JOHN 10: Good and Bad Shepherds

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Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? (Ezekiel 34:2 ESV).

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

What is your favorite scripture passage?

One of the most beloved scripture passages begins:  The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters (Psalm 23:1-2).  Another favorite passage is Jesus’ parable about the lost sheep (Luke 15:4-7).

We love stories about good shepherds precisely because we have lots more experience with bad ones.  Just think about the current federal government shutdown (2013). Bad shepherds were also the norm in Jesus’ time.

Jesus’ story of the good shepherd pictures three elements:  a door, a shepherd, and sheep (John 10:1-6).

The door image here is of a sheep pen with a single entrance gate or door where the sheep belonging to an entire village might be kept at night.  The gatekeeper might be a local teenager (v 3).

A good shepherd enters by the door (v 2).  Thieves might try to sneak over the fence but the shepherd enters by the front door (v 1).  The good shepherd also loves the sheep and they love him.  Jesus says:  I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep (vv 14-15).  Hired shepherds lack this love and run away when wolves attack the sheep (vv 12-13).

Sheep scare easily (v 5).  For this reason, Middle Eastern shepherds talk, sing, and play music for their sheep to calm them down and to lead them.  Consequently, the sheep do not need to be sorted in the morning—the shepherd just calls their sheep and they come (v 4).

The context before and after the story of the good shepherd discloses the tension between good and bad shepherds.  Sheep recognize good shepherds.  The man born blind in John 9 recognizes Jesus and comes to faith.  Bad shepherds show up in John10:19 where Jesus enters into a nasty debate with Jewish leaders.

The timing of this debate reinforces the chapter focus on bad shepherds.  The healing of the blind man occurred during the feast of Tabernacles (or booths, John 7:1), while the shepherd discussion takes place during the feast of Dedication (Hanukkah; v 22).  Hanukkah commemorates the re-dedication of the temple by Judas Maccabees in 165 BC.  Previously, the Maccabees led a rebellion against the Hellenization of Israel and desecration of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanies—a very bad shepherd!  While we might read this chapter in light of Psalm 23 (good shepherd), John’s context suggests that this story is better read in light of Ezekiel 34 (bad shepherd).

We are not to despair being a sheep living in a world of bad shepherds.  Jesus says:  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand (vv 27-28).

Our obligation is to follow the good shepherd; our reward is eternal life.

Questions

  1. What is your favorite scripture passage? Why?
  2. Many people say Psalm 23 is their favorite scripture passage. What is the image of a shepherd?
  3. What is the image of a shepherd in Ezekiel 34:2?
  4. What image of a shepherd do we see in John 10:1-18?
  5. Three images are given in John 10:1-18: the door, the shepherd, and sheep.  What do they refer to?
  6. Who is the gatekeeper? Who is a thief?  How are the hired workers different?
  7. What is the context of Jesus’ image of the shepherd? What do we learn from John 9?  What about John 10:19-21?
  8. Why does Jesus say: I am the good shepherd?  (v 14).
  9. Why is the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah, v 22) a clue to interpreting this section on shepherds? (Hint: see reflection).
  10. What is the controversy in the verses 22-42? Why do the Jews want to stone Jesus?(v 33)
  11. How does Jesus use the image of the good shepherd in this section? (vv 26-28)
  12. What is the source of our consolation in Christ? (vv 28-30)
  13. Where does this chapter end? (v 40)

JOHN 10: Good and Bad Shepherds

Also see:

JOHN 11: Raising of Lazarus 

Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 1 

Roadmap of Simple Faith

Bothersome Gaps: Life in Tension

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at:http://bit.ly/2018_Trans

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Gabriel Models Virtue; Speaks Worlds

Stephen Gabriel.  2011.  Speaking to the Heart:  A Father’s Guide to Growth in Gabriel_10012013Virtue.  Falls Church:  Moorings Press.

Reviewed by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Virtue.  That to which we hold ourselves accountable to.  Or not.  If your forehead were a billboard, what objectives would be written there?  Stephen Gabriel’s book, Speaking to the Heart, is a book that I wish that I might have written at a younger age.

