Jesus Cleans House

Jesus Cleans House       John 2:13-23



We join Jesus and his disciples at Passover – the celebration of freedom and redemption. Josephus says there could have been up to three million Jews in Jerusalem during Passover. Jewish pilgrims came from all over the world. 

Jews over 19 must pay a Temple tax: about 2 days wages. Many kinds of currency existed. Silver coins from Rome, Greece, Egypt. Temple tax had to be paid in Jewish coins. The foreign coins were unclean. Moneychangers exchanged your unclean coins for acceptable ones. Those traveling found it difficult to transport flocks for sacrifice, so they was conveniently supplied by
Temple and could be purchased there. None of this was counter to the Law and was quite accepted as the way to do things. But some problems had developed over time.

Temple Extortion and Exclusion
The moneychangers provided a great service, but they did so at an exorbitant rate. It was already a burden for the tax to be paid, but they charged highly for the service of exchanging the unclean coins for acceptable coins. You could bring your own livestock for sacrifice, but it had to pass a Temple inspection. Guess what? Your livestock almost never passed inspection! But thank God we have lambs without blemish for sale right here! Again, the same sheep could be bought else where for much less, but the Temple sheep that would
be accepted were outrageously priced. All of this extortion took place in the court of the Gentiles … the only place the Gentiles could come and worship Israel’s God. People like the Ethiopian Eunuch would find his the only place in Jerusalem to worship God. And now it’s a noisy place of livestock and coins.
It produced incredible wealth for the Temple.

So let’s read this familiar text with this picture in mind.

John 2:13-23 (NRSV) The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body.  After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. 

I’d like for us to ask ourselves some questions based on what we’ve just read.

Does Zeal for His House Consume Us?

The disciples were reminded of Psalm 69 – the 3rd most frequently quoted Psalm in the New Testament. The zeal for building the temple had dominated the thoughts of King David – so much so that others criticized him for it. The world and the church can get into a frenzied zeal over so many things … how often it is for his house?

His Father’s House is the church. Paul described the church as the “household of faith” – a place where we are brothers and sisters with a Father who cares for us. Are we consumed with zeal for the church?

His Father’s House is Him. In verse 19 Jesus says if the temple is torn down he will raise it up in three days. The temple was destroyed and it’s sacrificial system was defunct once the Lamb of God was sacrificed once for all. Are we consumed with zeal for Jesus?

His Father’s House is Us. Paul teaches that the temple of God is now us – and the Holy Spirit lives within us. Does our zeal for God consume us – all of us… intellect, spirituality, physical life?

As disciples of Jesus I pray that we will be consumed with zeal for Jesus in such a way that He impacts everything we think, do, and say. The zeal Jesus had caused him to cleanse the Temple of elements that were disrupting true
worship and praise. A second question I’d like to ask…

What Do We Need to Clean Out? What Tables to Turn?

Sins of Complacency – The extortion being practiced at the Temple during Passover had occurred for many years. The prophets of the OT often issued scathing denouncements for the priests. This practice continued and everyone was used to it. What sins have continued in our life for so long that
we’ve just gotten used to them and no longer are moved to try to remove them? Clean them out!

Sins of Convenience – maybe one reason for complacency was that these moneychangers and providers of livestock were just making things easier for everyone. What sins in our own lives are we allowing to continue because it’s easier just let it continue? When is the last time we pushed ourselves to do
something difficult because we were convicted God desired it? We can fall into the trap of working very hard to meet the demands of our job, school, favorite recreation and pouring very little effort into our Christian walk. Sins of convenience – overturn the tables!

Sins of Consecration – the Temple system perpetuated the illusion of religion.
If we do the religious acts, then all is well with God. Jeremiah 7:4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of
the Lord, the temple of the Lord.”  When we serve God without our hearts, is he pleased that we at least went through the motions? How many of us will taste the body and blood of Jesus and never really think about the price paid for our freedom from sin? Is church attendance where our religious life ends?
Sins of complacency, convenience, and consecration can destroy our spiritual life with God.

Does Zeal for His House consume us? What do we need to clean out? To Turn over the tables? 

One of the ways we can keep from falling into these traps is to keep our minds on Jesus. (Vs. 22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. ) What do we remember about things Jesus said and did? Do we remember that Jesus died so that the world could be set free from sin? So that WE could be set free? The priests allowed the house of God to become a den of thieves and robbed the pilgrims of their money and the Gentiles from being able to worship because they did not have their heart centered on the Lord.

