Not by Might, Nor by Power, but by My Spirit…

Today I have been reflecting on a particular phrase in the Bible, found in Zechariah 4:6 – “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of hosts”.

These few words carry a depth of encouragement to the believer. Though these words were spoken to Zerubbabel, the Persian governor whose task it was to rebuild the temple, it is also a template by which to live, one might say as we ourselves are made into temples fit for God. If we look in the New Testament we see that it is littered with exhortations that carry a similar message:

“I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
(1 Cor 15:10)

“Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
(Philippians 2:12-13)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
(Ephesians 2:8-9)

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Paul’s writings draw heavily on his knowledge of Old Testament Scripture

I would argue that the word in Zechariah 4 sums up the core of the Gospel; the self-sufficiency of God and the way in which he freely gives of himself to bring us into relationship with him and further magnify his glory. Yet this is not only a word on salvation, but on the outworking of our sanctification. It is not by our might, nor power – but by the Spirit of God working within us.

What does this actually mean? That we should be at ease and let God achieve what he will in us, without effort on our part? Paul makes clear that he worked harder than anyone in the verse from Corinthians. So too does Philippians tell us to work. Yet paradoxically Ephesians tells us that salvation is not our doing but rather God’s. Paul seems to find no contradiction, just as he says; “I worked harder… though it was not I.” What is Paul’s thinking in this?

Let’s start by defining what this “work” really is. This work is done for God. What work does he desire? He tells us:

“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
(Hosea 6:6)

 

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Hosea, minor prophet of the Lord


God is clear throughout the Bible that the work of our hands is meaningless to him; we are simply giving back what is already his. Again in the Psalms David says:

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
(Psalm 51:16-17)

What God treasures is worked out in our heart, mind and spirit; what he desires is our love. And yet because of this we are incapable of pleasing him. Romans 3 declares “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – there is nothing in our own hearts that we can offer that is not tainted by sin. We can never love God as we ought. Thus Paul concludes that:

“Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
(Romans 8:8)

We cannot offer God anything that is worthy of him, and we cannot achieve the perfection that he desires. Thus, in ourselves, we have nothing to offer.

That is the glory of the Gospel; though we have nothing to give, the Lord gives freely. Let us recall the verse from Ephesians:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
(Ephesians 2:8-9)


So after our journey of reflecting on the foundation of the Gospel, we have this answer:
-The “work” God demands is that we love him as we ought.
-We are utterly incapable of producing the “work” that God asks for.
-God gives the gift of faith; through Jesus we are pleasing to the Father and may receive the Holy Spirit who produces the “work” God desires within us.

The work that God asks for is not physical but spiritual, yet James rightly says that faith without works (in the sense of doing things) is dead (James 2:26). This is not because these “doings” have merit in themselves, but because they are a manifestation of the work God has performed within us. Thus, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord…” is shown to be a template for the believer. But how is this practically applied in our lives?

It is not a call to do nothing, as James makes abundantly clear, rather it is a call to something that is both simple and immensely challenging. It is to put aside our reliance upon ourselves; our discipline, knowledge, skill, strength, and to turn our hearts to God in all things. It is not to stop using our strengths (if you are a brick layer God will not lift the bricks for you, if you are a researcher he will not think for you), but to cease relying upon them for our security and well-being. It is to exercise our faculties with God at the very core. To lay bricks for God’s glory, to think for God’s glory, to eat and drink for God’s glory. Again… how?

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Not by your own discipline. Not by your own strength. In order to produce fruit that is pleasing to God we must come to know God. There is only one Person who can reveal God to us, and that is Christ:

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being”
(Hebrews 1:3)

How do we come to know Christ? He tells us:

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
(John 5:39-40)

Those who read the Scriptures may see Christ. It is not through the words on the page, for we see that the Pharisees searched them fervently and yet fruitlessly – rather Christ shines forth to those with eyes to see; those to whom God reveals himself. This is not a matter of seeing Christ once, but to live a life where Christ is seen constantly. As the Psalms put it:

“Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.”

(Psalm 1:1-3)

This is the believer’s greatest challenge, and yet should he fulfill this then he has fulfilled all that God will ever require; to live a life that seeks Christ in all things, one that returns to the wellspring of Scripture not only in times when knees tremble and arms droop, but constantly, day and night to live a life that is saturated by the Word of God that shines forth Christ into our hearts. Paul worked the hardest of anyone, but to him it was not work – God had already done the impossible work of changing Paul’s very nature. Whether he toiled or rested, suffered or flourished, Paul did not care – because he had laid down his own self to take up Christ. No discipline or power can accomplish this; it is a work that is God’s alone.