Speaking to the Heart is a book for fathers written by a father (11).  Gabriel’s focus on virtues arises from the desire to be an intentional father who can assist his children in navigating the turbulence of life (12).  For those of us uncomfortable with the subject of virtues, Gabriel advises—pay attention to your discomfort because it points in the direction of wisdom (14).

The book is organized around 20 virtues starting with the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love (charity).  These 20 chapters are introduced with an introduction and followed with a conclusion.  Each of the 20 chapters begins with a scripture passage and a famous quote.  The virtue is then defined in a single page.  This definition is then followed by a two page discussion entitled:  “Considerations for Growth in the Virtue of XXX”.

Chapter 7, for example, focuses on temperance.  The scripture passage is 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 which begins:  “All the fighters at the games go into strict training…”  He then cites Robert Burton:  “Temperance is a bridle of gold.”  Gabriel writes:  “Temperance is evidenced by a sense of moderation and restraint in the exercise of our appetites.”  First among the considerations for growth cited is:  “I reflect on how I seek my happiness and fulfillment”.  Another gem is:  “I am more attentive to the people I am with than to the food and drink.”

Gabriel’s Speaking to the Heart oozes authenticity.  What gives the book authenticity is not the author’s professional background, expertise in ethics, or ability to turn a phrase. Gabriel is not an obvious candidate to take up the pen here. Gabriel’s authenticity arises because he promises publically to model virtue as a father and outlines what that looks like.  In a postmodern world devoid of adults, that takes guts.  You want to be a good parent?  Model virtue.

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JOHN 9: Sin and Darkness; Healing and Light

By Stephen W. Hiemstralighthouse copy

Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.  Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped (Isaiah 35:4-5 ESV).

What does it mean to be the light of the world?

Jesus declared–I am the light of the world—in John 8:12 after breaking up a kangaroo court accusing a woman caught in adultery.  Now, Jesus repeats this assertion (John 9:4) just before he heals a man blind from birth.

Chapter nine is distinctive, in part, because of the sequence of dialogs, including:  Jesus’ discussion with the disciples (vv 1-5), Jesus heals the blind man (vv 6-7), neighbors question the man (vv 8-12), the Pharisees question the man (vv 13-17), the Pharisees question the man’s parents (vv 18-23), the Pharisees question the man a second time (vv 24-34), Jesus seeks the man and speaks with him (vv 35-39), and the Pharisees question Jesus (vv 40-41).

What is so astounding from this chapter is the transition that takes place in the man formerly blind.  He starts out completely dependent on the grace of strangers when Jesus heals him.   He is not only blind; he is invisible—his neighbors do not recognize him after he receives his sight (vv 8-9).  He knows Jesus only by name (v 11).  As he repeats the story of his healing, he becomes more and more sophisticated in his understanding of what happened.  In the end, he lectures the Pharisees on the theology of his own healing (vv 30-33).  When Jesus speaks to him a second time, the man becomes a believer (v 38).  In effect, the man healed of blindness becomes a model disciple.

By contrast, the disciples ask whether the blindness was the result of sin either of the man or his parents (v 2).  Meanwhile, the Pharisees seem embarrassed the man is healed.  First, they examine the man and his parents to see if the man was previously blind.  Then, when the evidence of the healing becomes irrefutable, they attack Jesus for having healed on the Sabbath (vv 14, 16).  When the man explains the theological meaning of his healing to the Pharisees, they then turn their attack on the man himself and throw him out (v 34).  In effect, the Pharisees modeled spiritual blindness—refusing to recognize the reality of the healing—which was inconsistent with their world view.

The healing itself in verses 7 and 8 is interesting.  The man’s eyes are covered with mud which recalls God’s creation of Adam (Genesis 2:7).  The man is then sent to the Pool of Siloam—the same source provided water for the Feast of the Tabernacles.  This exercise of washing recalls the story of Naaman who was cured of leprosy after being sent to wash in the Jordan River (2 Kings 5:10).  In both cases, healing occurred in response to obedience, not because of the water.  Faith in the sender was required.

The formerly blind man’s faith started with reflection on the obvious:  Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see (v 25).  The resolution of the tension in this statement resulted in faith.

Where has Christ worked miracles in your life?  What was your response?

