Since we took a brief look at the population of this world, and we know Jesus is also working on the judgment process that has to be finished before this world sees its actual last days, lets take a numeric look at that judgment process.
If there were 108 billion people in this world, how long will it take to judge them? The judgment process began in October 1844. This is 2019. That period covered 175 years. In terms of minutes, the total would come to 175 years x 365 days x 24 hours x 60 minutes = 91,980,000 minutes. We had better look at seconds. 91,980,000 minutes x 60 = 5,518,800,000 seconds. So how much time has been spent on each of the 108 billion people who have lived in this world? 5,518,800,000 seconds / 108,000,000,000 = 0.0511 seconds. That is 1/20th of a second to judge each person who ever lived in this world. I know we are talking about God who obviously thinks a lot faster than us, but give His a break. I hear people complaining about a delay all the time. Well when your name comes up for judgment, how much time will God need to consider your case?
We are trained to look at Revelation from an earthly view. Why? That is the only angle people have been taught to observe. Is there a view of Revelation we are missing? Of course there is. John was shown visions in Heaven. Everyone in Heaven understood each and every symbol and vision. No one in Heaven had any trouble understanding what John was shown. After every vision John had a bewildered look on his face.
Revelation 12:1-6 NLTse (1) Then I witnessed in heaven an event of great significance. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. (2) She was pregnant, and she cried out because of her labor pains and the agony of giving birth. (3) Then I witnessed in heaven another significant event. I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads. (4) His tail swept away one-third of the stars in the sky, and he threw them to the earth. He stood in front of the woman as she was about to give birth, ready to devour her baby as soon as it was born. (5) She gave birth to a son who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her child was snatched away from the dragon and was caught up to God and to his throne. (6) And the woman fled into the wilderness, where God had prepared a place to care for her for 1,260 days.
John made it very clear where this vision originated, in Heaven. There is no doubt about it, John saw that woman in Heaven. That shows a close connection the woman has to Heaven. Then John saw a huge red dragon in Heaven? What is a red dragon doing in Heaven? We have to remember where sin and the devil originated. Why is that important?
If Heaven has to be reminded where sin originated, what about us? Angels not only witnessed the conflict between Christ and Satan, they were a part of that war in Heaven. They had to choose a side. There was no middle ground, no waiting around to see the outcome before choosing a side.
Is this how Heaven views Christianity, “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” First of all, why does Heaven view Christians as women? Some Christian denominations look at women as second class. Not many, but a few denominations. She is first of all clothed with the sun. It can’t be a real woman, it has to be a series of symbols. She is also standing on the moon. Why the moon?
I’ve seen a lot of worldly views on those symbols. Preachers like to present this one like there is one interpretation, their interpretation and no other. But ask them where they got their interpretation from. John made it clear where that vision came from, and previous chapters not only told us where interpretations some from, but how scripture confirms each symbol.
For one thing, why is the woman on the moon and not on earth? There has to be a reason for her position. Later she is fleeing to the wilderness, which is obviously on earth. Does that show us how the woman represents people who are not in this world, but close to it? What about the timing? First the woman is standing on the moon, clothed with the sun, then after giving birth, finds herself fleeing to a place God prepared for her in the wilderness. If the woman is clothed with the sun, it would be rather difficult to hide, especially at night.
If we look at light and darkness in the simplest terms, we can see, the more light a Christian has, the harder it will be to hide. Or we can look at aspects from previous stories in Revelation related to the protection Jesus offered. The more light we have, the more we need to rely on His protection.
When the light of the sun is on a dark planet, it will stand out. We can see that when we look at the physical aspects of the vision. Angels can see exactly where that woman is, and what she is doing. They can be there is an instant when she needs help, and does she need help.
The woman also has twelve stars in a crown on top of her head. She is not set up to hide anywhere. The dragon has a third of the stars in the sky on his side. This is turning out to be a battle of light, and the woman seems to be out gunned.
The woman gave birth to a son who was taken away from that dragon and brought up to God’s throne. Why was the child taken up and not the woman?
Most Christians are rather good at looking at this vision and figuring out most of the symbols. The dragon is Satan. The woman represents God’s followers. The stars the dragon cast down to the earth are Satan’s followers, and the child is Christ. Now how does the Bible explain those symbols?
When we look at women in the Bible, we have this woman and two others. The other women opposed God. The woman at the beginning of Revelation 12 has a few things in common with Jesus. She was clothed with the sun. In chapter 1, Jesus’ face shined like the sun. In Revelation chapter 10 we find an angel with a face like the sun.
The woman had a crown with twelve stars. Jesus has seven stars in His right hand. Those stars represent seven angels sent to the churches. Now we are beginning to see how the Bible pieces things together.
There are other stars. The stars the dragon cast to earth. Revelation chapter 6 told us about stars falling to earth. Are those the same stars? The timing doesn’t seem to align. Could the stars in chapter 6 be a reminder, or a warning of a concentrated attack by Satan’s followers?
Chapter 10 told us about a star named bitterness that fell from the sky into the water making the water bitter. Other parts of that chapter shared the number one-third. We see how one-third of the trees and grass were burned. We can see how this war that began in Heaven was restricted to this world.
Revelation chapter 9 gives us the key. A star was used to describe an angel who came to this world to open a bottomless pit and release a portion of Satan’s army. We know what stars represent in certain stories, angels. It has been confirmed twice in Revelation.
Crown is another symbol used to identify the woman. In Revelation chapter 2, Jesus promised a crown of life to His faithful followers. In Revelation chapter 4 we are told the elders around God’s throne also have crowns. But Revelation chapter 9 tells us those locusts commanded by Satan also have crowns. There are two sides to the symbol. Because the woman’s child was taken to God’s throne in Heaven, we know the crown is used in the same context as those people who are close to God.
That dragon also had seven crowns on his seven heads. Who is that dragon? This great dragon–the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world–was thrown down to the earth with all his angels. (Revelation 12:9 NLTse). This story clearly identified the dragon as Satan, the devil.
The moon is another symbol to look at. In chapter 6 the sixth seal was opened and the moon became blood. That was the second reference to Revelation chapter 6 we found in chapter 12. A third of the stars and the moon turning to blood shed a little light on chapter 12. Would the woman still be standing on the moon when it turned to blood? Does a bloody moon indicate the beginning of the woman’s flight into the wilderness for 1,260 days? Are those stories related by more than the symbols they contain?
Revelation 12:7-12 NLTse (7) Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. (8) And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. (9) This great dragon–the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world–was thrown down to the earth with all his angels. (10) Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last– salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth– the one who accuses them before our God day and night. (11) And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. (12) Therefore, rejoice, O heavens! And you who live in the heavens, rejoice! But terror will come on the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time.”
The word, “then,” indicates a series of events. It shows how one event has to follow another. Did Jesus have to return to Heaven before Satan and his followers were restricted to this planet? It seems the war in Heaven didn’t happen until after Jesus died and returned to Heaven Did Heaven have to see Satan carry out all his plans before war could be declared? Did God have to wait until Satan provided undisputed proof how far he would go to obtain the power he lusted over? If we look at how the sequence was recorded, it would lead us to that conclusion.
The story about Job and a few other stories in the Bible show us how Satan went back and forth between this world and God’s throne for a time. We have no idea, except for this sequence and a few other stories that help put a time line together.
There had to be two events with the devil and his agents. First they were allowed access to this planet. Genesis showed how Satan came to this planet and tempted Eve. Was Satan restricted to this planet at that time? Other stories in the Bible, like those in the Gospels, tell us about demons in this world. We know devils were on this planet at that time, but were they restricted to this planet? How long was Satan and his agents allowed to go between Heaven and earth?
This vision supplied a lot more information. Satan and his angels used to accuse people in front of God’s throne 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Judgment began at the end of Revelation chapter 11 and God’s Sanctuary was opened. Satan and his angels had to be cast of of Heaven and the Sanctuary before cleaning could begin.
Some chapters in Revelation provide a series of events over a vast period of time, while other chapters provide a step by step process over a more specific time period. We have to be able to recognized time periods in Revelation and how some information overlaps. We see the same style of writing in Genesis where creation was explained, and later the author went back and added more details about the same event. That style of writing is common throughout the Bible.
Some people criticize the Bible based on the fact, writers recorded some events in different orders. Biblical writers have a tendency of recording events in the order they happened, or are going to happen. But they still use the style of recording certain details after a certain event or story is introduced. Inspired writers do that to emphasize certain details. That’s why we have to read the previous story, so we can see the author’s view. If the author had a reason for placing one story after a particular story, while another author used a completely different story to introduce the theme shows how God is willing to work with us where we are. Some events caught John’s attention more than they stood out in Matthew’s mind. When we have a book like that, the Spirit can present the same concepts, ideas, and lessons in a variety of ways to different people in different generations, or periods of time.