This is by no means an easy task, to lay down our very selves, indeed it is one that most believers will spend their entire lives battling for. And yet we can continue down, or perhaps begin, that path today, simply by beholding Christ in Scripture, in prayer and in meditation. In putting aside all that detracts from him and in taking up all that promotes him in our lives. As beholding Christ becomes more our nature than beholding ourselves and our situations, be sure that he will do everything else. How desperately I need to act this out. I hope in reading this, you will do the same.

A Study of John 9:24-41

John 9 – After the healing of the blind man

This is after Jesus heals a man who was born blind; the Pharisees want to question the man. Here we see an irony; a blind man has clear spiritual sight, whilst the “wise” teachers of the law are blind to the true reality of God:

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.”

The Pharisees want the blind man to renounce Jesus; to deny that Jesus had anything to do with the healing and thus retain the picture of God that the Pharisees have built. Rather than acknowledge Jesus as God they do the very opposite, claiming that He is committing sin.

He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

The healed man stands up to the Pharisees and testifies that Jesus’ actions speak for themselves; he was blind, and Jesus healed him.

They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

The Pharisees repeat questions that they have already asked because they do not like the man’s answers; they are stubborn and hard of heart, unable to see the work of God right in front of them.

And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”

The Pharisees self-righteously claim that they follow the true faith whilst the healed man has been fooled by a false teacher; ironic when it is the Pharisees who teaches falsehoods. They say they do not know where Jesus comes from, but Jesus says that the Scriptures all speak of Him.

The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

The healed man argues that Jesus must be righteous in order to heal others, trying to reason with the stubborn Pharisees using the evidence that is before them.

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They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

The Pharisees are wilfully blind however, and despite the clear evidence before them they allow their jealousy, greed and pride to blind them. They will never acknowledge that Jesus could truly be God, because this would mean that everything they have believed and taught has been wrong. They are too absorbed by their own status in the world, rather than in trying to please God.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”

The healed man is humble enough to see Jesus for who He truly is, and when Jesus sees the man’s faith, He reveals his divinity to him. When Jesus talks of those who “do not see”, He means those who are humble and do not presume to be wise, unlike the Pharisees who made claims about how to please God but never truly knew Him, and who refuse to see anything apart from the falsehoods they have constructed. Those who are “blind” know that they are not wise, and therefore have the humility to accept the truth of God when it is revealed to them.

Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

Jesus tells the Pharisees that they are guilty of sin, because they dispute the truth that He teaches, and stubbornly hold to their ways even when Jesus performs great miracles.

There is a stark contrast between the humility of the blind man and the pride of the Pharisees. As Jesus talks, He turns the status of each of them around. The blind man of low status is able to see the one thing that truly matters, whilst the Pharisees with all their learning and prestige are left blind.

A Study of John 8:12-30

John 8:12-30 “I Am the Light of the World”

It’s been a while since I’ve put up an entry, and now that I’ve given myself a kick be ready for a good number of these to come out all at once! In this entry we’re going to run through Jesus’ teaching of “I Am the Light of the World”. This is a deep passage in which Jesus raises a number of important points and causes no little uproar among the Jews!

From his teachings we see that Jesus is truly the light of the world, and that the Father is the one who testifies that Jesus is the Son of God. Yet, despite being the very revelation of the glory of God which shines forth into the world, men cannot see it. Cannot see it, that is, unless God opens their eyes for them to see. Here in the temple, Jesus speaks clearly to well-learned men, yet they cannot grasp what He says. However, the common men who witness the exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees do see the glory of God in Jesus, and whilst He speaks, many believe in Him.

We see that God is sovereign in choosing who comes to Him, and that the glory of God is plain to see if only our blindness is removed. To those who have sight, Jesus is the clear revelation that leads to the Father.

Let’s begin:

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus will take away the blindness from those who look to Him; through Him the glory of God will be made clear to them, and they will enter into eternal life that flows from the Son.

So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.”

The Pharisees reject the light of Christ; they wilfully remain blind due to their hardened hearts.

 Jesus answered, “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.

Jesus says that He is not like a man who cannot witness about himself; rather He is a reliable witness of Himself because He has knowledge of the Truth; He knows of His relationship to the Father and that He will return to the Father’s side. The Pharisees on the other hand are ignorant and blind; they are not reliable witnesses to call the authority of Jesus into question.

