May 28, 1995
Sunday Morning Bible Study
:15-18 John bears witness
:15 John bare witness
This is referring to John the Baptist, we'll see this clearer a little further ahead, in verse 30.
John the apostle, the writer of the gospel, never refers to himself by name, only as "the disciple whom Jesus loved"
Every reference to "John" in this gospel refers to John the Baptist.
:15 is preferred before me
or, lit, "has come before me in rank"
:15 he was before me
"He existed in time before me".
Here's an interesting irony:
John says that Jesus would "cometh after" him.
Yet He was before him.
Jesus' ministry would start chronologically after John's. In fact, John was older than Jesus, in terms of earthly births.
Yet Jesus existed in time long before John was ever born.
:16 of his fulness
We read last week that Jesus was
»John 1:14b ...full of grace and truth.
But it means more than just being full of grace and truth (though that's awfully important).
»Colossians 1:19-AV For it pleased [the Father] that in him should all fulness dwell;
Fullness: "A recognized technical term in theology, denoting the totality of the Divine powers and attributes" (Lightfoot).
John was writing in a day when there were several heresies springing up.
One of them in particular was the "Gnostic" heresy.
They felt that all matter was evil, and so when God decided to help the world, He couldn't directly make or send a Savior from heaven, but He sent out a series of "emanations", or, created one being a little farther from Himself, who created another being, etc,. These beings all had diminishing qualities of God, the further away they were from Him, the less they had.
The Gnostics distributed the divine powers among various aeons.
Paul gathers them all up in Christ, a full and flat statement of the deity of Christ.
Jesus isn't lacking at all in any of His deity.
He is fully God.
:16 have all we received
Note the contrast with verses 11-12, same word being used.
»John 1:11-12 AV He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name:
The believers receive all of Jesus' fulness.
We don't just take Jesus as being some kind of "half-god".
He is fully God.
He wants to share of His fullness with you.
Not in making us "gods", but in sharing His power and glory with puny little us.
Receive all that God has for you
I think that sometimes we just don't realize how GREAT our Jesus really is.
Do we really understand just how much God wants to do for us in our lives?
There was a couple who wanted to immigrate to America.
They were poor, but they managed to scrimp and save, and finally buy their tickets on an ocean liner from England to America.
They could only afford the cheapest tickets.
They packed their clothes, and brought along what they thought would be enough food to last the trip.
They brought some bread and cheese to eat.
The first couple of days the bread and cheese were great, but as the days went buy, the bread went stale, and the cheese was getting awfully old.
During the trip, they often walked out on the decks, and would walk by the dining room, looking at all the delicious food piled high on the tables.
Finally, they ran out of food.
They were still several days from America, and they began to panic.
One day they finally got up the nerve and asked the steward if there was any way they could have some food, they would even work to pay for it.
The steward looked at them with surprise, "Didn't you know that all the food on the ship is free? It came with the price of your ticket!"
Do we understand just how much God wants to do in our lives?
It all comes with the price of your ticket - free!
It's kind of like my subscription to the online service, "America Online", which is very much like all the online services.
I can use it to send messages to friends around the country, or the world for the price of a local call.
But there's so much more it can do:
Online encyclopedia, dictionary
Up-to-the-minute news services
The ability to search the news files for a particular subject.
Christian magazines like Christianity Today, Today's Christian Woman, Partnership, Christian History, Leadership, Christian Computing
100s of secular magazines like Time, Popular Science, PC World, Scientific American, National Geographic
Catalog shopping services
Help with your computer
Educational files - lesson plans for teachers, educational computer games for kids
Connection to the Internet
etc. etc. etc.
I could just limit myself to sending messages to friends, but there's so much more to tap in to.
:16 grace for grace
The word "for" speaks of an exchange, or a purchase.
example: "I'll give you ten dollars for that painting"
The idea is that Jesus' grace never wears out.
Every moment, every day, He gives us new grace in exchange for the old grace.
How fresh is your walk?
Our walk with Jesus is a continual process of renewing and growing.
We aren't supposed to live off of old experiences - "Well I remember when God used to work in my life, ten years ago."
God wants to daily load us up with His gifts, His grace.
»Lamentations 3:22-23 AV [It is of] the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 [They are] new every morning: great [is] thy faithfulness.
Are you living off of yesterday's relationship with Jesus, or off of today's?
Illustration: Manna in the wilderness
After Israel was delivered out of Egypt, they wandered in the wilderness for a while.
When they began to run out of food, they cried to God, and God sent them this stuff called "manna".
Some have translated manna as "what is it?", some have said that the root of the word actually comes from the word for "gift", or "grace".
Every day God would provide this manna ("grace") just outside the camp, and all that Israel had to do was to go outside and pick it up.
But God only wanted them to pick up enough manna for one day.
When they tried to pick up more, and keep it over night, the manna turned all yucky, and worms appeared in it.
This is such a great picture of how God wants to give us daily grace.
He wants our walk with Him to be fresh, up to date, each day.