Can you imagine a war in Heaven. Was it a real war with weapons? Were angels involved in hand to hand combat? Can you imagine that scene John saw? Huge angels fighting against one another. Where did the war take place, in the Sanctuary, or some remote battlefield? Is that war and battlefield described in the Bible? What was it like? Why didn’t John describe that war? Was it a violent war like we see on earth, or a word of words. Jesus was described as having a two edged sword in His mouth. Is that telling us it was a war of words?
Looking back at the previous story we see judgment began in Heaven. The Ark containing the Ten Commandments was presented as evidence and was the center of attention. Who stood as a witness? What better place to begin judgment than at the origin of sin, Satan and his followers. There is an interesting story in the Bible that helps explain the scene John witnessed.
The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons, who died after they entered the LORD’s presence and burned the wrong kind of fire before him. The LORD said to Moses, “Warn your brother, Aaron, not to enter the Most Holy Place behind the inner curtain whenever he chooses; if he does, he will die. For the Ark’s cover–the place of atonement–is there, and I myself am present in the cloud above the atonement cover. “When Aaron enters the sanctuary area, he must follow these instructions fully. He must bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He must put on his linen tunic and the linen undergarments worn next to his body. He must tie the linen sash around his waist and put the linen turban on his head. These are sacred garments, so he must bathe himself in water before he puts them on. Aaron must take from the community of Israel two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. “Aaron will present his own bull as a sin offering to purify himself and his family, making them right with the LORD. Then he must take the two male goats and present them to the LORD at the entrance of the Tabernacle. He is to cast sacred lots to determine which goat will be reserved as an offering to the LORD and which will carry the sins of the people to the wilderness of Azazel. Aaron will then present as a sin offering the goat chosen by lot for the LORD. The other goat, the scapegoat chosen by lot to be sent away, will be kept alive, standing before the LORD. When it is sent away to Azazel in the wilderness, the people will be purified and made right with the LORD. “Aaron will present his own bull as a sin offering to purify himself and his family, making them right with the LORD. After he has slaughtered the bull as a sin offering, he will fill an incense burner with burning coals from the altar that stands before the LORD. Then he will take two handfuls of fragrant powdered incense and will carry the burner and the incense behind the inner curtain. There in the LORD’s presence he will put the incense on the burning coals so that a cloud of incense will rise over the Ark’s cover–the place of atonement–that rests on the Ark of the Covenant. If he follows these instructions, he will not die. Then he must take some of the blood of the bull, dip his finger in it, and sprinkle it on the east side of the atonement cover. He must sprinkle blood seven times with his finger in front of the atonement cover. “Then Aaron must slaughter the first goat as a sin offering for the people and carry its blood behind the inner curtain. There he will sprinkle the goat’s blood over the atonement cover and in front of it, just as he did with the bull’s blood. Through this process, he will purify the Most Holy Place, and he will do the same for the entire Tabernacle, because of the defiling sin and rebellion of the Israelites. No one else is allowed inside the Tabernacle when Aaron enters it for the purification ceremony in the Most Holy Place. No one may enter until he comes out again after purifying himself, his family, and all the congregation of Israel, making them right with the LORD. “Then Aaron will come out to purify the altar that stands before the LORD. He will do this by taking some of the blood from the bull and the goat and putting it on each of the horns of the altar. Then he must sprinkle the blood with his finger seven times over the altar. In this way, he will cleanse it from Israel’s defilement and make it holy. “When Aaron has finished purifying the Most Holy Place and the Tabernacle and the altar, he must present the live goat. He will lay both of his hands on the goat’s head and confess over it all the wickedness, rebellion, and sins of the people of Israel. In this way, he will transfer the people’s sins to the head of the goat. Then a man specially chosen for the task will drive the goat into the wilderness. As the goat goes into the wilderness, it will carry all the people’s sins upon itself into a desolate land. “When Aaron goes back into the Tabernacle, he must take off the linen garments he was wearing when he entered the Most Holy Place, and he must leave the garments there. Then he must bathe himself with water in a sacred place, put on his regular garments, and go out to sacrifice a burnt offering for himself and a burnt offering for the people. Through this process, he will purify himself and the people, making them right with the LORD. He must then burn all the fat of the sin offering on the altar. “The man chosen to drive the scapegoat into the wilderness of Azazel must wash his clothes and bathe himself in water. Then he may return to the camp. “The bull and the goat presented as sin offerings, whose blood Aaron takes into the Most Holy Place for the purification ceremony, will be carried outside the camp. The animals’ hides, internal organs, and dung are all to be burned. The man who burns them must wash his clothes and bathe himself in water before returning to the camp. “On the tenth day of the appointed month in early autumn, you must deny yourselves. Neither native-born Israelites nor foreigners living among you may do any kind of work. This is a permanent law for you. On that day offerings of purification will be made for you, and you will be purified in the LORD’s presence from all your sins. It will be a Sabbath day of complete rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. This is a permanent law for you. In future generations, the purification ceremony will be performed by the priest who has been anointed and ordained to serve as high priest in place of his ancestor Aaron. He will put on the holy linen garments and purify the Most Holy Place, the Tabernacle, the altar, the priests, and the entire congregation. This is a permanent law for you, to purify the people of Israel from their sins, making them right with the LORD once each year.” Moses followed all these instructions exactly as the LORD had commanded him. (Leviticus 16:1-34 NLTse).
The high priest entered to Most Holy compartment where the Ark was only once a year. There were two goats involved in the ceremony. One goat was an offering to God. The other goat took on the sins of the people and was led into the wilderness. In Revelation chapter 12, the earth was referred to as a wilderness. Satan and his angels were cast down to this world. For Satan to be cast down to this world, there had to be a trial before God could sentence them to a life of isolation. When the judgment process began, Satan and his angels were first on the docket. Once they were removed from the courtroom, God could begin judging the dead.
The Ark was front and center in the courtroom. Angels already saw what Satan did to Jesus. All of Heaven saw how Satan had Jesus beaten, wiped, and hung on a cross. Heaven saw how the high priest tried to force the decision on the government. Heaven saw how Jesus’ trial was fixed, and how every step was orchestrated. Now Heaven could see how God conducted a trial.
Even though Heaven saw what Satan did to Jesus, God waited nearly 2000 years before calling Satan into His courtroom. There was never a trial in Heaven before. All God had to do was call His Son Jesus as a witness. As soon as Jesus stood in front of the Judge, and all the angels, Satan’s fate was sealed. Court records showed how Satan sinned in Heaven, attempted to murder Jesus many times, and finally succeeded. Satan had no defense. He had plenty of time to prepare a defense, but there was none. Evidence was overwhelming. Sins committed in Heaven were placed upon Satan and he was cast down to earth, never to see Heaven again.
Now God could begin judging this world. First the dead, then the living. In the mean time, Satan’s fury was unleashed upon this world. Wars became deadlier. Men developed weapons no one imagined. Satan was given leeway to deal with this planet like never before. In one sense we call it the industrial revelation. In reality it is mankind learning more effective ways to kill one another.
Revelation 12:13-18 NLTse (13) When the dragon realized that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. (14) But she was given two wings like those of a great eagle so she could fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness. There she would be cared for and protected from the dragon for a time, times, and half a time. (15) Then the dragon tried to drown the woman with a flood of water that flowed from his mouth. (16) But the earth helped her by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that gushed out from the mouth of the dragon. (17) And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children–all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus. (18) Then the dragon took his stand on the shore beside the sea.
Satan wasn’t happy about being restricted to this dismal planet. He wanted a lot more than this tiny planet to rule, he wanted the Universe. It took Satan some time to realize he lost the ability to travel between earth and Heaven. Satan wasn’t happy about loosing that ability. Satan lost a lot more. He began to loose the shine and light he had in Heaven. Satan was beginning to deteriorate, change, and face the consequences of sin like everything else in this world. Satan lost eternity and knew his time was short.
When the dragon was let loose on the world, the woman was protected for a time, which is a time prophecy equal to 1260 years. This same time period is found in the previous chapter. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will be clothed in burlap and will prophesy during those 1,260 days.” (Revelation 11:3 NLTse). Are they the same time period? People trample the holy city for the same time period. But do not measure the outer courtyard, for it has been turned over to the nations. They will trample the holy city for 42 months. (Revelation 11:2 NLTse). In the next chapter we see a beast given authority for the same time period. Then the beast was allowed to speak great blasphemies against God. And he was given authority to do whatever he wanted for forty-two months. (Revelation 13:5 NLTse). Are all of these prophecies covering the same time period? If they aren’t, they either have to be literal days and months, if they were concurrent years, we have a long time to wait for Jesus.
