Month: April, 2016

I Am the True Vine

 

John 15:1-11

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father….

Please pray with me…

One day as I was walking through the halls with my best friend Dana as friends together in a new school, we passed a room where they were having auditions for a play called “Tom Sawyer.” I had done some acting before as Amahl in an opera called “Amahl and the Night Visitors” at our local university and again as “Kurt” in their musical production of “The Sound of Music.” I figured it was a natural fit and Dana agreed to join me so we tried out.

Little did I know that would change my life forever. I would eventually go on to do several more plays and later do some directing in a Christian children’s theater group I had started. Even today, I continue to work with kids in drama.

I think my next step will be to do some playwriting. If I were to start with something from Scripture, our Gospel lesson would be a good source. First I would set up the scene of characters. Here we have Jesus, the Savior of the world alone with His twelve disciples in an upper room the night before His crucifixion. The atmosphere is think, sometimes with love, sometimes with apprehension and sometimes with betrayal. Jesus has loved His disciples and, as He nears His death, He comforts them.

The Father is foremost in His thoughts as he thinks of what He is to face the next day. But He is also aware this night of someone else, THE BETRAYER! Judas would not be a part of this ministry any longer because he had already made plans to be the villain in our story. He had rejected Christ’s appeal towards love and had chosen the way of the world with its riches.

All the other disciples were focused on Jesus. What is He really saying? Why does the tension linger in the air? They see that Jesus has changed somehow but they can’t quite figure out how or why?

Meanwhile Jesus is grieving. Grieving over the loss of someone He dearly loved who would soon turn Him over to be killed, and grieving with the knowledge of what the events of the next day would do to the other eleven until that day he would rise again to bring them back to joy.

All of these characters are also found in our metaphor of the vine and the branches. The vine is Christ who brings us the strength we need to survive. The Vinedresser is the Father, pruning the plant of those vines that show no life. The fruit-bearing branches represent the eleven who had not chosen the world and all true disciples of Christ to follow. And the fruitless, lifeless vines represent both Judas and all those who would choose worldly salvation after him.

Now to the story…The branches that show life are firmly connected to the vine and they are receiving the life building elements they need to bear fruit. These vines are securely fastened and, while they might be pruned, they will never be removed because their fruits will always be visible.

Some of the branches, however, wilt on the vine. They are connected but not very securely. These vines will eventually be removed and burned because they are of no use. They don’t have the life of the vine flowing through them so they bear no fruit. These are the Judas branches. They might appear to some to be of some use to the vine, but in the end it is only by appearance and not be deed.

Jesus is not introducing anything new with this drama. God has been seen as the vinedresser since His kingdom had been established at the very beginning of time. We see an illustration of this in Isaiah 5:1-7:

Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard.

What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?

And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!

Here we see that God had done everything needed to make Israel bear fruit but they would not accept the life-giving blessings needed to do so. So He took away its wall of protection and it eventually found itself trampled under the feet of foreigners and laid to waste.

But the Father didn’t leave it this way. He would never abandon those He loved. In Jesus He gave them the true vine. No longer will their blessings come from their covenantal relationship with the Father, fruits and blessings would now come through Jesus Christ His Son. Jesus would become the true vine. In Scripture, the word “true” is often used to describe what is eternal, heavenly and divine. His people are imperfect but Jesus is true.

I think Jesus chose the illustration of the vine, not simply because His father had used this illustration before Him but because of what the vine represents.

The lowliness and dependence of the vine on the vinedresser speak to Christ’s humility. It also beautifully shows the picture of something that is dependent and permanent with a unity that is vital and necessary. It is a symbol of belonging to something greater than oneself and of being wholly dependent on the source of all good things. And the branches belong entirely to the vine as we do to Christ.

Yet many can only see themselves fitting into this illustration if they look at the vines that will be thrown into the fire. They fail to depend on Christ and, instead, try to find their salvation in the things of the world. They’re tied to bank accounts and promotions, popularity and fame, relationships and fleshly desires. Worldy pleasures are their vine.

Still others see the church as their vine. They’re not so much interested in being connected to Christ as they are the church and what it might offer them. They play church but wither on the vine because their focus is askew. They attach themselves to a religious system and are often frustrated when the system lets them down. They ignore the bigger picture as they focus on the process.

Something else is also important to see in this image of the vine. Notice, that in the illustration of the vine, Christ is a plant but the Father is a person. Does this mean the Son is lesser than the Father?

Anyone who thinks that is missing the whole point. Here He is simply making a distinction between the roles they play in the drama.

The point is that the Father cares for the Son and for those who have been joined to Him as the supplier of the things they need for life both present and eternal. The Vinedresser is the one who decides between life and death, the vine is the one who gives them the gift of life.

But there will always be those who don’t accept the gifts they have been given through the vine. They grow with the fruit-bearing branches but they are carefully pruned so that the health of the vine and the fruit-bearing branches might be strengthened. From this pruning, other fruit bearing branches are added and the strength of the whole is sustained.

