John’s Portraits of Christ

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1. Son of God

(Apologies for the delay in the re-start of the EmmDevs – I was struggling to choose the next theme!)I eventually settled on looking at 21 portraits of Jesus from the 21 chapters in John’s gospel. The inspiration for this comes from a chart in the the reference tools found in the Thompson’s Chain Reference Bible…)
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The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.      (John1:14)

John 1 is like the overture of a theatrical musical. An overture is the introduction and sets the stage and mood, but it also gives one some sense of the main moments of the story.

John’s prologue in ch.1 does this magnificently. Here are some highlights from the chapter as a whole:

  • He opens with “In the beginning was the Word…” and we are taken all the way back to Genesis 1.
  • We are reminded of John the Baptist who is Jesus’ forerunner and gives the gospel story historical credibility. John the Baptist is also the one who reveals God’s agenda for us – to be witnesses of the light.
  • Jesus is introduced as the Light of the world, the God revealer and the very life of humankind,
  • He is the un-understood and un-recognised Messiah who was crucified by a corrupt and blind religious system
  • He transforms people bringing them from death to life – to being born of God.

But I want to concentrate on our verse for the day:
John has already told us that Jesus is the Word who is with God and is God. He has told us that Jesus is the light and life of humanity. But there’s a twist to this majestic tale: The Son of God, magnificent and mighty, humbles Himself to become flesh – to enter Mary’s womb, to be a holy embryo, to dwell among us. Eugene Peterson translates this thought as “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.”

One would think that moving into the neighbourhood would lower Him to our standards – that’d He’d be cheapened by His connection with us. But this is not the case: John declares that the “divine self-lowering” of Jesus actually exalts Him.
And here’s why: Where Adam and Eve grabbed for more power, Jesus chose to obey God even if it meant humbling Himself and having less power.

Jesus obeyed His Father and, for our sake, He gave His life.
Jesus deity is recognised by John, not only because of His divine identity, but also because of His sacrifice.

2. Son of Man

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 4 “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”      (John2:1-4)

We know the story of the wedding feast in Cana where Jesus turns water into wine to rescue a young couple from the embarrassment of being bad hosts. It is the first of Jesus’ public miracles recorded by John (and in his gospel John only records seven miracles).

At the end of ch.1, just before this account, Jesus tells Nathaniel that he will see angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man. Then John takes us straight into the wedding feast account and he will go on to use this phrase a dozen times.

What does the phrase mean?
In the Old Testament the phrase also appears often in the book of Ezekial and is commonly translated “mortal man”. This gives us a useful insight: The idea behind “Son of Man” is someone who is very very human. Someone who is connected to the frailty and mortality of human kind.

When used of Jesus the phrase is even more poignant because, although He takes on our humanity, He does so without the self-centredness that plagues our sin-broken humanness. Mark reminds us that the “Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

Jesus and all his disciples have been invited to the wedding. His disciples were a rag-tag bunch, fisherman, tax-collectors and zealots and yet Jesus was so loved by this couple that they invited his disciples too. “If they’re good enough to be his disciples then they’re welcome at our wedding.” This gives us a picture of the attractive humanity of Jesus.

Jesus’ apparent resistance to helping is only apparent, because He provides abundant wine for the wedding. The issue is that He is thinking of another wedding, where the Church is the Bride and He is the Groom. To provide wine for that wedding was going to cost His body and blood and Jesus is very aware of that cost. It’s a time that He knows is coming.

Son of Man.
Really human.
Attractively human.
Unselfishly human.
Giving this couple wine for their celebration knowing that one day He will pay a big price.

3. Divine Teacher

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit….
8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?….
14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.      (John3:5-17)

I regularly ask people the following question:
“Who were the teachers that had the most impact on you?”
Almost without fail, the answer boils down to the thought that the teachers who leave the most lasting impression on us are the ones that really cared about us.

Nicodemus was a teacher of the law – supposedly he knew how people could get through to God – but he didn’t.

Jesus teaches him:

  • About the Trinity: That the Father is a loving father who gives the Son, who, in spite of being the one and only Son, is lifted up (on the cross) and that the Spirit is at work in our lives like the wind – we can’t box Him, predict Him or limit Him.
  • About the need to be born of water and the Spirit – that there has to be a spiritual awakening in our lives. We can’t live an earthly life (born of water) and ignore the reality of eternity being whispered in the Wind rustling in the leaves of our lives (to open our hearts to the God of eternity is to be born of Spirit).
  • That God is more about saving than He is about condemning

These lessons were a paradigm change for Nicodemus.
Nicodemus might be tempted to write Jesus off as a crazy nutter.
He might consider Jesus’ teachings as pie in the sky or idealistic pipe dreams.

