35. The Sent One

Meditations on Jesus in John’s Gospel : 35 : Jesus, the Sent One

Jn 5:36,37    “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me.”

In a court room a testimony is the evidence of a witness to a person’s character and capability. A person who is asked to testify on behalf of another, is someone who knows that other and is able to speak up on their behalf to conform the sort of person they are. The question that is in so many people’s minds is who is Jesus? If the whole world would realize who he is, it would transform the world.  The excuse that so many will use is, nobody told me, yet the truth is that the Bible is the world’s number one best seller and there are millions of copies in non-believers’ homes and the Bible brings us the evidence of Jesus.

John the Gospel writer, particularly, holds nothing back in his effort to convince his readers. For the people there in Jesus’ day one of the clearest witnesses to Jesus was John the Baptist, as we’ve seen in previous meditations. But, says Jesus, there is an even stronger witness who speaks and acts on my behalf, my heavenly Father. We’ve already seen a number of times the relationship between the Father and Son, and the way Jesus responded to the Father’s prompting to do the Father’s will. Here we see that again but with a different emphasis.

You want to know who I am, says Jesus?  Then look at what I’m doing and you’ll realize where I must come from.  Jesus’ words to John the Baptist’s disciples portray him well: Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor (Mt 11:4,5) Similarly in Luke’s Gospel in the synagogue in Capernaum Jesus read out and applied to himself the Isaiah prophecy: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour (Lk 4:18,19).  Later on Jesus was to say, Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” (Jn 10,37,38).  Not sure who Jesus is? Look at the things he did, the healings, the raising people from the dead, the delivering people from demons, walking on water, turning water into wine, feeding thousands with a few loaves, all these things speak for themselves.

All these things point to one thing, says Jesus, that I am sent by my Father (i.e. God). Why? Well let the words of Nicodemus, leader, scholar and conservative Jew speak the answer: 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 (Jn 3:2). No it’s more than that Nicodemus; this is the Son of God sent from heaven with a purpose, and with all the power and authority of heaven at his disposal. He’s got a purpose and it is to reveal his Father through the things he does. He’s been sent from heaven to reveal the Father and then die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Sometimes people feel their life is an accident. That isn’t true and it’s certainly not true of Jesus. He was and is the Son of God who has left his home in heaven, sent by the Father with a purpose decreed before the foundation of the world itself. He is the most purposeful figure in history, this Sent One!

34. Focus of Honour

Meditations on Jesus in John’s Gospel : 34 : Jesus, Focus of Honour

Jn 5:22-23      Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him.

To honour someone is to respect or highly esteem them and more often than not we show it by some act of deference.  We honour people because of who they are and what they have achieved. In this sense God is to be honoured above all others. We express our recognition of this honour by worshipping Him.

When a country sends an ambassador, the way the host country treats the ambassador is an indication of what they feel about the sending country. If they honour the sending country, they will honour the ambassador. Giving honour is an indication of the high feelings you have about that person, and honouring their representative is exactly the same.

In our verses today Jesus starts by speaking about judgement and makes a strange sounding statement: the Father judges no one. Now that is strange because from early on in the Bible (Gen 18:25) God is seen as a Judge. So how it is now, that Jesus says that the Father judges no one? The answer comes in what follows: but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.  Individual judgement, says Jesus rests in him. Does that mean that he assesses each person on their works? No, for those who have heard of Jesus, their judgement depends on how they have responded to Jesus.

The basis of judgement today is upon how an individual responded to the news of Jesus. Even a child at Sunday School, or even ordinary school, who hears mention of Jesus is judged on their response to him. Even if his name is just used as a swear word people have heard his name in our society. Do they wonder about it, do they go searching to find out about this name, and having read of him, have their hearts been stirred? Their responses to the name and person of Jesus Christ reveals something about what is there on the inside. It is that response, or the lack of it, that judges each person.

In these verses judgement and honour are tightly bound together. If you hear about Jesus, go finding out about him and have your heart lifted by him, you are honouring him for who he is and you are assessed or judged on the basis of that honouring. Those who have hearts to seek God will, when they hear of Jesus, realise who he is and honour him in the same way that they honour God in their hearts, thus they honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Indeed if they don’t honour the Son that is an indication of the state of their heart and an indication of what they feel about God and so He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father. Jesus revealed the Father by his character, his nature and by everything that he did.