QUESTIONS

  1. This chapter begins with a theological discussion.What is the question?  What brings tension to the situation?  (vv 1-2)
  2. What does Jesus say? (v 3)
  3. Normally, in the Gospel of John, Jesus performs a sign; then, he gives an explanation (or vice versa). What is the sign?  What is the explanation? (vv 3-7).
  4. What do we know about the faith of the blind man?(v 7)
  5. A controversy breaks out in the neighborhood?What is it?  How is it resolved?  (vv 8-13).
  6. What day of the week was it? (v 14)  Do you think the blind man cared?
  7. The neighbors bring the formerly blind man to the Pharisees? What happens? (vv 13-18).
  8. When the Pharisees question the man, do they believe him? (v 18) So what do they do?
  9. What do the parents say? (vv 18-23)
  10. What happens when the Pharisees question the man a second time? (vv 24-34).
  11. How has the man’s faith changed during all these events? (vv 35-36, 38)
  12. Who is blind; who sees (vv 38-41).

JOHN 9: Sin and Darkness; Healing and Light

Also see:

JOHN 10: Good and Bad Shepherds 

Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 1 

Roadmap of Simple Faith

Bothersome Gaps: Life in Tension

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at:http://bit.ly/2018_Trans

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Walking in the Wilderness, Luke 15:11-24

By Stephen W. Hiemstradesert_sign

Trinity Presbyterian Church, Herndon, VA

Invocation

Father Almighty. Make your presence known to us here this morning. Grant us wisdom, grant us consolation. In the power of his Holy Spirit, inspire the words that are spoken and illuminate the words heard, in the precious name of Jesus, amen.

Introduction

Who here enjoys risks and uncertainty? (2X)

Unless you have a gambling habit you probably prefer stability, not risk or uncertainty. Unfortunately, life is often marked by many stressful changes.

Over the past year, I worked at Providence Hospital in Washington DC as a chaplain intern. In working with patients in the emergency department, I started seeing hospital visits as a special type of change called a transition.

A transition has three parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. Initially, patients come to the hospital with a problem and focus on the things that used to be. In the middle, patients receive their treatment and worry about how things will work out. In the end, almost all patients return to their old lives. At this point, the question is: what comes after the hospital?

This last question is inherently spiritual. For patients who came to the hospital because of a poor lifestyle choice, a better question is:  what will be different when you leave the hospital? (2X)

In life there are many transitions. During periods of uncertainty my prayer typically is:

Why did God bring me to this time and this place? (2X)

Scripture

The book of Exodus tells of a great transition in the history of the nation of Israel, the departure from Egypt and entry into the wilderness, and, then, the departure out of the desert and the entry into the Promised Land.

Listen to what Moses said to Pharaoh:  “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness” (Exodus 7:16 ESV) (2X). Where does Moses see the people who serve God? Ironically, it is not in Egypt, nor in the Promised Land. Rather, it is in the desert where we more often encounter God. This is because in the desert we are more likely to look for God and depend on him, exactly during these stressful periods of risk and uncertainty. It is in the middle of a transition.

Why did God bring me to this time and this place? (2X)

Jesus tells the story of a man who had two sons. The younger son came to him one day and asked for his inheritance in cash. He then left town with the money and began living with style. This reckless lifestyle did not last long and soon the young man had to get a job. Not being one to plan ahead, he was forced to accept a degrading job for Jews – feeding pigs. As the son’s mind began to wander, he began to reflect on how good things had been with his parents and he decided to return home. When his father found out he was coming, he went out to meet him and wrapped his arms around him. As the son began to apologize for his horrible behavior, his father would hear none of it. He took his son, cleaned him up, brought him some new clothes and threw him a party (Luke 15:11-24 NIV).

We all often behave like the younger son. Things must be really bad in the desert before we arrive at our senses and recognize that we need our Heavenly Father. The good news is that our Father is waiting for us, will forgive us, and will take us back into the family. Amen.

Prayer

Heavenly Father. We thank you for your care during transitions of life, but especially in times of uncertainty. In the power of your Holy Spirit, give us strength for the day and hope for the future. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

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JOHN 8: Grace and Truth

By Stephen W. HiemstraScalesOfJustice

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12 ESV).

