Him praying that here. This prayer is completely different than that one, and is not recorded in the other Gospels. Matthew and Mark have Jesus and the 11 disciples heading for the Mount of Olives after Judas leaves the upper room; there Jesus tells Peter about the cock crowing, which we find in John 13:38. I always assumed that John 13:31-on was spoken in the upper room, but it doesn't really say. They could have left the upper room at the end of 13; 14, 15, and 16 could have been said while walking or upon arriving at the Mount of Olives. 17 apparently takes place at the Mount of Olives. 18 takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane, which is where Jesus prayed about the cup, even though John does not record it.
Jesus prays first about Himself, then about the disciples, then about future believers. Apparently Jesus prayed out loud; why do you think He did that? For whose benefit? The disciples? Ours? Did Jesus bow His head or close His eyes? Do we find that posture of prayer in the Bible? I didn't, but today we find this posture a lot. Why or how do you think this change in practice might have come about? We need to compare our ideas and habits and church traditions to the Bible. Strong's says lifting the eyes may be literal or figurative.
Jesus has said several times that His hour had not yet come; so what is "the hour"? So does "hour" here mean 60 minutes? What is about to happen that will glorify/magnify the Father and the Son? Does Jesus only have power or authority over believers? God's sovereignty extends to ALL. Who has eternal life, according to 2? What is another Bible term for that group of people? Why didn't God just give Him everyone? Compare Mt. 22:14, John 6:37. What is salvation, according to 3? Does that happen completely the moment we believe? Christianity--salvation--eternal life--is a personal relationship--knowing Christ. Do we find those words--"personal relationship"--in the Bible? Then how do we know that is what the Bible teaches? Is salvation presented as a list of things to do, or a standard of perfection to be attained, or believing and receiving a PERSON? 4, what work did God give Jesus to do? He speaks of it as though it has already happened--why? How did that glorify God? What does 5 tell us about that time before Gen. 1:1? John also talks about this time in 1:1-3.
6-8 What did Jesus do, 6? Is that what we are to be doing also? Who specifically is He talking to? But don't these words also apply to all believers? What were the elect before they came to Christ? Who sent Jesus? Whose words did He speak? What two important words do we see in 8 that John uses a lot? So what is the important thing to know about Jesus that is implied in those two words? Jesus prayed for His followers here, in Luke 6:12-13, 22:31-32, Rom. 8:34, Heb. 7:25. Can we assume He is praying for us? How often? Does He forget to pray, like us? Is His list so long that He doesn't get to our name very often? Why? Don't we assume God must be kind of like us--with so much to do, and a limited amount of time to do it in.
God is ETERNAL--He is NOT limited by TIME. Think of all the people on earth that God is dealing with every day, and listening to their prayers. How can He find time for me? I am not too important, and my problems are probably not too important, so maybe He doesn't have time to listen to me or work on my problems. Does God see different people as more or less important, like we do? Is God limited by time? Can He think about everyone at the same time? Can He listen to everyone at once? Can He be working in each of their lives at the same time? Is this even a problem for Him? So you see that the more we understand about the attributes of God, the more we can trust Him. God is NOT like us! Do you ever think about Him praying for you? Why might thinking about that be helpful? Does He pray for unbelievers? Did He die for unbelievers? I Tim. 2:6.
9-11 In 9, what is one important thing Jesus does for those who have believed and received? Compare Rom. 8:34 and Heb. 7:25. (Strong's: to entreat) What is Jesus claiming about Himself in 10? How is God glorified in us? The Westminster Catechism states that this is the chief end of man: Rom. 11:36, I Cor. 10:31, Eph. 1:5-14. What does God do for us in 11? (Strong's: Guard, serve, watch, keep in custody.) What is God's desire for the church? What is the basis of that unity, according to this prayer? Can there be unity without that? What IS unity? Oneness, agreement. Agreement implies agreeing about something--what? Don't many churches or groups try to improve their unity by minimizing the things we have trouble agreeing on in God's Word? Does that really bring greater unity among people? I Cor. 12:12-27 explains how all believers are one. The Son is speaking to the Father, yet they are what? So what do we learn about the Trinity in this chapter?
12 We saw the phrase "in My name" several times in the last few chapters--so "in Your name" would be acting by the authority of. Who gave Jesus this authority? In 11, who was guarding the disciples? Here, who was guarding them? How can we know from this verse that Judas was not ever saved? Son of perdition (damnation, destruction) = Hebrew idiom for "one destined to perish." NIV: son of hell. This term is only used one other place, of the Antichrist in II Thes. 2:3. Did Judas act on his on free will? Did Satan use him in his plan? Did God use him in His plan? We can't understand how those three things can all be true at the same time, but the Bible makes it clear that it is so. We find the same thing in David's life; compare II Sam. 24:1,10 and I Chron. 21:1. David recognized that he himself had sinned, but God incited David's anger, knowing that David would fall into sin and that He would use David's sin to punish Israel, while at the same time Satan moved David to sin. How did Judas fulfill Ps. 41:10? Wasn't David writing about his friend who had betrayed HIM? Yet we see that something that has already happened, can also be a picture of something bigger, later. When that thing happens, it "fills up" the original statement in a larger sense. The original statement may not even have appeared to be prophetic at the time it was written.
13-16 What clue are we given as to why Jesus spoke these things out loud to be heard by the disciples? Why would hearing this prayer give them joy? Would knowing Jesus had prayed these things give them more awareness of how God was working? Would it make them more likely to give God the praise when they see God working, rather than just figuring things "just happened"?
Did Jesus just teach a bunch of nice things, with maybe some exaggerations? Does everyone hate you because you are a Christian? So why does He say that the world hates them? Why would the world hate those who are not of the world? Isn't is true that in our society today, there is talk of tolerance for all beliefs EXCEPT Christianity? 15, are we to isolate ourselves from the world? Don't some Christians try to do this by only socializing with Christians, only going to church activities, only having Christian books, programs, and educational materials and settings? Is there anything wrong with any of those things? Should we be somewhat familiar with what unbelievers are watching, reading, and doing so that, like Jesus and Paul, we can use their beliefs to make bridges to spiritual truths in a way they can relate to?
What parallel passage to the end of 15 do we find in Mt. 6:13? Jesus tells us to pray that God does this; He prays it also. If we fail to daily pray this for ourselves or others, does God not do this? Is prayer to get God to do things that He would not otherwise do? So why are we to pray and ask God to act, if He is already going to do what He knows is for our best? Might it be the same reason Jesus prayed out loud for the disciples' benefit--to increase their awareness of God's working, and increase their faith? What results when we share our prayer requests with others, or pray for their requests? So do we need to beg God to do things? What does I Thes. 5:16-18 teach about prayer? Perhaps instead of begging God to act, prayer should be a time of thanking God that He IS acting and that He IS in control of the situation. Should we wait to thank God until we see how a situation has worked out for the best? People say, how do I know what God's will is--what does 18 say? What does I Peter 2:15 say the will of God is? In Lev. 7:12, what was one of the sacrifices? What does that tell us about thanksgiving? Is it about good feelings? Or is it a choice? So can we thank God even when we don't FEEL thankful?
17-19 What two key words does John emphasize here? What does sanctify mean? Purify, make holy, appoint, proclaim, set apart for a specific purpose. How does 17 say this happens? What is "the truth"? How does God's Word do this? Why would Jesus say that He sanctifies Himself? He set Himself apart for a particular purpose--to die on the cross. To clarify the idea of sanctification, compare Acts 26:18, Rom. 6:19, II Tim. 2:21, Heb. 10:10, 12:14, I Pet. 1:2, 3:15. So it sounds like it has to do with being chosen by God (for His purposes), exercising faith, and growing in our walk with Christ, keeping in mind God's purpose for choosing us. Holy = pure, blameless, consecrated. Consecrate = set forth for a purpose, appoint, prepare, keep. So we see that the truth--God's Word--is central in this process. Jesus is sending the disciples into the world; weren't they already in the world? So are we sent in that sense also? Do you have weird, aggravating, problem people in your life? Why might that be part of God's plan for you?
20-23 Which key word is emphasized here? How might those still in the world come to believe through the disciples' words? What did they do with their words? This soon becomes part of God's Word--part of the truth just mentioned. Are WE mentioned in these verses? What is Jesus asking the Father to do in all the believers, even those who will come along later? How are we "one"? Because of what? So we are in Him, and He is in us. This is what sets Christianity apart from "religion"; it isn't rules or guidelines to follow, "Christ in us" is a personal relationship, it's a whole new kind of life--it's being born again in a different way.
Is God's way of keeping or creating unity in the church to downplay doctrine? If Truth is not the basis of unity, then what is? If God's Word is NOT central, is there any basis for that oneness? When unbelievers see this oneness, based on believing in Jesus and being centered on God's Word, what will they know about Jesus? Isn't this the central question in this book: who is Jesus really? Perfected in unity: does this mean sinless? Perfect (Strong's): complete, accomplished, fulfilled, finished. The idea is "mature." God's plan is to mature us. Mature believers are capable of that oneness that will let unbelievers know what?
