Thu 28 Jun 2012
This Week’s Readings
Monday, June 25: John 1:1-3
Tuesday, June 26: John !:4-3
Wednesday, June 27: John 4-6
Thursday, June 28: John 7-9
Friday, June 29: John 10-12
Next week we will finish the Gospel of John, then cover more Psalms and Proverbs on Thursday and Friday.
The overall year’s plan is here.
Yesterday’s post was 4,000 words. May God grant me grace to keep today’s shorter!
Jesus’ brothers did not believe at this point. James and Jude, however, both became believers later because both wrote letters that are in our Bible. It’s pretty likely, in my opinion, that it’s the resurrection that did the job of bringing them around. 1 Corinthians 15:7 tells us that he appeared to James after he rose from the dead.
Verse 17 says something very interesting and of great importance today. "If anyone is willing to do his will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or I speak from myself" (NASB).
Today we have a lot of confidence in our Bible interpretation. Study the Bible, we think, and we’ll know whether the teaching is of God. No, the issue is whether we want to do the will of God because it is God himself who teaches us and protects us from those who want to seduce us spiritually(1 Jn. 2:26-27).
In verse 24, we find that Jesus does not want us to never judge. He wants us to judge with righteous judgment. We quote Jesus from Matthew 7:1—"Do not judge, lest you be judged"—and often we interpret that to mean never judge.
That’s impossible. Judgments must be made. How will we avoid false teachers if we do not judge who the false teachers are?
Paul rebuked the Corinthians for not judging a man who had committed a particularly heinous sin. He wrote, "I … have judged already, as though I were present, the one who has done this deed" (1 Cor. 5:3).
In verse 27, there’s a couple good theories as to why the Jews were saying that they shouldn’t know where the Messiah was from. The first is that the Jews had a theory that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, then disappear for a while to somewhere unknown before returning. There’s an explanation of this based on Song of Solomon 2:9 at this site.
The same site has Gill’s explanation—and he references rabbinic writings—that the rabbis interpreted Genesis 4:25, where Eve refers to her son Seth as "another seed," to mean that the Messiah would come from "another place," and that place would be unknown. (Gill’s commentary seems to suggest that the Jews had some idea that the Messiah should be born of a virgin based on Isaiah 7:14, which I do not believe is true.
In human words, Jesus does not answer their charge. In fact, he agrees with it, though he may not have cared about their tradition that the Messiah’s place of origin shouldn’t be known. He admits, "You both know me and know where I am from" (v. 28a, NASB).
Spiritually, though, he utterly refutes their charge, but they completely miss it. He says, "I have not come of myself, but he who sent me is true, whom you do not know" (v. 28b, NASB). The place of origin that they don’t know is the Father! "I know him, because I am from him," he says (v. 29, NASB).
I don’t suppose I have to explain the answer to the Pharisees’ question about where Jesus is going to you. He went first into the bowels of the earth—Hades, the place of the dead—to preach the Gospel to the dead and to the "spirits in prison" (1 Pet. 4:6; 3:19). Then he would rise again and ascend into heaven.
Verses 37-39 are one more set of verses we need to consider whether we believe. Are we spiritual sons of God, recipients of the grace of God and partakers of the New Covenant? If so, then we have rivers of living water flowing from our innermost being! If we will set our mind on spiritual things and not block the flow of that river, we will affect every room we walk into and every person we encounter … whether we say anything or not.
In verse 40, some suggest that the Christ would surely not come from some backwoods place like Galilee. However, Galilee—the tribal territory of Zebulun and Naphtali—is most certainly mentioned as an origin place for the Messiah:
The darkness shall not be like it was in her [i.e., Israel's] distress, when he formerly lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward afflicted her more grievously by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them the light has shined. (Isaiah 9:1-2)
By the way, the reason that the Jews knew the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem was because of a very clear prophecy in Micah 5:2.
In verse 46, officers sent by the Pharisees don’t arrest Jesus because of the way he spoke. It’s a pleasant verse that moves our hearts, but it frustrated the Pharisees. They claim that none of the rulers believe in Jesus, but of course we know that Nicodemus and "many" others believed secretly (Jn. 12:42). Terrifying people into being afraid to admit they believe does not mean that no believers exist.
