Few of us own up to being jealous. It’s not an attractive quality. It rarely does any good. It’s embarrassing to admit to. It can be an ugly emotion. Consider a man was sentenced to 16 years in jail. His girlfriend had dropped him for someone else, so he drove his car into a crowd and killed two people.
Can anything good come from jealousy?
One thing is clear: that God never apologizes for being a jealous God. God is a jealous God. God is jealous when Israel seeks after other gods. Just as husband or wife is right to be jealous when their partner has been unfaithful, so God is jealous for his people’s faithfulness to him.
God is also jealous for his name’s sake. “I am the LORD, that is my name; I will not give my glory to another, nor my praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8 NASB). It’s right to be jealous for the good name of others. I hope you won’t sit back and do nothing when someone is badmouthing your friends. That is good, Godlike jealousy.
In our passage, John 2:13-22, we will see that Jesus is jealous for his Father as he cleanses the temple. Of all the temples that have been built in the history of the world, this was the only one built for and by the true God. It alone carried his name.
The temple played an important place in the life of Jesus. Eight days after his birth, Jesus’ parents dedicated him at the temple. At the age of twelve, Jesus had stayed behind in Jerusalem, and of all places he is found in the temple asking questions.
Now Jesus is driven back to the temple as the Passover feast draws near. Jesus expects to offer true worship at the place where his Father allowed his name to dwell. But when Jesus turns up to the temple, what Jesus finds looks more like a place of profits than a place of prayer. John 2:13-14:
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. (NIV)
What Jesus found in the temple was not the problem. The pigeons, oxen, and sheep were necessary for the temple sacrifices. People were required to pay the temple tax, and Jesus himself in Matthew 17 pays it—though not everyone could pull a coin out of the mouth of a fish to pay it! The money-changers changed the various coins into one acceptable currency that didn’t bare the name or image of Caesar—who claimed to be a god. Again all of these things were required for the administration of the temple.
So why does Jesus create such a fuss? The problem was the place where these things were being done. This was all happening in the temple courts, the place reserved for prayer. But instead of the sound of praise, and of souls asking God for forgiveness—“have mercy on me, a sinner”—the constant chorus being sounded was “Old Macdonald had a farm”.
This was the place where God would dwell with his people. No other culture, no other nation, no other temple had the blessing of God. Only here would God accept sacrifices. God only promised to answer prayers directed to this place, and from this place. Worse still, all of these activities were taking place in the outer courts, which were the only places of the temple that the foreigner could enter. When Solomon opened the temple a thousand years before Jesus, he prayed this prayer, found in 2 Chronicles 6:32-33:
As for the foreigner—when they come and pray toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your name. (NIV)
Doing business in those places stopped foreigners praying to Jesus’ Father. They had forced the rest of the world out of the temple by making the house of prayer into a house of profit.
And Jesus is angry about this. He is fuming. He is motivated by ‘zeal’—his passion for his Father’s house and his jealousy that his Father be worshipped properly. So we see Jesus’ action in response, in verses 15-16:
So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” (NIV)
It’s clear that Jesus wasn’t expecting to find the temple so abused. He doesn’t carry a whip like a cowboy, looking for a fight. Jesus came to pray, not to judge. The whip that he makes, he only makes after he sees what was going on. Jesus is not like a crazed lover, out of control. He is like a jealous lover, and he will stop at no lengths to put right that which is wrong. He overturns tables, he throws out the money-changers, he drives out the animals, he rebukes those involved in the business. He has come as one with authority. He is driven by what is right.
Notice that, for Jesus, the temple is not merely ‘God’s house’, but he calls it “my Father's house”. So as the Son, he has the right to do what he does in his Father’s house. He stands in a special relationship with his Father. Remember that Jesus was at the Father's side for all eternity.
His disciple saw Jesus’ glory in turning the water into wine. Now they see his authority in cleansing his Father’s house. The first sign John records at Cana, is followed by a second ‘sign’, just as significant, and just as much a ‘sign’ for those with eyes to see—though it may not technically be what John elsewhere means by the word ‘sign’. But the act of cleansing the temple is just as revealing of Jesus’ identity to those who know their Old Testaments as any of his other miraculous signs and works of power that John records for us. The authority of Jesus who changed water into wine is now seen in his authority to get the animals out of the temple.
In verses 17 and 18, we see the response of both the disciples and the Jews to Jesus bold act and claim to authority.
His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” (NIV)
The disciples see in these actions Jesus’ devotion for the house of God. Their minds go to the scriptures, to Psalm 69.9:
For zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me. (NIV)
The Good News Version helpfully puts it, “My devotion to your house, O God, burns in me like a fire”. There is the difference. The disciples see what Jesus does, and believe he is sent from God to do it. The authorities see what Jesus does, and it doesn’t even cross their minds, they can’t even comprehend, that maybe he has a point. The question of the Jewish leadership is simple: “Who the heck does Jesus think he is?” The guy is not even a priest! “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus is a nobody from nowhere.
Now, if Jesus had been spaying graffiti in the temple courts, you could understand their question. But the fact is that they had done nothing about the situation that Jesus set about fixing, and probably because they were creaming off the profits. All in all, they showed their own lack of zeal. Jesus by his zealous action was showing them up. They had no real desire to worship God, so they ask for a sign. But if they had eyes to see, they had one right in front of them. The cleansing of the temple was the sign. Is that not what God promised that he would do, in Malachi 3:1-2:
“I will send my messenger [i.e. John the Baptist], who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord [i.e. Jesus] you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. "But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.” (NIV)
The messenger—John the Baptist—had come, and suddenly, the Lord God himself—Jesus Christ, God the one and only, who was God—turned up at the temple and cleansed it. If they had eyes to see, the Jewish leaders would have recognized that Jesus was behaving as one who is devoted to the house of God. Then they too, like the disciples, could have remembered the psalm, and bent the knee in worship. They didn’t need a sign.