Vs. 23 When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. When you think about this episode in the life of Jesus I pray you will be reminded to believe in the One who had authority to call us to be zealous for Him and to overturn the tables of sin in our lives. To let Jesus clean house.

LifeGroup Questions

1. Solomon’s temple was a spectacle to behold. The second temple wasn’t quite as ornate. However, it still held a place of significance to all believers in God. What’s the most beautiful building you have ever been able to visit?

2. There is discussion about how many times Jesus cleansed the temple. John places this account in the first part of Jesus’ public ministry, the synoptics place it right after the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. If we assume that this was all the same occurrence, read these other accounts and notice additional details they present that John does not.

*Matthew 21:12-17

*Mark 11:15-18

*Luke 19:45-48

3. A house of prayer for all nations. (Mark 11:17) The Temple consisted of a series of courts leading into the Temple proper and to the Holy Place. There was first the Court of the Gentiles, then the Court of the Women, then the Court of the Israelites, then the Court of the Priests. All this buying and selling was going on in the Court of the Gentiles which was the only place into which a Gentile might come. An uncomfortable question: What is there in our church life which may be a barrier to the seeking stranger?

4. Sins of complacency, convenience, and consecration are terms that are similar to worship without reverence. What are some factors that can lead to worship without reverence? What increases your reverence when you worship?

5. I once knew a man who claimed that this was his favorite story about Jesus. (And I believed him, he was always turning over some tables whether they needed it or not! jd)

*What makes you uncomfortable about this story?
*What do you like about what you read in this story?

6. Why do you think John placed this story so close to the beginning of his gospel when the other writers placed it near the end of Jesus’ life?

7. What is the one area of being zealous for Christ you’d like most to grow in?

Leftovers … good stuff I didn’t use in the sermon!

In John, Jesus dies as the lambs are being slaughtered in the temple in preparation for the Passover meal (19:14,30-31). In that way the passover frames the Gospel of John. (Davis Hankins)

“Jesus was not objecting to religion, or to the particular religion they were trying to practice. They were buying the offering specified in God’s law for the ritual acts specified in God’s law. Jesus objected to the misidentification of the temple with a marketplace, a place people go to get conveniently what they want or need. That was not the purpose of the temple. … The more subtle issue is the pervasive marketing mentality in today’s North American version of Christianity. When we move to a new town, or when we get fed up with our old church, we go ‘church shopping.’ We want our needs met; so we shop around to see what the different outlets have to offer. Using the phrase, we make ourselves consumers aiming to buy bit of religion. … One good step in that direction is to leave behind our sense of what we are shopping for and direct our full attention to God’s presence as we gather every Lord’s Day.” Gary Neal Hansen

Jesus’ body was a temple in a unique sense. It was the body in which the Word had become flesh (1:14). The Father indwelt it, as did the Son (14:10-11) and the Spirit (1:32-33). It therefore uniquely manifested the Father. It was also the site where God then manifested Himself on earth, as He had done previously—though to a lesser extent —in the tabernacle and temple. (Constable)


Daily Bible Study by William Barclay

Notes on John Dr. Thomas L. Constable

Feasting on the Gospels, John, Volume 1. (Gary Neal Hansen, Davis Hankins, et. al)

The Sign of Wine



The Sign of Wine   John 2:1-12


Welcome to the wedding at Cana. Just as today the Hebrew wedding was considered to be the most grand event in life. Barclay: Typically the Hebrew wedding ceremony took place late in the evening following a feast. After the ceremony, the bride and groom were taken to their home in a torchlight parade complete with a canopy held over their heads. They were always taken along the longest route possible so everyone would have the opportunity to wish them well. Instead of a honeymoon they had open house for a week. They were considered to be a king and queen and actually wore crowns and dressed in bridal robes. In lives that often contained much poverty and difficulty, this was considered the supreme occasion. This is the occasion into which we step in this text.

John 2:1-12 (NRSV) On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. 12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days.

This wedding feast was as important an event as a young Hebrew bride and groom could expect to enjoy in their lives. We cannot overemphasize the distress in Mary’s voice in verse 3 “They have no more wine.”  In Jewish wedding feasts, wine was essential. Not so guests could drink to excess but it was a symbol of exhilaration and celebration. Childhood dreams of the ideal wedding were about to dissolve in a nightmare. This moment provides the setting for the first miracle of Jesus. This is a joyous demonstration of the life-changing power of the Son of God.  The first sign. What does the sign say to us about Jesus?