Finally, they argue to Nicodemus that no prophet comes from Galilee according to the Scripture. (Of course, the Scripture didn’t prophesy any other prophet nor city they were from, either.) They are correct. The Scripture does not prophesy a prophet from Galilee, but a "great light" from Galilee.
We have to address this passage because hopefully it will affect the way we look at the Bible. We believe in the inspiration of Scripture, but inspiration has taken on some strange meanings in the modern age. We modern, western, and civilized people like our information straightforward, categorized, and with all loose ends tied up. God never provides that. If you don’t believe me, just keep your eyes open as you walk with God.
John 7:53 (the last verse of chapter 7) to 8:11 is probably the most disputed textual passage in the Bible. The note in the New International Version, one of the most popular modern Bible translations, says:
The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53—8:11. A few manuscripts include these verses, wholly or in part, after John 7:36, John 21:25, Luke 21:38 or Luke 24:53.
On this page, a discussion by Samuel P. Tregelles gives an excellent exploration into the early church fathers use—or rather lack of use—of this passage.
NotJustAnotherBook.com has a very honest but positive evaluation of the passage. Between this link and the one in the passage before, you’ll learn more about the textual evidence for this passage than you will ever have wanted to know.
However, the web page that was easily my favorite was by James Patrick Holding of tektonics.org. He suggests that the passage was originally written by Luke, but that it didn’t make it into Luke’s final cut, perhaps even because of lack of room on the final scroll.
If the idea that our English version of John might have a story that is not original to John bothers you, then you better find a way to deal with it. An argument could be made that this passage was originally in the Gospel of John, but the argument would be very weak. On the other hand, in the first letter of John is a verse for which no argument at all can be made that it is original. That verse is 1 John 5:7, and there is no doubt it was added later. It has no Greek manuscript support whatsoever except a forgery that was made specifically to get the verse included in Erasmus’ third revision of the Textus Receptus. Erasmus knew it was a forgery, so he took it out of his fourth edition. Ironically, though, the King James Version of the Bible was based on Erasmus’ third revision.
The web pages I link above seem agreed that there are some specific things about the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman that make it ring true and sound like an eyewitness story. For example, the testimony that Jesus wrote on the ground without an explanation of what he wrote, is the kind of thing a real eyewitness would give that a storyteller would probably not give.
Several of them suggest that the early churches were worried that the story might make it look like the church was lenient about adultery, and that is why it was not more well known in the early churches. (Origen, for example, doesn’t seem to even know about it in A.D. 225. His commentary on John jumps straight from John 7:52 to 8:12.)
The story is important, but it speaks for itself. Now that I’ve talked about the text, I’m not going to comment on the story because it’s so clear.
How does one keep a commentary on John 8 short?!
We’re going to go light on the commentary here even thought it’s so tempting not to.
In verse 24, Jesus tells the Pharisees that unless they believe that "I am," they will die in their sins. The NASB has a note that says, "Most authorities associate this with Ex 3:14, I AM WHO I AM."
Some Bible translations will have "I am he" in that verse, but the Greek only has "I am."
If there’s any doubt that Jesus was referring back to Exodus 3:14, he will erase it in verse 58, but let’s get there first.
In verse 28, know that whenever Jesus mentions the Son of Man being lifted up, he is talking about his crucifixion. Knowing this makes me a little nervous about singing songs about lifting Jesus up from the earth, knowing that was Jesus’ terminology for being crucified, but perhaps we are right in assigning that phrase a double meaning. As we exalt him with our worship and the preaching of Gospel, he draws all men to himself (see Jn. 12:32).
Verse 34 is a strong verse. "Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin" (NASB). The last half of Romans 6 argues the same thing. Those who say that we can live however we want and go to heaven if we believe in the atonement are deceived about this. The point of the Gospel is to set us free from our slavery to sin, and if we are still practicing sin, then we are still slaves to sin. The truth will set us free!
We must pursue holiness and strive against sin (Heb. 12:4,14). It is not necessarily a simple thing. We must believe. We must walk by the Spirit. We must discipline our body (1 Cor. 9:27). We must not make provision for the lusts of the flesh (Rom. 13:14). We must look for the way of escape that God provides from temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). We must exhort one another (Heb. 3:13). We must restore each other with spiritual words (Gal. 6:1), give thought to how to provoke one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:24), and help bring about conversion when one of us "errs from the truth" (Jam. 5:19-20). Finally, we must diligently add to our faith, and thus be growing in our faith (2 Pet. 1:5-11).