So in response to the Jewish leaders’ foolish question, Jesus issues them a challenge, in verse 19:
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (NIV)
The Jewish leaders take Jesus’ words literally, and are, not surprisingly, confused. Verse 20:
They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” (NIV)
As we will see again and again in John’s Gospel, people frequently misunderstand Jesus’ words. So here, Jesus speaks of destroying ‘the temple’, and they take him to mean the building that has taken 46 years to build. In John chapter 3, Jesus talks of the need of being born again, and Nicodemus imagines someone returning to the womb of his mother. In chapter 6, Jesus speaks of the need for his disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood, and the crowd are repulsed by the cannibalism of it. In each of these instances of misunderstanding, the answer is given for those who have ears to hear. And so too, here, in verse 21:
But the temple he had spoken of was his body.
Jesus’ body is the temple of God. Jesus is the place where God dwells with his people. So Colossians 2:9 tells us, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (NIV).
When Solomon opened the temple he had built, he asked a rhetorical question in his prayer, recorded in 2 Chronicles 6:18: “But will God really dwell on earth with humans?” John’s Gospel answers with a resounding ‘yes’! God will dwell with humans, but not in the temple at Jerusalem. Solomon then goes on to consider the logistics of God inhabiting temples, in 2 Chronicles 6:18: “The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”
One thousand years before Jesus, and just as King Solomon was opening the temple which had nearly sent the country broke to build, he is saying that the temple will never be more than a symbol. It can’t do the job. From the very beginning, the temple was built to be thrown away. The temple was like my old commodore—it was built to become obsolete. Right there from its very beginning, God had placed a big red self-destruct button on the temple, and it was waiting for Jesus to come and press that button. God dwells not in a building but in the body of Jesus. He is the gate to heaven, and he is the house of God.
With Jesus’ coming, the sacrifices that God requires will no longer be pigeons, sheep, and oxen. Jesus is the real Passover lamb, who has come to the temple at Passover time. No wonder Jesus sent the animals out of the temple, because with his coming as “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, they won’t be needed anymore. Jesus is the willing sacrifice for ours sins, not just for the Jews, but for the world. No foreigners will be shut out anymore, for Jesus is the saviour of the world.
The irony is that Jesus’ riddle—“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (v. 19)—is itself a prophecy. And by the end of John’s Gospel, we will see that the Jews will in fact take him up on the offer. They will destroy Jesus’ body. Jesus is the true temple of God, and his zeal for his Father will consume him to the point of his own death on a cross. But as Jesus says later, in John 10:18:
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. (NIV)
In fact, it would be Jesus’ resurrection that would clear up the misunderstanding once and for all for his disciples. Verse 22:
After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. (NIV)
The resurrection of Jesus recorded for us in John chapters 20-21 is the climax to Jesus’ seven signs recorded for us in John chapters 2-12. And here, the disciples see Jesus’ zeal for his Father house, and they believe both Jesus and the Scriptures. So far so good.
There is a lot of ‘believing’ in Jesus happening during this first Passover visit to Jerusalem (John 2:22-3:2). The disciples would believe Jesus’ words and the Old Testament Scriptures (v. 22)—but it is still early days for them, and they had a long way to go. The crowd in Jerusalem at the festival would believe Jesus because of his signs (v. 23)—not the cleansing of the temple, but the miracles that John says that he did there—but Jesus would not believe them. “Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people” (v. 24). Only the test of time will show whether such ‘believing’ responses are genuine.
But for now, Jesus is establishing that true worship is tied to himself as the true temple of God. The one who cleansed that temple is the one who replaces every temple. The old has now gone and the new has come. Jesus is the temple of God.
What else in the New Testament is given the name ‘the temple of God’? If you are a Christian, your human body is a temple of God (1 Cor 6:19). And we the people of God are the temple of God (1 Cor 3:16-17). For God’s Spirit dwells both within us individually and among us corporately.
It was a sad day when Christianity was turned into a religion, and where church buildings ended up looking like temples, and were then treated like temples. It was a sad day when buildings then became the obsession of the church, and not the lost souls the buildings were meant to serve. Buildings are important, and good servants, but terrible masters. They exist to serve people and seeking the lost. That is why we can hire a school or community hall and be no less than the temple of God.
In our passage we have seen Jesus consumed by jealousy for his Father. Have you lost your fire? Has your zeal been choked out by worries and the pleasures of life? Proverbs 23:17 tells us, “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.”
What burns in you like a fire? What gets you excited? What did you see your parents get excited about? A new lounge? A new car? An exciting new investment proposal? Or seeing someone come to Christ?
What do you see in yourself? Are you jealous that the world comes to know Jesus and treat him properly? Are you jealous for your own holiness? Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. What sins do you need to drive out of your life? Your body does not belong to you? It belongs to Jesus. Jesus does not say that if your hand causes you to sin, get a manicure! He said to cut it off! You know what you need to do to that thing that causes you to sin—so do it for Jesus’ sake. Don’t watch that show, click that link, play that game, read that literature, go to that place, or be with that person. Cut it out of your life.
Are you jealous for the Jesus’ people—for we are the temple of God? We can’t love Jesus and not love his people. Look how jealous how God is for his church. 1 Corinthians 3:17:
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person, for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
Are you are a unifier or a divider of God's church. This church is the temple of God. If you love Jesus, and you want to serve Jesus and glorify Jesus, then you need to love your church, and pray for your church and serve your church and give to your church for God glory. God wants jealous lovers who are jealous for Jesus. They are jealous for personal holiness. They are jealous for Jesus’ people. Let us ask God that the jealous passion we have seen in Jesus will be seen in us.
We see that Jesus is the true temple. He is God dwelling with us. We see Jesus’ jealousy for his Father, and we say, thank you, Lord Jesus, for letting that jealously take you to the cross.
Forgive us for our lack of passion for Jesus, and for our holiness and that of our church. We can see that for some of us, our passion is being choked out by the worries of this world, and for others, by the pleasures of this world.
Cleanse our hearts and our church from being numb to our Lord.
In Jesus’ powerful name, Amen.
 Consider Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey in his final week in John 12. That might not be technically a ‘sign’ in the sense of a miraculous work of power, but it no less signifies who Jesus is to those with eyes to see than Jesus’ raising Lazarus or walking on water.
