This week Kirsten, myself and the kids have been enjoying a fantastic week at Word Alive 2016 in Prestatyn. The morning Bible readings on Job were truly excellent and the evening celebrations looking at some of the ‘I am’ sayings from John’s Gospel have been equally superb.
For anyone at Word Alive 2016 who would like to go over some of the talks or for those that weren’t at the event who might find them useful, here are my notes from the event. This post has my notes from the evening celebrations looking at some of the ‘I am’ sayings from John’s Gospel.
To know that Jesus loves you is to have your deepest longings quenched. When we discover who Jesus really is, it changes everything.
John’s Gospel draws together multiple threads from the Old Testament. One of the ‘I am’ threads (ultimately from Exodus 3:14) is pulled together and applied to Jesus in John 4.
An unlikely journey (v1-4)
The route that Jesus took was an odd route to take because ‘proper’ Jews did not go that way.
But Jesus had to go that way.
An unlikely encounter (v5-9)
Jesus’s conversation with the Samaritan woman breaks all the standard protocols of the day… plus, she had a questionable moral character as well. Some people might have thought that engaging in such a conversation was ‘so unlike Jesus’.
That’s because Jesus has simply come for people who are unlike Jesus. He came for sinners.
Christianity and churches must not be places where people feel they cannot come and meet Jesus because they are so unlike his people.
An unlikely offer (v10-15)
Although the woman initially mistakes Jesus’s offer as one for literal water, she soon realised that Jesus is offering true, real, Spiritual refreshment.
An unlikely insight (v16-19)
The shift in conversation to her relationship history seems drastic, but He is actually highlighting that the woman has been looking for satisfaction and refreshment in all the wrong places.
An unlikely promise (v20-26)
What you thirst for is a sign of who (or what) you worship. Outsiders to the Jewish nation had not been able to worship on the mountain of Zion. Yet Jesus is saying that he will/has open up the way for true Spiritual worship of all people.
Jesus loves the woman in a way that no other man has ever or will ever done
The woman is longing for love and a true relationship but has been looking in all the wrong places. Jesus is the true Spiritual bridegroom for this wannabe pure bride, and the whole story of the Bible is how he rescues, redeems and restores his bride to himself.
If Jesus is willing and able to reach and draw even someone like the Samaritan woman to himself, then there is no one Jesus cannot reach.
The people who are coming to Jesus want Jesus to yield to them to satisfy their needs. And even though Jesus parallels the feeding of the Israelites completely, they are not satisfied. This is because they are interested in the flesh, not the Spirit.
The true bread of life is revealed (v35-59)
Jesus declares ‘I am’ the bread of life (v35). Jesus came to satisfy us, hold on to us and raise us up on the last day (v39-40). He came to save us.
So many people saw the physical bread that Jesus gave but they have missed the point. The physical bread is a sign that points us to Spiritual ‘bread’ of Christ. The physical bread, like the manna in the wilderness, does not give eternal life… the people still died. The Spiritual bread of Christ brings life to all that ‘eat’ it.
v40 and v54 make it clear that looking upon the Son in faith is the same as eating his flesh and drinking his blood.
So when we invite people to read the Bible or hear about him at church, we are saying come and meet Jesus.
Three things from Jesus words…
- We need to believe in the person of Jesus (v35).
- We need to believe in the word of Jesus (v45, v63).
- We need to believe in the work of Jesus (v40).
The true bread of life rejected (v60-66)
Again, the parallels with the manna in Numbers 11 continue as the people grumble at Jesus. They live Jesus the bread giver, but not Jesus the bread of life.
And so they reject the person, they reject the word, and they reject the work of Jesus.
If you preach the real Jesus…
- Some people will reject Jesus.
- But there is no other Gospel, there is no other name for salvation.
The true bread of life received (v67-69)
Peter, for once, gets it right. Who else could they go to? They believe in Christ, so who else could give them eternal life?
The good shepherd dies for us sacrificially (v11-13)
When faced with enemies and dangers, a good shepherd would stay and defend his sheep. But to die for the sheep is completely unexpected. The shepherd is too valuable compared to the sheep.
So Christ, infinitely more valuable, gives himself for us and gives us his worth, having taking our worthlessness upon himself.
The good shepherd knows us personally (v14-15)
The value and depth of the relationship of those who follow Jesus is requested to the relationship of Jesus with the Father, and it starts with the shepherd calling our name.
The good shepherd is irresistibly calling others (v16-18)
Jesus has other people he is yet to call and bring into his flock, but he will call them and his call will be irresistible.
