The I AM sayings of Jesus 2 of 2

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John 8:12 – Jesus said: “I am the Light of the World, the Light that leads to life”

Covenant connection: Yahweh Shammah – the Lord who is there, overflowing and filling everything, as light does.  Ezekiel 48:35.

Read and re-readJohn 8:12-19 NLT

12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow Me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

13 The Pharisees replied, “You are making those claims about yourself! Such testimony is not valid.”

14-16 Jesus told them, “These claims are valid even though I make them about Myself. For I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don’t know this about Me. You judge Me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. And if I did, My judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent Me is with Me.

17-18 “Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact. I am one witness, and My Father who sent Me is the other.”

19 “Where is your father?” they asked.

Jesus answered, “Since you don’t know who I am, you don’t know who My Father is. If you knew Me, you would also know My Father.”

Read, and re-read– The City of Jerusalem was lit up in a more extravagant way during its festivals and the lighting ceremony was an important part of celebrating Tabernacles, or Shelters, a bit like our switching on of Christmas lights in town centres. In the inner courts of the temple were 16 gold bowls of oil, lit as lamps. Jesus stood under these lights, in the Temple, and said that He was now the source of the light, not just in the sense of salvation for Israel, but salvation for the world, v.12.

Meditate– in John 5:19-30 Jesus sets out His position clearly as doing the will of the Father who sent Him, not some scheme of His own. This argument continues and becomes more heated as Jesus teaches at the Festival of Shelters through chapter 7 and from 8:12. The story of the uncaring judgment of the woman caught in adultery at the beginning of chapter 8 is a graphic illustration of the need for God’s light to penetrate the darkness of religious attitudes. (continued)

John 8:12 – Jesus said: “I am the Light of the World, the Light that leads to life”

Covenant connection: Yahweh Shammah – the Lord who is there

Reread – John 8:12-19 NLT

12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow Me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

13 The Pharisees replied, “You are making those claims about yourself! Such testimony is not valid.”

14-16 Jesus told them, “These claims are valid even though I make them about Myself. For I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don’t know this about Me. You judge Me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. And if I did, My judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent Me is with Me.

17-18 “Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact. I am one witness, and My Father who sent Me is the other.”

19 “Where is your father?” they asked.

Jesus answered, “Since you don’t know who I am, you don’t know who My Father is. If you knew Me, you would also know My Father.”

Meditate further

What does “Light of the world” and the “light that leads to life” mean? Also in John 1:4, “His life brought light to everyone”? “Light” and “life” are closely associated.

The coming of the “light” of God was long promised, which was to be light for Gentiles also. Read these Scriptures and see how the picture builds: Exodus 25:37; Leviticus 24:2; Ps. 27:1; Isa. 9:2; 42:6; 49:6; John 9:5; Acts 13:47; 26:18, 23; Eph. 5:8–14; 1 John 1:5–7

The ‘light’ that Jesus represents has a number of closely related facets:

The metaphors of light and darkness are most familiar to us as pictures of the kingdom of darkness, and Jesus coming to be the first realisation of the kingdom of light.

‘Darkness’ is hiddenness. The truth, mercy, guidance of God are absent, and life is affected by anxiety, like the struggle of trying to get about in physical darkness. In darkness, points of reference are obscured and space seems to contract and fear can dominate. This is a picture of how Satan works in our thoughts, where he is able to.

‘Light’ is when the landscape is visible, with details and direction revealed. So ‘light’ can be a word for the Holy Spirit’s Revelation. Not everyone found revelation in Jesus’ words or presence or actions. Some were outraged and wanted to stone Him, and others argued bitterly about what they felt was a dismissal of their religious history and inherited righteousness. For some the light came as they saw Jesus as their promised Messiah. Others were like Isaiah’s “people walking in darkness” who were not yet seeing the light. The Holy Spirit was working with Jesus in people’s hearts, where they were spiritually open to Him – we can, as it were, open the curtains to the light, or shut them to keep out the glare. We have freewill.

Jesus proclaimed that He was the revelation of God, and those not closed by rebellious or independent attitudes found that the Holy Spirit gave them understanding of who Jesus was, and His relationship with Almighty God.

