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Showing posts with label John 8:1-11. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John 8:1-11. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

I AM the Light of the World

Today is March 8, 2020 Anno Domini (or the Year of Our Lord), the second Sunday in Lent.  We celebrate today because Jesus, the Christ, whom the religious leaders and Roman authorities crucified nearly 2,000 years ago, rose from the grave on the Third Day.  We mark the passing of time through history by his life, death, and resurrection.

Through the centuries, people have debated the identity of this man.  Some have claimed he was only a fictional character; yet the evidence is clear, Jesus was a real man who lived in real time and space.  Some say he was a revolutionary who was killed for stirring up revolt in a volatile region of the Roman Empire.  Some say Jesus as a religious leader fighting for social justice among the poor and oppressed. Others say he was a prophet or a rabbi.  But if we really want to know who Jesus is, perhaps we should look to his own testimony.  Jesus told us who he is, in his own words, through seven famous statements we call the “I AM” statements.
1. I AM the bread of life 
2. I AM the light of the world
3. I AM the door
4. I AM the true vine
5. I AM the good shepherd
6. I AM the resurrection and the life
7. I AM the way, the truth, and the life

Last week we learned that I AM is the proper name of God.  When God revealed Himself to Moses through the burning bush in Exodus chapter 3, He told Moses His name.  He said, “Tell them ‘I AM’ has sent you.”  And He said, “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.”

So the very first thing we see about Jesus is he claimed to be God.  Every time Jesus said, “I AM”, the people around him gasped.  “Did he just say that?”  Saying God’s name out loud (or even writing it) was a social taboo.  Claiming to be God could get you stoned.  And just in case you thing I’m making more of this phrase I AM, all you have to do is look at John 8:58-59, which says:

John 8:58-59
58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

Jesus claimed he was God.  He says it plainly John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.”  But today, we consider the second I AM statement of Jesus from John 8:12. 

John 8:12
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.”

Being Judged
This simple two sentence statement is nestled between two incredible stories that show Jesus’ character.  And it reveals how Jesus identity and very existence infuriate his enemies.  The first story is a very famous one—John 8:1-11. 

In summary, the Pharisees and religious leaders catch a women red handed in adultery.  The drag her, still naked, into the town square where Jesus is teaching the people.  They throw her before him and ask, "What should we do?  The law of Moses says to stone her.  What do you say?"  This is such an act of evil.  These men don't care one thing about right or wrong, or about God's Law.  Where is the man who was also committing adultery?  (You do realize it takes two people to commit adultery, right?) Only the woman is indited.  All these "religious leaders" care about is discrediting Jesus and they are even willing to sacrifice a woman's life to do it!  And they think this will do it.  They've got him.  If he says, "Stone her," then the crowds will be appalled.  If he sets her free, it will be a direct violation of the the Bible's clear teaching.  There seems to be no way out for Jesus.

Jesus' response embodies perfectly both Truth & Love.  The first thing he does is stoop down and start writing in the dirt.  The Bible doesn't say what he was writing.  Some have speculated that, maybe, he was writing out all the sins of the various people in the crowd.  I kind of like that idea.  Then Jesus stands back up and says, "He who is without sin, cast the first stone."  And one by one every begins to drop their stones and walk away.  At last, in John 8:10-11, Jesus says, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

And the next time Jesus spoke to the people is in John 8:12 where he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

I’ll get to the second story in a minute, but first I must say how much this statement Jesus said irked the Pharisees. They were like, “You can’t say that!  You can't claim to be God.  You can't say all these things about yourself without any proof or someone else to backup your testimony.” They were already frustrated that Jesus so perfectly thwarted their attempt to trap him with the woman caught in adultery.  

And so the religious leaders argue with Jesus and he plainly tells them they are enslaved by sin.  The reason they won't accept him is that sin rules their hearts.  John 8:34-38 - 34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”

Jesus knew that Abraham would have accepted Jesus because Abraham's greatest desire was to trust and follow God.  And now God was standing before the religious leaders and the religious leaders hated Jesus.  They rejected him and would not accept him no matter what he did.  They would not be convinced no matter what anyone said or did.  Even if Abraham were there to testify on behalf of Jesus.  The religious leaders were stuck stumbling in darkness.  They were slaves to sin.  And they refused to be rescued.  They said, “You have no proof!  Your testimony isn’t valid!”

And that brings me to the second story.  It’s from the very next chapter in the Gospel of John.  In John 9, Jesus and the disciples are walking along and come across a man who was born blind.  The disciples ask, "Was this man born blind because of his parent's sin or his own sin."  And Jesus say, "Neither; it was so God could be glorified."  And then Jesus heals the man and he can see and he goes off to glorify God.  And the Blind man (now the seeing man) runs into the religious leaders and they ask him how is it that he can see.  They have a dilemma. If Jesus healed the man, then it is proof Jesus is who he says he is.  So they're thinking, "It looks like the man we know of that was born blind, but he must be someone else."  So they ask him and he confirms, "Yes, I was born blind, but then Jesus healed me."  But the religious leaders don't want to believe him, so they ask his parents.  And the blind man's parents are afraid what will happen to them so they just say, "Yes, this is our son and he was born blind, but we don't know how he came to be able to see again."  So the religious leaders ask the blind man again, "Come on man, give glory to God.  Tell the truth.  How did you really get your sight back."  And the blind man confirms again, "I was blind and Jesus healed me.  Do you want to follow him too?"