So, as we share Jesus with others and invite them to follow him by faith, we must do so fully aware that Jesus is irresistibly calling people and, by his grace, he does this through us.
Likewise, the spread of the Gospel around the world should continue and be supported Christians and Churches because of this irresistible call of Christ as the good shepherd.
The good shepherd will not let anyone go (v29)
No one is able to snatch Jesus’s people out of his hand because the Father who holds us and gives us to the Son is greater than all.
We must not let our fears determine what it is like following the good shepherd. Instead, we should allow the good shepherd to speak to us and shape us to be his sheep, as we should.
Real life involves death.
Our culture tries to ignore it or make light of it. This is because it does not have anything to say about it; it hasn’t got an answer for it.
But Jesus does.
In the face of death, Jesus speaks words of promise (v21-27)
Given Jesus’s closeness to Lazarus and his family, Jesus’s delay in going to the family seems odd. Yet Jesus tells us why in v4: to reveal and show God’s glory. Jesus is happy that he was not there when Lazarus died so that his followers might believe in him (21v30-31).
Left to ourselves, death seems permanent and powerful. Yet, in the face of death Jesus stands there and boldly declares, “I am the resurrection and the life!” (v25-26).
The key question is do we believe this (v26)? This is not just a simple question, it is more rhetorical than that: believe in me, won’t you?
In the face of death, Jesus expresses anger and sadness (v28-36)
Jesus was indignant at the death of and morning over Lazarus (v33, the NIV softens this to ‘troubled’). God didn’t design the world for death. Death is an intruder that rips life apart. This is why it hurts so much; it doesn’t belong.
Christian maturity doesn’t mean stoicism.
And even though Jesus knows that this mourning is going to be overturned to great joy (v4). Instead, he enters in to the suffering and sadness of death. Jesus doesn’t just say, ‘I’ve got the answer’, he says,’I know how it feels’.
When we are offering life to people in the name of Jesus, we must be ready to cry with them in sad and difficult times. There is a day when Jesus will wipe away every tear… but it is not today.
In the face of death, Jesus demonstrates his victory (v37-44)
Jesus demonstrates his victory so that we may know the truth of v25. Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
But the raising of Lazarus is a taster, a teaser, a trailer. It is a resurrection, not the resurrection. Lazarus died once more years later. Yet when Jesus rose from the grave, he did so never to die again. This is our resurrection hope, foreshadowed in Lazarus.
So we look to death with sure and certain hope: as Jesus died and rose again, so shall we.
He is the resurrection and the life, after all.
The disciples time with Jesus walking on the earth is drawing to a close and a new chapter is about to start. The significance of this begins to be shown by Jesus in this passage, particularly in v5.
The claim: Jesus is the true vine
God’s means of bringing his blessing to all nations (Genesis 12:1-3) is often depicted as a vine, albeit that the Old Testament usually focuses on the broken down vineyard or the withered vine of unbelieving and idolatrous Israel.
Jesus is the true vine that brings God’s blessing to all nations (v5) and we are grafted on to Jesus in order to be the means by which the blessings of Christ spread and grow to all peoples.
The concern: Remain in Him
Jesus’s concern is that his people remain in him, for as the true vine he is the only source of life and vitality now and eternally.
Remaining in Christ means his words remain in us (v7). We listen to Jesus and his words, we take them to heart and we seek to live them out and put them into practice.
Remaining in Christ means his love remain in us (v9). We enjoy the love of God in Christ, and we look for opportunities to show love to others in practical and sacrificial ways.
Remaining in Christ means or words will remain in Him (v7). We depend on our heavenly relationship with Christ in prayer. We care about the things he cares about and we know what his will for us is (v8) and so we seek him and bring requests to him. We do this confident that God’s will is good, it is completed in Christ, and he is able to provide all we need to enable that will to come to pass.
The consequence: We bear much fruit
To often we concentrate on the fruit rather than the relationship. We need to remember that the most talented, skilled person is unable to bear fruit apart from Jesus (v5). In fact, we run the risk of actually not being part of the true vine and only fit for casting on the fire (v6).
Bonded to the true vine, a believer is connected to heavenly life and Spiritual nourishment that will result in them bearing fruit. The fruit we bear is godly character, fruit of the Spirit, etc. But the context focuses on Christ’s mission: bearing fruit of people coming to Christ and likewise being grafted on to Jesus the true vine.
The corrective: Jesus chooses us
Jesus makes it clear that those who are grafted on to Jesus, the true vine, were chosen by him in the first place (v16). Not that we were worthy, but that he is so gracious.