Saw this while walking this morning — just happened to be carrying a camera with a large lens.
Saw this while walking this morning — just happened to be carrying a camera with a large lens.
Our Lord Jesus Christ does not want people to be troubled. He wants us to be free from trouble.
There are many different things that trouble different people. Some people are troubled by clutter (the random stuff that we collect over the years), other people can’t live without clutter and they are troubled by the thought of losing it. Some people are troubled my cats, others are troubled if there are no cats around.
This passage is not about those sorts of troubles. As serious as those other troubles might be, they tend to be individual troubles affecting different people differently.
The trouble that Jesus is talking about is the trouble that we experience because of unbelief, particularly because we do not trust Jesus Christ as he is offered in the gospel.
The Lord Jesus wants people to be free of this most serious of troubles.
These disciples of Jesus had a serious faith problem. They had been called to follow Jesus, they had followed him through three years of his teaching ministry, they professed their loyalty to him, but they did not yet trust him as they needed to trust.
When our Lord Jesus said to them, “Do not let your heart be troubled, believe (trust) in God and trust in me,” he was addressing a serious lack of faith in these men.
As yet, they did not trust his words, they did not know Jesus as they should have known him, and they were most uncomfortable about the message of his impending death and resurrection.
These words were spoken to the disciples during or just after the last supper, where Jesus had spoken explicitly of his imminent betrayal and death. These coming events, he told them, were necessary so that human sin could be forgiven.
He had said at that last meal that the bread represented his body broken for them, and that the cup represented his blood shed for them – this indicated that his death was essential for their salvation. His death was to deal with their sins.
This was at least the fourth recorded occasion when Jesus spoke to his disciples about the necessity of his death. How did his disciples react to this message?
Each time they became troubled and they quickly changed the subject.
Most often, they changed the subject to a discussion as to which of them would be the greatest in the coming kingdom of God. They wanted to skip the cross and go straight to the glory.
In this they agreed with the Devil, who suggested the very some policy to Jesus in his temptation.
Jesus’ reply to Satan and to Peter was the same — get behind me Satan, that is, get out of my way. In Matthew 18, Jesus told these disciples that unless they were converted — changed — there was no way that they could enter the kingdom of God.
Again the disciples did not believe Jesus when he pointed out the desperate natured of their sinfulness.
When he told them that one would betray him and that the rest of them would abandon him, they did not believe him. Peter explicitly contradicted Jesus and declared that he instead would willingly die with him. We know how badly that turned out.
In this passage, Jesus speaks to his disciples in stunning ways. When Philip asks to be shown the Father, Jesus said, Have I been with you so long, and you do not know me?
“If you (plural) had known me, you would have also known the Father.” V.7
These men who had been with Jesus over three years did not really know Jesus. This is most significant. In chapter 17 of John’s gospel, Jesus said that eternal life was to know the Father and the one (Jesus) whom the Father had sent.
At this point in time, these disciples were not converted. They were not Christians. As yet, they were merely disciples — leaners — and pretty inattentive ones at that.
But they understood enough to be troubled by Jesus’ words regarding his betrayal and death. They were troubled that Jesus had pointed out their sin.
To alleviate this trouble of heart, this same trouble that they all felt, Jesus said:
“Let not your heart be troubled. Trust God and trust me. In my Father’s house there many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you.”
What the disciples needed to do was to trust Jesus. To receive his words and believe that he knows best, that Jesus is both God and man, and that his death and resurrection are essential if they were to be reconciled to God.
“Trust God and trust me” — These are not two distinct statements, but the second particularises the first (v.7). Jesus is identifying himself as God. He reaffirms this in vs. 7ff.
In my Father’s household there are many mansions. This means the was lots of room in God’s household already!
“I go to prepare a place” — Jesus was not going somewhere to make more room. As Jesus says, there is already plenty of room. Rather, he was going to make disciples fit for one of those places. Remember Matt 18.
The preparation that Jesus was speaking of was the same death that Jesus had spoken of and which had troubled his disciples so much.