But we meet Nicodemus again… there at the grave of Joseph of Arimithea where they bury the body of Jesus the teacher. There Nicodemus is confronted with the physical proof that:

  • The Teacher believed so strongly in the Kingdom He proclaimed that He suffered and died for it.
  • The Teacher, like the Father, cared for and loved us enough to die for us.
  • The Teacher, by being condemned in our place, demonstrated in actions that God’s agenda is to save.

Jesus is the ultimate Teacher: Genuine, Caring and Consistent.
He gave His life because He loved us!!!
Let’s worship Him this Sunday!

4. Soul Winner

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.      (John4:28-35)

The background to our passage is that Jesus has chosen to walk through Samaria instead of going around it as many Jews would have. He has walked through the heat of the day to get to Sychar in time (He’s tired when He gets there) to encounter a woman who avoids the rest of the town by going to draw water in the middle of the day when everyone else is in “siesta mode.” He has started a conversation about living water and spiritual thirst and revealed Himself to the woman as the long-awaited Messiah who is available to all who are willing to worship in truthful sincerity. This is a transformational moment for the woman and she leaves her water-fetching task undone to go and tell others the good news.

Our reading picks up where the disciples come back having found provisions but Jesus isn’t hungry. He has found satisfaction on a deeper level. I’m convinced that when He said “I have food to eat that you know nothing about” He was looking at the abandoned water jar with a satisfied smile.

Jesus passion was to reach others with God’s love.
When we watch Jesus interact with the woman we learn a number of things about His kind of soul-winning:

  1. He was willing to cross barriers. Jews and Samaritans hated each other, but Jesus reaches out to her.
  2. He was willing to put in effort. He walked in the heat of the day to get to Sychar on time to find her at the well.
  3. He initiates a conversation and builds a bridge to her.
  4. He comes across humbly
  5. He confronts her brokenness gently and offers powerful hope.
  6. He leaves the results to the Holy Spirit when He lets her go back into town – as it turns out she brings the whole town back to Him and they too are brought to faith.

How do we feel about reaching others with the gospel?
The closer we are to Jesus, the more important this will be to us…

5. Great Physician

One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.      (John5:5-9)

There are many stories of Jesus healing people.
This account of the healing of the paralysed man is a happy-sad one…

The paralysed man is by the pool of Bethesda where, from time to time, the waters of the pool would be stirred and the first person to get into the water would be healed.

Jesus asks the man “Do you want to get well?”
Instead of answering “Yes please – of course I want to get well!” The man launches into a complaint that there was no one to help him get into the water. The man has a shrunken spirit – he believes that the world owes him a favour and he is angry that it won’t help him!

But Jesus heals him. There’s just one problem though… the healing takes place on a Sabbath and the man gets into trouble with the Pharisees (John calls them “the Jews”) for breaking the fourth commandment by picking up his mat on the Sabbath.

The man immediately blames the man who healed him but he doesn’t even know who Jesus is and he can’t point Him out to the Pharisees.

If we read on in the chapter, we see the sad twist to the story:
“Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.”

Here we see the full extent of Jesus care and love. Not only does Jesus want to heal the man’s body, but He wants to heal him from the bitter cynicism that seems to rule his soul. He seeks the man out, and, when He finds him, He warns him to soften his heart. The man, however, decides to throw his lot in with the Pharisees and acts as an informer, betraying Jesus to them.

It’s a sad end to the man’s story but a beautiful insight into Jesus’ persistent pursuit of us.

6. The Bread of Life

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.      (John6:10-11)

This is the second of three miracles of provision in John: Water into wine, the feeding of the 5000 and the big catch of fish in ch.21.

The miracle is the enacted parable of what Jesus would announce later in the chapter: Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
(Joh6:32-35)

Bread. Even today it is a significant staple foodstuff – but it was even more so in Palestine. It represented survival and people needed it day by day. When Jesus makes reference to Moses and bread from heaven He is referring to the manna that sustained the Israelites in the desert.

