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Life of Christ (1996-1998)

Christ In Public

John 7

(John 7 NIV) After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. {2} But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, {3} Jesus' brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. {4} No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world." {5} For even his own brothers did not believe in him. {6} Therefore Jesus told them, "The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. {7} The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. {8} You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come." {9} Having said this, he stayed in Galilee. {10} However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. {11} Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him and asking, "Where is that man?" {12} Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, "He is a good man." Others replied, "No, he deceives the people." {13} But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews. {14} Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. {15} The Jews were amazed and asked, "How did this man get such learning without having studied?" {16} Jesus answered, "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. {17} If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. {18} He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. {19} Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?" {20} "You are demon-possessed," the crowd answered. "Who is trying to kill you?" {21} Jesus said to them, "I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. {22} Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. {23} Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? {24} Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." {25} At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, "Isn't this the man they are trying to kill? {26} Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ ? {27} But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from." {28} Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, "Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, {29} but I know him because I am from him and he sent me." {30} At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. {31} Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, "When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?" {32} The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. {33} Jesus said, "I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. {34} You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come." {35} The Jews said to one another, "Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? {36} What did he mean when he said, 'You will look for me, but you will not find me,' and' Where I am, you cannot come'?" {37} On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. {38} Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." {39} By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. {40} On hearing his words, some of the people said, "Surely this man is the Prophet." {41} Others said, "He is the Christ." Still others asked, "How can the Christ come from Galilee? {42} Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?" {43} Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. {44} Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him. {45} Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why didn't you bring him in?" {46} "No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared. {47} "You mean he has deceived you also?" the Pharisees retorted. {48} "Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? {49} No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law--there is a curse on them." {50} Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, {51} "Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?" {52} They replied, "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee." {53} Then each went to his own home.

Who do you say that I am?

It is a curious fact of western civilization: since His coming, we have not been able to ignore Jesus Christ. Western civilization is based on Christ, and as such no generation has been able to avoid the question, “Who is this man?” This passage contains some of the most common answers, and these we must now examine -- for they are the attitudes of our friends.

He was a good man.

One of the most common attitudes in “modern” civilization, this idea holds that Jesus was a “good guy.” He had a lot of neat things to say (just look at Bartlett’s quotations). Everybody ought to know what He said, and one of these days I’m going to get around to looking him up.

There are only two things wrong with this attitude:

·         It’s false. He never, ever put himself forward as a “good guy.” He never left anyone that option, and he never intended to. The briefest examination of what he actually said (Jesus Seminar notwithstanding) will reveal that he claimed to be God in the flesh.

·         It also ignores the consequences of ignorance. Just because you didn’t know the doorstop was a live shell does not mean it won’t blow up when you close the door. Just because you thought Jesus was a “good guy” (and paid no attention, therefore) does not mean the Judgment will not come.

He’s leading the people astray

This is a theory that is returning in popularity. One of the great difficulties of modern humanism is the character of its opponents. If you were to read the popular press, the Christian (aka “right wing fundamentalist” -- to demonize you must label) is a raving lunatic, a fanatic who spends his nights blowing up innocent abortionists and his days screaming at noble, long-suffering lesbians. The theory is wonderful; the facts are to the contrary. Most Christians are, in fact, the “salt of the earth.” If this is the case, how can the humanist explain it? The only possible hypothesis is that while Christians are good people, they have been led astray.

This too falls on its face. What does it mean, “to lead astray?” Have you ever seen a group of people who were led astray and became more righteous? It is self-contradictory. How can this be maintained?

Only by insisting that righteousness is composed only of tiny pieces, unconnected with each other. The idea is that a man can be honest -- but unfaithful to his wife. (Of course, to spare her feelings, he won’t mention it to her -- in fact, he’ll lie about it. Honestly, of course).

If you want the truth of this theory, consider this: for the last thirty to forty years America has been ruled by this idea. Righteousness is composed of tiny pieces; character does not count; there is no “oneness” to it. Tell me its results. And still our liberals insist that what we need is more of the same.

