Passion Week – Monday – Jesus cleanses the Temple

Photo credit James Tissot painting www.joyfulheart.com

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  1. On Monday, Jesus cleanses the temple.
  2. On the way back to Jerusalem Jesus curses the fig tree.
  3. When he arrives in Jerusalem, he cleanses the temple (though it’s debated, this is likely the area of the Royal Stoa, described by Josephus in Antiquitites 15.411–415, which ran the length of the southern wall of the Temple Mount).
  4. Jesus then did miracles in the temple and received challenges from the Jewish leaders and astonishment from the crowd.
  5. In the evening Jesus and the twelve return to Bethany.

The following synopsis is from Christian Classics Ethereal Library, written by Mark A. Copeland.

„THE GOSPEL OF JOHN”

The Cleansing Of The Temple (John 2:13-25)

INTRODUCTION

1. It is common to think of Jesus as a gentle, peace-loving man…

a. He certainly presented Himself as such on most occasions – e.g.,
Mt 11:28-30
b. People felt comfortable in bringing their children to Him – e.g.,
Mt 19:13-14

2. Yet on occasion Jesus displayed strong righteous indignation…
a. Such as when He visited Jerusalem during the Passover at the
beginning of His ministry
b. As He drove the moneychangers and merchandisers out of the temple
– Jn 2:13-15

[What prompted this outburst of anger? What gave Jesus the authority to
do this? What lessons might we glean from this event? As we seek to
find the answers let’s first note…]

I. THE REBUKE OF THE LORD

A. MERCHANDISING HIS FATHER’S HOUSE…

1. The Lord’s rebuke reveals the reason for His outburst – cf. Jn 2:16
2. The sellers of oxen and sheep, along with the moneychangers,
had turned the temple into a house of merchandise
3. It was to be a house of prayer, they had turned it into a den
of thieves – cf. Mt 21:13
– The Lord was angered by the manner in which some used religion to make money

B. MIGHT WE BE GUILTY OF A SIMILAR OFFENSE…?
1. What if we attend church simply as a form of „networking”, to
make business contacts?
2. What if we take advantage of our relationship as brethren to
further a multilevel marketing business, a home-based business,
or any other financial enterprise?
– The Lord’s temple today is the church, we must be careful lest we defile it as well (cf. 1Co 3:16-17)

[The Lord has ordained that those who preach the gospel be supported (1 Col 9:14). But He is angered by those who view the Lord’s temple
(people) as a way to get rich. Next, we note that His anger was
prompted by…]

II. THE ZEAL OF THE LORD

A. ZEAL FOR HIS FATHER’S HOUSE…
1. The disciples were reminded of an Old Testament prophecy – Jn 2:17; cf. Ps 69:9
2. Jesus had zeal (fervor) for God’s house, for it’s intended
purpose (a house of prayer)
– His great zeal for His Father’s house moved Him to action

B. HOW IS OUR ZEAL FOR THE LORD’S HOUSE…?
1. Remember, today the Father’s house is the church – cf. 1 Ti 3:15
2. Do we have great zeal for the church?
a. That it fulfill it’s intended purpose (to make known God’s
will)? – cf. Ep 3:10-11
b. That we are troubled when we see people try to turn it into
something else, such as social club, or a purveyor of
entertainment?
– If we have zeal for the Lord’s house, we will not rest silent when others pervert its purpose

[Of course, the action we take may not be the same as what Jesus did.
Indeed, He took up „a whip of cords.” What right did He have to use
such a display of force? That’s what the Jews wanted to know…]

III. THE AUTHORITY OF THE LORD

A. THE SIGN THAT PROVES HIS AUTHORITY…
1. They wanted to know what sign (miracle) He could offer to prove
His right to cleanse the temple – Jn 2:18
2. Jesus offered His ability to rise from the dead as the ultimate
proof – Jn 2:19-22
a. Later, He would restate His claim to have this ability – Jn 10:17-18
b. His resurrection proved that He was the Son of God – cf. Ro 1:4
– He has been given the authority to exercise such judgment as cleansing the temple – cf. Jn 5:22,26-27

B. WE DO NOT HAVE THE SAME AUTHORITY…
1. We are to judge with righteous judgment – Jn 7:24
a. At times we must distinguish between „hogs” and „dogs” – Mt 7:6
b. We can distinguish between good and bad fruit – Mt 7:15-20
2. But our authority to judge is limited – Mt 7:1-5
a. There are things we cannot judge in this life – 1Co 4:3-5
b. There are people we are not to judge – 1Co 5:11-13
c. Vengeance in particular belongs to the Lord – cf. Ro 12: 17-19
– While Jesus is our example (cf. 1Pe 2:21), there are some „steps” that He took that we cannot take

[The reason we cannot emulate the Lord in every case becomes evident as we consider…]

IV. THE POWER OF THE LORD

A. THE POWER THAT JUSTIFIES HIS ACTION…
1. John mentions how many came to believe in Him because of His
signs – Jn 2:23
2. John also makes note of His unwillingness to commit Himself to
others at this time
a. He had no need to, because he knew all – Jn 2:24
b. He had no need to, because he knew what was in man – Jn 2:25
– Jesus is revealed as one who can discern the hearts of men – cf. Mt 9:4; Re 2:23

B. WE DO NOT HAVE THE SAME POWER…
1. We cannot discern the hearts of men like the Lord can; note
these comments:
a. „Our Lord knew all men, their nature, dispositions,
affections, designs, so as we do not know any man, not even
ourselves.”
b. „He knows his crafty enemies, and all their secret projects;
his false friends, and their true characters.”
c. „He knows who are truly his, knows their uprightness, and
knows their weaknesses.”
d. „We know what is done by men; Christ knows what is in them,
he tries the heart.”
– Matthew Henry Commentary
2. Since we cannot read the hearts of men, we must be careful
a. We are unable to always know the motives of others
b. We must approach those in opposition with humility – cf.
2Ti 2:24-26
c. We must approach brethren overtaken in a fault with
gentleness – cf. Ga 6:1

CONCLUSION

1. In contending for the faith (which is a solemn duty, Jude 3)…
a. Some often use the example of Jesus cleansing the temple to
justify their behavior
b. As they lash out in anger (righteous indignation?) towards those
teaching error

2. Is it right to appeal to Jesus’ example in this case…?
a. Can we appeal to every example of Jesus?
b. If so, are we justified to use a whip of cords as well?

3. The immediate context offers reasons to answer carefully…
a. Jesus possessed unlimited authority to judge man, proven by His
resurrection from the dead
b. Jesus possessed divine power to read the hearts of men, we
sometimes cannot even discern our own hearts

4. There are times for righteous indignation…
a. But some things must be left to the Lord, the righteous Judge
b. We must avoid what might actually be „self-righteous” indignation!

While we may not always be able to emulate the Lord’s prerogative to judge, we should certainly strive to copy His zeal for His Father’s house. Is our zeal for His church what it ought to be…?

The Resurrection Appearances of Jesus

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Study By: Bob Deffinbaugh at http://www.bible.org. Our text deals with the first three of our Lord’s four post-resurrection appearances in the Gospel of John. The first appearance is to Mary Magdalene, and the next three are to the disciples. Jesus will appear to Mary Magdalene (20:10-18), then to the disciples, minus Thomas (20:19-23), then to the disciples, with Thomas (20:26-29), and finally to the seven disciples, including Thomas, who were fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (21:1ff.). There are some very important lessons to be learned here, so let us listen and learn, looking to the Spirit of God to interpret, apply, and implement these truths in our lives.

General Observations

It would serve us well to begin with several observations concerning our text and its relationship to the other Gospels.

We do not really know a great deal about the time between our Lord’s resurrection and His ascension. When you stop to think about it, a significant portion of each of the Gospels is taken up with the events of the last week of our Lord in Jerusalem. And yet, the 40 days following our Lord’s resurrection gets very little attention in comparison. The material we do have about this period is not meant to satisfy our curiosity about all that happened during this time, but is recorded to prove one important fact: Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father!

Of the details we do find regarding our Lord’s ministry after His resurrection, a number of them are recorded only in Acts and 1 Corinthians. Until now I did not realize how much of my understanding of our Lord’s ministry after His resurrection is based upon New Testament books other than the Gospels. Some of the most important details come from Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15:

1 I wrote the former account, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after he had given orders by the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he had also presented himself alive to these apostles by many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God. 4 While he was with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for “what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. 5 For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, “Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He told them, “You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” 9 After he had said this, while they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him away from their sight. 10 As they were staring into the sky while he was going, suddenly two men in white clothing stood near them 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:1-11).

3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still living, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

I am not sure why I had concluded that my understanding of the post-resurrection period was dependent solely upon the Gospels. It was probably due, in part, to my assumption that if one Gospel didn’t mention something I knew about this time period, it was because it was recorded in one of the other three Gospels. But this is not necessarily true. If it were not for Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15, we would not know nearly as much about the Lord’s ministry during the 40 days following His resurrection. From Acts 1:3 we learn that during this time, Jesus taught His disciples about the kingdom of God which was yet to come. While our Lord’s instruction to His disciples to wait for the coming of the Spirit can be found in Luke’s Gospel (24:49), we probably remember this command from Acts 1:4-5. Apart from 1 Corinthians 15:5, we would not know that Jesus appeared to over 500 people at one time after His resurrection. It is from Paul (1 Corinthians 15:5), as well as from Luke (24:34), that we know Jesus made a private appearance to Peter. We would certainly not expect the replacement for Judas to be Saul, to whom our Lord made another (albeit, a later) post-resurrection appearance (1 Corinthians 15:8). A good part of what little we know of this period in our Lord’s life and ministry comes from outside the Gospels.

Some of the details about events which occurred in this time period may appear to be contradictory. For example, in Mark we read that after the women saw and heard the angel at the tomb, “they went out and ran away from the tomb. They were in a state of trembling and amazement, and said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid” (Mark 16:8, emphasis mine). In Luke’s Gospel we read, “Then they remembered his words, and when they returned from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest ” (Luke 24:8-9, emphasis mine). I believe the solution to this apparent contradiction is found in Matthew’s account: “So they left the tomb quickly, with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. But Jesus met them, saying, ‘Greetings!’ They came to him, held on to his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. They will see me there’” (Matthew 28:8-10, emphasis mine).

By putting all these details in sequence, we get a pretty good idea of what happened from the time the women left the tomb till they spoke with all the disciples and others. The women saw and heard the angel, who instructed them to go tell the disciples that Jesus was alive and would meet them in Galilee. The women rush off toward the city, but they are in a virtual state of shock. They tell no one they encounter on their way what they have just seen and heard (this conforms with what Mark tells us). Then, as they are still on their way to the city, Jesus Himself appears to them. This is the first time they have actually seen Him. He tells the women to go and tell the others, and indeed they do. Thus, all statements (those of Mark, of Luke, and of Matthew) harmonize when viewed in terms of the entire event. I believe we must assume this to be the case in every instance where an apparent contradiction appears. The details that differ are not an occasion for wringing our hands, they are the opportunity for a fuller grasp of what happened. Let us keep that in mind as we approach our text.

We find that some of the Gospel accounts are particularly brief at this point. This is especially true of Matthew and Mark’s accounts. Matthew writes of one appearance of Jesus to the women (28:9-10) and of one appearance of Jesus to His disciples (28:16-20). Mark’s account is terse as well, depending to some degree upon where you think his account really ends. Mark does briefly mention the appearance of Jesus to the two men on the road to Emmaus (16:12-13; compare Luke 24:13-35). He also tells of the appearance of our Lord to the eleven disciples (Mark 16:13-18). Mark does not include an account of Jesus appearing to any of the women, but only of the angel speaking to them (16:1-8). Luke and John have the most lengthy accounts of the post-resurrection ministry of our Lord. Luke does not describe an appearance of Jesus to the women; he chooses instead to emphasize the appearance to the two men on the road to Emmaus (24:13-35). He then writes of our Lord’s subsequent appearance to the disciples (24:36-39) and then of His ascension (24:50-53). John focuses on four of the Lord’s post-resurrection appearances: first to Mary Magdalene (20:11-18), then to the disciples minus Thomas (20:19-25), then the disciples with Thomas (20:26-29), and finally to the seven disciples as they are fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (21:1-25).

Finally, each Gospel has something unique to add to the story. Matthew informs us that the tomb was secured by a Roman seal and guards, provided at the request of the Jewish religious leaders who recalled Jesus’ promise that He would rise from the dead in three days, and who were afraid His disciples would steal His body. Matthew then follows up with an account of how the guards and the religious leaders fabricated a cover story to explain the missing body of our Lord. Mark’s account is indeed unique, causing much discussion as to where his Gospel should end. Luke provides us with a detailed account of the appearance of our Lord to the two men on the road to Emmaus. John’s account is almost entirely unique. He alone describes the investigation of the tomb by both Peter and John (Luke 24:12 tells us only that Peter went to see the tomb), of the appearance of Jesus to Mary, of three appearances of Jesus to His disciples—more than any other Gospel. His focus on Thomas’ reluctance to believe in our Lord’s resurrection is unique. The appearance of Jesus to the seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias is also unique, including our Lord’s three-fold question and exhortation to Peter. With this background information in mind, let us take a closer look at the first three post-resurrection appearances of our Lord, as described in John 20.

Jesus’ First Appearance: Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18)

10 So the disciples went back to their homes. 11 But Mary stood outside the tomb and wept. While she was weeping, she bent over and looked into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels in white sitting where Jesus’ body had been lying, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary replied, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him!” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Because she thought he was the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus replied, “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene came and informed the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what Jesus had said to her.

It was Mary Magdalene who first arrived at the empty tomb in the early hours of the first day of the week. When she saw the stone had been removed, she seems to have jumped to a hasty conclusion—someone had taken the body. We do not know to whom the “they” (“They have taken the Lord from the tomb …”—verse 2) refers, and I doubt that Mary did either. I believe it is safe to say that it never occurred to her that any of the disciples took the body. She seems to have assumed it was either the Jews, or the Roman soldiers, or someone like “the gardener” (see 20:15). It never occurred to Mary that Jesus had been raised from the dead. She did not hope to see her risen Lord; she simply wished to locate His body and give it a proper burial.

A year or so ago a young woman’s body was stolen from its grave at Restland Cemetery, just a mile or so down the road from our church. It was a terrible thing to do, and the family was most eager to get the body back and see to it that it was buried properly, once for all. Someone had added insult to injury. Not only had this family lost a loved one, they suffered the agony of not knowing what had become of her body. Mary must have felt the same way this young woman’s family felt. She had devoted herself and her livelihood to following Jesus and supporting Him, along with some other women. She had watched helplessly as Jesus was tried, convicted, and crucified. She looked on as His body was laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Now, she believed that the body of her Lord had been taken. It was almost too much to bear.

When Peter and John left the tomb, Mary remained behind. At first she stood outside the tomb, weeping. She stooped sufficiently to be able to see inside the tomb, apparently for the first time. Two angels were inside, clothed in white. An angel was sitting at each end of the place where Jesus’ body had been laid. From Mary’s response to these angels, one can hardly avoid the conclusion that Mary did not recognize these angels as angels. But then why should she? It is true that in Matthew’s account the one angel who sat on the stone had an appearance that was like lightening (28:3), and this fellow was so awesome the guards were terrified (28:4). But John does not tell us that these two angels were as awesome in appearance as the first angel was. And this should come as no surprise. Often in the Bible, angels simply look like men, so that their appearance alone would not reveal their true identity (see Genesis 18 and 19; Acts 1:10-11; Hebrews 13:2). It would seem that the two angels made no effort to identify themselves as angels, nor even to inform Mary that Jesus was not there. Perhaps it was because our Lord was going to do this personally.

