12. Light – again

Short Meditations in John 8:  12. Light – again

Part 2: All about Testimony

Jn 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Some would say this is a continuation from the end of chapter 7 and occurred when, in this part of the feast, on the evening of the first day, four massive candelabra are brought out and lit, lighting up the whole area. It is in the face of this great light that that Jesus makes this second ‘I am’ assertion.  It is of course possible that Jesus waited until later in the week to do this because perhaps otherwise his words would get lost in the dancing and celebrations that accompanied the lighting of the candelabra. In which case he would be saying, “You’ve seen the great light that lit up Jerusalem earlier in the feast – I am a greater light than that.”

Isaiah had prophesied about a great light coming to Galilee (Isa 9:1,2, Mt 4:15) and clearly the land had been ‘lit up’ by Jesus’ miracles and teaching, but here he makes a claim that covers far more than just Galilee, the whole world – “the light of the world”. Later in John he says, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness,” (Jn 12:46) but that has the feel of the effect of hearing, believing and therefore, as a consequence of being brought out of darkness, to live in the light.  Here in this present verse he simply presents a more general, “If you follow me you will be walking in my light.”

Do you see the power of that picture?  Jesus is THE source of light and so if you walk alongside him you will be bathed in this light and darkness will be banished from your experience.

But of course Jesus speaks about spiritual or moral darkness, the darkness that limits the lives of so many people. Where he is, that spiritual or moral darkness is banished, because from him flows such spiritual and moral goodness darkness cannot exist in its presence.

The ‘light of life’? Well, without light life cannot exist. Plants cannot grow without light. Without light we cannot see to live. Light shows what is all around it, light shows the reality of the world, light shows the way, light enables plant life to grow and food to be grown. Without light life cannot exist.

Without Jesus, men and women live in a blind world where they fail to see reality, where they totter through life with little understanding of this world made by God, provided for our blessing. Yes, they encounter it, more by feeling than by sight and fail to comprehend the wonder of it, and thus are not thankful (Rom 1:21) and became inward looking, self-centred and godless. Let Jesus’ light transform your world.

Application: Because I think there is a danger in the coming discussions that we simply become intellectual and academic, I want to check us in each study to ask, “What does this say to me?” So now, do I see my life as one that lives in the light of Jesus and which sheds and shares his light?

38. An Outflow

Short Meditations in John 7:  38.  An Outflow

Jn 7:38  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

It’s hot, it’s the middle of the ceremonies of the last day of the Feast and the priest has just poured out the water that reminds them of the provision of God in the Exodus, and Jesus snatches the focus away from the priest by crying out “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.”

There would be a pause and perhaps a moment of silence before chattering and then Jesus continues with these words above. As we said yesterday, some might have wondered was Jesus a water carrier, had he skins full of water with him – but no, he stands there uncluttered. They look and they wonder. What did he say? The Scriptures?

The unknowing look confused, the knowledgeable run their minds through the Scrolls they know.  “The words of the mouth are deep waters,  but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.” (Prov 18:4) That doesn’t seem to fit. How about the river flowing out of the temple in Ezekiel’s vision? (Ezek 47) There are the streams of water in Psa 1:3, there is the deer panting for streams of water analogy in Psa 42:1 and then there is, There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.” (Psa 46:1) and there is the Exodus reference in psalms, “he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers.” (Psa 78:16,20). There is Isaiah’s promise (?of the end time) streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill.” (Isa 30:25) and “Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” (Isa 35:6) and “I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isa 43:19) and so it goes on and on.

Yet none of them exactly fit what Jesus is saying.  The Old Testament was full of these many references to God’s provision of water, of streams (plenty of water!) but now Jesus is declaring something completely new. These streams of God’s abundant provision will come FROM WITHIN YOU! How can that be? Is this for special people? Who  does this apply to?

Whoever believes in me.  Whoever? Anyone? Any believer? You just have to believe and you’ll have this abundant supply from God? Believe what? Believe in Jesus, that he is who he said he was and is – the Son of God come to save the world. And the fruit of his work? I can have this abundant supply of God, this supply of life, flowing up from within me, not just a sip but a stream! Wow! Hallelujah!

18. Self-glory or…..

(We’ll put aside reflections on the Church and pick up John 7 again for the next week) 

Short Meditations in John 7:  18.  Self-glory or….

Jn 7:18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.

I sometimes conclude a prayer of petition with, “Father, may it be for your honour and glory,” or “Lord Jesus so that your name will be praised.”  I do it not only because I want that but also so that it will act as a reminder to me that this is what it is all about. We would be foolish to think that we never have mixed motives but praying like this does act as a reminder (and challenge?) that we serve the Lord of Glory, not the other way round.