1. What Does This Tell Us About the Family of Jesus?

Was this a family wedding? Perhaps since Mary was there and Jesus and his disciples were invited to be present. In John’s Gospel Mary is never named, only referenced as “the mother of Jesus”. In John we only see Mary here and then one more time at Jesus’ cross. The encounter between Jesus and His mother gives us only a slight insight – we do not read very much about Mary past the incarnation birth of Christ. She informs him that the wedding feast is out of wine. Jesus’ response has inspired volumes of writings as people try to understand his response. “We would love to have heard Jesus’ tone of voice here as in so many other places in the gospels.” (Bruner) Jesus’ hesitancy to act is ignored by his mother as she instructs the waiters to get ready to do whatever he says.

After this, verse 12 tells us, Jesus went to Capernaum with mother, brothers, and disciples. We know later that the brothers have a hard time believing Jesus to be Messiah. Jesus’ family was not perfect. His mother did not understand fully his mission. His brothers were not completely on board with his messiah complex.  His father seems to be missing after the initial birth stories, and it is is thought that Joseph has died. 

This is one of the few windows into the life of Jesus with his family that we have.

2. What Does This Tell Us About the Person of Jesus?

A rural wedding is the scene of Jesus’ first miracle, and we can appreciate that it was not a large demonstration. Bruner: There is a normalcy and wholesomeness about Jesus’ social life that deserves underscoring and imitation. … Jesus was clearly not a recluse, a hermit, or an unnaturally religions person. He was invited to meals and parties, and he came to a number of them.” This miracle of Jesus indicates his interest in the host of the wedding – that he not be embarrassed. For a Jewish feast wine was essential. “Without wine, there is no joy.” – saying of the Rabbis. More, he turned the water into a wine that was remarkable to the taste and abundant in quantity (150 gallons!).

Matthew 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’

The friend of sinners – what a beautiful saying. Our challenge is to find something beautiful in every human being we encounter and encourage them to follow the Creator who made them. On an ordinary day, at an ordinary wedding feast, Jesus is about to do something extraordinary. Understanding Jesus as a real person who cared about people and spent time with regular people gives us insight into who he was.

3. What Does This Tell Us About the Mission of Jesus?

Jesus said to his mother, “My hour has not come.” We are reminded in the middle of this party that Jesus has a mission that transcends every other circumstance. “My Hour” is usually understood to refer to the coming crucifixion at Calvary. All through the gospels Jesus talks about his hour.

Jesus came into this world for a specific purpose. He steadily moved toward that hour for which he knew that he had come into the world.  (Barclay) 

John 2:11 “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”

He revealed his glory. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,[d] full of grace and truth. ” (John 1:14)

The mission of Jesus to reveal to the world the love of God began to be seen at the wedding at Cana.

4. What Does This Tell Us About the Church of Jesus?

Though it will be some time before the church is established in Acts 2, it was a part of the plan of Christ to build His church… a gathering of people of faith to share the good news with the world. Jesus’ miracles in John’s gospel are ‘signs’ – they point to the truth of Jesus’ identity. They also inform the mission of the church. We follow in the footsteps of our Master and point people to Jesus. The glory that God gave to Jesus, he has passed along to us in some manner.

John 17:22 “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one…”

The mission of Christ to save the world is our mission and we are the signs for an unbelieving world to see and follow.


In this simple story of a normal day in the life of Jesus we learn something about his family, his person, his mission and his church. The themes of abundance and joy run throughout this text. The Sign of Wine points us to the ideas…

*Jesus cares about our ordinary everyday struggles.

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  

*Jesus is focused on his mission to save the world, and so we should be also.

*Jesus loves with extravagance … creating an enormous amount of wine;  it is still true that Jesus blesses us in enormous extravagant ways.

1 John 3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! …

*We shouldn’t expect little of Jesus, but pray BIG!

*Jesus is worthy of our trust. His mother said, ‘just do whatever he says’.

Psalm 104:14-15 (NRSV) You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart.


-Starting Wednesday January 24-

LifeGroup Discussion Questions

1. Every wedding seems to have something funny that happens. Maybe something went wrong or something was just funny. Was there something at your wedding that made everyone laugh – or something memorable that you always think of?

2. Sometimes we throw the word ‘miracle’ around loosely. What are some things that are sometimes called a ‘miracle’?  What constitutes a true miracle? What do you think of Erwin Lutzer’s clarification:

“A popular but wrong, definition is to say that a miracle is a point in time in which God intervenes in the world…. That definition fails for one good reason: It gives the false impression that God only occasionally intervenes in the world. … A miracle happens when God, who is continuously active in the world, breaks His usual pattern and does something extraordinary.” [Erwin W. Lutzer. “Seven Convincing Miracles.” (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999) pp. 16-17.]