But Jesus extends the metaphor from provision to something even deeper. He is not only the bread in the sense of being the provider. He is the bread from heaven come down to earth who will be sacrificed for the sins of the people. In Leviticus bread is also featured in the sacrifices people made in the temple.

And then He takes the image one step further: We have to eat of this bread, we have to partake of Him, we have to participate.

Jesus is the Bread of Life:
– He is the provider and the sustenance of life
– He is the sacrifice that satisfies
– We need to participate in Him and connect to His amazing love.

7. Water of Life

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.      (John7:37-39)

John 7 is all about Jesus attending the Feast of Tabernacles which is one of the three main festivals in Israel’s liturgical calendar and took place around end September. The feast is both agricultural in that it celebrates the in-gathering of the harvest and spiritual in that it commemorates the time that God provided for the Israelites as they travelled for 40 years from Egypt to the promised land.

It is the most joyful of the three major feasts. A significant part of the proceedings was that the priests would collect water from the pool of Siloam and pour it out as a libation (drink offering) in the temple courts. During the pouring of water (and wine) it was tradition to sing Ps 118 which is a Messianic Psalm (parts of which were quoted at the triumphal entry.)

Jesus’ brothers had urged him to perform His miracles in Jerusalem at the feast. Jesus declined and only joined the week long feast toward the end. He didn’t perform any miracles, but there was fierce debate and although Jesus clearly hinted at His identity as the Messiah, He was not arrested. When the Pharisees asked the “temple police” why they didn’t arrest Him, their answer was: “No one ever spoke the way this man does.”

On the last day of the Feast, and we can only imagine that it was as the water libation was being poured out that Jesus shouts out the powerful invitation to come to Him for living water.

Living Water.
This is a theme that already came up in John 4 with the Samaritan woman. It’s a theme that goes back to Ezekiel 47 where we find a vision of water flowing from the temple, getting deeper and deeper and bringing life wherever it goes.

  • Those who drink it, like the Samaritan woman, find their thirst quenched.
  • Those who drink it find themselves going deeper and deeper in their relationship with God.
  • Those who drink it find that the deserts bloom around them and that dead seas come to life.

Jesus gives Living Water – He gives us His Spirit. When we come to Him – Living water will flow from us.
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EmmDevs will take a break for the school hols. I have included the chart from Thompson’s Chain Reference Bible so that you can continue reading John if you would like. I’ll pick up from ch.8 in the third term. God bless and much love, Theo

8. Defender of the weak

3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”      (John8:3-11)

What stands out to you in this amazing passage?

  • Is it the audacity of the law-teachers in bringing only the woman for judgement? (How do you commit adultery alone?)
  • Is it that you wonder what Jesus wrote in the sand? Most suggest that it was a set of mnemonics that represented the Ten Commandments. But I think that Jesus wrote in the sand to take their eyes off the woman who probably only had a sheet wrapped around her.
  • Is it His eyes of holy purity as He challenges anyone who was sinless to cast the first stone?
  • Is it the thudding sound of stones dropping and the sight of gray bearded heads shaking in denial as one by one the teachers drop their stones and walk away?
  • Is it that moment that the woman and Jesus are left alone in the road and, as she looks into His eyes, she realises that He could throw the first stone, but that He isn’t going to?
  • Is it that incredible moment where she hears the life-saving words: “Neither do I condemn you – go and leave your life of sin” ?

I don’t know which your favourite moment is. But I love this picture of Jesus the defender of the weak. The woman is a victim – she is defenceless against the teachers. She’s not perfect, but she is loved. Jesus beautifully and elegantly deals with injustice and corruption.

I think my favourite scene as I imagine the story is the scene on the street with Jesus standing in the middle of a circle of dropped stones watching the woman walk away with a renewed purpose and direction in her life. I imagine His face. Content, Satisfied, Hopeful, Determined and Loving.

This is our Saviour!

9. Light of the World

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.      (John9:1-6)

This chapter is a lovely counterpoint to ch.5 where the lame man is healed by Jesus, but rejects the opportunity to receive full healing by embracing Jesus as His Lord and Saviour.

In this chapter the blind man is healed, and, when he gets into trouble because it happened on a Sabbath, he defends Jesus and stands up for him even though he doesn’t know him. (He was just a voice and a pair of hands that put mud on his eyes and told him to go to the pool of Siloam.) He manages to make the Pharisees so angry that they excommunicate Him.