Billy Graham died earlier this week, at age 99. He preached the gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history—nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories. But what is interesting is that most people who attended to hear him preach were brought by someone: a friend, family member, or someone from work or church. Former Archbishop Peter Jensen was one of those who came to Christ, as did his brother Philip. People found their friends and family and brought them to Jesus. And nothing has changed in 2000 years.
John chapter 1 starts off with a very, very, big Jesus. Jesus was with the Father for all eternity. It is Jesus who created all things. And it is Jesus who makes the Father known by becoming human. Amazingly, the Word became flesh.
Now you may think that once God became human, then the angels might have looked at each other and said, “Well I guess this is where we come in! Who else is going to announce to the world that God has become human?” But it was God who said, “No, I want ordinary, clumsy, mistake-ridden humans to do the work of bringing people to me.”
Last week we saw that the first human to point to Jesus would be John the Baptist. John was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He prepared a nation to meet Jesus, so we read in John 1:35-37:
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. (NIV)
John pointed straight at Jesus as the lamb of God. He is the one who would be slaughtered in our place. And immediately, two of John’s disciples became Jesus’ disciples. They leave the successful ministry of John the Baptiser, who had Israel in a spin, to follow Jesus, who as yet was not known.
As a side point, John the Baptist will be the last mere man to have disciples or followers, for after John, the only one who is entitled to this privilege is Jesus. Only he is to be followed, only he is to be trusted, only he is to be obeyed. That alone should have been enough to stop cults, Christian hero worship, or preacher groupies.
In a recent radio interview about Billy Graham, I loved hearing how Peter Jensen said that with Billy it was all about Jesus. When you left one of his meetings, you left singing the praise of Jesus, not Billy. In the same way, I love how John the Baptist is so focused on Jesus, that when the crowds move from following him to following Jesus, and when his disciples move from him to Jesus, there is not a hint of envy or jealousy.
I remember when MBM was just 30 or 40 people, and I met up with a man for a few months to read the Bible. He became a Christian, and I spent time discipling him. At the end of this process, he said to me, “Ray, thank you so much, but I have decided to go to Craig Tucker’s church.” Craig is a friend of mine, who at the time pastored a local presbyterian church. It was then that I was faced with the question, “Would I be a cult leader, or a pastor who believed in grace and let him go freely and willingly?” So I said, “Sure, no problem.” A few years ago my mum said to me, “Ray the new Catholic priest at your sister’s church knows you.” It was the same guy. So I called Craig and said, “Bro, I sent him converted and discipled to you. What happened?” I said to my mum, “See Ma, I leave the Catholic church, and I put a person in my place!” You have to laugh.
John truly believed that Jesus must increase and he must decrease. If anyone made Jesus the main character of his life, it was John.
What is interesting is that Jesus stops the two new disciples with a question. John 1:38-39:
Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. (NIV)
What do you want from Jesus? For many people want many things—health, wealth, a friend, an example, a therapist. These disciples want relationship. They want to stay with Jesus in his home. A true disciple seeks a personal relationship with Jesus, and not just information. They ask, “Where are you staying?” and remained with Jesus that day. In the same way, the Holy Spirit remained with Jesus throughout his ministry. A true disciples remains with Jesus. In John 15, Jesus says, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you” (v. 4). This was not just a phase of life. The decision to follow Jesus is a decision to remain with Jesus for one reason, that Jesus said, “Apart from him you can do nothing”.
What we see now is one person after another following Jesus. First it is Andrew and the other disciple who heard John the Baptist, probably John the writer of this Gospel. Then it is Simon Peter, then Philip, followed by Nathanael. And with each new person who follows Jesus, some new insight as to who Jesus is given, and new testimony is provided. Let’s look at verses 40 to 42:
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). (NIV)
Andrew is only mentioned three times in John’s Gospel, and each time he brings people to Jesus. A true disciple introduces people to Jesus. In John 6, Andrew will bring the boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus. In John 12, he who had a Greek name will bring the Greeks to Jesus. And in this verse we are told that the first thing Andrew does is to find his brother and tell him, “We have found the Messiah. It’s as if he is saying, “We are now saved, and we want you to be saved, too!”
You can’t help but be moved by his instincts—to bring his family and friends and even strangers to Jesus. Once you meet the Messiah, the lamb of God, you want those you love to meet him as well.
Philip who comes from the same town as Andrew and Peter does the same thing that Andrew does—there must be something in the water, there! In verse 45, we read:
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (NIV)
John our Gospel writer is giving us a chain of witnesses, each one testifying to another. And this phenomenon is as true now as it was then.
One of my highlights at MBM was the day when we had an interview with 13 people, up the front at the high school, when we saw the flesh and blood effect of this ‘chain of witnessing’. It started with Julie when she was in year 7 at High School. As you know, Julie recently passed away. But as a twelve year old girl, she gave her friend in year 7 the little book by Josh McDowell, “More than a Carpenter”. That little book sat there, biding its time. Years later her friend read it with her boyfriend, and they both responded to Christ. Within one year, 17 people were doing bible studies in their home. One of the 13 who came up the front on that day, Jim, shared how the changed lives of the others in that chain had impacted him. For the first 6 months, Jim came to MBM stoned. He is now a presbyterian minister. Anyway, Jim said that when he had heard that when one of the guys in the line up had got a job, he figured there must something in Christianity—for both Jim and this guy himself agreed that he was the laziest person in the world. Changed lives cut a path for the gospel, which then changed more lives.
As a church we don’t do many events anymore. We have found that ‘events’ involve lots of effort for us but little fruit. We don’t want to choke up the church calendar and fill up your lives. We would rather you to be spending time with your family and friends. Real fruit in sharing the gospel is found where transformed Christians impact upon others and bring them to Jesus.
What is clear in this passage is that God uses different ‘connections’ that people have one with another to bring people to Jesus.
In our passage, we have the family connections between Andrew and Peter. In that example, one brother introduces another brother to Jesus. And that sort of thing happens all the time now too. After I became a Christian, one of the first people I witnessed to and saw become a Christian was my sister Liz. Similarly, a number of our staff mention a parent who influenced them for Jesus.
There are location connections, which God also uses to bring people to Jesus. In our passage, Philip, Peter, and Andrew are all from the same town in Galilee, Bethsaida. And that happens for us, too. I think of Grant Borg, who was witnessed to by a man at his local gym. His friend at the gym encouraged Grant to read the New Testament.