The angels asked Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping?” The inference is that her tears were not really called for. They were tears of love, and of sorrow, but they were also ill-founded. In Mary’s mind, this was the darkest moment of her life, and yet her tears were based upon false assumptions: that Jesus was dead; that His body had been stolen; that she would not be able to find His body. If Mary had known the real reason why the tomb was empty, she would not have been crying.

Some have suggested that the angels gave a look of recognition when they saw Jesus behind Mary, outside the tomb. We do not know why, but for some reason Mary turned around to gaze at the risen Lord. She saw Him, but she did not recognize Him, in much the same way that I had seen Sally Rackets in the parking lot this past week, but did not recognize her. Mary’s vision may have been obscured by her tears, and Jesus may not have looked exactly the same as He did before His resurrection. He most certainly looked different from the way she saw Him last, from the horrible sight she could not erase from her mind—a badly beaten, bloody figure, who could hardly be recognized for all the abuse His body had taken: “Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:15, NIV).

Jesus asks Mary the same question the angels had asked her moments earlier: “Woman, why are you weeping?”, but He adds a further question, “Who are you looking for?”. Jesus knew why she was weeping. He knew that the empty tomb caused her great grief. He knew that she was seeking His body. His words indicate to Mary that He knows something about her dilemma. Mary’s grief still blinds her to the truth, but she nevertheless seems to discern that this “gardener” holds the key to her quest for the Lord’s body. She pleads with Him to convey any information He may have to her: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him” (verse 15).193

Jesus answered with but one word—“Mary.” For Mary, seeing was not believing, but hearing was. Would you not love to have heard this one word just the way Mary did? That one word was spoken in the voice she knew so well. It was also spoken in the manner she knew so well. What love, what compassion, what healing was conveyed by this one word—“Mary.” I cannot help but recall the words of our Lord, spoken earlier:

1 “I tell you the solemn truth, the one who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The doorkeeper opens the door for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought all his own sheep out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow himbecause they recognize his voice. 5 They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice” (John 10:1-5, emphasis mine).

Immediately Mary recognized that it was her Lord, and called Him “Rabboni” (or teacher). We know from our Lord’s words that Mary has already locked Him in her grasp. It is as though she intended to keep holding on to Him, so that He would never leave her again. And it is because of this that Jesus responds, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’” (John 20:17, NAB). I must differ with the NET Bible translation here (“Do not touch me, …”) for two reasons. First, it is not that Jesus could not be touched. In but a few verses we will read, “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe’” (John 20:27). Why would Jesus tell Mary not to touch Him, and instruct Thomas to do so? In Matthew 28:9, Jesus allowed the women to take hold of His feet and worship Him. Second, the tense of the imperative is present, and this grammatical construction often conveys the thought of ceasing to do something.194 Jesus is not trying to prevent Mary from touching Him; He is trying to make it clear to her that He is going to leave this world to return to His Father. She should not suppose that by clinging to Him she can prevent His departure.

John does not include the command which Jesus gave to Mary, though it is clear that He instructed her as to what she was to tell the disciples (20:18). She who was the first to go out to the tomb was the first to see the risen Lord, and apparently the first to be privileged to share the good news of His resurrection with others.

Before we go on to the next appearance of our Lord, I would like to make a comment or two. I would like you to note that our Lord’s first appearance is not to one of the eleven disciples, but to Mary Magdalene. She will never be one of the apostles. She will never write a Gospel. She will never become a great preacher or leader. Nevertheless, our Lord chose to manifest Himself to her first. Why do you think this was? I would call your attention to three important factors. First, she had a great love for her Master, as He did for her. Second, she seemed to be the one with the greatest measure of grief. I am reminded of the words of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). In the context of this sermon, Jesus did not promise blessings to those who were the greatest, or the most powerful, but to those in the greatest need, with the greatest desire for spiritual things. There is a third reason: Mary was there first. Jesus revealed Himself first to the one who was there first. Mary came to the tomb early, because of her great love, and her great grief, and Jesus revealed Himself to her, first.

I would also like to point out an important lesson which this text teaches us: When we come to see things as they really are, we will find that many of our tears were unnecessary. To put it in different words, Many of our tears are ill-founded. Both the angels and our Lord questioned Mary as to why she was weeping. The reason she gave was that her Lord’s body had been taken, and she did not know where to find it. The truth of the matter was that Jesus was not dead; He had been resurrected. And beyond this, His body was not missing at all, and no one had taken it. Jesus did not need to be found by Mary; Jesus found Mary.

We know that in heaven there will be no more tears: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain; the former things have ceased to exist” (Revelation 21:4). Why will there be no more tears in heaven? The first answer is because there will no longer be those things which cause us to cry—no more suffering, no more sin, no more injustice, no more death. But the second reason is that we shall then see all of our sorrows in an entirely different light. We shall see them in the context of the perfect work God was achieving through the things which caused us to weep.

When you and I get to heaven, we will see things in a very different light, and when we do, we will discover that many of our tears of sorrow were as groundless as Mary’s tears were. I am not saying that Christians should not cry. What I am saying is that a good deal of our sorrow is the result of our inadequate knowledge of what God is doing in and through our adversities. When Christians get to heaven, they will see the entire picture, and thus they will find that everything that has ever happened to them is for their good and His glory. No wonder there will be no tears in heaven! Our comfort and joy may not come as quickly as Mary’s did, but it will be just as great, just as real, and it is just as certain.

Jesus’ Second Appearance: The Disciples, Minus Thomas (John 20:19-23)

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the disciples had gathered together and locked the doors of the place for fear of the Jewish authorities. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you!” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you! Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 And after he said this, he breathed195 on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”

John very kindly does not tell us what Mark and Luke record in their accounts—that when the disciples were told that Jesus was alive, they refused to believe it without seeing Him:

9 Early on the first day of the week, after he arose, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. 10 She went out and told those who were with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 And when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe (Mark 16:9-11; see also verses 12-13).

10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed like pure nonsense to them, and they did not believe them (Luke 24:10-11).

It was on the first day of the week—the same day that Mary saw Jesus—and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors. They were afraid of the Jews, and rightly so. They were disciples of Jesus, and He had just been crucified for sedition. And now, the story was circulating that they had stolen the body of Jesus (Matthew 28:11-15). Remember that the tomb was sealed by Rome, and guarded by Roman soldiers. The disciples may have felt in greater danger here than on any previous occasion. They must have been deeply troubled by the reports they had heard that Jesus was alive. What were they to think of all this? What were they to do? They did not know.

And so the disciples met together behind locked doors. We are told that one disciple was missing—Thomas. We are not told why he was absent. There is no particular blame cast on him for his absence. In some miraculous way, Jesus enters the room, even though the door is locked. We do not know what the disciples saw, but John certainly leaves us with the impression that our Lord’s entrance was unusual—one more proof of His resurrection. Our Lord twice repeated the words, “Peace be with you” (20:19, 21). This certainly reminds us of what Jesus had said earlier to these men:

25 “I have spoken these things while staying with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you. 27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe” (John 14:24-29, emphasis mine).

It would appear that this was our Lord’s first appearance to the disciples after His resurrection. If this is so, it may be the same appearance that Luke describes, providing us with additional details:

30 When he had taken his place at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 At this point their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished out of their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?” 33 So they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and those with them gathered together 34 and saying, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how they recognized him when he broke the bread. 36 While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 But they were startled and terrified, thinking they saw a spirit. 38 Then he said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself! Touch me and see; because a spirit does not have flesh and bones like you see that I have.” 40 Then when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still could not believe it for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 So they gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in front of them (Luke 24:30-43, emphasis mine).

Jesus would have appeared to Mary and the other women by now, and they have already announced to the disciples that Jesus was alive. But the disciples refused to believe. Then, the two men who talked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus arrived to tell the disciples of their encounter with the risen Lord. Once again, the disciples refused to believe:

12 After this he appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 They went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. 14 Then he appeared to the eleven themselves, while they were eating, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen him resurrected (Mark 16:12-14, emphasis mine).

John spares us from yet another account of the unbelief of the disciples, and of Jesus rebuking them for their unbelief. While their unbelief deserved rebuke, John moves on to tell us how Jesus convinced His disciples of His resurrection. He shows them His nail-scarred hands and His spear-pierced side. There was no mistaking the fact that His wounds, now healed, were incurred at His crucifixion. It was Jesus, and there was no denying it, incredible as that may be.

The disciples had a job to do, and they were being left behind so that they could accomplish it. This task is summed up in the “Great Commission”:

18 Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

To accomplish this task, the disciples are in need of divine enablement. This was promised by our Lord in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13–16):

15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. 16 Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you. … 25 I have spoken these things while staying with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you” (John 14:15-17, 25-26).

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me; 27 and you also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).

7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment— 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 12 I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears, and will tell you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 15 Everything that the Father has is mine; that is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 16 In a little while you will see me no longer; again after a little while, you will see me” (John 16:7-16).

I had never noticed before that in His high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus does not ask the Father to send the Spirit, which He has promised in chapters 14-16. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is not even mentioned in this prayer! How can this be? I believe that while our Lord prepared His disciples for the coming of the Spirit in the Upper Room Discourse, He did not intend to send the Spirit until after His ascension. In other words, the Holy Spirit would not come until Pentecost. Some suggest that in our text Jesus is temporarily bestowing the Spirit upon His disciples, until Pentecost comes. I don’t agree.

In the first place, John does not report anything out of the ordinary happening as a result of our Lord’s actions. The disciples are not transformed, as they will be at Pentecost. The gospel is not preached. In fact, the next thing to happen in John’s Gospel is that some of the disciples go fishing. I do not believe that the Holy Spirit was immediately bestowed upon the disciples at this moment, as a result of what Jesus says and does. I believe Jesus is symbolically bestowing the Spirit upon His disciples, although it will not actually take place until Pentecost. Jesus will have ascended to the Father then, and so this gesture indicates to the disciples that when the Spirit comes at Pentecost, it will be as a result of what Jesus had promised earlier, and symbolically indicates here.

I wish to be very clear here, both as to what I am saying, and as to what I am not saying. I am saying that our Lord is here symbolically bestowing His Holy Spirit on the church. This symbolic act will literally be fulfilled at Pentecost. Jesus wants it to be clear that it is He who is sending His Spirit to indwell and to empower His church. I am not saying that the Spirit is given at the moment Jesus breathes upon His disciples. I am not saying that this is a temporary bestowal of the Spirit, until the permanent coming of the Spirit at Pentecost.

Specifically, I believe that what Jesus is symbolically bestowing is the coming of the Holy Spirit upon His disciples as those who will act as His apostles. Earlier, Jesus outlined some of the ministries of the Holy Spirit. For example, the Spirit would call Jesus’ teaching to their minds. He would convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. But here, none of these ministries seems to be in view. Here, the Holy Spirit is given to the apostles so that they can either proclaim the forgiveness of sins, or the retention of sins. I do not think this text justifies some priestly hierarchy, who hears confessions and grants absolution from one’s sins. Instead, I believe Jesus is giving the apostles the authority to declare men and women to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. I believe we see an example of this in the Book of Acts:

1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers took issue with him, 3 saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and shared a meal with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them point by point, saying, 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, an object something like a large sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came to me. 6 As I stared I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; slaughter and eat!’ 8 But I said, ‘Certainly not, Lord, for nothing defiled or ritually unclean has ever entered my mouth!’ 9 But the voice replied a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then everything was pulled up to heaven again. 11 At that very moment, three men sent to me from Caesarea approached the house where we were staying. 12 The Spirit told me to accompany them without hesitation. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He informed us how he had seen an angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter, 14 who will speak a message to you by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15 Then as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them just as he did on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, as he used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 Therefore if God gave them the same gift as he also gave us after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to hinder God?” 18 When they heard this, they ceased their objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted the repentance that leads to life even to the Gentiles” (Acts 11:1-18, emphasis mine).

It takes a monumental work of God to convince the Jews that God has purposed from eternity past to save Gentiles (see Acts 22:21-23). Our Lord had promised to send the Spirit, which He did at Pentecost. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit directed Peter to go to the house of a Gentile and to proclaim the gospel to those gathered in his house. The Spirit then came upon all those who had come to faith, thus indicating that the gospel (the forgiveness of sins) was not just for Jews alone, but for all who believe, Jew or Gentile. It is difficult for Gentile believers today to grasp how hard it was for Jews to accept the salvation of the Gentiles. Even the apostles found this difficult. As the Spirit came upon the apostles, this truth was embraced, proclaimed, and defended by them. By means of the Spirit’s guidance and illumination, the truth that the gospel was for Jews and Gentiles was declared by the apostles, and particularly by Paul:

11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh—who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed in the body by hands—12 that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, the one who turned both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, in his flesh, 15 when he nullified the law of commandments in decrees. The purpose of this was to create in himself the two into one new man, thus making peace, 16 and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer foreigners and non-citizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, 20 because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:11-22).

1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 If indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that by revelation the divine secret was made known to me, as I wrote before briefly. 4 When reading this, you will be able to understand my insight into this secret of Christ. 5 Now this secret was not disclosed to mankind in former generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, 6 namely, that through the gospel the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus. 7 I became a servant of this gospel according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the exercise of his power. 8 To me—less than the least of all the saints—this grace was given, to proclaim to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ 9 and to enlighten everyone about the divine secret’s plan—a secret that has been hidden for ages in the God who has created all things (Ephesians 3:1-9).

Jesus’ Third Appearance: The Disciples, Including Thomas (John 20:24-31)

24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the wounds from the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the wounds from the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it!” 26 Eight days later the disciples were again together in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe.” 28 Thomas replied to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The disciples seem to have been convinced of our Lord’s resurrection, except for Thomas who was not there. He did not see the resurrected Lord, nor did he behold the Savior’s wounded hands and side. And so it was that when Thomas was told that Jesus had appeared to them, he refused to believe. He insisted that in order for him to believe, he would have to see Jesus with his own eyes. He would have to personally inspect the Lord’s nail-pierced hands and His pierced side. Only then would he believe. Before we become too harsh with Thomas, let me remind you that the other disciples did not believe until they saw, either. Thomas is really demanding to see the same things that convinced the others. He is not asking for anything more than what the others saw.

Eight days passed. Apparently Jesus did not appear to any of His disciples during this period of time. The disciples were all together once again, including Thomas. The doors were locked, but in spite of this Jesus arrived and stood in their midst.196 Jesus repeats the greeting He gave at His earlier appearance, “Peace be with you” (verse 26; see also verses 19, 21). Immediately, Jesus turns His attention to Thomas. He summons Thomas to come and to put his finger where the nails had pierced His hands, and to feel His side where the spear had pierced it. He challenged Thomas to forsake his unbelief and to believe.

We do not know whether Thomas actually pressed his fingers into our Lord’s nail-pierced hands or not. Since John does not tell us that Thomas actually felt the wounds of our Lord, it may well be that after seeing Jesus alive he no longer required this proof. It may have taken this sight to convince Thomas, but once convinced, Thomas got it right. He does not merely profess a belief that Jesus has risen from the dead. Thomas professes to believe in what the resurrection proved—that Jesus was God, and that He was Lord (verse 28). Thomas now has it right.