Jesus death was the issue. By it the innocence Jesus took legal responsibility for the wrong doing of all his people. In fact, without Jesus taking responsibility for our sin, there was no way he could have died. The word of God says “the soul that sins shall die.” Jesus died because he bore the sins of other people. He willingly became their substitute.
The principle of a substitute dying in the place of a sinner is reinforced throughout the Old Testament in the temple services. Jesus would be the fulfilment of those temple sacrifices (John 2:19)
By his death, he finished condemnation for his people.
The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is the great confirmation of this truth. If even one sin of his people remained unpaid for, Jesus would not have risen from the dead. But Christ is risen (14:19).
So he could say that, if he goes (to the cross), he will come again and receive (take) them to himself. Here Jesus again speaks of his death and resurrection, but adds the effect that his death and resurrection will have on these men.
He will take them to himself. (Like prisoners taken in battle, like a husband taking a wife.)
Jesus takes his people to himself
So that where Jesus is, those who trust him will be also.
In vs. 5 and 6, Thomas tells Jesus that he doesn’t know where Jesus is going, and he cannot know the way. Jesus answer shows that the “where” and the “way” are intimately related.
Where was Jesus going? To the cross. Remember, Jesus had spoken of this to the disciples at least four times.
What is the way? Only Jesus brings sinners to God. He is the way. He opened the way to God by his own actions.
“I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father but by me.”
Jesus is the narrow way. “Narrow” because he is the only way back to good relations with our Creator.
Jesus is trustworthy because he not only tells the truth, but he is the one who establishes truth.
Jesus also gives life as the creator and sustainer of all things, but most particularly as saviour. By his resurrection from the dead he shows that sin (which brings death) has had its condemnation completed in him.
For this reason, Jesus has the right and ability to raise those who trust him from the dead.
Is your heart troubles by your own sin? Are you troubled by the message of the gospel, that Jesus had to die if sin and death were to be defeated? Are you afraid to die?
Jesus meant it when he said, “Do not let you heart be troubled. Trust in God and trust in me.”
Our Lord Jesus has made sinners fit for a place in His Father’s household by his good life, by his death in our place, and by his resurrection from the dead.
If you trust him as he is presented to you in the gospel, you can know that he has done this for you.
Jesus said of himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”
The way to the Father is open through faith in Jesus Christ. Trust him.
The word ‘kenosis’, which means ‘an emptying or depletion’, does not appear in the New Testament.
The related verb, ‘kenoo’ is found in Philippians 2:7. There it takes a reflective pronoun ‘heauton’ which is usually translated as ‘emptied himself’.
There are several other usages of the verb kenoo. One interesting one is to ‘empty out or pour away’, and other is to ‘expend’ (Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon, p. 938b).
Some people think that Jesus emptied himself of something, such as his divinity or his glory. This is not likely. Jesus did not stop being God when he became a man: Jesus, being in the [morphe] form of God (i.e. He still was God when he) … took on the form of a slave, Phil 2:6-7. For example, Jesus showed his divine glory, which he still possessed, to Peter, James and John on a mountain (Luke 9).
Phil 2:7 does not say Jesus emptied himself of something. It just says that He emptied or poured out or expended himself.
How did Jesus pour himself out? By taking the form of a servant, coming as a man and so humbled himself as to die on a cross. On the cross Jesus took responsibility for the sins of all his people so they might go free.
Two other random notes:
Matt 1:21 tells us that Jesus (Yahweh saves) will save his people from their sins. Yahweh-Jesus saves Yahweh-Jesus’ people from their sins. Jesus is God with us (Matt 1:23). Compare Isaiah 43:11( I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no Saviour.)
Luke 2:11 the shepherds were told that ‘Today, in the City of David, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the LORD.’ The Saviour is the LORD (Yaweh) who is born as a man.
A Short History of the Church in Scotland, AD 300 – 2015, New Melbourne Press, 2015.