24 Keep in mind that Jesus said this to the disciples, who were Jewish, and the church was still a new idea, still in the future. Why might this be new or surprising to them? What was Israel's hope and expectation of the future, of life after death? The earthly kingdom, ruled by their Messiah, with Israel being the head nation on earth. The Old Testament does not talk about eternity in heaven. This is something for the church; believers will ALWAYS be with the Lord. In this life we are with Him because we always have the indwelling Holy Spirit. At death we are immediately in His presence in heaven. If we don't die but are caught up to be with Him at the rapture, we are with Him in heaven. At the end of the seven years of tribulation, He comes to earth to reign for 1000 years (Rev. 20:1-6) and the church comes with Him to reign with Him over the earthly kingdom (II Tim. 2:12), having been transformed into their resurrection bodies. At the end of the 1000 years, the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, comes down out of heaven, apparently hovering near the new earth (21:1-2). Whereas before this, the Bible speaks of the throne of God being in heaven, now it tells of the throne, the glory, and the presence of God in the New Jerusalem, and this is where the church will also be for eternity, in the presence of Christ. Again we see God doing something new--a new dispensation. All believers are saved, but God has slightly different arrangements for different groups of believers.
Sound Bible teachers disagree about whether the New Jerusalem is the dwelling place of the church, the bride of Christ, DURING or AFTER the millenium. I think it is AFTER because Rev. 19-22 seem to be telling events in chronological order. Another misunderstood subject is Christ's 1000-year earthly kingdom. Some deny the earthly kingdom because they hold to the allegorical interpretation rather than the literal. Others have trouble fitting it into their understanding of end time events because the King James Version confuses the issue by using the term "the end of the world" which is better translated "the end of the age" in other versions. The KJV use of that term gives the impression that God's plan for this world is finished when Christ returns at the end of the tribulation, even though much of Scripture makes it clear that there is another age--the kingdom age--to follow, before eternity begins.
What was known to Old Testament believers? In the Old Testament, heaven is where God dwells. Believers who died went to Sheol, the grave, the place of the dead. Sheol (Hades) had two compartments, a place of torment and a place of comfort, Luke 16:19-31. Probably a believer did not go into the presence of God until after the death and resurrection of Jesus. We see that God did not reveal as much to the Old Testament believers as He has to New Testament believers. Nothing has changed in His plan--He has just revealed more of it now. Job is thought to pre-date the patriarchs (who does that term refer to?). See how much he knew about God's plan for eternity, Job 19:25-27. Also Psalm 16:10-11, 49:14-15, 73:23; Is. 25:8, 26:19; Dan. 12:2, 13; Hos. 13:14. How about Abraham? Heb. 11:10, compare Rev. 21:2.
25-26 What key word is used many times here? Today it is popular think that there is no absolute truth--truth cannot be known for sure. Post-modernism says that no one should claim THEIR belief is the right or true one; all beliefs are equally true. You can hold your belief, but you shouldn't try to convince others that their belief is not true, or that yours is best. According to the Bible, can we know anything for sure? Can we know God? Do all who claim to know Him, really know Him? How can you know God, according to the Bible? How does John define "the world" here? Would you agree that the basic theme of the Bible is, knowing God? We also find that the Bible is about Jesus Christ; how does that relate to the theme of knowing God? So when we have a personal relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, what will be in us?
So when Jesus prayed, did He ask God to do a bunch of specific things, to work certain situations out in certain ways? Did He ask for anything? What things? What did He do in the rest of His prayer, besides asking for a few things?
In a way, you could call this the Lord's Prayer. This is how He prayed. In Mt. 6, He gave us a model for our prayer. Because prayer is so important, and because we have so many questions about prayer, this would be a good time to review the Lord's Prayer.
Starting in Mt. 6:7-8
Is this teaching that we should only ask God once about any request? I think not; it is probably talking about the wrong idea that the more times you repeat it, the more likely you are to have made God do what you want. Is it possible that we can manipulate God to suit our purposes? Is God sitting up in heaven, not acting in a specific situation until we ask or tell Him to? Is that what prayer is for? Will God accomplish His purposes whether we tell Him to or not? If He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-living, isn't He going to do what is best, regardless of what we pray, or if we pray? Is it really possible that our plan is better than His? Would we really rather He drop His plan, which is obviously best, and instead implement our plan? There are many books on how to pray effectively, how to get your prayers answered. Is there such a thing as unanswered prayer? What do we usually mean by that term? Is it possible that there are "secrets" to getting our prayers answered? Can we always see immediately how God is working out that situation? What if the answer is "no," or "wait," or "I’ll handle that situation in another way than what you are asking, because My way is best." So how should we approach prayer? Before we answer that, let’s go on to the Lord’s prayer.
9-13 What does this prayer mean to you? Is it to be memorized and repeated, or is it an example? Or both? What does it teach about prayer? It is rather general; should our prayers be general, or might these be guidelines where we then interject our specific requests in this way?
How does it start, what is most important--God or us? Should we consider addressing God as "she," as the feminists believe? Does Jesus teach us to pray to Mary or anyone else? According to Jesus here, is God just a force that is in us all, as the New Agers believe, or is He a person? What does hallowed mean? Holy; God is to be reverenced by us, and we are to pray that He will be reverenced by all. This is His will. Too often Christians act as though God is our "buddy" and speak to Him glibly, completely lacking in reverence, even sometimes copying unbelievers in using His name lightly, as if it were insignificant--"oh God!" It is often spelled "oh god"--does that really change anything?
Hallowed be THY name--not Allah or Buddha or any other God. ARE all those just different names for the same God? Do all people really worship the same God, just by different names? The God of the Bible is a Trinity; He has a Son--Jesus Christ. Do those other "Gods"? So are they the same? Do the modern Jews worship a God who has a Son, Jesus Christ? There is only one true God. The others are false gods. Do we keep God's name holy, or do we use it lightly or irreverently?
What are we to pray about the kingdom? As we say this memorized prayer, we often say in one breath, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done." But these are two separate thoughts. When and how will His kingdom come? Is it here now? In one sense, yes, as Jesus explains in Mt. 13. The kingdom is here in a spiritual sense in the lives of all believers. So this is where we might pray for the salvation of others, so that God's kingdom can be present in them also. But there is also the future aspect of the earthy kingdom. Compare Ps. 2, Is. 2, 4, 11, 19:16-25, 24:23, 35, 49:5-6, 66:22-23. At the end of the seven years of tribulation, what happens, Rev. 19:1-16? Then what happens, 19:17-21? Then what happens, 20:1-6? So is it scriptural to pray that the rapture will take place soon? According to Jesus, yes. The earthly kingdom, the culmination of the Old Testament prophecies, cannot come until Christ returns, just before the 1000 year earthly reign. The tribulation, which must precede the earthly kingdom, cannot begin until Christ has called the church to meet Him in the air (see notes on Mt. 24). So when we pray, "Thy kingdom come," we are saying a mouthful!
God's will as stated here is to bring in His spiritual kingdom and the earthly kingdom that has been prophesied, and we are to long for and pray for its fulfillment. We can also take this opportunity to thank Him and praise Him that His kingdom WILL come, and that His plan WILL be fulfilled! Will God’s will ever be done on earth like it is in heaven? In the earthly kingdom, under the righteous reign of Christ, it will be more so, and then in eternity it will be done completely. But we are to pray that we and others will live in accordance with God’s revealed will and that things will happen according to His revealed moral will. Here is where most of our prayer requests fall into line--not praying that OUR will be done in each situation, not asking or suggesting how God should work out each situation, but acknowledging that in each situation, we are trusting HIM to do HIS will, to work it out in the way that best fits into HIS big plan, and that we are OK with that. Praying for God to bring a certain outcome leaves us hanging, hoping, wondering: will He do what we are asking? But acknowledging our trust in His sovereignty--that He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, that He is completely in control--leaves us with peace and confidence.
So we start our prayer by focusing on God, on who He is, on His sovereign plan that is unfolding. "Hallowed be THY name, THY kingdom come, THY will be done." Doesn't the Bible teach that God's will WILL be done? What does Eph. 1:11 say about God's will? So why does He want us to ask Him to do this? It's NOT to get Him to do it; it's to get us to recognize that He IS doing it! It helps us to start viewing ALL of life as under the control of God's sovereign will, which gives us confidence in God and helps us to trust Him more. It's also a confession that we want HIS will to be done, not OUR will.
How do we generally start our prayers? Asking? Thanking? What is the difference? Aren't those about ME? By starting our prayer this way, we acknowledge that it is all about HIM, not about ME. Compare the beginnings of these prayers: II Kings 19:14-15, Jer. 32:17-22, Dan. 4:34-35, 9:4. Then--our daily needs, confession of sin, asking for leading and guidance and protection, humbly recognizing that we are sinful and prone to sin. Why pray about our daily needs--is God NOT doing that if we don't ask Him every day? Then why does he want us to ask Him? How does this relate to 6:33? What is the context? Anxiety--don't WORRY about these things--do THIS instead of worry. And isn't this the same as the beginning of the Lord's prayer? What if your daily needs are being met, and you don’t feel the need to ask for that? Then thank Him and praise Him; recognize that WE are not meeting our needs, but that HE is. Thank Him for your many blessings; recognize that your earthly blessings are really only a shadow, a picture of the blessing and joy you will experience with God in eternity. When you confess sins, also take this opportunity to THANK Him that He has forgiven you and given you the gift of eternal life.