What does it mean to walk in the light?

The story of the woman caught in adultery is probably the most celebrated capital judgment case in scripture.  The woman’s guilt is not in question; the only question was the sentence.  The Pharisees asked Jesus:  “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” (John 8:5).

Notice that under Jewish law both parties in adultery face the same penalty of death (Leviticus 20:10).  Because the Pharisee covered up the man’s identity, they broke the Ninth Commandment (do not bear false witness; Exodus 20:16) in presenting this case.  In other words, true justice was not being presented here irrespective of the penalty assigned.  Quite the contrary, the Pharisees have no regard for the woman.

Jesus points to the Pharisee’ bias when he says:  “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).  The law required that witnesses to the crime throw the first stone (Deuteronomy 17:7).  If anyone picks up a stone, then that person is liable for prosecution under the law because they have not revealed the identity of the man who participated in the adultery.  The Pharisees understand the dilemma so they leave.  The penalty for perjury was the same penalty as for the alleged crime (Deut 19:18-9).

Jesus’ words to the woman are important.  He says:  “Has no one condemned you?  She said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said, Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:10-11).  Jesus offers both truth and grace.  True alone or grace alone is not the Gospel. Truth alone is too harsh to be heard; grace alone ignores the law. Jesus seeks our transformation, not our judgment (Rom 12:2).

It is interesting the next discussion in John 8 focuses on the nature of Jesus’ testimony.  What does it mean to walk in the light?  Scholars often argue that the case of the woman caught in adultery does not fit in John—that it was added later.  However, the context of the pharisaic controversy makes perfect sense—it is an example of fair treatment under Jewish law that the Pharisees contested.

Jesus said:  You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one (John 8:15).  Under law, the woman was guilty even though she had been set up.  Under grace, the context is important—the law must be applied with impartiality and fairness to all parties.

Questions

  1. Where and when does this chapter open? (vv 1-2)
  2. What was Jesus doing? (v 2)
  3. What happened next? (vv 3-6)  How did Jesus respond?
  4. What is the significance of Jesus writing with his finger? (vv 6,8) (Possible hint: Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 9:10).
  5. What is the significance of Jesus’ question? (v 7)(Hint:  Deuteronomy 17:7)  What is the significance of having finger writing before and after? (vv 6, 8)
  6. Why did the Pharisees leave? (v 9) (Hint:Deuteronomy 19:18-9)
  7. Why is the woman unnamed? (vv 3,9-10)
  8. What does Jesus say to the woman? (vv 9-10)  Why is it important? (Hint: Romans 12:2)
  9. Who or what is Jesus referring to in verse 15?
  10. What does Jesus mean when he says:  “I am the light of the world”? (v 12)
  11. What is this dialog between Jesus and the Pharisees about in verses 13-19?
  12. Who judges according to Jesus in verses 15-16?
  13. Where did these conversations take place? (v 20)
  14. What does Jesus say about sin?  (v 24)  How do the Pharisees respond? (v 25)
  15. What does Jesus say about his relationship with the Father? (vv 26-29)
  16. What does Jesus say to those Jews who believed him?  (vv 30-36)
  17. What is freedom?  (vv 32-36)
  18. How does Jesus use the word, father?  (vv 37-44)
  19. How do we know who comes from God? (v 47)  What is the reward?  (v 51)
  20. How do the Pharisees react to Jesus’ words? (vv 37-59)
  21. Why do the Pharisees attempt to stone Jesus?  (vv 56-59)

JOHN 8: Grace and Truth

Also see:

JOHN 9: Sin and Darkness; Healing and Light 

Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 1 

Roadmap of Simple Faith

Bothersome Gaps: Life in Tension

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at:http://bit.ly/2018_Trans

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JOHN 7: Living Water

By Stephen W. HiemstraNiagara_Falls_07102013

And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail (Isaiah 58:11 ESV).

Laconic—not! The trickle of detail found in most of scripture is replaced with a flood in John’s Gospel. In life, God showers us with a Niagara Falls of blessings. The Holy Spirit  washes through us to everyone we meet (Ezekiel 47:1-9).