3. What did Mary expect of Jesus in saying, “They have no wine”?

*Do you think that she understood him to be a person who could work miracles? 

*How do you ‘hear’ him calling her  ‘woman’?

*Why did Jesus remind Mary, “My time is not yet here”? How might she have interpreted that statement?

5. There are several passages that use the imagery of wedding / wedding feast to describe God’s love and relationship with His people. After reading the following passages discuss how each describes your relationship with God.

*Isaiah 62:3-5

*Matthew 22:1-14

*Ephesians 5:25-33

*Revelation 19:6-9

6.  Jesus’ brothers had a difficult time accepting him as “Messiah” (John 7:1-6; Mark 3:20-21).

*Can you think of some reasons why they struggled with this idea?

*What are some reasons why people sometimes struggle today to accept Jesus as Lord?

*What would you suggest to someone who did not believe? 

*What does our life have to do with the rest of the world believing?

*What does it mean to “believe in Jesus”?

When you have time check out Kelb Heitzman’s 6 minute lesson on this text. He always does a great job.

Next Week: John 2:13-25

Main resources for this week’s lesson:

Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of John  by William Barclay

The Gospel of John, A Commentary by Frederick Dale Bruner

Come and See

COME AND SEE                            John 1:35-51




John 1:9-13 (CEB) The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world. The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light,  but the world didn’t recognize the light. The light came to his own people,  and his own people didn’t welcome him. But those who did welcome him,  those who believed in his name, he authorized to become God’s children,  born not from blood nor from human desire or passion, but born from God. Jesus stepped into a world that both believed and disbelieved. But it’s not as easy as just those two options. WHAT we believe about Jesus is important.

Jami Amerine is the author of “Stolen Jesus an Unconventional Search for the Real Savior.” She identified ten false ideas about Jesus. Here are a few…

Mean Jesus – mean and angry, full of wrath and ranting about about how sin would destroy you.

Political Jesus – How would Jesus vote? Since there were no Democrats or Republicans in His day, we don’t know.

Genie in a Bottle Jesus – Your wish is not necessarily His command.

I’ll Teach You Jesus – How many of us believe in this works-based and punishment-loving Jesus? 

If/Then Jesus – If I do such and such, then Christ will do what I expect.

Will you pray this prayer with me? “Jesus, I said yes to you. I want only you. The real you. All of you. You promised that if I seek I will find. Help me seek the truth and keep my eyes wholly fixated on the true you. Amen.”

The first disciples were getting their first look at Jesus the Messiah. They had to overcome their own impressions of who he was… who they expected.


A man who lived in his brother’s shadow

John 1:35-40 The next day John was standing again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus walking along he said, “Look! The Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard what he said, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he asked, “What are you looking for?” They said, “Rabbi (which is translated Teacher), where are you staying?” 39 He replied, “Come and see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two disciples who heard what John said and followed Jesus was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter.

Two of John the baptist’s disciples follow Jesus. Andrew is one of them. The other? John? Andrew is always bringing someone to Jesus (6:8;12:22). This is his great example to us. We know much more about his brother.

An unpredictable and unreliable man

John 1:41-42 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Christ[c] ). 42 He led him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

Jesus took one look at Simon and gave him a new name. Simon is now Cephas (Rock). Peter appears as anything but a rock. He is impulsive, volatile, and unreliable. That is not God’s last word for Peter.

An indecisive man

John 1:43-44 The next day Jesus wanted to go into Galilee, and he found Philip. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter.

Phillip is the only disciple said in this Gospel to have been called by Jesus. He seems out of his element, and perhaps was of limited ability. When faced with feeding 5000, his only thought is that even with a lot of money they could not feed the  multitude. When the Greeks came to him asking to see Jesus he did not know what to do and consulted with Andrew before bringing them to Jesus (12:21-22).  It was Philip in the upper room  asking to be shown the Father – and that is all we ask! (14:8-9)  Jesus went  out of his way to find this rather limited man and to enlist him in the apostolic band. He was a perfectly ordinary man.

Philip, Andrew and Peter were from Bethsaida. Not much is told us in the Gospels about the city. Jesus denounced it as one of the cities where he did most of his miracles (Mt 11:20-24; Lk 10:13).