(It’s well worth reading the dialogue – I’ve pasted it in at the end. Watch the man’s progress:
– He put mud on my eyes, told me to wash and now I see
– He is a prophet
– Do you want to become His disciples too?
– This man is from God
– I believe )

Throughout the chapter we see the recurring themes of light and darkness and of blindness and sight. Jesus is depicted as the light of the world.

  • Addressing suffering as an opportunity for God’s glory to be revealed. (Suffering is a bully that Jesus can defeat)
  • Bringing physical sight to the man.
  • The stubborn blindness of the Pharisees is revealed as folly in beautiful progressive “dawning” of faith as we see it unfolding in the man’s life.
  • That beautiful moment when the man can look at Jesus and say those all important words: “I believe.”

In the beautiful healing of this man’s eyes and soul we see that Jesus is the light of the World.

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11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
But others asked, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” So they were divided.

17 Finally they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

18 The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”

20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God, ” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

10. The good Shepherd

So Jesus said to them again, “I tell you the solemn truth, I am the door for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”      (John10:7-11)

Jesus uses two agricultural metaphors in this chapter: The door for the sheep and the good shepherd. These are images that powerfully explain both His mission and His nature.

At night the shepherds in Israel would gather their sheep in a “kraal” – a circle surrounded by a low stone wall. The entrance was a break in the wall and after leading the sheep through the entrance, the shepherd would station himself in the gap and even sleep there during the night thus becoming the door through which any predator must pass while the sheep rest.

The Palestinian Shepherd image is one used throughout Scripture:

  • the beautiful comfort of Psalm 23
  • the heartache of God the Shepherd whose sheep have stubbornly gone astray in Isaiah and Jeremiah
  • the stern condemnation of the leaders who have been hirelings instead of shepherds in Ezekiel
  • and the beautiful parable of the shepherd who seeks the lost sheep in Luke 15.

The shepherd analogy here in John 10 is just as powerful. The Palestinian shepherd does not chase the sheep from behind, but leads them from the front. Jesus has gone in front of us. He faced the perils of the cross and death before us.

Having done that He now is the doorway by which we can enter into His rest and experience His loving protection.

Anyone who enters by any other way is not a sheep or a shepherd and we should not trust them. Their motive is our destruction. The Shepherd places Himself at risk for the sheep. He comes to give abundant (overflowing) life.

Christ is our door. He placed Himself in harm’s way so that we might have abundant life.

11. Resurrection and Life

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, and the one who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She replied, “Yes, Lord, I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God who comes into the world.”      (John11:25-27)

Lazarus has died. He was sick and Jesus deliberately took His time getting there. He told His disciples beforehand that Lazarus would die and that he would be raised again. Now Jesus must face Mary and Martha, the brokenhearted sisters of Lazarus.

The two sisters do not grieve in the same way: Martha is angry and reasoning (even bargaining) whilst Mary is sad and quiet. Jesus must focus Martha’s attention on His identity. He is the Resurrection and the Life. Many translations translate Martha’s answer in the present tense: “Yes Lord, I believe that You are the Christ.” I think the tentative past tense we have in this translation is more in line with the Greek. If Martha’s statement was one of unshakeable faith, why would she object to Jesus wanting the tomb opened as she does later in the chapter? Martha’s position is that she once trusted Jesus completely, now that her brother was dead because Jesus dilly-dallied, she’s not too sure anymore.

Jesus’ response to Mary, whose need is more emotional than intellectual, is to ask where Lazarus is buried. And then He does a very strange thing: He weeps. But His tears are not for Lazarus: He has told His disciples and Martha that Lazarus will rise. His tears are tears of frustration at the futility of death and tears of compassion as He weeps with Mary and Martha in their pain. And He still stands at gravesides and memorial services today and He still weeps with those who mourn.

Then with a loud voice Jesus turns a verbal claim into a physical reality: Lazarus! Come out!

He has power over death – for Him death does not have the final say. He is the Resurrection and the Life.

12. King

The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Hosanna! ”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the King of Israel!”
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,
15 “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”      (John12:12-15)

In chapters 12 and 13 we are confronted with two incredible pictures that describe both the identity and mission of Jesus. In this chapter we see Jesus revealed as King.