And there are friendship connections, like that between Philip and Nathaniel. In my own life, I think of my friend Anne. She was a Christian, I wasn’t, and I knew she had something I didn’t have.
One person introducing the next person to Jesus—the kingdom of God has been growing in the same way for the last 2000 years. People find the truth, they follow the truth, and they share the truth.
We had 53 people at our first ‘Explaining Christianity’ course, and I honour each person here who invited someone to that opportunity to meet Jesus.
Of course, when you want to find your friends or bring your brother to Jesus, it’s not all smooth sailing. When Philip tells Nathanael that Jesus from Nazareth is the one they’ve all been waiting for, Nathanael’s first reactions is that it’s a joke. Verses 46 and 47:
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” (NIV)
A true disciple comes to Jesus with their doubts. Nathaniel can’t imagine anything good coming from Nazareth, the armpit of Israel. Nathanael calls it like he sees it. With this guy, what you see is what you get. Now Nathaniel wais from Bethsaida, and Jesus was from Nazareth. There was a rivalry between Bethsaida and Nazareth, like there is between Melbourne and Sydney, or Parramatta and Penrith.
But Jesus, too, calls it like he sees it, and Nathanael is taken aback by Jesus’ supernatural knowledge of him, in verses 48 and 49:
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” (NIV)
It’s one thing to have insight into a person’s personality, but it’s another thing to know something without being told.
My brother-in-law’s brother is Brad. Brad is a teacher and he loves working out the family birth order of people he knows from their personalities. He asked me one day, “Where are you in your family?” I said, “Guess, Brad.” He said, “You’re not first born and not the youngest, nor the middle child. You’re second youngest!” Wow, he’s right, that’s amazing. That is impressive, but what Jesus knew about Nathanael could not be worked out by clever deductions. Jesus knew what only God could know.
It is interesting to notice that while the world and Israel do not know Jesus, Jesus knows everything. He knows where Nathanael was before he laid eyes on him. Nathanael wants to know how Jesus knows him. And the only satisfactory explanation for Nathaniel is that Jesus is both the king of Israel and the Son of God. A true disciples confesses Jesus for who he is.
In John 4, we find Jesus talking to Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus had never met her before that moment, yet he told her that she had previously been married to five men, and that the man she was currently living with was not her husband. How did Jesus know that? Because he is the Son of God, and she loved it. She went off telling her village, “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did.” She loved it—even though it could have been embarrassing—because he is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He knows what we are like. He knows what the Father is like. And it is Jesus who brings God and humans together. It is Jesus who brings heaven and earth together.
In this chapter, John chapter 1, we have been hit one after another by different titles given to Jesus. One person after another sees Jesus, confesses him, and gives him a title:
These descriptions have all come from the lips of others. But at the end of John chapter 1, Jesus will describe himself. Verses 50 and 51:
Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
Here is the great climax of all of those titles given to Jesus. Jesus says of himself, “I am the heavenly Son of Man, the ruler of the universe. You will see the heavens open, and God’s angels going up and down on me.”
This description Jesus gives of himself draws on something that happened 2000 years before. In Genesis chapter 28, Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, had a dream of a stairway reaching from heaven. In Genesis 28:12, Jacob “had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” And when Jacob awoke from his sleep, we read in verse 17 that “He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.’” Jesus says of himself Nathanael and his companions will see the angels ascending and descending on him. They will see heaven opened, and stay open. It won’t be in a dream, as it was for Jacob.
Jesus is saying, “I am the ladder, the stairway to heaven. In my death and resurrection, I will be that mediator. My cross is the gate of heaven. In me, heaven and earth connect. In me, we can bridge that gulf between heaven and earth.”
On social media, many people have loved quoted Billy Graham when he said, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” When you come to Jesus and his cross, you move from death to life. Spiritually, you move from earth to heaven. Jesus is the gate of heaven. Jesus is the only the way out of this world to heaven.
It’s like we are born blind, feeling our way in this dark world. We are lost in some massive dark room, and we can’t get out. And on our own, we are the blind leading the blind. Then someone gently takes us by the hand and says, “I know the way out”. His name is Jesus. So let’s pause. Some of you want to take Jesus’ hand, so come now. And the rest of us want to bring someone to church next week, to meet Jesus do his first miraculous sign recorded by John—turning water into wine.
Imagine you are lost. It’s night. It’s jet black—so dark that you can’t see your own hands. You look forward but you can’t see what’s in front of you. You look back, but you can’t see what’s behind you. But then, in your mind’s eye, in the midst of the surrounding darkness, you see a light off in the distance, and everything changes. You’re not alone. For in the darkness a light is shining for you.
That is a little picture, an image, of the salvation that Jesus brings each of us who believe in him. For if you believe in Jesus, someone pointed you to Jesus as “the light of the world”. Jesus Christ is the light that each of us desperately needs, and that light has been shining from since before the beginning of time.
They say that the sun has been shedding its light for nearly 4.6 billion years. But “the light of world” has shined for all eternity. The same light shone at the beginning of creation when God said, “Let there be light, and there was light”.
Jesus is the light of the world. He was born into the world that he had made. He is like a beam of light that has been traveling towards us for billions of years, getting closer and closer as the time approached for him to be born of woman, and to become human. So we read in John 1:4-5:
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (NIV)
The Word shines in the darkness on the first day of the creation week, and the word of God put the darkness in its place. The Word also shined in the darkness of Israel’s spiritual blindness. And the Word shines right now in the darkness of the human heart. The verdict is the same. John 1:5 again:
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it [or 'understood' it].
The darkness could not overcome it, nor did it understand it. John here uses a word that has a double meaning, and he intends us to see that the way he uses the word encompasses both meanings. The darkness could not understand the light, but neither could it overcome the light. The darkness could not overcome the light: it rejected the light, but it could not destroy the light.
Turn on the light and see what happens most of the time. The critters that love the darkness flee the light. Similarly, mention the name of Jesus—the light of the world—and watch people cringe and turn away from light, and find a dark corner to hide. Mention sin and watch them change the topic. Mention hell and watch them run, because the light reveals. Jesus the light of the world reveals who we are and who God is.