During those 1,260 years, Satan is running loose, trying to destroy the woman. The woman is hiding in the wilderness. God has two witness delivering a message or messages to this world most people don’t agree with. During that time nations trample the holy city, and a beast is given authority to do whatever it wants to do. If they are all pointing to the same time period, and persecution of that woman, she doesn’t stand much of a chance.
The prophets have the ability to defend themselves. That may be why the woman is hiding and the message is still getting out. There are two classes of people or witnesses Satan has to deal with. God is not using one front to attack Satan, but hitting him from multiple sides. If anyone tries to harm them, fire flashes from their mouths and consumes their enemies. This is how anyone who tries to harm them must die. They have power to shut the sky so that no rain will fall for as long as they prophesy. And they have the power to turn the rivers and oceans into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they wish. When they complete their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the bottomless pit will declare war against them, and he will conquer them and kill them.(Revelation 11:5-7 NLTse).
The woman and the two prophets are protected from the beast and dragon for the same 1260 years Then the two prophets are killed and taken to Heaven. What happens to the woman after the witness go to Heaven and her protect period passes?
The bottomless pit is opened after the fifth trumpet is blown. Four other angels are released and a 200 million man army showed up after the sixth trumpet was blown. Between the sixth and seventh trumpet, John is given a message to deliver, the holy city is overrun, the two prophets testify for 1260 years, and after that are killed. When the seventh trumpet is blown, the Heavenly Sanctuary is open, the Ark is seen inside, and judgment begins.
After John saw the Sanctuary opened in Heaven, he was shown another vision taking him back over a time period of earth’s history that took place during the time of Jesus’ birth and life on earth. After Jesus’ death the woman was sent to the wilderness for 1260 years. Details that fit into the previous stories are given in Revelation chapter 12.
Now all we have to do is figure out a few events on earth that happened after Jesus’ birth, or we should say the time between when John wrote Revelation and when the Sanctuary was opened in 1844 to find out how those prophecies were fulfilled. But I’m not going to do that. So many people did that already. I’m looking at a better understanding of Heaven, and pointing out how the Bible shows related stories. The main theme I am looking for is how Heaven viewed all those visions and symbols.
After the devil faced trial in Heaven, God gave John and the angels a review of what the devil did. It is like we are seeing evidence presented during Satan’s trial. The woman was taken away on two wings. Angels have wings. Revelation explained how some beings in Heaven have wings. The dragon sent a flood out from his mouth. The mouth often refers to the war of words raging around us. Maybe the flood refers to the 200 million man army in Revelation chapter 9. They had horses with fire coming out of their mouths. “All who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.” It is clear the dragon declared war on everyone who sides with Jesus. Some refer to that as a church.
The woman is identified by her children. “all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.” They are people who follow Jesus, often referred to as a church in the loosest term. Some claim to be a type of remnant church, without knowing what that term means. If you look it up you’ll see how a remnant was no better than the other people who followed God to a limited degree. The majority of people were misled, but God stuck with them, and tried to teach them. Only a remnant, or small group heard God’s messages to one degree or another, and took steps to reestablish communication with God.
The dragon took a stand on the shore beside the sea. The angel in Revelation chapter 10 had one foot on the land and the other on the sea. The devil has some control, but not as much control as Jesus. That may explain why stories about God’s remnant never seemed to completely return to God, but decided to make only a part of the journey.
Matthew 8:18-22 MKJV And seeing great crowds, Jesus gave orders to depart to the other side. (19) And a certain scribe came and said to him, Master, I will follow You wherever You go. (20) And Jesus said to him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head. (21) And another of His disciples said to him, Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father. (22) But Jesus said to him, Follow Me, and let the dead bury their dead.
After healing every person who came to Him, Jesus turned to His disciples and told them to make ready to sail to the other side of the sea. As John and James prepared the humble craft for the evening voyage Jesus looked upon the crowd pondering the seeds which had just been planted. He looked to His left where a small group of priests and scribes stood witnessing the miracles.
They moved forward as a group approaching the Son of God. Knowing they had questions Jesus prayed for guidance from the Spirit. The group stopped a short distance away while one of the scribes continued on his course. Standing in front of Jesus the Scribe spoke, “Master, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” One of the priests commented, “foxes come in the night to steal our chickens much like this man comes to steal from our flock.” His tone was intentionally loud making certain all within hearing distance knew his thoughts. Jesus pondered the response for a moment, while praying for guidance.
A few moments later John proclaimed the craft worthy and ready for the short journey. As Jesus turned toward the shore one of his disciples came between Him and the priests, asking Jesus, “allow me first to go and bury my father.” Making eye contact with the boastful priest Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their dead.” Without another word, Jesus entered the ship with His disciples.
This is another chapter in a book I am writing about Bible Study. I want to see if I can get any feed back on this book before finishing and publishing it. Learning how to study scripture should not be difficult to learn. So your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Don’t forget to subscribe for updates.
Chapter 13 Looking Back in Scripture
Looking back for information works much the same way as introduction and teaches the same lesson the disciples had to learn when it came to healing and helping people. Looking back relies on God’s Word and His Spirit.
Here is one of the most important Bible Study steps you want to learn and use:
Always look back to see how the author led into the event at hand. Most of us know in original scripture, neither the Old or New Testaments were divided into chapters and verses. That came much later. That has little to do with this rule, but to understand scripture, we have to look for patterns. One of those is how the author led from one event to the next.
Looking back in scripture is much like looking back at the summary of a chapter to explain the main theme. The difference is, when you look back in scripture, you are normally looking back at how the previous chapter ended. In other words, you are comparing the introduction of one chapter to the summary in the previous chapter. This is a rather easy study method to learn, us, and teach.
On some cases looking back to the first time that particular word, person, or thing was mentioned in the Bible can become a real asset. That is often referred to as the rule of first mention. In any case, the main theme and context of the stories has to be compared to ensure the same lesson is being addressed. I rarely use the rule of first mention.
The Gospels tell us to look back at scripture to find answers. Many of the same basic stories follow one another from one Gospel to the next, to the next. We have four chances to see the patterns and sequences. If we miss those, it is not God’s fault.
Some of the stories in the Bible were not recorded in the same order. One Gospel will contain information others do not. One Gospel may omit information found in the other three. Some people are alarmed or concerned about that fact. What we need to do is set aside the questions the world asks and concentrate on what we have in the Bible. One series of stories may be easy for you to relate to the first time you read them, and another series of stories may be easier for me to relate to. The Bible is designed to reach billions of people over a number of generations, and all those people are on different learning levels. Learning from the Bible has to be direct as well as personal. Using different story arrangements seems to be one of the most effect manners to accomplish such a task.
We almost never pick up on all the lessons in the Bible the first time we read through it. There are times we get to one story and it seems we can’t understand a thing. Our mind is filled with questions, and we have no idea where to turn for the answers. If we paid attention, we would know those questions are placed in our heads by the Holy Spirit. Those questions are telling us, we missed something and need to go back and review previous stories. It is as simple as that.
Why is it important to look back in scripture? Not only will looking back in scripture provide the answers we are looking for, looking back will also teach us an important lesson about how God’s Spirit communicates with this world. You can look back at your own life at any moment to see how God has been trying to communicate with you.
When you finally decide to pray and look back in your life, you will see a series of events, a series of choices, and your present life will show the results of those choices. You have to learn a few things before you can hear the connection between the Holy Spirit and your life. You have to learn to be totally honest, humble, and how to listen when you pray.
When you open up your ears in prayer and look back in your life, you will hear about choices you were offered, both sides of those choices. You will also hear about the warnings Jesus tried to send, but you may have ignored them. While praying, you will be amazed at the perfect order those thoughts and memories enter your mind, and how detailed those memories become. You will actually be able to see how things would have turned out if you made different choices. Especially if you finally understand those warnings you chose to ignore. Jesus will go over a series of warnings He sent to show you, He was always there. You may have missed those warnings, or written them off as something that was not related to the decision at hand. Or you may have made up your mind on the matter and nothing was going to change your decision. That is when pride steps in and common sense flies out the window. That is why it takes so much effort to look back and understand the warnings that were ignored. Pride has to be done away with. Which may not be easy for some people.
Looking back in your life may be the biggest and most exciting blessing you may ever receive. At times it may not be easy. And Jesus will not skip over the times you let Him down, ignored His warnings, and refused to help one of His brothers or sisters. People don’t want to face that type of conversation with Jesus. That is a sort of fear you have to learn how to overcome. It can be done. Putting aside your pride will show you, Jesus has something far better to replace that void. Looking back on your life can bring such a peace you will wonder why you have not been doing that your entire life.