Temptation can also be translated as trials, difficulties. Recognizing how susceptible we are to falling, throwing ourselves on God's mercy. Does this say that God tempts us? No, the Bible says He does not, James 1:13; who IS the tempter, I Thes. 3:5? But He tests us, I Cor. 3:13, I Pet. 1:7, 4:12, and in those situations, if we do not obey, we may be tempted to sin instead. Every situation can be looked at as both a test and a temptation, depending on how we respond. Read Mt. 26:41, James 1:12-15, I Cor. 10:13.
Isn't God always leading us by His Holy Spirit, whether we ask Him or not? Ps. 31:3,139:10, Ez. 34:15, Heb. 8:9. Are we always listening or following? Through our own weakness, foolishness, or disobedience, we fall into temptation. Jesus wants us to recognize that only by following Him can we be rescued from temptation. Even though He leads us, the Bible does not guarantee we won't have any problems. As long as we are on this earth, in these mortal bodies, living among other mortals--all of which have been tainted by the Fall (Gen. 3)--we will be touched by temptation and by evil. But God can lead us through those situations if we rely on Him (faith, trust). Remember that the ideas in the Lord's Prayer are capsulized; restate them in your own words as you pray them. And again, use this opportunity to thank and praise Him that He DOES lead you and protect you, that no matter what happens He is still in control.
This last section is not in all the manuscripts; it might not have been in the original. Jesus ends by again praying about the kingdom. Repeating this in such a short prayer model seems quite amazing, so it must be important to focus on the kingdom. The Old Testament promises and prophecies seem to indicate it is the focal point of God's program. Before, He prayed, "Thy kingdom come," seeming to focus on the action, the coming. Now He prays "Thine is the kingdom," seeming to focus on "THINE." The kingdom is about GOD; it involves God's plan for Israel and His plan for the church, but it is ABOUT HIM. The Jews were concerned about how Israel would finally be out from under Rome's power, and how they would finally be the primary nation (even the disciples, Acts 1:6). The disciples seem preoccupied with their own role in the coming kingdom, Mt. 18:1, 20:21. Likewise, when we think about heaven and eternity, do we think about more about how God's plan will finally be fulfilled, how wonderful He is, how wonderful to be in His presence eternally? Or do we think about how we will finally be rid of our bodies and our earthly problems, and how nice it will finally be for us? Do we love and praise God because there is something in it for us? Or because He is worthy of our praise and devotion even if there is nothing in it for us? Do we love Him for HIS sake or just for SELF's sake? Jesus is pointing out that the focus is to be on GOD, not US.
"For Thine…is the power." What sort of power does God have? I Sam 2:6-8, I Chron. 29:11-12, Is. 40:28, Jer. 23:24, Rom. 1:20, Heb. 4:13, Rev. 19:6. We have assigned terms to some of God's qualities of power, such as sovereign, omnipresent, omniscient, onmipotent (this is the only one of these terms found in the KJV Bible, Rev. 19:6). So every time we pray this prayer, we are confessing that God is all-powerful, that He is sovereign over all. Jesus tells us to recognize God's power and to TELL Him that we do. Why? Does God need to hear this, or do WE need to hear ourselves saying it?
"For Thine…is the glory." By nature we are concerned with our own glory, with Self. We are self-absorbed, self-centered. This sin, which the Bible condemns perhaps more than any other sin, and which was Satan's sin (Is. 14:13-14, Ez. 28:2,17), is called what in Prov. 16:18? What other words does the Bible use to refer to this attitude, James 3:5, Jer. 48:29? Is this life really about US? Is salvation really even about US? Col. 1:16-18. In Eph. 1:1-14, what phrase is repeated in 6, 12 and 14? This is the purpose of everything that Paul describes in this passage. In II Thes. 1:10-12, is the emphasis on what happens to US, or how we are the means of glorifying HIM? Compare also John 15:8, 17:4-5,10. In John 17:24, is our going to be with Him in heaven ultimately for US or for HIM? Again, Jesus wants us to recognize this fact and to tell God that we do.
"Forever": other meanings of this word, according to Strong's--the vanishing point, time out of mind, eternity, always, perpetual, without end. What does this tell us about God and His plans? Compare Ps. 9:7, 10:16, 33:11, 45:6,17, 48:14, 66:7, 73:26, 78:69, 104:31, 106:1, 112:3, 117:2, 119:89,160, 145:21, 146:10.
What is the meaning of the word "amen"? Is it just a word that we are to tack on at the end of a prayer? Does it just mean, "the end," or "I'm done praying now"? In the New Testament, it is mostly used as the final word of a prayer. In the Old Testament, it was also used as a response by the people (for example, to something said by the king, the priest, the prophet), I Chron. 16:36. Sometimes it was said twice, for emphasis, Neh. 8:6, Ps. 72:19. Strong's: (Hebrew) so be it, truth; (Greek) firm, trustworthy, surely, verily, so be it. So when we end our prayer this way, what are we saying? Often we end our prayers with the attitude of "I hope." This is because we often pray to get certain things or for things to turn out a certain way in our lives or the lives of others; we can't KNOW they will because the Bible doesn't teach us to pray that way. It doesn't promise us that we can get God to make things turn out the way we hope. Study the Lord's Prayer and other Bible prayers to see what things we are to pray for, so we can confidently say "Amen" to our prayer.
Here Jesus Himself is praying to the Father. Elsewhere Jesus teaches us to pray to the Father in His name. John 14:13-14, 14:26, 15:16, 16:23-26. What does it mean to pray in Jesus' name? Does it mean that no matter what you pray, as long as you tack those words on the end, God will give you what you asked? I thought that for years. Finally I realized that it means to ask God for the same kinds of things that Jesus Himself would ask God for. How can we know what those things are? They are things that are within God's revealed will. How can we know what is God's will? By reading the Bible. The things that God desires and are pleasing to Him are His will. Do a word study; look up references to "God's will" or to "will" in that context (it might say "His will" or "Thy will"). Finding God's will is not a matter of getting some kind of "vibes" or special knowledge about this situation or that decision. The Bible does not teach us to look for subjective signs that indicate God's will. God's will is clearly laid out in the Bible. Everything that the Bible tells us to do is God's will. For starters, look at Rom. 12:1-2, I Thes. 4:3, 5:16-18. (Study tip: If you are using Strong's Concordance, keep in mind that there are several Greek words for "will" in the New Testament. In the above references, the Strong's reference is 2307. So look for other listings of 2307, not for every use of the word "will.")
This model prayer ends by recognizing again that God is in control, which should cause us to feel how? Have faith, gratitude. So is prayer about getting God to do what we want? If not, then what? Some people think prayer is a time to listen for God's "voice." God has already spoken to us; He has already said everything He has to say. Where can we find God's "voice" and know without a shadow of a doubt exactly what He has said? We can have a two-way conversation with God: He speaks to us as we read and study His Word, and we speak to Him in prayer. When we ask Him about our questions and concerns, we often find His answer as we spend time in His Word. When you read the Bible, ask God to help you to hear what He has to say to you. As you read, stop and ask yourself, "what is God trying to teach me in this section?" Look for commands, for lessons, for principles, for information about what God is like and how He acts in our lives.
Prayer is merely talking to God. We can do it while we are driving, working, resting. It is good to have a daily time when you pray, but it is also good to talk to God during the day about whatever is going on or is on your mind. How often should we talk to God according to I Thes. 5:16-18? The more you get in the habit of turning your mind frequently to God, the closer will be your walk with Him. Prayer is about asking God for things, Luke 11:9-10, but the Bible does not teach that we are to ask for STUFF. What kinds of things does the son ask his father for in the example of Luke 11:11-12? What kinds of things might we ask for according to Mt. 6:25-33? Why does James 4:3 say we sometimes don't get things we ask for? We need to look at our motives; are our requests based on SELF-interest ("your pleasures")? Do we ask for things that will make us feel better? Do we ask for trials to stop so we will feel better? Or are we asking that HIS will be done? Doesn't the Bible say God's will WILL be done? So why should we ask for it? So that when things happen, we learn to see God's hand in it. I think this is one of the main purposes of prayer, AND Bible study--to get us to think a different way, to see things from God's perspective.
We see that this model prayer is full of Bible shorthand, brief words and concepts that are packed with meaning. So is it OK to pray this prayer as a memorized prayer? Yes, if it is not just meaningless rote words coming out of your mouth; say it thoughtfully, trying to realize what each phrase is about. Or use it as a model and insert your own words. For example:
Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name: Heavenly Father, may everyone recognize who You really are and honor Your name. Help me to live in a way that will draw people to You.
Your kingdom come: Thank You that one day You will return and rule on this earth and make everything right. Come soon, Lord Jesus! Thank you that You are working in the lives of (insert names). Help them to come to know you.