The context of Jesus’ revelation is the seventh day of Feast of Tabernacles (or booths) in the temple in Jerusalem. It is the last of three pilgrimage feasts in the Jewish calendar: “the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths” (Deuteronomy 16:16).

On the first seven days, a priest drew water from the Gihon Spring, processed up the hill to the temple, and poured the water on temple altar. At this point: Jesus stood up and cried out, If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water (vv 37-38). His words could not have had a more dramatic context. The water ceremony commemorated the time when Moses struck the rock a Meribah in the desert and the rock yielded a flood of water (Numbers 20:11).

However, God instructed Moses to tell the rock to yield water. Because Moses disobeyed God in striking the rock with his staff, God punished Moses saying that he would not live to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 20:8, 12). Thus, Jesus’ declaration and sinless life testify to his exceeding the blessings God bestowed on Israel through the ministry of Moses.

Leading up the Feast of the Tabernacles, we get a glimpse into Jesus’ private life. Jesus’ brothers invite him to attend the feast with them and encourage him to make a big splash (v 4). Jesus refuses. After his brothers leave, he quietly travels late to the feast and begins teaching in the temple (v 10). Why? Because Jesus was not trying to draw attention to himself, but he preferred to wait on God’s timing (vv 8, 16).

Jesus told his brothers: My time has not yet come, but your time is always here (v 6).

QUESTIONS 

  1. Where and when does this chapter open? (vv 1-2)
  2. Why does Jesus turn down his brothers’ invitation to attend the Feast of Tabernacles? (v 1)
  3. What advice did Jesus’ brothers give him? (vv 3-6)
  4. What is his response? (vv 6-9)
  5. Did his brothers have faith in him? (v 5)
  6. What did Jesus do? (vv 9-10, 14)  Why? (v 6)
  7. What were people saying about Jesus at the festival?(vv 11-13, 15)
  8. What does Jesus do when he arrives at the temple? (v 14)
  9. What does Jesus say about his teaching? (vv 16-19)
  10. Why is this significant?
  11. How did the Pharisees teach?
  12. What does Jesus say about the law? (v 19)
  13. What does Jesus say about circumcision? What comparison does he make? (vv 21-24)
  14. What do people say about Jesus’ open teaching?(vv 25-26)
  15. What is the controversy over Jesus’ origins?(vv 26-29)  How does Jesus respond?
  16. What happens when the Pharisee send guards to arrest Jesus? (vv 30,32,44-48).
  17. 10.What is the confusion over where Jesus is going?  (vv 33-36)
  18. What does Jesus say on the last day of the festival (vv 37-38) (see Numbers 20:11).
  19. How do people respond? (vv 40-43)
  20. What does Nicodemus say? What was the response? (vv 50-53)
  21. What is the comment made in verse 39?  Who is making it?

JOHN 7: Living Water

Also see:

JOHN 8: Grace and Truth

Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 1 

Roadmap of Simple Faith

Bothersome Gaps: Life in Tension

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at:http://bit.ly/2018_Trans

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The Lord’s Prayer: A Guide for the Perplexed By Gordon P. Hugenberger

Hugenberger, Gordon P. 1994.  The Lord’s Prayer:  A Guide for the Perplexed.  Boston:  Park Street Church.

Reviewed by Stephen W. Hiemstra

The book speaks to the hollowing out of large parts of the church in recent years. The consensus view focuses on the form rather than the content of our faith. Liberals have abandoned the basic doctrines of the church while evangelicals have eschewed depth to appeal to seekers. Scholarly devotionals helps mitigate this problem by offering believers something more thoughtful to chew on.

Against this backdrop, the Lord’s Prayer: A Guide for the Perplexed, written by Rev. Dr. Gordon P. Hugenberger reflects biblically on the content of the Lord’s Prayer. For example, the introduction points out that the Gospel of Luke gives special emphasis to Jesus’ prayer life (5). Hugenberger is the senior pastor at Park Street Church, Boston MA and a professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA. Park Street Church is famous as the site for in early Billy Graham revival in the 1940s.