The crowd have wondered how Jesus can teach as he does and Jesus declares it is from his Father in heaven (v.16) and the person who is committed to God will recognize this (v.17). But then he speaks what is a general principle but one that directly applies to him.

It is very simple, a speaker who comes of their own volition, speaks on their own behalf and, therefore, for their own glory. One who comes at the behest of another, coming on their behalf, seeks their glory or prestige. Now the clear implication in the light of v.16 is that Jesus speaks to the honour and glory of his Father in heaven and, being His Son, he speaks absolute truth and there is nothing false either in him or in what he says.

Again and again we see it in the Gospels, Jesus speaking and pointing the world to his Father. He is not there for his own glory but for the glory and honour of his Father in heaven. That is what these three years of ministry are all about – about pointing people to the Father and revealing the love of the Father for them. It is that simple. His even bigger task will be to die on the cross to take the sin of the world, but before that he is there to testify to his Father.

Perhaps this should come as a challenge to us. Our temptation may be to see the woes of the world and seek to address them through the ‘Law’ of the scriptures and seek to remedy the world’s problems in this way, but that is inadequate. Simply saying, this is how we ought to be living, is inadequate.

We have the problems we have because mankind is at odds with the Father in heaven. It is only by coming back into a right relationship with Him – made possible by Jesus’ finished work on the cross and now administered by the Holy Spirit – can lives be truly changed and problems addressed. If this is not foremost in our understanding then everything simply becomes another ‘self-help’ approach and we might as well write a book, “Following God’s laws is the answer.” Well it isn’t, it is coming back to the Father.

11. On the lookout

Short Meditations in John 7:  11.  On the lookout

Jn 7:11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”

So Jesus is going to Jerusalem for the Feast and the Jewish leaders know he normally attends such times, so they see this as an opportunity to check him out and possibly cause trouble for him. Perhaps we shouldn’t imply that from this verse on its own but we know by what has gone before and what follows that that was their inclination. Before long Jesus is going to bring that right out into the open. But for the moment, there is just a question, “Where is he?” but perhaps we might imply that in their critical minds there will also be, “And what is he doing?”

In the previous study we considered the need to listen for the Father’s will. Jesus taught earlier, “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing.” (Jn 5:19) That is one side of the equation of the Christian life; the other is learning to recognise what the enemy is doing.

John in his first letter said that, that the whole world is under the control of the evil one,” (1 Jn 5:19) implying that Satan leads unbelievers by the nose to do his bidding. in the next chapter here, we will see Jesus challenging the Jewish unbelievers, You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jn 8:44)

From the temptation of Jesus by Satan, seen at the beginning of the Gospels, we know that Satan’s intent was to throw Jesus off track. It is amazing that Satan was not aware – or if he was, he just didn’t understand – that salvation would come to the world through Jesus’ death. If he had he might have sought to preserve Jesus’ life but that was never an issue. He put wrong thinking into Peter’s mind (see Mt 16:23) and he led Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus (Lk 22:3) and he obviously wanted to bring Peter and the others down (Lk 22:31,32).

The wise believer learns and understands these things and so when Jesus encouraged us to pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,” (Mt 6:13) he was not being casual about it, there was a very real reason for it. This is not to mean we are looking all the time for demons under the bed, but it does mean we heed Jesus’ counsel: Don’t be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation—just because you believe in me,” so,be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Mt 10:17,16 – Message & NKJV) To summarize? Be alert and wise.

5. Family Isolation

Short Meditations in John 7:  5. Family Isolation

Jn 7:5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

In the previous two studies we have been picking up on the point that Jesus, within his ministry, as the Son of God under the direction of his Father in heaven, nevertheless a) came under pressure from people, i.e. particularly his family, and b) attended and used the various Feasts that were part of Judaism. In the previous study we particularly picked up on the point of his family not believing in him. That is clearly accentuated by our verse today. It comes as a stark declaration, and it is around that verse that we now focus.

What Jesus experienced, he warned us to expect: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’” (Mt 10:34-36 quoting Micah 7:6)

It is a sad but inevitable experience for the believer. He or she comes to Christ but finds that the wonder of their experience is not shared by their family and there, instantly, there is division. When I first came to Christ and sought to share what had happened with my unbelieving parents (nice and good people) they failed to understand. In the fulness of time my mother eventually encountered the Lord in a lovely way, but my father held out and, indeed, on one occasion in a discussion about Jesus declared, “You’re of the devil!” (A little ironic!!!)