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven: Thank you that I can know that You are working out Your will in my life and in the lives of those I am concerned about (name them) and in these situations (name them). Help me and help those people to learn to trust You more in these situations. Help me to learn to know Your will; give me a greater hunger for Your Word and to want to apply it.
Give us this day our daily bread: Here are my needs (name them) and the needs of these people (name them). I give them to You. Thank You that You will take care of them in the way that You see fit. (or) Thank You that You are meeting my/their needs; thank You for Your many blessings (list them).
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors: I confess that I have sinned (list them). Thank you that You forgive me because You sent Your Son Jesus to die in my place and pay the price for my sins. Thank You for eternal life. Help me to forgive (name) who has sinned against me and not to hold onto feelings of bitterness and resentment, even though I feel like continuing to hold it against them. (spell out the situations) Help me to become more aware of my own sinfulness and my specific sins, so that I may repent of them, be free of them, and be forgiven.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil: Thank You that You are leading me (and others--insert names), Lord. Help me/them to want to go Your way, not my/their way. Help me/them to want to know Your Word better so that I/they will know what You want me/them to do. Help me/them to be pleasing to You in what I/they do, say, and think. Protect me/them from Satan's traps and snares, from evil people, and from danger. Thank You that I can trust You.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.: Help me to focus on You more, and to remember that everything is about YOU, not me. Thank You that You are all-powerful and that You know everything. None of my needs or problems or sins are too much for You to handle. Thank You that You have a plan for this world, and that everything that is happening is fitting into Your plan, even though I don't get it. Thank you for sending Your Son Jesus. Thank you that He died for me, that He is alive, that I have a personal relationship with Him, and that the Holy Spirit lives in me and is working every day to change me. Thank You that You love me, that You saved me, that You forgive me, that You meet all my needs in the way You know is best for me, and that You are in control. I pray these things in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.
Look again at the things Jesus tells us to pray. If we do not pray for these things, does God not do them anyhow? Is He just sitting up there at the control panel, in neutral, waiting for us to push His buttons so He can put a certain plan into action that was not already in action? Are we asking Him to do things that He was not planning to do? If so, wouldn't that mean WE are in control, not GOD?
Then WHY does He tell us to pray these things? If it is not for the purpose of getting God to change His plans, then what is the purpose? Is it to let God know what we think and desire? Doesn't He already know those things? Whose benefit is prayer really for? Perhaps prayer is really for the purpose of changing US, for helping us to get our eyes on God, to see all these things we are to pray about as coming from God, not "just happening." If we are praying about them, then we see what happens as an answer to prayer, as God at work, not as something that "just happened."
This is not the only Bible teaching on prayer, so be sure to compare other passages, such as Mt. 26:39-41, John 14-16, Rom. 1:8-12, 10:1, 11:36, I Cor. 1:4-8, Eph. 1:15-19, Phil. 1:4-5, 9-11, Col. 1:1-12, 3:17, 4:2-4, 12, I Thes. 1:2-4, 2:13, 5:16-18, II Thes. 1:3, 11-12, 3:1, I Tim. 2:1-2, Philemon 4-6, James 5:13, I Pet. 4:7. After looking over these passages, what sorts of things does the Bible teach we should be praying about? But what kinds of things are we often guilty of spending our prayer time on? We need to think about the purpose of prayer, as revealed in the Bible.
1 As we already said, chapter 17 apparently took place at the Mount of Olives. Now they enter the Garden of Gethsemane at the Mount of Olives, just outside the city. This chapter is about the arrest of Jesus, but it is actually more about various other people than it is about Jesus. John recorded Jesus' high priestly prayer on behalf of His followers, but not His agonizing prayer of "If it be possible, let this cup pass." The other Gospels presented the humanity of Jesus, but John has been emphasizing the deity of Jesus--His glory rather than His suffering.
2-3 Who do we see first? Who did he bring? Isn't this overkill? Why didn't they arrest him in the city in broad daylight? They were afraid of the crowds--there could have been a riot.
4 So is this saying that while Jesus was speaking during chapter 13-16, and praying what He prayed in 17, that He was completely aware the whole time of what Judas was doing and what was going to happen in a couple hours, and what the disciples would do? If you knew all that, how would you be feeling and acting? Why was Jesus NOT like that?
5-9 Who is this section about? Why do you suppose they fell to the ground? What had Jesus just said that would have shocked the chief priests and Pharisees? (Remember that the word "He," italicized, was not in the original manuscript but supplied for the reader's clarity.)
Here is the only instance in the Bible where people who found themselves in the presence of God fell backwards, not forwards. To fall to the ground, to bow down or prostrate one's self, is to worship; did these men fall down in worship? Were they believers? Interestingly, the charismatic practice of being "slain in the Spirit" always involves falling backwards. There is not only NO mention of this practice or phenomena in the Bible--it is the opposite of what the Bible teaches. It is NOT how the Bible presents worship. There is one other mention of falling backwards, in Is. 28:13, by unbelieving people who are broken, snared and taken captive.
10-11 Peter takes the sword; at this point he is still committed to following Jesus to the death. Why would Peter try to cut off the ear of the high priest's slave? What do you think may have been his intent? The rest of this story is found in Luke 22:51. What do you think became of Malchus after that? Because Malchus is named for us, we might consider that a clue that he went on to become a believer and was known to those John was writing to.
Is Jesus saying that the use of the sword is wrong? Is nonviolence or pacifism what Jesus is teaching? Some believe that the Bible teaches that all war is wrong; does it? Didn't God often direct the Jews to go to war and take no survivors? Was God wrong then, or has God changed? What does Jesus say to do in Luke 22:36? Rom. 13:4 says that God has delegated governments with the power to carry out capital punishment or war. Why is Jesus forbidding the use of a weapon in this situation? Are believers ever told to try to bring about God's plan by violence, or by social or political efforts? What cup is Jesus talking about drinking? John chooses to record this statement about the cup rather than what Matthew recorded in Mt. 26:39. What do these two statements, taken together, tell us about Jesus? Did Jesus resist at all? Compare Is. 53:7, John 1:29,36.
Why might Peter's accuracy with his sword been so poor? What was his occupation? Did he have a lot of practice with a sword? What can we learn from this incident, comparing it with Eph. 6:17 and Heb. 4:12?
12-14 What two groups were involved in this arrest? John had recorded what Caiaphas said back in 11:45-53, following the story of Lazarus being raised.
15-18 John's Gospel tells that actually, two disciples followed Jesus; one is unnamed--John himself, since he never refers to himself by name. John seemed to know these people, and was able to go in with Jesus; apparently Peter was allowed into the courtyard because of what John said to the girl at the door. What happens? Why would Peter say this? Mt. 26:73 says that Peter's speech, or accent, gave him away; do you think Peter was standing silently waiting? What do we know about Peter's mouth?
Do any of us have that problem? When we don't know what to say, can we just be quiet, or do we have to "flap our lips"? And doesn't that often get us in trouble? Read James 3:1-13, Luke 6:45, Eph. 4:29. What and what should be the same, Rom. 10:8? Does the mouth seem to be more of a problem for women or men? Which of those two is generally known for talking more? This is a pitfall that Christian women need to deal with--gossip is one of the worst problems in churches. The mouth is a major problem for many women--let's talk about it.
Why do women seem to feel the need to say everything they think or tell everything they hear? Why do women talk too much? Is this also the cause of major problems in marriages? So is the solution in marriage to get husbands to listen more, talk more, care more about what we say, and learn to share their innermost thoughts and feelings? Or might it be for wives to understand that men think differently than women, that men don't like their wives to rattle on and on about everything, that many don't WANT to talk about feelings, and to learn to talk less? Some husbands react with anger and impatience, some just learn to tune out. If we have more to say than our husbands are interested in listening to, perhaps we could save it for conversations with our women friends, who share our passion for talking. Perhaps we could even learn to talk less--to be comfortable with keeping many of our thoughts to ourselves. Women seem to have a need to feel deeply known and understood--might that just be another way of saying that we are self-centered, full of pride? Aren't all humans, in one way or another? How can we become less self-centered? By becoming what-centered? Can any man truly fill a woman's need to be known and loved? Who can and will, if we would stop looking in the wrong, earthly, human direction?
If we talk too much or often say inappropriate things--things we later wish we hadn't said--can we change this? How can we successfully work on this? What if you have a friend with this problem--perhaps always dominating the conversation, perhaps repeating what you say to others, or what others say, to you, perhaps saying unkind things. These problems abound in churches, in marriages and in women's friendships. How could you deal with that friend? If you ask God to help you with this problem, what can you expect might happen next, or soon? Will your problem magically vanish? Or can you expect that God will given you an opportunity, maybe MANY opportunities, to work on this problem--to choose to make different choices and responses than you are in the habit of? Is this process easy or quick? Do we generally pass these tests on the first try? How long might it take? Why is it so hard to make different choices than we have always made? How do we feel when we don't pass the test? What should we do when we fail and fall on our faces?