Jesus said that those who put their trust in Him are like mature branches that bear much fruit. Sometimes they need pruning but in the end they will always bear fruit because there is no such thing as a fruitless Christian. Sometimes you might have to look long and hard for even the smallest grape, but the fruit will always be there.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ to do good works, which God has prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” The fruit believers bear, are the good works they do from faith.  James 2:17 explains this relationship saying, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

In other words, if your faith is true as the vine is true, then your works, your fruits, will follow. Not that we are saved by the fruit but that the fruit we bear is evidence of the faith that we share.

Jesus said that a genuine believer could be tested by this principle. In Matthew 7:16-17 Jesus says:

You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.

John the Baptist knew this principle well also.  In Matthew 3:7-8 He judges the Pharisees and the Sadducees saying:

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

A lack of fruit in keeping with repentance meant that their repentance was not genuine. Those who only appear to belong to God but who show no proof in their fruit will be removed from God’s people unless their repentance comes back in truth.

We are warned many times and in very obvious ways in scripture that if we do not check our lives to make sure that our faith is bearing fruit, it could mean a lack of faith which could be followed by very serious consequences. This is serious people. A branch that does not bear fruit is pruned and burned. The discarded branches have no faith in them.

The Judas branches are false branches. They are people who associate themselves with Christ but don’t have Christ in them. They put on a façade of belief for purely selfish reasons. They appear to be connected to the branch but their association is only superficial. They do church but are not a part of the church. So the Father removes them.

In contrast, the Father treats the fruit-bearing vines with the greatest of care. Not that their lives become perfect, they do have to be pruned now and again when they fall short. In verse 2 Jesus says:

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

Sometimes the pruning, those things that we need to be corrected on or taught, can hurt, but they always come back to make us stronger in the end if we let them. The Vinedresser prunes the branches so they will bear better fruit.

In Palestine, vinedressers removed the shoots in different ways. Sometimes, just the tip was pinched off so the shoot would grow more slowly. I suppose this illustrates those of us who seem to hurry into things without really thinking things through. Sometimes the larger branches were shortened to prevent them from becoming too long and weak. This could be someone who needs to step back from their position of leadership to learn some valuable lessons.

At other times, unwanted flowers or grape clusters are thinned out. To me this illustrates those things we have that we don’t necessarily need and might even slow down our growth.

Pruning was necessary for the vine and its branches and it’s also necessary in our spiritual lives. The Father removes those things that hinder us like sin and the things that might limit our fruitfulness. In fact, the best way to be cleansed from some things is to allow the pruning to happen, even when it hurts. Sometimes when God allows suffering and other problems to come into our lives, it helps us to grow in ways we could never have grown otherwise. Sometimes it hurts and we don’t know what He’s doing and other times it might seem as if we’re the only branch being pruned. But the Vinedresser knows what he’s doing and in this we are to place our faith.

In the end, it only matters what we find ourselves attached to. If we attach ourselves to Christ, our benefits will be eternal. If our attachments are on other things than Christ, we might want to bring along some aloe vera for the burn.

The day after our scene, Christ would do for us what we could not do for ourselves. At the beginning of the climax to the story, He would hang on a cross and at its end he would rise again. All because we chose to stay attached to the vine. It’s not an easy thing to do, but, with a little pruning and a lot of prayer, we will all make it to the harvest.

See what I mean? This part of Scripture has all the elements of a good play. It has tension and drama. It has intrigue and excitement. It has devotion and betrayal. And it even has a love story between God and man. So, what part do you want to try out for? Amen.

 

Bible Study: John 15:1-11

 

Inn verse one is the final of the 7 “I Am” statements of Jesus. What were the others? John 6:35; 8:12; 10:7; 10:11; 11:25; 14:6

What is Jesus insinuating by using this term? Exodus 3:14

Who is the vine? Who is the vinedresser? Who is the branch? What is the duty of each?

What is the symbolic significance of the Vine imagery in the Old Testament? Deuteronomy 32:32-33; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 15:1-8; Hosea 10:1; Joel 1:7; Psalms 80:8-18

If Israel is the vineyard, where is the fertile ground where God planted her?  Exodus 3:8-9; 6:4; Deuteronomy 7:1.

How do these scriptures depict Israel as God’s ‘vine’ or ‘vineyard’? Psalm 80:8-19; Matthew 21:33-45

What is the fruit Jesus speaks of? Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 1:9-11

What happens to those that are not connected to the Vine? 1 Corinthians 3:12-15

Who are those who have been thrown away? Matt. 3:12; 25:41-46; John 15:22-24; Jude 5-7

How do we keep from being cut off from the vine? Matthew 3:8; 7:16-20; Luke 6:43-45; Ephesians 2:10; 5:9

What does Jesus tell us His Father does with fruit-bearing branches? Why does He do this? Vs.2

How are we pruned? 2 Timothy 3:16

If pruning is good for the plant, why do we fear God’s “pruning?” Hebrews 12:3-11

What does God promise to all who are fruitful? Isaiah 27:6; Hosea 14:4-8

How do we remain in Christ and why do we remain in Christ? What is the Father’s objective in all this?

How does Jesus describe the love he has for His disciples in verse 9? How is the Father’s love connected to Jesus’ love?

What is this mirror image supposed to tell us about Jesus’ love for His people, the love in which we are to abide?