Apply

Jesus is urging His first hearers to trust the light, and so become ‘children of light’, John 12:35-36.

Welcoming Jesus as Light of the world is a choice, but not the way it is generally presented in a pre-Christmas talk. He is in our lives as the Lord of revelation. So do we work with what we see and what knowledge we have — “It is how it is” — or do we enter a heavenly plea of dissatisfaction, and choose to hold out for a heavenly perspective.

What goes on in the heavenlies — a spiritual stage, no less real because it is unseen — and the twists and turns of our lives and circumstances, are not disconnected. They work in parallel. Ephesians 6:10-18 is a well-known teaching that emphasises this.

Sometimes we are too quick to pray for a result, without asking for heaven’s insight as to the best outcomes, from that far greater perspective and wisdom.

If we know Jesus and know Him as the one who said “I AM the light of the world”, we can appeal to Him to bring the light of heavenly revelation — which then puts us in a powerful place of being able to prayerfully agree with it.

Pray…

…in your own words, seeking God’s grace for further and deeper revelation of the light that brings ‘life’ and which impacts others by reflecting God’s light and life to them, as we learn to walk as “children of the light”. What is a situation that is frustrating or unchanging, and you are saying: “I just don’t understand…”. Ask the Lord who is the light of your world, to give you spiritual eyes to see what His light is revealing for you.

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John 10:7,9 — Jesus said: “I AM the gate for the sheep”

Covenant connection: Yahweh Tsidkenu, The Lord our Righteousness 

John 10:1-10 NLT

1 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber!

2 “But the one who enters through the gate is the Shepherd of the sheep.

3-4 “The gatekeeper opens the gate for Him, and the sheep recognise His voice and come to Him. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. After He has gathered His own flock, He walks ahead of them, and they follow Him because they know His voice.

5 “They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

6-7 Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what He meant, so He explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.

“All who came before Me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them.

9 “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through Me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.

10 “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Read, and re-readIt is also teaching that explains a healing miracle, John 9. Jesus often took opportunity to teach how the kingdom of God was working, in the broader significance of signs and wonders that people witnessed.

The previous chapter, John 9, details the healing of a man blind from birth, the memorable story of Jesus rubbing spit and mud into his blind eyes and telling him to wash out the blindness in the Pool of Siloam. The Pharisees who observed this said the healing was wrong and offered three contradictory reasons: Jesus, they said, was a sinner for doing His ‘work’ on the Sabbath; the man was obviously a sinner because he was born blind; or he was pretending, not blind, and had not received his sight at all, John 10:14-21.

What follows (chapter 10) is about spiritually blind, false shepherds resenting someone who had been given sight – and failing to discern the true shepherd and His call – using a picture of everyday Palestinian sheep husbandry practice. It is full of allusions to things familiar to Jesus’ hearers, but  unfamiliar to us, even in a sheep farming area.

We’ll take a closer look at the characters, especially the Gate character, shortly.

John 10:7,9 — Jesus said: “I AM the gate for the sheep”

Covenant connection: Yahweh Tsidkenu, The Lord our Righteousness 

Re-read again John 10:1-10 NLT

1 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber!

2 “But the one who enters through the gate is the Shepherd of the sheep.

3-4 “The gatekeeper opens the gate for Him, and the sheep recognise His voice and come to Him. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. After He has gathered His own flock, He walks ahead of them, and they follow Him because they know His voice.

5 “They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

6-7 Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what He meant, so He explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.

“All who came before Me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them.

9 “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through Me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.

10 “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

More on the context

The characters in the illustration are, in order of appearance:

The thief, v.1 and v.10

The Shepherd of the sheep, v.2

The gatekeeper, v.3

The sheep, vv.2-7

The stranger, v.5

The gate (figure of speech for a person), v.7 and v.9

Several families’ flocks would be quartered together at night, especially in winter, in a stone enclosure, often next to a house. It was a place of safety from wolves and other predators, with one narrow entry point. A gatekeeper was a hired hand who looked after the enclosure for all the shepherds; they would come in the morning and call out their own sheep. The sheep responded to their voice and their call, and the shepherd would know the sheep that were his, from among the mass of similar animals.