Bible translations handle our Lord’s response differently. Some render the first words of verse 29 as a question, “Have you believed because you have seen Me?” (as does the NET Bible). Others render it as a statement: “Because you have seen me, you have believed” (NIV, KJV, NKJV). The difference is not important. The contrast Jesus seeks to emphasize is between those who must see in order to believe, and those who will believe without seeing. Peter seems to take up this same thought in his first epistle:

8 You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 because you are attaining the goal of your faith—the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

It is not too hard to see what John is leading up to. John is writing this Gospel for those who have never seen the risen Lord. He has selected just a few of the many miraculous signs Jesus performed to demonstrate that Jesus is who He claimed to be, who John proclaims Him to be.

The Bottom Line: Believing Jesus Is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31)

30 Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples that are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

If there is one thing I despise, it is deceptive advertising. I hate those phone calls that come from unidentified (“out of the area”) sources, which begin with the assurance that the caller is not “selling” anything. John could not be more open and direct about the purpose of this book. I believe John has two conclusions. The first is found in chapter 20. It is aimed at those who have not yet come to faith in Jesus Christ. The second is aimed at those who have believed, and it is found in chapter 21.

In our text, John informs his unbelieving readers about the “bottom line” of all that he has written. John has one goal for the unbeliever: He wants to demonstrate as clearly and as forcefully as he can that Jesus not only claimed to be the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of God, but that by many miraculous signs He proved it! The last and greatest of these signs was His resurrection from the dead:

38 Then some of the experts in the law along with some Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. 41 The people of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; yet something greater than Jonah is here! 42 The Queen of the South will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; yet something greater than Solomon is here! (Matthew 12:38-42).

While the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was prophesied in the Old Testament, and by our Lord Himself, John makes it very clear that the disciples were not predisposed to believe it. Only after the most forceful and compelling evidence would the disciples believe Jesus really was alive. And having become convinced of this great truth, the disciples never ceased to proclaim it. The resurrection of Jesus is the final and compelling proof that He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world:

1 From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God 2 that he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with respect to the flesh, 4 who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:1-4).

Believing in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, is the only way God has provided for the forgiveness of your sins and for the gift of eternal life. By believing in Him, you will be saved:

9 Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and thus has a right standing and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. 11 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:9-13).

11 He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children 13 —children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God (John 1:11-13).

In many ways, the Gospel of John is not a simple book. But its message to the unsaved is incredibly simple, and John sums it up in these last verses of chapter 20. If you have never come to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, then John has written this book to you, and for you, to give you all the evidence you need to believe in Him. Have you believed? This is the most important decision you will ever make. It determines your eternal destiny.


193 Some have criticized Mary for being so nave as to assume she will be able to carry away the body of our Lord. They are missing the point. She is not thinking in terms of logistics here. She is simply saying that if this “gardener” will tell her where to find the body, she will see to it that it is returned to its proper place. Of course she will get help to accomplish this. For now, she just wants to know where His body has been placed.

194 A. T. Robertson comments, “Present middle imperative in prohibition with genitive case, meaning “cease clinging to me” rather than “Do not touch me.” Jesus allowed the women to take hold of his feet … and worship … as we read in Mt 28:9. The prohibition here reminds Mary that the previous personal fellowship by sight, sound, and touch no longer exists and that the final state of glory was not yet begun. Jesus checks Mary’s impulsive eagerness.” Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), 6 vols. Vol. V, p. 312.

195 I am reminded that the breath of God is the source of life (Genesis 2:7; Job 33:4; Psalm 33:6; Ezekiel 37:9), even as it is also the means of divine judgment (2 Samuel 22:16; Job 4:9; Psalm 18:15). The breath of God is sometimes a symbol for His Spirit (Job 33:4). In a symbolic way, our Lord is breathing life into His church.

Both the NET Bible and the NIV smooth out the translation here. The NIV reads: “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” (John 14:26). Both the old and the new King James Versions and the NAS leave the translation a bit rough, in order to convey the unusual word order: “After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you’” (NAS). “And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’” (NKJ). The original text seems to be emphasizing the fact that Jesus entered the room, in spite of the fact that the doors were shut and locked. (On seeing and believing, http://www.bible.org)

Christmas: The Dawn of Death’s Destruction

via Churchleaders.com Photo credit www.sodahead.com

The Apostle Paul wrote, “O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Anyone grieving the death of someone they love deeply will say that “sting” hardly begins to describe the pain.

And Christmas often heightens this pain. Certain decorations recall hands we will never hold again. Gatherings make visible precious absences. Sweet voices now stilled echo in our memories as we sing or share stories.

But this is not a bad thing. Christmas is actually a very good time for grief. Because sorrow has a way of disbursing fantasy nonsense and pointing us to what the birth of Jesus was all about: death’s destruction (1 Corinthians 15:26).

The sting Paul is talking about is not grief. He knows “sorrow upon sorrow” (Philippians 2:27). He is talking about something far worse: condemnation.

“The sting of death is sin” (1 Corinthians 15:56) because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). And physical death hardly begins to describe this death. Like all of us, Paul would have preferred to not die physically (2 Corinthians 5:4). But he knew he would (2 Timothy 4:6). The death Paul spent his life trying to save people from was spiritual death.

Paul’s main concern was the “wrath and fury” (Romans 2:8) people would experience if they stood before the “judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:10) still in their sins (1 Corinthians 15:16-20). He believed the worst possible thing a human being can experience is to be “accursed and cut off from Christ” (Romans 9:2). He believed Jesus, who said,

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

This is the main issue in life. We must be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20) and have our sentence of hell cancelled (Colossians 2:14). And the only way to do that is to receive the free gift of God, which is the forgiveness of sins and eternal life through his Son, Jesus (Romans 6:23).

That’s why Jesus came. His whole purpose for being born was to die,

That through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14–15)

But not just to die. Jesus was born to be raised from the dead (Revelation 1:18). He is the Resurrection and the Life and whoever believes in him “though he die yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem it was the dawn of death’s destruction. It made possible the fast-approaching time when,

He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8)

If you’re feeling grief this Christmas, then know that what you’re experiencing is very much a part of Christmas. Jesus came to deal with your grief. Hear with fresh ears the angel’s gospel: Jesus came to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21). And if sin is removed, death’s days are numbered and your numbered tears (Psalm 56:8) will be wiped away.

May the Resurrection and the Life infuse your Christmas grief with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

E.H. Askwith on the Historical Value of the Fourth Gospel (Public Domain Ebook)

Photo via www.honesttogod.net

Here’s your chance to read a free (online pdf form) commentary book on the historicity of the Johannine Gospel (Gospel of John) and its relation to the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). This book was written at the turn of the century.

Click here to access book in pdf format – http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk Go to bottom of page and click on Complete book as one file [5.6MB]  316 pages

London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1910. pp.316.
This book is now in the Public Domain

From the Introduction:

click to read book

click photo to read book

The writer of these pages sets himself the task of showing on internal grounds that the Fourth Gospel is a historical and not merely, as some present-day critics affirm, a theological document. In speaking, however, of the Gospel as historical we do not mean that the aim of the writer of it was primarily a historical one. His interest may well have been theological, as indeed he expressly states it to have been (xx. 31). But our contention will here be that the writer did not invent his story to teach theological truth. We believe that the things which the Evangelist records as having happened are real events, that they did take place. In saying this we are setting ourselves in opposition to much of the criticism of our day, which denies to this Gospel serious historical value, regarding it as irreconcilable with the Synoptic tradition of the life of Jesus Christ.

For the opposition to the Johannine authorship of the Fourth Gospel is based chiefly on internal grounds. Its external credentials might be accepted by adverse critics were it not for what they consider to be overwhelming objections against its apostolic authorship on the ground of in- ternal evidence. But, as it is, the external evidence is explained away because it is thought that the story of the life of Jesus in this Gospel cannot be brought into agreement with wnat is acknowledged to be the earlier story in point of time, that, namely, which we have in the pages of the Synoptists. Critics opposed to the Johannine authorship of the Gospel contend that having happened are real events, that they did take place. In saying this we are setting ourselves in opposition to much of the criticism of our day, which denies to this Gospel serious historical value, regarding it as irreconcilable with the Synoptic tradition of the life of Jesus Christ.

For the opposition to the Johannine authorship of the Fourth Gospel is based chiefly on internal grounds. Its external credentials might be accepted by adverse critics were it not for what they consider to be overwhelming objections against its apostolic authorship on the ground of internal evidence. But, as it is, the external evidence is explained away because it is thought that the story of the life of Jesus in this Gospel cannot be brought into agreement with what is acknowledged to be the earlier story in point of time, that, namely, which we have in the pages of the Synoptists. Critics opposed to the Johannine authorship of the Gospel contend that both stories of the life of Jesus-that of the Synoptists and that of the Fourth Gospel-cannot be alike historical. A choice, then, has to be made between the two, and preference is shown for the Synoptic story. For it is argued that the Fourth Gospel is obviously a theological document, and its writer’s interests are theologically deter- mined, so that its genesis is explicable on theological grounds. While, then, the Fourth Gospel may be an interesting psychological study its contents are not history and are not to be so interpreted.

It is because the opposition to the historical character of the Fourth Gospel is based principally on its contents, and because the external credentials of the apostolic authorship of the book are explained away, not for the reason that they are trivial, but because they cannot outweigh the internal evidence, that we shall in these pages confine our attention to this internal evidence, and discuss the historical probability of the events which this Gospel records. (Pages 1-6)

1 Introductory
2 The Ministry of the Baptist
3 The Betrayal
4 The Trial of Jesus
5 The Crucifxion
6 The Resurrection (I)
7 The Resurrection (II)
8 The Cleansing of the Temple, The Feeding of the Five T|housand, and the Walking on the Sea
9 The Triumphal Entry, and the Last Supper
10 The Probability of a Ministry in Jerusalem
11 The Ministry of Jesus According to the Fourth Evangelist
12 Objections to the Historicity of the Fourth Gospel Considered

Here is Barnes & Noble author’s page for E. H. Askwith with several free downloads if you own Barnes & Nobles’ Nook Reader – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/e.-h.-askwith

Also, http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk is a fantastic website that collects Christian journals and articles from older periodicals and journals on Biblical topics. It’s worth subscribing to their updates, and browsing through their impressive collections.

Click here to read the entire book – The Historical Value of the Fourth Gospel

C. Passion Week – Monday – Jesus cleanses the Temple

  1. On Monday, Jesus cleanses the temple.
  2. On the way back to Jerusalem Jesus curses the fig tree.
  3. When he arrives in Jerusalem, he cleanses the temple (though it’s debated, this is likely the area of the Royal Stoa, described by Josephus in Antiquitites 15.411–415, which ran the length of the southern wall of the Temple Mount).
  4. Jesus then did miracles in the temple and received challenges from the Jewish leaders and astonishment from the crowd.
  5. In the evening Jesus and the twelve return to Bethany.

The following synopsis is from Christian Classics Ethereal Library, written by Mark A. Copeland.

„THE GOSPEL OF JOHN”

The Cleansing Of The Temple (John 2:13-25)

INTRODUCTION

1. It is common to think of Jesus as a gentle, peace-loving man…

a. He certainly presented Himself as such on most occasions – e.g.,
Mt 11:28-30
b. People felt comfortable in bringing their children to Him – e.g.,
Mt 19:13-14

2. Yet on occasion Jesus displayed strong righteous indignation…
a. Such as when He visited Jerusalem during the Passover at the
beginning of His ministry
b. As He drove the moneychangers and merchandisers out of the temple
– Jn 2:13-15

[What prompted this outburst of anger? What gave Jesus the authority to
do this? What lessons might we glean from this event? As we seek to
find the answers let’s first note…]

I. THE REBUKE OF THE LORD

A. MERCHANDISING HIS FATHER’S HOUSE…

1. The Lord’s rebuke reveals the reason for His outburst – cf. Jn 2:16
2. The sellers of oxen and sheep, along with the moneychangers,
had turned the temple into a house of merchandise
3. It was to be a house of prayer, they had turned it into a den
of thieves – cf. Mt 21:13
– The Lord was angered by the manner in which some used religion to make money

B. MIGHT WE BE GUILTY OF A SIMILAR OFFENSE…?
1. What if we attend church simply as a form of „networking”, to
make business contacts?
2. What if we take advantage of our relationship as brethren to
further a multilevel marketing business, a home-based business,
or any other financial enterprise?
– The Lord’s temple today is the church, we must be careful lest we defile it as well (cf. 1Co 3:16-17)

[The Lord has ordained that those who preach the gospel be supported (1 Col 9:14). But He is angered by those who view the Lord’s temple
(people) as a way to get rich. Next, we note that His anger was
prompted by…]

II. THE ZEAL OF THE LORD

A. ZEAL FOR HIS FATHER’S HOUSE…
1. The disciples were reminded of an Old Testament prophecy – Jn 2:17; cf. Ps 69:9
2. Jesus had zeal (fervor) for God’s house, for it’s intended
purpose (a house of prayer)
– His great zeal for His Father’s house moved Him to action

B. HOW IS OUR ZEAL FOR THE LORD’S HOUSE…?
1. Remember, today the Father’s house is the church – cf. 1 Ti 3:15
2. Do we have great zeal for the church?
a. That it fulfill it’s intended purpose (to make known God’s
will)? – cf. Ep 3:10-11
b. That we are troubled when we see people try to turn it into
something else, such as social club, or a purveyor of
entertainment?
– If we have zeal for the Lord’s house, we will not rest silent when others pervert its purpose

[Of course, the action we take may not be the same as what Jesus did.
Indeed, He took up „a whip of cords.” What right did He have to use
such a display of force? That’s what the Jews wanted to know…]

III. THE AUTHORITY OF THE LORD

A. THE SIGN THAT PROVES HIS AUTHORITY…
1. They wanted to know what sign (miracle) He could offer to prove
His right to cleanse the temple – Jn 2:18
2. Jesus offered His ability to rise from the dead as the ultimate
proof – Jn 2:19-22
a. Later, He would restate His claim to have this ability – Jn 10:17-18
b. His resurrection proved that He was the Son of God – cf. Ro 1:4
– He has been given the authority to exercise such judgment as cleansing the temple – cf. Jn 5:22,26-27

B. WE DO NOT HAVE THE SAME AUTHORITY…
1. We are to judge with righteous judgment – Jn 7:24
a. At times we must distinguish between „hogs” and „dogs” – Mt 7:6
b. We can distinguish between good and bad fruit – Mt 7:15-20
2. But our authority to judge is limited – Mt 7:1-5
a. There are things we cannot judge in this life – 1Co 4:3-5
b. There are people we are not to judge – 1Co 5:11-13
c. Vengeance in particular belongs to the Lord – cf. Ro 12: 17-19
– While Jesus is our example (cf. 1Pe 2:21), there are some „steps” that He took that we cannot take

[The reason we cannot emulate the Lord in every case becomes evident as we consider…]

IV. THE POWER OF THE LORD

A. THE POWER THAT JUSTIFIES HIS ACTION…
1. John mentions how many came to believe in Him because of His
signs – Jn 2:23
2. John also makes note of His unwillingness to commit Himself to
others at this time
a. He had no need to, because he knew all – Jn 2:24
b. He had no need to, because he knew what was in man – Jn 2:25
– Jesus is revealed as one who can discern the hearts of men – cf. Mt 9:4; Re 2:23

B. WE DO NOT HAVE THE SAME POWER…
1. We cannot discern the hearts of men like the Lord can; note
these comments:
a. „Our Lord knew all men, their nature, dispositions,
affections, designs, so as we do not know any man, not even
ourselves.”
b. „He knows his crafty enemies, and all their secret projects;
his false friends, and their true characters.”
c. „He knows who are truly his, knows their uprightness, and
knows their weaknesses.”
d. „We know what is done by men; Christ knows what is in them,
he tries the heart.”
– Matthew Henry Commentary
2. Since we cannot read the hearts of men, we must be careful
a. We are unable to always know the motives of others
b. We must approach those in opposition with humility – cf.
2Ti 2:24-26
c. We must approach brethren overtaken in a fault with
gentleness – cf. Ga 6:1

CONCLUSION

1. In contending for the faith (which is a solemn duty, Jude 3)…
a. Some often use the example of Jesus cleansing the temple to
justify their behavior
b. As they lash out in anger (righteous indignation?) towards those
teaching error

2. Is it right to appeal to Jesus’ example in this case…?
a. Can we appeal to every example of Jesus?
b. If so, are we justified to use a whip of cords as well?