In fewer than 130 pages, Rowland Ward has provided a very useful account of Scottish church history. The first thousand years are dealt with respectfully but briefly in two chapters in preparation for the main events of the post-reformation period. Since the days of John Knox and his fellow reformers, the struggle has been to establish and maintain in Scotland a protestant-reformed witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to assert and defend his sole right as king and head of the church.
As Ward points out, the reformers’ original intention was to establish one national church, built upon the principle that Christ rules the nations as well as the church, and that these two — the church and the state — were to act Christianly in their separate spheres. As it turned out, those who came to rule in Scotland had different agendas. Mary, Queen of Scots, was a convinced Roman Catholic and would not adopt the teaching or practice of the reformed church. Her son, James VI, preferred episcopacy to Presbyterianism and famously said, ‘No Bishop, No King’, and immediately began to provide the Scottish church with a cut-down version of bishops which the Presbyterians did not want. James’ son, Charles, issued a liturgy for the Scottish church, the use of which provoked a famous 1637 riot in Edinburgh. Charles II declared himself supreme over both the temporal and spiritual jurisdictions in his realm, and demanded all churchmen submit to him or lose his permission to preach. Things became grim as hundreds of ministers walked out of their churches and conducted unauthorised meetings in private homes and fields. These ministers faced large fines, imprisonment, and summary executions for resisting the royal will. Divisions between those Presbyterians who conformed and those who didn’t only added to the church’s troubles.
After the revolution of 1688, which replaced the catholic James II with protestant William and Mary, the Scottish church had a more peaceful relationship with the crown, but the hope of ‘one nation, one church’ was fading. The small Episcopal church in Scotland was to be tolerated, and discontent with doctrinal decline in the Established Church led to the formation of a number of rival Presbyterian communities. By the 1780s, a majority of ministers in the Established church were seemingly indifferent to the gospel and Biblical truth. From about 1811 onwards, revivals, divisions, reunions, and subsequent deflections from — and rediscoveries of — gospel truth, have been features of church life in Scotland. Rowland Ward has managed to compress these and other events into a conveniently small package, while aiming to dispel some historical myths and to give an objective rather than a partisan account. This book may be ordered from the author ($15.00 including postage within Australia) rowland dot ward at gmail dot com .
In writing to the Corinthians, Paul had a number of problems to deal with. Although the church held to the gospel teaching of the apostles, it was nevertheless out of control in serious ways.
By the time the tenth chapter is reached, Paul had addressed their divisions, spiritual pride, open approval of sexual immorality, their willingness to sue one another and their unwillingness to deny themselves for the sake of weaker fellow Christians.
At the tenth chapter, Paul brings a warning: don’t presume that you are a Christian simply because you are a church member and enjoy the outward benefits of a gospel ministry.
To illustrate his point, Paul refers to the church in the wilderness — the church that was established when God saved the children of Abraham from Egyptian slavery by the Passover event, and He then brought them through the Red Sea by miracle. God then kept them alive in the desert by means of ‘manna’ and water produced from a rock, which also were saving miracles.
All these events, though real and historical, point those who read of them to that great rescue that Jesus provided when he came as a human being to live for his people, die for his people and rise again for his people.
Paul indicates this by referring to some of these Old Testament events in New Testament terms. The crossing of the Red Sea he likened to baptism. The eating of the manna and drinking the rock-water Paul likened to the Lord’s supper. These Old Testament events, implies Paul, were Covenant affirming events. Further, the implication is that the Old Testament and the New Testament churches were in fact one church whose shared hope was the covenant of God.
In Genesis 3 God promised fallen Adam and Eve a saviour who would re-establish a right relationship between God and human beings, which relationship Adam had messed up by his sin. God’s covenant was that He would act to reclaim a people for Himself, and that the people whom He saves would acknowledge Him as their God and live as His people.
Back to the church in the desert. They had been saved from the Angel of Death by the blood of a lamb, they had been brought safely through the Red Sea, and they heard God’s law that was for his people. They were publicly associated with God by several outward ties, but many of them were not pleasing to Him.