Time passed and he was clearly set in his unbelief and clearly no longer wanted to talk and I found myself praying and asking the Lord for wisdom as to what to do. “Write him a letter,” came the guidance so I wrote a letter, seeking to be as gracious as possible laying out the basics of the Gospel and concluded it, “Dad, no one else in the family knows I am giving this to you and I will not say anything more to you about my faith, so I just ask you to read what I have written here and think about it in your own time.” To cut a long story short, he came to the Lord in the fulness of time without me having to say anything more. To the best of my knowledge my sister, with whom I had shared extensively never made a profession of faith.

And that is the heart of it, division comes with belief and our job then becomes to share as graciously as possible with our lived ones, in whatever ways we can find the grace to do it, but we can never guarantee that loved ones will come through. We can pray, seek God’s wisdom and share, but the outcome is never automatic. When unbelief continues, the best we can do is seek for God’s grace to be loving and full of grace, respecting others, whatever the outcome.

4. Human Thinking

Short Meditations in John 7:  4. Human Thinking

Jn 7:4   No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.”

We often say with Bible study that it is important to see what it meant to the original readers and then ask how it applies to us today. Meditating on one verse at a time makes it more difficult to think through that latter consideration, especially when somewhat oblique advice is being given to someone in the text, and so you might be excused for thinking, “Whatever can this verse say to me today?”

Well, let’s ask what is happening here? Jesus’ brothers are giving him advice. Put in the bigger picture, younger brothers are giving advice to the Son of God!  Does that ring any bells? Well, as I sit in prayer meetings this is what I so often hear – God’s children giving God advice in prayer! But it is such a natural thing to do, when you think about it, because all we are doing is telling God what we want to happen, what we think ought to happen. Moreover, what we say so often seems so logical. Of course this is what ought to happen.

Just like Jesus’ brothers.  It’s logical isn’t it: “No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret.” There it is, there is their error, they think Jesus wants to become a public figure. Why do they think that? Because he is a public figure, his name is being spoken of all over the country. Obviously, he is a public figure, obviously he wants to be seen as a public figure. Well no, not exactly. Often after healing someone he would instruct them to tell no one. He didn’t look for fame, he simply desired to do his Father’s will and bless people, set the captives free, ministering to the poor (Lk 4:18,19). Yes, people would hear about that, but that wasn’t the primary objective, fame was a by-product.

So that was their first wrong assessment of Jesus’ ministry which they made because they saw or heard of what he was doing: “Since you are doing these things,” and so the logical thing was to use the Feast in Jerusalem to “show yourself to the world.” There is something so fundamental here that it is scary. How often do we want to show Jesus to the world around by preaching about him or simply relating the truths of scripture about him – and that is all good, and yet it misses the greater truth. Yes, Jesus did speak about himself but not so obviously that it was picked up by the first three Gospels; it was left to John, years later, to emphasise the words of Jesus about himself.

Jesus came to reveal God and His love and he did that as, The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor,” (Mt 11:5) i.e. works of God to bless others. Do we do that?

3. Family Pressures

Short Meditations in John 7:  3. Family Pressures

Jn 7:3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do

Jesus seems to have regularly attended these feasts and, as we said before, made use of them to reveal something of himself and his purposes for his people. Now, putting the verses 2 to 4 together we are going to see that although this was Jesus’ custom, he would not be pressurised into going to the present feast by his family. Yes, it is a good feast to attend and yes, it would be a good opportunity to reveal himself, but we are going to see that Jesus’ focus is on his Father’s will.

What is it that the Father wants? Does the Father want him to attend this festival? He will assume nothing.

But first we have to observe the pressure or expectation put upon him by his family. We are going to see that their words came from unbelief (v.5) but nevertheless there is an expectation expressed.

The words in themselves seek to have genuine purpose; if they wanted greater publicity for him, it would appear ‘sensible’ for his fame if he took his works south to Judea where there will surely be many more people who will want to follow him, and surely the Feast of Tabernacles will be a time when many pious Jews will be attending the celebrations in Jerusalem, so what a good opportunity it will be to gain more followers.

All good human thinking. But there feels the same sort of thinking here, being put to Jesus, that Satan used when he tempted Jesus at the beginning of his ministry, when he, “took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” (Mt 4:8,9)

The temptation then and the words now, both have the suggestion of Jesus gaining publicity and fame for himself, and so often in modern evangelism, I sense, we try to use publicity to draw people to an event rather than just being Jesus and letting his love and power attract. It is always a subtle temptation.

Now there is something here that I confess I have never much thought about before and it is Jesus’ relationship with his family. Matthew reveals that Jesus had four brothers and at least two sisters (Mt 13:55,56). Marks tells us of one occasion when the family was clearly against him (Mt 3:21). Those are the obvious things we know of his family context, but I wonder what these misunderstandings and failure to believe in him would have left him feeling as a person? If you have a family who misunderstand your faith and even oppose it, you are in good company!