15.2 John – Waiting = Following = Waiting

Waiting is hard.  We want things and we want them now.  We take on great amounts of dead so we can get things we want now and pay for them later.  We want desert first, payment in advance.

If we wait we might miss out.  What if it is all gone?  What if we can’t get ours?  Advertising hypes scarcity simply to feed on this fear that we have.  Quantities are limited, for a limited time only.  We go for it even when it isn’t something we really want.

But this is not God’s way.  Our God is not a God of scarcity; He is the creator of all.  Our God never runs out.

But waiting is still difficult.  We run ahead and pray for God to catch up with our plans.  We dart into danger and pray for protection.  Our definition of being a follower of Christ, too often, is that Christ is following up and cleaning up our messes.

But what Jesus demonstrated was different.  He demonstrated waiting for God’s timing.  He knew what was going to happen and how it was going to happen, but He didn’t know when and He waited.  We see this same aspect of Jesus in regard to His second coming.  Even He does not know the time, but the Father does.

Notice, though that waiting for God’s time did not leave Jesus to idleness.  He continued doing the work He had been doing every day.  He wasn’t stuck while waiting, He was working while waiting.

And, very importantly, He waited in peace.  One of our greatest challenges in being a witness to others is that we act, too often, like the rest of the world.  We are unsettled.  We rush about.  We are busy, busy, busy.  Over and over again, we are called to peace and joy.  We are to do our work diligently as for the Lord, but that does not mean to panic and rush around in a flurry.  Our focus should be on those around us and witnessing to them, not checking tasks off of our to do list.

Where in your life are you praying on the fly, because you have flown off the handle?  Where are you asking God to catch up, when you’ve rushed ahead?  Where do you have anxiety and stress because you are focused on doing, doing, doing, going, going, going?  Where have you decided the right path and timing before prayer, instead of after?  What would your life look like if you measured your day by the people you witnessed to rather than the tasks you checked off?  What would your life look like if you prayed peacefully instead of panicked prayer?

My Answers:

3.
a.
Because He knew that He would be performing a miracle to bring Lazarus back to life and demonstrate His authority over death.

b.
Because it can open others eyes to the attributes of God and the joy and comfort of faith and trust

4.
a.
Because he loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  Because he waited for the correct time to go

b.
Yes, with situations with our children.  In hindsight I see that God had something bigger and better in plan than my quick solution.

5.
Those who walk in the light (stay in God’s will) do not stumble.  This does not mean it is an easy walk, but it does mean we are protected and secure.

John 14.5 John – Do you want there to be a God?

So, here is the deal, if God is God then you are not god. If God is in charge, then you are not in charge.

I know that seems pretty basic and straight forward, but, let’s face it, this is probably the biggest stopping point for non-believers. Sure it gets masked in lots of other excuses, but it all comes down to who is in charge.

The biggest hang up the Jews had with Jesus is that He was not following them. He wasn’t doing what they expected him to do. If he was supposed to be the “messiah”, then he had better quit with all the healing and teaching and get on with kicking some Roman behind and put them in charge of stuff. He needed to get with the program and skip all this eternal life stuff – we’ve got enough things right now to worry about without bringing up eternity. Right?

But, he was the Messiah, the savior, the promised one. And as the good shepherd, his place was to lead not follow. The only one Jesus followed was His Father and He did that flawlessly and consistently.

When they asked the question, it wasn’t to get an answer, it was to get Jesus to get with the program and do his part. They recognized he was “something”, but, obviously, he couldn’t be God, that would be blasphemy to say a man was God, and he sure wasn’t acting like the messiah they had planned for. So what is he, a demon? Something else?

Like too many of us today, they made up their mind and then they asked questions. When the answers to the questions didn’t fit what they had decided, the one providing the answers was wrong, very wrong, demonically wrong. And, the response was not to reconsider their preset mindset, but to attack the one providing the answers.  Because the alternative was to admit that they/we are mistaken. The alternative would be to admit that we are not in charge, we cannot save ourselves. It does not matter how well we know and practice CPR or any type of medicine, we are not going to bring ourselves back to life from the grave. The only one who can offer eternal life, anything other than this temporary few years on this rock in the universe, is someone who has it to give. That rules out every human and leaves only a god. And only Jesus, the son of God, who is eternal himself participating in creation itself, has ever offered eternal life as a gift.

So, here are the two simple questions: Do you want there to be a God? What gift does your god offer to you?

My Answers:

11.

His works, done in His Father’s name, testify about Him – Jesus and the Father are one – He is God. They did not believe because, (1) they assumed they were “in” already, but by not submitting to Jesus they weren’t (2) they expected the Messiah to follow them

 

12.