Many were not pleasing to God because they rejected Christ, whom Paul says ‘followed them’. Only Jesus Christ lived a human life that was pleasing to God. Those who trust Jesus Christ are associated with him by the new birth. These people become pleasing to God when they trust Christ.
How did these Old Testament people reject Christ? Many took the outward benefits without the inward change of regeneration. They did not see themselves as lost sinners. They did not believe God’s word. They did not look beyond the outward ritual of the sacrifices that they brought to God. They were playing ‘church’ rather than trusting the saviour who was represented to them in the sacrifices that God had instituted.
Paul’s warning to the Corinthians was that they too might possess all the outward benefits of a church (gospel preaching, the sacraments, fellowship, prayer) and yet not really be trusting the Lord Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel. They too might be playing church while rejecting Christ.
Paul then gives a number of negative examples from the church in the desert that the church in Corinth would do well to avoid. He refers to them all as exhibiting the reality of evil desires. The first evil desire was Idolatry. I’ll just talk about this one today.
To illustrate the danger of idolatry, Paul refers to the Old Testament incident of the golden calf. Moses was away receiving the law that was to guide the church to Christ. Aaron had a crowd pressing him to give them gods (Exodus 32:1 and Acts 7:40) to lead them because Moses, to their mind, had abandoned them. So Aaron causes a golden calf to be made.
Two separate things seem to be happening here. The people wanted ‘gods’ (elohim), which might imply gods other than the covenant God of Israel. This was contrary to the First Commandment that the people had already heard from the God who had rescued them from Egypt.
Aaron, however, was aiming to bring the people to focus on Yahweh, the true God by means of the calf. When the calf was finished, Aaron said, ‘This is your God (Elohim) who brought you out of the land of Egypt’ and he appointed a feast to Yahweh for the following day. This broke the Second Commandment which forbids the worship of the true God by idols.
The Hebrew language uses the same plural word to mean ‘gods’ or ‘God’ depending on the context. The people wanted ‘gods’, and Aaron used the same word to point them to ‘God’ who revealed Himself to Moses as Yahweh.
Idolatry is a two-edged sword. It can be the worship of false gods. It can also be the worship of the true God by inappropriate means.
Aaron’s aim in using a golden calf was perhaps ‘noble’, but making a calf to direct people to Yahweh was utterly wrong. We could say that Aaron was trying to be ‘seeker-sensitive’, and he thought that the calf would be an aid to worship. But, to introduce matter into the worship of God contrary to His word simply because it is appealing to people in the church (to keep them there) and might be attractive to people outside, is wrong.
We are not to be inventive in managing the public worship of God. God’s worship is His. It is His word, not our changing preferences, that ought to determine the content and means of worship. The golden calf incident was a failure of leadership on Aaron’s part. It is a failure that the New Testament church needs to avoid if things are not to end badly.
People tend to be environmentalists. I don’t mean conservationists. I mean that people seem to take Rousseau’s view of the human condition: people are born free but everywhere they are in chains. In short, the idea is that “I’m a good person, but my circumstances inhibit that goodness from expressing itself”.
For example, the way politics works these days. The opposite sides tend to say that
The church has not been free of this sort of environmentalism. A hundred years ago, there was the social gospel where improving the social and economic circumstances of the poor was the whole message and purpose of the church. The gospel of salvation from sin disappeared. Then, fifty years ago, there was liberation theology, where “resurrection” came to mean “insurrection”. The idea was for the church to encourage violent revolution to free the people from their chains. Again, the real message of Jesus was reinterpreted to remove the gospel.
In John chapter 6, the social gospel and liberation theology combine to try to wedge Jesus into the sinful mould of the crowd.
Jesus’ contemporaries thought they had two main problems — the Romans and getting their daily bread.
Earlier in John 6, there is the account of Jesus feeding 5000 people, in a deserted place, with a few small loaves and a couple of fish. After everyone had eaten their fill, there were 12 large baskets of crumbs left over. It was an extraordinary miracle.