This series of chapters in this book will show you how to look back in scripture. You will see how people in the Bible missed warnings, didn’t listen to Jesus or God, made the wrong choices, and the results of those choices. You will also see how Jesus gave people a second chance to look back in their lives, realize the mistakes they made, and ask to be forgiven.
Mark 10:17-31 NLTse As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “GoodTeacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (18) “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. (19) But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.'” (20) “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” (21) Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (22) At this the man’s face fell, and he went away very sad, for he had many possessions. (23) Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” (24) This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. (25) In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” (26) The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. (27) Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” (28) Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said. (29) “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, (30) will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property–along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. (31) But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”
The lessons moved from defining a relationship to how to act in a relationship and its rewards. Mark already wrote about the relationship Jesus had with Moses, Elijah, and God. Mark also showed how Jesus used children as an example of how His disciples need to open their hearts to what He was teaching. Jesus also answered the Pharisee’s question about divorce, reminding them what God intended the marriage covenant to be. All of these pointed to our relationship with God. Now Jesus is asked how to inherit eternal life. What role does a relationship with God play in receiving eternal life?
The disciples saw a familiar site, a young man dressed in rich robes coming to Jesus. As the young man knelt before Jesus they noticed the man’s numerous and ornate jewelry. Gold chains, rings and bracelets announced his status and love of riches. The disciples wondered what the man wanted from Jesus. They remembered the time Jesus raised the daughter of a young ruler back to life. They waited for the man in front of Jesus to plead his case.
His chains and bracelets chimed as he pleaded with Jesus, calling more attention to his wealth. Jesus could hear some of the comments people made about the young man as he asked his question. “GoodTeacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Everyone grew silent, waiting for Jesus’ answer. Jesus gave everyone plenty of time to formulate their own answer before supplying His. “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.'”
The disciples thought there was something strange about Jesus’ answer which consisted of five things the man should not do and only one which he needed to do. Looking at the expensive jewelry the disciples tried to see the connection between his wealth and the five, “you must not,” commandments. What connection did expensive jewelry have with murder, adultery, stealing, false testimony, and cheating? They began to wonder how the man obtained such riches. There was also the question of honoring his father and mother. Did Jesus know something about this man? Did the methods he used to obtain such riches bring shame to his father and mother?
While the disciples were judging the man, he answered Jesus’ question commands. “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” Now the disciples were perplexed. Did they misjudge the man? Is this the lesson Jesus was leading to, holding off judgment until the facts were gathered? Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
The thought of such a man joining the group sent a variety of thoughts through the disciples minds. Some looked at the man as a real asset. Having a rich ally would eliminate a lot of worry. All their needs would be met. Think of the fine houses they could stay in and feasts they would attend. Others were afraid such an influence would introduce a temptation they were not prepared for. Jesus looked around at the disciples. He could see some with smiles, others with bewildered looks. Is it possible all the disciples missed the message? Jesus told the man to sell all his possessions. Jesus did not need the type of help money and influence could supply. Finally Jesus looked back at the rich young man. His face fell, and he went away very sad, for he had many possessions.
Some of the disciples had a look of shock on their faces, others a look of relief. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” Jesus’ comment about a camel going through the eye of a needle brought a chorus of nervous laughter from the disciples. No one wanted to comment, based on the fact they all noticed Jesus repeated the term, “Kingdom of God,” three times. They all stood by, waiting for Jesus to explain the subject in depth. Jesus only looked back at them, so finally they asked, “Then who in the world can be saved?” Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”
The disciples were still concentrating on the Kingdom of Heaven and how they planned to get in. Peter missed Jesus’ answer, “Everything is possible with God.” Peter, like the others were trying to think of what they needed to give up to get into Heaven. If the rich young man had to give up everything, what did they have to do? Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said. Jesus knew the disciples had a habit of missing the point because they did not pay attention to everything He said, and did not take time to see how the Spirit lead to this lesson. In another display of His patience, Jesus provided an answer designed for the understanding they had achieved up to that point. “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property–along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.” Jesus acknowledged their sacrifice at the same time introduced the future He was preparing them for.
Did Jesus want His disciples to give up physical houses, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, or property? Was Jesus referring to a deeper spiritual meaning? Jesus was referring to the influence these things have on people. When we look back to the parable of the sower, we see two categories all these items fit into. They either teach a lesson showing how Satan takes the seeds away, or how seeds mature in good ground. To a degree, the category depends on the individual.
Material possessions can have a negative influence taking seeds way from our hearts. On the other hand, seeds can be planted in the hearts of those same people which can sprout, grow and produce more fruit. This is why Jesus spent so much time teaching about relationships. Material possessions can be used for good or bad. This is why Jesus began his series of lessons about relationships by showing a few of His disciples a vision of Heaven. They had to know there is a difference between the world’s concept of relationships, and Heaven’s perfect reality. Jesus first showed them the reality of Heaven before promising they will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property.
After the lesson of Heaven was introduced, another began. The disciples saw the love of a father for His son, and how an evil spirit tried to sever that relationship. The spirit was difficult to cast out. The disciples could not do it, but Jesus could. Jesus wanted them to see how determined the enemy was. Demons had one goal, to take the seed of relationship from their hearts. Without relationships, people cannot share the blessings they share. They are left with nothing more than self serving greed.
Jesus tied to explain the prophecies He had to fulfill, but the disciples did not want to listen. Jesus was searching for support from them. Instead they argued about who was greatest. They failed to listen to Jesus and learn. Jesus told them another important lesson about relationships. The kind of relationship they needed to build with others to build a successful spiritual life. “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.” (Mark 9:37 NLTse).
Jesus was showing them, they had to give up a part of themselves before they could learn to follow Him. He used the illustration of loosing a hand, foot, or eye to enter the Kingdom of God. Were the disciples beginning to understand?
The Pharisees then asked Jesus His opinion on divorce. He told them they did not understand. Jesus knew they used divorce as a model for their faith. They placed all the power in the hands of the man, and nothing but obedience on women. This mirrored the religion they followed and taught. They placed God as the head, people as obedient followers, and themselves in the middle, in charge of deciding who was acceptable and who to issue a decree of spiritual divorce. Their image of marriage suited their desires. Instead of attacking their beliefs, Jesus answered by telling them what God intended marriage to stand for, unity between a man and wife, representing the relationship with God Jesus came to teach.
Now the question is, what do people need to give up to enter Heaven? Do they need to give up riches, fame, glory, family, and homes? Is Jesus asking them to give up everything to follow Him, the influences they have on individuals, or are other factors involved? Is Jesus asking to give give up preoccupation and worries associated with riches? Is He asking some to give up the disgraceful means used to obtain riches? Is Jesus asking others to give up the less than noble way they treat their family? What about excess pride in a home or other possessions? Answers like these only come when a personal relationship is established with God’s Spirit, which is the lesson Jesus has been progressively teaching.
How close do you need to get to Jesus to obtain eternal life? Jesus told the man to give up his riches. Jesus also said, “come, follow me!” Is there a balance between the two? How does one influence the other? Why did Jesus go through life homeless and penniless? Was Jesus only referring to giving up material things?
John 13:1-38 NLTse Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. (2) It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betrayJesus. (3) Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. (4) So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, (5) and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (6) When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” (7) Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” (8) “No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” (9) Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!” (10) Jesus replied, “A person who has bathedall over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirelyclean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” (11) For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.” (12) After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? (13) You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. (14) And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. (15) I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. (16) I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. (17) Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them. (18) “I am not saying these things to all of you; I know the ones I have chosen. But this fulfills the Scripture that says, ‘The one who eats my food has turned against me.’ (19) I tell you this beforehand, so that when it happens you will believe that I AM the Messiah. (20) I tell you the truth, anyone who welcomes my messenger is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming the Father who sent me.” (21) Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!” (22) The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. (23) The discipleJesusloved was sitting next to Jesus at the table. (24) Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” (25) So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?” (26) Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. (27) When Judas had eaten the bread,Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him, “Hurry and do what you’re going to do.” (28) None of the others at the table knew what Jesus meant. (29) Since Judas was their treasurer, some thought Jesus was telling him to go and pay for the food or to give some money to the poor. (30) So Judas left at once, going out into the night. (31) As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. (32) And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will soon give glory to the Son. (33) Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but youcan’t come where I am going. (34) So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. (35) Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (36) Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.” (37) “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.” (38) Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter–before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.
Most Christians have heard a sermon or two preached about that dinner and how Jesus washed His disciples feet. Most likely they heard the same sermon preached over and over again. Nothing new has been added. No one saw anything new in those words John recorded over two thousand years ago. It always seems to be the same lesson, Jesus wanted to show His disciples how to be humble. Some preachers may go back a little to show how the disciples argued about who was greatest. But how many preachers looked at those words, prayed, and waited for an answer? How many of them allowed God to take them to that dinner in a vision, or along the entire path of Jesus’ ministry to see how each disciple reacted to what Jesus taught?