How is Jesus’ love tied to our love?

I AM The Good Shepherd

 

John 10:11-18

There once was a shepherd that lived in the Scottish highlands. This shepherd had a daughter and he would take her with him when he went out on the moors to take care of the sheep. The thing that the little girl liked best was to hear the call of shepherd. His voice sounded so free and beautiful as it carried across the valley.
As the years passed the little girl became a beautiful young woman and went off to one of Scotland’s great cities–Edinburgh. It was there that she was determined to build a life. On her arrival, she would write back home to her parents every week. But as life began to take her by the hand, her letters soon dropped off in their frequency and soon there were none.
Rumors begin to filter back home to that shepherd and his wife that their daughter had started hanging out with some unsavory characters and they were having a very negative influence on her life. One day one of the boys from back home ran into her in the city streets and she acted as if she did not even know him. When the old shepherd heard this, he gathered a few things together and dressed in his rough shepherd’s clothes and went to the city to find his daughter.
For days on end he looked for her. He looked everywhere; the slums, the rows of houses, the markets, the taverns, and everywhere in between to no avail. So after all of this searching he became very discouraged with the thought that he had lost his daughter to the evil city.
As he started the long trek back home, just as he was on the outskirts of the city, he remembered that his daughter had always loved to hear the voice of the shepherd calling out to the sheep.
So he turned around and on this quest motivated by his sorrow and his love, he began to stalk the streets. His voice rang out the shepherds call. The citizens of the city all looked at him as if he had lost his wits. It wasn’t too long as he walked the streets of one of the degraded neighborhoods that inside of one of those houses, his daughter sitting among the vermin who had led her astray, heard his voice. With great astonishment on her face, she heard that call of the voice of the shepherd, the voice of her father calling out to her. She leaped up and rushed out to the street and ran into the arms of that old shepherd, her father. It was then that he took her back home to the highlands of Scotland and brought her back to God and to decency and modesty.

This is a moving example of what happens to those who can hear the voice of a shepherd. It was a voice his sheep would know well and they would trust that voice to lead them where they needed to go. His shepherd call could mean, “follow me to food” or it could mean “stay with me in danger.” In either case, it was the voice that brought peace. It’s no wonder, then, that Jesus would equate Himself to the shepherd. The people of His time knew shepherds well and they were very aware how important they were to the sheep.

It’s also understood why we, His people, would be called His sheep. Sheep are not the most intelligent of creatures, in fact, their down-right dim-witted. Without the shepherd they’re likely to walk off a cliff or get eaten by a wolf because they just don’t know any better. Without a Shepherd they tend to stray off into dangerous territory, finding themselves tapped with hungry wolves inching closer. Sound familiar?

The only difference really between us and the sheep is that we should know better. Our cliffs are those times we make one mistake too many. Our danger comes when we stray away from the Shepherd trying to find our own salvation only to find ourselves trapped by the devil in a place we don’t know how to escape.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Right after this statement is when he utters His next “I AM” statement, “I am the good shepherd.” So what makes for a “good” shepherd?

Well, good refers to someone who does thing well or, at the very least, right. Anyone good would have the kind of character that would warrant trust. A good person has no ulterior motives other than to do good. They have no hidden agenda’s or veiled ideas. They are good because that’s the right thing to be. What you see is what you get.

Jesus defines the Good Shepherd in the following verse saying:  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. (John 10:11-13)

So, why does it make sense when Jesus describes Himself this way? Well, first and foremost, Jesus was willing to lay His life down for us, His sheep. That’s the definition of being fully committed to the task of being a shepherd. The best shepherds were those willing to put themselves between the sheep in his care and the danger that stands against them. Jesus did this by wiping away sin and death, the two most grave evils that anyone can face. He was willing to make the greatest sacrifice of Himself so that we might live with Him forever, despite our own dim-witted actions. 1 Corinthians 7:23 warns us, “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.”

How do we become slaves of men? By counting on the things of man for our salvation. By listening to the Devil’s lie’s as he tells you to turn away from God. By replacing those things that God has placed in our hearts for things that fill our selfish desires.

Jesus has paid the price for His sheep and He protects them with a passion no earthly shepherd could match. At our Baptism, we were ushered into the greatest of families. It’s then that we became His, for life. And when they own something, the best shepherds take great care and expel much effort for those whom they have paid the price. They fully commit themselves to their sheep. Jesus has fully committed Himself to us to the point that it cost Him His life.

 

The people of the world are simply hired hands. They care little about the sheep. They want to know what’s in it for them. They have no investment in the flock other than using them for their own gain. They see the wolves of the world coming and they flee, leaving the sheep to their own defense.

We need to understand that those who want to be shepherds to you, other than Jesus, more often than not, will not and do not have your own best interests in mind. As soon as times get a little rough, they leave you high and dry. Their glittery exterior gives way to the darkness hidden within.

In 1 Timothy 2:3-4 God says through the Apostle Paul, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Jesus wants all people to come to Him. Not just the most holy or the most qualified. He has not picked out the choicest sheep, He even calls out to the ugliest of us with the same love. We all have the same Shepherd. The question you need to answer is whether you acknowledge Him? There will be many in your life who will want to lead you, who ask you for their trust but all-the-time have only selfishness in mind. Are you going to follow?