If we are too blind to see this, then it shows that our hearts are blind to God. The truth is that we judge ourselves. Someone has given the example of a person going to hear a piece of great music and, coming out, they criticise it and say how they didn’t enjoy it. This is not a criticism of the great music but a revelation that the person in question either doesn’t understand music or doesn’t have music in them. Similarly the man or woman who can read all about this wonderful person who walked the earth two thousand years ago, and remain cold towards him, reveals their inability to appreciate goodness and holiness and perfection. They judge themselves when they fail to honour the Son and the One who sent him.

33. Co-Worker

Meditations on Jesus in John’s Gospel : 33 : Jesus, Co-Worker with the Father

Jn 5:17-20 Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working……  I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.  For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.”

It is a common thought among Christians to wonder about God’s activity, for it seems sometimes as if the Lord is still and quiet and doing nothing, but we’ll suggest from the outset that this perception is either because He hides His activity from us, or we simply aren’t looking.  The reason for saying this is in these verses today.

Jesus makes a quite remarkable comment: My Father is always at his work. Add to that his comment that the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing and you realize, looking at the number of things Jesus did, that the Father must be very busy. Indeed when you consider John’s comment at the end of his Gospel, Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written (Jn 21:25), you realize just a little of how much the Father is doing. The Father instigated and the Son implemented. Does the Lord do just as much today? Yes, why not? It’s just that we don’t see it. As we’ve said previously in these meditations, we need to learn to observe when the Father is working. That person who suddenly starts asking questions about the Christian faith after years of no interest, why are they doing it?  The Father is prompting them. Why do you sometimes find yourself thinking about faith issues? Because the Father is prompting. Why do people venture out in great new faith ventures? Because the Father is prompting.

So here we see Jesus declaring that he only does what he sees his Father in heaven doing. It is a perfect partnership. If you didn’t take in what we said earlier, here it is again: the Father instigates and the Son implements. The Father had the perfect overall picture and therefore know who was ready for what and conveys that to the Son in the limited human body, who then stretches out, speaks a word and brings about what is on the Father’s heart.

The apostle Paul said, we are God’s fellow workers (1 Cor 3:9) conveying the same idea. (Also 2 Cor 6:1). It is this same idea of partnership, working alongside God to do His bidding here on the earth. What are the requirements to be one of God’s fellow workers? Well, first of all it has to be availability. You may remember the writer to the Hebrews: when Christ came into the world, he said: Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am–it is written about me in the scroll– I have come to do your will, O God’.” (Heb 10:5-7). Jesus accepted that the Father had given him a human body so that he could do God’s will on the earth – availability!

The second thing has to be a sensitivity to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, for that is how the Father conveys His intentions to us. Yes, He may convey His will through His word, through other people and through circumstances, but for the daily moment by moment service, the Father looks for our availability and your sensitivity to His leading. When He finds that He leads and we follow as His co-workers, just as Jesus showed us (Jn 14:12).

32. Death Rebuker

Meditations on Jesus in John’s Gospel : 32 : Jesus, Rebuker of Death

Jn 4:49-53      The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.”  Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed.

Faith in the face of a crisis is a difficult thing, especially when the crisis is life threatening. In this story of miraculous deliverance from death, which John calls Jesus’ second ‘sign’ (v.54), Jesus has just returned north into Galilee from his trip south to Jerusalem. He arrives in Cana, the place where there had been a wedding feast where Jesus had turned water into wine, described by John as Jesus’ first ‘sign’. Now whether that miracle had been gossiped around and caused hope for this situation is not made clear, but it is likely. John isn’t into ‘coincidences’.

There is a royal official who, because it is in Galilee, would probably be part of Herod’s household, a Jew, living in Capernaum, whose son becomes very ill, on the verge of death. The man comes to Jesus and pleads for his help. Jesus’ response is not to go with him but to simply tell him his son will be well. Now this is where it is remarkable: The man took Jesus at his word and departed. Something about Jesus demeanour, or his words, were sufficient to convince this man that it would be all right, so he returns from Cana to Capernaum. On the journey back he encounters some of his servants coming to find him to tell him that his son is all right. He enquires when it happened and realized that it was exactly at the time when Jesus declared him well.