Now, here is clear, incontrovertible evidence.  This miracle is impossible to fake and it has been verified by two independent sources, but the Pharisees and religious leaders still reject it.  They berate the man and tell him he is a sinner and Jesus is a sinner and they have no idea where Jesus came from.  And I love the blind man's answer in John 9:30 – "The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes.""  Clearly, if Jesus can do such a miracle, everyone ought to see that Jesus is very special.  But the religious leaders can't or won't see it.  The blind man sees, but the religious leaders are blind.

True Light in a Dark World
Jesus, the Light of the World, not only helps us see, but also reveals the real motives of people. The Pharisees didn't want to accept Jesus no matter what. The miracle was obvious, impossible to fake.  But the Pharisees would not accept it because it didn’t fit their selfish agenda. Sinful people are always like the Pharisees who try to manipulate the truth and make it say what they want based on their own twisted agendas. But Jesus is who he is. He is the great I AM.

And those who follow Jesus, never have to walk in darkness.  He shows the way.  It takes some time to tune your heart to see His light, but with practice and the help of His Holy Spirit, we can see and follow the light of His love.

Let me share three ways to help you walk in the light.  First, you must pray.  Talk to God and also listen through prayer.  Learn to tune your heart to feel the way you tune your ears to hear and eyes to see.  Have you ever thought you heard a faint sound and you had to strain your ears to hear?  Have you ever tried to read something that was obscured or very small and you had to strain your eyes to see it?  How many of us practice straining our heart to feel God's guidance?  We can practice that through prayer and God will lead us.

Second, read Scripture.  The Bible is God's Word.  Treasure God’s Word in your heart.  Read it.  Study it.  Meditate on it and soak it in.  Absorb the Bible into your heart so that it guides everything you do.  That way when you pray, it will bubble up to the surface as God speaks to you.

One more thing--serve.  It's not enough to pray and read the Bible; you must also put your faith into action.  The religious leaders prayed and knew the Bible, but they weren't willing to serve the way God wanted them to.  They were more concerned about their own position and power and agendas.  We must have faith in God and willingly set aside our own agendas and obey what God wants.  We must act on what we've learned through prayer and Scripture.  We musty serve.

In John 8:12, Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world."  Jesus also talked about light in the Gospel of Matthew.  It's very interesting that in Matthew 5:14, Jesus said, You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”  He was saying that we should let our good deeds shine before people so that God receives the glory.  We're not bragging or trying to make ourselves look good.  We're glorifying God because the light inside us is not ours.  It's Christ's light.  Jesus is the Light of the world, but when we trust him and follow him, his light lives inside us.  And then we obey and serve and his light shines forth from us for all to see and they are amazed.

Is Jesus in you?
In order for the Light to shine, Jesus has to your Lord.  Is Jesus your Lord?  Are you like the Pharisees and religious leaders who walked in darkness because they had to protect their turf adn their way of life?  Are you like the like the woman caught in adultery, whom Jesus refused to condemn?  Instead, he told her to leave her life of sin.  Or are you like the blind man, whom Jesus healed so he could see clearly and he decided to follow Jesus?  I pray you will decide to follow Jesus today.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Arguing with Jesus About His Silence on Important Issues

John 8:1-11

            Have you ever wanted to argue with Jesus?  Jesus said and did many things that were very challenging or hard to understand we might want to argue with him about those.  However, sometimes the most troubling thing about Jesus is not what he said, but what he didn’t say.  It is the times when Jesus is silent on important issues that bother me the most and sometimes I want to argue with Jesus when he doesn’t speak directly about an issue.  Here is a partial list of issues Jesus didn’t teach about directly:  drugs, alcohol, slavery, birth control, homosexuality, democracy, science, abortion, gun control, freedom of religion…  These are all hot topics that stir passionate debates in our times and Jesus never spoke about them directly.  (At least, we have no record of his teachings about these subjects written in the Gospels.)  And sometimes, I want to argue with Jesus about his silence.  “Why didn’t you say something, Lord, so we would know how to respond on these important issues?”
            Today’s scripture comes to us from John chapter 8:1-11.  It is example of Jesus’ vague silence on an important issue that is debated today—the death penalty.  Keep in mind, though, that this message isn't really about the death penalty.  This message is about Jesus' silence.