When that person tries to tell you there is a greater truth than God’s truth, are you going to listen? When they lead you to places you know you shouldn’t go, are you going to follow them? When they promise you the world are you going to fall for their lines? There is only one Good Shepherd, and that is Jesus Christ?

Jesus warned us that such people would prey on us. In Acts 20:29-30 Jesus says:

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

We see the result of this in our world today. People shouting praises for anything but God. Telling us that what was wrong is now suddenly right. People promising the world without the means to give it. People who prey on the weak for their own gain.

What is lacking so much is the faith and trust that people once had for God and His Son Jesus Christ. They have put their trust in worldly things for so long that morals have become relative and respect has become foreign.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd because, since the foundation was laid for the world, He has never changed. His call to something better than the world has never weakened. His love for His people has never dimmed. He knows us and our weaknesses. He knows when we are about to walk off that cliff or when we are in danger from worldly wolves.

He knows this because we are His and he is fully invested in us. People tend to give more love and affection towards those they know. That connection between us and our God will always be strong because He knows us even better than we know ourselves. That connection we have between God and ourselves through Jesus Christ cannot be severed. It can only be ignored. So, how is your connection?

On Tuesday night we’ve started a new Bible study on the Book of Jeremiah and it’s here that we read in the first chapter:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

What this says to me is that, from the very beginning of conception, we were claimed as Christ’s. From that first day, our relationship with Jesus started. Before we were even born, He was our Shepherd.

It was never to be a relationship of do’s and don’ts. It was a relationship claimed by the one who paid the price for us. It was about what had already been done. It was about the Good Shepherd eager to watch His sheep.

Jesus doesn’t look at our works and decide who gets the most protection. He loves each one of His sheep equally and without wavering. It is a relationship of faith and not of religion. If it were about religion, then we could all simply be religious and we would have nothing to fear. The Pharisee’s tried to make their relationship with God about their works of religion but Jesus said they were nothing but white-washed tombs, nice on the outside but filled with filth on the inside.

Our relationship with the Good Shepherd is one where we follow the example of His humility. He didn’t decide we weren’t worth the effort. He was not content to simply sit on His throne. He didn’t make rules that included only the best while ignoring the broken. He came in the form of the broken to save the broken.

Jesus knows and loves all His sheep and if He was willing to humble Himself that much, what should He expect from us in return? Do you have the faith and courage to allow Jesus to lead you? Do you love Him enough to always listen for His call in your life?

the last two verses in our Gospel lesson:

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Not only did Jesus do all that He needed to do to protect His sheep from sin and death, but He chose to. He was willing to face the greatest pain so we could receive the greatest reward. He knew that He was the one and only path to heaven, so he paid the price we could not pay so that the path might be clear to us.

He doesn’t force us to walk that path, because the love needed to make that journey cannot be forced. He knew that it had to be a decision we were willing to make for Him. He gives us the freedom to stray away from the flock, but once we do, He never ends His search for us. He never stops hoping that we will once again hear His voice.

Jesus Christ is “the” Good Shepherd, not simply “A” good shepherd. He is unique in character, The Greek word for “good” in this verse describes someone who is noble, wholesome, good and beautiful, in contrast to those who are wicked, mean, foul or unlovely. His is an innate goodness and a pure righteousness. As Shepherd of the sheep, He is the one who protects, guides and nurtures His sheep. Will you make the decision to follow Him? Amen.

Bible Study: John 10:11-18

What is Jesus implying when He calls Himself the Good Shepherd? Psalm 23:1-6; 28:8-9; 80:1; 95:7; 100:3-4; Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 31:10; Ezekiel 34:11-12, 23;.Verses 11,14,17

What are some things that show us that Jesus was a Good Shepherd? Mark 10:45; 2 Corinthians 5:21

Does “laying down one’s life” for others mean only physically dying for them? Explain

Name some other shepherds in Scripture? Exodus 3:1-6; 1 Samuel 17:34-35

What makes for a bad shepherd? Jeremiah 10:21; Zechariah 11:17; John 10:8

What would happen if Jesus had done the same?

What/who are some of the “wolves” in this world that we must be protected from?

What happens when a stranger calls the sheep?

What is a hired hand, and how might one act differently from the good shepherd? Why?

How do we come to “know” Jesus?

In what way are sheep an appropriate analogy of man? Isaiah 53:6

Explain the statement in verse 16, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.” Isaiah 56:6-8; John 11:51-52

Why is unity important? Ephesians 2:11-22

What does verse 18 harken to? John 19:11. What does this say about Jesus?

How is a pastor to be like a shepherd? 1 Peter 5:2-4

Jesus sets a high standard for a shepherd. Should qualifications for church leaders (sometimes called “under-shepherds”) be much higher than that of the “sheep” they lead?

Who else did Jesus say must become part of His flock, and how many flocks and shepherds would there be? Verse 16

Does this teach that all the denominations are acceptable to Jesus? Explain.

What power did Jesus have, and therefore what could no one else do to Him? Why does this make Jesus more worthy of love? Verse 18

What characteristics of a good shepherd are important to you?