You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.

Jesus tells the Pharisees that they do not judge with wisdom that comes from God, but rather they judge according to their own desires and feelings; according to the flesh of their hearts, and thus they are foolish judges who cannot find the truth. Jesus contrasts this with Himself, who has all wisdom from God and is Himself the Logos (Truth and revelation of God). Yet Jesus says He does not judge. This does not mean that He never judges, for we see in John 5:22 Jesus say “the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son”, rather it means that while He is on earth at that time He is not there to judge but rather to redeem. At His return, he shall judge.

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Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.

When Jesus does finally judge the world, it will be with perfect judgement. The judgements of the Son reflect the judgements of the Father and thus are perfectly just.

In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

Jesus does not teach from human wisdom but rather receives everything from the Father. The divine authority that Jesus carries, and His anointing by the Holy Spirit, demonstrate that the Father testifies that Jesus is the Son of God; as in Matthew 3:17 at the baptism of Jesus when the Father speaks “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

Jesus rebukes the Pharisees, making the great claim that these who claim to be the holiest among men do not know God at all, and even further states that He is a revelation of God the Father. To the Pharisees this would be an outrageous claim, but somehow they do not stop Him speaking, even though He is in the temple surrounded by zealous Jews.”

So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?”

The Jews seem to be thrown into confusion and cannot follow what Jesus is truly saying; though Jesus is the Light of the World, they cannot see it and they remain blind.

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He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

Jesus, perhaps exasperated with the hardness of the Pharisees, speaks very plainly to them; that He is sent from God and that He is the only Way to the Father, the only One who can forgive sin.

So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father.

Still, the Jews do not understand. The Pharisees would have been well-studied men and yet they are completely dull to the teaching of Jesus.

So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

We see in the final line of this passage that even if the Pharisees were not convinced by the teaching of Jesus, many others who were in the temple witnessed this exchange. It is likely that the many who believed in Jesus were common men who had no learned understanding of the Law or the Scriptures, and yet these people could see the glory of God manifested in Jesus and testifying that He was truly the Son of God. This is a stark contrast to the “wise” men who were questioning Jesus and yet had no idea what He was talking about. Just as 1 Corinthians 1:27 states; “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise…”

A Study of John 7:14-24 and John 7:37-39

John 7:14-24

About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching.

The context of the feast is after Jesus’ brothers asked him if he could go to the feast. At the time, he said that his time had not yet come, so he would not go. However, Jesus left later into the feast in private. One might ask, so did Jesus lie to his brothers? I would argue no; here we can see Jesus’ reliance upon the Father and the guidance of the Holy Spirit; he did not know at the time when he spoke to his brothers whether he should go to the feast, so he waited.

We can assume that once his brothers left, he perceived that now the Father approved that he should go; that his time had come. Jesus in the flesh of man did not know everything at once; his great insights and wonders came not from himself, for he laid down all of this that he might be fully man, but he drew all knowledge from a communion with the Father and the Spirit, who guided him at every step. And so it is in the middle of the feast when Jesus begins to preach.

The Jews therefore marvelled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”

As we have just discussed, we can see throughout the life of Jesus that though he is fully man, he retains his perfect communion with the Father and the Spirit. Thus even though he has not studied, he knows the Word of God better than any man, because by the Spirit he sees truth, and he carries the authority of the Father when he teaches.

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So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.

Jesus confirms that it is not through his own strength as a man that he has gained his wisdom, but through communion with Father and Spirit. Jesus tells the Jews that they too may gain wisdom and see truth; “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know…” and “…the one who seeks the glory of Him who sent him is true…” Here, Jesus is saying that all who have true faith and a will to serve the Father will be guided by the Spirit.

In John 16:13 Jesus says of the Spirit; “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth”. Even though the Spirit had not yet entered into believers, He was still active in the world, opening men’s hearts to the truth of Christ. Thus the truth of Jesus’ words are not discerned by human wisdom, but by a revelation that can only come from God, given freely to those who would serve Him.

Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?”

The fact that none of the Jews keep the law of Moses shows that they do not seek the glory of God but in fact seek their own glory. Not only this, but they are indeed hostile to God, for they would seek to kill His Son.

 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?”

The Jews act as though they have no idea what Jesus is talking about, but earlier in the chapter we see clearly that the religious leaders are seeking to kill Jesus. The friction between Jesus and the religious leaders must have been well known; the fact that the Jews respond in this manner shows that they are willfully turning a blind eye to the unrighteousness of the Jewish leaders. There are also a number of places in the Gospels where the Jews turn against Jesus as soon as he reveals or even implies his divinity – Jesus is right to accuse the crowd as he does.