It is the personification of the Gate as Jesus that we focus on here. There is a distinction between Jesus the Gate and Jesus the Shepherd which we will come to.

Meditate

Wilderness shepherds made enclosures to keep the sheep safe, bringing them in at night and leading them out to pasture at daybreak. The nation’s ‘shepherds’ should have looked after their flock — but didn’t. They should have pointed people to the way of salvation through living in the spirit of the law. Instead they turned it into a mass of regulations, to which the prophet Micah said:

No, O people, the LORD [Yahweh] has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 NLT

Jesus is pointing out that corrupt leaders, including those in His time, were effectively barring the gate to people rather than pointing to the gate. On the other hand, He has come as the true Gate for the sheep to come into the kingdom, the Way to salvation. There is only one Way through, one Gate, and Jesus is it. He knows them and they know His  voice. They recognise that He is the Way.

John 10:7,9 — Jesus said: “I AM the gate for the sheep”

Covenant connection: Yahweh Tsidkenu, The Lord our Righteousness 

Re-read Scripture againJohn 10:1-10 NLT

1 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber!

2 “But the one who enters through the gate is the Shepherd of the sheep.

3-4 “The gatekeeper opens the gate for Him, and the sheep recognise His voice and come to Him. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. After He has gathered His own flock, He walks ahead of them, and they follow Him because they know His voice.

5 “They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

6-7 Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what He meant, so He explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.

“All who came before Me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them.

9 “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through Me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.

10 “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Apply

Jesus is fully God and fully man, so He is both the Good Shepherd and the Shepherd of Israel in being the incarnate Son of Yahweh. He is also the Gate for the sheep, the person who acts as the avenue of salvation for all who recognise who He is.

Where was Jesus coming from, in saying that he was the Gate for the sheep? He is telling us that he is the incarnation of Jeremiah’s prophetic designation of the Lord, the covenant name of Yahweh Tsidkenu, the Lord our Righteousness:

“In those days and at that time I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. In that day Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this will be its name: ‘The LORD [Yahweh] Is Our Righteousness.’ Jeremiah 33:15-16 NLT, also Jer. 23:5-6.

Judah and Jerusalem are places but here represent the totality of the people of God, which soon extended beyond Judaism and transitioned to become the Christian church, believing Jews and increasingly, believing non-Jews.

In our culture, exclusive claims do not sit well. One of the most argued-against truths in the Bible relates to there only being one way in and out of the enclosure:

There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 NLT

This truth becomes more clear (and more reasonable!) in the context of the Old Covenant roots in Yahweh Tsidkenu.

Jesus is the Gate because only through Jesus can we be saved. Jesus is the Gate because only He represents the ‘how’ of our being saved. How we do it is by encountering Jesus, the reality of Yahweh Tsidkenu, the righteousness of God, and recognising that in Him is the righteousness that we could not earn or achieve. When we give up our independence and submit to His Lordship, we submit to His righteousness over us as well – and the Gate brings us through.

We are transformed by the LORD our righteousness, who we know as Jesus Christ. We are saved, spiritually and also emotionally and physically. It is an event, but as we encounter Jesus the Gate more and more, also a process of ongoing saving and healing. The revelation grows that we ARE the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, in line with 2 Cor. 5:21.

Pray

Lord Jesus, we are so grateful to have been called by Your Holy Spirit and given the revelation of how You are our righteousness, the Gate out of darkness and the devil’s dominion and into to salvation and freedom and living in the light. We say again that You are our Lord, and You are the righteousness we could never achieve, the Gate allowing us to enter heaven’s courts and to  be able to know the love and acceptance of our Father. We praise you with words – and with our lives. Amen.

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Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd” – John 10:11,14

Covenant connection: Yahweh Rohi – Lord is my Shepherd, Psalm 23:1

John 10:1-5, 11-16 NLT 

1-2 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the Shepherd of the sheep.

3 “The gatekeeper opens the gate for Him, and the sheep recognise His voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

4-5 “After He has gathered His own flock, He walks ahead of them, and they follow Him because they know His voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

11-13 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd sacrifices His life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

14-15 “I am the Good Shepherd; I know My own sheep, and they know Me, just as My Father knows Me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice My life for the sheep.