What kind of flock are we to be?

“I AM The Light of the World”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Last week we studied why Jesus was right in calling Himself the bread of life. This is true because it is He who spiritual sustains us throughout all eternity. Today, we continue to study another “I AM” statement of Christ that is every bit as important. Today we study His statement, “I am the light of the world.”

We are going to start at the very end of the Gospel lesson for this morning. Here we see the response of those who were listening to this message of light where we are told, “As He was saying these things, many believed in Him.”

That is my wish for you today, that this message of Jesus’ amazing revelation of Himself would work in your heart to bring you to an even greater level of faith in Him. Because, without your belief in the Son of God, His light cannot guide you. In belief your path to heaven will radiate with light, making your path to everlasting life clear. In unbelief you have only darkness to guide you.

In fact, that is why Jesus came to this world, so that He might be our guide to a life spent eternally with Him.

In our lesson it was His Word that brought people to faith and today He shares that Word with you again hoping that the results will be equally beneficial.

Our lesson starts with the Words of God that will be our topic. He says, “I am the Light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Now this is a rather bold statement and we see that He doesn’t mention light again throughout this whole chapter. Rather, His next words are words of defense against the questions of the Pharisees because of these bold words. His words are both a justification for His claim and an illumination to His authority. He says these Words because He is not just speaking for Himself, but also for His Father in heaven. He is essentially saying that His testimony is true because His relationship with His father is true.

And though He doesn’t mention light again, He, by His rebuttal, is explaining His claim to be the light. Jesus is the light to Guide our way to heaven precisely by being one with the Father. That’s really the main theme of this text. That is what Jesus wanted His listeners to see and believe and treasure in their hearts and He wants us to benefit in the same way as we look back.

The first verse in our lesson is really a life-transforming kind of verse for believers. It’s here that we see Him for who He really is. He is giving you a major clue to your salvation.

His call to follow Him is a call to greater things that lead all the way to heaven. His promise of light grants all believers the benefit of His desire for us to pursue the truth in the glow of His glory and guidance.

He says, “If you follow me, you have me. You will have the light. I am yours. I am your Shepherd and your Sacrifice. I am your Living Water and Your Bread from heaven. I am your God and your light.

He connects the light with life, not just our short life here on earth but also our never-ending life with Him in paradise. At the very beginning of this chapter in John 1:4, John is describing Jesus when he says, “In Him was life and the life was the light of men.”  The life that Jesus shares with all believers is their light. His life provides that light. That is, we are blind in our darkness until Jesus shows us the way by His light.

Jesus is the light of the world. Now, we can look at the world and we can’t help but to see the darkness. That’s because the light of Christ only comes through belief in Him and, today, even in the community around us, His light has been dimmed by the cares of the world. Jesus says, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,” and we can see in the world that there are far too many who have not seen the light.

Jesus’ being the light of the world means that the world really has no other light then Him. If the world ever wants to benefit from the light, it has to make the decision to completely surrender to Jesus.

 

If we are to benefit from the light of Christ, we must make the same decision to surrender fully to Jesus because there is no other light to show the narrow path to the narrow gate that leads to heaven. What Jesus is saying is that He is the only light and that everyone needs the light He provides.

The Creator Himself has given this light and, from the beginning, it has always been this way. The world treats the light as if its foreign somehow and what I’m saying is that they treat Jesus this way. But Jesus was always in the plans for this world from the very beginning of time. He was with the Father and the Holy Spirit when the earth was formed and His light has shown ever since, though the world seems to have run from the light more than they’ve followed it.

And, because Jesus is the Light of the world, we know that, one day, this whole world will be filled with His light upon His return. There will be no more darkness. On that glorious day, the light will cover the world and everything will be what it was initially intended to be, without the darkness of sin and unbelief. It will be the kind of light that lets you see God.

Jesus says  a few chapters later in chapter 12:36, “While You have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”  You become a son or daughter of light by believing in Jesus as your Savior. When Jesus is your light it creates an atmosphere of adoption because, in believing, you have entered into the family of Christ. When He is your source for truth and wisdom, you share in the life He was so willing to give. You are begotten into the family of light, a light that will never dim or fade.

When others die, they will see eternal darkness, when Christians die, they receive the light of heaven.

His offer is extended to you, I pray you accept it. We see in verse 13 that the Pharisees didn’t when they say, “You are bearing witness about yourself; Your testimony is not true.” The hardness of the hearts of the Pharisees didn’t allow them to believe. This was the case from the beginning of their relationship. Back in chapter 5, Jesus says to the Pharisees, “If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true.” He is saying that His testimony does not stand on its own merits because it matches the testimony of Jesus from the father. Here again He makes this claim but we see the attitude of the Pharisees has not changed. They refused to believe.

Jesus defends Himself after this, not to make Himself look better, but to expose the truth for what it is. He uses this opportunity to explain why His Word is truth, by focusing on His relationship with the Father, and that relationship is crucial to seeing Him as the light of the world.

What’s unfortunate for even those of us who call ourselves believers, is that we too often trust only in the faulty light that the world gives. We see things that draw us away from God because they glitter so nicely and promise us everything. We run from God’s light and its requirements for the world’s light and its promise of acceptance and prosperity only to find that, behind the glitter, there is nothing but darkness.

