So That You May Believe

So That You May Believe John 11

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Introduction
John’s Gospel is the Gospel of Belief. The Themes of believe / did not believe run throughout the pages. He expresses his goal toward the end of his book:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his
disciples, which are not written in this book. But these
are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus
is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through
believing you may have life in his name. – John 20:30-31

John presents seven signs that point to Jesus as Messiah. The seventh sign is the crescendo, defeat of the greatest enemy.  Jesus is able to overcome the one thing we cannot escape: death.

Jesus’ friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were distressed because Lazarus was gravely ill. They sent a message to him, but he delayed… and Lazarus died.
Both Mary and Martha asked Jesus why he allowed this. He went to the tomb of Lazarus and called for him to come out! Lazarus came out alive and many believed. This is not only why Jesus performed such miracles, but why John preserves them for us and presents them in such a way.

I think this text invites us to ask three questions …

1. Does Jesus Care?

When I’m Afraid (John 11:8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”) Fear always dissuades belief – talks us out of walking in faith.

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”

When I’m Confused (John 11:12-16 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”  Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” – the disciples don’t get Jesus. We know much more about the story than they did. Confusion comes when we do not see things as Jesus sees them. We need his wisdom, his viewpoint, his  strength, his words.

When I’m Disappointed (John 11:19-22 “…and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”) Disappointment was obvious. They had not lost their faith, far from it, but they were disappointed that Jesus allowed this circumstance. We would like Jesus to heal our hurts immediately. So, we understand their disappointment, but that can’t be the end of the story.

When I’m Broken Hearted (John 11:34-35 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep.  So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”).  – The heart of Jesus is seen in his compassion for all the hurting people in this story.  Jesus was “deeply moved”. The KJV says “groaning in himself” …  Jesus wept (35).

Fearful, Confused, Disappointed, Broken hearted are common ways we relate to God when life presents us with the toughest struggles. Does Jesus even care? Yes He Does.

 

2. Is Death The End?

Death seems very final to us, because from our side it is. We can do a lot of things for our health, but we can never avoid that truth that awaits us. No matter what culture or place, dealing with death is always a challenge. 

Jesus contrasts death and life in vs 25-26. (John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”)

Even when believers die, they will live. So believers will never actually die. “Those who believe in me” 

John 1:3-5 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Life is promised to those who put their faith in Christ: He is the Life-Giver! We can look around and see that everything the world promises will give us life always fails.

John 10:10 AMP The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have  and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].

Jesus came to reverse the curse of death and bring life.

John 4:14 “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.”

Jesus cares about our troubles now, and he tells us that death is not the end.

3. How Can I Know I Can Trust Jesus?

(John 11:41-44 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”)

You Can Trust Jesus Because He Overcame Death. There are seven signs in John’s Gospel pointing to Jesus This one may be the greatest. If he can call Lazarus out of the tomb what can’t he do for you?

You can trust Jesus because He lets you choose. It was the plan of God to save all of humanity but not to force them into faith. Even after seeing Lazarus raised some did not believe-but many did.

Trust Jesus because His Eternal Plan Involved You.

John 3:16 AMP “For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only  begotten Son, so that whoever believes  and trusts  in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life.

When doubts creep in, remember Mary, Martha, and Lazarus!

Conclusion

This text is more somber than anything. No celebrations, no victory laps, no fireworks. Just a note at vs 53that his enemies decided to kill him.

John 11:53 So from that day on they planned to put him to death.

This text invites us to ask three questions. Does Jesus Care? Is Death the End? Can I Trust Jesus?

Galatians 3:26-27 “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

 

LifeGroup Discussion Questions John 11

1. What is something you’ve had to wait on for such a length of time that it was uncomfortable or frustrating.

2. What do you gather about the relationship Jesus had with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus from this chapter?

3. How can we resolve the seeming conflict between Jesus’ love for Lazarus and his deliberate delay in helping him (vs. 4-5, 15)?