 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?

In John 5 Jesus was also in Jerusalem, and he heals a man on the Sabbath. This is met by outrage, and even more so when Jesus says that he has forgiven the man’s sin, to the point where some Jews begin plotting to kill him. Thus when he is asked who is trying to kill him, Jesus reminds the Jews of their outrage when he had last been in Jerusalem, and the hypocrisy of their judgement.

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Here Jesus is saying not to make shallow, reactionary judgements that are made with no reason or discernment. It is a call to humility, and would imply that a man should be thoughtful and reverent to God in his judgements. We should not be so presumptuous to hastily decide right from wrong; that is God’s remit, not ours, and thus when we judge it should be through a discernment of God’s will, not our own shallow impressions.

John 7:37-39
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

This passage echoes back to the woman at the well, where Jesus says that he can offer living water. Here, John explains that the living water is the Holy Spirit, who we receive by coming to Jesus. Jesus says that not only will the water of the Spirit quench our thirst, but it will flow out from us. We who have the Spirit do not seal Him away; He flows forth from us as He transforms us to become more like Christ, and shines out the glory of God to all men. Just as Jesus says in Matthew 5:16; ” let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

In this passage we see the great work of the Holy Trinity. We see how Jesus, though limited to human flesh, discerns and shares the Word of the Father. We see that the Holy Spirit comes and guides believers into all truth, and that when Jesus is eventually glorified how the Spirit will come to dwell in believers and flow out from them; continuing Jesus’ ministry through thousands, and later millions, of believers – a ministry that continues to this day.

A Study of John 6:35-59

John 6: 35-59

Jesus said to them, “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. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Jesus teaches that He is the only one who can sustain true life; those who do not come to Him are dying, but those who believe in Him shall neither hunger or thirst – He will satisfy them completely. Jesus says that it is the Father who “gives” Jesus His followers; God opens the eyes of the blind so that they might believe and see the true glory that is in Christ.

He tells us that all who comes to Him are eternally secure; not only will they not hunger or thirst, but they can rest assured that they will never have to leave the presence of Jesus. Just as Jesus conquers death on our behalf, when the time comes He will raise us up into eternal life.

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So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 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.”

The Jews are still blind and cannot see the glory that is in Jesus; they only see a human teacher and thus question how any man may say these things. Again Jesus makes it clear that no man can come to Him unless God leads them to do so. Those who seek the Father humbly, the Father will instruct, and Christ will be clear to them.

Those who cling to the world and love its riches more than they love God cannot see the worth that is in Jesus. Jesus reminds the Jews of the Old Testament passage where Moses and the Jewish people wandered the desert for 40 years but were sustained by bread that God sent from heaven, yet these Jews died because they were not faithful; it was their offspring who entered the Promised Land. Jesus says that He is superior to all that God sent before. His salvation is eternal, not temporary.

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

Again the Jews are confused and offended by the teaching of Jesus, that they must eat the bread of His flesh to inherit eternal life. Later in the chapter we see that many abandon Jesus because of this teaching; they do not trust Him, and rather than asking Him to clarify, or to wait and see the outcome of His teachings, they leave. They were happy to witness His wonders and have their ears tickled by wise teaching, but as soon as Jesus’ teaching became hard they left Him.

Jesus is inviting the Jews into an amazing relationship; to have the same relationship with God as that which exists in the Trinity. Jesus says that He has life because of the Father, and we may have life because of the Son. This is the greatest gift in all of creation, and yet because they were blind, the Jews rejected Jesus’ offer. May we be humble and allow the Father to reveal to us the glory of Christ every day of our lives.

A Brief Reflection on John 5:19-29

John 5:19-29
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

Jesus has been accused of making himself equal to God and the Jews are trying to kill him for committing blasphemy. The accusation is that Jesus is glorifying himself whilst disgracing God.

Jesus’ reply disputes this accusation; he tells the Jews that it is not the Son who is giving himself glory, because the Son does nothing without first obeying the Father. Therefore, when Jesus claims to be God, he does so because the Father has told him to. He proclaims this not because he wishes to make himself great, but because he wants to obey and glorify the Father. The Father has given us a way to worship him fully, and that is by giving worship to the Son.