John 8:1-11
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. 
“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

11 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

A Vague Response
            In order to really understand anything Jesus says in scripture, you have to understand the context.  And the context of this story is that Jesus was under attack.  The Pharisees weren’t motivated by sincerity when they came for a ruling.  Verse 6 says they were trying to trap Jesus.  So we have to take that into account in everything that follows.
Jesus must have been thoroughly disgusted by this whole situation.  Here is a group of supposedly “religious men” using a woman’s life to bait a trap for Jesus.  The Pharisees actions are deplorable.  They have know regard for this woman's life.  They are willing to use a human life to advance their agenda against Jesus.  And so, Jesus had to be intentionally vague so as not to give his enemies any ammunition against him.  Even though Jesus’ words are not as definitive on the issue of capital punishment, you have to admire his wisdom given the circumstance.
The way I read this, Jesus didn’t give a clear ruling.  He assented (reluctantly) to Old Testament law which calls for the stoning of adulterers, but he does it in such a way that he puts it on the people.  It’s as if he says, “Ok, if that’s what you want, then go ahead and stone her, but I don’t want any part of it.” 
Jesus’s actions are such that both supporters of the death penalty and those who wish to abolish it can use this same story to support their arguments.

Silence is a Tool
            Set aside for a moment your opinions about the death penalty.  Look at the way Jesus uses silence as a tool.  As the angry Pharisees demand an answer, Jesus stoops down and writes in the dust with his finger.  Silence...
            I once had a teacher in the 6th grade—Mrs. Garland.  When the class would get too noisy, she would simply stop and hold up her finger.  This was the exact opposite of what other teachers would do.  They would usually get louder and louder, competing with the noise of the class, sometimes angrily scolding the students and admonishing them to quiet down, maybe even threatening them with consequences.  But not Mrs. Garland.  She would just stop talking and hold up her finger.  It would take a few moments, but eventually (and amazingly) the noise of the room would fad as students started to notice Mrs. Garland’s silence.  You could even hear other students start shushing the class—doing the teacher’s work for her—until everyone sat quietly, paying complete attention to Mrs. Garland.  Then she would say something like, “Now that you’re ready, I will continue…”  Mrs. Garland was a great teacher—she used silence to keep command of her class.
            Jesus used silence to keep command of the angry crowd.  Though he stooped to write in the dust, he would not stoop to their level.  First, he used silence to focus their attention.  Then, he used silence again to give them time to search their hearts and make up their own mind.  He shifted the responsibility and the silence gave everyone the time they needed to feel the immense weight of the responsibility of holding a human life in their hands.
            Silence is a tool Jesus uses to help us truly understand.  He could give us the answer—and sometimes he does—but we must come to some answers as we search our own hearts as Jesus waits in silence.

Finding the Answers
            Everything we need for salvation is written in the Bible.  However, Jesus doesn’t answer every question we have in the Gospels.  We must walk with Jesus in a living relationship.  Sometimes we will be able to turn to the pages of the Scripture and find the answers written plainly in black and white.  Other times, we are going to have to listen to the Holy Spirit in our hearts to know what Jesus wants us to do.
Sometimes, we already know the answer.  That's how it was when I was struggling with the call to ministry.  At the time I was studying to be an engineer and had a promising career ahead of me.  However, I loved volunteering in the church and bagan to question if God had other plans for me--plans to be a pastor.  Several people comment on this too.  Once I was telling my sister, Katie, how much I enjoyed studying the Bible and she said, "Have you ever thought about going to seminary?"  I began to pray about whether God was calling me to the ministry.  I was willing, but I wanted God to give me a clear sign or a word from heaven. 
I have heard amazing stories of God speaking to other ministers and giving them a clear revelation that He wanted them to be a minister.  But no such miracle came to me.  Finally, after praying about this for over a year, the answer finally came.  But it wasn't a booming voice from heaven--it was a whisper in my own heart.  It just sort of dawned on me one day.  I know that God wants me to be a minister.  Why else would I have been praying about this so fervently for the last year?  I don't need a sign or a word, because I already know what God wants me to do.  I just have to have the faith to do it.  The answer was there all along, I just had to accept it.
            Sometimes we already know the answer.  Sometimes the answer is "no."  Other times, there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer that applies in all circumstances.  Sometimes you have to take things on a case-by-case basis.  I think God intends it this way so we have to have a living relationship with Him.  You see, ultimately, it’s not about the answers anyway.  What really matters is having an ongoing, intimate relationship with our Creator.  The questions are just there to keep us pointed toward Him. 

            Are you listening for the Voice of God? 
Maybe you are struggling with a difficult problem.  You’re wondering what direction to go or what you should do.  Maybe you’ve asked Jesus for the answer, but all you get is silence.  Perhaps, you already know the answer in your own heart.  Maybe you already know what you need to do, but haven’t had the confidence to do it.  Maybe Jesus has been silent so you could hear your own answers and find the resolve to trust your own heart.
Are you listening for the Voice of God?  Perhaps you’ve been looking for a one-size-fits-all answer.  Maybe, you just want to have all the answers so you don’t need God so much.  That’s not gonna work.  The one answer that applies to everyone in every situation is this:  you need a dynamic, ongoing, living relationship with God.  Maybe you need to focus on the relationship more than the answers.  Then the answers you really need will come and the relationship you need even more than the answers will be stronger.
 I suggest you pray to the Lord today.  Ask Jesus to take control of your whole life--to save you from your sins and be your Lord.  If you start there, the rest will follow.  The Holy Spirit will be your guide.  And you will find peace.