4. What elements of doubt and faith do you see in Martha’s statements to Jesus (vv. 17-27)? How does Jesus stretch Martha’s faith in this brief encounter?

5. Jesus declares to Martha that “he who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (vv. 25-26). What kind of “life” and “death” is Jesus referring to in each case? How does Jesus’ statement alter our normal view of life and death?

6. Why do you think John stresses Jesus’ love for Lazarus and his sisters in 11:3. 5, 36?

7. What did Jesus mean by: “I am the Resurrection and the Life”? (11:25)

8. Some people witnessed the miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection and yet did not believe. Why was this not enough for them?

9. How does the story of Lazarus’ resurrection give you hope? 

10. Tradition claims that Lazarus eventually became a bishop on Cyprus and that his remains are still in the Church of St. Lazarus in the city of Larnaca on that Island. This is referred to as the “second tomb” of Lazarus, the final resting place for his body after his second death. Another tradition says that Lazarus lived about 30 years after his resurrection, and during that time he never smiled, except one time. One day, he saw someone stealing a clay pot
and he smiled saying, “the clay steals the clay”. What would Lazarus’ resurrection experience teach him about the folly of “the clay steals the clay”?

11. In what ways does the account of Lazarus change the way we respond to personal difficulty or the apparent delay of God? How will it change the way you pray for those who are going through difficult situations?

Next Week: John 13:1-20

LORD, I BELIEVE

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Today’s Text:

John 9:1-41  (NRSV) As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.”

10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”
12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.  14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided.

17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” 18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”

30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”

40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

Introduction
This man had been born blind, yet by the end of the story he is the only one with clear vision.  Sometimes, although all of our senses may be properly functional, we can easily miss things that are so clear- so apparent because of how ordinary it is to have our senses bombarded from all angles-  I’d like to introduce you to a man named Ralph Teetor.

In 1902 a reporter in a Manhattan newsroom tapped out a story about a 12 year old boy from Indiana that had built, on his own, a fully functional automobile from a discarded engine and self-machined materials, that could reach speeds of up to 25 mph.  What the reporter did not know, or mention in that report is that Ralph Teetor, the 12 year old boy who was the subject of this article, had become blind in an accident when he was 5 years old.  Teetor graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1912, and went on to accomplish many extraordinary feats, including a method to balance steam turbine motors in submarines, a new type of fishing rod and reel that would fit comfortably in your hand, with a locking mechanism so you could cast with one hand, and he invented one of the first powered lawnmowers.  All this while he was blind.  But the inspiration for his most successful invention came when he was riding in the car with his lawyer.  During their back and forth conversations, the lawyer had a habit of slowing down when he was speaking to Teetor, and then when Teetor would begin talking, the lawyer would accelerate quickly.  The rocking motion that he was experiencing was annoying, so he set his mind to creating a speed control device.  It took him 10 years to complete the project and have a patent issued, He called it controlomatic, then touchomatic, then pressomatic, before finally settling on speedostat for the name of his patent.  It wasn’t long before Cadillac installed this device on all of their cars, and today we know this feature as, you guessed it, cruise control.  A rocking motion that was unnoticed by a person with 5 fully functioning senses, and was completely annoying to another who couldn’t see a thing with his eyes- was the reason we have this standard feature on every automobile that is made today.  

So as we look into this text this morning- what did this blind man in John chapter 9 sense or experience- that should have been clear to everyone else in this story- AND what can we can learn from this encounter with Jesus about ourselves and our  church at Forsythe Avenue in 2018?

LESSONS FROM THE FAITH OF THE BLIND MAN

HE OBEYED JESUS. The most glaring is that He faithfully followed Jesus instructions- and we see the man recall this several times throughout the passage- Jesus said go- so I went is what he keeps saying.  In this debacle of interactions- and personalities- and with the knowledge that these Pharisees, and these neighbors, and his parents had- the blind man is the only one who faithfully went where Jesus said to go.  He did not distort or manipulate Jesus words, he did not question whether it was necessary for him to do what Jesus said, but instead he practices the most basic idea of discipleship-  Jesus said go, so I went.