Most preachers will tell you John was the largest of the disciples in physical stature. He used that to his advantage. But why? John thought size could intimidate the other disciples. John thought his size gave him the right to claim the most important position next to Jesus. What about Peter?
Peter grew up with John always competing with him. Peter was smaller but a scrappy fighter who never backed down from a challenge and seldom hesitated to jump into one. He was quick to comment whenever Jesus spoke. He thought his courage was enough to sit on Jesus’ right hand. But what about the other more silent disciples?
Judas was convinced money and power were the qualities that mattered most to Jesus. He thought for sure he would secure that position, so why worry about it, or even discuss it? There were nine more disciples. What did they think? Were they interested in the highest position next to Jesus?
Andrew listened to John the Baptist and followed instructions. Once he found Jesus, he not only followed Jesus, but brought his brother Peter. Jesus found Philip who immediately followed Jesus as soon as he heard the invitation. Philip also went to find his brother Nathaniel and brought him to Jesus. Nathaniel had doubts. So Jesus told Nathaniel how He saw him before he decided to come and investigated for himself. Nathaniel was always busy looking for that ladder and angels. The other disciples we know little about. What qualities did they have?
There is an unusual collection of phrases in this chapter. Jesus repeated the phrases, “I tell you the truth,” three times, and a similar phrase, “I tell you beforehand.” This is another key to understanding scripture. When you see something unusual like this, make a list and look at it.
I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master.
I tell you this beforehand, so that when it happens you will believe that I AM the Messiah.
I tell you the truth, anyone who welcomes my messenger is welcoming me
I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!”
I tell you the truth, Peter–before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.
Look at the sequence it was recorded in. Slaves compared to their master. Notice slaves is plural and master is singular. Jesus identified Himself as the Messiah then talked about welcoming a message. Jesus also identified Himself as the message. But someone would betray Him, and Peter would deny Him, not once, but three times in the same day or hour.
We can see for the most part, those details fall into the common theme most often preached about this subject. But the sequence brings out details about the personality of the texts and characters many people miss. Compare a slave to betraying Jesus. Did Judas think of himself as a slave when he took the money to turn Jesus over to the priests? Did Peter look at himself as a slave while he was trying to hide in the shadows in the high priest’s courtyard? Did either one really understand what it meant to look at Jesus as their master? Would a common slave in Rome betray their master like Judas, or deny him like Peter? What about that message and the way it was received? Didn’t both of them miss the message Jesus was teaching? What about the preacher taking the easy way out by recycling sermons? You have to admit. Most of the sermons preached today are copies from some ones previous work.
Most of those sermons look at the negative aspects of the characters involved in the story. We don’t need to review them. But what about the positive aspects? What about searching for the answer of who was the greatest? Wouldn’t that serve Jesus’ cause more than preaching the negative side of the lesson that’s been copied for generations? Is it so hard for people to look at the positive side of the lesson? Is it so hard to ask Jesus about what was going through His mind during that dinner? Where do we begin?
As we’ve learned in this book, the best way to begin is to go back to see how the author led into this lesson. Or in this case let’s tell it like it is. We need to look at how God’s Spirit led into this lesson by looking back at how the previous chapter ended.
Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken. I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.” (John 12:44-50 NLTse).
We see Jesus giving all the glory to God. We see Jesus teaching how He took orders and carried them out. We see how all of Jesus’ authority is given to Him by God. Everything Jesus said was given to Him by God. Jesus is a good little soldier. Now we can see why that one line in Isaiah was translated as soldier.
What are the qualities of a good soldier? He or she follows orders without question. They find it easy to follow orders because they know their commander and chief. They know His ability and trust in it. Picture a battle scene if you will. Picture it like God has the ability to see it. The soldier on the ground can only see what’s in front of him. But God sees it all like from a bird’s eye view. God knows when to tell a soldier to advance, how far, and in which direction. He knows when to tell them to retreat, lay low, hide, and wait to ambush the enemy. God can safely guide his army around every trap the enemy set. All a real soldier needs to do to survive is follow orders. It is a simple mixture of knowing the Commander, believing in His abilities, and following orders. It also requires a degree of courage which is gained only through experience.
I can’t help but see this scenario illustrated this very week in a sequence of events unfolding across the world. In a series of news stores we’ve been told about US plans to invade and take back a major city captured by Isis, the radical militant group in the Middle East. The US president told about the invasion. A top ranking general confirmed the plan to tell Isis about the invasion in advance was done to give them the opportunity to surrender. After I prayed about it, I wondered why the plan was incomplete. Why didn’t the US show the world they the capability to watch every movement on the ground? Why didn’t the US show live video on world wide television to confirm that awesome power? Why doesn’t the president use this power to turn people to God? If he wants to save lives, why isn’t he using resources at his command to turn people to God? If the US can see every move people make on the ground, why can’t the president remind them God is watching with far greater detail and accuracy?
There has also been a series of news stories about one official questioning the president’s love for his country and the president defending that love. But his love falls short. The president defended his love for the US by explaining how he was sending in foreign fighters to capture that city in the Middle East, pointing out, no American lives will be at risk. What about those foreign lives? We know the US has the capability to send in missiles equipped with cameras and guided by people sitting out of harms way. They can also be guided by overhead drones and satellites out of the range of enemy fire. If the president’s intent was to convince Isis to surrender, why doesn’t he provide a live demonstration of that power for all the world to witness? Sacrificing soldiers to make a point is a strange way to show love.
If the president really wanted to save lives, why doesn’t he remind the world of God’s power? How God sent one angel to wipe out 185,000 soldiers in one night. How God took Babylon’s army on a march for thousands of miles then sent them home. How an angel saved Daniel in a lion’s den, and other stories in the Bible. If the president really wanted to save lives, why can’t he do it by showing his love for God first?
Another story shocked me. It showed pictures of sixteen year old American girls at an airport flying to the Middle East. They suspect those girls are joining Isis to fight against America. Why are so many Americans joining Isis to fight against the country they were born in? Once again, men look at the negative view instead of looking for an answer to the real problem. Why are Americans turning against the country they were born in?
The youth of America are seeing families loosing their homes to banks. They see parents loosing their retirement to rich companies and their board of directors. The only hope for a future is to become slaves to student loans, then the health care system, high taxes, and most likely the company they will eventually work for. Poor families see America building an unbelievable military while all they hear is excuses why there isn’t money to fix pot holes in the street they live on. People watch all of this on the news, listen to the president say he loves America before they sit down to a dinner of rice and beans if their lucky.
We have to ask why young people are leaving America and other countries to join one of the most radical movements we’ve witnessed in our life times. It’s obvious radical factions target the poor and depressed. Those problems are easy to understand. What is being done about it? Very little. Numbers of poor are growing at an alarming rate around the world everyday. Much of the military budget is spent to protect elected officials on home soil. More money is spent than any of us can imagine.
The second class of young people those radical factions target are rich and middle class. We have to look a little deeper to see why. We have to examine the way society has changed for that generation and find out what was added to their culture to make such a difference. What we need to look at is battle plans the enemy committed to. How he swayed their minds. In the Bible that was referred to as demon possessed.
We can clearly identify a few items rich and well to do kids have these days that wasn’t around fifty years ago. Cell phones, tablets, laptops, and computers. What are they using those for. What do they have on those items that demons designed? The most popular games center on witchcraft and murder. It’s always a dangerous combination when religion is blended with bloodshed. Think of it, the future generation is fueled on human sacrifice. Looking back on history in the Bible, that was one of the last straws before God saw Samaria then Jerusalem fall. Manasseh also sacrificed his own son in the fire. He practiced sorcery and divination, and he consulted with mediums and psychics. He did much that was evil in the LORD’s sight, arousing his anger. (2 Kings 21:6 NLTse). Today we have laws protecting companies that produce and distribute demonic material. Where are the churches? Not even churches offer any type of opposition to demons taking the lives of our children.
Moses was clear about witchcraft. “When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there. For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. And do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD. It is because the other nations have done these detestable things that the LORD your God will drive them out ahead of you. (Deuteronomy 18:9-12 NLTse). To think, the very countries Moses warned us about are reaching half way around the world using the very deceptions Moses warned about. Everyday companies are making millions of dollars from witchcraft and sorcery and no one is saying a thing about it.
Not only poor are turning to prostitution today. It is as popular as witchcraft and murder these days. It is all over the streets, television, and the Internet. It has become an acceptable social event. Once again, we see laws created to protect Internet pimps, people making money by misleading our youth. And once again, no one is saying a thing.
