As 2016 gets underway, RT Kendall urges Christians of all denominations and backgrounds to commit to a Bible reading plan
Source: How much do you read your Bible?
As 2016 gets underway, RT Kendall urges Christians of all denominations and backgrounds to commit to a Bible reading plan
Source: How much do you read your Bible?
Throughout Chapter 7 we have seen the confusion, conflict and opposition over the Deity of Christ. Some have believed in Jesus, others are hostile. Some have defended Him whilst others wanted Him arrested. The people are clearly divided. Today’s reading we see the full intensity and conflict about Jesus and especially the unbelief of the Jewish leaders who looked down on others and those they sent to arrest Jesus. The temple guards had been sent by the chief priests and Pharisees to arrest Jesus however they could find no evidence to arrest Him and were in fact amazed at His teaching and authority. They recognised He was not a mere man! The Pharisees were probably exasperated and angry when the temple guards returned without Jesus. They were the elite group who thought they knew the truth and had it all right! However in doing so they were rejecting the truth of Jesus. The Pharisees are implying no important people like them believe in Him, only this mob who know nothing about the law. This is where we see the boldness of Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council (3:1) and a “secret believer”. He challenged the Pharisees about their own failure to keep the law and for the council to give Jesus the right to a fair hearing rather than just being judged and arrested before knowing all the facts. Nicodemus had learned the truth from his first meeting with Jesus and obeyed Gods word. He risked losing his high position and reputation but knew it was right to stand up for Jesus. The Pharisees reply sarcastically to Nicodemus are you a lowly despised Galilean? and identify Jesus with Galilee they challenge Nicodemus to search for prophets from Galilee. If they had fully examined the evidence they would have known Jesus Christ is the Messiah Gods only Son.
Reading these verses brings sadness and feeling sorry for them. In their pride they are missing the point and responding in the wrong way to Jesus. God’s truth is available to all. Do we ever look down on people who are not yet Christians, because we have come to our senses? Are we like the Pharisees or do we want to be like Nicodemus who after an encounter with Jesus was willing to stand up for justice?
May we open our hearts and minds to Jesus and be like Nicodemus knowing the truth, obeying His word and speaking boldly for Jesus. We thank God for bringing us from darkness into light and pray for those in darkness to come to Jesus and know the light.” Amen
Here again today we see that people are divided over who Jesus is. Some dismiss his claim to be sent from heaven on the basis of the knowledge they have of him – knowledge which Jesus, with a gentle touch of irony, labels as superficial…others seem genuinely confused – ‘how can the Christ come from Galilee?’
Today also people are often divided and confused about who Jesus is, sometimes because he doesn’t fit into their neat preconceived ideas of who God is, or should be; sometimes because they don’t want to think too hard about him or examine the evidence behind his claim to come from God and indeed to be God, in case they are required to change their behaviour or habits. It is the key question of John’s gospel and a key question for today.
Jesus has been very clear about his origin in these past few chapters – sent from God, by God, with God’s approval, able to call God ‘my Father’ (6:40) – he will go on shortly to say ‘I and the Father are one.’ (10:30).These words cannot be passed over casually – Jesus wants to be taken seriously here.
Maybe when we are in a conversation with others about God and Jesus, this is perhaps the question we should gently put into the equation :’ Who do you think Jesus is?’ Because people don’t think clearly or logically about this question, they have really already made a decision without realising it, by holding the opinion they have. To use an oldish way of putting it, Jesus has to be mad, or bad, or God! Either he was delusional, (which he clearly wasn’t in view of the wonderful Sermon on the Mount teaching he gave, which is acclaimed even by ardent atheists); or he was bad- ie a liar (in which case what he said was untrue and his whole character is suspect – very few people will want to go there, as he is demonstrably an example of goodness itself!); the only other logical alternative to consider is that he was who he claimed to be – God come in human form. A decision has to be made!
Maybe we need to be praying for a right time when we can initiate a conversation along these lines?
As far as Jesus is concerned, the Jewish leaders have already made their decision about him – he tells them ‘You will look for me but you will not find me – and where I am you cannot come’ (7:34).That is the sad end result for those who are not prepared to consider thoroughly the claims of Jesus, and who ‘remain deliberately ignorant’ (2Pet 3:5)
But for those who were aware of an emptiness and thirst in their lives, Jesus gives here an open invitation – ‘if anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink’ – with the promise of an unending supply of inner satisfaction from the Holy Spirit – I think Jesus must have been meditating on Isaiah 55 for a while….cf John 6:27 / 7:37 with Is 55:1-2, 6-7. Perhaps his heart was yearning for his own people, the Jews, to ‘seek the Lord while he may be found; let him turn to the Lord and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.’
At any rate, these are wonderful words for anyone to hear and to accept, and they certainly challenged Jesus’ listeners at the end of our passage to think about who Jesus was.
For ourselves, we too need these ‘streams of living water’ to flow from within us, both for our own need to ‘drink’ regularly , but also so that they may become streams of blessing flowing from us to have spiritual effects on others.