What had Peter said a few hours earlier, in 13:37? Do we really know our own hearts? Should we make promises or tell God how He is our Lord, how we will always put Him first? What about singing songs that say this, which many "praise and worship" songs do? The hymn, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" says, "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the Lord I love." Doesn't this describes the Christian more accurately than the other type of songs?
19-24 The scene changes back to Jesus and Annas. Jesus' remarks and questions allude to the fact that this trial was not being conducted according to their own laws--no witnesses, trials not to begin at night, nor to begin and end the same day, prisoners not yet found guilty are not to be struck, prisoners not asked to incriminate themselves, prisoner not charged until credible witnesses have been heard. How does Jesus answer the question about His teaching? Jesus questions His attacker; He appeals to what is right and wrong. When we are wrongly accused or treated, should we silently "take it" and be a doormat? Is it biblical to stand up against someone for what is right?
25-27 The scene changes back to Peter, outside. How do you think Peter felt when he was questioned the second time, then the third time? How do you think he felt when the cock crowed? So do the actions of animals even fit into God's sovereign plan? What is he remembering from earlier that evening? How did he react, according to the other accounts?
Why do we tell lies or do things we know aren't right? Why do we not always trust God in difficult situations? Can we lose our salvation if we, like Peter, deny Christ when we are afraid? II Tim. 2:12-13 can give this impression; what is the difference between denying and being faithless in this passage? Which did Peter do? What can God not do, 13? If we are in Christ, if we are the elect, can we ever not be? Deny means to reject (Strong's); how will God treat those who have rejected Him? Faithless means to disbelieve or disobey. We have seen earlier in John that he uses believe and obey almost interchangeably. Mt. 10:33 similarly concerns some people; Jesus will deny (reject) in heaven those who have denied (rejected) Him on earth. Mt. 7:21-23 causes similar concern; is everyone a believer who says "Lord, Lord"? Mt. 13 talks about the wheat and the what? Don't they look and act just like the wheat? Mt. 7:23 says Jesus NEVER knew those people; can that be referring to anyone who was a true believer at one time?
28-32 The Pharisees are very concerned about observing the Passover correctly; do you think John might have had a touch of sarcasm as he points out their inconsistency? What is the Passover about? What does it picture? Rom. 3:25, I Cor. 5:7. They were so hung up on the ritual that they completely missed the meaning. So were the Pharisees sinful murderers or religious zealots? Remember WHY they hated Jesus; who did He claim to be? And if He wasn't, what did the Law say to do with Him, for blaspheming? Does this seem hypocritical? Are we ever hypocritical--saying we believe one thing but acting like we don't? How come we can see this in others but not ourselves? How might God deal with that in our lives?
Who enters the story now? Why did the Pharisees not kill Jesus themselves? They were under the Romans; only the Roman government could administer the death penalty. What was the Roman method of capital punishment? ONLY the Romans used this method. Jesus had been telling the disciples He would be crucified. What Old Testament event does Jesus refer to in John 3:14? What are two ways we could interpret "lift up"? When the Mosaic Law called for the death penalty, what type of death was it? What does Ps. 22:14,16 say about how the Messiah would die?
33-36 What was the purpose of Jesus' question in 34? What is Jesus really asking about Pilate? In every situation, God is working to bring out what is actually in our own hearts. Do we always know what is really in our heart? When we learn the truth about ourselves, how do we often feel? Is this good or bad?
What does Jesus say about His kingdom? Some say this proves there will be no earthly kingdom in the future; how would you answer that? We have seen that Jesus speaks of two aspects of His kingdom, especially in Matthew--the present spiritual kingdom in the hearts of all who are believers, and the future earthly 1000-year kingdom following His second coming. Don't both take place on this earth? The Old Testament makes it clear that God promised Israel a future earthly kingdom under the rule of the coming Messiah. Even when Christ rules on earth, will that kingdom be "of the world"? Where does His power originate? Will He need His followers to conquer and maintain power after the manner of men--by military might?
Isn't this what happened in the Crusades--Muslims and Christians trying to conquer by the sword? Militant right-wing Christians today use violence to try to force non-Christians to follow Christian morals by bombing abortion clinics; is this what Jesus has in mind for His kingdom? Many Christians believe the church is to bring Christianity to earth, and when the kingdom is in place, Christ will return to rule it. Most who believe this don't believe in the rapture or a literal seven year tribulation, that things will literally go to hell before Christ returns to rescue His people at the last moment. This type of theology goes by various names: restoration theology (the church will restore all things first), kingdom theology (bringing in the kingdom), dominion theology (the church will have dominion over the earth), Christian reconstructionism (the church reconstructing Israel's legal and religious system), theonomy or theocracy (God's rule over man on earth), the cultural mandate (that the church is to take over the culture). These are groups that talk about Christian America, taking America back for God, returning to our Christian roots, etc. These are not names of churches or denominations, but these beliefs characterize many churches. Many well-known and influential Christian leaders and ministries have leanings in this direction. According to the Bible, what must change--society or people?
Here is an extended quote from a website called religoustolerance.org: "Its most common form, Dominionism, represents one of the most extreme forms of Fundamentalist Christianity thought. Its followers, called Dominionists, are attempting to peacefully convert the laws of United States so that they match those of the Hebrew Scriptures. They intend to achieve this by using the freedom of religion in the US to train a generation of children in private Christian religious schools. Later, their graduates will be charged with the responsibility of creating a new Bible-based political, religious and social order. One of the first tasks of this order will be to eliminate religious choice and freedom. Their eventual goal is to achieve the 'Kingdom of God' in which much of the world is converted to Christianity. They feel that the power of God's word will bring about this conversion. No armed force or insurrection will be needed; in fact, they believe that there will be little opposition to their plan. People will willingly accept it. All that needs to be done is to properly explain it to them. All religious organizations, congregations etc. other than strictly Fundamentalist Christianity would be suppressed. Nonconforming Evangelical, main line and liberal Christian religious institutions would no longer be allowed to hold services, organize, proselytize, etc. Society would revert to the laws and punishments of the Hebrew Scriptures. Any person who advocated or practiced other religious beliefs outside of their home would be tried for idolatry and executed."
37-40 Which of this book's key words do we find in 37-38? So what is this truth that He has testified to on this earth? Did all who heard it, really hear it? Who is "of the truth"? Was Pilate's question in 38 an honest question, or a sarcastic comment? What does that question tell us about Pilate? Today, do all people really desire to know truth? Do all people even believe there is such a thing as truth? Aren't some offended if you claim there is? Why don't people want to know about truth? Don't some people prefer to hold onto their ideas whether they are true or not? Why?
Did Pilate believe Jesus was guilty? So did He free Him? Why not? Who is really on trial--Jesus or Pilate? Do you think many in politics compromise their consciences in order to protect their position of power, to placate their constituents, or to do or return favors for other politicians? So who is responsible for the death of Jesus--the Jews or the Romans (Gentiles)? This pictures all mankind--the Jews AND the non-Jews. It also pictures two kinds of unbelievers: those who knowingly reject Him, and those who don't care and don't want to be bothered or make a decision.
John has the longest account of Pilate of the four Gospels: 18:29-40 and 19:1-22. Only John tells of the discussion about truth. Matthew adds that Pilate's wife had a dream about Jesus being a righteous man (at least not guilty, possibly even meaning sinless) and that Pilate was worried because a riot was starting. In every account, Pilate comes across loud and clear as recognizing that Jesus was innocent and as WANTING to release Him. Yet he doesn't.
So who is set free instead? Did he know he was guilty? I wonder what became of him, how he felt, what he thought about Jesus dying in His place--if he became a believer and follower. John doesn't tell us everything about this night that the other Gospels tell; each writer included certain aspects. Reading all the Gospels gives the complete picture.
1-6 The scourging alone often resulted in death. Prisoners were often scourged until they confessed to their crime, so how severe might this scourging have been? Another purpose was to weaken the body so death by crucifixion would come sooner; Jesus died quickly, before they could break His legs, so might this be another indication how severely He was scourged? Had He even had any sleep the night before?
What did Pilate say in 18:38 that he also says twice in these verses? Why doesn't Pilate let Him go then? Doesn't the Bible make it very clear that Jesus is sinless? Can any man be sinless?
We are all familiar with this account. Is there any application here for us and our lives? Compare I Pet. 2:18-24. So what IS Peter saying to us? What about Peter's comment about healing? Many Christians use this verse, and Is.53:5, from which it is quoted, to prove that because of Christ's death, we can expect physical healing. What is the context in both these passages--illness or sin?
Look at a few other things the Bible says about Christ's suffering. Heb. 2:10,18, 5:8, I Pet. 4:13. What are some things we can think about when we are suffering, to get through it and to have a better attitude?
7-12 Why did the Jewish leaders want to kill Jesus? What does Son of God mean? What did THEY obviously understand it to mean? They understood very well what Jesus was claiming; they rejected it. Crucifixion was a death usually reserved for criminals, slaves and revolutionaries.