A man who is initially skeptical

John 1:45-51 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and the Prophets: Jesus, Joseph’s son, from Nazareth.” Nathanael responded, “Can anything from Nazareth be good?” Philip said, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said about him, “Here is a genuine Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are God’s Son. You are the king of Israel.” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these!  I assure you that you will see heaven open and God’s angels going up to heaven and down to earth on the Human One.”

Nothing is recorded of Nathanael other than this incident and his presence among the fishermen in 21:2. Some suggest that Nathanael is to be identified with Bartholomew, an apostle who is never mentioned by name in John, just as Nathanael is not mentioned by name in the Synoptics.  Jesus offered a high regard for him. Jesus salutes him as a straightforward person. Nathanael’s response:

“Rabbi” – which he did not use at first. 

“King of Israel” – Nathanael is speaking in the highest terms available to him. He has just been called an Israelite. He is acknowledging Jesus as his king.


One who gives us a New Start (Lamb of God who takes away sins of the world)

One who gives us a new hope (New name)God can capitalize on our strengths (Peter) God finds every person valuable (Phillip).

One who gives us new mission. Keep reading the Gospels to be ‘marinated’ in the story of Jesus.


Andrew sets the tone for the rest of the Gospel story by going to get his brother to see Jesus. Jesus ends his mission by telling us to go out and tell everyone about Him.

How are we bringing others to see Him?

Living lives devoted to Jesus Christ.

Being a church devoted to Jesus Christ and His ways. Honor His presence, wear His name, Driven by His heart. 

Constantly entering into the lives of strangers to the Kingdom as representatives of Jesus.


This year begins with a focus on Jesus … seeing in Him one who gives us a new start, a new hope, and a new mission. Seeing Jesus must move us to bringing Jesus to the world…in our life, in our church, in our hearts.

Psalm 66:1-5 Shout joyfully to God, all the earth! Sing praises to the glory of God’s name!  Make glorious his praise! Say to God: “How awesome are your works! Because of your great strength, your enemies cringe before you. All the earth worships you, sings praises to you,  sings praises to your name!”  Come and see God’s deeds; his works for human beings are awesome…


1. When Jesus meets Simon he immediately gives him a new name. Did you have a nickname when you were younger? What was it Did it stick through the years? Did you like it?

2. The text today talks about four disciples, three of whom we know very little about. With which one do you identify most? Which one reminds you of you … and which one would you like to be more like?

Andrew – always introducing others to Jesus

Philip – always seems out of his element, unsure

Peter – loud and impulsive, not always dependable

Nathaniel – honest to a fault, cynical about Jesus’ hometown

3. Barclay wrote, “Of course, we have to know Christ ourselves before we can invite others to come to him. The true  evangelist must himself have met Christ first.” As we read about the first steps of faith in Christ these disciples experienced, who was mostly responsible for planting the seeds of faith in your heart?

4. “Come and See” is the refrain we see in this passage a few times. If you were going to invite your lost friend to see Jesus, what is it about Jesus you would like for them to see most?

5. John records more than a dozen names or descriptions of Jesus in this chapter. Scan through the chapter and pick out  one or two that we can use in our worship and prayers to Him – names that are meaningful to you.

6. The earliest disciples were witnesses of the identity of Christ. What are some ways you (either as individual or  group) can be a witness for Jesus in our community? What is one specific action you can take to demonstrate the love of Jesus to others who do not yet know him?

Next Sunday: John 2


Resource:  Ten False Versions of Jesus

Voice in the Wilderness

A Voice in the Wilderness  John 1:19-34



On the last day of 2017 we should spend a little time looking back. What did we accomplish? What did we miss? What did we learn? It’s a season for making resolutions. What do you think is the most common new year’s resolution? According to one article:

1. Diet, Exercise, Lose Weight.

2. Read More

3. Learn something new (take up a new hobby)

4. Save Money

5. Be nicer, Kinder, more patient

6. Get a new job

7. Volunteer and donate more to charity

8. Drink less alcohol

9. Relax and get more sleep

10. Make new friends and be a better friend

The Good News: about 41% of Americans make new year’s resolutions. The Bad News: Only about 9.2 % of us will achieve our resolutions. Whether you set resolutions or not, it is important to have your life headed in a particular direction. If you aim at nothing, you’re sure to achieve it! Our text today is more about getting life focused in the right direction, rather than just how to have a better life. I’m convinced if our life is focused on Jesus we will have a better life!