Think about what happened: It’s nearly Passover – the crowds are pouring into Jerusalem. People have been travelling and now they are seeking accommodation, food and supplies for Passover… It’s busy, noisy and chaotic.
But now a ripple goes through the crowd and a country preacher appears riding on a donkey. He has the calloused hands of a carpenter. His sandalled feet bear the dust of walking many miles to Jerusalem. His eyes are warm and compassionate. The wrinkles on His brow reveals the weariness of bearing the burdens of the sick, the broken and the lost. His bearing is noble. His voice has the authority of Truth.

And they’re calling Him the King!

A King in clothes of poverty.
A King on a donkey instead of a stallion. (Peace instead of war.)
A King of the masses while the authorities scoff and scowl.

Palm branches are torn down, cloaks are put on the road, songs and chants of someone greater than a king – a Messiah – are sung.
Surely this will result in a riot?!?
Surely this is going to get out of control (just like so many of our protest marches do)?!?
Surely He will lose control of the rabble?!?
But incredibly it doesn’t. The march dies down and the crowds drift home. The political powder keg (which is what Jerusalem was) doesn’t explode. This is the influence of the peaceful King.

But the palm branches lie on the road – mute testimony that the King of kings came to Jerusalem, and just for a moment – one beautiful moment – He was recognised.

Sadly this scenario plays itself out weekly. We recognise Jesus in our worship service and forget Him in the week…
But He’s the King – not of power and pomp – but love and grace.

13. Servant

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
2 The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.      (John13:1-5)

This scene is incongruent.
Being a king is congruent with being served but not with serving.
Especially not washing dirty feet that have sweated all day in sandals on dusty roads!

When John introduces this beautiful account to us, he does a couple of interesting things:

  • First he tells us that Passover is near. Passover is synonymous with rescue and deliverance from oppression. The Passover is effected by a sacrifice of a blemish-less lamb.
  • Second he tells us that the time had come for Jesus to leave this world and go to the Father. This reminds us that Jesus is not of this world and does not have to be subject to its limitations. It also tells us that He is nearing the end of His mission.
  • Thirdly, when he uses the word “world” (“Kosmos” in Greek) he almost always uses it in the sense of a “worldly system.” John is indicating that while Jesus was able to leave this world, His disciples (His own) were in this world. There is a sense of stuckness implied here and Jesus’ actions relate to this stuckness.
  • Fourthly, this is the full extent of His love – John is making clear that Jesus’ actions here are significant – He isn’t just setting a good example – this action epitomises who Jesus is and what He came to do. He came to serve. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom to many.” (Mark 10:45)

And so Jesus, the Passover Lamb, who will later in the week die to free us from the oppression of the world system (kosmos), washes feet. By this act of unnecessary service Jesus is breaking the mould of our dog-eat-dog world system and lifting up service as greatness. His act of footwashing is subversive: it sabotages the rules and norms of power and status, it breaks the grip of broken self esteem (watch Peter trying to stop Jesus washing his feet) and it creates a new reality where service is love.

He even washed the feet of Judas Iscariot…

That is amazing subversive love!

14. Consoler

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you”…
6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”…
9 “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”…
12 “anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father”…
13 “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father”…
16 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– the Spirit of truth”…
19 “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”
27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”      (John14:1-27)

John 14 is a discussion Jesus has with His fearful disciples as they are about to move from the table of the Last Supper to the Garden of Gethsemane. It is a very moving conversation in which Thomas, Philip and Judas (not Iscariot) ask questions and Jesus answers them.

It is the sensitivity with which Jesus answers and the obvious tenderness evident in His words that really grabs my attention. This is not only Jesus the Teacher, but Jesus the Pastor. He is speaking to the deep fears and concerns of the disciples – and also to you and me.

But in addition to the pastoral comfort, look at the great truths:

  • Life is not purposeless – He prepares a place for us.
  • The way is not uncertain – He is the way
  • What is God like? If we’ve seen Jesus we’ve seen the Father
  • Jesus’ departure doesn’t disadvantage us – we will do greater things
  • We can ask in His name and it will be given
  • We will not be alone – we will receive the Spirit
  • Through the Spirit we will see Jesus and we will know we belong
  • We will have peace that conquers fear

We would have excused Jesus if He’d been quiet and withdrawn. His arrest and crucifixion were a few hours away. He had enough trouble of His own. Instead of dwelling on His impending agony Jesus offers His best pastoring and teaching to the disciples.

Later when they are tired and sleepy, Jesus will kneel before the Father in agonised prayer, but for now He is their Consoler.