16 “I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to My voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.”

Read, and re-read 

– Jesus is talking about something very familiar to His first-century Palestine hearers. At the end of the day sheep were kept safe from predators and thieves in a walled enclosure, often near a house, with one gate for access. Several families’ flocks would be corralled together and at daybreak each shepherd would come and call out his own flock, who would know his voice. They were used to following their shepherd to grazing and water.

‘Shepherd’ is used widely in the OT as a synonym for ‘leader’. The Bible talks about shepherds, shepherds of the nation and the Shepherd of Israel.

People left without leadership to look to were described in both OT and NT as ‘sheep without a shepherd’, a graphic picture of being vulnerable. The prophets draw contrasts between true and caring shepherds, who keep God’s covenant values, and abusive leaders who have diverged to be independent from God’s way, and who are profiting at the expense of those they should be protecting. Some leaders were seen as shepherds of the nation, with a role to lead the nation in and out e.g. Joshua who was appointed by Moses with God’s call to lead Israel into the promised land, Numbers 27:15-18. The Shepherd of Israel is a title of the Lord (Yahweh) used in Psalm 80:1.

• For further study, read Psalm 80:1, and 23:1, Isaiah 40:10-11, Ezekiel 34:11-16, Zechariah 10:2, Mark 6:34

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Continued

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd” – John 10:11,14

Covenant connection: Yahweh Rohi – Lord is my Shepherd, Psalm 23:1

Re-read Scripture again – John 10:1-5, 11-16 

1-2 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the Shepherd of the sheep.

3 “The gatekeeper opens the gate for Him, and the sheep recognise His voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

4-5 “After He has gathered His own flock, He walks ahead of them, and they follow Him because they know His voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

11-13 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd sacrifices His life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

14-15 “I am the Good Shepherd; I know My own sheep, and they know Me, just as My Father knows Me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice My life for the sheep.

Meditate 

16 “I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to My voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.”

In and around John 10:11-15 Jesus is talking about coming to the ‘pen’ with its mixture of sheep as the Shepherd of His flock, and calling for those who will follow Him. That is a different kind call, a call to come to Jesus out of religious legalistic Judaism. We see some who are recognising it and some, especially the religious institution, opposing it. The healed man in John 9 is one of the ‘sheep’ who hear the Lord’s voice. By contrast, those who expelled him from the synagogue are “strangers”, v.5, who Jesus likens to conventional thieves and robbers, and to the ‘false shepherds’ of Ezekiel 34:2-4.

The discourse in chapter 10 is about the failure of the nation’s spiritual leaders who did not lead people in the way of salvation. “Those who came before” were like robbers who exploited the sheep, John 10:10, who didn’t see God’s kingdom, let alone lead others into it — because they were blind. The blind were the most critical of Jesus opening blind eyes– both literally and in the spiritual sense.

Apply

Jesus’ pen contains sheep, not goats. They are people with some sense of belonging to God, people of some faith. The challenge is whether they will recognise who He is, a key person whose coming was taught by their faith, and whether they will break with tradition to follow Him.

Our society is very different. It is mostly goats and some sheep, and only God can truly tell the difference because, like Palestinian sheep and goats, they look the same, Matt. 25:22-23. What we can say objectively is that 94% do not attend (Christian) church with any regularity (British Social Attitudes, 2017). Of the 6%, a proportion are listening for the voice of the Shepherd of the Sheep, and some are not – and can be as harsh as those who turned on the man who had received His sight from Jesus. The ones who know the voice of the shepherd, can tell the difference between Him and other voices that call. There are plenty of ‘other voices’ and ‘strangers’ in what society calls the Church.

How do we work with this? Jesus wants to love goats into becoming sheep, and wants everyone to love hearing His voice and finding His provision of (spiritual and material) food and water. So we who love Him, and love hearing His voice, need to be out and about, conversing about this. The church of Word and Spirit is quite practised at creating an environment for people who know the Shepherd’s voice, to hear His voice some more. We are not so good at loving goats (who look just like us) and pointing them to the Good Shepherd. However, with the Holy Spirit active in us, we are positioned to speak with something of the Shepherd’s voice and tone, and to help Him call people to Him.