Jesus changes to a new tact; he tells the Jews that the hour is now here where those who are “dead” will hear the voice of the Son of God and shall live. He is saying that all men are dead in their sin, but if they hear and believe that Jesus is the Son of God who has came to save, their sins will be forgiven and they shall inherit eternal life.

Jesus then gives an amazing picture of the relationship between the Father and the Son; the Father has life “in himself”, meaning that He is eternally self-sufficient. Where men must keep replenishing their life from things outside of themselves; food and drink, the Father needs only Himself – by definition, He lives.

Amazingly, though the Son serves the Father, the Son receives everything that the Father has. God the Son acts as the extension of the Father’s will, and thus it is the Son who judges all men, and the Son who chooses whom he will give life to. The point Jesus is making is that he is not claiming to be God because he wants to enjoy worship; he is claiming to be God because the Father has told him to do so, and by revealing himself he also reveals the Father, and it is the Father who will receive the glory.

A Study of John 4:1-42

John 4:1-42

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days.And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Image result for woman at the well

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

Jesus is not yet ready to be confronted by the Pharisees and so, when he learns that he has gotten their attention, he moves on back to Galilee in the North of Israel. When the passage says Jesus had to pass through Samaria, this may not be meaning due to literal geography, as strict Jews could cross the River Jordan and take a longer route to avoid the “unclean” Samaritans. “Had to” could mean that Jesus had an ordained ministry to perform in Samaria.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

When Jesus arrives in Samaria, he breaks two strong cultural rules; a Jewish man would not associate with a Samarian, especially a woman. Jesus does not acknowledge the cultural divide that the woman states to him. In effect he says “If you knew Who I was, you would be more concerned with the life I can give than the culture that shackles you.” Yet the woman does not yet see who Jesus is. They stand at a sacred site – a well believed to have been dug by Jacob, one of the great Patriarchs of Israel whom God Himself spoke to. In a sense, Jacob is providing water to her community, but Jesus claims to have a greater gift. The woman, who is an outcast who comes to draw from the well at a lonely time of the day, begins to have (skeptical) hope that Jesus may provide a way out of her current situation. She does not want to come to the well alone anymore, to continue living as a woman who is simply used by men (as the next verses show).

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Jesus does not simply provide for the woman’s physical and worldly needs, but rather cuts to the heart of the problem and identifies the sin in her life, and the source of why she is an outcast among her people. To have had five husbands and to live unmarried with a sixth man would be shameful indeed in such a culture. Seemingly unwilling to discuss this, the woman changes the topic, instead raising the division between Jew and Samaritan. Jesus affirms that the Jews were in some sense correct to worship God in Jerusalem where His temple was, but also says that the division between Jew and Gentile is coming to an end; that worship of God will not be constrained to location but will be performed “in spirit and truth”. The woman says that she knows such a time will come when the Messiah arrives, to which Jesus replies that the time is now, for He has come.

Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

The woman gathers the town to see the wonder that she has seen in Jesus. Meanwhile the disciples, perhaps ironically, fail to appreciate Jesus’ metaphor about food, just as the woman at the well could not appreciate his metaphor about drink. Jesus goes on to explain that he is sustained by doing the work of God. He elaborates that this work is the sowing and reaping of God’s word. In this instance, he has sown into the woman at the well, and already a harvest is being reaped as the woman testifies to her town and bring the people to Jesus. Jesus does not simply mean that this place is ripe for harvest, but soon the Word of God will be sown into the whole earth and it will be the disciples who must reap the harvest with the help of the Holy Spirit; that God may be worshipped by multitudes in “Spirit and Truth”.

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Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

We see that many already believed; a harvest is already being reaped among the Samaritans and they receive Jesus openly. Upon receiving Jesus, they see for themselves that Jesus truly is the Saviour of the world, who has come for both Jew and Gentile. Jesus demonstrates how a single outcast woman caught in her sin can be redeemed and bring redemption to an entire town simply by accepting Jesus. In accepting Jesus, his glory shines forth and testifies that he truly is the Son of God, that many may believe.

In this passage we see Jesus demonstrating that he will break down every boundary erected by Man that hinders our worship of God and our receiving of His Spirit. First, he breaks down cultural barriers, next, he breaks down the barriers of doubt and shame, and in their place he brings Truth. Those who are willing to receive the Living Water of God will acknowledge the Son for who He is when they see His Truth shine forth. Jesus shows how this Truth can be but a seed sown into the apparently lowly; such a seed may multiply and bear a great harvest, and it is the followers of Christ who must go and reap as the seed of God’s Kingdom goes out into the world. Through this passage may we see the ever-reaching love of Christ, who during his ministry broke down every barrier to reach those in need, and at the Cross shattered the final barrier – sin – that all who wish to drink of Him may come; may such a love be seen for what it is – the crowning glory of the Son.