So simple is this story and so straight forwardly told, that it is easy to miss the heart of it: a boy is being pursued by death and Jesus declares it will not happen. Now the way John tells it, it hardly seems that Jesus rebukes death but John clearly identifies it as a ‘miraculous’ sign (v.54) and the fact that he records the man fearing his son’s death does mean it was life threatening. Thus we have in almost a low-key way, Jesus standing against death and saving the life of a young man – without moving a step!  Now Cana is almost twenty miles from Capernaum and so we see Jesus uttering a word in one place and nearly twenty miles away creeping death is reversed!  It would be easy, with the skepticism of unbelief and doubt, to declare the reversal of this fever as something that just happened and it was a coincidence that ‘just happened’ that the fever abated while the father was in Cana, but John won’t have of that! Oh no, that’s why John adds his own commentary to the account of what happened, This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee (v.54)

This Jesus is not just a greater healer who reaches out his hand and imparts a healing touch; no, he is the Son of God with the authority of the Father so that he can speak a word and it doesn’t matter where it is, the thing is done. Distance is of no consequence when you are God’s Son. This is the point that John is making here as he includes this miracle in his book. Don’t ever think of Jesus as ‘just’ another preacher, or healer; he is the living Son of God to whom the Father has entrusted all authority, and that includes authority to rebuke death and release life. Of course if you are God and you have made this world by speaking a word, it’s easy to speak a word and change it!

31. Food Source

Meditations on Jesus in John’s Gospel : 31 : Jesus, Source of Hidden Food

Jn 4:31,32     Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

In the days of Israel’s post-exile history, Malachi shows us that this was a people who hardly dared believe that God was there, and as a result their spiritual activities were almost negligible. Today, in a word of great busyness and stress, the ‘church experience’ of many Christians has been reduced because, “I am too tired’. The assumption seems to be that God cannot refresh. It is a wrong assumption!

Yes Jesus got tired, that’s why he was sitting at the well while the disciples went to find food (4:6,8). We might have just stood and watched as the woman came to the well and draw water, but Jesus obviously responded to the prompting of his Father and entered into this life changing conversation we’ve been considering.  What was Jesus’ priority in life? My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (v.34). Yes, the will of God was the crucial thing that guided him in all he did and he knew that he had been sent by the Father with a purpose (see 5:30; 6:38; 8:26; 9:4; 10:37-38; 12:49-50; 14:31; 15:10; 17:4).

For Jesus, doing God’s will was energy giving; it was like food to him. Now the reality is that when we do God’s will He will provide for us. At the heart of the Old Testament covenant were blessings and curses (Deut 28). When the people obeyed their side of the covenant, God’s side wasn’t that He would leave them in peace. Oh no, it was that He would bless them with great abundance. Abundant material provision for His obedient people was His side of the agreement.

The apostle Paul came to realize this same thing was there as part of the new covenant that comes with Jesus.  Jesus himself is the source of our provision. Listen to Paul’s extravagant language: God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor 9:8). Does this say that you will have all of God’s grace to sit around feeling good? No you will have it so that, you will abound in every good work! As we obey the Lord’s prompting and so enter into His ‘work’ He will bless you with all you need. (Remember our calling: “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works – Eph 2:8). Not sure about it still? Listen to some more of Paul’s words: my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:19) and I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Phil 4:13).

The key to not getting over tired is not to do what God hasn’t led you to do, and not to use up resources He hasn’t asked you to use, because He will not replenish what you have squandered. The other side of that coin is that when we respond to His leading and do the things He’s guided us to do, in the way He shows us to do them, then we find that there are resources there we previously didn’t know about.  Will we get tired? Yes. Will we be exhausted? No.  Why?  Because the difference between tiredness and exhaustion is the difference between God’s will and going beyond it, and between receiving His resources and going beyond the supply (and most of us do that at sometime in our life – it’s a learning thing, and we sometimes have to learn again and again!) Jesus is our model, the Son who had the Father’s will in the forefront of his thinking, and responded to His Spirit to do what His Father did. Result?  Food! Resources!

30. Gentle Prophet

Meditations on Jesus in John’s Gospel : 30 : Jesus, the Gentle Prophet

Jn 4:16-19      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.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.

There is the well-known instruction, Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Lk 6:31)   It’s well known because it is often quoted and also because it’s acceptable to most people.  Why is it acceptable to most people? It is acceptable to most people because they like its sentiment. We want other to treat us well and so we see that as a good standard for behaviour generally. The apostle Paul when he was teaching the Corinthian church said,everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort (1 Cor 14:3). In other words, anyone who is bringing a word to individuals from God will be speaking with the aim of strengthening, encouraging and comforting. “Ah, but what about correcting and rebuking,” says my legalistic friend. “Surely the word of God is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness’(2 Tim 3:16). Exactly, but watch how Jesus does it.