When we try to live week to week, it's going to get old, yucky, and full of worms.
Your walk with God must be something that happens everyday.
It's not to be based on coming to church once a week.
Coming to church is to help for sure, but God wants you plugged in to Him everyday, even on the days you don't come to church!
How do I do that?
Set aside some time everyday to spend time with God.
I think it works best in the morning, but the time isn't that important as the consistency.
You keep your doctor appointments, don't you?
Does God deserve any less?
Read and meditate on the Bible - do it systematically, not randomly.
:17 law ... Moses ... grace and truth ... Jesus Christ
This is the first time that John mentions Jesus' name, rather than just "the Logos".
Jesus' name was "Jesus". "Christ" is not His last name, it is His title.
I might be called "Richard Daddy". My name is Richard, my title, or role, is "Daddy" to my boys.
John is contrasting between the two extremes: Moses and Jesus.
Moses brought in the Law.
He received it on Mount Sinai, after Israel came out of Egypt.
The law is good, after all, God gave it.
But the purpose of the Law was to show man how sinful he was, and how much he needed a Savior.
»Romans 7:7-AV What shall we say then? [Is] the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
The Law shows us God's standards, and just how impossible it is to keep them by ourselves.
You can come to God by obeying the Law, but you have to be completely perfect in doing it.
»Matthew 5:20-AV For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
»Matthew 5:48-AV Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
It was supposed to be like a teacher, which teaches us that we need help.
»Galatians 3:24-AV Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
It was Jesus that showed us God's final step in Salvation.
Under the Law we were trying to relate to God based on our own strength, trying to meet God's standards by ourselves.
It is in Jesus that we find that God has made a way to Himself based not on what we do for God, but based on what God does for us.
It is in Jesus that we discover what God desires to GIVE us.
Grace is another word for "gift", an undeserved gift.
:18 No man hath seen God at any time
No human being has seen God the Father face to face, and lived to tell about it.
There are some passages that seem a little contradictory to this though at first glance:
If anyone ever got close to God the Father, it was Moses.
Just last week we read in our daily reading:
»Exodus 33:11-AV And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.
But in reality, this wasn't quite fully face to face, since later on in the same chapter, when Moses wants to see God even better, God said:
»Exodus 33:20-23 AV And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. 21 And the LORD said, Behold, [there is] a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: 22 And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: 23 And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.
Even Moses wasn't allowed to get a good look at God's face, just his back.
:18 in the bosom of the Father
kolpos 1) the front of the body between the arms
It's the place that's close to your heart, a place for loving, cherishing, and comforting.
John used this word in talking about his own place at the last supper:
»John 13:23-AV Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.
Jesus used this word when giving the parable of the rich man and Lazarus:
»Luke 16:22-AV And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
This speaks of the closeness of Jesus to the Father, and their relationship.
It speaks of the fellowship and love they have had since before all eternity.
It is what gives Jesus the authority to talk about the Father like He does.
:18 he hath declared him
exegeomai 1) to lead out, 2) metaph., to draw out in narrative, unfold a teaching
We get our word "exegete" and "exegesis" from it, meaning to draw out the meaning from a text in studying a passage.
The opposite is "eisegesis" which means to put your own meaning into the text, rather than draw out the meaning that the text already has.
Jesus, who has had this marvelous relationship with the Father from eternity past, has now described and taught us exactly what the Father is like.
If you want to know God, come to Jesus
»John 14:6-9 AV Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. 7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. 8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. 9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou [then], Shew us the Father?
Martin Luther once said, "Anything that one imagines of God apart from Christ is only useless thinking and vain idolatry."
»Colossians 1:15-AV Who is the image of the invisible God...
:19-28 John's witness about himself
:19 Who are thou?
The religious hierarchy come out to quiz John and find out what's going on.
John is this wild guy who hung out in the desert
We have this description of him:
»Matthew 3:4-AV And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
Kind of a crazy guy, huh?
John was telling the people to repent and get ready for the Messiah.
As people were repenting, he would baptize them in the river Jordan, to symbolize that they were being cleansed from their sins.
He was pretty effective, and was developing quite a following.
The religious guys knew he wasn't one of them.
Though ironically, he was from a priestly family, and could have become a priest serving in the temple (Luke 1).
So they want to know what's going on.
After all, anything religious needs to be okayed by them (that's what they thought!).
:20 I am not the Christ
The word "Christ" is the greek form of the Hebrew word "Messiah".
The Messiah was the coming king that the Jews had been looking forward to.
He was supposed to deliver the nation from their oppressors.
:21 Art thou Elias?
Elijah was one of two people in the Old Testament who did not die.
Instead, he was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind
»2Kings 2:11-AV And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, [there appeared] a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
But that was not to be the end of Elijah.
The prophet Malachi was given a prophecy that Elijah would come back one more time:
»Malachi 4:5-6 AV Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
In a way, John the Baptist partially fulfilled this, in that we are told that he came "in the spirit of Elijah"
»Luke 1:17-AV And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
But John wasn't the complete fulfillment of Elijah, he says so here.