Let’s pray that we shall know in our own lives such a complete satisfying of our every need in Jesus that there may also be an overflow of the Spirit to others around us.
We may have struggled with yesterday’s passage – so did all of Jesus’ hearers, including his followers! Jesus was not dismayed by this – he knew that not all of his followers were truly believers (v64b). There were the twelve disciples whom Jesus called specifically, but there were also many others who believed initially and considered themselves followers. However, this last bit of teaching has made these think about their commitment and many turned away.
Being a disciple of Jesus means accepting all that Jesus said and committing to living life to please him. Some have no desire to live like that – others start off well, but sometimes are choked by ‘life’s worries, riches and pleasures’ and they fall away (Like 8:14). Jesus assures us, however, that ‘all the Father gives me will come to me…. I shall lose none…but will raise them up at the last day’(v37,39). That can be a great comfort to us if we remember that God is always good, just and perfect.
We too can find some of Jesus’ teaching ‘hard’ to accept today, partly because society has moved on a long way from faith and now Jesus’ words often stand in direct contradiction to what is accepted by society generally, so that Christians are perceived to be out of touch, intolerant, prejudiced and just plain wrong. The sermon on the mount teaching is hailed as a wonderful ideal to aim for (but unattainable) but other aspects of Christian faith are regarded as irrelevant to modern day living.
Being a true disciple means accepting all Christian teaching as given in Scripture, however difficult it seems, and asking for God’s help in understanding those things we find difficult. That is definitely not the way the world works – we need to be wary in case the pick-and-mix attitude of belief in today’s world rubs off on to us. There will be difficult issues, beliefs which will put us at odds with the rest of society, but we need to hang on to the fact that if it is in God’s revealed word in Scripture, then it is absolutely true, no matter what others think or believe. Evidence for the genuineness and trustworthiness of the Bible is very solid – we can depend on it and indeed we need to be telling and showing others that it is so, because this is a big area of doubt for many folk. The Bible is our authority for everything we believe, so we need to know it well, know what it says about the sticky issues society throws up and stand up for it.
When Jesus turns to the Twelve to ask what they plan on doing, Simon Peter speaks up for the rest of them, as usual! He has just heard Jesus say ‘These words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life’. I’m sure this confirmed to him what they had heard, seen and experienced over the past 2 years or so – miracles of healing, of feeding, miracles of nature, walking on water … teaching about God which was evidently from God and affirmed by God…the example of Jesus himself, like no other person they had ever met. All he can say is ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’(v69)
We can echo that for ourselves – we know it doesn’t make life easy, but there is nowhere else to go!
Judas is there listening to all this – Jesus already knows his heart (v64, 70). I wonder what he was thinking about it all …perhaps he too had found this teaching hard…he could have left at this point, with others, but he didn’t. Perhaps this is the beginning of a stirring in his heart which wasn’t so prepared for such a committed way of life. Perhaps his loyalty to Jesus wavered in the face of further difficult issues and challenges. He goes along with it for the moment, but the seed is there and grows into an attitude which will eventually bear the fruit of actual betrayal – his feet did slip! If we find ourselves wavering in our faith, or having wrong attitudes, or when we are tempted to allow ourselves to just ‘slip back’ a bit, Psalm 73 can be a good wake-up call and a real encouragement for us – read v2-3, 13,17, 21-26 now. We need to deal straightaway with these thoughts and not let them grow, as Judas did.
Jesus knows all that is in our hearts – the struggles, as well as the faith – we need to ask him to show us ourselves, and change us, so that we can truthfully say, with Peter, ‘Lord you know all things, you know that I love you. (John 21:17)
The notes today are from Heather. The late posting is my fault; sorry.
I find today’s passage even more complicated, both to read and to understand what Jesus is getting at – and have great sympathy with the Jews who reacted sharply to his teaching (v52). But it is important stuff for us to take on board, so let’s ask for the Holy Spirit’s help in understanding what Jesus is getting at.
In yesterday’s passage, Jesus used the picture of bread (after he fed the 5,000 with bread) not in the sense of normal physical food but in the sense of spiritual food that we need for our souls. Here he amplifies that idea as he tells the religious leaders and the people that he is the ‘living bread’ from heaven, completely different from the manna given in the wilderness long ago which simply fed the body. This living bread (ie Jesus) is able to give eternal life, but they must ‘eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood’ in order to have it.
These Jews are on a different wavelength from Jesus and seem to be taking his words literally –‘how can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ Jesus is saying that he himself is the source of eternal life, and that can be so only because his own physical life will be given up ‘for the life of the world’ (v51). John the Baptist has already hailed Jesus as ‘the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world’ (1:29) and the Jews were familiar with this idea of a lamb being killed as a sacrificial substitute to atone for the sins of the people. Even so, they simply could not grasp that God was providing a new way of forgiveness, that the old system of animal sacrifice was now obsolete, that He was revealing himself in a new way through Jesus, as in fact the Old Testament had frequently foretold, though they had not picked that up. Had they really listened properly to Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of God and had open minds to see that the miracles Jesus had done signified God’s approval of him, they should have recognised that God was speaking in a new way.