Jesus knows this woman as he knows every person he encounters. He knows what her state in life is. Does he chide her? Does he rebuke her?  No, he tells her to do something that provokes her to speak the truth about herself. She starts facing herself by Jesus’ seemingly innocent instruction. Once she acknowledges her basic state, Jesus ‘fills in the gaps’ and speaks detail into her life, and concludes with the disarming words, What you have just said is quite true.” He isn’t having a go at her, and so she doesn’t act defensively.  Is his main intention to convict her of her sub-standard life and bring her to repentance? Yes and no!  Ultimately he does want her to face the truth about herself because he knew that, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:32), i.e. facing the truth about ourselves is the first step towards salvation.  However, he has a greater desire, for her to realize who he really is.  When we realize who Jesus is and come to him, everything else (including our past sub-standard lives) falls into place.

What was the end result of Jesus words?  The woman went away full of the encounter and wanting others to come and meet Jesus. Without any doubt she was strengthened, encouraged and comforted. Her encounter with Jesus had not left her feeling thoroughly embarrassed, exposed or got into a corner. Oh no, to the contrary, it has had a remarkably liberating effect upon her.  And how had that happened?  She had encountered a gentle prophet!

How often do we or others feel we have to put others’ lives right? That’s not the call of the Gospel; it is to introduce them to Jesus so that he can put their lives right! How do we share the Gospel?  I know when I was a young Christian I was in ‘attacking mode’ and I know there are still many people who do that, but Jesus comes to each individual with respect, and care and concern for them. He allowed this Samaritan woman to speak about something of her situation and then he showed he knew all about it, but without condemning her. The result was that she felt good and her life was changed.  That’s how Jesus comes to each one of us. Yes he comes to confront but he does it in such a gentle way we sometimes hardly realize that’s what he is doing, until we find ourselves confessing our state to him. Can we be like him?

29. Water Bringer

Meditations on Jesus in John’s Gospel : 29 : Jesus, bringer of Living Water

Jn 4:10-14 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.” ….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.”

If you were an alien who had just arrived on earth and didn’t know what water was, John’s Gospel would be rather a mystery to you, because water keeps on cropping up.  Jesus was baptized in water (1:33), he turned water into wine (2:6-), he referred to our natural birth as birth of water (3:5), he speaks about water to this Samaritan woman (4:7-), he healed a man by a mystical pool of water (5:1-), he walked on water (6:19), he spoke about streams of water to refer to the coming Holy Spirit (7:38), he washed his disciples feet with water (13:5), water poured out when he was pierced  on the Cross (19:34), and his last miracle was on water (21:7).  What all this says is that water is very common. There is lots of it on the earth and we use it to drink, to wash, to cook with and to manufacture things. Without it we’d be dead.  Water is a vital and essential element of our lives.

The Samaritan woman has come looking for water, ordinary water from the well, but does Jesus sense another yearning in her? It’s a strange thing isn’t it, that we can have different yearnings. When we haven’t drunk for a while we’re thirsty, we yearn for water. In that respect water is symbolic of all the material things we need to stay alive. Yet the truth is that we find yearnings within us that go beyond material yearnings. We have yearnings for love, for beauty, for meaning in life. Without these things ‘life’ is very ‘dry’. The woman was very jaded about life. She’s been through a number of relationships which had all failed or passed. Whether her husbands left her or had died we aren’t told, but she’s had five already. Even for a Hollywood movie star that’s going some. More than that, she’s living with a man now who’s not her husband. For this woman life is unreliable and upsetting. When we form relationships we anguish when they end. This woman yearns for something permanent, something stable, something that will put security into her life, something that will transform it. She comes with at least two needs, therefore.

Jesus senses this and starts talking about ‘living water’.  Living water could first refer to spring water that bubbles up from the ground and she seems to understand it in this way first of all because she says he has nothing to draw up the water.  Jesus’ answer in our verses today indicates that his water is different, because when you drink it, you’ll never thirst again, i.e. if you take Jesus’ provision, all of your non-material yearnings will be for ever satisfied. This provision will remain in you and will act like a spring within you, constantly welling up and providing all you need. This ‘water’ is living, constantly self-perpetuating, never ending in supply.

Even as we mentioned above in John 7:38,39, Jesus referred to this water there and meant the Holy Spirit. There, and in the present passage, are two requirements to receive that ‘living water’: first that you thirst (Jn 7:37), that you have a deep yearning for something more that the material world cannot provide and, second, as seen in the story of the Samaritan woman, you face your state and recognize your need and see that only Jesus can satisfy it. Thus when we surrender to him, he gives us his own Holy Spirit, who lives within us and acts as a constant, never-ending supply of life from within, the ONLY real life satisfying supply.