A Study of John 3:1-14

John 3:1-14

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night…

This shows that not all of the Pharisees opposed Jesus. Nicodemus initially comes to Jesus in secret (“by night”). Nicodemus also appears later in John 7 and John 19. In John 7, he openly challenges the Pharisees; “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?”, at which he is mocked by his fellows. Later in John 19, after the death of Jesus, Nicodemus helps prepare and bury the body of Jesus. It seems that over the course of Jesus’ ministry, Nicodemus became a bold follower of Christ. This is worth bearing in mind for the rest of this passage and asking, what did Jesus say that had such an impact?

…and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

Nicodemus’ attitude contrasts with other Pharisees who mock and rail against Jesus. Others have said similar things to Jesus (Luke 20:21), but Jesus recognised that these people were deceitful. Jesus’ attitude towards Nicodemus demonstrates that he knows the man is sincere in seeking God.

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Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Whenever Jesus says “Truly, truly”, he is emphasising an important point. Nicodemus has just told Jesus that he knows he is a teacher from God, so why is Jesus talking about being born again? Perhaps at this point in time Nicodemus merely sees Jesus as a wise teacher but nothing more, and he too seems to have no idea what Jesus is talking about, as we can see in his reply to Jesus.

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

Yes again Jesus emphasises with “Truly, truly”. This time he elaborates that to be born again is not a birth of the flesh, but a birth that is brought about through cleansing (water) and is a kind of spiritual, heavenly birth (being born of the Spirit of God). The meaning of Jesus referring to the wind is somewhat mysterious, but “wind” and “Spirit” are closely associated in Greek and Hebrew; it is likely that Jesus is making the point that the Spirit of God goes where He wills, and therefore to be born in the Spirit is not a will of Man, but of God. Nicodemus is still confused by Jesus’ teaching, but continues to sincerely question, rather than mocking or becoming offended by him.

Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”

Jesus points out the irony that a Pharisee who should know the Law and the Scripture by heart cannot see what the Scripture points to – Jesus Himself, and the Pharisees do not accept Jesus’ testimony. It seems that at this point, Nicodemus is not yet “born again”. When Jesus says he is discussing “earthly things”, perhaps he means that he is talking about things that somebody on earth could discern, through the Scripture that is available to them. “Heavenly things” may be the complete revelation of the Kingdom of God and the coming New Creation and New Covenant. Thus, Jesus may be saying, “If you cannot accept the Scripture that you know very well, how will you accept my full teaching that you do not know or understand?”

“No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

Jesus might be saying here that no man can know the mind of God, for he is limited to earth whilst God is seated in heaven; thus Jesus claims Himself to be the only authority who can testify to the full truth and revelation of God the Father. In the wilderness Moses lifted up a serpent, and all who looked upon it were saved from God’s wrath. Jesus parallels Himself and his crucifixion as him being “lifted up” on the cross; and all who look to Him are saved. Perhaps here, Jesus is giving Nicodemus a glimpse of the “heavenly things” He has to teach. As we see later in John, Nicodemus later accepts Jesus’ testimony and puts his faith in Him.

In Nicodemus’ nighttime encounter with Christ, we see how Jesus challenges somebody who is seeking to know the truth about God – who does not yet know the “heavenly truths” that Jesus brings. Jesus’ challenge to Nicodemus is that to truly know God, a man must be born again, not in the way the world sees birth, but in a glorious spiritual rebirth that can only be brought about by the Spirit of God; a rebirth that shifts a person’s perspective completely and allows them to see themselves in relation to God without chasm of sin barring the way. From this time we get hints in the Gospels of God working in Nicodemus’ life; first standing up to the narrative that most of the Pharisees are promoting against Jesus, and later helping in the anointing and burial of Jesus after the Crucifixion at great personal expense. May this passage be a challenge to us; if we already know Christ, to recall often the glorious rebirth that He has given to us; if we do not yet know Him, “Taste and see that the Lord is good”; open your heart to Him, and He will surely come to give new life.