“He has a demon” (in modern terms, he’s nuts)

This theory at least has the virtue of simplicity. In its original version -- the demon -- it certainly explained Jesus’ power. Again, however, it falls apart upon examination of the facts. If there is any one thing modern psychiatry tells us, it is that religion must be a neurosis -- after all, these people are just not facing reality. So then, what is the diagnosis of Jesus of Nazareth? Read his words; are they not the words of a man eminently sane, intelligent and shrewd? If he’s a nut case, why did he not go the way of all other nut cases -- powerful when here in the flesh, quickly forgotten as soon as he’s gone.

Sheer hatred; the Pharisees

This is the reaction of the “power structure” -- and it continues to be so to this day. If you carry the authority of the world, and do not have the Spirit, you must be opposed to Christ. He is the ultimate challenge to your authority. Is it any wonder that Moslems and Jews, in America, are “minorities” to be protected, honored for their “unique cultural contributions,” while (on grounds which could just as well be used against Moslems and Jews) Christians are attacked? Moses and Mohammed are not a threat to the powers of this world.

So how do I tell?

How can I tell which Jesus is the real one? Christ himself gives you the test -- an obvious one, if you think about it:

(John 7:17 NIV) If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.

Note that it is not from study (though that is good) but from practice that you will recognize the truth. If you are doing God’s will, you will know.

This makes sense when you think about it. Suppose you are, like me, somewhat of an amateur woodworker. You don’t have to be very good at it (I’m not) to have your senses sharpened (pun intended) about what is good furniture and what is not. I have “chosen to woodwork” -- and that makes me a much better judge between furniture and firewood.

This is just a specific instance of God’s general plan: his truth is revealed to us gradually. It is gradual throughout the Bible; it is gradual throughout my life. This is the mark of an artist.

Winton Marsalis is probably the greatest trumpet player of our time, a man who has won Grammy awards for both classical and jazz work. I once saw him talking to a group of young students about ragtime music. He showed them how ragtime actually came out of the march; Scott Joplin was the immediate musical descendant of John Philip Sousa. Until he had the band play one of Joplin’s pieces along with one of Sousa’s I was doubtful -- but then I recognized how the art of music had moved smoothly from one to the other. Art, and artists, do that.

God is the great artist, and in Jesus Christ we have his final work of art -- until He comes again!

The requirement to judge: make up your mind

There is something fundamentally absurd about all this. God is telling us to judge him -- something like asking our dogs to evaluate us. The marvel is that God submits himself to our judgment. The tragedy is that so many of us refuse even that.

We say, “why do I have to make up my mind?” We whine about “how can you prove God exists?” Having so said, we try to sit on the fence and do nothing. This is absurd, at the least.

Consider it this way: suppose I went around telling you that our water supply was contaminated with some mind altering drug, provided by our government to keep us under control. Either I’m a nut case -- and should be locked up, lest I start a revolution and get a lot of people killed -- or I’m right, and the revolution should be started lest liberty be completely obliterated. You cannot stand still and sit on the fence.

It is the same with Christ. He claims to be God, creator and Judge! If he is wrong, do you not have the duty to oppose such a monstrous deception? If he is right, can you ignore the judgment to come? Either way, sitting on the fence will only put splinters in your rear end.

The Nature of Authority

If Jesus, then, is right, we come immediately to the question of authority. In spiritual life, there are three kinds of authority:

Rabbinical

Rabbinical authority is that which is claimed by every teacher (including me):

·         It is based on education and learning. My library is, for an individual Christian, rather extensive. Without such learning, a man is marked as “ignorant.” Does it matter how smart the man is -- if you need a doctor, look for one who’s been to medical school.

·         It is based upon a continuous tradition -- like the doctor, the medical school is based upon many people’s learning, handed down from generation to generation. Change occurs, yes; but change within the tradition.