Pray…

… in your own words, thanking God that He chose you to hear the Shepherd’s voice and the Holy Spirit helped you to respond. Pray a prayer of commitment to the task of helping others, in a noisy world of many confusing voices, to hear and know the Good Shepherd of the Sheep.

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Jesus said: “I AM the resurrection and the Life” – John 11:25

Covenant connection: Yahweh Rophe – The Lord your healer, Exodus 15:26

John 11:17-27 NLT

17-20 When Jesus arrived at Bethany, He was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him. But Mary stayed in the house. 

21-22 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give You whatever You ask.”

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

25-26 Jesus told her, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes in Me will never ever die. Do you believe this…?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed You are the Messiah, the Son of God, the One who has come into the world from God.”

Read, and re-read

This “I AM” saying Jesus is part of the story of Lazarus’ death and being raised again to life by Jesus, and it takes place in Bethany, a village with the Arabic name El-Azariyeh  – that recalls Lazarus – a couple of miles outside Jerusalem on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives.

Lazarus, Martha and Mary were one of the more prominent families in Bethany, an almshouse village whose name, from Beth ăniyyâ, means house of the poor, or house of the afflicted. This is important context for the last and greatest of Jesus’ miraculous signs where Lazarus was called back into life.

Bethany was associated with Jesus in a number of ways. 

He was one of many Galileans who stayed there on their way to Jerusalem – it was on their preferred route that skirted Samaria and approached the city from the east.

Simon the Leper lived there – he might have been re-settled there – and it was at his house that Jesus was anointed with the ointment worth a year’s wages, before His trial and death. This ‘almshouse village’ was the context of His saying “You will always have the poor among you…”, John 12:8 (Deut. 15:11).

Meditate

Miracles that Jesus performed, and His sayings that went with the miracles, all worked towards one end – proving who He was, vv.15, 42. He was on a mission primarily to Jews, to call them out of religious Judaism and into new life in Him by recognising Him as their Immanuel. So He had to be seen as more than the rabbi with a northern accent, more than a prophet, more than someone associated with wonders, more than a teacher of authority – they had to ‘get’ that He was their Messiah. Martha had to ‘get’ this – v.27.

Jesus said: “I AM the resurrection and the Life” – John 11:25

Covenant connection: Yahweh Rophe – The Lord your healer, Exodus 15:26

Re-read Scripture again – John 11:17-27 NLT

17-20 When Jesus arrived at Bethany, He was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him. But Mary stayed in the house. 

21-22 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give You whatever You ask.”

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

25-26 Jesus told her, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes in Me will never ever die. Do you believe this…?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed You are the Messiah, the Son of God, the One who has come into the world from God.”

Meditate further

Miracles that Jesus performed, and His sayings that went with the miracles, all worked towards one end – proving who He was, vv.15, 42. He was on a mission primarily to Jews, to call them out of religious Judaism and into new life in Him by recognising Him as their Immanuel. So He had to be seen as more than the rabbi with a northern accent, more than a prophet, more than someone associated with wonders, more than a teacher of authority – they had to ‘get’ that He was their Messiah. Martha had to ‘get’ this – v.27.

Lazarus had been dead for four days when Jesus, who had been sent for earlier, but had delayed two days, finally arrived, having received a word of knowledge from God and a word of wisdom about what He was to do, John 11:4-7.

Jews had a cultural belief (long before the Resurrection of Jesus!) that the soul stayed in the body for three days; the delay until the fourth day made it definite, in the minds of observers, that all hope was gone. Lazarus was well and truly dead.

And then Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out of the grave while instructed his family and others around him: 

“Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?… Father, thank you for hearing Me. You always hear Me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent Me…Lazarus, come out!”

“Unwrap him and let him go!”

And Bethany, the house of the afflicted, received a new identity – the place of the resurrected.

Later, according to Luke, who is careful with details, it was near Bethany, the disciples’ home from home, that Jesus called the disciples to witness his ascension to heaven, Luke 24:50-51.

This is about believing in Jesus and taking Him at His word. Just as He received a specific word and sense of the Father’s direction for Lazarus’ situation and the grief of his family, so it helps to ask for, and receive a word about, whatever present challenging situation we face.