Eternal life so they shall never perish. No on can snatch them from His hand. We have the confidence in the gift of eternal life and the comfort and reassurance that it cannot be snatched away. We are Jesus’ sheep and Jesus is one with the Father God.

13.

To stone him for blasphemy. He is claiming to be God – by definition he is either God or committing blasphemy. They refuse to consider that He might actually be God because He doesn’t look or act like their view of God. He does not act like them and they believe they are closer to God than anyone else.

 

14.4 John – All sheep

This is not a game. It is not a confrontation. We are not on different teams or different sides.

As Christians, we naturally identify with other Christians. We share common beliefs. We have the same values, rewards, Savior, Guide, Redeemer, God and Word. We operate from the same playbook.

But, non-believers are not on the opposite side or the other team. They, like us, are just sheep. Period. They may be sheep of different color. They may be sheep of different breeds. They may be mountain sheep or wooly sheep. They may be in different pens and they are undoubtedly following another shepherd (even if that shepherd is just another sheep, or even themselves, dressed up to look like a shepherd).

We are not against the other sheep. They are just sheep. We should invite them into the proper pen. We should tell them and show them by the way we live, what it is like to have a good shepherd, one who loves and cares for us. We should help them hear His voice calling their names.

But, they are covered in mud. They have all this sin in their life, these bugs and pests and stuff. Do we really want that in our neat little pen? But, the truth is the only way to get clean is to come through the gate. In a world filled with mud, you cannot clean yourself, you just make things worse. But when someone accepts the call and comes through the gate, that is Jesus, it is like entering through a car wash. Their sins, just like ours, are washed away, we are given new clothes and a new life that last forever.

To the Jews of Jesus’ day, you and I would be the enemy, the other team, the unclean, the ones not to be touched or talked with and avoided if at all possible.  But to Jesus, we are all sheep and, as the good shepherd, even while we were dirty and covered in filth and sin, even then he gave his life for us.

What other sheep in the world are you seeing as opponents rather than fellow lost sheep?

My Answers:

8.

Lay down His life for the sheep (and take it up again, v.17).  His death on the cross.  What will I do? REJOICE, accept the gift (recognizing I did not earn it in anyway and no part of it is up to me) and share the good news with others.

9.

I believe this means the gentiles and any who today do not believe in Jesus. All humans are God’s sheep, since He is our creator we all belong to Him, but He gives us the choice to follow His voice and be in His care or to choose not to follow and be lost and scavenged.

10.

Only God has authority over life and death – Jesus says that “I have authority” – He is God

 

14.3 John – Fullness

What person, who is not a follower of Christ, do you know who is content? Who doesn’t see an emptiness in their life and work and strive for things to “fill it”? Who doesn’t long for a stable eternal relationship? Who doesn’t want more than what the few years of this life offers?

This is a world of emptiness. We are born in sin and we are born with an emptiness in our hearts. We long for things to make us feel better, but mostly better about ourselves because, even though we deny it, we know we are broken and sinful and missing something.

False shepherds have always offered the same thing, they have offered paths that you can purchase something to fill that void with. For the Jews, that something was adherence to the law. If you just follow it closely enough, devoutly enough, you will be filled. But, no one was. They longed for something more. They waited for a Messiah.

False shepherds today do the same thing. Religious leaders, government leaders, teachers, scientists, business leaders, you name it, all are “selling” something for you to do or earn or acquire to fill the whole.

But, Jesus takes a different approach. Remember John 7? On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and called out in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. To the one who believes in Me, it is just as the scriptures have said, ‘streams of living water will flow from within him.’”

Jesus offers to fill us up to over flowing. Not by something we earn or do or acquire, but simply by accepting His gift of the spirit.

If you have accepted that gift, do you drink it in to overflowing or are you still trying to make room to be like the non-believers and run after fulfillment from other things? If you have not accepted the gift, how full are you filling today?

My Answers:

5.
a.

Ezek: only care for self not flock, did not search for lost sheep, ruled harshly and brutally

John: climb into the pen not by the gate, thieves and robbers, strangers to the sheep, not followed

b.

11-16. I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. I will rescue them and bring them into their own land, tend to them in good pasture. I myself will tend my sheep, bind up the injured and strengthen the weak. I will shepherd the flock with justice.

6.

He is the only bridge between a world of sinful man and an eternal life with a Holy God. His death and resurrection opens the gate that otherwise is closed.

7.
a.

Know the voice of the true shepherd. Read, Hear and Heed His word in scripture. Study, pray, fast, teach, live under His authority.

b.

There is a peace and joy that is greater than anything else. It does not make sense if viewed through a physical world, but it is one that give comfort and compassion for others.

 

14.2 John – Blind Sheep

As we begin our lesson this week, it is important to include the perspective from the previous chapter and the events that revolved around Jesus’ healing of the man who had been blind from birth because it is all part of the same dialogue.

