Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Disciples Get Schooled! -- John 4:27-42

The Disciples Get Schooled! -- John 4:27-42
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 30, 2014

The Get Schooled Foundation (also Get Schooled or getschooled.com) is a non-profit organization dedicated to using the power of media, technology and popular culture to motivate and inspire young people, their families and teachers to improve high school graduation rates and college-going rates. Get Schooled combines powerful national content and programming (on-air, on-line and on the ground), with school-based engagement strategies to ensure both a broad reach and a measurable impact. Sounds good doesn’t it, yet we learn it is founded and funded by Viacom and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with significant support from AT&T. Why is this important? Before receiving assistance in getting kids to learn parents and guardians need to be aware of the social and political philosophies some of these organizations have and how they use programs like these to reprogram your children.

Getting schooled is an old term which often meant the person was on the receiving end of someone else who knew their stuff whether in sports, education, or politics. Here in John’s gospel we find Jesus’ disciples getting schooled, so-to-speak, by Jesus about what and who the gospel message is and meant. Let’s discover how the disciples get schooled…

READ: John 4:27-42

We discover here that…

I. People get schooled when they are spiritually clueless! (Vv. 27-38)

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying 'One sows and another reaps' is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

  1. Jesus’ disciples were spiritually clueless because their focus was wrong. They are more concerned about Jesus eating something and making sure he doesn’t eat with the woman he was talking to! Interestingly they go into the very town the woman goes to but each of them comes away with something quite different!  The disciples return just as she is leaving. They “were surprised to find him talking with a woman.” However, none of them ask Jesus, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” Instead they immediately urge Jesus to eat something! Folks can get so concerned for themselves or the world and become spiritually clueless. They were supposed to be Jesus’ disciples. Jesus who came to seek and save the lost but they were more concerned for food and societal restrictions. Jesus begins to try to bring them back to what they need to focus on by telling them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Instead of asking Jesus about what he meant by his statement, they wonder, “Could someone have brought him food?” Here is a teachable moment. Jesus responds by telling them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” God had begun a wonderful plan to rescue mankind and now Jesus would complete the task by his death and resurrection. Jesus did not want them to continue to be so spiritually myopic. Being Jewish they only thought God had come for them but Jesus came to finish God’s work! “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!” They had been so caught up in asking God for deliverance they could not see it right in front of them! But more than that, God had provided a way for the whole world to be saved! The harvest was now! Jesus instructs them, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages; even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying 'One sows and another reaps' is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” The disciples had received the blessings of God because they were Hebrews, but they personally had done nothing to earn it. The woman would shortly return from telling everyone she met, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” She was busy harvesting while the disciples were busybodies. Because of her testimony many in the town “made their way toward” Jesus. People get schooled when they are spiritually clueless!

  EXAMPLE: The movie Clueless was a 1995 American comedy loosely based on Jane Austen's 1815 novel Emma. Charlotte "Cher" Horowitz is a good-natured but superficial girl who is attractive, popular, and extremely wealthy. A few months shy of her sixteenth birthday, she has risen to the top of the high-school social scene, and is happy and self-assured in her insular, fashion-obsessed world. When she can't get a teacher to give her a better grade, she and friend match him up with another teacher to make him happier and perhaps laxer on his grading. When a girl named Tai transfers to Cher's school, she gives her a makeover and attempts to find her a boyfriend. Cher soon realizes that she wants a boyfriend herself, but no one seems right. She goes through a superficial “spiritual” makeover and realizes that there's more to life than clothes and popularity before she finds the boy of her dreams. It exemplifies how spiritually clueless many Americans are today. Like the disciples with the woman at the well, many on our day and age get schooled when they are spiritually clueless.