Apply

But will we believe? Will we trust Jesus to be the resurrection, and the life?

This is about more than human life and death, important though that is. But we face many more bereavements of a more common kind. The Christian life and gospel is, uniquely, about dying well as much as it is about living well. Things have to die. Things in us have to die. Only then can the next resurrection take place.

Things that we hold dear in life and church, things we have invested in or gained a sense of identity from, have to be submitted to God. That’s basic. But sometimes He will determine that they have to die. That confronts us with the real question, “Whose glory is in view here?” Asking God to share His glory is not on, and so sometimes we are reminded of that. But it is out of things that die, that new things are raised up. Jesus is Lord over death because He has conquered death and He is also Lord of life – in fact He is the Way, the Life and the Reality. To what will you apply the lesson of Lazarus, today?

Pray

Lord show me what in me has to die, so that You can bring Your new life out of that dying. Lord, show me what around me is dying, so that I can join my prayer with others to see the new thing you are doing. Lord, as a word of revelation guided Your response to difficult events in the lives of Your close friends, so help me to ask for and receive revelation of what You are doing in difficult circumstances I face – so I can agree with Your plan and Your timing. Amen.

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Jesus said: “I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life” (1)

Covenant connection: Yahweh M’keddesh – The Lord our holiness, Leviticus 20:8

John 14:1-7 NLT

1-2 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in Me. There is more than enough room in My Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?

3-4 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with Me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”

5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where You are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus told him, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.

7 If you had really known Me, you would know who My Father is. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him!”

Read and re-read

Jesus said elsewhere that His followers would be received into “eternal habitations” or “an eternal home” — the sense of a place prepared for them, Luke 16:9; 1 Cor. 2:9. The most immediate way Jesus would “come and get” the disciples was in His post-resurrection appearances, but clearly Jesus was looking far ahead to His final return, the Day of the Lord. Whatever the timing, He told the disciples that they knew the way to where He was going. It was the kind of argument often used by Greek orators and rabbis: You know the way, because I am the Way, and you know Me!

The Old Testament teachings, and the symbolism around the tabernacle and temple, emphasised exclusivity of relationship with God. They were to have no other gods, no idols, no objects of worship except Yahweh. They were to be mindful that He was jealous in seeking their undivided affection, Exodus 20:3-5. The curtain was a physical reminder that God’s presence was out of bounds to all except the high priest.

Now this exclusivity has turned into something else — the exclusive role of Jesus in being the way of salvation and the way to the Father. He has the exclusive right, to be the inclusive way, for all who choose to make Him the way. Only through Jesus can we gain access to God. He is Yahweh M’keddesh, the Lord our holiness. There is no other name, no other way to God, Acts 4:12.

In the early church, followers of Jesus were first known as followers of the Way, Acts 9:2, before the somewhat mocking label ‘Christians’, or ‘little Christs’ became widespread.

Meditate

Jesus’ statement means two things. Firstly, it means that He is the way of God, the truth of God and the life of God, incarnate. It is a clear claim to deity. Secondly, it expresses that He, standing as our holiness, stands to usher us in to God’s presence, whereas the heavy temple curtain hung as a barrier to prevent us from entering.

Jesus as the Truth is the fulfilment of the teaching of the OT. John emphasises this in his gospel.

Similarly, Jesus is the only one who fulfils the OT promise of life given by God, having life in Himself and being uniquely equipped to confer life on others.

Jesus said: “I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life” (2)

Covenant connection: Yahweh M’keddesh – The Lord our holiness, Leviticus 20:8

Re-read the Scripture againJohn 14:1-7 NLT

1-2 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in Me. There is more than enough room in My Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?

3-4 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with Me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”

5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where You are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus told him, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.

7 If you had really known Me, you would know who My Father is. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him!”

Meditate (continued) – Jesus as the Truth is the fulfilment of the teaching of the OT. John emphasises this in his gospel.

Similarly, Jesus is the only one who fulfils the OT promise of life given by God, having life in Himself and being uniquely equipped to confer life on others.

• For further study on Jesus as Truth (or reality) see John 1:14, 17; 5:33; 18:37; also John 8:40, 45-46; 14:9.