Pilate had a problem with his ideas of authority. He thought he had what authority? But whose authority was he afraid of? Who SHOULD he have been afraid of instead? Do you think many people are like this? Do you think people, even Christians, do things that are wrong because of the pressure of what other people think, or because of pressure from their superiors? Might this be why many of the Germans stooped to such outrageous behavior in the Holocaust--for fear of what might be done to them if they refused to cooperate? 12, this was how the Jews hoped to get the Roman governor to carry out their plans.
What does 11 teach about sin? Greater responsibility follows greater what? This concept can also be found in Mt. 23:14, Mark 12:40, Luke 20:47. What does Jesus teach about God in 11? Compare Rom. 13:1-2. Don't all people naturally resist authority? Why? Don't we have trouble with anything that smacks of yielding, submitting--to God or to anyone else? What is the difference between submitting to a human and submitting to God? If we truly understood and believed that God is good, just, loving, and powerful, wouldn't we submit gladly and instantly? Don’t we actually often believe that our way is best? Is that why we don't want to submit totally?
13-16 What does Pilate call Jesus? Might he be sarcastic? How do the Jews react? 14 mentions the day of preparation for the Passover. The other Gospels also mention this. There are various interpretations of what this refers to; Sabbath (day of rest) can mean the seventh day or also other designated Sabbaths in connections with various feasts. Some think Jesus was crucified on Thursday, not Friday, based on one possible interpretation. If He was, that would more clearly figure as three days and three nights in the tomb. But the evidence is not clear. Another explanation is that three days and three nights is a Hebrew idiom meaning ANY PART of three days and three nights, not necessarily 3 X 24 hours.
17-22 What physical shape was Jesus in by this time? This paragraph focuses on what Pilate wrote. Why would he write in three languages? Who were the three major people groups at that time and place? 21, what is the difference between what Pilate wrote and what the Jews wanted him to write?
23-27 Psalm 22 gives a prophetic picture of Christ on the cross, read 1-18. Several women stood at the cross; did they run away from the horror of this scene? At least one disciple was also there--John here refers to himself. (Luke 22:8 says that Peter and John prepared the meal and were therefore the hosts; they would have the seats on either side of Jesus, except that we see Judas seated next to Jesus, since Jesus handed him the morsel, signifying he was the guest of honor, John 13:26. We know John was seated next to Jesus, 13:25, because he leaned against Jesus to ask Him a question. He identifies himself the same way as in 19:26.) We wonder if this means that John was His closest friend, even of the three--Peter, James and John. The other disciples don't appear to stay around for the crucifixion--why not? John was willing to take the risk. Here we wonder why Mary, who was evidently a widow by now, didn't just live with one of her other sons, why Jesus would put her in John's care. Perhaps there was a schism in the family over Jesus--Mary believing who He was, the others rejecting Him at that time (but believing after the resurrection). One commentary says that Jesus' brothers were in Galilee; perhaps Mary stayed in Jerusalem, or John's home was her "home away from home." We can't really know why.
We cannot understand what Christ experienced on the cross, physically or spiritually. What was His motivation? Yet what was the response of those He died for? Judas? Peter? The other disciples? The Jews, God's chosen people? Pilate and the Romans? We can imagine the sorrow and bitterness of such human betrayal, but we can't imagine what it was like for God in the flesh to bear all the sins of everyone who ever lived, and to be separated from the fellowship of the Trinity. The Bible does not go into detail to help us try to understand; to do so would only trivialize it.
28-30 Ps. 69 has several prophecies of the Messiah's death. There are about 300 prophecies of the Messiah; the chances of even a handful being fulfilled in one person are mathematically impossible. Was His life taken from Him against His will? What was finished--what things had been accomplished? Read Gen. 3:15, 22:1-13, Is. 53, Rom. 5:1,6-8,15-21, Col. 1:21-22, Heb. 2:14, 9:11-10:14.
31-37 Again, this Sabbath could have begun Friday night, or it could have begun Thursday night if this preparation day was considered a Sabbath, which cannot be proved one way or the other. Why break the legs? The soldiers fulfilled prophecy; so do the actions of sinful people (believers OR unbelievers) fit into God's big plan? How did crucifixion cause death? Breaking the legs would bring death quickly so that the bodies could be taken down. Jesus had already died; according to 34, blood and water could indicate bursting of the heart. 35, John stresses that he was an eyewitness of this event. At the time John wrote this, the Gnostics were denying Christ's incarnation and His bodily death; John may be addressing this heresy. What is the whole purpose of John's account of Jesus? What does Ex. 12:46 require for the Passover lamb? Why did Jesus choose to die on the day that He did? The prophecy about piercing refers both to His side and to His hands and feet. So is the Old Testament relevant to the New Testament believer?
38-42 What do we know about this Joseph? He was a rich, prominent Pharisee, Mark 15:43, who had not consented to their plan and action, Luke 23:50-51--do you think other Pharisees may also have been secret believers? How would you compare Joseph and Pilate, in how they handled their fears?
Nicodemus was also a Pharisee; his conversation with Jesus is in John 3. That account does not state that he believed at that time; he may have, but it seems likely that it would have stated if he did. So what has been going on in his life since then? Did he only become a believer at this time? Might he and Joseph been secretly talking? Why do you think they chose this moment to go public as followers of Jesus? What could the Pharisees do to them that had had them so worried? Do you think that openly standing with Jesus after death might have been their attempt to salve their consciences for not standing for Him before His death, for not being willing to pay the price? Do you think they might be feeling kind of like Peter felt when the cock crowed? The men partially prepared the body; the women would return after the Sabbath to complete the task.
1 What day of the week do most Christians meet for church? Why? Does the Bible tell us to? Christians that meet on the Sabbath say that the commandment about the Sabbath was never changed; was it changed? Interestingly, Jesus reaffirmed all the commandments except this one. Does the New Testament command the church to meet on a particular day? So can we meet on any day? What defining Old Testament event, that reveals who God is, was continually honored and remembered by resting on the seventh day? What is the sabbath rest for the New Testament believer, Heb. 4:9-11? What defining New Testament event, that reveals who God is, is continually honored and remembered by the church gathering on the first day?
These are the two defining events in the Bible, by which God has revealed Himself. In the Old Testament, God continually refers to Himself, or is referred to by His followers, as the God of creation. The New Testament apostles and writers continually refer to the God of the resurrection. When talking with unbelievers, speaking of God in these terms will help them to understand who God is. These events are also irrefutable evidences for God's power and truth. Isn't it odd that today most sermons only talk about the resurrection at Easter? Shouldn't it be talked about ALL the time?
2 Who did Mary tell besides Peter? Did she rejoice when she saw the empty tomb? Why? Had she truly understood and believed what Jesus had been saying about Himself?
3-10 Why does John tell us about the wrappings? What was their response to seeing this? So they only now believed; what might they have been thinking and feeling these last couple of days?
So was Jesus naked when He arose, and did He need to immediately find Himself some clothes? What might this imply about those who will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air? At what point will we be changed as described in I Cor. 15:50-52? Will these mortal bodies be able to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air as described in I Thes. 4:17? If we are in a building or vehicle at that moment, will that stop our bodies from rising to meet the Lord in the air?
11-15 1 and 18 specify Mary Magdalene; several Mary's appear in this story, but we know this is still Mary M. because Mark 16:9 tell us Jesus appeared to her first. (Magdalene means "of Magdala.") In the Bible, when angels appear to people, they appear as men dressed in shining white garments, never as women, and never having wings, contrary to flannelgraph stories and Christmas cards; only seraphim and cherubim are described as having wings. Today it is popular to talk about angels; if someone tells you they have seen or talked with an angel, and it was female or had wings, you can be positive that they did not see an angel from God. They either imagined it, or it was a demon (fallen angel)--a satanic deception, II Cor. 11:14.
Why might Mary not have recognized Him? When you are crying, your eyes are bleary. Since she thought the man standing there was the gardener, she probably would only have given him a glance. Her expectation was of a dead body; don't our expectations strongly color our perceptions of reality? Have you heard the expression, "Perception IS reality"? How often do we treat our feelings as if they were facts--reality? If the world seems black today, it really IS black! Even though yesterday you were in a GOOD mood, and the world was great! Did the world really change, or did YOU change? Don't be deceived by your own moods, feelings, emotions.
Why were the angels surprised at her reaction? What did they know that she had trouble believing? Did she have enough facts to believe? The angels are watching us, I Cor. 4:9; do you think perhaps sometimes they shake their heads in wonder that we cannot see and believe what is right in front of our eyes, what Jesus has already told us that we refuse to believe, or don't pay attention to, or don't remember?
16-17 Does Mary understand and believe now? Can you imagine the thoughts and feelings that instantly overwhelm her? You can tell this account was written by a man; none of that is alluded to, just a terse account! If a woman had been telling this, 16 would have turned into several detailed paragraphs!
Some think this verse means that Jesus ascended to the Father, then returned, some time between here and when He appears to the others. Without hearing the tone of voice and inflection, it's hard to say. He could also be saying, "Stop clinging to Me, Mary! It's NOT like I've returned to heaven yet--although I AM going to eventually. I'm STILL HERE for awhile! Calm down! Now go and tell the others that I HAVE risen and I WILL be returning to God in heaven." The Bible does not say that He DID ascend at THIS time, but it is possible.