3. The immediate context offers reasons to answer carefully…
a. Jesus possessed unlimited authority to judge man, proven by His
resurrection from the dead
b. Jesus possessed divine power to read the hearts of men, we
sometimes cannot even discern our own hearts

4. There are times for righteous indignation…
a. But some things must be left to the Lord, the righteous Judge
b. We must avoid what might actually be „self-righteous” indignation!

While we may not always be able to emulate the Lord’s prerogative to judge, we should certainly strive to copy His zeal for His Father’s house. Is our zeal for His church what it ought to be…?

View Jesus’ path in events from Passion week with Google maps

Jesus's Passion week google mapsFor easy access to this page year round, you will always find it on the right sidebar of the blog when you click on the picture immediately to the right-

This post contains Biblical material on each day of the week, beginning with Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, featuring each day’s events as written in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It features all of the content (articles) which will also be posted daily in correspondence with the day of the week each event took place in the Bible for the Passion Week. This is material I have gathered in the last few years that comments on the blessed events of Passion Week, and I pray that you will be blessed reading and meditating on the facts that took place in the most important week in the course of human history!!! As you read it, may the desire in your heart burn to know Christ better and to love Him more!!!

Displaying content from www.esv.org, Crossway,Craig Blomberg,ESV,Justin Taylor.

Click on the red balloons to open description of day and event for that day.  You can also scroll in closer using the + key and scroll to East, West, North and South using the arrows.

If you want to move around on the map-click and hold mouse key down and drag in the direction you want to go.
If you run into trouble and lose the red balloons playing with the map, just refresh your page.

Passion Week

C. Monday- Cleansing the Temple (click for story)

On the way back to Jerusalem Jesus curses the fig tree.

When he arrives in Jerusalem, he cleanses the temple (though it’s debated, this is likely the area of the Royal Stoa, described by Josephus in Antiquitites 15.411–415, which ran the length of the southern wall of the Temple Mount).

Jesus then did miracles in the temple and received challenges from the Jewish leaders and astonishment from the crowd.

In the evening Jesus and the twelve return to Bethany.

D. Tuesday: Olivet discourse   (click here for story)

On the way back to Jerusalem in the morning the disciples see the withered fig tree.

In Jerusalem there are more temple controversies, and then Jesus delivers the Olivet Discourse on the return back to Bethany.

F. Thursday: The Last Supper (click for story here)

On Thursday evening in an upper room in Jerusalem, Jesus and his 12 disciples eat the Passover meal. They likely reclined on couches arranged in a square-shaped U, with Judas on Jesus’ left and John on his right. With four cups of wine, a part of Ex. 6:6–7a would have been recited, along with singing from Psalms 113–118.

Jesus institutes the Last Supper and indicates that Judas will betray him. Jesus washes his disciples’ feet during their time together and delivers the upper room discourse, which includes teaching them how to pray. Jesus predicts but Peter denies that he will deny Jesus.

They sing a hymn and head for the Mount of Olives.

G. Thursday: Ghetsemane

While in the Garden of Gethsemane (on the western slopes of Olivet, northeast of the temple across the Kidron Valley), the disciples sleep as Jesus prays in anguished submission to his Father about drinking the cup of his wrath.

Perhaps after midnight (hence early Friday morning), Jesus is betrayed by Judas with a kiss, and arrested by a band of soldiers, their captain, and the officers of the Jews. With his sword, Peter cuts off the ear of Malchus (servant of the high priest), but Jesus heals his ear. The disciples flee.

H.Friday: Jesus before Anas and Caiaphas, Peter denies Jesus (click for story here)

Jesus is taken for an informal hearing before Annas. (Annas served as high priest from A.D. 6–15; his son-in-law, Caiaphas, was high priest from A.D. 18–37.) Archaeologists have uncovered what would have been a two-level, 6,500 square foot mansion in the Upper City, which may have been Annas’ residence and may be the site of this initial hearing. The apostle John is able to enter the court with Jesus; Peter stays outside.

Annas binds Jesus and sends him to stand before Caiaphas and some members of the Sanhedrin Council, where he is mocked and beaten. They render him guilty of blasphemy. Then the Jewish portion of his trial concludes with Jesus bound before the full Sanhedrin, perhaps after or through sunrise.

I. Friday: Jesus before Pilate

Jesus’ Roman trial begins as he is delivered over to stand before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of the province Iudaea from A.D. 26–36. Pilate normally resided in Caesarea Maritima, but was in Jerusalem for the Passover. During his stays in Jerusalem, he would reside in “Herod’s Palace,” which had been the Jerusalem home of Herod the Great from 24–4 B.C.

J. Friday: Jesus before Herod

Upon learning that Jesus was a Galilean (and hence under the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas [“Herod the Tetrarch”]), Pilate sent Jesus to stand before Herod, who lived in the Hasmonean Palace during his reign from 4 B.C.–A.D. 39. Herod questioned Jesus, and the chief priests and scribes accused him, but Jesus did not answer. They therefore responded with contempt and mockery, arraying him in splendid clothing and returning him to Pilate.

K. Friday: Jesus before Pilate, flogged

The Praetorium, a raised stone pavement used for official judgments, stood outside Herod’s Palace and was the site of Jesus’ condemnation under Pilate. The crowd urged Pilate to crucify Jesus and to free the insurrectionist/terrorist Barabbas instead.

Jesus is flogged by a metal-tipped rope that caused gaping wounds in the flesh and the muscles. (For medical details on the physical sufferings of Jesus, see this 1986 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association [PDF].) Jesus was then stripped and mockingly dressed in a scarlet robe and made to wear a crown of thorns and given a reed as a scepter (with which they hit him on the head). They then stripped the robe and put his clothes back on him.

L. Friday: Simon of Cyrene caries Jesus’ cross

Probably passing through the Gennath (Garden) Gate, Jesus is unable to carry the cross, and Simon from Cyrene is recruited to carry it for him.

M. Friday: Jesus crucified

Jesus is led to the hill of Golgotha overlooking a quarry (most likely at the present-day site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre).

There, between approximately 9AM and 3PM, Jesus is crucified between two insurrectionists. He was offered (but refused to drink) wine mixed with gall. His clothes were divided among the soldiers by lot. He was mocked by the insurrectionists being crucified on either side of him, by Pilate’s sign above his head (identifying him as “King of the Jews”), by those passing by, and by the Jewish rulers.

From noon until 3 pm there was darkness over the land.

His last seven words were: (1) Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (2) [To one of the insurrectionists] Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. (3) [To the beloved disciple (John) concerning Mary] Behold, your mother! (4) “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (5) I thirst. (6) It is finished. (7) Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!

As Jesus died, an earthquake opened up tombs causing the dead to raise to life. A centurion filled with awe exclaimed that Jesus truly was the innocent Son of God.

To ensure death, the legs of the two insurrectionists were broken, but a soldier instead pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, pouring forth blood and water.

N. Friday: Tearing of the Temple curtain

As Jesus died, the massive curtain in Herod’s Temple, separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (where the priest could enter only once a year on the Day of Atonement) was torn in two. An earthquake opened up tombs causing the dead to raise to life. At Golgotha, a centurion filled with awe exclaimed that Jesus truly was the innocent Son of God.

O. Friday: Jesus buried

Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin and a secret disciple of Jesus, requested and received permission from Pilate to have the body. Joseph and Nicodemus wrapped Jesus’ body in a clean linen shroud along with 75 pounds of myrrh and aloe. That evening they buried Jesus in Joseph’s newly hewn, unused rock tomb located in a garden near Golgotha. They rolled a massive stone over the entrance.

P. Saturday: Pilate orders tomb sealed

On the Sabbath, at the suggestion of the chief priests and the Pharisees, Pilate orders the tomb sealed and a guard to stand watch over the tomb until Sunday.

Q. Jesus’ resurrection (click for stories here)

(The following is based on a helpful harmonization by Craig Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels, pp. 354–355.)

Near dawn on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome head to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body with spices, with Mary Magdalene perhaps arriving first. They encounter two angels dressed in dazzling white, one of whom announces Jesus’ resurrection. Fearful and joyful, they are silent but then decide to report back to the other disciples; Mary Magdalene may have run ahead, telling Peter and John before the other women get there.

Jesus meets the other women heading back to the disciples and encourages them to tell them the others and to remind them that he’ll meet them in Galilee. Meanwhile Peter and John arrive at the tomb, discovering it to be empty. After they leave, Mary Magdalene returns to the tomb, seeing the angels and then Jesus (whom she thinks at first is a gardener).

That afternoon Jesus appears to Cleopas and another man on the road to Emmaus, and then (separately) to Peter. On Sunday evening Jesus appears to the 10 disciples (minus Judas and Thomas) behind locked doors in Jerusalem.

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What does „greater works” in John 14:12 mean?

Tom Schreiner comments on John 14:12:

What does Jesus mean in John 14:12 when he says, „Truly, truly, I say to you, the one who believes in me the works I do shall he do also, and greater than these shall he do, because I go to the Father”? 

Tom Schreiner first prefaces his commentary by clarifying that „this verse could not have been limited to just the apostles, since Jesus says that „anyone who believes in Him” shall do greater works„, and he also points out that the „greater works”, referred to in verse 12 is „another assurance that Jesus’ absence will actually be beneficial for those who believe in him„.

For context he cites the rest of the verses (13-16):

In verses 13-14 Jesus promises in his absence to answer prayers uttered in his name, and verses 15-17 promise the Spirit to those who obey Jesus’ commandments. Thus, in Jesus’ absence the disciples will do greater works, their prayers in Jesus’ name will be answered, and they will have the power of the Holy Spirit. And one day Jesus will return to take believers home. I think the greater works Jesus has in mind are not greater miracles in terms of signs and wonders. Instead, the greater works done by those who believe in Jesus refer to the work of the Spirit in people’s hearts, a work of the Spirit that has greater dimensions now that Jesus has ascended to the Father. 

Schreiner has 4 arguments to support this:

  1. The „greater works” cannot refer to signs and wonders that are greater in quality than those done by Jesus because no believer ever has or ever will do greater miracles than Jesus. He raised the dead, opened the eyes of the blind, restored hearing to the deaf, cast out demons, healed the lame, calmed a stormy sea, etc. No miracle-worker has even come close since the days of the apostles, and even the apostles did not do any signs and wonders that were greater.
  2. But perhaps John means that believers will do greater works in the sense that we will do more signs and wonders than Jesus? But the Greek word for „greater” used here does not refer to a greater number of works. If John wanted to refer to a greater number of works, he probably would have used the Greek word polla meaning „more.” A careful study of the word „greater” (meizn) in John’s gospel shows that the word consistently refers to something that is greater in quality rather than something that is greater in number.To conclude this second point: the greater works do not mean believers will do more works than Jesus, but that they will do works qualitatively better than those Jesus did in his ministry.
    These better works are due to the outpouring of the Spirit after Jesus’ ascension. [Note: Incidentally, there is no evidence from church history that any believer did more miracles than Jesus anyway, and this verse is not limited to those who have the gift of healing; it refers to all believers.]
  3. The word „works” in John’s gospel in some contexts clearly includes Jesus’ miracles (John 7:3, 21; 9:4; 10:25,32,33,37,38). But even though the word often includes the idea of miracles, the word „works” cannot be limited to signs and wonders in John’s gospel. For example, John 6:28-29 identifies the „work of God” as „believing in the one whom the Father sent.” And in John 8:39 Jesus exhorts the Jews to „do the works of Abraham,” and there is no record of Abraham doing miracles, and so Jesus must mean, „do the good deeds of Abraham.” John 14:10 is especially interesting, for their Jesus says, „The words which I speak to you I do not speak From myself, but the Father abiding in me does his works.” Here the „words” of Jesus in the first part of the verse are defined as his „works” in the latter part of the verse. Thus, we have clear evidence in the near context (compare also verse 11) that the word „works” should not be restricted to signs and wonders. Indeed, when John wants to speak of miracles, he consistently uses the word „sign.” „Sign” is the unambiguous word John uses to describe. Miracles, and the word „works” is a more general term, which may include miracles, but does not necessarily focus on signs and wonders. All of this suggests that the first part of verse 12 where Jesus says, „the one who believes in me the works I do he shall do also” does not mean that believers will do miracles and signs and Wonders to the same extent as Jesus. The word „works” is a general term, and thus Jesus is simply saying that you will do works of the same quality as I did and more.
  4. The greater works, then, refer to the extended work of the Spirit, which will occur when Jesus ascends to the Father. This is not to deny that the Spirit was active previously in significant ways. But the work of the Spirit on earth was intensified with Jesus’ ascension. Note that Jesus specifically says that „the greater works” will occur „because I go to the Father.” Going to the Father, then, provides the reason or ground for the greater works. But why does Jesus’ going to the Father make possible greater works? The rest of John’s gospel answers that question. In John 16:7 Jesus says, „It is better for you that I go, for if I do not go, the paraclete will not come to you, but if I go I will send him to you.” This fits beautifully with John 14:12. Jesus says that it will be better if he goes because only when he goes will the Spirit be sent. And John 16:8-11 makes it clear that the Spirit when he comes will convict unbelievers of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Such conviction of sinners is clearly another way of describing the „greater works” which will occur after Jesus goes. Greater than any healing is the inclusion of one’s name in the book of life. Jesus reminds his disciples of this when they are so excited about casting out demons in Luke 10:20. „Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”

    The book of acts supports the interpretation that „the greater works” are possible after the outpouring of the Spirit as well. The Holy Spirit is not poured out until after Jesus has ascended.

    In conclusion:

    One final word: that greater works are done by believers after Jesus’ earthly ministry in no way diminishes the ministry of Jesus, nor does it suggest our ministry is somehow better than His! I have argued that the greater works refers to the work of the Spirit through believers in convicting unbelievers of their sin, and mediating forgiveness of sins in the name of the risen Lord. But such work is not our work! It is the work of the risen Lord in us and through us. The Lord Jesus Christ exalted and glorious works in concert with God the Father through the Holy Spirit. He is the one doing the work, and He is worthy of all the glory!

    Read the entire paper (pdf form)here at Southern Baptists Theological Seminary.