We also discover that…

II. The unsaved get schooled when they finally accept Christ! (Vv. 39-42)

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

  1. Jesus’ testimony becomes the woman’s testimony. Here’s what I mean, we wonderfully discover that “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’” Now Jesus did not necessarily tell her everything she did however she learned that Jesus could not be fooled. Most folks who know Christ often can’t be fooled by those who claim Christ but who do not truly have a relationship with him. The reason goes back to what Jesus shared with her earlier when he told her that “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24 NIV)” Those who do not have personal relationship with Jesus cannot worship him in spirit and in truth because the Spirit does not live in them and they do not know the truth! She now knew who Jesus was and she now knew that he knew her as well! It is because of this relationship that she was changed enough that the folks in the village who once had perhaps shunned her now “urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.” I am certain Jesus’ disciples were shocked at first when Jesus related they would be staying in Samaria to teach the folks there about the kingdom of God. “And because of his words many more became believers.” This is the beautiful truth of the gospel message. The simple truth is that it is all about Jesus. I am sure Jesus had to go over some of the teachings of the prophets because the Samaritans did not use anything but the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentuach. Now the old schooled get reschooled about the Messiah and who he is. In fact, we learn that they now tell the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” The unsaved get schooled when they finally accept Christ!

  EXAMPLE: There are those who think they know God but who actually have no understanding of who God is and how he works within his creation. There are those who think God loves them no matter what they do or think. There are those who think God is not actually involved on our world today. Some say there is no God while others think God is in everything. Then there are those who assert that God the Father “has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s” and that as we are God once was and we can become gods ourselves. Some think God has evolved along with man and was once more primitive then grew into a more evolved ideal of Jesus. These ideas are as convoluted as what the Samaritans thought or what the Hebrews held to during Jesus’ day. I have discovered that when someone does not have the spirit of God living in them it is very difficult for them to understand who God is. Like the townspeople, the unsaved get school when they finally accept Christ!

Conclusion:

People get schooled when they are spiritually clueless! And, we discover that the unsaved get schooled when they finally accept Christ!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Tainted Lady at the Local Watering Hole! -- John 4:1-26

The Tainted Lady at the Local Watering Hole! -- John 4:1-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 16, 2014

Recently one of the local news outlets did a series on prostitution in Portland, Oregon. The people involved are younger and more dangerous than ever before. They enslave their victims, often abusing them physically, mentally, and emotionally. Police are trying to get a handle on the human trafficking in order to gain control of illegal guns on the street as well. Interestingly, no one ever mentioned the fact that the criminals involved did not register their weapons or submitted to background checks. I digress. Some call it the oldest profession, but it is a dirty, nasty, crime-ridden, and immoral blight on society that needs to be eradicated.

In Jesus' day we discover that many women were placed in this horrendous position simply because they had no other means of support. Pimps, drugs, and illegal weapons were not necessarily a part of the trade back then, however it did carry a societal disdain and a seedier reputation, unless of course you were one of the respected pagan temple prostitutes. These were highly sought after positions that families often willingly gave their daughters over to. However in Jewish society it was seen as it should be, as ungodly and immoral behavior; not fitting for anyone to participate in. Here in John's gospel we find Jesus with the tainted lady at a local watering hole, let's discover what occurs…

READ: John 4:1-26

Here we find…

I. Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting! (Vv. 1-6)

The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. (John 4:1-6 NIV)

  1. Interestingly we discover the reason for John the Baptist's disciples getting frustrated that Jesus was baptizing: "The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John." Now why this would excite them so much? Perhaps it was because of that temple incident where Jesus had forced them to confront their immoral and ill-conceived money changing scheme. Or perhaps it was because Jesus was gaining in popularity and John was waning, but whatever the reason we find out that "although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples." However, "When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee." Evidently Jesus decided it was not worth causing a stir, it was not time to reveal himself, and decided to head back north to Galilee. Most Jews would have gone a more of a roundabout route going completely around Samaria. They would not have wanted to be tainted with even breathing the same air that Samaritans breathed or walking on the same roads they did because all pious Jews thought of their brethren in the north as half-breeds. Not real Hebrews at all; to be avoided at all cost. Yet Jesus "had to go through Samaria." Jesus deliberately decided to head almost straight through Samaria to get to Galilee! Jesus had a divine appointment to make and "So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph." Samaritans "were racially mixed and their religion resulted from syncretism and schism from Judaism." (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) "Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well." It was here Jesus stops to rest. John writes, "It was about the sixth hour", which was about noon. We find Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting!