HE SAW JESUS CLEARLY. The blind man is the only one who sees Jesus clearly. There is great irony in that all the people in this story see Jesus with their eyes, but the blind man sees him more clearly than anyone. You can trace the progression of his growing vision of Jesus. At first he refers to the Lord as “a man named Jesus”; later he says that Jesus is a prophet (17). Toward the end of the story he says that Jesus is a man of God (33) and ultimately he refers to him as “The Son of Man” and he confesses his faith. But in all of it he has clarity that a miracle has happened – a sign as John would call it – pointing to Jesus. No one else in the chapter seems to see it. The blind man saw Jesus clearly.

HE WORSHIPS JESUS. He is the only one who worships.  Verse 37 tells us that he sees Jesus, and in verse 38 he believes, and he worships.  Beggars were despised and we see that from the beginning of the chapter, there is a general assumption that blindness is a curse, or punishment for a sin of the parents- this man who was blind is in no way qualified, he has never seen worship before, he does not know How to worship- all he knows is WHO restored his sight.  The method is irrelevant- but the MAN, the Son of God means everything for his new life.  

Since the blind man had such clarity for who Jesus was and what Jesus did in his life, what are some things the healed blind man would say to us today. He might tell us Here’s how Jesus works in our lives!

WHAT DO WE BELIEVE ABOUT JESUS?

JESUS SEES
John 9:1 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. To be blind in the early days of the first century Judaism was to be considered cursed. Even the disciples wanted to talk about his sin or his parents sin. But he was born blind. Blind people in the first century could not work, were ineligible to become priests, and often ended up as beggars. Almost no effective treatment was available to those who suffered from diseases of the eye and blindness. There were no antibiotics, no effective surgical procedures for most problems, and no eyeglasses. Even today blindness is not a curable problem. Last Fall MIT reported testing a bionic eye implant. So research is coming along. Stem cell transplants offer some hope.

But it’s hard to escape that there is no hope for this man to ever see… but two words give hope: “he saw” … Jesus saw the man. Jesus notices hurting people and that’s why there is hope for the hopeless. You may not be struggling with blindness, but there are many situations in life where we feel hopeless – no way out, no way to recover, no way to endure, no way to face the consequences, no way to get beyond it. Jesus sees our hurts and, more, he is moved by them.

Rick Warren: No tear has ever been hidden from him. No hurtful word said to you has ever passed that he missed. No abuse has ever occurred that he didn’t see and grieve with you. He sees it all. “God never overlooks a single sparrow. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail – even numbering the hairs on your head!” (Luke 12:6-7 MSG).

JESUS GIVES
Another thing that this blind man who can now see would say to us is that the grace of God is not subject to our rendering of what we need.  Grace is available to the helpless- again he was a blind beggar- blind from birth.  If you’ll notice in the interactions that kick off chapter 9- the guy is just sitting there.  I picture him with his hand out, hoping somebody would drop some coins or food into his palm.  The disciples walk by and the man doesn’t say “Hey guys, will you spare me some spit mud so my sight can be restored?”  He was completely oblivious to the world around him- and doesn’t even realize that God will be glorified through his present crisis- this is beyond anything he could have ever imagined.  Again, he was born this way-  He didn’t know faces, he didn’t know color, he couldn’t read or write, he was completely helpless- So in essence- Jesus could be saying- “You want money or food, or enough resources to get you through today so you can return to the exact same state that I found you in- this is what you are begging for blind man- but I have bigger plans for you.  My will for your life is far greater than your plans for this day.  I am going to bless you with something that you have never imagined was possible.  This is reminiscent to Jesus encounter with the woman at the well- she wanted water for that day- but Jesus offers Living water to her.  Perhaps sometimes we seek God to meet our demands, or to remedy our situation, and tell Him what we think we need- but in His infinite love and grace- perhaps we should open our eyes to what he has in store for our lives – things that are beyond measure and imagination- that will change every single aspect of our lives, not just remedy the messes and tragedies we find ourselves but to be completely renewed and restored.    