A Masculine Jesus? A Glimpse at the Person of Jesus in the Cleansing of the Temple in John 2

John 2:13-22:

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Today’s passage is very interesting to me, because it shows Jesus in a very different light to how we often perceive him. Usually when we think of Jesus, we think of a very mild robed man who went from place to place, an air of tranquillity around him. The older I get and the more I peel away the preconceptions placed upon Jesus by our culture, taking into account the context of where he is, perceiving a living and breathing world about him and not an isolated story, the more I see the Jesus who must have been – a living, breathing man. Jesus lived perfectly and is a model to us all, but one thing that is very rarely discussed is the masculinity of Jesus. As the perfect man, surely Jesus is also the perfect model of masculinity.

Here in the temple we see a side of Jesus that is rarely discussed, and even more rarely do we consider what is actually going on. This wasn’t just a small alcove with a few vendors that Jesus disrupted; this was a huge space with dozens of vendors – enough space to fit many oxen and other animals, as well as hundreds or even thousands of people coming to visit the temple. A single man, Jesus, is causing absolute chaos. Oxen and sheep must have been stampeding, crowds must have been in uproar, the dozens of merchants were being driven away in fright – and nobody could stop the man at the heart of it all. Jesus must have been fearsome indeed; a whip in his hands, driving back hundreds of people and livestock. This is very far from the meek and mild rabbi that is more often spoken about.

Jesus the Meek Shepherd – the common portrayal of Jesus

It’s very easy to think of Jesus as a very gentle soul who was unaffected by the gritty reality of life around him; as a distant but kindly deity in flesh. But distant is not what Jesus was at all; he engaged with life as much as anyone. He was born in poverty and worked all his life until the final years where his ministry began, he was probably physically strong because he worked a physical job, and when he began his ministry he did not choose only educated and gentle men to accompany him. Many were fishermen; Peter, Andrew, James and John. These were rough, working men. Jesus even calls James and John the “Sons of Thunder”, indicating that they were probably of brazen and fiery temperament. The temperament of Peter is well known as bold and outspoken. In Jesus’ company was even Simon the Zealot, likely part of the Zealot movement that sparked violent Jewish revolts. If we see Jesus in this context, rather than seeing him as a tranquil stained-glass character, we can begin to see the true person of Jesus; a teacher strong enough to engage with and command the respect of boistrous, masculine men, yet also gentle enough to be approached by Mary Magdalene.

So what do we learn from this passage? Why did Jesus act the way he did? Well, the outer courts of the temple where this money changing and livestock selling was taking place would also have been as far as gentiles (non-Jews) could go as they would not be permitted within the temple proper. Their trade was not only irreverent to the temple; it would also have disrupted the worship of gentiles who may have came from all around to honour the God of Israel. We see that Jesus is absolutely uncompromising when it comes to honouring his Father; he will not tolerate anything that detracts from his Father’s glory.

The Cleansing of the Temple

Today, we do not have a single temple of God to keep pure, for now our very bodies are temples to God (1 Corinthians 6:19). We are not called to overturn the tables of others, or to drive out sinners from our midst, but we are called to violently, uncompromisingly oppose the sin within ourselves, and to be bold and decisive in demonstrating God’s glory to others.

And what is the message here to men, in particular? It’s to not be afraid to be men. Jesus was a masculine man, despite what the stained glass windows might tell you, and he surrounded himself with other rugged men. In a culture where masculinity is often demonised, and in churches where we see a lot of softness but not very much fire, men can take heart knowing that Jesus delights in masculinity: Strength, boldness, a fierce will and an iron purpose. He is looking for Sons of Thunder, he is looking for the Peters  and the Zealots to follow him. Indeed we are not always perfect, we may at times be ham-fisted and our zeal may be misdirected, but this is why we have a Brother, Lord, and Advocate – He will not ask us to do away with our masculinity; He will refine it and glorify His Father through it.

There’s an excellent poem written by Ezra Pound (1885 – 1972), from the perspective of Simon the Zealot. The poem is titled “The Goodly Fere”; Fere meaning “mate” or “companion”. I find it very stirring, and I think it fitting to share it here in closing:

Ha’ we lost the goodliest fere o’ all
For the priests and the gallows tree?
Aye lover he was of brawny men,
O’ ships and the open sea.

When they came wi’ a host to take Our Man
His smile was good to see,
“First let these go!” quo’ our Goodly Fere,
“Or I’ll see ye damned,” says he.

Aye he sent us out through the crossed high spears
And the scorn of his laugh rang free,
“Why took ye not me when I walked about
Alone in the town?” says he.

Oh we drank his “Hale” in the good red wine
When we last made company,
No capon priest was the Goodly Fere
But a man o’ men was he.