15. The True Vine

I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener… I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me – and I in him – bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing.      (John15:1-5)

This is based on an old EmmDev that I wrote in 2003 when I had met someone who knew a lot about vines…

There are three aspects to fruitful vines:
– A good gardener
– Good root stock onto which the branches are grafted.
– Good branches

The root stock is critical – it must be free from disease and weakness. It is resistant to bugs, pests, and illnesses and provides the plant with the critical nutrients that it needs. Different branches of different types of grapes can be grafted onto the rootstock.

God is the gardener. A good gardener wants the very best for His plants. He tends, protects, provides, and sacrifices. A good gardener works toward a plan and will even prune when necessary, but always for the long term benefit of the plant. God is all of that for us.

Jesus is the root stock. Our roots are marred and weak because of our bad choices in terms of the kind of soil we have placed them in. There is nothing that we can do to change the bad roots which we have. Our only hope is to be grafted into rootstock that is good. That is exactly what Jesus is: Good rootstock – He is without sin and blemish and we can be grafted into Him. He is rooted in the soil of faithfulness, obedience, and sacrifice. He is rooted in love.

As long as we remain in relationship with Him, as long as we find our nourishment in His roots, and remain connected to Him, we bear fruit. Put another way: Our task is not to bear fruit, but to remain connected with Jesus. If we do that, the fruit will come on its own.

To be like Jesus we need to be with Jesus.
He is the vine and we are the branches.

16. Giver of the Holy Spirit

“Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, Where are you going?’ 6 Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. 7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.      (John16:5-7)

Jesus is continuing this very intimate “death-bed/last-words” conversation with the disciples. In this chapter He alludes to the incredible idea that He will return to the Father in heaven in order that He can send the Holy Spirit into our hearts.

The incredible good news that is wrapped up in this simple statement is that Jesus will return to the Father because:

  • His work is complete – He will have obeyed the Father in everything. This makes the Gethsemane “not my will but Yours” so important.
  • He has paid for the sin that has separated us from God.
  • He is now the High Priest who doesn’t have to sacrifice bulls and goats because He gave the perfect sacrifice of Himself.

But the good news doesn’t end with Jesus’ return to the Father… Having returned to the Father, Jesus will send the Holy Spirit into our hearts and lives.

The phrase Jesus uses for “Counselor” is “Paracletos” which means the “One who comes/walks (kletos) beside (para).” This is an incredible promise: This is the final step of what the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel foresaw when they spoke about hearts of stone being replaced with hearts of flesh and about the knowledge and love of God being written on our hearts.

Jesus, the glorious majestic Son of God, comes from heaven to earth, to pay for our sin, to close the gap between us and God so that He can send the Holy Spirit into our hearts.

No longer is it legalism – trying to work from the outside-in – now Jesus makes it possible for God to work from the inside-out.

17. The Great Intecessor

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.      (John17:20-24)

Some theologians have described the Trinity as a Perichoresis: “A joyful choreographed dance around the centre.” Imagine the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a creative whirling dance of life spinning and moving so quickly and fluidly that the individuals fade together in the beautiful act that is the dance.

John 17 has our Saviour, who is about to face a torturous God-forsaken death, at prayer.
What does He have on His mind as He prays??
You and me.
He’s thinking about us and praying for us!

And what does he pray for?
That we may be one.

That we may join in the dance of the Father, Son and Spirit in the perichoresis of life. That just as Jesus and the Father enjoy the intimacy of the dance of life, that we too may be drawn into the music and choreography of moving and working together so much so that others are attracted to and drawn in as well.

Jesus in the Father, and us in Him, dancing so that the world sits up and pays attention.

This is what Jesus thinks about as He prays in Gethsemane and it is for this that He goes to the cross.

18. Model Sufferer

3 So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
7 Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”
And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
8 “I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.”      (John18:3-9)

The Thompson Chain Reference Bible entitles this chapter “The Model Sufferer.” My first instinct is that this is not quite the title I would have chosen (I think I might have chosen “the willing sacrifice”)

This chapter always fills me with awe. John doesn’t portray Jesus as a helpless victim. Jesus isn’t rendered powerless by the soldiers, He isn’t just a statistic in Pilate’s court roll for the day. He isn’t being dragged inevitably to the cross.

Instead we see Jesus taking charge of each situation – He is not being dragged – He is deliberately moving toward the cross.