The Bible’s Emergency Numbers (Keep this list handy)

Emergency Telephone Numbers 
These are more effective than 911
 
When –
 
You are sad, phone 
John 14 
You have sinned, phone 
Psalm 51 
You are facing danger, phone 
Psalm 91 
People have failed you, phone 
Psalm 27
It feels as though God is far from you, phone Psalm 139 
Your faith needs stimulation, phone 
Hebrews 11 
You are alone and scared, phone 
Psalm 23 
You are worried, phone 
Matthew 8:19-34 
You are hurt and critical, phone 
1 Corinthians 13 
You wonder about Christianity, phone 
2 Corinthians 5:15-18 
You feel like an outcast, phone 
Romans 8:9-39 
You are seeking peace, phone 
Matthew 11:25-30 
It feels as if the world is b igger than God, phone 
Psalm 90 
You need Christ like insurance, phone 
Romans 8:1-30 
You are leaving home for a trip , phone 
Psalm 121 
You are praying for yourself, phone 
Psalm 87 
You require courage for a task, phone 
Joshua 1 
Inflation’s and investments are hogging your thoughts, phone 
Mark 10:17-9 
You are depressive, phone 
Psalm 27 
Your bank account is empty, phone 
Psalm 37 
You lose faith in mankind, phone 
1 Corinthians 13 
It looks like people are unfriendly, phone 
John 15 
You are losing hope, phone 
Psalm 126 
You feel the world is small comp ared to you, phone 
Psalm 19 
You want to carry fruit, phone 
John 15 
Paul’s secret for happiness, phone Colossians 3:12-17 
With big opportunity/ discovery, phone 
Isaiah 55 
To get along with other people, phone 
Romans 12 
ALTERNATE NUMBERS
 
For dealing with fear, call 
Psalm 47 
For security, call 
Psalm 121:3 
For assurance, call 
Mark 8:35 
For reassurance, call 
Psalm 145:18 
ALL THESE NUMBERS MAY BE PHONED DIRECTLY.
 
NO OPERATOR ASSISTANCE IS NECESSARY.
 
ALL LINES TO HEAVEN ARE AVAILABLE 24 HOURS A DAY.
 
FEED YOUR FAITH, AND DOUBT WILL STARVE TO DEATH

The Resurrection Appearances of Jesus

Study By: Bob Deffinbaugh at http://www.bible.org. Our text deals with the first three of our Lord’s four post-resurrection appearances in the Gospel of John. The first appearance is to Mary Magdalene, and the next three are to the disciples. Jesus will appear to Mary Magdalene (20:10-18), then to the disciples, minus Thomas (20:19-23), then to the disciples, with Thomas (20:26-29), and finally to the seven disciples, including Thomas, who were fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (21:1ff.). There are some very important lessons to be learned here, so let us listen and learn, looking to the Spirit of God to interpret, apply, and implement these truths in our lives.

General Observations

It would serve us well to begin with several observations concerning our text and its relationship to the other Gospels.

We do not really know a great deal about the time between our Lord’s resurrection and His ascension. When you stop to think about it, a significant portion of each of the Gospels is taken up with the events of the last week of our Lord in Jerusalem. And yet, the 40 days following our Lord’s resurrection gets very little attention in comparison. The material we do have about this period is not meant to satisfy our curiosity about all that happened during this time, but is recorded to prove one important fact: Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father!

Of the details we do find regarding our Lord’s ministry after His resurrection, a number of them are recorded only in Acts and 1 Corinthians. Until now I did not realize how much of my understanding of our Lord’s ministry after His resurrection is based upon New Testament books other than the Gospels. Some of the most important details come from Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15:

1 I wrote the former account, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after he had given orders by the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he had also presented himself alive to these apostles by many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God. 4 While he was with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for “what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. 5 For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, “Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He told them, “You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” 9 After he had said this, while they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him away from their sight. 10 As they were staring into the sky while he was going, suddenly two men in white clothing stood near them 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:1-11).

3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still living, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

I am not sure why I had concluded that my understanding of the post-resurrection period was dependent solely upon the Gospels. It was probably due, in part, to my assumption that if one Gospel didn’t mention something I knew about this time period, it was because it was recorded in one of the other three Gospels. But this is not necessarily true. If it were not for Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15, we would not know nearly as much about the Lord’s ministry during the 40 days following His resurrection. From Acts 1:3 we learn that during this time, Jesus taught His disciples about the kingdom of God which was yet to come. While our Lord’s instruction to His disciples to wait for the coming of the Spirit can be found in Luke’s Gospel (24:49), we probably remember this command from Acts 1:4-5. Apart from 1 Corinthians 15:5, we would not know that Jesus appeared to over 500 people at one time after His resurrection. It is from Paul (1 Corinthians 15:5), as well as from Luke (24:34), that we know Jesus made a private appearance to Peter. We would certainly not expect the replacement for Judas to be Saul, to whom our Lord made another (albeit, a later) post-resurrection appearance (1 Corinthians 15:8). A good part of what little we know of this period in our Lord’s life and ministry comes from outside the Gospels.

Some of the details about events which occurred in this time period may appear to be contradictory. For example, in Mark we read that after the women saw and heard the angel at the tomb, “they went out and ran away from the tomb. They were in a state of trembling and amazement, and said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid” (Mark 16:8, emphasis mine). In Luke’s Gospel we read, “Then they remembered his words, and when they returned from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest ” (Luke 24:8-9, emphasis mine). I believe the solution to this apparent contradiction is found in Matthew’s account: “So they left the tomb quickly, with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. But Jesus met them, saying, ‘Greetings!’ They came to him, held on to his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. They will see me there’” (Matthew 28:8-10, emphasis mine).

By putting all these details in sequence, we get a pretty good idea of what happened from the time the women left the tomb till they spoke with all the disciples and others. The women saw and heard the angel, who instructed them to go tell the disciples that Jesus was alive and would meet them in Galilee. The women rush off toward the city, but they are in a virtual state of shock. They tell no one they encounter on their way what they have just seen and heard (this conforms with what Mark tells us). Then, as they are still on their way to the city, Jesus Himself appears to them. This is the first time they have actually seen Him. He tells the women to go and tell the others, and indeed they do. Thus, all statements (those of Mark, of Luke, and of Matthew) harmonize when viewed in terms of the entire event. I believe we must assume this to be the case in every instance where an apparent contradiction appears. The details that differ are not an occasion for wringing our hands, they are the opportunity for a fuller grasp of what happened. Let us keep that in mind as we approach our text.

We find that some of the Gospel accounts are particularly brief at this point. This is especially true of Matthew and Mark’s accounts. Matthew writes of one appearance of Jesus to the women (28:9-10) and of one appearance of Jesus to His disciples (28:16-20). Mark’s account is terse as well, depending to some degree upon where you think his account really ends. Mark does briefly mention the appearance of Jesus to the two men on the road to Emmaus (16:12-13; compare Luke 24:13-35). He also tells of the appearance of our Lord to the eleven disciples (Mark 16:13-18). Mark does not include an account of Jesus appearing to any of the women, but only of the angel speaking to them (16:1-8). Luke and John have the most lengthy accounts of the post-resurrection ministry of our Lord. Luke does not describe an appearance of Jesus to the women; he chooses instead to emphasize the appearance to the two men on the road to Emmaus (24:13-35). He then writes of our Lord’s subsequent appearance to the disciples (24:36-39) and then of His ascension (24:50-53). John focuses on four of the Lord’s post-resurrection appearances: first to Mary Magdalene (20:11-18), then to the disciples minus Thomas (20:19-25), then the disciples with Thomas (20:26-29), and finally to the seven disciples as they are fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (21:1-25).

Finally, each Gospel has something unique to add to the story. Matthew informs us that the tomb was secured by a Roman seal and guards, provided at the request of the Jewish religious leaders who recalled Jesus’ promise that He would rise from the dead in three days, and who were afraid His disciples would steal His body. Matthew then follows up with an account of how the guards and the religious leaders fabricated a cover story to explain the missing body of our Lord. Mark’s account is indeed unique, causing much discussion as to where his Gospel should end. Luke provides us with a detailed account of the appearance of our Lord to the two men on the road to Emmaus. John’s account is almost entirely unique. He alone describes the investigation of the tomb by both Peter and John (Luke 24:12 tells us only that Peter went to see the tomb), of the appearance of Jesus to Mary, of three appearances of Jesus to His disciples—more than any other Gospel. His focus on Thomas’ reluctance to believe in our Lord’s resurrection is unique. The appearance of Jesus to the seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias is also unique, including our Lord’s three-fold question and exhortation to Peter. With this background information in mind, let us take a closer look at the first three post-resurrection appearances of our Lord, as described in John 20.

Jesus’ First Appearance: Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18)

10 So the disciples went back to their homes. 11 But Mary stood outside the tomb and wept. While she was weeping, she bent over and looked into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels in white sitting where Jesus’ body had been lying, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary replied, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him!” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Because she thought he was the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus replied, “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene came and informed the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what Jesus had said to her.

It was Mary Magdalene who first arrived at the empty tomb in the early hours of the first day of the week. When she saw the stone had been removed, she seems to have jumped to a hasty conclusion—someone had taken the body. We do not know to whom the “they” (“They have taken the Lord from the tomb …”—verse 2) refers, and I doubt that Mary did either. I believe it is safe to say that it never occurred to her that any of the disciples took the body. She seems to have assumed it was either the Jews, or the Roman soldiers, or someone like “the gardener” (see 20:15). It never occurred to Mary that Jesus had been raised from the dead. She did not hope to see her risen Lord; she simply wished to locate His body and give it a proper burial.

A year or so ago a young woman’s body was stolen from its grave at Restland Cemetery, just a mile or so down the road from our church. It was a terrible thing to do, and the family was most eager to get the body back and see to it that it was buried properly, once for all. Someone had added insult to injury. Not only had this family lost a loved one, they suffered the agony of not knowing what had become of her body. Mary must have felt the same way this young woman’s family felt. She had devoted herself and her livelihood to following Jesus and supporting Him, along with some other women. She had watched helplessly as Jesus was tried, convicted, and crucified. She looked on as His body was laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Now, she believed that the body of her Lord had been taken. It was almost too much to bear.

When Peter and John left the tomb, Mary remained behind. At first she stood outside the tomb, weeping. She stooped sufficiently to be able to see inside the tomb, apparently for the first time. Two angels were inside, clothed in white. An angel was sitting at each end of the place where Jesus’ body had been laid. From Mary’s response to these angels, one can hardly avoid the conclusion that Mary did not recognize these angels as angels. But then why should she? It is true that in Matthew’s account the one angel who sat on the stone had an appearance that was like lightening (28:3), and this fellow was so awesome the guards were terrified (28:4). But John does not tell us that these two angels were as awesome in appearance as the first angel was. And this should come as no surprise. Often in the Bible, angels simply look like men, so that their appearance alone would not reveal their true identity (see Genesis 18 and 19; Acts 1:10-11; Hebrews 13:2). It would seem that the two angels made no effort to identify themselves as angels, nor even to inform Mary that Jesus was not there. Perhaps it was because our Lord was going to do this personally.

The angels asked Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping?” The inference is that her tears were not really called for. They were tears of love, and of sorrow, but they were also ill-founded. In Mary’s mind, this was the darkest moment of her life, and yet her tears were based upon false assumptions: that Jesus was dead; that His body had been stolen; that she would not be able to find His body. If Mary had known the real reason why the tomb was empty, she would not have been crying.

Some have suggested that the angels gave a look of recognition when they saw Jesus behind Mary, outside the tomb. We do not know why, but for some reason Mary turned around to gaze at the risen Lord. She saw Him, but she did not recognize Him, in much the same way that I had seen Sally Rackets in the parking lot this past week, but did not recognize her. Mary’s vision may have been obscured by her tears, and Jesus may not have looked exactly the same as He did before His resurrection. He most certainly looked different from the way she saw Him last, from the horrible sight she could not erase from her mind—a badly beaten, bloody figure, who could hardly be recognized for all the abuse His body had taken: “Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:15, NIV).

Jesus asks Mary the same question the angels had asked her moments earlier: “Woman, why are you weeping?”, but He adds a further question, “Who are you looking for?”. Jesus knew why she was weeping. He knew that the empty tomb caused her great grief. He knew that she was seeking His body. His words indicate to Mary that He knows something about her dilemma. Mary’s grief still blinds her to the truth, but she nevertheless seems to discern that this “gardener” holds the key to her quest for the Lord’s body. She pleads with Him to convey any information He may have to her: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him” (verse 15).193

Jesus answered with but one word—“Mary.” For Mary, seeing was not believing, but hearing was. Would you not love to have heard this one word just the way Mary did? That one word was spoken in the voice she knew so well. It was also spoken in the manner she knew so well. What love, what compassion, what healing was conveyed by this one word—“Mary.” I cannot help but recall the words of our Lord, spoken earlier:

1 “I tell you the solemn truth, the one who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The doorkeeper opens the door for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought all his own sheep out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow himbecause they recognize his voice. 5 They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice” (John 10:1-5, emphasis mine).

Immediately Mary recognized that it was her Lord, and called Him “Rabboni” (or teacher). We know from our Lord’s words that Mary has already locked Him in her grasp. It is as though she intended to keep holding on to Him, so that He would never leave her again. And it is because of this that Jesus responds, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’” (John 20:17, NAB). I must differ with the NET Bible translation here (“Do not touch me, …”) for two reasons. First, it is not that Jesus could not be touched. In but a few verses we will read, “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe’” (John 20:27). Why would Jesus tell Mary not to touch Him, and instruct Thomas to do so? In Matthew 28:9, Jesus allowed the women to take hold of His feet and worship Him. Second, the tense of the imperative is present, and this grammatical construction often conveys the thought of ceasing to do something.194 Jesus is not trying to prevent Mary from touching Him; He is trying to make it clear to her that He is going to leave this world to return to His Father. She should not suppose that by clinging to Him she can prevent His departure.

John does not include the command which Jesus gave to Mary, though it is clear that He instructed her as to what she was to tell the disciples (20:18). She who was the first to go out to the tomb was the first to see the risen Lord, and apparently the first to be privileged to share the good news of His resurrection with others.

Before we go on to the next appearance of our Lord, I would like to make a comment or two. I would like you to note that our Lord’s first appearance is not to one of the eleven disciples, but to Mary Magdalene. She will never be one of the apostles. She will never write a Gospel. She will never become a great preacher or leader. Nevertheless, our Lord chose to manifest Himself to her first. Why do you think this was? I would call your attention to three important factors. First, she had a great love for her Master, as He did for her. Second, she seemed to be the one with the greatest measure of grief. I am reminded of the words of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). In the context of this sermon, Jesus did not promise blessings to those who were the greatest, or the most powerful, but to those in the greatest need, with the greatest desire for spiritual things. There is a third reason: Mary was there first. Jesus revealed Himself first to the one who was there first. Mary came to the tomb early, because of her great love, and her great grief, and Jesus revealed Himself to her, first.

I would also like to point out an important lesson which this text teaches us: When we come to see things as they really are, we will find that many of our tears were unnecessary. To put it in different words, Many of our tears are ill-founded. Both the angels and our Lord questioned Mary as to why she was weeping. The reason she gave was that her Lord’s body had been taken, and she did not know where to find it. The truth of the matter was that Jesus was not dead; He had been resurrected. And beyond this, His body was not missing at all, and no one had taken it. Jesus did not need to be found by Mary; Jesus found Mary.

We know that in heaven there will be no more tears: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain; the former things have ceased to exist” (Revelation 21:4). Why will there be no more tears in heaven? The first answer is because there will no longer be those things which cause us to cry—no more suffering, no more sin, no more injustice, no more death. But the second reason is that we shall then see all of our sorrows in an entirely different light. We shall see them in the context of the perfect work God was achieving through the things which caused us to weep.