• For further study in Jesus as Life in Himself, and life for others, see John 1:4; 5:26; 11:25-26 and 3:16.

Apply – Simply receiving Jesus as the Saviour who has done it all for us, is so disarmingly simple, it is also alarmingly simplistic to the religious mindset we all carry to a greater or lesser extent. Because we so want to be found worthy of this grace, it ceases to be grace any more until we recognise our error. This mindset will always try to creep in; life has programmed us for this thinking. But the challenge of “I AM the Way… Truth… and Life” is to discern what, in our thinking, is “earthly and unspiritual” because its leading is fundamentally selfish and ambitious. The challenge is to remember the Way and choose better.

What is this passage about, in a sentence? There are seven occurrences in seven verses of the words ‘know’ and ‘see’ — building towards the climax of knowing and seeing the Father. This passage is about knowing God, and it tells us that the only way to do this, is through knowing — really knowing — Jesus. Knowing Jesus is knowing his holiness, and so we become people who others can see have Yahweh M’keddesh in us.

Pray – Lord God, I confess that too often I forget what Jesus has done for me, and lapse into the world’s thinking that I am the Way for me. Help me, Lord Jesus, to know You In a way that grows ever deeper and more trusting, and to submit all I do to seeking Your way, truth and life. Amen.

= = = = = = =

Jesus said: “I AM the True Vine” – John 15:1 (1)

(1 of 3)

Covenant connection: Yahweh Shalom, the Lord my peace

John 15:1-17 NLT

 1-3 “I am the true grapevine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.

4 “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in Me.

5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.

6 “Anyone who does not remain in Me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.

7-8 “But if you remain in Me and My words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are My true disciples. This brings great glory to My Father.

9-10 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Remain in My love. When you obey My commandments, you remain in My love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in His love.

11 “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

12-13 “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

14-16 “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are My friends, since I have told you everything the Father told Me. You didn’t choose Me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using My name.

17 “This is My command: Love each other.”

Read and re-read

The vine is a familiar symbol of Israel in the OT, producing its fruit through its branches. The branches as part of the vine, represent the people of God as part of the covenant.

For further study, compare Psalm 80:8-16; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21, 12:10-11; Ezekiel 15:1-5; Hosea 10:1-2

However, the illustration is often used to show what is lacking and unfruitful. By contrast, Jesus is “the True Vine” whose branches, as long as they stay connected to Him, are fruitful in producing and multiplying for Him. Branches which break off or fall off the vine can only wither, and are useless. They are gathered to be burnt.

The NT picture of the connected branch which produces good fruit, is the person of godly character, see Galatians 5:22-23; Eph. 5:9; Phil. 1:11, whose godly life is also a good influence on others,  Matthew 3:8; 7:16-20.

Jesus, the true Vine, is the realisation of the name of the altar to the Lord that Gideon built, after he had an encounter with the Lord – a theophany – which he called the angel of the Lord, and feared for his life. No one could see God and live, Judges 6:11-24. But the Lord told him to receive shalom instead of fear. Shalom is translated a number of ways – peace, wholeness, completeness and we might add, connectedness. Jesus the True Vine who supplies the wellbeing of everyone who is connected in with Him – who abides in Him – is not only the Lord who has secured our peace, but the Lord who is our peace, and in whom we have peace, wholeness, completeness – and belonging.

• The useless branches that are burnt are a clear reference eternal damnation and hell fire. But why are such branches gathered and burnt? Is it because of their lack of good fruit, or good deeds, as conventional religion would have it? Why are they non-producers, and why are they thrown away, vv. 5-6?

“I AM the True Vine” (2)

Re-read again – John 15:1-17 NLT

1-3 “I am the true grapevine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.

4 “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in Me.

5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.

6 “Anyone who does not remain in Me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.

7-8 “But if you remain in Me and My words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are My true disciples. This brings great glory to My Father.

9-10 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Remain in My love. When you obey My commandments, you remain in My love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in His love.

11 “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

12-13 “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

14-16 “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are My friends, since I have told you everything the Father told Me. You didn’t choose Me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using My name.

17 “This is My command: Love each other.”