The light that leads to salvation is always there but we miss its glow because we’re too invested in the glow of worldly things. The eyes of our hearts are blind to the light of Christ. “Seeing, they don’t see” as it says in Isaiah. The light that shines in the human eye is chosen over the light that shines in the human soul which can only be seen with the eyes of your heart.

Jesus responds, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.” In other words, “I came from God and I will be going to God.” Even though they had given themselves to God, the Pharisees were blind to the light because they didn’t know God past the laws he had provided. They were blind to the Messiah that had been promised because they were looking for a Messiah of their own design. They judged according to the flesh and that which is born of flesh is flesh. They were blind to the things that had been born of the Spirit. They needed, as Jesus told Nicodemus, to be born again.

If they would come to know Jesus as He desired, they would then come to know the Father as well but he tells them that they know neither. Their piety has deceived them and they have become lost in the law dominated atmosphere of their own making. What they miss is the grace.

Jesus warns that those who refuse to follow the light will eventually die in their sin. So, who’s light are you following?

If your answer is Christ, then how often are you following it? If your honest with yourself, do you sometimes get lost in the light that the world offers?

Sometimes it seems so hard to maintain that constant following isn’t it? At times we all fall off the narrow path to heaven because there is no light shining on it. Even in this, Christ gives us hope. When he says that we will die in our sins if we don’t believe, He is also saying that, if we do believe, we will live forever. Believe that Jesus and the Father are one and your eyes will be opened to see the light of the world as you receive Christ’s light that guides you. Believe in the promise of the resurrection and be born again into a new light that the world cannot withstand.

Jesus says over and over again in our passage that He is from the Father and then He speaks for the Father. If we trust in His Word, that allows His light to shine through us. If we abide in His grace and trust in His promises, others will see the change within us and want to share in that light.

When Christ was crucified, His role changed from teaching to saving. When he rose again He added to that our redemption and security.

In our text He promises to come again and He’s bringing the light with Him which will overcome the world’s deceiving light and from that day, His light will shine forever. There will come a day when the heartache and the broken promises of the world will be replaced with the light of Christ’s glory and what a day that will be.

Because He had promised you this day, we can be assured of the forgiveness He has won for us, even as we find ourselves repenting from the many times His light has been dim in our lives. Let us see Him and receive Him as the light of the world this very day and not die in our sins only seeing Him for what He is when its already too late. May God grant you the wisdom to bask in the light of Christ. Amen.

Bible Study: John 8:12-30

Where do we see the light of God in the Old Testament? Genesis 1:3-5; Exodus 13:21-22;     Isaiah 5:20, 9:2-4, 60:1-3; Psalm 27:1, 119:105; Proverbs 4: 18-19; Habakkuk 3:3-4.

What do these passages have to do with the light of Christ?

How is Jesus the light of the world?

What is so bold in Jesus’ statement that He is the light of the world?

How does knowing Jesus result in knowing the Father?

How is light like life and how is death like darkness, or how are the terms symbolic or similar to life and death?

The Pharisees challenged Jesus in verse 13 that he was appearing as his own witness and therefore his testimony was not valid.  Although we know none other was necessary, what other witnesses might Jesus have called upon in addition to the Father?

Who provided Jesus the validity of his testimony and any judgment he might pass? Why was it hard for the Pharisee’s to believe this?

In verse 19, why did Jesus answer the Pharisees question of “Where is your father?” with his reply “You know neither me nor my Father”?

What are the 4 truths Jesus states in verse 21? What did he mean by this?

What strikes you about the Jews’ focus in verse 22 on the truth “Where I go, you cannot come”?

What is Jesus really saying in verse 23?

Verse 24 contains the primary reason for Jesus’ conversation with the religious leaders. How would you explain the significance of this verse to someone?

When the Pharisees did not understand that Jesus was telling them about his Father, what 5 truths did Jesus offer them in verses 28 and 29? Why did He choose to answer in this way?

In verse 28, Jesus says that if we will “lift up the Son of Man” then we will know He is the Christ, the Son of God. What does it mean to “lift up the Son of Man”? How can we lift up Jesus in our everyday lives?

Based on the questions and doubts of the religious leaders, what is ironic about verse 30? What does this say about their influence?

How will the Pharisees die in their sin and has that anything to do with how many people today will die in their sin? What can we do about it?

“I AM the Bread of Life”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God, our Father…

Please pray with me…

Today we start a new series called, “I Am.” In this series we will cover the eight “I Am” statements. Usually when this series is done, it’s done in 7 weeks because Jesus describes Himself in this way seven times. In the last week, we’re going to describe God the Father’s time with Moses. Moses asked, “whom should I say sent me?” when God asked Him to go to Egypt to rescue His people and God told Him, “Tell them, “I Am” sent you.” That will be a nice opportunity to see all of these statements together to find out just what Christ was saying.

Today, we focus on Jesus’ description of Himself in John chapter 6. Here is where He says, “I am the Bread of Life.” I think it only proper to first speak on just what Jesus was saying by describing Himself this way.