  EXAMPLE: When I first went to have my wrist looked at for surgery, they hadn't put up their signage yet. It was a new building. I parked the car went around the building, could not find a door with any markings on it. I then backtracked and went to where I started, looked for someone who could help me. No luck. I then called the office on my cell phone and they told me to go through the door nearest the parking lot and take the elevator. I did that and ended going up several floors, walking clear around inside of the building and finally coming to what I thought was the office. I asked the receptionist why they were so difficult to find, she replied, "Didn't you take the elevator from the ground floor, turn left and come through the door over there?" She pointed to the way I had come in! I had simply been going the long way instead of the shortest distance. Folks can do the same thing when they try to take their own way to God instead of simply trusting him. Here we find Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting!

We listen as…

II. Jesus shares living water with a dead lady! (Vv. 7-18)

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." "Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?" Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." He told her, "Go, call your husband and come back." "I have no husband," she replied. Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true." (John 4:7-18 NIV)

  1. First a direct path and now a candid conversation. "When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Will you give me a drink?'" (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)" So, we find Jesus alone at Jacob's well with a strange lady. We never know her name. Jesus asks her for some water, which in of itself is unusual. Jewish men did not talk to women they did not know and especially in Samaria and this is why she retorted, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" John reminds us, "Jews do not associate with Samaritans." For Jesus to drink from a jar a Samaritan woman had touched would have made him unclean. Having piqued her curiosity, "Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'" She was arguing about well water and Jesus answers with living water! God had told the prophet Jeremiah, "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jeremiah 2:13 NIV)" Now, God was offering all people the living water found in Jesus, even this Samaritan woman! The water represented the Holy Spirit, the "spring of water welling up to eternal life!" You would have thought she would have been curious as to who Jesus was, what was the gift of God, and why was he talking about living water? Instead, like so many do, she could only think of what immediately benefited her, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." Jacob's well is one of the deepest in the region. She challenges Jesus by asking, "Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?" Jesus puts her straight, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Her sin blinds her understanding, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." Jesus however challenges her sin, "Go, call your husband and come back." She is surprised and confesses, "I have no husband." The truth comes to light!  "You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true." Her sin is exposed and we find Jesus sharing the living water with a dead lady!

  EXAMPLE: All who are without Christ are spiritually dead. Like dead pools of stagnant water their lives are as still cloudy pools, while those who are born again are alive and active like rushing water that flows over rocky rapids in a clear cold stream. Living water is that which revives the deepest thirst of a weary parched soul. Nothing is more enjoyable in a desert wilderness than a cold drink of crystal clear water. Nothing is more refreshing to the sin weary soul than the refreshing rush of the cleansing spirit in one's life. And here we discover Jesus sharing the living water with a dead lady!

And we see…

III. It is not about where you worship as to who you worship! (Vv. 19-26)

"Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us." Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he." (John 4:19-26 NIV)

  1. We forget, like so many do, that our relationship with God revolves around our worship of him. Worship defines who we are and what we truly believe. This is why Jesus would teach, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24 NIV)" Again, the lady misunderstands Jesus' words and tries to steer the conversation away from her sin and life predicament, "I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." Women, who are caught in her line of work often, try to flatter the ones they are earning their living from and perhaps this is what she was trying to do with Jesus by calling him a prophet. Yet notice now that she no longer uses the term "our fathers" but rather, "you Jews" to argue with Jesus. She could have repented and confessed her sin but instead turns the argument into the age old discussion about where the true worship of God should take place. It is not the place where one goes through the motions of manmade worship, it is who one worships! "Jesus declared, 'Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.'" Worship begins when one is born again! Jesus bluntly responds, "You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews." The Samaritans were deluded and thought they could worship God in any way they desired. However, the Messiah would not come from Samaria or anyone else but Israel. God promised it would be so and Jesus was the fulfillment of God's promise! Yet the Jews were just as confused as the Samaritans! Here is the truth of the matter, "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." Only those born of the Spirit of God can truly worship God! This is the truth! The woman begins to finally understand and we see a glimmer of spiritual hope when she tells Jesus, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us." Jesus, I believe smiled and his face lit up as he responds, "I who speak to you am he." Now she knew the truth of the living water and that it is not about where you worship as to who you worship!