A topic likely to generate discussion is Hugenberger’s discussion of why newer translations omit the doxology to the Lord’s Prayer. The doxology is–For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen–found, for example, in Matthew 6:13 in the King James Version of the bible at the end of the prayer. The basic reason is that the doxology was added in later Greek manuscripts because Jesus meant the Lord’s Prayer to be a template for prayer, not an officially sanctioned prayer. The church took this advice seriously adding petitions, like the doxology at the end of the prayer (7). When scholars examined earlier manuscripts, those manuscripts did not have the oxology.  Because newer translations give preference to older Greek manuscripts, the doxology was left out or became a footnote.

Hugenberger’s book is useful as a devotional study for mature Christians and their study groups wanting to deepen their understanding of the Lord’s Prayer. The book is short enough to read in one sitting, but devotions are best enjoyed at a more leisurely pace.

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JOHN 6: Bread from Heaven

CommunionBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst (John 6:35 ESV).

It is ironic that someone born in Bethlehem, which is Hebrew for house (beth) of bread (lehem), should be famous for performing the miracle of breaking bread!  Adding to irony is that the miracle of feeding the five thousand should occur during Passover (v 4) and the bread was barley loaf (v 9).  Because barley is a poor person’s bread, this miracle takes the appearance of a peasant revolt.  Jesus will have nothing to do with it and leaves (v 15).

Jesus’ teaching and the miracle of the bread have both messianic and covenantal implications which are linked.  And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deuteronomy 8:3).  Moses is linked to God’s provision of manna in the desert (v 32) and to the crossing of the Red Sea.  In an obvious parallel, Jesus likewise feeds the five thousand (v 11) and walks on water (v 19)1.

John’s references to communion here are unmistakable.  Jesus says: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (v 53).  The link to Passover makes this passage look like a Galilee Passover rehearsal for the Last Supper in Jerusalem.  Later in chapter 17, however, John focuses on Jesus’ intercessory prayer, not a covenantal meal, like in Luke 22:20.  What is interesting about all this is that John’s covenantal meal involves Jesus feeding hungry people (outsiders) rather than his disciples (insiders).

The reference in verse 35 where Jesus says, I am the bread of life, is the first of seven famous “I AM” references in John’s Gospel.  The others are I am:  the light of the world (John 8:12), the gate for the sheep (John 10:7), the good shepherd (John 10:11), the resurrection and the life (John 11:25), the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6), and the true vine (John 15:1)[1].  Each sentence is significant because it begins with “I AM”, the covenant name of God given to Moses (Exodus 3:15).  The implication is that these are the character traits of God himself.

Which of these character traits are most meaningful to you?


[1] Gary M. Burge.  2000.  The NIV Application Commentary:  John.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, pages 194,199.

Questions

How was your week?  Do you have anything about your week that you would like to share? Do you have any thoughts about last week’s lesson?

THE “I AM” THEME IN JOHN
Quote References
I am the bread of life… John 6:35, 41, 48, 51
I am the light of the world… John 8:12,18, 23
I am the gate for the sheep… John 10:7, 9
I am the good shepherd… John 10:11, 14
I am the resurrection and the life… John 11:25
I am the way and the truth and the life… John 14:6
I am the true vine… John 15:1, 5
Source:  Gary M. Burge.  2000.  The NIV Application Commentary:  John.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, page 199.
  1. Where and when does this chapter take place? (vv 1-4)
  2. Why does Jesus ask about bread for the people (vv 4-5; Exodus 12:17)
  3. Why does Andrew bring a boy with his lunch? (vv 8-9) (John 1:36-40)
  4. What is the significance of the bread being made of barley? (v 9)
  5. How did the people interpret the many fragments of bread? What parallel comes to mind with the bread miracle?  (vv 12-14; vv 31-32Exodus 16:35;)
  6. Why do the people want to make Jesus king? What does Jesus do? (v 15)
  7. What is the parallel that comes to mind in the walking on water incident? (vv 16-21; Exodus 14:21)
  8. What is Jesus’ teaching about bread? (v 35)  What was the reaction? (vv 41-42)
  9. What is significant about John’s reference to communion in verse 53? Who takes part here?  Who takes part in Luke 22:19-20 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-28?
  10. 10.What is the response to Jesus’ conversation about communion?  (v 66)
  11. 11.In particular, how do you interpret verse 65?
  12. 12.What is Peter’s response? (v 68)

JOHN 6: Bread from Heaven

Also see:

JOHN 7: Living Water 

Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 1 

Roadmap of Simple Faith

Bothersome Gaps: Life in Tension

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

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JOHN 4: The Evangelist of Samaria

By Stephen W. HiemstraBillyGraham

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24).