The Pharisees, the religious leaders of the community, had just expelled the now sighted formerly blind man from the temple. Jesus goes to the man (with some Pharisees following and eaves dropping) and asks him if he believes in the Son of Man. When Jesus identifies Himself to the man, he responds with “Lord, I believe” and worships Jesus. Jesus says, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” At which point the Pharisees take offense and confront Jesus, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus responds to them, if you were blind you would not be guilty of sin, but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” He then continues that dialogue into the beginning of John 10.

In this light, we see the contrast between sheep and shepherds and between the good shepherd and the false shepherds is a continuation of the difference between the blind man and the Pharisees. The blind man didn’t claim to be anything other than blind. He functioned as a blind man. He had neighbors and family who all recognized him as blind. And He was healed not because of what he did, although it did require listening and obedience, but for the glory of God. But the Pharisees were different. They claimed to not only see but to know and to know enough that they judged others. They called themselves leaders, but they did not lead by example, they led with accusation and punishment. Remember, this is the group who, in their “compassionate leadership”, accused the blind man of being blind because “You were steeped in sin at birth. (John 9:34)” They did not only look for what others were doing wrong, but they reveled in it and loved the power it gave them.

But, Jesus, pulling from the one thing they supposedly know, the word of the scriptures, reminds them of the type of leadership God expects pulling forward the analogy of the Shepherd from Ezekiel. While we may not have immediately thought of Ezekiel in a discussion of Shepherding, the Pharisees would have or at least should have. But, according to John 10:6, they didn’t.

But how could that be? How could the highest trained biblical scholars of the day not understand the reference to the scriptures they devoted their life to study? Context, perspective and closed mindedness.

They knew the words of Ezekiel, but for them it was a past event, not a foreshadowing. They placed themselves in the narrative of the story as the shepherds, the ones in charge, not being able to see themselves as anything else, especially not a sheep. They were higher than the others, especially the like of this sinful blind man and it was an insult to have to be associated with such a person, especially if he gets so uppity than he now thinks he can look them in the eye and lecture them, doesn’t he know his place. And this “healer”, who broke the law to heal him, why is he confronting them and questioning their authority, shouldn’t he submit to their authority and accept his punishment, too?

When we read the story as Christians, we know Jesus is the good shepherd, but to the Pharisees, as to non-believers today, the question they have is what does that make me? We know that we are sheep. We do not have the ability to guarantee our safety and security for eternity. Without a shepherd we are simply prey. But other sheep in the world, like the Pharisees, have convinced themselves, they are the shepherds.

My Answers:

3.
a.

The pharisees, the religious leaders who rejected Jesus, entered by a “different way”. Jesus is the true shepherd and people, like the blind man, who believe in Jesus, are the true shepherd’s sheep

b.

Jesus is the shepherd to any and all who believe in Him. He is the only true shepherd, the only one who cares for sheep. All the sheep (us) are rightfully His (since He is the creator), but He allows us to come when He calls our name)

4.
a.

called by name, lead by Jesus, follow Him, know His voice, never follow a stranger, run away from strangers

 

b.

through the bible, prayer, teaching, study, discussions and the presence of the Holy Spirit

 

13.5 John – Calloused, Hardened and Blind

Last week we saw, in John 8, Jesus take the name for himself that God had given for himself to Moses, “I am”.  It is a very interesting word.  While names are nouns, that particular name is actually a verb.  Not only that, but it is a verb in the first person singular imperfect tense.  This means it is an action of God that was in the past, is in the presence and will continue to be in the future.  God is, by this very phrase, eternal and eternally moving and active.

But, the Pharisees that we see in John 9 are not modeled in that image.  They are, at a best, a snapshot.  They see their adherence to the law as a trophy, something to be layered and polished and protected and placed up on a shelf.  Each day they take it down to apply another coat of lacquer to harden it and make it shine.  They buff it and show it off.

The it, of course, is their heart and their faith.  What they see as a beautiful trophy, Jesus sees as a stone.  What they have polished, Jesus sees as calloused from rubbing.  What they see as gold plated, Jesus sees as dead and rotting on the inside.

They don’t move.  They don’t dance.  They don’t rejoice and give thanks.  They don’t scream amen and hallelujah.  They are proper.  They are refined.  They are pillars of the community and the tabernacle.  They are upright and admired.

God is not a statue.  Man has made plenty of statue gods and our God despises them all.  Being like God is not a trophy, it is not hard and polished.  Being like God is being alive and active, or more importantly, being flexible and loving and desiring to have His spirit move and shake and dance and serve and sweat and hug and cry with others through us.

When you read the list of character qualities you answer on #14 – Don’t polish them and put them on a shelf.  Our God is alive!