When you and I get to heaven, we will see things in a very different light, and when we do, we will discover that many of our tears of sorrow were as groundless as Mary’s tears were. I am not saying that Christians should not cry. What I am saying is that a good deal of our sorrow is the result of our inadequate knowledge of what God is doing in and through our adversities. When Christians get to heaven, they will see the entire picture, and thus they will find that everything that has ever happened to them is for their good and His glory. No wonder there will be no tears in heaven! Our comfort and joy may not come as quickly as Mary’s did, but it will be just as great, just as real, and it is just as certain.

Jesus’ Second Appearance: The Disciples, Minus Thomas (John 20:19-23)

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the disciples had gathered together and locked the doors of the place for fear of the Jewish authorities. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you!” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you! Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 And after he said this, he breathed195 on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”

John very kindly does not tell us what Mark and Luke record in their accounts—that when the disciples were told that Jesus was alive, they refused to believe it without seeing Him:

9 Early on the first day of the week, after he arose, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. 10 She went out and told those who were with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 And when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe (Mark 16:9-11; see also verses 12-13).

10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed like pure nonsense to them, and they did not believe them (Luke 24:10-11).

It was on the first day of the week—the same day that Mary saw Jesus—and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors. They were afraid of the Jews, and rightly so. They were disciples of Jesus, and He had just been crucified for sedition. And now, the story was circulating that they had stolen the body of Jesus (Matthew 28:11-15). Remember that the tomb was sealed by Rome, and guarded by Roman soldiers. The disciples may have felt in greater danger here than on any previous occasion. They must have been deeply troubled by the reports they had heard that Jesus was alive. What were they to think of all this? What were they to do? They did not know.

And so the disciples met together behind locked doors. We are told that one disciple was missing—Thomas. We are not told why he was absent. There is no particular blame cast on him for his absence. In some miraculous way, Jesus enters the room, even though the door is locked. We do not know what the disciples saw, but John certainly leaves us with the impression that our Lord’s entrance was unusual—one more proof of His resurrection. Our Lord twice repeated the words, “Peace be with you” (20:19, 21). This certainly reminds us of what Jesus had said earlier to these men:

25 “I have spoken these things while staying with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you. 27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe” (John 14:24-29, emphasis mine).

It would appear that this was our Lord’s first appearance to the disciples after His resurrection. If this is so, it may be the same appearance that Luke describes, providing us with additional details:

30 When he had taken his place at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 At this point their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished out of their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?” 33 So they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and those with them gathered together 34 and saying, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how they recognized him when he broke the bread. 36 While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 But they were startled and terrified, thinking they saw a spirit. 38 Then he said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself! Touch me and see; because a spirit does not have flesh and bones like you see that I have.” 40 Then when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still could not believe it for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 So they gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in front of them (Luke 24:30-43, emphasis mine).

Jesus would have appeared to Mary and the other women by now, and they have already announced to the disciples that Jesus was alive. But the disciples refused to believe. Then, the two men who talked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus arrived to tell the disciples of their encounter with the risen Lord. Once again, the disciples refused to believe:

12 After this he appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 They went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. 14 Then he appeared to the eleven themselves, while they were eating, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen him resurrected (Mark 16:12-14, emphasis mine).

John spares us from yet another account of the unbelief of the disciples, and of Jesus rebuking them for their unbelief. While their unbelief deserved rebuke, John moves on to tell us how Jesus convinced His disciples of His resurrection. He shows them His nail-scarred hands and His spear-pierced side. There was no mistaking the fact that His wounds, now healed, were incurred at His crucifixion. It was Jesus, and there was no denying it, incredible as that may be.

The disciples had a job to do, and they were being left behind so that they could accomplish it. This task is summed up in the “Great Commission”:

18 Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

To accomplish this task, the disciples are in need of divine enablement. This was promised by our Lord in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13–16):

15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. 16 Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you. … 25 I have spoken these things while staying with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you” (John 14:15-17, 25-26).

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me; 27 and you also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).

7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment— 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 12 I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears, and will tell you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 15 Everything that the Father has is mine; that is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 16 In a little while you will see me no longer; again after a little while, you will see me” (John 16:7-16).

I had never noticed before that in His high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus does not ask the Father to send the Spirit, which He has promised in chapters 14-16. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is not even mentioned in this prayer! How can this be? I believe that while our Lord prepared His disciples for the coming of the Spirit in the Upper Room Discourse, He did not intend to send the Spirit until after His ascension. In other words, the Holy Spirit would not come until Pentecost. Some suggest that in our text Jesus is temporarily bestowing the Spirit upon His disciples, until Pentecost comes. I don’t agree.

In the first place, John does not report anything out of the ordinary happening as a result of our Lord’s actions. The disciples are not transformed, as they will be at Pentecost. The gospel is not preached. In fact, the next thing to happen in John’s Gospel is that some of the disciples go fishing. I do not believe that the Holy Spirit was immediately bestowed upon the disciples at this moment, as a result of what Jesus says and does. I believe Jesus is symbolically bestowing the Spirit upon His disciples, although it will not actually take place until Pentecost. Jesus will have ascended to the Father then, and so this gesture indicates to the disciples that when the Spirit comes at Pentecost, it will be as a result of what Jesus had promised earlier, and symbolically indicates here.

I wish to be very clear here, both as to what I am saying, and as to what I am not saying. I am saying that our Lord is here symbolically bestowing His Holy Spirit on the church. This symbolic act will literally be fulfilled at Pentecost. Jesus wants it to be clear that it is He who is sending His Spirit to indwell and to empower His church. I am not saying that the Spirit is given at the moment Jesus breathes upon His disciples. I am not saying that this is a temporary bestowal of the Spirit, until the permanent coming of the Spirit at Pentecost.

Specifically, I believe that what Jesus is symbolically bestowing is the coming of the Holy Spirit upon His disciples as those who will act as His apostles. Earlier, Jesus outlined some of the ministries of the Holy Spirit. For example, the Spirit would call Jesus’ teaching to their minds. He would convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. But here, none of these ministries seems to be in view. Here, the Holy Spirit is given to the apostles so that they can either proclaim the forgiveness of sins, or the retention of sins. I do not think this text justifies some priestly hierarchy, who hears confessions and grants absolution from one’s sins. Instead, I believe Jesus is giving the apostles the authority to declare men and women to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. I believe we see an example of this in the Book of Acts:

1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers took issue with him, 3 saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and shared a meal with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them point by point, saying, 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, an object something like a large sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came to me. 6 As I stared I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; slaughter and eat!’ 8 But I said, ‘Certainly not, Lord, for nothing defiled or ritually unclean has ever entered my mouth!’ 9 But the voice replied a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then everything was pulled up to heaven again. 11 At that very moment, three men sent to me from Caesarea approached the house where we were staying. 12 The Spirit told me to accompany them without hesitation. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He informed us how he had seen an angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter, 14 who will speak a message to you by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15 Then as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them just as he did on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, as he used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 Therefore if God gave them the same gift as he also gave us after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to hinder God?” 18 When they heard this, they ceased their objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted the repentance that leads to life even to the Gentiles” (Acts 11:1-18, emphasis mine).

It takes a monumental work of God to convince the Jews that God has purposed from eternity past to save Gentiles (see Acts 22:21-23). Our Lord had promised to send the Spirit, which He did at Pentecost. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit directed Peter to go to the house of a Gentile and to proclaim the gospel to those gathered in his house. The Spirit then came upon all those who had come to faith, thus indicating that the gospel (the forgiveness of sins) was not just for Jews alone, but for all who believe, Jew or Gentile. It is difficult for Gentile believers today to grasp how hard it was for Jews to accept the salvation of the Gentiles. Even the apostles found this difficult. As the Spirit came upon the apostles, this truth was embraced, proclaimed, and defended by them. By means of the Spirit’s guidance and illumination, the truth that the gospel was for Jews and Gentiles was declared by the apostles, and particularly by Paul:

11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh—who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed in the body by hands—12 that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, the one who turned both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, in his flesh, 15 when he nullified the law of commandments in decrees. The purpose of this was to create in himself the two into one new man, thus making peace, 16 and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer foreigners and non-citizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, 20 because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:11-22).

1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 If indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that by revelation the divine secret was made known to me, as I wrote before briefly. 4 When reading this, you will be able to understand my insight into this secret of Christ. 5 Now this secret was not disclosed to mankind in former generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, 6 namely, that through the gospel the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus. 7 I became a servant of this gospel according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the exercise of his power. 8 To me—less than the least of all the saints—this grace was given, to proclaim to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ 9 and to enlighten everyone about the divine secret’s plan—a secret that has been hidden for ages in the God who has created all things (Ephesians 3:1-9).

Jesus’ Third Appearance: The Disciples, Including Thomas (John 20:24-31)

24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the wounds from the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the wounds from the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it!” 26 Eight days later the disciples were again together in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe.” 28 Thomas replied to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The disciples seem to have been convinced of our Lord’s resurrection, except for Thomas who was not there. He did not see the resurrected Lord, nor did he behold the Savior’s wounded hands and side. And so it was that when Thomas was told that Jesus had appeared to them, he refused to believe. He insisted that in order for him to believe, he would have to see Jesus with his own eyes. He would have to personally inspect the Lord’s nail-pierced hands and His pierced side. Only then would he believe. Before we become too harsh with Thomas, let me remind you that the other disciples did not believe until they saw, either. Thomas is really demanding to see the same things that convinced the others. He is not asking for anything more than what the others saw.

Eight days passed. Apparently Jesus did not appear to any of His disciples during this period of time. The disciples were all together once again, including Thomas. The doors were locked, but in spite of this Jesus arrived and stood in their midst.196 Jesus repeats the greeting He gave at His earlier appearance, “Peace be with you” (verse 26; see also verses 19, 21). Immediately, Jesus turns His attention to Thomas. He summons Thomas to come and to put his finger where the nails had pierced His hands, and to feel His side where the spear had pierced it. He challenged Thomas to forsake his unbelief and to believe.

We do not know whether Thomas actually pressed his fingers into our Lord’s nail-pierced hands or not. Since John does not tell us that Thomas actually felt the wounds of our Lord, it may well be that after seeing Jesus alive he no longer required this proof. It may have taken this sight to convince Thomas, but once convinced, Thomas got it right. He does not merely profess a belief that Jesus has risen from the dead. Thomas professes to believe in what the resurrection proved—that Jesus was God, and that He was Lord (verse 28). Thomas now has it right.

Bible translations handle our Lord’s response differently. Some render the first words of verse 29 as a question, “Have you believed because you have seen Me?” (as does the NET Bible). Others render it as a statement: “Because you have seen me, you have believed” (NIV, KJV, NKJV). The difference is not important. The contrast Jesus seeks to emphasize is between those who must see in order to believe, and those who will believe without seeing. Peter seems to take up this same thought in his first epistle:

8 You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 because you are attaining the goal of your faith—the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

It is not too hard to see what John is leading up to. John is writing this Gospel for those who have never seen the risen Lord. He has selected just a few of the many miraculous signs Jesus performed to demonstrate that Jesus is who He claimed to be, who John proclaims Him to be.

The Bottom Line: Believing Jesus Is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31)

30 Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples that are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

If there is one thing I despise, it is deceptive advertising. I hate those phone calls that come from unidentified (“out of the area”) sources, which begin with the assurance that the caller is not “selling” anything. John could not be more open and direct about the purpose of this book. I believe John has two conclusions. The first is found in chapter 20. It is aimed at those who have not yet come to faith in Jesus Christ. The second is aimed at those who have believed, and it is found in chapter 21.

In our text, John informs his unbelieving readers about the “bottom line” of all that he has written. John has one goal for the unbeliever: He wants to demonstrate as clearly and as forcefully as he can that Jesus not only claimed to be the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of God, but that by many miraculous signs He proved it! The last and greatest of these signs was His resurrection from the dead:

38 Then some of the experts in the law along with some Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. 41 The people of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; yet something greater than Jonah is here! 42 The Queen of the South will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; yet something greater than Solomon is here! (Matthew 12:38-42).

While the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was prophesied in the Old Testament, and by our Lord Himself, John makes it very clear that the disciples were not predisposed to believe it. Only after the most forceful and compelling evidence would the disciples believe Jesus really was alive. And having become convinced of this great truth, the disciples never ceased to proclaim it. The resurrection of Jesus is the final and compelling proof that He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world:

1 From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God 2 that he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with respect to the flesh, 4 who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:1-4).

Believing in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, is the only way God has provided for the forgiveness of your sins and for the gift of eternal life. By believing in Him, you will be saved:

9 Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and thus has a right standing and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. 11 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:9-13).

11 He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children 13 —children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God (John 1:11-13).

In many ways, the Gospel of John is not a simple book. But its message to the unsaved is incredibly simple, and John sums it up in these last verses of chapter 20. If you have never come to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, then John has written this book to you, and for you, to give you all the evidence you need to believe in Him. Have you believed? This is the most important decision you will ever make. It determines your eternal destiny.


193 Some have criticized Mary for being so nave as to assume she will be able to carry away the body of our Lord. They are missing the point. She is not thinking in terms of logistics here. She is simply saying that if this “gardener” will tell her where to find the body, she will see to it that it is returned to its proper place. Of course she will get help to accomplish this. For now, she just wants to know where His body has been placed.

194 A. T. Robertson comments, “Present middle imperative in prohibition with genitive case, meaning “cease clinging to me” rather than “Do not touch me.” Jesus allowed the women to take hold of his feet … and worship … as we read in Mt 28:9. The prohibition here reminds Mary that the previous personal fellowship by sight, sound, and touch no longer exists and that the final state of glory was not yet begun. Jesus checks Mary’s impulsive eagerness.” Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), 6 vols. Vol. V, p. 312.

195 I am reminded that the breath of God is the source of life (Genesis 2:7; Job 33:4; Psalm 33:6; Ezekiel 37:9), even as it is also the means of divine judgment (2 Samuel 22:16; Job 4:9; Psalm 18:15). The breath of God is sometimes a symbol for His Spirit (Job 33:4). In a symbolic way, our Lord is breathing life into His church.

Both the NET Bible and the NIV smooth out the translation here. The NIV reads: “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” (John 14:26). Both the old and the new King James Versions and the NAS leave the translation a bit rough, in order to convey the unusual word order: “After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you’” (NAS). “And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’” (NKJ). The original text seems to be emphasizing the fact that Jesus entered the room, in spite of the fact that the doors were shut and locked. (On seeing and believing, http://www.bible.org)

Get Wisdom (3) In Him Are Hid All the Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge

by Jon Piper. You can read this original post here at www.desiringGod.org

COLOSSIANS 2:3One reason to admire and trust Jesus above all other persons is that he knows more than anyone else. He knows all people thoroughly, their hearts and their thoughts. „He knew all men” (JOHN 2:24). „You, Lord, . . . know the hearts of all men” (ACTS 1:24). „And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, ‘Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?'” (MATTHEW 9:4). There is no one who perplexes Jesus. No thought or action is unintelligible to him. He knows its origin and end. The most convoluted psychotic and the most abstruse genius are open and laid bare to his understanding. He understands every motion of their minds.Jesus not only knows all people thoroughly as they were and are today, he also knows what people will think and do tomorrow. He knows all things that will come to pass. „Jesus, [knew] all the things that were coming upon Him” (JOHN 18:4). On the basis of this knowledge, he foretold numerous things that his friends and enemies would do. „[Jesus said] ‘There are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him” (JOHN 6:64). „From now on,” he said, „I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am” (JOHN 13:19). The reason he foretold these things, he explains, is so that we might know that „he is” – is what? That he is the divine Son of God. „I am” is the name for God inEXODUS 3:14 and the designation of deity in ISAIAH 43:10. Jesus knows all that will come to pass, and, to help our faith, he says, „Behold, I have told you in advance” (MATTHEW 24:25).Jesus simply knows all things. Thus his disciples said, truly, „Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God” (JOHN 16:30). The extent of Jesus’ knowledge was a compelling warrant for faith in his divine origin. At the end of his time on earth Jesus pressed Peter, „‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You’ (JOHN 21:17). Peter did not conclude from Jesus’ knowledge of his heart that he knew all things; rather he concluded from the omniscience of Jesus that he knew his heart. „You know all things,” is a general and unqualified statement that John’s gospel presses on our minds.