  EXAMPLE: I was listening to the radio and the speaker was saying that he liked to go to worship because it healed him. It was like going to the hospital for him and he needed to be there in order to face the following week. His whole point was that he viewed worship as for him to benefit from and that is what he felt it was for. Sadly, his view of worship is convoluted and here's why: He, like so many do, was confusing worship with the church. The act of worship is meant for God and his people are to come to the body of Christ, the church, when hurt to be refreshed and healed. Too many think that when they come away from worship feeling good, their worship was successful. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus told the woman that "true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." It is not about where you worship as to who you worship!

Conclusion:
We find Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting, we discover Jesus sharing the living water with a dead lady, and it is not about where you worship as to who you worship!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

The Understanding! -- John 3:22-36

The Understanding! -- John 3:22-36
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 9, 2014

We may think we know something to be true when in fact it is not. This can cause jealousy, anger, or misunderstanding. Kind of like those biblical sayings that are not really in the Bible but folks think they are: “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” “cleanliness is next to godliness,” “God works in mysterious ways,” “pride goes before the fall,” or “moderation in all things.” None of which are found in Scripture. Folks need to read their Bibles more in order to know their Bibles more!

Here we discover that the disciples of John the Baptist were not immune to misunderstanding what God desired and how he was working through John and through Jesus. It resulted in an interesting discussion and following statement by John that clarifies for his followers and others exactly who Jesus is and who John is and what their ministries were meant to be. John wanted his disciples to come to an understanding about Jesus, let’s find out what occurred and why…

READ: John 3:22-36

We learn that…

I. Jealousy brings misunderstanding! (Vv. 22-26)

After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. (This was before John was put in prison.) An argument developed between some of John's disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. They came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan--the one you testified about--well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him."

  1. After Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night to meet with him, we find that “Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized.” However, we will learn later that “although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. (John 4:2 NIV)” Evidently there were now two differing camps baptizing folks in the Jordan River, Jesus’ disciples and John’s. We see that “John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. (This was before John was put in prison.)” Yet John’s people come to him and lay kind of a false charge against Jesus when in fact it all began with “An argument [that had] developed between some of John's disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing.” The problem begins when “a certain Jew,” probably a Pharisee or teacher of the law who came deliberately to John’s disciples and tried to stir up trouble by arguing with them concerning “ceremonial washing.” More than likely they came and wanted to argue as to why John would have anyone baptized, when all someone had to do in their way of thinking is ceremonially cleanse themselves in order to honor God. The Pharisees practiced this kind of washing to show that they were indeed clean and righteous people. Remember John was baptizing for the forgiveness of one’s sins in order to prepare they way of the Lord for the people to be able to realize the Messiah had come! In fact we read how Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem would begin to argue with Jesus because they “saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were ‘unclean,’ that is, unwashed. (Mark 7:2 NIV)” Mark explains that “The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles. (Mark 7:3-4 NIV)” So, John’s disciples fall for the baiting tactic and jealousy erupts. So they run “to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, that man [meaning Jesus] who was with you on the other side of the Jordan--the one you testified about--well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him!’” And isn’t that just how Satan works with God’s people? We learn that jealousy brings misunderstanding!