I was talking to a close relative from a religious home who had become a Christian. She said to me, “Why is it, Ray, that if I talk about ‘God’, it’s ok, but if I mention the name of ‘Jesus’, the family gets upset? My relative forgot that she was doing the same thing for years—getting upset at the mention of Jesus.
The light of Jesus, the light of the world, cannot be stopped, snuffed out, or extinguished. They say that the sun has another five billion years to go, but then after that its light will end and it will shine no more. But the light of the world, Jesus Christ, will never come to an end.
The “light of the world” has not come into the world unannounced. Verses 6 to 8:
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (NIV)
Every human king has a trumpet blast to announce his coming. Every performer has an MC to introduce the main act. So it is with Jesus. John the Baptist’s job was to introduce Jesus onto the world stage.
In the Gospel of John, ‘John the Baptist’ is more accurately described as ‘John the Witness’. For John’s Gospel does not let us make any mistake about what was John the Baptist’s mission—it was to point out who is ‘the light of the world’ and who isn’t the light of the world. And we see him doing this very thing in verse 15:
John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ” (NIV)
John also witnesses to Jesus later in this chapter, in verse 29:
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (NIV)
John’s mission is our mission, which is to point people to Jesus Christ, by our words and actions. How are you going with the nine word challenge, “Would you like to read the bible with me”? Our job is to point people to the light, and allow the light to shine from John’s Gospel into dark hearts. John preached with purpose in verse 8:
He [John] came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. (NIV)
The purpose of every ‘Jesus’ conversation is ultimately faith and repentance. That is why, when appropriate, it’s good to ask, “What is stopping you from becoming a Christian?” I think that was one of Dave Jensen’s gifts to us: he helped people cross the line.
This week a young woman did just that: she crossed the line, and became a sister in Christ. Jesus shone his light into her heart, and she said ‘yes’ to Jesus.
One of the great surprises and sadnesses of this section of the prologue to John’s Gospel is how “the light of the world” is received by the world that he had made. Verse 10:
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. (NIV)
There is a double kick in the guts for the “light of the world” here. He came to a world that he had created, but that world did not recognize him. Jesus was no alien visitor, arriving on a planet he had never heard of. Jesus was born into the world that he himself had made. That world in fact rejected him.
Steve Jobs, the co-founder of the Apple computer company, was fired from Apple—the very company that he had created. Jesus came to his own people Israel, but they didn’t want a bar of him.
Look at how Isaiah describes the way the light of truth was treated throughout the Old Testament. Isaiah 65:2-3:
All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations—a people who continually provoke me to my very face. (NIV)
Throughout the Old Testament, God’s light was shining, revealing, probing, and exposing. And God’s people were hiding, resisting, hating, and running from God’s light. So what did God do? After so much rejection, he revealed even more of himself.
God wants to be known. God also wants us to know him. He comes in the flesh into our world. Verse 14:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NIV)
Seriously, when you have been rejected, hurt, or wounded by another person—even if only in a slight way—every self-preserving instinct in you wants to withdraw, to hide, build up walls, engage in passive aggression, cut ties, pay back, or slag off on facebook. But that’s not how our God responds when he was rejected by the world he created and his people whom he loved. For then God comes in person and in the flesh into that world. For when the Word became flesh, the fullness of God himself came into our world, and the splendor of God’s grace and the majesty of God’s faithfulness was made known.
Up until this point, it could not be said that any human had ever seen God. The two reasons for this are, firstly that God, being spirit, is invisible, and secondly, God is holy and we are sinners. With the coming of Jesus these two problems have been overcome. Firstly, Jesus makes the invisible God visible. He is God with skin, he became meat, flesh, truly human—and so the glory of God in the face of Christ became visible to other flesh and blood humans. And secondly, we may be sinners, but Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of world (v. 29). God humbled himself, and got down on his knees to become one of us, like us in every way except sin. This is as up close and personal as it gets.
We may well at times be ashamed of him—to our own shame—but Jesus is not ashamed to call us who believe brothers and sisters.
The light could not have shined brighter for us, because we live in a world into which God has sent his one and only Son. That is why it is impossible to now say, “I love God”, and to not love his Son, Jesus Christ. This can be expressed as an equation:
God – Jesus = Nothing
God minus Jesus equals nothing. “The Word became flesh” and literally ‘pitched his tent’ with us rebels, so that we could become children of God.
In the Old Testament, God dwelt with his people in a portable temple, called a ‘tabernacle’. It was a tent. This tent was a symbol of God’s presence in the middle of his people. God allowed ‘his name’ to dwell in Israel, symbolized by the tabernacle. But God was so close and yet he was still so far away. God dwelt with his people Israel, but only Israel’s high priest, one man, could enter into the inner room that was the heart of the tabernacle, and only once a year, and with the blood of sacrifices. But now and for us God has done so much more. Now God has become flesh and has tabernacled among us. The apostles and others were able to see, hear, and even touch him. He, God the one and only Son, became like us in every way except sin.
Jesus is truly God and truly human. Jesus is not two persons with two natures. Jesus is not two persons with one nature. Jesus is one person with two natures. Jesus is not God hiding in a human skin, pretending to be human. Jesus is not a mixture of God and man. It is not as if Jesus is part God and part man like Robocop is part man and part machine. Jesus is one person with two natures. He is truly God and truly human.
That is why Jesus Christ alone is the one mediator between God and humanity—because he is both truly God and truly man. Jesus being fully God and fully man explains why as a human he can fall sleep on a boat because he is worn out and tired (he is really human), and then the next moment can be woken up and calm the raging sea with a word (he is really God). The real Jesus did each of these things.
In the incarnation of Jesus Christ, God got on his knees for us.
I am not a natural father. I never found it easy entering into the world of my kids when they were young. I just can’t get off on singing ‘Old Macdonald Had a Farm’ four hundred times. But I know that when I was putting them first, I would get down on my knees and entered their world. I remember sitting in class with Amy as the teacher, and I was her student. And she is now a real teacher! I remember sitting in Maddy’s kitchen being served cups of tea. I remember how I would say to James, “Shall we go to the park”, and he would say, “mmm, good idea Daddy.” The more I did it, the more they loved it. “More Daddy, more!”, they would say.