The greatest thing that can be said of Jesus’ knowledge is that he knows God perfectly. We know God partially and imperfectly. Jesus knows him like no other being knows him. He knows him the way an omniscient Person knows himself. „All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (MATTHEW 11:27). No one but Jesus knows the Father immediately, completely and perfectly. Our knowledge of the Father depends wholly on Jesus’ gracious revelation; it is derivative and partial and imperfect.

Nothing greater can be said about the knowledge of Jesus than that he knows God perfectly. All reality outside God is parochial compared to the infinite Reality that God is. What God has made is like a toy compared to the complexity and depth of what God is. All the sciences that scratch the surface of the created universe are the mere ABCs compared to Christ’s exhaustive knowledge of the created universe. And this knowledge of the created universe is as a dewdrop on a blade of grass compared to the ocean of knowledge that Jesus has of the Being of God himself. God is infinite. The universe is finite. Knowledge of the infinite is infinite. Therefore to know God, as Jesus knows God, is to have infinite knowledge.

Therefore let us bow down and worship Jesus Christ. If we are impressed with the scholarship of man and the achievements of scientific knowledge, then let us not play the fool by trumpeting a tiny chirp and ignoring the thunder clap of omniscience. Jesus alone is worthy of our highest admiration. Jesus alone is worthy of our trust. He can show us the Father (MATTHEW 11:27). He can give us irresistible wisdom (LUKE 21:15). He can see how to make all things work together for our good (ROMANS 8:28). None of his judgments about anything is ever mistaken (JOHN 8:16). He teaches the way of God with infallible truthfulness (MATTHEW 22:16). Trust him. Admire him. Follow him.

In awe of Jesus,

Pastor John

© Desiring God

Arthur W. Pink – Christ the Eternal Word

from „The exposition of the Gospel of John” (VIA) PBM Ministries. You can read more e books at PBM Ministries here. This is part 2 of 72 of A.W.Pink’s book :

Christ, the Eternal Word

John 1:1-13


In the last chapter we stated, „Each book of the Bible has a prominent and dominant theme which is peculiar to itself. Just as each member in the human body has its own particular function, so, every book in the Bible has its own special purpose and mission. The theme of John’s Gospel is the Deity of the Savior. Here, as nowhere else in Scripture so fully, the Godhood of Christ is presented to our view. That which is outstanding in this fourth Gospel is the Divine Sonship of the Lord Jesus. In this book we are shown that the One who was heralded by the angels to the Bethlehem shepherds, who walked this earth for thirty-three years, who was crucified at Calvary, who rose in triumph from the grave, and who forty days later departed from these scenes, was none other than the Lord of glory. The evidence for this is overwhelming, the proofs almost without number, and the effect of contemplating them must be to bow our hearts in worship before ‘the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2:13).”

That John’s Gospel does present the Deity of the Savior is at once apparent from the opening words of the first chapter. The Holy Spirit has, as it were, placed the key right over the entrance, for the introductory verses of this fourth Gospel present the Lord Jesus Christ in Divine relationships and unveil His essential glories. Before we attempt an exposition of this profound passage we shall first submit an analysis of its contents. In these first thirteen verses of John 1 we have set forth: —

1. The Relation of Christ to Time—”In the beginning,” therefore, Eternal: John 1:1.

2. The Relation of Christ to the Godhead—”With God,” therefore, One of the Holy Trinity: John 1:1.

3. The Relation of Christ to the Holy Trinity—”God was the Word”—the Revealer: John 1:1.

4. The Relation of Christ to the Universe—”All things were made by him”—the Creator: John 1:3.

5. The Relation of Christ to Men—Their „Light”: John 1:4, 5.

6. The Relation of John the Baptist to Christ—”Witness” of His Deity: John 1:6-9.

7. The Reception which Christ met here: John 1:10-13.

    (a) „The world knew him not”: John 1:10.

    (b) „His own (Israel) received him not”: John 1:11.

    (c) A company born of God „received him”: John 1:12, 13.

„In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1-3). How entirely different is this from the opening verses of the other Gospels! John opens by immediately presenting Christ not as the Son of David, nor as the Son of man, but as the Son of God. John takes us back to the beginning, and shows that the Lord Jesus had no beginning. John goes behind creation and shows that the Savior was Himself the Creator. Every clause in these verses calls for our most careful and prayerful attention.

„In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” Here we enter a realm which transcends the finite mind, and where speculation is profane. „In the beginning” is something we are unable to comprehend: it is one of those matchless sweeps of inspiration which rises above the level of human thought. „In the beginning was the word,” and we are equally unable to grasp the final meaning of this. A „word” is an expression: by words we articulate our speech. The Word of God, then, is Deity expressing itself in audible terms. And yet, when we have said this, how much there is that we leave unsaid! „And the word was with God,” and this intimates His separate personality, and shows His relation to the other Persons of the blessed Trinity. But how sadly incapacitated are we for meditating upon the relations which exist between the different Persons of the Godhead. „And God was the word.” Not only was Christ the Revealer of God, but He always was, and ever remains, none other than God Himself. Not only was our Savior the One through whom, and by whom, the Deity expressed itself in audible terms, but He was Himself co-equal with the Father and the Spirit. Let us now approach the Throne of grace and there seek the mercy and grace we so sorely need to help us as we turn now to take a closer look at these verses.

„Our God and Father, in the name of Thy dear Son, we pray Thee that Thy Holy Spirit may now take of the things of Christ and show them unto us: to the praise of the glory of Thy grace. Amen.”

In THE BEGINNING,” or, more literally, „in beginning,” for there is no article in the Greek. In what „beginning?” There are various „beginnings” referred to in the New Testament. There is the „beginning” of „the world” (Matthew 24:21); of „the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Mark 1:1); of „sorrows” (Mark 13:8); of „miracles” (or „signs”), (John 2:11), etc. But the „beginning” mentioned in John 1:1 clearly antedates all these „beginnings.” The „beginning” of John 1:1 precedes the making of the „all things” of John 1:3. It is then, the beginning of creation, the beginning of time. This earth of ours is old, how old we do not know, possibly millions of years. But „the word” was before all things. He was not only from the beginning, but He was „in the beginning.”

„In beginning:” the absence of the definite article is designed to carry us back to the most remote point that can be imagined. If then, He was before all creation, and He was, for „all things were made by him;” if He was „in the beginning,” then He was Himself without beginning, which is only the negative way of saying He was eternal. In perfect accord with this we find, that in His prayer recorded in John 17, He said, „And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” As, then, the Word was „in the beginning,” and if in the beginning, eternal, and as none but God Himself is eternal, the absolute Deity of the Lord Jesus is conclusively established.

WAS the word.” There are two separate words in the Greek which, in this passage, are both rendered „was”: the one means to exist, the other to come into being. The latter word (egeneto) is used in John 1:3 which, literally rendered, reads, „all things through him came into being, and without him came into being not even one (thing) which has come into being;” and again we have this word „egeneto” in John 1:6 where we read, „there was (became to be) a man sent from God, whose name was John;” and again in John 1:14, „And the word was made (became) flesh.” But here in John 1:1 and John 1:2 it is „the word (ito) with God.” As the Word He did not come into being, or begin to be, but He was „with God” from all eternity. It is noteworthy that the Holy Spirit uses this word „ito,” which signifies that the Son personally subsisted, no less than four times in the first two verses of John 1. Unlike John the Baptist who „became (egeneto) a man,” the „word” was (ito), that is, existed with God before time began.

Was THE WORD.” The reference here is to the Second Person in the Holy Trinity, the Son of God. But why is the Lord Jesus Christ designated „the word?” What is the exact force and significance of this title? The first passage which occurs to our minds as throwing light on this question is the opening statement in the Epistle to the Hebrews: „God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.” Here we learn that Christ is the final spokesman of God. Closely connected with this is the Savior’s title found in Revelation 1:8—”I am Alpha and Omega,” which intimates that He is God’s alphabet, the One who spells out Deity, the One who utters all God has to say. Even clearer, perhaps, is the testimony of John 1:18: „No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” The word „declared” means tell out, cf. Acts 15:14, and 21:19; it is translated „told” in Luke 24:35. Putting together these three passages we learn that Christ is the One who is the Spokesman of God, and One who spelled out the Deity, the One who has declared or told forth the Father.

Christ, then, is the One who has made the incomprehensible God intelligible. The force of this title of His found in John 1:1, may be discovered by comparing it with that name which is given to the Holy Scriptures—”the Word of God.” What are the Scriptures? They are the Word of God. And what does that mean? This: the Scriptures reveal God’s mind, express His will, make known His perfections, and lay bare His heart. This is precisely what the Lord Jesus has done for the Father. But let us enter a little more into detail:—

(a) A „word” is a medium of manifestation. I have in my mind a thought, but others know not its nature. But the moment I clothe that thought in words it becomes cognizable. Words, then, make objective unseen thoughts. This is precisely what the Lord Jesus has done. As the Word, Christ has made manifest the invisible God.

(b) A „word” is a means of communication. By means of words I transmit information to others. By words I express myself, make known my will, and impart knowledge. So Christ, as the Word, is the Divine Transmitter, communicating to us the life and love of God.

(c) A „word” is a method of revelation. By his words a speaker exhibits both his intellectual caliber and his moral character. By our words we shall be justified, and by our ‘words we shall be condemned. And Christ, as the Word, reveals the attributes and perfections of God. How fully has Christ revealed God! He displayed His power, He manifested His wisdom, He exhibited His holiness, He made known His grace, He unveiled His heart. In Christ, and nowhere else, is God fully and finally told out.

And the word was WITH GOD.” This preposition „with” seems to suggest two thoughts. First, the Word was in the presence of God. As we read, „Enoch walked with God,” that is, he lived in fellowship with God. There is a beautiful verse in Proverbs 8 which throws its light on the meaning of „with” in John 1:1, and reveals the blessed relation which obtained from all eternity between the Word and God. The passage begins at Proverbs 8:22 where „wisdom” is personified. It tells us of the happy fellowship which existed between the Word and God before ever the world was. In Proverbs 8:30 we read, „Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” In addition to the two thoughts just suggested, we may add that the Greek preposition „pros” here translated „with” is sometimes rendered „toward,” but most frequently „unto.” The Word was toward or unto God. One has significantly said, „The word rendered with denotes a perpetual tendency, as it were, of the Son to the Father, in unity of essence.”

That it is here said „the word was with God” tells of His separate personality: He was not „in” God, but „with” God. Now, mark here the marvelous accuracy of Scripture. It is not said, „the word was with the Father” as we might have expected, but „the word was with God.” The name „God” is common to the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, whereas „the Father” is the special title of the first Person only. Had it said „the word was with the Father,” the Holy Spirit had been excluded; but „with God” takes in the Word dwelling in eternal fellowship with both the Father and the Spirit. Observe, too, it does not say, And God was with God,”’ for while there is plurality of Persons in the Godhead, there is but „one God,” therefore the minute accuracy of „the WORD was with God.”

And the word WAS GOD,” or, more literally, „and God was the word.” Lest the figurative expression „the word” should convey to us an inadequate conception of the Divine glories of Christ, the Holy Spirit goes on to say, „and the word was with God,” which denoted His separate personality, and intimated His essential relation to the Godhead. And, as though that were not strong enough, the Holy Spirit expressly adds, „and God was the word.” Who could express God save Him who is God! The Word was not an emanation of God, but God Himself made manifest. Not only the revealer of God, but God Himself revealed. A more emphatic and unequivocal affirmation of the absolute Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ it is impossible to conceive.

„The same was in the beginning with God.” The same,” that is, the Word; „was,” that is, subsisted, not began to be; „in the beginning,” that is, before time commenced; „with God,” that is, as a distinct Personality. That it is here repeated Christ was „with God,” seems to be intended as a repudiation of the early Gnostic heresy that Christ was only an idea or ideal IN the mind of God from eternity, duly made manifest in time—a horrible heresy which is being reechoed in our own day. It is not said that the Word was in God; He was, eternally, „with God.”

Before we pass on to the next verse, let us seek to make practical application of what has been before us, and at the same time answer the third of the seven questions asked at the close of the previous chapter; „How may I obtain a better, deeper, fuller knowledge of God Himself? By studying nature? By prayer? By studying Scripture? Or—how?” A more important question we cannot consider. What conception have you formed, dear reader, of the Being, Personality, and Character, of God? Before the Lord Jesus came to this earth, the world was without the knowledge of the true and living God. To say that God is revealed in nature is true, yet it is a statement which needs qualifying. Nature reveals the existence of God, but how little it tells of His character. Nature manifests His natural attributes—His power, His wisdom, His immutability, etc.; but what does nature say to us of His moral attributes—His justice, His holiness, His grace, His love? Nature, as such knows no mercy and shows no pity. If a blind saint unwittingly steps over the edge of a precipice he meets with the same fate as if a vile murderer had been hurled over it. If I break nature’s laws, no matter how sincere may be my subsequent repentance, there is no escaping the penalty. Nature conceals as well as reveals God. The ancients had „nature” before them, and what did they learn of God? Let that altar, which the Apostle Paul beheld in one of the chief centers of ancient learning and culture make answer—”to the Unknown God” is what he found inscribed thereon!

It is only in Christ that God is fully told out. Nature is no longer as it left the Creator’s hands: it is under the Curse, and how could that which is imperfect be a perfect medium for revealing God? But the Lord Jesus Christ is the Holy One. He was God, the Son, manifest in flesh. And so fully and so perfectly did He reveal God, He could say, „He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). Here, then, is the answer to our question, and here is the practical value of what is before us in these opening verses of John’s Gospel. If the believer would enter into a better, deeper, fuller knowledge of God, he must prayerfully study the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures! Let this be made our chief business, our great delight, to reverently scrutinize and meditate upon the excellencies of our Divine Savior as they are displayed upon the pages of Holy Writ, then, and only then, shall we „increase in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10). The „light of the knowledge of the glory of God” is seen only „in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

„All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). How this brings out, again, the absolute deity of Christ! Here creation is ascribed to Him, and none but God can create. Man, with all his boasting, is unable to bring into existence a single blade of grass. Observe, that the whole of creation is here ascribed to the Word—”all things were made by him.” This would not be true if He were Himself a creature, even though the first and the highest creature. But nothing is excepted—”all things were made by him.” Just as He was before all things, and therefore, eternal; so was He the Originator of all things, and therefore, omnipotent.

„In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). This follows logically from what has been said in the previous verse. If Christ created all things He must be the Fountain of life. He is the Life-Giver. We understand „life” to be used here in its widest sense. Creature life is found in God, for „in him we live and move and have our being”; spiritual life or eternal life, and resurrection life, are also found „in Him.” If it be objected that the Greek word for „life” here is „zoe,” and that zoe has exclusive reference to spiritual life, we answer, Not always: see Luke 12:15; Luke 16:25 (translated „life-time”), Acts 17:25, etc., where, in each case, „zoe” has reference to human (natural) life, as such. Thus, „zoe” includes within its scope all „life.”