Being fed miraculously in a desert had powerful associations in the minds of those who were there. Moses long ago had feed the people of Israel in a desert. In fact, God had saved Israel from a foreign nation that had enslaved them and had given Israel Moses as a leader. Moses himself had said that God would later send someone like him to lead and save them.
Maybe, these people thought, Jesus was the one. He might be the one to save them from the Romans. He might be the one to take away the burden of getting the food that they need to live. They were right about the link to Moses, but for the wrong reasons.
So they chased after Jesus with a good deal of enthusiasm. His response is not what they had expected.
v. 26 Truly, truly, I say to you that you seek me, not because you saw signs (e.g., the miraculous supply of food), but because you ate and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life. This food the Son of man shall give you, for God the Father has set his seal on him.
Jesus told the people that they were chasing him for the wrong reasons. Their minds were fixed on temporary problems and were ignoring their eternal problem. They thought their big problems were the Romans and the scarcity of food. They had no thought as to how they might be made right with God. Either they did not see that they had a sin problem, or they had come to think that there was no solution and had given up, deciding to eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow they die.
Jesus offered them eternal life. He told them that he was the one commissioned by the Father to give it. God the Father had set his seal on Jesus.
The people’s response was to ask about conditions — what must we do to get this life from God?
v. 29 Jesus said, ‘This is the work of God, that you trust the one whom he has sent.’
This statement has a double edge:
How did the people respond to this offer of eternal life?
v. 30 What sign will you do that we might believe you?
It might seem a strange question coming from a crowd that had chased after Jesus because he had fed 5000 of them the previous day with only a few loaves and a couple of fish. Jesus had given signs that were more than sufficient to establish his credentials. But what sign did the people want now? More free food.
The people asked for bread from heaven like the food that Moses gave.
Jesus told them that manna was not what they needed. Manna did not give everlasting life — v. 49 “Your fathers ate manna in the desert and are dead”. But, confusion prevailed on the part of the people. Jesus used their word ‘bread’, which they hoped would give them an easier life here and now, as a metaphor for himself as the giver of eternal life.
v. 33 The bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
They continued to think of manna and their stomachs. So Jesus spoke in a way designed to shake the people out of their wrong ideas. He aimed to turn their stomachs if they only thought of lunch rather than redemption.
Jesus said: (v. 35) “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never hunger, the one who believes me will never thirst.”
Jesus goes to say that, unless people ate his flesh and drank his blood they had no life — they were dead. This is stomach-turning, but Jesus was not referring to some gruesome meal, but to his death as the only way for sinners to have eternal life.
The eating/drinking of his flesh and blood does not refer to the Mass, or the Lord’s supper, but it refers to his actual death in our place, and our need to recognise that he alone deals with our sin and sustains our lives.
If we are to have eternal life, we must to listen to Jesus and believe what he says, but here lies a big problem. We are not wired to listen to Jesus. All people, since Adam’s sin, are rebels from birth.
v. 36 I have told you (said Jesus) that you have seen me (do signs) and you have not believed.
Yet Jesus does not despair, because
v. 37 ‘All that the father has given me will come to me and whoever comes to me, I will in no way cast out.’
Our personal inability to believe Jesus is a great and persistent weakness in human beings. It is the indicator of our sinful attitudes. All the evidence in the world, all the best arguments, all the love that the church might show cannot of themselves produce saving faith in a sinner.
The statement by Paul, that we are ‘dead in our sins’ until the love of God is given to us by the Holy Spirit, is illustrated in this passage.
No one is saved without faith in Jesus Christ.
How do we reconcile these seemingly contrary statements
v. 37 All that the Father gives to me will come to me, says Jesus.
Salvation is by Grace — God rescues his enemies by Jesus Christ because he wants to, and the choice as to who will be saved is up to God.
God’s choice is not based upon our words, deeds or attitudes, nor is it based upon the things we might do after we become Christians. It is not because we happen to be born into a particular family. It is God’s free and kingly will, not our sinful wills, that brings people to faith in Jesus. This teaching of Jesus is not to cause despair for sinners, but to give hope and assurance to them. Without God’s loving decision to save some, none would be saved. In fact, because of God’s mercy, many will be saved.
v . 37 “Whoever comes to me, says Jesus, I will in no way cast out”
v. 39 “Of all that the Father has given me, says Jesus, I will not lose (destroy) any”
How can Jesus be so confident of this? Because he was going to die and rise again for his people.