God got on his knees and entered into our world. God has permanently sided with us. “The Word became flesh”. But the response of the world to the Word entering into our world was quite different to my children’s response to me. Instead of wanting to kiss him, they wanted to kill him. But God has always kept a people for himself.
12Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Jesus has his quota of those who will accept him, both now and back then. In the last Australian Government census, 30% of the population ticked the ‘no religion’ box. That as a proportion of the population is now larger than Roman Catholics. We might be discouraged by that, but don’t forget that under an atheist government that has tried to snuff out the light of Jesus Christ for 66 years, China has become the country with the third largest number of Christians on earth. But the promise of Jesus Christ through John's Gospel still stands: to those who receive Jesus Christ and believe in his name—to that group and only to that group—God gives the right, the authority, the power, to become and be called children of God.
It’s one thing for sinners to be forgiven by God. It’s quite another to be brought into God’s family and to be given the right to become children of God. No wonder John says that Jesus brings “grace instead of grace”, in verse 16, “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace”. It’s an interesting and unusual phrase—grace on top of already given grace, grace instead of, and overflowing upon grace, grace from beginning to end. And the abundance of grace is shown in our being given the right to become children of God with the coming of Jesus Christ.
God is referred to as ‘Father’ on only 14 occasions in the Old Testament, and mostly it is only in a general sense. With the coming of Jesus Christ, and the incarnation of the Word, God the Father is mentioned 136 times in John’s Gospel alone. The big shift that happens when we move from the Old Testament to the New Testament—when the light shines brightest and when the Word became flesh and takes away the sins of the world—is that we get to call God our heavenly ‘Dad’.
One lady at MBM wrote this email to me. I read it out last year, but it’s so helpful that I want to do it again. She says:
I used to almost always pray to ‘the Lord’. I knew in my head that God was my Father, but I didn't really believe it. A sister in Christ from MBM always prayed ‘Father’ and even ‘Daddy’ sometimes. It really bugged me until I asked myself, “Why it was so hard for me to refer to God as my Father?”. I realized that I didn't really believe that he loved me—felt sorry for me, yes, saved me, yes, but actually loved me, no! Relating to God as my Father has made a difference in my walk with him. He is Lord, Saviour, Counselor, and Father. I recently talked to a brother in Christ who is battling with the wounds of his own father. I said to him to “let that pain drive you to your perfect Father”. We left praying to our heavenly Dad about the pain from our earthly fathers.
Our God and Father has urged us to cast all our cares on him. Do you suffer from low self-esteem? It’s time for you to go looking for ‘God-esteem’, and to see yourself in his eyes. Does your boss make you feel useless? Remember that Jesus is your boss, and he delights in every good work. Does your dad make you feel like you’re never good enough? The heavenly Father has lavished his love on you. Do you walk around as though you’re a nothing and worthless? You matter to God. Praise God for that. Brothers and sisters, tell your heavenly Dad you love him. Praise his name for adopting you into his family.
Have you ever wished that you belonged to another family? Of course you have. In some way, you have been embarrassed, disappointed, and wounded by your human family.
Well, the good news is that you’re in the best family in the western suburbs of Sydney. You’re in the best family in Australia. You’re in the best family in world. And I can say this because you are in God’s family, and he is your perfect Dad.
So whose decision was it for us to believe in Christ. Clearly it was ours, for it says “to those who received him” and “to those who believed in his name”. The decision to believe and receive Jesus Christ is a human decision here. It’s as clear as a bell. The word ‘believe’ is mentioned almost 100 times in John’s Gospel (94 to be precise), and it is never used as the noun ‘faith’ but it is always used in the form of the verb, ‘to believe’. It’s a doing word. It’s an active action word. We trust and keep on trusting.
But to believe is not just our decision. So verses 12-13:
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
I remember one Bible study group I was in. We played “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” with the Bible study questions. And one of our number was going for the million dollars. The contestant was asked, “Without looking at the Bible, whose decision was it for you to be a child of God, based only on verse 13?” Was it: (a) Your father’s decision; (b) Your decision; (c) You were born a child of God; (d) God’s decision?
The contestant was unsure. She ‘phoned a friend’, and her friend said that it was her decision. And based on verse 12, that would have been a good answer, but the question was “whose decision was it” from verse 13. So she chose to take the option of ‘50/50’. This option cuts out two of the wrong answers in the multiple choice. So her decision was reduced to choosing between “(b) Your decision” and “(d) God’s decision”. She stuck to her guns and went for ‘(d)’. That is the correct but surprising answer. We are born of God, and God gave birth to our faith.
But how do I know that I am born of God? That’s easy! The question is answered in verses 12 and 13. The questions “have I received Jesus and believed in him?” (v. 12) and “am I born of God?” (v. 13) are in fact two sides of the same question. If you trust Jesus, then you are born of God and you are a child of God. And there is no greater blessing than to be adopted as a child of God. Let’s praise God for it.
Dear Father, we praise your name that your light has pierced the darkness of this world, and also into our hearts. You have made it possible for us to receive Jesus. You have given us the privilege of becoming children of God. There is no end to your blessings. Amen.
It’s often said that, “The bible is shallow enough for a child not to drown, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim.” That statement is especially true for John’s Gospel. It’s the Gospel that is both simple and profound. We turn together to look at a new Gospel, the Gospel according to John, so let’s dip our toe in the water of John's Gospel together.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1)
There are six things I want to say about ‘the Word’.
First, ‘the Word’ is Jesus. In the beginning was ‘the Word’. Who or what is the Word? Verse 14 says, “the Word became flesh”, and in verse 17, ‘Jesus Christ’ is named as that Word. Jesus is given many titles in the Bible—‘Lord’, ‘Son of God’, ‘Son of Man’, ‘Judge’, ‘Christ’ or ‘Messiah’, ‘King’, ‘Priest’, and ‘Brother’—but here in verse 1 he is given the title ‘the Word’. So why ‘the Word’? The job of our ‘words’ is to communicate who we are.