As I write this, I can see how easy it can be for us even as believers to have minds that are partly closed, simply because we too can have our own fixed ideas about God and what He wants. We need to pray that the Holy Spirit will keep giving us ‘eyes to see and ears to hear’…
The language of this passage reminds us about the last supper (or communion) where Jesus asked his disciples to remember him in his death by sharing bread and wine together, symbolising his body and blood. But Jesus is not referring to this here – he would talk to his disciples about that later on. For us, sharing communion together as a church fellowship is important and helps us not to forget the source of our eternal life in Jesus – as we eat the bread and drink the wine, we remember his flesh/body given for us and his blood shed – but these are symbols for us of the reality that Jesus went through. We are not physically eating Jesus’ body and drinking his blood. Likewise, here Jesus is not speaking literally – nor is he saying that as long as we take communion, we will have eternal life (though Paul does see participation in communion as a participation somehow in Christ’s body and blood – perhaps as an identification and ‘bonding’ with Jesus –(1 Cor 10:16).
Jesus is talking about the need to identify ourselves totally with him and all that he stands for and commit ourselves to him in total faith if we want eternal life. Paul spells it out more clearly in Romans 6 – as believers, we have been united with Christ, in death but also in resurrection!
This is indeed a ‘hard saying’, for us today, no less than for some disciples then (v60). But the good news is that we don’t need to understand and have everything perfectly in place before God accepts us. We simply need to trust in Jesus, then go on to maintain and grow that trust – remembering that Jesus is the source of every blessing for us. Through him and his Spirit, God the Father ‘pours out his grace on our lives, day by day’. (Wendy Churchill – MP 366)
So today let’s consciously remember our identification with and union with Christ as believers, meditate on all the implications that it has for our daily life and ask for His grace to live a life pleasing to Him.
Most of the sermons preached at Eb can be accessed via our Church Website. This is where I usually insert a joke about a feature that is very helpful for insomniacs. Like most people, I find it difficult to hear a recording of my own voice. I suppose if there was ever a preacher who really loved the sound of their own voice they probably shouldn’t really be preaching. As challenging as it is, I believe listening back to our own sermons to be a really good discipline. It highlights the things we say that would otherwise go unnoticed; those little phrases that we repeat without realising and probably drive everyone else mad. It can show the things that are emphasised and the things that are not. All of this painful process should help the preacher to improve. It isn’t all the preachers fault of course, there’s a fault in out recording equipment that makes me sound as if I have a strong Welsh accent, when I know that my accent is in fact neutral.
If you have heard a person speak or read their writing, it’s possible to be become accustomed to their style and we have been reading Genesis now for nine weeks and as we approach the end we have become used to some of its themes. Today’s passage, seen in isolation, may seem a bit strange but having navigated through this important book, many of us will have seen it coming.
The thing we’ve seen coming is the idea of the younger son taking preference over the oldest. Jacob was about to bless his sons and told Joseph that he would bless Joseph’s sons; Manasseh and Ephraim, as if they were his own. We can see again that he is looking towards Canaan and the division of territory (48:6). It’s important to note here that both sons received the same blessing and Jacob was aware that God would bless both Ephraim and Manasseh but in a very deliberate way he gave preference to the younger of the two, even before blessing them (48:5). It’s a pattern we have seen from the beginning; Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, and Esau and Jacob. In each of these the firstborn has been a person interested in the things of this world whereas the second in the things to come. It shows us that God is not interested in the natural order of the world but chooses to bless by grace. There could also be the picture of our natural births and the second birth where we can be born again of the Spirit (John 3:1-21).
After following Jacob throughout his life we may have thought we can have a fairly good sense of his character but right at the end we are surprised. The quiet man who loved to stay among the tents (25:27) and the man who worried about getting into a fight with the Canaanites (34:30) was also the man capable of fighting with sword and bow in order to take land (48:22). It appears Jacob, like most of us, was a complex and multi-layered personality.
Jacob’s words at the end of his life are full of faith;
We can take a lesson from Jacob, look back on our lives, remember the things God has done for us and where we are now. We do it not so that we can live in the past but to look forward to all the Lord will do in the future. The best is still to come.
Lord you’ve been good to me
All my life, all my life
Your loving kindness never fails
I will remember
All you have done
Bring from my heart
Thanksgiving songs (Graham Kendrick)
We have just published the Bible reading notes for week 26! That means we have been on this journey for six months now. if you have been with us since the beginning or even if you have just started I trust you are enjoying reading the Bible. Thanks to everyone who has read the notes and contributed to them; it would not be possible without you.
A special thank you must go to some of the brilliant Christian websites that have provided free resources. BibleGateway is well worth a look with loads of good Bible translations and additional resources; it is a great site. Free Bible Images is a really good site for anyone looking for images of Bible passages. All of the maps and the drawings used this week have been downloaded from their site. we should pray for the people who have called to run sites like this.