  EXAMPLE: There is godly jealousy and ungodly jealousy. Godly jealousy makes us so love the words and teachings of Scripture that we defend it with respect, the same is true for those we love as well. Ungodly jealousy brings hurt feelings, anger, and or disrespect. I do not like it when someone deliberately disdains or disrespects the word of God, nor do I like it when another man deliberately disdains or disrespects my relationship with my wife. James would write, “But if your heart is full of bitter jealousy and selfishness, don't brag or lie to cover up the truth. That kind of wisdom doesn't come from above. It is earthly and selfish and comes from the devil himself. (James 3:14-15 CEV)” We learned that jealousy brings misunderstanding, especially about Jesus!

We discover that…

II. Humility brings joy! (Vv. 27-30)

To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.' The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.

  1. To John’s credit, he does not fall for this satanic entrapment. Instead he calmly replies, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.” What a wonderful response this is! In fact it is a good lesson for many of us in our day and age to learn! We can only receive that which we have been given from heaven! Wow! I like that. I honestly believe that some of the Pharisees wanted to create a rift between John the Baptist’s disciples and Jesus’, but John does not allow it to occur. Over the decades I have been sickened and saddened to hear fellow believers fall for similar satanic prideful tactics. What this does is feed on the ungodliness of the emotional moment instead of strengthening and encouraging the body of Christ. John reiterates the ministry God had given him. He bluntly retorts, “You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’” John never professed to be more than what God desired him to be, nor did he aspire to that which he knew God did not call him to. He was to be the one preparing the way of the Lord, period. John was satisfied and knew that “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice.” Here is the first reference to Jesus being referred to as the bridegroom. Perhaps John was giving his listeners a foreshadowing or teaching of how the church was to view itself! The church belongs to Jesus! It is his body, his message, his ministry to save the world – not John’s! He was simply the best man, the bride, the church was Jesus’. He attended the bridegroom by waiting and listening for him, “and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice!” What a lovely picture of the Jewish wedding and a wonderful portrayal of John’s duties as Jesus’ best man! John reinforces his satisfaction by stating, “That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” His joy was to wait and listen for Jesus! John knew in fact, “He [meaning Jesus] must become greater; I must become less.” We discover that humility brings joy!

  EXAMPLE: There is something truly beautiful about a person who is humble. Not the false worldly humility we often see the world express, but the true nature of Jesus, who is intrinsically humble. I worked with a man who exemplified this in his life. When I wanted to confront folks, he remained cool. When I wanted to rant a bit, he remained calm. And, when I thought I knew best, he often would quietly comment and that was enough. He never pastored a church larger than a 60 or 70, but hundreds came to pay their respects when he passed from this earthly existence and went home. He was one of the most content people I ever knew. John the Baptist knew that humility brings joy!

John the Baptist realized that…

III. Understanding brings eternal life! (Vv. 31-36)

"The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."

  1. John does not stop with his teaching concerning Jesus because he does not want his own disciples to miss the message Jesus brings. So he now deliberately sets them straight and tells them, “The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth.” John was born as a mere man, the last Old Testament prophet of God, and Jesus was born the Messiah. Jesus was from “above” and he was from the “earth.” John knew that “The one who comes from heaven is above all.” He was above John, his disciples, and the Pharisees or the Jewish people themselves! In fact, he was “above all”! Paul would write that Jesus is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:21 NIV)” And “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11 NIV)” For John the Baptist, Jesus “testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.” He echoes John the apostles’ teaching that “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. (John 1:10 NIV)” However, “The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful.” That person knows without a doubt God’s word is true concerning Jesus because “the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.” John the Apostle would later write, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9 NIV)” Not only does Jesus have “the Spirit without limit,” but “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands!” Father, Son, and Spirit all testify as to who Jesus is and if we as mere humans accept this truth, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him!” John knew that understanding brings eternal life!

  EXAMPLE: I thought if I went through the motions of religion, I was being spiritual. I thought I was a good man, but learned I was not good enough. I thought that this life brought to us all there was, and then I learned that there is an eternity to live for. I thought I knew it all, when I did not understand anything. What changed my mind? What occurred to make me rethink what I had thought I knew? I read the gospel of John and with that, by faith, I accepted the words of Jesus. With understanding comes eternal life!