The thing that our sin earns is death. But, Jesus never sinned, yet he died. The only way the sinless Son of Man could die was if he took responsibility for the sins of other people. After Jesus died for others, he rose from the dead. His resurrection indicates that the sins for which he died are judged and finished with. They are gone. If they were not finished with, then Jesus would have stayed in the grave, as he had taken responsibility for them. As Jesus has risen from the dead, the sins of his people are judged and gone. Because the sins of God’s people are gone, they may have life in Jesus Christ.
So then, Jesus has the authority to raise his people from the dead on the last day, just as he told these people in John chapter 6.
The incarnation of God the Son was and is essential for our salvation.
God became a man
But rather, God became man to
Only a person who is both God and man could do this for sinners.
Now, there is an alleged difficulty with the text. A few ancient Greek manuscripts read ‘who was manifest in the flesh’ and a few others read ‘which was manifest in the flesh’.
I argue that the true reading is not ‘who’, not ‘which’, but ‘God’. The word ‘mystery’ is neuter in gender while “godliness” is feminine, but “who” is masculine! The pronoun must agree with its antecedent. It is bad grammar to accept ‘who’ in this place. That is why people who think ‘who’ is the correct reading very rarely translate it as who, but rather as ‘He’. That is, the word ‘who’ does not make sense in context in either Greek or English.
How might these readings be explained?
The word ‘God’, in ancient Greek, could be abbreviated as ΘC. A line was drawn above these letters to indicate the abbreviation. The relative pronoun ‘who’ was written as OC, and ‘which’ in Greek was written O (see below).
Note that the only graphical difference between ‘god’ and ‘who’ are a short line within an O to make a Θ, and a longer line above to indicate the abbreviation. It is likely that these two lines faded over time due to continual use, and finally looked as if it had been written as OC instead of ΘC. Thus ‘who’ replaced ‘God’ in subsequent copies. The reading ‘which’ O, is a likely scribal correction of OC to something that made grammatical sense in context.
Nevertheless, 98.5% of Greek manuscripts (all available manuscripts are copies) say “God”, and the reading ‘God’ is older than the surviving Greek manuscripts that contain it as the reading appears in the works of some early Christian writers.
Now, orthodox people who think the reading is ‘who’, often say that the ‘who’ refers to Christ. Seems ok, but if the true reading were really ‘who’ and the reference is to Christ, then Jehovah Witnesses, Gnostics, Arians, Unitarians, all could agree. The problem is that they will only accept a Christ who is not really God and man in one person.
The assumed reference to Christ is no remedy against untruth. The mere man Aaron was a ‘Christ’ as was every high priest, because they were anointed (= Christ in Greek) with oil when they were made priest. The mere man King David was a Christ, as every king of Israel was a Christ because they too were anointed with oil .
Simply saying ‘Christ’ is the word referred to by ‘who’ is not true to the context.
Even Trinitarians who accept the ‘who’ reading, stick to Christ as the one referred to by ‘who’, because, I suspect, they are ashamed to reject ‘God’ as the correct reading, yet say ‘God’ is the antecedent of ‘who’.
But above all the great mystery revealed IS that the God became a human being for our salvation.
2 Corinthians 5:19-20 (God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself).
A mere man, even a good mere man could not save (see Ps 49:7 and Ezek 14:4 & 20).
Only God has the right and ability to do for others what we cannot do for ourselves. As God says “I, even I, am the LORD, And there is no saviour besides Me.” Isaiah 43:10-11
Yet God cannot die, and our Saviour had to die as our substitute in order to deal finally with our sin. So, our saviour must be man as well (Matt 1:21, Luke 2:11).
There is no mystery in a mere man appearing in the flesh, that is why Paul did write: God was manifest in the flesh.
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