What is your image of an evangelist?

An early influence on my life was evangelist, Billy Graham.  My parents worked for the Billy Graham Society (BGS) early in his California ministry campaigns.  When I committed my life to Christ as a young person after viewing the film, The Cross and the Switchblade, in the early 1960s, I was encouraged to complete a mail-order bible study provided by the BGS.  Later, after I had started seminary, I learned that the Graham family was a major inspiration and financial supporter of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC where I studied.

While my image of an evangelist is Billy Graham, the Gospel of John records that the first, truly independent evangelist was an unnamed woman with a nasty background from Samaria.

Do you think you have sinned and that God cannot forgive you?

Then you need to read the story of the woman at the well in John 4.  Jesus not only forgave her; he gave her a new life and a new career as an evangelist.  Her testimony was so compelling that her whole village had to see Jesus.  John writes:  Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, He told me all that I ever did (v. 39).  Do you think she stopped her evangelism there?

The location of Jacob’s well near Sychar (Shechem) links the woman at the well to the story of Dinah (Genesis 34).  The sin of Simeon and Levi following Dinah’s rape leads to Judah inheriting Jacob’s blessing.  The messiah, Jesus, is later prophesied to come from tribe of Judah by way of King David (Psalm 110).  The stories of Rebekah, Rachel, and Ziporah all involve interesting male-female encounters at wells but do not directly inform Jesus’ heritage or ministry (Genesis 24 and 29; Exodus 2).

John 4 actually includes two other important stories.  The story is in verses 1 and 2, where we learn that Jesus left Judea and traveled through Samaria to avoid competing with the baptismal ministry of John.  This is an important object lesson to ministers to focus on God’s kingdom, not their own.  It also mirrored John’s own humility (John 3:30).

The second story takes place once Jesus returns to Galilee to Cana—the site of his first miracle turning water into wine.  Jesus is asked to heal the child of a local official who he heals remotely (v 50).  In effect, Jesus became the first medical missionary on his return to Galilee.

Often the Gospel of John is compared with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke—the synoptic Gospels—and people ask:  Why doesn’t Jesus speak in parables in John’s Gospel?  An interesting answer is that the synoptic Gospels record Jesus’ public ministry while John focuses on Jesus’ private ministry.

Today we would describe encounters, like those with Nicodemus and the woman at the well, as pastoral care. Jesus cared both for the rich and famous, like Nicodemus, and for the poor and neglected, like the woman at the well.  Both encounters were deeply theological.  Both encounters yielded fruit.  It is perhaps surprising that the encounter with the woman at the well was the more fruitful.

Do you think that God seeks such people today?  Do you think that he seeks you?

Questions

How was your week?  Do you have anything about your week that you would like to share?  Do you have any thoughts about last week’s lesson?

  1. How does Jesus react to the Pharisee’s comment about John and baptism? What does he do? (vv 1-3)
  2. Why then does Jesus visit Samaria? (v 4)
  3. Where in Samaria does this chapter focus? What is significant about the location? (v 5)  Hint:  Genesis 34.
  4. What names does the Samaritan woman use for Jesus? (vv 6,9, 11, 15, 19, 25, 26, 29,31, 42).
  5. What other biblical male-female encounters take place at a well? (Genesis 24 and 29; Exodus 2)
  6. What does Jesus ask of the Samaritan woman? Why?  How does she respond?  Why? (vv 7-9)
  7. How does Jesus introduce himself? Why? (v 10)
  8. Does the Samarian woman understand Jesus’ comment about living water? (vv 10-14)
  9. Why does Jesus change the subject when the woman asks for living water? Why does he ask for her husband?  (vv 10-11).
  10. Is the woman being sarcastic when she says that Jesus is a prophet? (v 19)
  11. What was the effect of Jesus’ conversation with the woman? (v 39)
  12. What does Jesus say to the disciples when they return? (vv 31-39)
  13. Where does Jesus go when he reaches Galilee?  What happens there? (vv 43-54).
  14. Why does John refer to Jesus’ miracle as a sign? (v 54).