It sounds overwhelming, and indeed it would be impossible if we were not spiritual children of God. As it is, we can believe, and we will find grace to be growing in all the things above, then rushing to the throne of grace for mercy and grace at the points where we stumble on the path to the fullness of the life of Christ.
We should learn from verses 39-47. Far too often we waste our breath and our reason on those who are completely deaf. They are not of God, and God has no intention of letting them hear our words. Jesus didn’t do that. He told them their condition straightforwardly, explaining that they were children of the devil, that they would die in their sins, and that they were not of God. The one that is of God hears the words of God, Jesus tells us. That is not just true when Jesus was speaking 2,000 years ago. According to John’s letter, it is true when Jesus speaks through us as well (1 Jn. 4:6).
We must remember that Jesus said not to throw that which was holy to dogs (Matt. 7:6). And, by the way, we can only know who the dogs are if we judge, though we must judge with righteous judgment.
In verse 51-58, Jesus finally begins to speak clearly enough about himself to enrage the Pharisees and have them charge him with blasphemy. They even attempt to stone him. His statement in verse 58 is clear. He is the great I Am who appeared to Moses (Ex. 3:14) and Abraham and judged Sodom and Gomorrah by calling fire down from his Father in heaven (Gen. 19:24).
Sigh … I have not kept this short, but I should add one more thing. One early Christian, one of the most well known and respected Christians of the late 2nd century, who started several churches in Gaul among the Barbarians and was eventually martyred, used John 8:57 to argue that Jesus had a ministry that was over ten years long and that he was at least 40 when he was crucified. Why, he argues, would the Pharisees have said he was less than 50 years old when he was only 33 years old? Wouldn’t they have acknowledged as few years as possible and said, "You’re not even 40 years old," if Jesus was only 33 or so? (Irenaeus, Against Heresies II:22:4-5).
In all of church history, there is no one else who suggests such a thing, but it was so interesting that I thought I ought to pass it on.
The story of the blind man speaks for itself. It is a great story, full of powerful lines from the healed man to the Pharisees. It’s rewarding and satisfying for a Christian to read. This man is brave and speaks up. Everyone who reads the story loves him.
I want to touch on just a couple things.
In verses 4 and 5, Jesus says he is working while it is day. The night is coming. Then he adds, "While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world" (v. 5, NASB).
What about when he is not in the world?
I want you to remember our discussion of Genesis 1 and its spiritual application. The sun and moon are not called the sun and moon when they are created. They are called "a greater light" and "a lesser light." One rules the day; the other rules the night.
Jesus is the sun of righteousness that rules the day. He was shining when it was still day, but he tells his disciples that night is coming. He’s the light during the day because he is the sun. When the night comes, there will be a lesser light, but it will rule the night.
That lesser light is the church, and the moon is a perfect picture of the church. It does not have its own light. It reflects the light of the sun/Son. The light the church produces waxes and wanes, though unlike the moon, we have control over how much light of the Son we reflect.
The picture Jesus paints here goes very deep and is covered by many Scriptures. Jesus says that he is the Light of the world while he’s in the world. Ephesians 5:8-14 explains that now we are the light of the world. Matthew 5:14-16 tells us the same. Romans 13:12 says that we are far into the night, so we must cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Finally, in verse 41, we see that Jesus gives preference to those that admit they are blind over those who assert in their arrogance that they can see. This reminds us of the tax collector in the temple who beat his chest over and over, asking for the mercy of God (Luke 18:10-14). Jesus said he went to his house made righteous.
Of course, we all know this, but we do not always consider that we may be the arrogant Pharisee rather than the repentant tax collector! Are we looking to learn? Or can God teach us nothing because you can’t add water to a full cup?
In Isaiah 50, the prophet is clearly prophesying about the Messiah, and he has even the Messiah—Jesus, the Logos of God—saying, "The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of the learned, so that I would know how to speak a word in its proper time to the one that is weary. He awakens me morning by morning; he awakens me to listen like one who is taught" (Isaiah 50:4).
Even the Messiah loved to learn from God.
Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but the one who hates reproof is foolish. (Prov. 12:1)