Conclusion:
We learned that jealousy brings misunderstanding, especially about Jesus! John the Baptist knew that humility brings joy! John knew that understanding brings eternal life!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

The Interview! – John 3:1-21

The Interview! – John 3:1-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 2, 2014

I hate interviews because I often do not know what I should say. And surprise interviews are the worst. When someone all of a sudden springs questions on you that you're not prepared for it can be a bit disconcerting to say the least. That's why in school I never did well on pop quizzes. For me it was like having a big old bear jump out of the bushes when all I was doing was minding my own business. I can honestly say that I never liked interviews.

Jesus has a surprise interview by someone his disciples would never have suspected, one of the leaders from the Jewish High Council. What surprised everyone is that he came at night to interview Jesus. What occurs and how Jesus responds to his inquiry is very interesting as it is also instructional. Let's discover what occurred during the interview...

READ: John 3:1-21

We discover that…

I. The interview began with an introduction to a new birth! (Vv. 1-4)


Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!” (John 3:1-4 NIV)

  1. I have explained to you about the Pharisees before. They believed in an afterlife, angels, miracles and keeping themselves holy for the Lord. And evidently they were curious about Jesus because of who he claimed to be and the miracles he did. One of them was curious enough to come by himself to find out more concerning Jesus. His name was “Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. This was the Sanhedrin. All of the Jewish religious and political life was determined by them. For one of their own to come secretly at night to see Jesus himself reveals a lot about this man’s interest. “He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.’” Later, the Jews would pick up stones to kill Jesus after they demand that he name himself the Messiah, and he responds, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. (John 10:25-26 NIV)” Was Nicodemus someone who was seeking the truth concerning Jesus? I believe this is probably true because it is Nicodemus with Joseph of Arimathea who would ask for Jesus’ body, “He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. (John 19:39 NIV)” Jesus wants Nicodemus to verbalize his interest and thereby declare for himself his intentions. “In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’” Jesus desires Nicodemus truly understand who he is. I believe he did because he saw in Nicodemus someone who truly wanted to find out if Jesus was the Messiah or not. Nicodemus’ contemporaries were not so curious. Jesus sets up the gospel message for Nicodemus, he must be “born again.” We can almost sense the intellectual and spiritual frustration as Nicodemus asks, “How can a man be born when he is old?” and then he follows with, “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!” Like many, he did not understand the spiritual reality of Jesus’ statement. Nicodemus’ interview began with an introduction to a new birth!

  EXAMPLE: In the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes they often discussed, dissected and dissed the art world, which, Watterson once wrote, “attracts its share of pretentious blowhards.” These discourses usually happened in the snowman strips. In one such episode, Calvin is building a snowman, despite Hobbes’s reminder that the one he made the day before had already melted. Calvin retorts, “I’m taking advantage of my medium’s impermanence,” And then Calvin boasts. “This sculpture is about transience (humanity and our death). As this figure melts, it invites the viewer to contemplate the evanescence (meaning the disappearing shortness) of life. This piece speaks to the horror of our own mortality.” No one expects a child to speak this way. However, mankind has always wanted immortality but there is only one way to enjoy it; we discover it in this interview concerning the new birth.

We also discover that…

II. The interview turned into a lecture about the kingdom of God! (Vv. 5-13)


Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel's teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man. (John 3:5-13 NIV)