JESUS HEALS
Jesus as healer is one of the signs that signaled the Messiah. We continue to appeal to the healing power of Jesus. We appeal to Jesus for healing for loved ones who are sick. We seek the healing of Jesus for the hardships and struggles of daily life. The greatest healing we experience is the healing of sin … the forgiveness we find only in the blood of Christ.

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

Healing is not that all challenges are removed from our life, but that God is drawn to our side and He gives us eternal promises to strengthen us.

JESUS REVEALS
There is sight for the blind- If he did tell us this- He would tell us this with ambiguity.  In John chapter 9- we see a man who could not see, and we see people whose eyes work, but have no vision.  How can this be, you may be asking yourself.  I had a calendar one time that was called a magic eye calendar- that looks like a geometric pattern of tye-dye colors- but if you are able to look at the design from the proper perspective- a brand new and different picture jumps out of of the paper and forms this 3D image that makes you swipe your hand in front of you because something that was seemingly nonexistent now can’t be unseen.  You know something is there- but it is just beyond your vision- and you have to literally change the way you look at it.  In John 9 we see these neighbors who know something happened, and the parents who can attest that this is their son that WAS blind since birth, and the pharisees and jews who become divided on how this happened- they all know that there is something that happened but are either selfishly or fearfully unwilling to change their perspective. I believe that this is what the blind man would tell us- that there is sight for the selfishly or fearfully blind.

The Blind man believed Jesus and Worshiped Him, but there were other people in this text who seemed to remain in their blindness. You don’t want to be one of these people

BLAMERS. The first person that we want to avoid being or becoming is the disciple of Jesus who is trying to attribute blame to the condition of this man.  He brings up a religious topic to Jesus, and we can almost hear the intellect in his voice when he says- “Rabbi, who sinned, his mom, or his dad, or him to be born blind?”  The question itself is illogical- because the man was born this way, how could this be a punishment pinned on an unborn child’s sin.  Secondly- we see the lack of vision that these disciples had- a person in need was sitting there- in a helpless, hopeless state- and they chose to analyze HOW he came to be like this.  First of all- what difference does that make to them?  Second of all- how blind and self-righteous can you be that you would rather have a theological discussion about those in need instead of seeing that God has given you what He has given you so that you could love on others.  Whether or not you feel that this man is the result of a sinful choice by his parents, or because of his own poor decisions- he is still loved by God, and we see evidence of what matters most here when Jesus diverts his attention away from this silly discussion topic, and focuses his love, and his grace to this man… while he schools the disciples by answering their question in verse 3 “It was not that this man sinned, or that his parents sinned- but that the works of God may be displayed in him.”

CONFORMERS. You don’t want to be like his fearful parents. Being a part of the synagogue carried cultural, social, and religious implications. The Pharisees were very powerful in the communities of the Jews. Whatever the consequences, the parents of the healed blind man chose to not get involved in the inquisitions of their son. They simply deferred to him when asked about his healing. How often do we find ourselves tempted to downplay our Christianity? When the pressure is on do we choose to conform to those around us … perhaps those we want to impress … or do we take our stand with Christ? Paul warns us not to be conformed to the world … because it’s a great temptation to do that. When we receive the blessings Christ brings into our lives, we also should do our best conform to Him and His Word, not to the world around us in fear of rejection.