Meditate

The key word for this passage is “remain” and the instances of “remain” and “do not remain” and “apart from Me” (opposite of remain) add up to double figures, with three mentions in one verse. That is a lot of emphasis.

• What is the key teaching of this passage, in terms of who Jesus is, and what we do with who Jesus is?

The word “meno” in Greek has the primary meaning of “remaining” in a given place, state or expectation. It is often translated by the stronger word “abide”, also “dwell”, “continue” and “endure”. It carries a subtle flavour of holding a steadfast attitude of unchanged mental and spiritual attitude against adversity.

Jesus knows the tests the disciples will face and used this discourse about being a remainer in Him, to prepare them — and us.

Jesus makes a distinction between those who call Him “Lord, Lord” without much action to support the words, Luke 6:46-48, and those who are true disciples. There are two tests: the test of “if you remain in Me and My words remain in you” and the test of being fruitful, including seeing answered prayer.

Another key word with a lot of occurrences, vv.10-17, is “command” and “commandment”. In our age of informality and self-determination, how does this sit with us? What are stated benefits of being willingly under command?

“I AM the True Vine” (3)

Re-read again – John 15:1-17 NLT

1-3 “I am the true grapevine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.

4 “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in Me.

5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.

6 “Anyone who does not remain in Me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.

7-8 “But if you remain in Me and My words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are My true disciples. This brings great glory to My Father.

9-10 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Remain in My love. When you obey My commandments, you remain in My love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in His love.

11 “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

12-13 “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

14-16 “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are My friends, since I have told you everything the Father told Me. You didn’t choose Me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using My name.

17 “This is My command: Love each other.”

Apply

If we believers don’t make Jesus known and grow disciples of His, who will?

Those for whom Jesus and His words are consciously central and part of them, are also going to be those who have the sense of what He would pray in a situation i.e. praying in Jesus’ name. There will be the agreement in prayer, and agreement between the earthly realm and the heavenly realm, Matthew 18:18-19,which brings what we call ‘answered prayer’.

Rather than praying — or acting — from personal desire or ambition or preference, or as a reaction to a problem, the “remaining in Jesus” disciple will look for the kingdom dimension. What is the Lord doing here? Being fruitful is about being carriers of this question, and that is a dimension of remaining or abiding or being steadfast, in the Lord.

As believers rooted in Jesus and committed to His Way, we face constant attacks. Some are evident, but the enemy is subtle and works in less overt ways, like our thought life (we don’t always ask where a thought comes from) or the criticism that comes from family and friends who we think should be on side for us (and we forget to consider what is happening spiritually to stir them up). There are times when we face irrational hatred, and we want to throw in the towel because it is so irrational, or react out of character. Jesus says, “Remain in Me…”

• What happens to our joy, and our perception of God’s love for us, when we experience spiritual attacks coming through unspiritual people? What is the important promise of following the teaching in this passage (vv.9-11)?

Life and its setbacks will try to pull us apart from Jesus. The lie that assaults us is a version of “He didn’t come through for me”. Discouragement is one of the tried and tested strategies of the devil, working in our thoughts, and it is effective until we wake up to what is happening and say, ”No!”. We make a choice, not to be pulled off course and off a position of faith. We make a choice to remain in Jesus and be reliant on Him. We remain.

Every gardener knows the importance of pruning. This is even more vital with vines, which left to themselves will produce a lot of foliage rather than fruit; the leaves must be cut back to encourage the formation of grapes and to let the light and air in. Our Father allows setbacks which are to us like the pain of pruning, but He uses them to let light in – we ask questions and find truth! – and grow us as we find new directions.

• Is it assured that we, as believers, and as those appointed, will be fruitful for the Lord, v.16? Or is it a choice? Or is it a choice which embraces setbacks as reinforcing choice?

Pray

Lord God, I come to You as the Lord of my connectedness, my completeness, my peace — the Lord who says, “You do not need to fear”. I find remaining in my way of living, a lot easier than remaining in You. Show me what a “remaining in You” lifestyle looks like for me. Show me what is getting in the way of it. Show me what must change. Help me to recognise my independence, call it the sin that it is, and put it where it belongs, under Your command. In Christ Jesus I pray, Amen.

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