Can anyone wonder why it’s so easy for radical factions to attract young people? Now ask yourself why those people, especially the young people who have everything they could possibly desire, want to give it all up to live out in the middle of a desert and kill people? What would prompt someone to do such a thing? And we’ve heard of the horrific things those kids have done. They post videos of executions like badges of honor. Looking at what society has become, it shouldn’t shock you. Kids do it because they believe no one cares about them. And it’s true. No one is doing a thing to protect them. Not their parents, churches, or government. They watch their families torn apart by the aftermath of society. Lies and adultery are common place. Murders are on the news, almost every show on television, and in many instances, down the street. If their not watching shows about murder, their watching shows about sex. The worst are a new series of shows combining forms of witchcraft, sex, and murder. The details are graphic and those imagines are lasting. Children have been abused so much these days, they can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Then there is the division in classes we see.
How can someone say they love America then create laws that favor the rich? Everyone knows the stock market crash in 1929 was caused by companies inflating values on their books. Instead of fixing the problems to protect common investors, the government made new laws to protect companies and open new doors for them to take more money. Those laws didn’t help the little people, but they did change a lot of millionaires into billionaires at the same time millions of little people lost everything in their retirement accounts, jobs, homes, dignity, everything they built over the years. The government’s solution – lower tax rates on the billions of dollars those few people made while raising taxes on the poor and middle class.
Neither the government nor those billionaires can understand the lesson Jesus taught at that dinner. They don’t understand, when Jesus told the disciples to wash each other’s feet, He was telling them, they had to learn to support and encourage each other. How is the president who claims to love America helping Americans? What can we learn from John chapter 13 that will help point all of us in the right direction?
John made sure we knew which day this took place as he continued his countdown to Jesus’ sacrifice. John called it the time for Jesus hour. We see that term repeated later in this chapter. Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him.” We have two small details about that glory. But that doesn’t begin to tell the full story. There is so much more to learn. But it gives us another example showing what we can learn by listing and comparing similar terms.
We also see the word love repeated. Jesus loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. For most people this would be enough, but the story goes much deeper. “I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” We’re given another example showing how the summation added information to the introduction. Put the two together and we’re shown where love originates. It begins with Jesus’ love for us which is another part of Jesus’ glory.
John quickly transformed from the subject of love to Judas who was possessed by the devil. John didn’t mention a devil, but the devil. Satan wasn’t fooling around. He wasn’t leaving anything to chance. He wanted the job done right. He thought he finally had Jesus where he wanted him, in Jerusalem surrounded by a vast number of priests and other religious leaders still loyal to him. People Jesus couldn’t reach.
We’ve seen how the Pharisees viewed Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. They saw the numbers and couldn’t figure out what to do. Satan used that fear to his advantage. Satan also counted the numbers of religious leaders in Jerusalem at the time and thought he could use numbers to his advantage. Satan was also growing fearful of the number of people following Jesus and thought he had to act quickly. Satan acted out of fear and led those religious leaders with that same fear.
Satan made a potion out of a combination of fear and greed to put his plan into action. He used greed to guide those religious leaders as well as Judas. The plan took only a few hours to take shape. While all those plans were taking place behind the scenes, Jesus found strength and confidence knowing God gave Him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. This was more than enough for Jesus to continue working on God’s part of the plan.
So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. Wasn’t Jesus’ simple dress enough? Were the disciple’s feet so dirty Jesus needed a towel so He wouldn’t get His cloths dirty? Why did John repeat that detail about the towel? It was part of Jesus taking the role of a servant. Jesus had to dress the part to complete the message. It also showed how Jesus worked with traditions to make people feel comfortable, then meet them where they were. It was showing how to use things people were used to seeing as spiritual symbols. We see how Peter and Paul used that method in their ministries. Too bad more preachers and churches didn’t catch onto that process.
In this case, the towel didn’t make the disciples feel comfortable. Neither did the foot washing. When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” “No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”Jesus replied, “A person who has bathedall over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirelyclean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.”
First Peter turned Jesus down. Then he goes over board. He wanted more from Jesus than what the others were getting. Peter didn’t understand the lesson. He used Jesus’ act of washing feet to outdo the other disciples. Peter’s mind was still stuck on trying to find a way to secure the position in Jesus’ Kingdom he wanted. Peter missed the lesson. Whoever gets that position has to serve and serve much better than anyone.
Jesus said something rather difficult to explain. “A person who has bathedall over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirelyclean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” His statement contained a contrast. First when a man has completely bathed his entire body, only his feet needed cleaning. Jesus was teaching the disciples a lesson where they were. Most never owned a home with indoor plumbing. They washed outside. Those fishermen would have washed in the lake. What happened on the way home? Their wet feet got dirty along the way. So when they got home, only their feet had to be washed. What did that have to do with an unclean disciple? Most people will know the answer, and know we will see the answer in the next few sentences.
For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.” Are all of us clean now? Judas was a symbol. As we know, symbols point to something much greater than the symbol itself. In this case, we have to examine the action. Judas received money to turn Jesus over to people who wanted to kill Him. What about those people making a ton of money from witchcraft, murder, and sex? Are those business ventures much greater than Judas’ motives?
As Jesus washed layers of dirt from each disciple’s feet, emotions soared. They all felt ashamed and to a degree, depressed. Each disciple examined his own emotions as they reviewed their own lives, Jesus’ ministry, and their interactions with Him over the years.
We’re told to remember this by repeating this last dinner ourselves. I’m not sure if all churches enact the last supper or foot washing. I’ve seen some churches conduct the service four times a year, twice, and some once a year. The thing that gets me is, many of the services use a prepared type of ritual. They’ve turned one of the most emotional events in the Bible into an emotionless tradition.
Jesus asked His disciples if they understood what He did. I think people ask themselves the same question while observing a traditional service. What does it all mean? Is it like punching a ticket to Heaven? Why do we follow instructions to repeat a service designed to help us remember, but forget what we’re supposed to remember.
I can remember doing this service with my wife a few times. To me, it was a symbol of serving one another. How service to each other should never be embarrassing or taken for granted. After I found out the marriage was always a temporary arrangement, I can see the foot washing meant nothing to her. I wonder if a lot of people have the same feelings about that service.
We can see the service Jesus performed didn’t mean a lot to Judas. Jesus told them it was a service to remind them to serve each other. Judas left to serve himself. To help himself to some money. How long would that money last?
Jesus put them in their place. He reminded them, not of them was greater than Himself and what He did. They should have been willing to humble themselves. That was the main theme of the foot washing, to prove they were humble like Jesus. Of course Jesus had His entire life and ministry to prove He was humble, but they needed a sign, a symbol to remember. Jesus put them in their place at a significant moment in the scene, just before He quoted scripture. Of course, we have to humble ourselves by looking at that scripture.
Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me. LORD, have mercy on me. Make me well again, so I can pay them back! I know you are pleased with me, for you have not let my enemies triumph over me. You have preserved my life because I am innocent; you have brought me into your presence forever. Praise the LORD, the God of Israel, who lives from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and amen! (Psalms 41:9-13 NLTse).
Needless to say, Jesus led us to an unusual scripture. One we would not know is a prophecy about Jesus if He hadn’t led us to it. The context is what we want to concentrate on. The summation shows there is a price to pay. Judas didn’t consider that. All he saw was a temporary profit. This also pointed the disciples to a last minute prophecy about Jesus’ resurrection.
Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor! The LORD rescues them when they are in trouble. The LORD protects them and keeps them alive. He gives them prosperity in the land and rescues them from their enemies. The LORD nurses them when they are sick and restores them to health. “O LORD,” I prayed, “have mercy on me. Heal me, for I have sinned against you.” But my enemies say nothing but evil about me. “How soon will he die and be forgotten?” they ask. (Psalms 41:1-5 NLTse).
The introduction is strange to saw the least. If this would have come to Judas’ mind, he would have been reminded how God will always looked after him. Then there is the part about dying and being forgotten. Judas wasn’t forgotten. For him it would have been better if he was forgotten. But his name has been remembered for generations. Not for the life he led. All those details are long forgotten. But people have been associating his name with betrayal for generations.
Jesus said much more than what is in this story when He indicated, He told them that beforehand. The prophecy recorded by David told the story long before Jesus’ ministry. Many other prophecies told them Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus also told about a messenger. After looking up the prophecy in Psalms 41, we see that messenger is God’s Word. That is a more important point than many people realize. It is the essence of the message. It is the fragrance from the oil that anointed Him. What else could be more valuable? What else is more important in life? Jesus’ story and His message is spread throughout the Bible like it is supposed to be spread out in this world. Those stories included people from all walks of life, from every class, and nation.
John told us, Jesus was deeply troubled. John only pointed out one will betray Jesus. But when we look at the emotions and how Jesus pointed them back to scripture, we can see His concern was for much more than Himself. Jesus could see the future. He didn’t have to possess special powers to see what was going to happen. He saw how people ignored scripture. He sent hundreds of people to dozens of scripture, and saw the result. Jesus knew nothing much was going to change in the future. No wonder He was upset.