It's interesting that Jesus chose to appear first to Mary, not the disciples. This implies a close friendship. The currently popular book "The Da Vinci Code" erroneously assumes a marriage; the Bible leaves NO room for such a falsehood. It does leave room for the possibility of romantic attraction; Jesus was surrounded by women besides Mary Magdalene. How is Mary acting, 17? How do the disciples act in Mt. 28:9? Mary's first response does not seem to be rooted in worship. Some find this disgusting or heretical to think about, but what does Heb. 4:15-16 say? Isn't the male/female thing one of the most common and most difficult situations in the human experience? If Jesus had no knowledge of that temptation, this verse would be false. It was not wrong or disgusting for Jesus to be tempted in that area, nor wrong for us; it is only sin when we respond the wrong way.
Some claim that Jesus did not physically rise--only spiritually. Could Mary "cling" to a spirit?
18 The fact that He appeared to her first must have been something she cherished the rest of her life, but might it also have become a temptation to think of herself more highly than she ought? It's wonderful when God uses us or does something special for us, but we must then guard our thoughts. What does the second half of II Cor. 10:5 say--we are what? Can't we sin with our thoughts, even though we haven't said or done anything wrong? Aren't our thoughts as hard to control as our mouths and bodies?
Each gospel gives a somewhat different view of the events. We all know that everyone involved in an incident will give a different version of what happened, based on what interested and impressed them. Even if they initially appear to contradict, the full picture comes out once you have talked to enough people and asked enough questions. We need not wonder if these are contradictory. We have plenty of evidence that the Bible is without error, as it claims, Heb. 6:18/II Pet. 1:21.
The Schofield reference Bible gives this possible combined view: Three women (Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, Salome) start for the tomb followed by other women bearing spices. The three find the stone rolled away, Mary M goes to tell the disciples. Mary, mother of James, approaches the tomb, sees an angel. She goes to meet the other women. Peter and John, after meeting Mary M, arrive, look in and leave. Mary M returns, weeping, sees two angels, sees Jesus. He tells her to go tell the disciples. Mary, mother of James, returns with the other women, they see two angels, go to find the disciples, and are met by Jesus.
29-31 Who is Jesus talking about in 29? For those who have not seen Him, what evidence is our faith based on? There is a special blessing for us--those in the church age, those who did not witness the resurrection but believed in faith based on the facts and evidence. What might that blessing be? The church is the only group of believers who will be raptured--caught up to meet Him in the air, with those still alive spared from the horrors of the day of wrath that will immediately follow for seven years. Those who did not believe before the rapture will be left, but many of those will believe AFTER the rapture, because of what they witnessed. They did not believe in faith without having seen something first; they miss that blessing, and will have to undergo great persecution and probably martyrdom. So here again, Jesus alludes to and foreshadows the rapture, but does not overtly teach of it. He will reveal it later to the apostles through the Holy Spirit.
He speaks in the past tense, "believed." The Bible often uses the "prophetic past tense" when prophesying or speaking of future events; why? Does God operate in time the way we do? If God is eternal, is there a past, present, or future with Him? In John 8:58, did Jesus say "I was"?
Why were His first words of peace? How were they feeling? Along with their initial rejoicing, what opposite feeling might they have felt at the same time, realizing how they had all deserted Him? This reminds me of the conflicting feelings Joseph's brothers had when he finally told them who he was, Gen. 45:3-5. Why might it have been important to let the disciples see His wounds? If they had not seen them, might they wonder if this person is a look-alike imposter? Seeing the death-wounds on a live healthy body is irrefutable evidence. Did they now believe?
The disciples are the first true Christians--the first to be part of that new group of believers in the risen Christ called "the church." What four things does Jesus say to them, to the church? 1)Peace--believers have peace with God because their sins are paid for, and by trusting Him, have peace in this world no matter the circumstances. 2)They are sent to others--we are to share the good news. Israel was never "sent" to others; others who believed came to participate in the temple sacrifice under the Law. 3)They will receive the Holy Spirit; He does not come while Jesus is still physically present, John 16:7, but He comes in Acts 2. Each believer personally receiving the Holy Spirit is another new way God is dealing with man. This breathing of life--eternal life--parallels God breathing the breath of life into man, Gen. 2:7. 4)The church is the body of Christ on earth, so the church now is entrusted with His authority, compare Is. 22:21-22. Does this mean the church, or the disciples, can actually forgive anyone's sins? See Mark 2:7. Do we read anywhere in the Bible that a human can forgive sin? Because the rest of the Bible does not teach this, we know this is not what Jesus is saying. But the church--all believers--have the responsibility of letting others know that their sins can be forgiven; if we do not, their sins will be "retained." We can ANNOUNCE that once they have believed, they have forgiveness of sins. We can also announce that if they do not believe, their sins are not forgiven.
So often the message we give to others is "you need to give your life to Jesus!" We shrink from spelling out the need to deal with the sin problem. Does the Bible ever present salvation as "giving your life to Jesus"? Do we have anything to give Him? Isn't salvation about what He gives us? We need to be clear in the message we give others.
24-28 Thomas is often given a bad rap, being called Doubting Thomas. But what did Jesus do in 20 so the disciples would believe? Does this say or imply that Jesus WASN'T with them during those eight days? We are not told everything that happened. When Thomas sees Jesus, does he ask for that proof? Jesus seemed to know about his earlier words; wouldn't that have made an impact on Thomas too? What is Thomas's immediate response? Thomas is an interesting, honest character; he wasn't sure, so he didn't go along with the group, acting like he believed just to fit in, even though he wasn't personally convinced. He wanted more evidence; is that wrong? When he had the evidence, did he then make more excuses and continue in his unbelief? He immediately confessed that Jesus was God, and was HIS Lord.
Sometimes we are told we should never doubt--only believe. In one sense, doubting means to not exercise faith. We should always exercise faith in God. When we have the facts--God's Word--we should not be skeptical, REFUSING to exercise faith. But if we don't know or understand something, we may have HONEST doubts, as Thomas did. Jesus did not scold him, but gave him evidence. He worked with Thomas's doubt to encourage his faith, and Thomas immediately responded with faith, not skepticism. We can ask God to help us with our doubts.
When talking with skeptics, what fact proves who Jesus is? No one was ever able to produce a body; if Jesus had not really risen, producing His body would have stopped this new faith immediately. No other religious leader has ever risen from the dead or claimed that he would. The resurrection sets biblical Christianity apart from all other religions. (The term "biblical Christianity" is distinguished from the many other versions of Christianity popular today that only loosely believe or follow the Bible.)
29-31 Who is Jesus talking about in 29? For those who have not seen Him, what evidence is our faith based on? There is a special blessing for us. He speaks in the past tense, "believed." The Bible often uses the "prophetic past tense" when prophesying or speaking of future events; why? Does God operate in time the way we do? If God is eternal, is there a past, present, or future with Him? In John 8:58, did Jesus say "I was"?
Why did He perform signs? "Signs" is also translated "attesting miracles." What does "attest" mean? To prove something. So what was the purpose of all the miracles Jesus did? Did He come to bring healing to all, or all believers, from then on, as many claim today? Are all healed today who pray for healing, or who are told they are healed? I read yesterday that someone who was planning to go to a shrine where healings are said to take place for some people, hedged by saying, "Healings come in many forms." Everyone Jesus healed was instantly and completely healed.
The Gospels tell a few things that happened after the resurrection. We might wonder about what else Jesus did and said after His resurrection; are we told everything that He ever did and said? Acts 1:1-3 tells us a little more. What is the purpose of John's Gospel, according to 31? This could be considered the key verse in this book. Who does Jesus claim to be? What is the evidence for that, according to this book? His deeds, His words. Compare 19:35.
Why should anyone believe in Jesus Christ? Compare what John says in his epistle, I John; read 5:1,5,12-13,20. Many people hope they are going to heaven; they hope they are good enough or have done all the right things. Can we know for sure? What is the key word in these verses, and in the Gospel of John? Is salvation--eternal life--about what we do, or about WHO we believe in? What does it mean to believe in? Does it just mean to believe that there was such a person as Jesus? Does it just mean to believe that He was God in the flesh? Or does it include the belief that He paid for your sin on the cross?
All this is included in His name--Jesus Christ. "Jesus" was His human name, that people called Him by, because He lived on earth as a man. "Christ" is His title, meaning "Messiah" or "Anointed One," because He is the One that was promised in the Old Testament--the One sent from God, who would be God Himself, who would be the Lamb sacrificed for the sin of the whole world. So to say that you believe in Jesus Christ encompasses the belief that Jesus was both God and man, that He died for your sin, that you are a sinner in need of a Savior, and that He rose again proving He is indeed who He said He was. John also clarified this in the beginning of his Gospel, in 1:12-13; those who believe in His name have also received Him, personally appropriating this gift from God, and are then born again--born of God--becoming children of God.