Elijah is still coming!
:21 Art thou that prophet?
Moses had mentioned toward the end of his life that God would be raising up another person like him, called "a prophet".
»Deuteronomy 18:15-AV The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;
Christians have often interpreted this prophecy to talk about the Messiah himself.
But the Jews thought that this would be another prophet who would be another forefunner to the Messiah.
»(John 7:40-AV Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.)
:23 I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness ...
John now quotes from the prophet Isaiah:
»Isaiah 40:3-5 AV The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see [it] together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken [it].
I find it fascinating to think about this.
Here was this crazy guy attracting large crowds out in the wilderness.
But he is not a guy with an "identity crisis".
He knows exactly who he is.
Know your identity
John doesn't have illusions of grandeur.
He knows he's not the Messiah, Elijah, or the Prophet.
He knows his purpose in life, even seeing it in the Scripture.
Is this something unique to just John the Baptist? NO!
God has given you a niche
»1Corinthians 12:18-AV But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
God has plans for you
»Ephesians 2:10-AV For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
»Jeremiah 29:11-AV For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
God's plans are important ones too:
In attempting to recruit John Sculley, the 38-year-old President of Pepsi-Cola, Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple Computer, issued a tremendous challenge to Sculley. He asked: "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?"
-- Odyssey, John Sculley, p.90
He created you and knows just what you're capable of, and how to get you running:
In the early days of the automobile a man's Model-T Ford stalled in the middle of the road. He couldn't get it started no matter how hard he cranked nor how much he tried to advance the spark or adjust things under the hood. Just then a chauffeured limousine pulled up behind him, and a wiry, energetic man stepped out from the back seat and offered his assistance. After tinkering for a few moments the stranger said, "Now try it!" Immediately the engine leaped to life. The well-dressed individual then identified himself as Henry Ford. "I designed and built these cars," he said, "so I know what to do when something goes wrong."
Knowing your "true identity" is something that will only happen when Jesus is a part of your life.
Having true purpose and meaning in life is only going to come when you find out what the Creator has created you for.
:24 the Pharisees
This was an important sect within Judaism
There were about 6,000 of them.
They held to a strict interpretation of the Law and also held to many oral traditions.
They also believed in the miraculous, and angels.
:25 Why baptizest thou then ...
It is a little unclear just when it got started, but the Jews themselves eventually took up the practice of baptism.
Distinctives of strictly Jewish baptism:
1. The person baptized themself
2. It was only done in the case of a Gentile who wanted to become a follower of Judaism.
Some think that this didn't start until after John's ministry.
But look at the story of Naaman and Elisha. (2Kings 5)
Naaman wanted to be healed of leprosy.
Elisha told him to dip himself into the Jordan river seven times.
What it all boils down to is this:
They are questioning whether John had enough authority to be doing something like baptizing.
And to top it all off, John was baptizing Jews, as if they were Gentiles converting to Juaism.
:27 He it is
Remember, John is answering a question from the Pharisees.
They are asking him by what authority he should presume to be baptizing.
John is saying that he is only baptizing by the authority of the coming Messiah.
:27 whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose
This was the lowest of the lowest jobs that a slave might be asked to do for his Master.
It was said in the Jewish writings:
The Talmud says, "Every office a servant will do for his master, a scholar should perform for his teacher, except loosing his sandal-thong."
A student of a teacher might have been asked to do a lot of things, but never something so humbling as untying his master's sandals.
John is saying that his Master is so much higher than he is, that he isn't even worthy to do the lowest kind of jobs for his Master.
Some might say that John had a poor self-image.
I don't think so.
I think he had a proper self-image.
He understood God's loftiness, and his own depravity.
This is a person who God can use.
»1Peter 5:5b-6AV ... Yea, all [of you] be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
:28 in Bethabara
There's a little disagreement as to where this place was exactly.
Some Greek manuscripts say: "Bethany" - and that's how it's translated in NIV, NASB, NRSV.
There was a "Bethany" near Jerusalem, but this wouldn't seem correct, it's 20 miles away from the Jordan river.
Some have tried to place this at a place on the Jordan river, 6 miles north of the Dead Sea.
Others feel that "Bethabara" is the better manuscript.
Bethabara = "house of the ford"
This may correspond to Bethbarah (fords of Abarah), the ancient ford of the Jordan on the road to Gilead, in the northern part of Israel.
This seems a little more logical since we read that after Jesus got baptized, that by the third day, He was in Cana of Galilee, which is 80 miles from the southern "Bethany", but only 20 miles from the northern "Bethabara".
If either are correct, the idea is that John was preaching at a place where people were.
We get the idea that John was preaching out in the middle of nowhere.
Not quite so.
If you had to cross the Jordan to get to the other side, you didn't just cross any old place.
You had to cross at an established crossing, a "ford".
This would be a place of traffic, people always coming through.
Minister where the people are
It's not going to do any good if you're going to preach the gospel to four empty walls.
Go to where the people are.