My Answers:

12.
a.
Jesus returns to him after he was exited from the temple and revealed himself to be the Son of Man, the man accepted Jesus as his Lord and gave him the ability to see.

b.
Lord, I believe.  Thank you, Jesus!

13.
The pharisees had access to the scriptures, they should have seen, but they refused to look with the power of the Holy Spirit.  They rejected Jesus from entering their hearts because they were hard and inflexible.  To be flexible would be to admit they were wrong and that would have lowered their stature and self-worth.

14.
Compassion, creator, healer, wise, just

13.4 John – 3 Blind Groups

In our lesson today we get to see three different blind groups.

The first group, the neighbors, suffered from a blindness many of us possess as well.  Here was a man who had grown up near them and with them.  He lived in their presence every day.  Yet, all they know him as was “the blind man,” “the man who sits and begs.”  No one calls him by name.  Many do not recognize him at all since the only identity he had to them was “the blind man.”  They appear to be in awe and inquisitive, but not neighborly.  They don’t celebrate with him.  They don’t rejoice.  He is an oddity, something they don’t know what to do with.  So, like they would someone who comes down with a strange skin disease, they take him to the Pharisees for examination.

How many of your neighbors do you not see?  How many could have a major life event occur and you not even know?  Who do you pass each day that you know only superficially?  The guy with the big dog.  The lady with a hat.  The man who mows every Sunday.  The Broncos fan.  What would it take to see them differently, or to just see them?

The second group are the Pharisees.  These guys were blind to God’s love, since they had walled themselves into a dark corner by God’s law.  The fact that this work was done on the Sabbath was, under their interpretation of the law, a grievous sin.  It was like the teacher who is handed a 40 page term paper, but on page 16 there is a period that smeared slightly so it looks a bit like a comma, so they throw the entire paper out.  To them, grace and mercy are things you earn through fastidious adherence to ever dot and tittle of the law.  They have zoomed in so close to the picture of God that they see only the dots that make up the picture and they are blind to God Himself.

What automatically rejects someone from you showing them grace and mercy?  What box do you wall Christianity into?  Is it only people that look like you? Act like you? Speak like you?  Do you throw someone away because of certain infractions? (remembering that one of the last people Jesus spoke to from the cross was a condemned murderer to whom He promised paradise).  Do you see God’s grace and mercy as something earned/deserved or as the free gifts that they are?

The third group, and to me the most touching, are the parents.  We can be very quick to see the parents as weak.  They speak the truth, but very cautiously and, to a degree, they throw even their own adult child under the bus rather than face the wrath of the Pharisees.  But, in fairness, I think we need to look back to the opening of this chapter.  Even the followers of Jesus assumed the blindness of their son was the result of either his sin or their sin.  These innuendos and rumors and outright charges had followed them since his birth.  They may have even believed it themselves, punishing themselves for what they might have done to cause this.  We can assume they have been “beaten up” over this from every front for years and years.  Should we then be surprised that they are timid and afraid?  Their blind son would not have ever been welcomed into the temple as a cripple, but they would have been allowed, but only under great suspicion and constant rumor and admonition.  All of that baggage weighed them down and made them blind to the miracle and freedom that had come.  Not only was their son healed, but that should have stopped all the accusations that followed them. (although the Pharisees always seemed to have more accusations they could muster).

What past wounds from those in the church do you still carry that make you blind to the glory of God?  What looks, words and actions reveal the accusations you have for others in your heart?  Who have you “beat up” with the bible?  What baggage have you put upon yourself to carry?  It is difficult to be bold and testify, when we shrink back from fear of attack or burdened with baggage of past hurt.

Isn’t it somewhat funny that the only 2 people in John 9 that don’t suffer from a form of blindness in the story are Jesus and the person we know only as “the blind man”?

My Answers:

9.
Neighbors were mixed in their approach/questioning but none committal.  Brought him to Pharisees who were aggressive and attacking and very judgmental.  Parents were honest but restrained (didn’t want to be thrown out of the temple).  They didn’t investigate, they searched for things to support their conclusions and attacked anyone who didn’t support them.  The Pharisees acted a lot like our modern day political pundits!

10.
At first he just came home seeing.  Next he spoke factually about the healing but with no witness about the healer, then he spoke factually and identified Jesus as a prophet.  Then he said factually, “whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know.  One thing I do know: I was blind but now I see!”  Then he asked if the pharisees wanted to be Jesus’ disciples, when rebuked, He states, If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.

Faith grows through attacks and challenges.  It also grows by knowing the Word of God.  My has grown as I’ve relied on God in prayer to step in and bring peace in the midst of being under attack.

11.
I speak the truth.  I am not called to convict or convince others – that is the work of the Holy Spirit.  My job is to be honest witness, to speak the truth and be bold.  I am more confident today than ever before because I know that I deserve none of the credit and it is all God’s glory.