Bread, as we all know, is a staple of life. It’s been the main food for thousands of years in almost every civilization. In fact, bread is such a basic food that it becomes synonymous for food in general. Many have often use the term, “breaking bread together” to indicate the sharing of a whole meal with others.

Bread also played a very important part in Jewish tradition and was an integral part of the Passover meal.

The Jews were to eat unleavened bread during the Passover feast and then for seven days following as a celebration of the exodus from Egypt.

Finally, when the Jews were wandering in the desert for 40 years, God rained down “bread from heaven” to sustain the nation.

All of this plays to the scene that is described in our Gospel lesson when Jesus uses the term “Bread of Life” to describe Himself. At the beginning of our Gospel lesson, Jesus is talking to the crowds who have followed Him to get something, namely a free meal, and He takes this opportunity to teach them.  He says, “Do not labor for the food that perishes but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him God the Father has set His seal”.  In other words, they are so excited about the prospect of having a free meal, they’re missing out on the fact that it is the Messiah Himself who would be their provider.

The crowd mentions their ancestors receiving the manna from heaven and it’s here that Jesus makes His statement:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.

For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” ……..I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.

Note this very important statement. By equating Himself to the bread, Jesus is really saying that He is essential for life, not physical life but spiritual life, their eternal life. He wants them to stop focusing on the temporal realm and to start thinking about what truly matters most, the spiritual realm. He is saying that He is the spiritual bread that brings eternal life.

As World War II was ending, the Allied armies gathered up many hungry young orphans. They were placed in camps where they were well fed. Despite their good care, however, they slept very poorly because they remained nervous and afraid. Finally, a psychologist came up with a solution. Each child was given a piece of bread to hold after he or she was put to bed. This particular piece of bread was just to be held – not eaten. The piece of bread produced wonderful results. The children went to bed knowing instinctively they would have food to eat the next day. That guarantee gave the children a restful and contented sleep.

It was faith that gave the children reason to rest better, the faith that they would soon receive something to sustain them. This was the kind of faith that Jesus wished those who were following Him to have.

Not faith in food that would sustain them for the moment, but faith in the food that would sustain them through eternity. Yet, their worldly needs made them blind to their spiritual needs and, because of this, the people could not understand Him.

The crowd showed their worldliness by thinking that it was Moses who provided for their ancestors. This is why they ask of Jesus to provide in the same manner. Not because He had the power of God but because they perceive Him to have the power of Moses. They follow, not because they want to hear the words of eternal life but because they think that Jesus can give them something to sustain them in this life.

We witnessed this same kind of mistaken identity when we celebrated Palm Sunday a couple of weeks ago. There the people cheered because they were hoping Jesus would be the great military leader that would save them from Roman oppression. What they missed is that He came to be their savior for all eternity. They were so engrossed in their current physical condition that they had lost any focus they might have had on their spiritual condition. When Jesus didn’t turn out to be the person they were looking for, they cried “crucify Him.” Little did they know that Jesus had come to free them from an oppression much greater, the oppression received from sin and death.

Bible commentator Ravi Zacharis writes, “Jesus’ words were intended to lift the listeners from their barren, food-dominated existence to the recognition and acknowledgement of the supreme hunger of life that can only be filled with a different bread.

Food and power blind the mind to the need for nourishment and strength of the soul.

Unfortunately, many fail to pause here long enough to really hear what Jesus is teaching and understand the life-transforming power contained in this truth.

It’s, again, easy to judge this crowd following Jesus and wonder why they were so short-sighted…. but would we have been any different? If we’re honest, most of us would have to say that we focus more on our worldly existence than they do on our eternal existence. We work for a living, most of us, to provide for our lives right here and now. Our relationships are built around our more immediate needs than they are our future eternal needs. Most of our money is spent on things to make our temporal world more bearable, not on making our eternal future more secure. We are just like they were and, for us, Jesus would have the same advice.

And because we focus our lives on more worldly needs, we get caught depending on the world to satisfy us more and more. It’s said, “Money can buy you a house but not a home, it can buy you an education but not wisdom, it can buy you a bed but not a restful sleep, in can buy you influence but not respect, it can buy medicine but not health, a spouse but not love, quiet but not tranquility.

Because we settle for the bread of the world instead of the Bread of Life, we find ourselves dependent on the world to sustain us. Despite the failure of money, power, sensual pleasure, drink, drugs or a myriad of other glittering things to sustain us, we continue to depend on them for a portion of our hope. They promise peace and happiness but they can’t deliver.

We scramble and crawl to find meaning without Christ only to find that the god’s of this world cannot provide what Christ has promised to you. Our need for immediate satisfaction has numbed us to the needs we have for a pure and perfect hope in something greater than this world.

We even see this in our politics. Russian sociologists have written recently that some of the contributing failures of Soviet communism were widespread despair and alcoholism among the Russian people. Replacing God with the state and illusory hopes of some kind of utopia cannot ever satisfy the human heart. Many of our young people want us to venture into socialism because they perceive that they are not getting enough. What they fail to see is that the more they get the more they will want. It’s our natural human condition. It’s happened time and again to many of the greatest civilizations who are now a shell of what they once were because they could not sustain the entitlement attitudes they had created.