There is a line in a classic ‘R and B’ song, ‘This Masquerade’ which says, “We tried to talk it over, but the words got in the way.” I suspect that it wasn’t the words which got in the way, but the heart. Without words, a relationship dies. Our words reveal who we are to others. ‘The Word’ is God’s self-expression.
How many marriages become shells after the kids have grown up, and now they turn to TV to fill in the long silences? Why is this so? There is no meaningful exchange of words. The job of words is to reveal us to others. And since no one has ever seen God, we need God to speak to us. As ‘the Word’, Jesus is the voice of God, the full revealer of who God is. We are dependent on God to reveal himself to us. And friends, God wants to be known by us. Our God is a speaking God. The author to the Hebrews puts it beautifully, in Hebrews 1:1-2a:
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son […]
Everything God wanted to say to you, he has said in his Son. So when Philip later says, “Show us the Father”, Jesus says in response, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:8-9). In other words, “What do you think you’ve been looking at for the last three years, Philip?” The Word is Jesus.
Second, ‘the Word’ existed before time. That is the meaning of, “In the beginning was the Word”. He was with God in the beginning.
The Gospel of Mark opens with the adult Jesus being baptized in the desert. Matthew and Luke take us back to the birth of Jesus. But John’s Gospel pushes us back in time to the very the beginning. Jesus said of himself that he existed before Abraham (John 8:58), making him at least 2000 years old. But this verse says that Jesus existed before the world was created. He was there at the beginning. The question is, how far back does Jesus go?
You and I have a starting point. There was a point in time and space before which you and I did not exist. As far as I know, I was conceived in mid-September 1959 in a house on Bungaribee Road in Toongabbie. I call it ‘the house of conception’. Before that moment, Ray Galea did not exist, except in the mind of God. There was a time when I was not. But there never was a time when Jesus was not.
It is also clear that Jesus is not some back up plan injected late in the game to save the world from unforeseen sin. Jesus was there at the beginning. Since the Word is God, it is not surprising that Jesus along with the Father is worshipped both in heaven and earth (Rev 5:11-14). The same idea is picked up in Colossians 1:16:
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him
There was never once when he was not. That is the difference between Jesus and us, and it is such an enormous difference. What does it mean to know that there was a time when you were not? It means that billions of humans still found it possible to have a great time for millennia never having known you. It should make you humble, to know that you are not at the center of the universe. How could anyone think they are at the center of the universe, when for most of the time they were not around for it? There was a time when you did not exist. There was a time when the universe did not exist. But there was never a time with the Word was not. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, but in the beginning, the Word just was.
It’s humbling to know that for most of the history of the universe I did not exist, and no one seemed to miss me! Why I would think that I am at the center of the universe, and not Jesus, is both wrong and stupid.
The phrase “In the beginning was the Word” means that Jesus existed not only before his birth, and before Abraham, and before Adam, and before atoms, and before angels, but before the world was created. It is clear that Jesus is no ‘Plan B’ to get us out of trouble.
So how does this Word relate to God? That leads to our next point.
Third, the Word was with God. Verse 1 again, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”
This verse reminds us of the beginning of Bible, Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth”. John is saying, “Let me tell you about this God who was at the beginning. For a start, there is more to this God than meets the eye.”
The Old Testament is very clear in teaching that God is one. God alone is God and there is no other. He will not share his glory with another. And all this John believed. But here, John says, “the Word was with God”. ‘The Word’ is not simply a quality of God, like wisdom. Rather, the Word is a person, who is eternal, and who shares eternity with the Father. These are the building blocks of the Bible teaching of the Trinity.
There are hints in the Old Testament that there is more than one person in God. In the very first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1:26, we read:
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness”.
Who is this “us”? If God is single-personned, only one person, as the Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses say, who is this “us”? Shouldn’t have God said, “I will make mankind in my image, my likeness”?
But these were only hints. But when Jesus arrives, God is no longer hinting—he is telling. There is more to God than we think at first glance. God is three-personned. There are personal distinctions within God.
It’s not that God has changed as we go further and further on in the Bible. God has not changed as we go from Old Testament to New Testament—we are just getting to know him better.
To use an analogy, it’s as if the picture we have of God goes from two dimensional to three dimensional. If the Old Testament was 2D, the New Testament is 3D. The God of the New Testament is exactly the same as the God of the Old Testament. It is just that the ‘picture’ is enhanced, and there is more depth and perspective to the portrayal of the same God. The picture is sharper, crisper. It’s a high definition image of God, with more detail, and more pixels, in 3D, that we are given in the New Testament.
To use another analogy, the revelation of God as Trinity can be likened to a couple who discover that they are pregnant. The pregnancy test they bought at the Chemist is positive. Yippee! We have a baby. But as the pregnancy progresses, and it is time for the first ultra sound, to the surprise of both doctors and parents—there’s not one baby, but two! Wow, we have twins! Twice the yippee, and there goes the sleep. And still the pregnancy progresses, and at the second ultrasound, there’s another surprise—we don’t just have twins—we have triplets! Yippee, there goes friends. There were always three babies there in the womb, but discovering them, seeing them clearly, occurred over a period of time, as the information and the ultrasounds progressed.
So it is with God’s revelation of himself, and our discovery of what he is like. God is not single-personned, only one person. He is three-personned, and the revelation of this fact occurred progressively, over time.
So friends, we live in the best of days, for we live after Jesus the Word has become flesh. We know what Abraham and Moses and David did not know—that the one God is more than one person. God is Father and Son, and we will also find out that God is Spirit.
If God were only one personned, or one person only and not three-personned, we could not say, “God is love” (1 John 4:16). To love means to have someone to love. So the Word—God the Son, Jesus Christ—was both loving toward the Father and being loved by the Father from all eternity. Jesus remembers that love which he shared with the Father before he made the universe, in John 17:24:
Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
There was once when God was alone—before he made everything—but God has never been lonely, even when he was alone. For God is love within himself, so he was never lonely. The Father has always loved the Son. The Son has always loved the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Father, Son, and Spirit could never be lonely, because each person had the other, and loved the other, even when there was nothing except God and only God. God did not create us because he needed us. He is, in the words of the song we sing at church, ‘The Independent God’.