CONTROLLERS. You do not want to be like the pharisees here-  Throughout scripture, we see Jesus as graceful to those in need, a lover of children, peaceful with those that are seeking.  But when it comes to his interactions with the “religious” leaders and the “teachers of the law” and who took advantage of the children of God, we see a different Jesus.  Just a few weeks ago, we heard from John 2 when Jesus cleanses the temple.  John brought to our attention that this was a difficult interaction to comprehend because of the aggression of Jesus.  We see him rebuking these religious folk time and time again throughout the NT.  Here in John 9, we see an ironic twist at the end of the chapter- and Jesus tells them because they believe that they have sight- they are guilty, they are blind.  This sounds oxymoronic, but if we pick up what is being shown to us is that the pharisees get involved in this miracle and are looking at it without having the correct perspective.  Their vision is clouded because of their pretentiousness.  Instead of seeing this miracle for what it is, and who it was that actually performed it, they keep saying How v.10, How v.15, How v.16, How v.21, How v.26.  In our lives, there will be things that happen that are unexplainable- miracles and tragedies alike- and in our feeble, simple, sinful minds- we want to assign blame, desire to seek vengeance, or be subject to scientific reasoning, control our understanding- but our faith calls us to look beyond the method, and see the bigger picture.  The source of our sight is not the How- but the WHO- In verse 36- the blind man who could now see- both literally and figuratively asks the right questions and faithfully accepts the answer.  He says “WHO is the Son of Man so that I may believe” .. not How, but Who- and Jesus answers I am, and he believes, and he worships.  Don’t be blinded by the Why, or the How, but instead, I urge you today to see the picture that is so clear, if you are able to go of your fearfulness, or your ingrained habitual mindset- and instead see the WHO that is being glorified all around you.  2 Corinthians 3:16 says that when one turns to the Lord- the veil is removed.  

Conclusion

The healing of the blind man is one of the seven signs in the Gospel of John – all of them pointing to Jesus. The reality of spiritual blindness continues today.  Sometimes we are willingly blind – refusing His love. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re blind. Would you pray today to have your eyes opened to all of the love and healing that Jesus can give you today?

LifeGroup Questions

1.  Have you ever lost an item and eventually realized it was out in plain sight, you had just overlooked it? Care to share that story with the class? Why do you think we can’t see some things that are right in front of us?

2. Based on the question the disciples ask Jesus in verse 2, how do they view the relation between sickness and sin? What is Jesus’ view of the same issue? Which of these views is more widely held among Christians today? For bonus points read Eugene Peterson’s translation of vs 2 in The Message. How does that help the dilemma between these two positions?

3. In verse 5 Jesus claims to be the light of the world. As he brings literal light into the life of the blind man, what are some ways that the light of Jesus could bring light to our sin-blinded culture? What would you most like for the lost people of the world to know about Jesus?

4. Why do you think Jesus goes through the process of making mud and instructing the man to go wash, instead of simply healing him instantly? What kind of connection to Creation can you see in this text (John 1 begins with the Creation).

5. What is Jesus’ purpose in seeking out the healed man a second time? (V 35-38)

6. The blind man believed in Jesus and worshiped him (John 9:38). What do you think the man’s worship involved? What posture before Jesus did he take? What words did he say? How can you demonstrate a worshipful attitude toward Jesus?

7. Can you think of a time (in your life or someone else’s) that God used a weakness, failed relationship or disability to demonstrate his glory?

 

Questions from John: The Way to True Life by Douglas Connelly, a LifeGuide Bible Study from InterVarsity Press.

Encountering Christ

ENCOUNTERING CHRIST     JOHN 4:1-42

Introduction

Clean water is something we take for granted every day.  Recently our neighboring community of Tallulah went through a period of time when their 70 year old water system stopped working, leaving residents with limited to no water. According to the World Health Organization 844 million people worldwide do not have a basic service providing water to their homes. In a Super Bowl ad you might see today, Matt Damon says that if 1% of viewers would buy a Stella Artois chalice, a donation would be made that would supply clean water to 1 million people. There are critics of the ad. It cost 5 million dollars for the 30 second spot. But it does remind us how important it is that water be available to the world. I’m sure any family without water will be grateful to receive the help.

In about 30 AD a nameless woman carried a water jar to a well in Sychar one day about noontime. As she approached, she knew she was not alone at the well. Little did she know what amazing encounter she was about to have.

John 4:1-6 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

Two people to see in this encounter: The woman, and us.