1 & 14 Is this saying that this is the third time they saw Jesus since He was raised, or that this is the third time Jesus did something in their presence that specifically showed them who He was? Looking at the word in Strong's and seeing how it is used elsewhere in John and the New Testament, I think it is talking about showing them who He was. We know that John has only chosen to talk about a few miracles, to make certain points, rather than try to tell everything Jesus did. Otherwise, we may be wondering why He was only around the disciples a few times after the resurrection, and wondering what He was doing and where He was the rest of the time. Some have come up with amazing speculations about what He was doing. But I don't think that is the case. Following the resurrection, an angel predicted that Jesus would appear to them in Galilee, Mat. 28:7. This must be that appearance, which the disciples would have been eagerly anticipating. The Sea of Tiberias is the Sea of Galilee, John 6:1.
2-14 What were these men's occupations? Had they quit fishing completely when they became disciples? We don't know. Some say that here we see them falling back into their old ways as if they have given up on being disciples; that seems hard to believe since they are now witnesses of the resurrection. They may very well have been fishing from time to time to support their families; at any rate I don't think it is necessary to assume they are acting faithlessly here (although they MAY have been). Do we have to change our daily lives to be followers of Jesus? This is a trick question! In what way might the answer be yes, and in what way, no?
Remember that Jesus did something similar with Peter at the beginning of His ministry? Luke 5:1-11. What did Jesus show Peter through that event, 5:10? Why might Jesus do the same thing at this time? Might it be significant that in the first instance the nets broke, but this time the nets did not break in spite of the huge catch? What happens to the fish when the nets break? In fishing for men, what will be different now and in their future ministry, now that Jesus has been raised from the dead?
Why do you think they didn't recognize Him at first? It may have been quite dark, 4. 12 also implies that perhaps they weren't completely sure it was Him. Is His appearance perhaps slightly different now in His resurrected body? Could this have something to do with why Mary didn't immediately recognize Him in the garden, nor did the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? Or could it have simply been the distance? We don't really know. Might this mean that when we receive our resurrection bodies, we will still be recognizable as ourselves, but yet, slightly different? Who first recognized Him? When Peter and John looked in the empty tomb, who first believed, 20:6? John appears to be the more spiritually intuitive.
Why did Peter immediately swim for shore instead of waiting to go in the boat with the others? This could mean that they had NOT been around Jesus constantly since the resurrection, and that he was extremely excited to see Jesus appear. Peter tends to be impetuous and immediately act on his impulses. What does this tell us about Peter's feelings for Jesus? Do all Christians show the same level or expression of FEELINGS about Jesus? Why or why not?
Some say the 153 fish is a significant number; I doubt it because the Bible doesn't seem to give any clue to its meaning. I think it is just a factual detail. I think the important thing about 9-13 is that Jesus ate with them. Many have trouble believing that Jesus was actually resurrected, so they say He was only SPIRITUALLY raised from the dead, not PHYSICALLY. The Bible makes it clear that He was physically resurrected; a ghost or spirit does not eat food. Jesus ate food in front of eyewitnesses. Apparently when we have our resurrection bodies and are reigning with Christ on earth for 1,000 years in the kingdom, we will still eat food.
This is the last recorded miracle and the only one following the resurrection. Most of the earlier miracles were for the purpose of proving who Jesus was; now the resurrection has proved that. What might be the purpose of this miracle? Perhaps that obeying God, doing His will, brings great blessing? This miracle is not huge; does God ever do amazing things in our lives that seem miraculous? Why? Just as He used their fishing to get their attention and show them something, He can use whatever ordinary things we have or are doing to speak to us.
Jesus had fish on the fire, and bread; did He need their fish? Why would He ask them for some of their fish? Does He ever ask us to give Him something we have? Why--does He need it? Comparing 14 to Acts 1:3, it seems that Jesus probably appeared to them more than just these three times, but John chose to record these three specific events for us, just as he only recorded certain miracles.
15-17 What does Jesus want from us besides our belief in Him? Does He want a love that is just an emotional high? Why did Jesus die for us on the cross? So what does it mean to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?
A great deal is said in this short conversation if you read between the lines. Why does Jesus question Peter three times? What had Peter recently done three times? Did Jesus require Peter to face up to what he had done, or did He just smile and hug Peter and act like nothing had happened? Don't you think Peter probably felt like he had failed Jesus and was "washed up"? Jesus had not said anything to Peter when he denied him; now He confronts him and helps him to deal with his sin and failure. Each time Jesus questions Peter, He confirms to Peter that he is to continue serving. "Tend" is to feed, graze or keep; "shepherd" is to feed or tend with the emphasis on supervising or ruling over. Lambs would be new or immature believers; sheep would include the more mature ones also. This call to service, following the incident with the fish, enforces the idea that the fish incident was also about service--fishing for men. Why is it important that other disciples were present?
Two different words for love are used here--agape and phileo. Phileo is brotherly affection; it is reciprocal love. Agape is the love God has for us, and that He commands us to have for Him and for others, Mat. 22:37-38; it is an uncaused love, based on the character of the one loving, not the character of the one being loved. The first time Jesus asks if Peter loves/agape "more than these." Does Peter love/agape? Does he claim to love Jesus more than the others do? Didn't he brag that he would never desert Jesus, even if everyone else did? Mat. 26:33. What does Peter know about himself now that he didn't know then? So was it a good or a bad thing that this happened in his life? Why is Peter grieved about the last question?
Beware of bragging or of singing which brags of your devotion or obedience; do we really know our own hearts? Each time he answered, Peter said "You know." NOW he knows that he doesn't know, but that God DOES know his heart. Might God allow us to likewise fall on our faces so that we might learn what we are really like? If this happens to you, is it the end of the world? Because of his life before he believed, how did Paul feel about himself, I Cor. 15:9, I Tim. 1:15? So can God even take the worst thing you've done and bring some good out of it by humbling you? Is it good that we know how sinful we really are? If we have never fallen badly, we may be tempted to look at others who fall and say, "I'd never do that!" or "If they were REALLY a Christian they wouldn't have done that." This is pride; how does God feel about pride? Prov. 8:13, 16:5, James 4:6.
Peter later exhorts elders in the church to shepherd the flock of God, I Pet. 5:1-5. Identifying himself as their fellow elder, could Peter have been the first pope as the Catholics believe? Here we see the role of the leaders in the church; exercising oversight (Strong's: oversee, beware, look diligently). This does not indicate the idea of authority. Not "lording it over" again stresses not exercising dominion or authority over people. I Tim. 5:17 speaks of "elders who rule well"; rule, according to Strong's, has the idea to be in charge, to manage, to lead.
18-19 What does 19 say about Peter's death? I wonder what Jesus emphasized, if that last statement was "FOLLOW me!" or "follow ME!" How do you think Peter felt when Jesus predicted his death, then gave that command? Dread? Or excitement that Jesus would let him serve Him in spite of his previous failure? Willingness to die in serving Him to make up for his previous failure, and after seeing and understanding how Jesus died for him?
20-23 Typically, Peter just can't keep his mouth shut; he immediately follows up this heavy-duty conversation with another "blurt," as he often does. This time Jesus chides him, in effect telling him, "that's none of YOUR business, YOU worry about doing what I just told YOU!" Is God's plan the same for every believer? Can we know that God will do in someone else's life the same thing He did for you? I have had people tell me this with certainty. We can get side-tracked trying to figure out God's will about things He has NOT told us, and end up ignoring what He HAS told us about His will.
Do you think Peter continued to have a problem with his mouth, being too quick to speak, blurting, saying inappropriate things, even after he was filled with the Spirit? When we become believers, do our personality flaws instantly disappear? But might they get better and gradually disappear over time? How does this happen? Does this happen with ALL believers? Why or why not? Does God use people with flaws and sins? Will God answer all our questions? Is it His will that we understand everything? Sometimes we don't seem to get answers, but maybe God wants us to keep digging and thinking and eventually we discover the answer.
How did the falsehood about John get started? What happens when we repeat things with slightly different wording? Might this happen innocently OR purposefully? Might we add a certain tone of voice or facial expression to add our opinion to the information we are passing along, which may tend to flavor that information? Is it wrong to share or pass on information about others, or to inquire about others? At what point does this become gossip? What IS gossip? In talking about the problem of gossip in the church, the Bible mentions two types: 1)an idle busybody, a tattler, a meddler, overseeing others' affairs, busy in other people's affairs, to talk at length and to little purpose, chatter foolishly and without real understanding, speak boastingly and maliciously; and 2)a malicious gossip, a false accuser, a slanderer. The Bible speaks against both types of gossip. How can we share information without falling into either of these traps?
24 Does the Bible contain errors? How do we know? In many places the Bible claims to be true, to be inspired by God, even though written by men. Ps. 119:160, Heb. 6:18. If it is not all true, how can we know what parts ARE true? If it is not all true, but yet it claims to be true, is it a good or trustworthy book, or even a book worth studying?
25 Did John or the other writers attempt to record everything Jesus said and did? Were we given every detail about the events that are recorded? Why did they record the parts they did? Was anything left out that was important for us to know? Although penned by over 40 men, who is the author of the Bible? Zech. 7:12, II Tim. 3:16, Heb. 3:7-8, I Pet. 1:10-11, II Pet. 1:21.
Copyright 2004 Jan Young
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