The fact His disciples couldn’t figure it out was further proof His words and those prophecies would be ignored. I’ve asked dozens of people to explain a prophecy about Jesus. So far they can only remember two. They are either the prophecy about crushing the serpents head found in Genesis, or Isaiah 53. What are preachers teaching these days? Ask a preacher to explain the prophecies Jesus died to fulfill and you’ll most likely receive the same answers. At that point in time, Jesus’ disciples were no better. But when Jesus’ sacrifice became real to them, they learned.
Jesus used a personal act to identify the traitor. He ate with Jesus. How does this point to the table of bread in the Tabernacle set as an invitation to dine with Jesus? How personal can we get with Jesus and still betray Him? Is it a collection of things we neglect, one over sight, how we treat others, or things we forget to do, like that foot washing? Or is it how we change details so we feel more comfortable?
When Judas had eaten the bread,Satan entered into him. It’s frightening to think Satan was at that supper. Satan was in the same room when Jesus shared dinner with them. Satan stood there and watched Jesus wash their feet. That showed how close the enemy is and how he can react in a second. Judas hadn’t done anything wrong yet, except for thinking about what he wanted to do. That offered an invitation to Satan he didn’t hesitate to take advantage of. To think this all happened to Judas when Jesus was only a few feet away. In the middle of a lesson Jesus was teaching. I guess we answered that previous question. Or saw how quickly things can change from learning about Jesus to betraying Him.
Since Judas was their treasurer, some thought Jesus was telling him to go and pay for the food or to give some money to the poor. So Judas left at once, going out into the night. Judas left the room. The other disciples thought he went to fulfill a Jewish tradition of giving money to poor people so they could celebrate the Passover. Kind of a strange tradition when you compare it to the one Jesus introduced. Jesus taught how to share and serve. The Jews taught how to give. But wouldn’t an extension of Jesus’ new tradition include inviting poor people into your home to serve them? Just a thought to consider.
After Judas left, Jesus repeated the key word glory a number of times. Judas missed that. He wasn’t there. He didn’t witness any of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. That showed how people who deny or neglect Jesus miss the most important points. Those details may be written. People may read them, but they still miss them. I’m sure I’ve missed plenty of details in this story. I hope you take the time to go over the entire story and see a few of those details.
Now Jesus is getting serious. He tells His disciples He is telling them the same thing He told the Jewish Leaders. Jesus used the word search for a reason. He wanted His disciples to search for Him in their thoughts, memories, scripture He pointed them to, and with God’s Spirit like He taught them.
To sum up the experience, Jesus gave them another sign or symbol, a new commandment, to love each other. That one commandment has proved to be more difficult to keep then the other ten. It has also been distorted more than the other ten. Some say it is the only commandment, but most of those people really can’t explain what it means. To them it is nothing more than an excuse to ignore the other ten commandments. But how can you love anyone by breaking any one of the commandments?
Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. This pointed back to the lesson about serving each other like Jesus taught them a few minutes ago. Did the disciples link the two together? What about details in between service and love, the scripture Jesus pointed them to? Can we be effective disciples be ignoring either one?
That’s when the second betrayal took place. Not at that moment, but Jesus knew it was coming. “I tell you the truth, Peter–before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” Jesus gave Peter some time to think about it. Which was Peter missing? Service, love, or knowledge about the scriptures?
John 6:1-15 NLTse After this, Jesuscrossed over to the far side of the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. (2) A huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick. (3) Then Jesus climbed a hill and sat down with his disciples around him. (4) (It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration.) (5) Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” (6) He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do. (7) Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” (8) Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. (9) “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” (10) “Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered 5,000.) (11) Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. (12) After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” (13) So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves. (14) When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” (15) When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.
I have to jump into a story about this scene on this one, but first, I want to point out one text. “He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.” Why was Jesus testing Philip? The last time we saw Philip was in chapter 1. John didn’t say much about Philip, except for the fact he went to find his brother Nathanael, told him about Jesus and brought his brother to meet Jesus.
A vast crowd followed Jesus and His disciples up the mountain. Jesus stopped at a level and grassy area. Jesus climbed a small bluff to look over the crowd. Philip climbed up after Jesus and stood next to Him. A soft wind blew their hair and coats back. Jesus and Philip had to squint looking into the wind. Philip looked over to see Jesus’ eyes watering up. Was it the wind or His concern for the crowd? Jesus turned face to face with Philip and asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” Philip looked at a single tear fall from Jesus’ eye as he thought about an answer.
Here we see this chapter beginning with John telling us about Jesus crossing a lake. This lake is significant in the fact it has Jews on one side and Gentiles on the other. It not only has a spiritual significance, Jesus used it as a tool to teach. Other authors placed Jesus on the Gentile side of the lake when He fed the 4000 and 5000 men, plus women and children.
It wouldn’t seem strange for Jesus to feed over 5000 people on the Gentile side of the lake during the Passover. What does seem strange is, why Jesus was not in Jerusalem during the Passover. We could look back and see, the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Jesus and that may account for His absence. But is there a more important spiritual lesson Jesus was teaching?
The Passover was celebrated to remember how an angel of death passed over homes in Egypt that had blood on the door post. If blood wasn’t covering the doorposts, the angel went in to take the life of the first born son in the household. After the promised land was settled, they were to write the Ten Commandments in the sides of their doors. This was a way of showing how the blood of the lamb covered the law. But what does that have to do with the meal Jesus served that day?
The Passover also reminded people of the bondage God freed them from. We can’t forget, thousands of people left Egypt with the Hebrews. Jesus was ministering to those other people during that Passover. We have to remember, there were only three Passover celebrations during Jesus’ ministry. John recorded the first one when Jesus fashioned that whip and disrupted business inside the temple courtyard. This is the second. And of course the third was when Jesus taught a series of parables days before His arrest and series of trials leading to His execution. At this point all we can see in Jesus’ Passover celebration with the Gentiles is the fact He fed them. On the spiritual side we see, Jesus’ ministry offered freedom from bondage to sin.
What do we learn about this story when we look back to see how John led into it?
For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me. Yet if others come in their own name, you gladly welcome them. No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God. “Yet it isn’t I who will accuse you before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, in whom you put your hopes. If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. But since you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?” (John 5:43-47 NLTse).
Now we can see why Jesus tested Philip. He wanted to see if Philip believed Jesus came from God. John also pointed us back to Moses, who recorded all the details about the first Passover. This shows how it’s always good to go back and review the original design, function, and intent. I’ve heard so many people do silly things, then insist, “it’s tradition.” Well in most cases, if they would have gone back a few years, maybe even generations, they’d find, they used to do things totally different. I think the new urban definition of tradition is, “this is how we do it now and we ain’t gonna change it as long as I’m around.” Let’s go back another step to a reliable source, the Bible. What would those people find if they checked their traditions against the Bible. They wouldn’t find most of them in the Bible. Fact of the matter is, the Passover saw a series of changes between Moses and Jesus’ time. Passover was still a tradition, but underwent a series of changes by the Jewish leaders.
Jesus was breaking from that tradition for a while. There were no homes on that hillside where He fed all those people. So there was no need to sacrifice a bunch of lambs and smear doorposts with blood. That’s why Jesus provided a simple meal of bread and fish.
Philip needed to learn a lesson. Jesus saw a lot of potential in Philip, the question was, how to being it out. Jesus looked over the crowd for a few minutes. A few more tears came from His eyes. Philip had a lot in common with Andrew. They were both very good looking men. About the same size, shape, and age. Both had older brothers in the ministry. Jesus could see how their older brothers held them back from reaching their full potential.
Andrew found a young boy with a lunch bag full of bread and fish. When the disciples went out among the crowd to look for food, the boy jumped up to offer the lunch his mother packed for him. He ran up to Andrew, flung open his bag and said, “I have enough for everyone!” That little boy had eyes that could melt any heart. The hair hanging down over his face couldn’t hide the excitement inside of them. Andrew took the boy and his treasure to see Jesus.
Philip watched as the boy showed Jesus his lunch with a huge smile on his face. Andrew and Philip watched as Jesus knelt on one knee to inspect the feast inside the small bag. With one hand on the child’s face, the other helping to hold the bag, Jesus affirmed, “yes, this is more than enough.” Jesus took the bag from the boy, making a sound like the weight was almost too much for Jesus to handle on His own. Jesus asked for a basket. Andrew quickly brought one. Jesus asked the boy to help dump all that food into the basket. He popped up with a look in his eyes no one would ever forget. Once the five barley loaves and two fish were in the basket, the little boy helped Jesus lift it up. The boy stood there with his arms in the air like some unseen force helped Jesus hold that basket over His head as He blessed it.