I ha’ seen him drive a hundred men
Wi’ a bundle o’ cords swung free,
That they took the high and holy house
For their pawn and treasury.

They’ll no’ get him a’ in a book I think
Though they write it cunningly;
No mouse of the scrolls was the Goodly Fere
But aye loved the open sea.

If they think they ha’ snared our Goodly Fere
They are fools to the last degree.
“I’ll go to the feast,” quo’ our Goodly Fere,
“Though I go to the gallows tree.”

“Ye ha’ seen me heal the lame and blind,
And wake the dead,” says he,
“Ye shall see one thing to master all:
‘Tis how a brave man dies on the tree.”

A son of God was the Goodly Fere
That bade us his brothers be.
I ha’ seen him cow a thousand men.
I have seen him upon the tree.

He cried no cry when they drave the nails
And the blood gushed hot and free,
The hounds of the crimson sky gave tongue
But never a cry cried he.

I ha’ seen him cow a thousand men
On the hills o’ Galilee,
They whined as he walked out calm between,
Wi’ his eyes like the grey o’ the sea,

Like the sea that brooks no voyaging
With the winds unleashed and free,
Like the sea that he cowed at Genseret
Wi’ twey words spoke’ suddently.

A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
A mate of the wind and sea,
If they think they ha’ slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.

I ha’ seen him eat o’ the honey-comb
Sin’ they nailed him to the tree.

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A Study of John 1:1-5

John 1:1-5

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

 —

I’m beginning a new series of studies within my favorite Gospel; the Book of John. I figured this will be a lot better than randomly finding a passage every week – it will be more consistent and hopefully a lot more helpful. Better to have a thorough understanding of one Book than a smidge of insights all over the place in my opinion. So let’s begin the start of our journey in one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible; “In the beginning was the Word…” As we start this journey, I pray that God would guide me and give me insight into His Word, and use this writing to teach, encourage and inspire others. May His Spirit open up eyes and ears that they may better see the worth of Christ – Amen!

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God…

The Greek for “Word” is Logos, from where we get the word “logic”. To say that in the beginning was the Word is to say that in the beginning was Truth; the very Reasoning of God. John presents Jesus as the revelation of God; the incarnation of His mind; the Word that He speaks out.

…and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

Here we see that the Word both is God and is with God; forming the concept of the multiple Persons of the Trinity. John tells us that the Son and the Father are both eternally God and have been together throughout all time.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

John describes the Son, the Word, as the “active” member of the Trinity. The Father does not act by Himself, but gives the Son the authority to do so. In John 5:30 Jesus says “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” Therefore Jesus is the expression and incarnation of the Father’s will, and everything that the Father made in creation was done through the Son. John also emphasises that the Son was never created – He always has existed, because anything that has been made must be made through the Son. Therefore the Son was never made – He is eternal.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

In John 5:26 Jesus says, ” For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” The Father has granted the Son to have life “in Himself”. Mere humans do not have life in themselves; they are sustained by God. The Son however has life in Himself, that is, He is eternally self-sufficient and does not need to draw life from anywhere else. Here John gives the image of the Father granting this inherent Life to the Son, and the Son in turn using this Life to bless all of Mankind. A constant theme in the Gospel is the Father pouring blessings upon the Son, and the Son in turn distributing these blessings to Man by His Spirit.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The “Light of the world” (John 8:12), or the Life, shines into the world; a place that does not have the Light of God due to the separation by sin. The Son at last cuts through the darkness and Mankind once again may behold the Light of God that is our life. John wrote his Gospel last and he assumes we are familiar with the other Gospels. The entire goal of John is to tell us that Jesus was God in flesh; the darkness tried to overcome Him on the Cross, but the Resurrection declared to all that the Son had truly came into the world and conquered darkness.

John summarises this perfectly in John 1:18: “  No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

This is one of my favorite passages in all the Bible. I’ve heard it said that John is “shallow enough for a toddler to paddle in, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim in.” How true these words are! The light shines through to show a glimmer of God’s glory at even the briefest glance over these seemingly simple verses, but as we delve in we see a depth of beauty in the working of the Triune God. In these five verses we see the centrality of Christ as the Word by which the Father brought creation into being; how the Word is truly and eternally God, not made but always existing at the Father’s side. I hope that this study has at least somewhat directed your gaze to the glory of the Son. I look forward to continuing through John in subsequent weeks; I can promise you that there is much more glory to see throughout the rest of the Gospel. God bless you, and I hope to see you next time.