  1. Jesus had just gotten through telling Nicodemus, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” And now, Jesus reiterates, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” One must be born into the material world and then born again into the spiritual kingdom of God! And so that Nicodemus would not misunderstand, Jesus continues, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” People give birth to people but only God can spiritually give new birth to someone spiritually dead. One needs to be spiritually reborn to enter the kingdom of God! Nicodemus, a respected rabbi, should “not be surprised” at Jesus saying, “You must be born again.” Why are the spiritually degenerate always shocked to hear that the only way we can live eternally is through spiritual rebirth! Salvation is not found in being nice, being religious or meditating – it is only found in being born again through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit! Jesus tells him, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” While spiritual rebirth is inconceivable to us, it is not impossible with God! “How can this be?” Nicodemus asks. Being a rabbi and a Pharisee, Nicodemus should have had an understanding of these things. Again, Jesus bluntly reiterates to him, “I tell you the truth,” as in “I am telling you plainly” that “we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.” Interestingly Jesus is referring to the witness and testimony of God the Father and the Holy Spirit as well when he uses the term “we”! It is not the royal we that we often refer to but rather a deliberate reference to his own testimony. But still they did not accept his, the Spirit’s nor God’s testimony! In fact, Jesus spoke plainly “of earthly tings” and he still had a hard time believing it, “How then” could he believe Jesus if he spoke of “heavenly things?” It would be impossible! The kingdom of God is populated by those who know God! And the Messiah would come from his kingdom in heaven! Therefore, “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man.” Nicodemus did not realize it but the interview turned into a lecture about the kingdom of God!

  EXAMPLE: We often forget that we are sinners by nature and by choice. We are born into a sin-fallen universe and we decide if we sin or not. Often folks are so insecure that they incorrectly think God could never love them. Then there are those who so arrogantly depend on themselves they think only they can provide their own salvation. Both are false. We forget there is a spiritual counterpart to the material world. We are held accountable to a holy God. They also realize that if it is true then they are accountable! This is why Paul would write, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:19-20 NIV)” Like many in our day who try to disdain spiritual things, Nicodemus did not realize it but his interview had turned to the kingdom of God!

Nicodemus needed to realize…

III. The interview would finished with his need of salvation! (Vv. 14-21)

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:14-21 NIV)

  1. From rebirth to the kingdom of God, Jesus takes Nicodemus on an intellectual and spiritual journey. Now, Jesus brings it on home so-to-speak when he tells Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Jesus takes him back to the wilderness when the Israelites had rebelled, and were suffering and dying because of their sin. They cry out for relief. Moses was instructed to fashion a brass snake on a pole and anyone who would simply look at that pole would be healed. Just as the brass snake saved those back then, those who now believe “in him may have eternal life.” Jesus would be lifted up on a cross for our salvation. I am sure Nicodemus was wondering why God would do such thing. Jesus relates, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Simply because God loves us that he would do such a thing! Why? “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Jesus’ task was to present the message of salvation, he was not sent to condemn the world – he was sent to be lifted up to save it! Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.” I am sure that Jesus understood people’s indifference and their unbelief but I am also sure it was sometimes frustrating for him to be who he was, work the miracles he did, and teach the way he taught and still folks would not believe! God gives sinful man every opportunity to come to him through faith in Jesus and it is their own unbelief and refusal that will condemn them! “This is the verdict” Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” Sinful man loves to hide their sin but their sin will be exposed, however, those who live by the truth come to Jesus, the light. The interview would finish with Nicodemus’ need of salvation!

  EXAMPLE: The story is told that Queen Victoria was deeply moved during a church service. Afterward, she asked her chaplain, “Can one be absolutely sure in this life of eternal safety?” He did not have an answer. But an evangelist named John Townsend heard about the Queen’s question, and after much prayer he sent her a note: “With trembling hands, but heartfelt love, and because I know that we can be absolutely sure now of our eternal life in the Home that Jesus went to prepare, may I ask your Most Gracious Majesty to read the following passages of Scripture: John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10?” Two weeks later, the evangelist received this letter: “. . . I have carefully and prayerfully read the portions of Scripture referred to. I believe in the finished work of Christ for me, and trust by God’s grace to meet you in that Home of which He said, ‘I go to prepare a place for you.’ -- Victoria Guelph” We find that here the interview concerned Nicodemus’ need of salvation! (Radio Bible Class, May 20, 2013)

Conclusion:
Nicodemus’ interview began with an introduction to a new birth, turned into a lecture about the kingdom of God, and finished with Nicodemus’ need of salvation!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.