The boy played an integral part in this event. He showed the disciples, Andrew and Philip in particular, how much Jesus cared for people, including little boys, and how they possess the ability to put incredible accomplishments into action. Jesus wanted to show them, the size of the offering doesn’t matter, once Jesus, God, and His Spirit begin working together, more will be accomplished than anyone could ever imagine.
When Jesus brought the basket down, He did need help to set it on the ground. He smiled as the little boy was more than happy to hold up his end. Everyone around Jesus bend over and looked at the basket, now filled with bread and fish. Jesus told them to bring more baskets. The disciples went into the crowd asking for empty baskets. One after another they brought back empty baskets, filled them with beard and fish, took them out to the crowd and returned with another empty basket. Philip stood and watched for a while. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
Jesus sat down with the boy on His lap watching as excitement moved through the crowd like a title wave as news spread faster than the food. Philip walked over to the basket the other disciples had been taking basket after basket full of food from, took two loaves and two fish, walked over and gave them to Jesus and the little boy on His lap. The little boy looked up at Philip and said, “my mom made those over there.” He looked up at Jesus and added, “your Father made these.”
After eating, it didn’t take long for people to begin falling to sleep. The little boy rested gently in Jesus’ lap. That’s when Jesus sent His disciples out to gather up the leftovers. It was a surprise Jesus wanted the little boy to see when he woke up.
Who knows what those people were dreaming or what they talked about while they ate. When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” They wanted to make Jesus their king.
This may make a lot of people think Jesus fed a crowd of Jews. Since it was the Passover, that is doubtful. We’ve seen how the woman in Samaria had her own view of God. We’ve also seen how the promise of a prophet brought the entire city to Jesus. Does it really matter who that group consisted of? The lesson was for everyone to learn. Jesus looks at the effort and what’s in the heart, not the size of the offering or the ability of the person offering the gift.
This series of books on John’s Gospel are quite unique. John focused on the Holy Spirit working in the back ground throughout Jesus’ ministry. In other words, John’s Gospel is a text book about how the Spirit works in this world as well as our lives. Here is the first chapter from the book. I hope you enjoy it, and there are links to sites that sell both the print book and eBook versions. If you have any questions, let me know. Feel free to leave a comment.
John Chapter 1
John 1:1-51 NLTse In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He existed in the beginning with God. (3) Godcreated everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. (4) The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. (5) The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (6) God sent a man, John the Baptist, (7) to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. (8) John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. (9) The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. (10) He came into the very world he created, but the worlddidn’t recognize him. (11) He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. (12) But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. (13) They are reborn–not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. (14) So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (15) John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.'” (16) From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. (17) For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. (18) No one has ever seen God. But the one and only Son is himself God and is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. (19) This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” (20) He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.” (21) “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” “No,” he replied. “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” “No.” (22) “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?” (23) John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the LORD’s coming!'” (24) Then the Pharisees who had been sent (25) asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?” (26) John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. (27) Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.” (28) This encounter took place in Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing. (29) The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (30) He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ (31) I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.” (32) Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. (33) I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the HolySpirit.‘ (34) I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.” (35) The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. (36) As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” (37) When John’s two disciples heard this, they followedJesus. (38) Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them. They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” (39) “Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day. (40) Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followedJesus. (41) Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”). (42) Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John–but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”). (43) The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me.” (44) Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown. (45) Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” (46) “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” “Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied. (47) As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel–a man of complete integrity.” (48) “How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.” (49) Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God–the King of Israel!” (50) Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” (51) Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.”
I have to confess, I’ve been looking forward to writing this book on John’s Gospel for some time. John’s book is the most passionate Gospel about Jesus, including a number of chapters about lessons Jesus taught not found in the other three Gospels. Matthew seems to have the most events, which makes writing stories rather easy. Mark unfolded on its own showing two main themes, how Jesus taught to understand all scripture and the relationship Jesus was looking for. Luke had a tendency of skipping over some details while lingering on others. Luke’s book was perfect for showing how God’s Spirit worked behind the scenes to set up every event so Jesus was able to fulfill every prophecy about Himself. Which brought me to one of the biggest surprises I’ve seen in the Bible.
The end of John’s first chapter describes how Jesus was sent to be a connection between Heaven and earth, the perfect description of the book I wrote on Luke’s Gospel showing how God’s Spirit worked throughout Jesus’ ministry. John’s description not only says there is a connection, he says we will see that connection.
His Word is Light
John 1:1-9 NLTse In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He existed in the beginning with God. (3) Godcreated everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. (4) The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. (5) The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (6) God sent a man, John the Baptist, (7) to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. (8) John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. (9) The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
I always loved the beginning of John’s book. I wonder how long he thought about the beginning of his book before he sat down, picked up a pen and started writing. I can see how words just flowed for John. Out of the four gospels, John’s is the most poetic. Words and sentences flow like a man writing to his love half way around the world. But in this case, John’s first love is a universe away.
Let’s pause for a moment to estimate that distance between Jesus and John. We can’t estimate that distance in meters or miles. We can’t estimate that time in hours, days, or years. Looking at the other side of the coin, we can’t estimate the closeness they shared until we experience it ourselves. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below–indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
If it’s one thing I’ve learned about writing, it really slows you down, allowing you to concentrate on each word, and God’s still, small voice. Highlighting key words also slows you down. Making a list of key words helps to see the main points the author is emphasizing. Let’s look at the list of keys words John gave us up to this point.
Key words are words the author repeated to draw attention to his main thought, point, or lesson. Key words are words that are the SAME, SIMILAR, or RELATED.
It may take a bit of practice to develop a pattern highlighting key words. I look at it as a fundamental and necessary way for God’s Spirit to slow you down and get you to listen. It’s difficult to thoroughly highlight all the key words in one pass. You have no choice but to go back and forth over scripture to do a complete job. Many people have heard of other texts in the Bible that show us how to study, such as line upon line, and using a churning method of going back and forth over scripture. Now you know what that means.
The key words John repeated paint a picture all their own. We have a saying here on earth, “a man is known by his words and actions.” John covered both those aspects at the very beginning of his book. He also covered another aspect of Jesus he had to learn, Jesus’ divinity. Jesus lives in a different time as well as place.
John tells us, the Word is God and existed in the beginning. What beginning? John described the beginning as creation. John also pointed out how God created everything through Jesus. What does it mean to create everything through Jesus? I’m not going to speculate. Writing on the gospels has also taught me, there are some things we have to leave in God’s hands.
God’s Word gave life. We could go on and on about that. But we will stick with the context of this book and not wander away from John’s written words and main theme he is trying to convey. I am sure we are going to see that life unfold as we go through John’s book.
John tells us, Jesus’ life brought light to everyone and His Word gave life to everything. This is a reference to creation as well as Jesus’ ministry. One story could not have been fulfilled without the other. That’s why it’s important to study Jesus’ ministry as a whole. John pointed out that ministry began before creation. Maybe that’s why it’s difficult for people to comprehend Jesus as a person, friend, and all the other things He wants out of our relationship together. How can normal human beings tie in all the aspects of God’s Word, light, and life? They can’t. Not without God. Anyone whose listened to God through His Word will know, many of the most important aspects of those three are difficult if not impossible to explain. It seems strange to be in God’s Word, in His presence to see details that seem so simple to understand, but a minute later feel impossible to explain. That’s another one of those mysteries of God’s Word. Some things are better left to God’s Spirit to explain. Only God’s personal light can piece that darkness. If there was an easier way, Jesus would not have had to come here in person to feel the heat, cold, pain, suffering, ridicule, and temptations of this world. Of course Jesus came to this world to accomplish much more than face temptation. That is one aspect on the surface of Jesus’ life. Once you know Him, you will see much more about His ministry.
In addition to His Word, God works through other avenues of communication. John introduced one of those in the introduction, His messengers. John the Baptist was one of them. John not only introduced Jesus’ ministry, he also confirmed God’s Word. That’s one of the ways God communicates with us. Did that ever happen to you? There you are reading God’s Word, then suddenly see a lesson or detail that seems so clear and makes so much sense, you wonder why you never saw it before. Your excited, but not sure how other people will accept it. How does God get around that problem? If He showed you the lesson in His Word three times, your still not going to be convinced it is something to share. God goes to plan B. He puts someone in your life you meet during the week who studied the same subject. You begin talking and can’t believe your not the only person to see those details. Has that ever happened to you? If you start studying, it will.
There is another rule of context we need to look at. That rule tells us to look back in scripture to see how the Author led into this story. This rule also works with chapters. You might ask how could that work at the beginning of a book? Don’t forget who actually wrote these books in the Bible. It was God!Human hands may have put pen to paper, but John told us how God’s Word existed before the creation of this world.