You see, God is very different to a lonely man looking for love. God is very different to me, when I proposed to my wife Sandy. I was lonely, and it was not good for Galea to be alone. And the rest of you are the same as me. We come to our marriages from a position of need. It is not so with God. We enter relationships to stop the pain of loneliness. God enters relationships that would create the pain of rejection.
But is the Word truly God? Maybe the JWs are right! Did God create the Word? Is the Word a second rate god or sub god? That leads to our next point.
Fourth, “the Word was God”. John 1:1 again:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
These are the first words of John’s Gospel. No matter what is said of Jesus from here on, we have been told very clearly that Jesus is God. This explains when doubting Thomas finally lays eyes on the risen Jesus. After doubting the resurrection, Thomas is commended for saying of Jesus, “My Lord and My God” (John 20:28). When we read, “the Word was God”, it means “Jesus is God”. And if “Jesus is God”, he is to be worshipped.
Eighty years after Christ returned to the Father, Pliny the Younger wrote to Emperor Trajan about the Christians of Bythinia:
They [Christians] were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, […]
Christians have always worshipped Jesus as God—and when Pliny said he was ‘a god’, he was only projecting his own polytheism onto the Christians—for he recognized worship when he saw it. This explains why Jesus thinks that he alone has the right to call you to follow him at the cost of your life. He alone has the right to be placed first before every human relationship in your life. He alone has the right to be the only way to God. And then John confirms that Jesus is God by his next point.
Fifth, all things were created through the Word, John 1:3:
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
Jesus was not looking on from a distance when God made the world. Jesus was there as God at the very beginning, creating the universe. Elsewhere, Paul says that “all things were created through” Jesus and “for him” (Col 1:15-16). All things were made through this Word. So think about it: the world that Jesus died for is the world that he had made. When they crucified Jesus, they crucified the Lord of glory. As Melito the 2nd century preacher put it, “The one who hung the earth in its place, hung there on the cross.”
Just in case you missed the point, John repeats it again in verse 3:
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
This is a watertight statement. John loves to say a truth positively, and then say it negatively. Positively, “through him all things were made”; Negatively, “without him nothing was made that has been made”. As the song says, the very hands that flung stars into space were the very hands that surrendered to cruel nails.
Remember that to create is to own. If you make something, it’s yours. So if God made you, you belong to him. We do not belong to ourselves. The tag on your body says, “Made through the Word”. That is why God has the right to judge your life.
Our culture says, “Don’t let anyone tell you how to live”. Jesus says, “I made you, so I have the right to tell you how to live.” Jesus says, “I have authority over your body and how you use it. I can say who you can and can’t have sex with.” But relax, you’re in good hands. For Jesus says, “I’ve come that you may have life to the full” (John 10:10).
How do I know this? Because God has made himself known. He is not hiding from you. He knows you and wants you to know him.
Sixth, the Word is the God the only Son, and he makes God known. We all have a problem, according to verse 18: “No one has ever seen God.” No one has ever taken a selfie with God.
There are reasons why no one has ever seen God. God is spirit and we are sinners. Even Moses, who came the closest to seeing God, only saw the back of God. He only caught a glimpse of his glory, but didn’t see God himself. But there is only one who can tell us everything that God wants us to know about himself, and that is his one and only Son. John 1:18:
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
Why is the Son able to make God known? Because no one is closer to the Father than the Son. The Son shared eternity with the Father—the Word was with God—and the Son shared ‘Godness’ or his very nature as God with the Father—the Word was God. The Son is literally in the lap of his Father—this is the Son who has made the Father known.
Have you ever seen lovers in the park? The guy is sitting on the ground with his back against the tree, and his girlfriend is nestled in his arms, with her head resting on his chest. She knows him.
Jesus is here pictured as laying on the chest of his Father. He knows him, and he wants you to know him. In fact, this Gospel was written so that you would know the Father by believing and keeping on believing in his Son.
John writes in John 20:30-31 that his Gospel was written “that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
Since you can’t see the Father, you need the Son to reveal him to you. Since you now can’t see the Son, you need this Gospel to reveal the Son to you. God wants you to know him, and this Gospel was written for that purpose.
MBM started 27 years ago. Our vision then was ‘Taking the Mystery out of Christianity’—that is, making God known. The model of ministry has been very simple—introducing people to Jesus from the Bible in loving relationships.
Nothing has changed. That is what we are doing here each Sunday, and in our different groups—at youth, at children’s church, in small groups, at Explaining Christianity, in our craft groups, at ESL, at Discovery Jesus. In fact in every ministry at MBM, we have been “introducing people to Jesus from the Bible in loving relationships.”
It’s why in term 1 we are starting the ‘nine word challenge’ again. We want every member of MBM to say those nine precious words: “Would-you-like-to-read-the-Bible-with-me?” Whether you say them with a friend or family member, a neighbor or a niece, someone you work or study with, you too can say, “Would you like to read the Bible with me?” It’s another way of saying, “Would you like to know God?” Because God wants you to know him. Then let me introduce you to his Son by reading with me this Gospel of John.
When we did the ‘nine word challenge’ last year, in one week, a woman was reading the Bible with a Chinese co-worker in Martin Place, a newly converted Assyrian Christian was reading the Bible with his parents, and another couple are still reading Mark’s Gospel each week with his parents. A teenager offered to read the Bible with his school friend, and an eight year old asked the question and had kids in his class saying yes.
As our South West Sydney celebrate their first birthday next week, let’s thank God. In 2017, for the first time, twelve people came to know the Father. As we plan to start the new 4pm service in term 4, we do it so that more people can know the Father. We rejoice in the 6pm service, which has grown from the 30 we started with to 220. We rejoice that so many have come to Christ, and that some from that service are now missionaries. We rejoice in the 9am service, that you have grown in six years from 100 adults to now being 200. And our 10:45am service has been the mother ship. You struggled last year, but you are getting back on your feet.
And as you invite friends and family to the Gospel of John with the words, “Would you like to read the Bible with me”, it’s not for you to know all the answers. We want to keep it simple. Let Jesus do the heavy lifting as we read the Gospel of John. Jesus came to make the Father known, so let’s get out of Jesus’ way.