The more we depend on the world to satisfy us, the less we depend on God. Jesus knew this and was saddened when His advice fell on deaf ears.

The people said to Jesus in verse 34, “Sir, give us this bread always.” They said this because they still didn’t grasp the enormity of the problem and the importance of Jesus’ revelation. They didn’t understand that He doesn’t give it, He is it, and to have it always, you must have Him always. And because they didn’t get the answer they wanted, we see later in the chapter that they grumble and fall away. Jesus offered them what they truly needed but they perceived he fell short of providing what they wanted.

When I was a child, I was under the illusion that my parents existed for one purpose, to provide for me and to make me happy. When that didn’t happen I pouted. Now that I look back, I see how selfish I was because they did supply everything I truly needed, even if they didn’t provide everything I wanted. Since then, I have seen this same attitude in my own children and they will most assuredly see that same attitude in their own children. We get our wants and our needs all mixed up until we reach a certain maturity, hopefully one day we come to understand the truth.

This has everything to do with our spiritual maturity also. It’s time for most of us to grow up. Spiritual maturity begins with the end of us and the beginning of Christ. Our maturity comes in the understanding that our purpose in this world is not about us. It’s about serving our neighbors as the hands and feet of Christ. When Moses was sent to rescue His people, it wasn’t about Him. When Abraham was called on to sacrifice his own son, it was not about Him. When David was asked to face the giant, it was not about Him and when you are called on in the name of God to face other giants it should not be about you.

As long as you and I continue to delude ourselves by thinking we know what’s best for us, all the while demanding our rights and our wants, we will never come to Christ and accept the bread He is offering because we will have become spiritually impoverished, blind, wounded, lost and alone.

When Jesus Christ calls Himself the, “Bread of Life” He does so not to gloat.

He does so to show us the way to true eternal freedom and happiness which can only come through Him. He offers you bread that will sustain you for all eternity. Bread that never stales or grows old because it is being renewed every moment. The same promises that Jesus was offering them then, he offers to you right now. He offers you the bread that only He can provide, the bread that will sustain you throughout this life and life eternal.

Jesus says, “I am the Living Bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Jesus died so that you might have this holy bread. He died so that you could one day join Him at the great banquet table in heaven. To obtain everlasting life, we must be willing to partake of the bread that Jesus is offering us. We must surrender our fight against Him and welcome Him into our lives. All of Him. All of His teaching, His guidance, His passion, His cross and resurrection and His commands on His terms and not our own.

Should we do this, he promises much greater things than this world could ever give you. He is offering you a kind of bread that transcends anything the world could ever offer you. The bread that Jesus offers cost Him His life, yet He was glad to do it because he knew that only by eating that bread could we graduate to everlasting life.

To receive this bread means to believe in and submit yourselves to Jesus Christ. We are to work, not for the food that spoils but for the food that endures to everlasting life.

The crowd replies, “What must I do to do the works of God?” And Jesus tells them, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He sent.” It is faith in Jesus Christ that saves you, faith in all of Jesus.

We must submit on His terms alone. If we succeed, the blessings are as endless as His love for us. Partake in the Bread of Life. Share in the blessings this kind of diet can offer you. Jesus said, I am the Bread of Life. Find your sustenance in Him. Amen.

 

Bible Study: John 6:27-51

What are the “works of God” and how are they done?

If the work God wants us to do is to believe in Him whom He sent, does it mean that God is unconcerned about what we do for Him?

What are the people really saying when they inform Jesus that their fathers ate manna in the wilderness? Psalm 105:40

Jesus attached a second meaning to both the bread He provided and the manna Moses gave the Israelites. How would you explain that second meaning? Isaiah 55:1-2

What is manna? Exodus 16:1-36; Numbers 11:4-9; Deuteronomy 8:1-3,16; Nehemiah 9:15-21; Psalm 78:21-24

Why is Jesus worthy of our confidence? Verses 35-38

Why did the people miss what Jesus was really trying to teach them?

What is really important in life? Romans 8:5-8, 12:1,2; 2 Corinthians 8:5; 10:3,4; 4:16-18; John 6:63; Luke 12:15-21; Colossians 3:1,2; Matthew 6:19-33; 10:34- 39; 16:24-27; 1 Timothy 4:8; 6:6-19.

Is it proper to work for the bread that will sustain you in this life? Ephesians 4:28;                          2 Thessalonians 3:10

So when do the works that sustain us in this life become something that do not any longer glorify God?

Is faith a work according to this passage? 1 John 3:23; 1 Corinthians 15:58

Why were the people looking for a sign when they had already seen other signs?

If they didn’t believe the first time, would they believe a second time a miracle was shown?

In what way is Jesus like bread? Matthew 6:11; James 1:17

What does God provide that we need in order to have eternal life?

Jesus said in verse 38 that He came down from heaven, not to do His own will but the will of Him who sent Him. Does this mean Jesus was subordinate to the Father?

Why did the Jews doubt Jesus’ divinity? Verses 41-42

How do we feast on the bread that leads to everlasting life?

In what ways do people today look to Jesus like the people did then?

In what ways is Jesus living up to His title, “Bread of Life” today?