Encounters With Jesus Are Purposeful (4:7-10)

John 4:7-10  A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 

This encounter was on Purpose – Vs. 4 (But he had to go through Samaria.) No one has ever met Christ by accident. Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

Francis Thompson was born in 1859. An English poet, the son of  medical doctor. After spending years on the streets of London, supporting himself with odd jobs, addicted to opium, some publishers took interest in his poetry. In time his fragile health gave way to tuberculosis and he died in 1907. Three of his books of poetry were published, but he is best known for one poem. The Hound of Heaven -The Bishop of London “one of the most tremendous poems ever written.” No matter how he tried to run from the Lord, He always knew that the Hound of Heaven kept chasing him across the years. 

There is no accidental encounter with Christ. He waits for us and follows us, seeking an encounter with us.

Encounters With Jesus Are Provocative (4:11-15)

John 4:11-15 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

There are a dozen reasons why this conversation shouldn’t have happened, but Jesus didn’t let anything stop him from reaching out. 

He ventured beyond the boundaries of the religious and cultural taboos of his day and began a conversation with the woman …. changing the course of her life. – Howard  K. A. Gregory, Feasting on the Gospels

All around us are people who are spiritually thirsty and do not even know it. They dig wells that can’t  satisfy their thirst: Addictions and habits, Money and possessions, sex and selfishness. How easy is it for us to fall into those mistakes? Only an encounter with Christ can satisfy the deep spiritual thirst within. Jesus isn’t afraid to walk into these situations. Never let any regret of the past keep Him out of your present.

Encounters With Jesus are Prophetic (4:16-26)

John 4:16-26 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.

The realization of Jesus’ identity lights up the woman’s face. Jesus is a prophet. Prophets point three directions:

*They point out sin

*They point out a Savior

*They point out a future path

If Jesus told us everything we ever did, how uncomfortable would we be in his presence? Yet Jesus’ knowledge of our sin is not the end of the story … but the source of joy comes when this is attached to the Savior who points a path ahead.

Living water – a spring welling up to eternal life. Jesus is the only One who can make such a promise

Encounters W/ Jesus Are Persuasive (27-33; 39-42)

John 4:39-42 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

Karoline Lewis: “She leaves behind her ostracism, her marginalization, her loneliness, because Jesus has brought into his fold. She leaves behind her disgrace, her disregard, and the disrespect she has endured to enter into a new reality, a new life that is abundant life.”

The theme of John: and they believed in Him. Another theme: and they did not believe in Him. Which describes you?

Conclusion

There are good efforts to bring water to the thirsty in ongoing efforts, but we must never tire of bringing the water of eternal lost into the lives of others. 

In spite of all that God has done to reach us, many remain thirsty for God. The heartbroken Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water and had an encounter with life-giving Jesus. He was there waiting for her, and He’s waiting for you today. 

If you’ve ignored him and tried to just do life your own way, He’s waiting.

If you’ve failed a thousand times, He’s still waiting.

If you’re just ready to take first steps, He’s waiting.

Who will encounter Christ today?

We encounter Christ in many ways.

When we are baptized we are baptized into his death, burial, and resurrection…baptized into Him.

When we open the Scriptures and learn of him.

When we love others and serve them in his name.

When we pray to him in humble repentance.

When we give in to Him and yield our lives to Him.

When we consider our failings and depend on His grace.

Never fail to encounter Christ, that is when our life changes.

As the deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? ~Psalm 42:1-2

 

Resources

NPR report on Matt Damon Commercial

Tallulah Water Crisis

The Hound of Heaven

Karoline M. Lewis. John. Fortress Biblical Preaching Commentaries.

Howard  K. A. Gregory, Feasting on the Gospels, John, Volume 1.

Jesus Cleans House

Jesus Cleans House       John 2:13-23

Audio:

 

Introduction
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.

Conclusion
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)

Resources

Daily Bible Study by William Barclay

Notes on John Dr. Thomas L. Constable http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/htm/NT/John/John.htm

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