|English: Jesus and Nicodemus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The Apostle John had just finished saying,
“John *testified about Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'" For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” John 1:15-17 NASB
What the Apostle John had just said was almost too much to handle, and, keep in mind that John is addressing Jewish converts. A group that before receiving salvation seemed to struggle with the idea that Jesus was the Messiah/God in the flesh. He finished the thought with, “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”
You can almost feel the tension in the air as they read this last statement.
I imagine the converts wanted to understand, but this needed to be chewed on for a moment. I can just picture John taking an intentional pause, breathing deeply, and then adding this next statement:
“No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” John 1:18 NASB
Why would John have to say that?
We have to go back to his opening lines and try to grasp how the minds received what he said. Some may have been wondering if Jesus still walked the earth. Besides, we are talking about the all mighty God, right?
You would think that the concepts the Apostle John was setting forth were already understood.
Even I can understand that the law of God came through the mouth of Moses, but if God conveyed what we typically see as anger and wrath through the law, then how do I embrace grace and truth, which almost seems in opposition to the law. Furthermore, how do I accept this “freedom” as being through Jesus, who was also here as God, or at least a representative of Him?
Let's try to grasp this for a moment.
- On two occasions Jesus spoke of how he and the Father are one. We find both of those detailed in John's Gospel: John 10:30 and John 17:22.When Jesus made the statement in John 10:30, the religious Jewish crowd (this probably consisted of the chief priests, elders, scribes, Pharisee, and Sadducees) reacted, and poorly. To them Jesus words were blasphemous, and, as you can see by their response, they were willing to stone Jesus to death.
John 10:31-33 NASB, The Jews, picked up stones again to stone Him. 32) Jesus answered them, "I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?" 33) The Jews answered Him, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God."
But what is the obvious problem for the religious Jews? They were not going to accept Jesus words. This is not true of all of them because of Nicodemus, one of the elders, came to Him by night. Nicodemus tells us that many believed. Believed what? Jesus word.
- Young's Literal Translation of John 17:22, gives another view of Jesus relating who He was when He said, “And I, the glory that thou hast given to me, have given to them, that they may be one as we are one;”Fairly direct, wouldn't you say?
- In Luke's gospel, chapter 22 verse 30, it is recorded that Jesus referred to the table of God as His table.
“that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (NASB)
But once again we have a problem.To whom is Jesus saying this? The disciples. We make the assumption that this means twelve men, but we find out that by the time the Holy Spirit fell on them all, there was as many as 120 who carried that title. If the message was that Jesus and God were one and they were excited about that aspect, then how and why would that have been prevented? Only through fear, intimidation, and threats, and that is exactly what the religious Jews did.
- I will end this rant with a passage from Mark's gospel.Held like a criminal before the high priest and elders, Jesus was challenged.
As you can see, He answered them with “I am.”
61) But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" 62) And Jesus said, "I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN."
Those listening, and they were listening intently, heard every word. It didn't take lengthy discussion because they understood the implications of every word, comma, and period, and yes, I know that the Greek has no punctuation. The list of accusations was already sufficient and substantial. As soon as Jesus said these words, “I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” the high priest intentionally ripped his garments.From Kenneth Wuest's Word Studies in the New Testament, we get this: “This tearing of garments was an old sign of mourning or sorrow first mentioned in Gen_37:29. The law forbad the high priest from rending his garments in the case of private troubles (Lev_10:6; Lev_21:10), but when acting as a judge, he was required by custom to express in this way his horror of any blasphemy uttered in his presence.” - Me, this was, of course, their interpretation, not knowing that Jesus was God.
63) Tearing his clothes, the high priest *said, "What further need do we have of witnesses? 64) "You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?" And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.
We assume that this was the last straw for putting Jesus to death, but they had tried to kill him on many occasions. What we have to keep in mind is that death was a necessary price to pay for our redemption and a price that He paid willingly.
Now the question, why would the Apostle John have to say the things he said, comes full circle. Hopefully, I presented enough evidence to convince the Bereans among us, that Jesus was God. Do I fully grasp the concept? No, but I am not foolish enough to challenge the idea any longer, and my lack of understanding has created an insatiable desire to learn more completely these things the Jewish leadership understood – and yet repressed. This desire to know the God I choose to serve is the main reason I write, that and the horrific lack of knowledge we "followers" of Christ have about most anything when it comes to the Bible. Simply put, we choose to live in a world of fairy tales, such as David and Goliath, believing that David was just the cutest little twelve-year-old boy. Wake up! What fool would let a child attempt to defend a nation, knowing full well the horrors of enslavement that would befall all of Israel?
Setting the idea of fairy tales aside, the question now is, who do you say this Jesus is?
The answer is important, whether you believe it or not, because:
- Jesus is coming soon to gather those who belong to him, back to himself.
- This void left by a praying church will leave many here on earth to suffer the hateful indifference of a godless society; hell bent on the collection of riches. Their decisions, which we are already experiencing, include the killing of those associated with Christ.
While I am not the judge and do not know the hearts of those around me, God does, and the religious practices of these cult religions have shown them enough truth to understand that God is real and that the world around you, at this point, wants you dead.
All my life, practically living in the church, has sheltered me, to some degree, from the world. What that means is that I am thankful I did not develop a taste for most of what the world offers, like drugs and alcohol. What I did find myself consumed by was co-dependency, anxiety, depression, and a Viking-like anger that I used to keep myself safe (so I thought) from people who had the skills to push others around. [This idea of pushing people around is often subtle and done under the guise of people skills.] So, does growing up in church give me an advantage? Hardly, it puts you in the sights of individuals, who have a religious side to them but are almost as twisted and evil as the world.
I am not going to lie to you, growing up in the church was hard, it should not have been, but it was. Later on in life, after a wife cheated on me for the second time, I allowed myself to indulge in some Viking-like rage and ended up in a psych hospital for a month. Thankfully I learned some things about myself that enable me to walk calmly through most of those anger filled moments. To add to my grief, the psych staff asked me how long my parents had been alcoholics. Try to imagine the questions your mind throws at you in a moment like that, when, to my understanding, my parents have never touched alcohol and yet act like they guzzled the stuff. I still have trouble with it, and, have considered going to something like an Adult Children of Alcoholics group, just to see what help I could gain in understanding me.
All-in-all, I consider myself fortunate that I found Christ at such an early age because the life I lived in Christ gave me a foundation that was rich in a diversity that included: the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Because of those experiences I have felt all the emotions, I associate with a God that loves me, but spread over many years. Feelings, by the way, buy you nothing in the long run as we are expected to live this life by faith. The problem with years of experience is that the time frame is broad enough for me to become almost numb to it, or at least not react appropriately to the moving of the spirit. It is in those times that I remind myself, as the song says, of all that he has done. Yes, I remind myself, not only from a historical point of view but also of how Jesus has shown up in my life as well.
Jesus, make me yours!!