JOHN 4: The Evangelist of Samaria

Also see:

JOHN 5: Walking in Faith

Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 1 

Roadmap of Simple Faith

Bothersome Gaps: Life in Tension

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter:  http://bit.ly/2018_Ascension

Continue Reading

JOHN 3: Humility and Love

By Stephen W. HiemstraMrPersonality

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,

you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt 18:3-4 ESV).

Have you been born again?

The Apostle John actually uses the enigmatic expression, born from above, to talk about spiritual rebirth (vv 5-6).  Commentators often wonder why Nicodemus was surprised by Jesus’ teaching because the prophet Ezekiel wrote something similar:  And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezekiel 36:27).  Nicodemus was perhaps surprised, not because he does not know his scripture; he is surprised because the usual Jewish teaching focused on complying with the Law of Moses.  Pharisees taught that the law could be obeyed if the proper rules were known and followed—God’s intervention was not required to comply with the law.

Being born again implies that God comes to us—we do not come to him.  Following the law; being good; attending the right church will not bring you closer to God.  God is not far from us in terms of physical distance; He is far from us in terms of holiness—moral distance.  He is infinite; we are finite.  God must choose us; because we cannot choose him.  And when God chooses us, we are radically changed.

The discourse with Nicodemus is the first of three sections in chapter three.  The other two are Jesus’ teaching on love and further comments by John the Baptist.

The dialog with Nicodemus ends with a series of statements by Jesus which ends in verse 21.  Among these statements is the familiar passage:  John 3:16—For God so loved the world…

God’s love of an unholy world is unexpected.  The rebellion of the created order from God sets the world in opposition to God.  This was, for example, the reason for God sending the flood but saving Noah and his family (Genesis 6:5-7).  Jesus, as God’s son, is the champion promised in Genesis 3:15 who would defeat Satan.  God’s love in Christ not only allows God to keep his promise, but Christ’s example also sets God’s people apart from the world—when they pay attention.   By looking to that example, we are saved (Numbers 21:9).

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:44-45 ESV).

In our own lifetime, Bishop Desmond Tutu applied this principle of love for enemies when he formed South Africa’s Truth and Justice commission.  The abolishment of Apartheid accordingly became an opportunity for healing rather than an excuse for genocide.  John the Baptist, who recognized the power of God in Christ, voluntarily gave up his own ministry to make room for Jesus saying:  He must increase, but I must decrease (v 30).  In like manner, the people of South Africa gave up their legitimate claim for revenge to make room for Christ’s love and became an example to the entire world.

Do you want to love the world?  Give up your rights and practice Christ’s love.

Questions

How was your week?  Do you have anything about your week that you would like to share? Do you have any thoughts about last week’s lesson?

  1. Who was Nicodemus? (v 1)
  2. Why might he have come at night to see Jesus? (v 2)
  3. How does Nicodemus describe Jesus? (v 2)
  4. What is a sign? (v 2) How does it differ from a wonder, a miracle, or healing?  For example:  And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people(Acts 6:8 ESV).
  5. What does Jesus say? Why is it surprising? (v 3)
  6. Why does Nicodemus respond the way he does? (v 4)What does he say?
  7. How many times does Jesus repeat the phrase born again (v 3, 5, 7)? Why?
  8. What does “born again” mean? What does it imply?
  9. What is said in verse 6? Why is it important?
  10. 10.Does Nicodemus understand? (v 9)
  11. What do verses 10 through 21 have in common? Is Jesus speaking throughout this section?  For example, who is speaking in John 3:16?  Why?
  12. 12.Where does Jesus go in verses 22-23 and what does he do?
  13. Why is verse 24 interesting?
  14. 14.Who is carrying on the discussion that starts in verse 25?
  15. 15.What is discussed in verses 26 through 36?

JOHN 3: Humility and Love

Also see:

JOHN 4: The Evangelist of Samaria 

Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 1 

Roadmap of Simple Faith

Bothersome Gaps: Life in Tension

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter:  http://bit.ly/2018_Ascension

Continue Reading