·         Such authority is intrinsically “second hand.” No doctor could possibly have done all the research to create modern medicine; they rely on thousands of experts, each in his own field. Even if I’m the world’s greatest authority on hangnails, the cancer specialist is still his own.

Prophetic

Prophetic authority is analogous to the individual expert in medicine.

·         It is based upon revelation, as the expert in medicine bases his on research. It is not an educated answer, but one which is original.

·         As such, it has no tradition at all. It is a new development. Tradition, however, embraces it and accepts it -- and then it becomes a part of the tradition.

·         The authority is still, however, “second hand.” Revealed or discovered, it is not intrinsically our own.

Godly

·         This authority is not revealed -- it is the source of revelation.

·         Unlike the prophetic, which appears isolated in time, Christ’s authority is prophesied.

·         The authority is Christ’s own -- and in keeping with the mind of God, the teaching comes from the Father, not the son. The authority is intrinsic; the teaching, extrinsic (and completing that which the rabbis and prophets taught).

Living Water

Christ now makes his statement: He is the source of living water. We need to see what this means to the hearer of the time so that we might understand what it means to us.

Feast of the Tabernacles

This feast commemorates the Exodus. The Jew was commanded to live in a “booth” -- a tent like structure with wooden poles -- which was called a “Tabernacle.” (The word means dwelling place in general). It is roughly analogous to our holiday of Thanksgiving, in that it occurs at the end of the harvest and was viewed as a celebration of God’s goodness and bounty to us.

The Old Testament does not record this, but secular history (Josephus) tells us that the rabbis had incorporated a tradition into this holiday. They included a ceremonial offering (a libation) of water from the pool of Siloam. This was a memorial of God providing water in the wilderness. This would be in the mind of the Jews. Indeed, they may have connected it with the healings at that pool. So Christ’s words would have had a great memory attached to them. But there is more than that.

Living Water -- other references

Twice in Jeremiah, and once in Zechariah, we see this exact phrase. The learned Jew would know these passages:

(Jer 2:13 NIV) "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

From this we see that the spring of living water would clearly be identified as God, the Lord God Jehovah. Jesus is explicitly claiming to be God. But there is more:

(Zec 14:8 NIV) On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter.

The reference is to the “Day of the Lord” -- which we now know is at the return of Christ. Christ here associates himself with this promise.

In the New Testament, the phrase is used on two other occasions. The first is the woman at the well in Samaria:

(John 4:10-11 NIV) Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." {11} "Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?

The next, more significant, is in Revelation, just before the seventh seal:

(Rev 7:17 NIV) For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

The significance is utterly clear. Jesus is standing before the one nation on earth that knows what “One God” means; the one nation having experience with the one true God -- and claiming to be that God. Even more, He is claiming that He is the source of the living water. Which brings us to the final point: why would I want that?

Why would I want “living water?”

The woman at the well put it quite simply:

(John 4:15 NIV) The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."

So I won’t get thirsty. How simple. But “thirsty” in what sense? Thirst is a metaphor for longing (remember those who hunger and thirst after righteousness?), and I submit that there are four such ways:

·         In the mind. We long for the ultimate answer; we want the universe to “make sense.” Why are we here? What does it all mean? All these things are answered in Christ.

·         In the heart. Life is tough, and full of hard knocks. No one we know is always there to comfort us; no one is always faithful; everyone lets us down sometime -- everyone except Jesus.

·         In our strength -- or lack of it. Life is perilous; we seek security, both for this life and the next. In Jesus is the ultimate security.

·         In our souls. If there is any one thing which cries from this century, is the lack of completeness. We are not whole. “Something is missing” -- and whole generations have set out to find it. We are just not satisfied. We can be complete only in Jesus.

There it is. Jesus has presented himself to the nation as the answer. Not a good man, not a lunatic or deceiver, but the Christ of God -- and for this He received the hatred of the power structure of his day. His authority was His own, though His teaching was the teaching God had sent from the beginning. And He -- Jesus, personally -- is the source of the living water which comes only from the springs of God. Upon examination, there is no question who He is. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

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