1. Hear the Voice in the Wilderness! (John 1:19-28)

John 1:19-28 (CEB) This is John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?” John confessed (he didn’t deny but confessed), “I’m not the Christ.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” John said, “I’m not.” “Are you the prophet?” John answered, “No.” They asked, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied, “I am a voice crying out in the wilderness,  Make the Lord’s path straight, just as the prophet Isaiah said.” Those sent by the Pharisees asked, “Why do you baptize if you aren’t the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?”John answered, “I baptize with water. Someone greater stands among you, whom you don’t recognize.  He comes after me, but I’m not worthy to untie his sandal straps.” This encounter took place across the Jordan in Bethany where John was baptizing. 

John the Baptist didn’t seem to be a likely candidate to pave the way for the ministry of Christ to begin. He had a wild appearance! He had an offensive message! He lived a weird lifestyle! He broke out of the usual religious scenery! He had an unusual purpose: (John 1:23) But John was still a great man with a great message. With personal humility, John pointed away from his work and words to the One who was to come. 

John 3:30 “He must increase and I must decrease.”

The world needed the directive message of John the Baptist –just this time to introduce Jesus. We need a voice in the wilderness as well. Without a focus on Christ our life can be a wilderness.

Wilderness of Sin – around us and within us. Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.”

Wilderness of Divided Attention – so many voices calling out to us every day. Is the voice of God drowned out?

Wilderness of Disappointment  – with God, with other people, even with ourselves.  Many people give up.

Wilderness of Religious Disengagement. Less and less engaged with church and it kills our spiritual life.

Whatever your wilderness, hear the voice in the wilderness calling you to Christ.

2. Keep Your Eyes On Jesus (20-34)

John 1:29-30, 34  The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one about whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is really greater than me because he existed before me.’ …. I have seen and testified that this one is God’s Son.”

*He is the Lamb of God (29)

A common expression for us, but this is the only time in Scripture that the term “lamb of God” is used. Jesus is referred to as a Lamb. 

Sacrifice (Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed and tormented, but didn’t open his mouth. Like a lamb being brought to slaughter, like a ewe silent before her shearers, he didn’t open his mouth.”)

Victor. Revelation 7:17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’  ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

*He is the Sin Remover (29b)

Taking away the sins of the world / my sin. The very thing that can keep us from what we want most in life is our own sin. In this new year we cannot continue to walk in sin and still believe that we are enjoying the best of what God had to offer.

Romans 6:23  The wages that sin pays are death, but God’s gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

*He is Able (30, 34), he is both Eternal (30) and the Son of God (34)

Whatever else has our attention today, we should turn our eyes to Jesus the eternal Savior.


Whatever other new year’s resolutions you might have, we can’t afford to leave off two: Hear the voice in the wilderness, and keep your eyes on Jesus. 

“Keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to Him; when thou liest down at night look to Him. Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee.” – Spurgeon

We are to follow Him. We are called to spend our days with Jesus … learning, imitating, growing. We are to share Him. (John 1:40-42). John the baptist pointed to Jesus. John’s disciples beheld him, followed him, and now are sharing him. As we share we remember that we are introducing the lost to Jesus … but not Jesus to the Lost…for He already knows their name.

Psalm 32:1-2 Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.

LifeGroup Questions

1. We can all think of New Year’s Resolutions we haven’t kept, can you name one you have kept? Or one you intend to keep this year?

2. Who do you think is more like John the Baptist today, and why:

*A Yelling Street Preacher

*A Preacher in the Pulpit

*A Christian Serving the Poor

*A Disciple sharing faith with a lost person

3. John Calls Jesus the “Lamb of God” – a unique expression in all of Scripture, found only here. The reference is unclear, though there are several possibilities.

*The Passover Lamb – when children of Israel’s lives were spared in Egypt due to the blood of the lamb on the doorposts.

*The lamb led to the slaughter in Isaiah 53:7, the suffering servant prophecy.

*The lamb of the daily sacrifices offered morning and evening in the Temple.

*The Triumphant Lamb of apocalypse. (Revelation).

Any of those may be what John has in mind, but which one holds the most significant meaning to you?

4. Twice in John 1 Jesus is presented as being “unknown” (see vs. 10 and 26). In what ways was Jesus “unknown” in those two verses? What is it about Jesus that seems to be “unknown” today? Is there something ‘unknown’ about Jesus that you wish you knew?

5. Who has been a “John the Baptist” in your life – someone who has served as a spiritual guide and one willing to talk to you if they see something amiss?

6. Name one thing about Jesus you wish the whole world knew.