And the Life was THE LIGHT of men.” What are we to understand by this? Notice two things: this statement in verse 4 follows immediately after the declaration that „all things were made” by Christ, so that it is creatures, as such, which are here in view; second, it is „men,” as men, not only believers, which are here referred to. The „life” here is one of the Divine titles of the Lord Jesus, hence, it is equivalent to saying, „God was the light of men.” It speaks of the relation which Christ sustains to men, all men—He is their „light.” This is confirmed by what we read in verse 9, „That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” In what sense, then, is Christ as „the life” the „light of men?” We answer, In that which renders men accountable creatures. Every rational man is morally enlightened. All rational men „show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness” (Rom. 2:15). It is this „light,” which lightens every man that cometh into the world, that constitutes them responsible human beings. The Greek word for „light” in John 1:4 is „phos,” and that it is not restricted to spiritual illumination is plainly evident from its usage in Matthew 6:23, „If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness,” and also see Luke 11:35; Acts 16:29, etc.

Let no reader infer from what has been said that we are among the number who believe the unscriptural theory that there is in every man a spark of Divine life, which needs only to be fanned, to become a flame. No, we expressly repudiate any such satanic lie. By nature, spiritually, he is „dead in trespasses and sins.” Yet, notwithstanding, the natural man is a responsible being before God, to Whom he shall give an account of himself; responsible, because the work of God’s law is written in his heart, his conscience also bearing witness, and this, we take it, is the „light” which is referred to in John 1:4, and the „lighteneth” in John 1:9.

„And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5). This gives us still another of the Divine titles of Christ. In verse 1 He is spoken of as „the word.” In verse 3 as the Maker of all things. In verse 4 as „the life.” Now, in verse 5 as „the light.” With this should be compared 1 John 1:5 where we read „God is light.” The conclusion, then, is irresistible, the proof complete and final, that the Lord Jesus is none other than God, the second Person in the Holy Trinity.

The „Englishman’s Greek New Testament” renders the last clause of John 1:5 as follows—”and the light in the darkness appears, and the darkness it apprehended not.” This tells us of the effects of the Fall. Every man that comes into this world is lightened by his Creator, but the natural man disregards this light, he repels it, and in consequence, is plunged into darkness. Instead of the natural man „living up to the light he has” (which none ever did) he „loves darkness rather than light” (John 3:19). The unregenerate man, then, is like one that is blind—he is in the dark. Proof of this appears in the fact that „the Light in the darkness appears, and the darkness apprehended it not.” All other darkness yields to and fades away before light, but here „the darkness” is so impenetrable and hopeless, it neither apprehends nor comprehends. What a fearful and solemn indictment of fallen human nature! And how evident it is that nothing short of a miracle of saving grace can ever bring one „out of darkness into God’s marvelous light.”

„There was a man sent from God, whose name was John” (John 1:6). The change of subject here is most abrupt. From „the Word” who was God, the Holy Spirit now turns to speak of the forerunner of Christ. He is referred to as „a man,” to show us, by way of contrast, that the One to Whom he bore witness was more than Man. This man was „sent from Cod,” so is every man who bears faithful witness to the Person of Christ. The name of this man was „John” which, as etymologists tell us, signifies „the gift of God.”

‘The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all through him might believe” (John 1:7). John came to bear witness of „the light.” Weigh well these words: they are solemn, pathetic, tragic. Perhaps their force will be the more evident if we ask a question: When the sun is shining in all its beauty, who are the ones that are unconscious of the fact? Who need to be told it is shining? The blind! How tragic, then, when we read that God sent John to „bear witness of the light.” How pathetic that there should be any need for this! How solemn the statement that men have to be told „the light” is now in their midst. What a revelation of man’s fallen condition. The Light shone in the darkness, but the darkness comprehended it not. Therefore, did God send John to bear witness of the Light. God would not allow His beloved Son to come here unrecognized and unheralded. As soon as He was born into this world, He sent the angels to the Bethlehem shepherds to proclaim Him, and just before His public ministry began, John appeared bidding Israel to receive Him.

„The same came for a witness.” This defines the character of the preacher’s office. He is a „witness,” and a witness is one who knows what he says and says what he knows. He deals not with speculations, he speaks not of his own opinions, but he testifies to what he knows to be the truth.

„To bear witness of the light.” This should ever be the aim of the preacher: to get his hearers to look away from himself to Another. He is not to testify of himself, nor about himself, but he is to „preach Christ” (1 Cor. 1:23). This is the message the Spirit of God will own, for Christ has said of Him, „He shall glorify me” (John 16:14).

„That all through him might believe.” „That” means „in order that.” „To bear witness” defines the character of the preacher’s office: to „bear witness of the light” makes known the preacher’s theme; that „all through him might believe” speaks of the design of his ministry. Men become believers through receiving the testimony of God’s witness. The „all” is the same as in John 6:45.

„He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light” (John 1:8). No, John himself was not „that light,” for „light” like „life” is to be found only in God. Apart from God all is darkness, profound and unrelieved. Even the believer has no light in himself. What saith the Scriptures? „For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye the light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8). There is a statement found in John 5:35 which, as it stands in the A.V., conflicts with what is said here in John 1:8. In verse 35 when speaking of John, Christ said, „He was a burning and shining light,” but the Greek word used here is entirely different from that translated „light” in John 1:8, and in the R.V. it is correctly translated „He was the lamp that burneth and shineth.” This word used of John, correctly translated „lamp,” points a striking contrast between the forerunner and Christ as „the light.” A lamp has no inherent light of its own—it has to be supplied! A „lamp” has to be carried by another! A „lamp” soon burns out: in a few hours it ceases to shine.

„That was the true light, which lighteth every man which cometh into the world” (John 1:9). Bishop Ryle in his most excellent notes on John’s Gospel, has suggested that the adjective „true” has here at least a fourfold reference. First, Christ, is the „true light” as the Undeceiving Light. Satan himself, we read, „is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14), but he appears as such only to deceive. But Christ is the true Light in contrast from all the false lights which are in the world. Second, as the „true light,” Christ is the Real Light. The real light in contrast from the dim and shaded light which was conveyed through the types and shadows of the Old Testament ritual. Third, as the „true light” Christ is the Underived Light: there are lesser lights which are borrowed and reflected, as the moon from the sun, but Christ’s „light” is His own essential and underived glory. Fourth, as the „true light,” Christ is the Supereminent Light, in contrast from all that is ordinary and common. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another of the stars; but all other lights pale before Him who is „the light.” The latter part of this ninth verse need not detain us now, having already received our consideration under the exposition of verse four. The light which „every man” has by nature is the light and reason and conscience.

„He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not” (John 1:10). „He was in the world” refers, we believe, to His incarnation and the thirty-three years during which He tabernacled among men. Then it is said „and the world was made by him.” This is to magnify the Divine glory of the One who had become incarnate, and to emphasize the tragedy of what follows, „and the world knew him not.”

„He was in the world.” Who was? None other than the One who had made it. And how was He received? The great Creator was about to appear: will not a thrill of glad expectancy run around the world? He is coming not to judge, but to save. He is to appear not as a haughty Despot, but as a Man „holy, harmless, undefiled;” not to be ministered unto, but to minister. Will not such an One receive a hearty welcome? Alas, „the world knew him not.” Full of their own schemes and pursuits, they thought nothing of Him. Unspeakably tragic is this, yet something even more pathetic follows.

„He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). How appropriate are the terms here used: note the nice distinction: „He was in the world” and, therefore, within the reach of inquiry. But to the seed of Abraham He „came,” knocking as it were, at their door for admission; but „they received him not.” The world is charged with ignorance, but Israel with unbelief, yea, with a positive refusal of Him. Instead of welcoming the Heavenly Visitant, they drove Him from their door, and even banished Him from the earth. Who would have supposed that a people whose believing ancestors had been eagerly awaiting the appearance of the Messiah for long ages past, would have rejected Him when He came among them! Yet so it was: and should any ask, How could these things be? we answer, This very thing was expressly foretold by their own prophet, that He should possess neither form nor comeliness in their eyes, and when they should see Him there would be no beauty that they should desire Him. Ah! would it have been any wonder if He had turned away from such ingrates in disgust! What blessed subjection to the Father’s will, and what wondrous love for sinners, that He remained on earth in order that He might later die the death of the Cross!

But if the world „knew him not,” and Israel „received him not,” was the purpose of God defeated? No, indeed, for that could not be. The counsel of the Lord „shall stand’: (Prov. 19:21). The marvelous condescension of the Son could not be in vain. So, we read, „but as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (verse 12). This tells us of the human side of salvation, what is required of sinners. Salvation comes to the sinner through „receiving” Christ, that is, by „believing on his name.” There is a slight distinction between these two things, though in substance they are one. Believing, respects Christ as He is exhibited by the Gospel testimony: it is the personal acceptance as truth of what God has said concerning His Son. Receiving, views Christ as presented to us as God’s Gift, presented to us for our acceptance. And „as many as,” no matter whether they be Jews or Gentiles, rich or poor, illiterate or learned, receive Christ as their own personal Savior, to them is given the power or right to become the sons (better „children”) of God.

But who receive Him thus? Not all by any means. Only a few. And is this left to chance? Far from it. As the following verse goes on to state, „which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). This explains to us why the few „receive” Christ. It is because they are born of God. Just as verse 12 gives us the human side, so verse 13 gives us the Divine. The Divine side is the new birth: and the taking place of the new birth is „not of blood,” that is to say, it is not a matter of heredity, for regeneration does not run in the veins; „nor of the will of the flesh,” the will of the natural man is opposed to God, and he has no will Godward until he has been born again; „nor of the will of man,” that is to say, the new birth is not brought about by the well-meant efforts of friends, nor by the persuasive powers of the preacher; „but of God.” The new birth is a Divine work. It is accomplished by the Holy Spirit applying the Word in living power to the heart. The reception Christ met during the days of His earthly ministry is the same still: the world „knows him not;” Israel „receives him not;” but a little company do receive him, and who these are Acts 13:48 tells us—”as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” And here we must stop.

Preparatory to our next chapter, we are anxious that the reader should study the following questions: (Click here to go to the book)

1. In John 1:14 the word „dwelt” signifies „tabernacled.” The Word tabernacled among men. It points us back to the Tabernacle of Israel in the wilderness. In what respects did the Tabernacle of old typify and foreshadow Christ?

2. „We beheld his glory” (John 1:14): what is meant by this? what „glory?” At least a threefold „glory.”

3. In what sense was Christ „before” John the Baptist (John 1:15)?

4. What is the meaning of John 1:16?

5. Why are we told that the law was given by Moses, but that grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17)?

6. Was there any „grace and truth” before Jesus Christ came? If so, what is meant by them coming by Jesus Christ?

7. How many contrasts can you draw between Law and Grace?

Film – Evanghelia lui Ioan / Gospel of John

Partea 1

Part 2

Does archaeology support the Synoptic Gospels? Part II

You can read Part I of this post here.

(6) Peter’s house in Capernaum?

Aerial view of Capernaum

This fishing village  on the North shore of Galilee populated with about 1,000 to 1,700 people was Jesus’ “own town” (Matt. 9:1). He taught in the synagogue and set a man free of a demon after he interrupted Jesus’ sermon. Then Jesus went immediately afterwards to Peter’s house and healed Peter’s mother-in-law, who was sick with a fever. She got up and cooked them dinner. Finally, “the whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons” … (Mark 1:21-34).

A house has been excavated there, and it is possible that it may have been Peter’s. James Charlesworth reviews six parts of the puzzle that fit together and indicate that the house was Peter’s (pp. 49-50). Jerome Murphy-O’Connor says that no evidence contradicts the identification of the house with Peter (p. 220). Von Wahlde writes: “Almost all scholars now espouse this view” that the house belonged to the apostle (p. 546).

(7) First-century synagogue in Capernaum?

All four Gospels mention a synagogue at Capernaum. Impressive remains of a fourth-century synagogue stand near the shoreline of the Lake of Galilee. Excavations around it have revealed an earlier layer underneath the fourth-century synagogue. “Given the custom of building one synagogue immediately upon the site of the previous ones, the earlier building is almost certainly the synagogue in which … Jesus taught on the day of the multiplication of loaves” (John 6:59) (von Wahlde, p. 546). As we saw in the sixth example, Jesus ministered there on other occasions.

(8) The Galilean boat

Misleadingly called the “Jesus boat,” it has no clear connection to Jesus or his disciples. It was found in the mud on the northwestern shore of the Lake of Galilee. “It is poorly crafted and represents the possession of ordinary people. Perhaps about thirteen men could be crowded into it.” It has a shallow draft and sat low to the water, so fishermen could easily pull up a net with fish trapped in it. The boat’s low profile means that it would fill up with water quickly in a storm (Charlesworth, pp. 41-42). Recall that James and John, sons of Zebedee, and Peter were partners (Luke 5:6, 10). They owned at least two boats. Though the Galilean boat has no firm connection to the disciples, it at least sheds some light on what life was like for fishermen.

(9) Herod Antipas: a reed shaken by the wind?

Matt. 11:7-9 and Luke 7:24-26 discuss John the Baptist’s prophethood, after he was in prison. Jesus asks the people whether John was a “reed shaken in the wind.” The answer is no; he was a prophet. But why would Jesus choose that image? A possible explanation appears on local coins.

Herod Antipas minted coins with reeds on them because reeds symbolized cities on a river or lake, specifically the city of Tiberias. A “‘shaken reed’ could have become a name for the king who swayed with and survived many a political wind, who wavered between wives, and even between Sepphoris and Tiberias as his place of residence … The vivid phrase goes back to Jesus himself and reflects local color of the day, as he contrasts the uncompromising prophet with the ‘shaking reed’ of a kinglet from the Hellenistic Roman power elite” (Reumann, p. 672).

The connection between the passages in Matthew and Luke and the coins is not absolutely fixed. But it receives support from the textual context. Jesus also asks whether John was “a man dressed in fine clothes?” “No,” Jesus replies, answering his own question, because “those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces” (Matt. 11:8 // Luke 7:25).

(10) Qumran writings and table fellowship

The Essenes, probable writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran, were extra-scrupulous about whom they invited to table fellowship and the assembly or the community of the last days. James D. G. Dunn quotes several passages from these texts. They show the kinds of persons who were excluded: the unclean, the paralyzed in their feet or hands, or the lame or the blind or deaf and mute or the blemished. In contrast, in Luke 14:12-13 and 21, Jesus says these people are acceptable for his table fellowship:

12 Then Jesus said to his host, „When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind … 21 „The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ (Luke 14:12-13, 21)

The wording of the excluded persons is similar to the Qumran texts: lame, blind, and crippled. This last word is a different Greek and Hebrew word from the Greek and Hebrew of “lame.” “Crippled” should be translated more generally, maybe as “seriously disabled” or possibly “blemished” or a range of physical disabilities. Now what about the poor? In the Synoptics, they receive ministry from Jesus, but in the Dead Sea scrolls that Dunn cites the term applies to the Essenes themselves, even though many may not have been poor.

Dunn draws the obvious conclusion: “In the Palestinian Jesus movement the table of God was open to all the poor, and not least to the disabled, the lame, and the blind – those specifically excluded by the self-styled ‘poor’ of Qumran” (p. 267).

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