Look at the passage:

  • Jesus goes out to meet the soldiers. They don’t get to shout “Freeze! You are surrounded! Drop your weapons!” Instead Jesus asks them who they want.
  • When they identify that it is Jesus they want, Jesus answers and in the Greek it is literally “I, I AM He.” The connection to the other “I AM” statements in John and to the holy name of God given to Moses at the burning bush is clear. What happens next would be comical if it wasn’t so downright awesome and incredible: The entire detachment collapses on the ground!
  • Jesus asks them again and negotiates the release of the disciples.
  • When Peter chops off the high priest’s servant’s ear we expect chaos to erupt. But Jesus controls the situation and even Peter is released!
  • Go and read the rest of the chapter. Jesus is in control. He is majestic and in charge. With the Pharisees and with Pilate.

Not a victim – but a willing sacrifice.
Not dragged to the cross but deliberately headed there.

How great is our God!

19. Uplifted Saviour

16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 Here they crucified him, and with him two others–one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.       (John19:16-19)

John has a unique perspective on the crucifixion.

This perspective is revealed in the phrase “lifted up” – a phrase that Jesus uses of Himself more than once. (See John 3:14; 8:28 & 12:32) The cross, in John’s perspective, is not a tragedy, but a triumph. It is the crowning point of Jesus’ life and purpose – this is why He came, this was what He came to do and this is where He triumphs.

At the heart of this chapter is the incongruous sign that Pilate has prepared and puts on the cross “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” This sign is written in Greek, Aramaic and Latin the languages of the that part of the world. And when the Jewish mafia complained about it Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” (v.22)

In John’s theology, Jesus came down to earth in incarnation, humbling Himself, in His teaching and healing He was exalted and the lifting up began until He was lifted up on the cross for the world to see. (In John 12 He says “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself“) He will continue His journey up in Resurrection and Ascension and the sending of the Spirit.

So the cross is significant – it is the highpoint of Jesus life and ministry. This moment that we consider tragedy is, in fact, a triumph. And Jesus cries out “It is finished.” (In Greek the word is “Tetelestai” and indicates a debt paid in full or a jail sentence fully served.

But even as we sing “Hallelujah” let us also bow our heads, the victory came at a terrible terrible price – the sinless Lamb of God suffered – really suffered – and died – really died – for us.

20. Conqueror of Death

14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”      (John20:10-18)

Resurrection.

The word still gives me butterflies in the my tummy. It quickens my pulse when I proclaim it at funerals. If comforts me when I stand at a deathbed. It is the current that “lurks in the wiring” waiting to jolt me when I unexpectedly touch it.

Resurrection is comfort. Resurrection is victory. Resurrection is triumph. Resurrection is purpose. Resurrection is power. Resurrection is uncontainable. Resurrection trumps death. Resurrection defeats our fear. Resurrection outwits Satan. Resurrection is Jesus. (That’s 11 butterflies I have in my tummy from typing this word of hope.)

But here in John 20 the Conqueror of death does an incredible thing.
Mary has come to the tomb and found the stone rolled away.
She has run to the disciples to tell them.
Peter and John have run to the tomb and gone inside.
John believes. Peter doesn’t know what to think.
Mary wonders around the garden devastated and broken-hearted.
Jesus meets her but she doesn’t recognise Him.

He’s conquered death, defeated sin and triumphed over Satan. But she can’t see it.
But then He speaks ONE WORD to her and she sees.

“Mary.”

Her name.

On that day when I close my eyes for the last time on this earth and I open them again in a new world. I know Who I will see. I know what I will hear.

I will see HIM – the conqueror of death, sin and Satan.
I will hear Him say MY NAME.

That’s Resurrection!!!

21. Restorer of the Penitent.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love (agape) me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love (phileo) you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love (agape) me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love (phileo) me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love (phileo) me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love (phileo) you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.      (John21:15-17)

Peter had failed – horribly.
We know that Jesus appeared to Peter individually on Resurrection Sunday. Luke tells us about this:
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. (Lk.24:33-35)

I recommend that you listen to Don Fransisco’s incredibly powerful retelling of this story – “He’s Alive” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EO-7gehGYII (My dev is late because I’ve been listening to multiple versions of this song by various singers and swallowing huge big lumps in the throat!!!)

So now, a couple of days after that initial encounter on Resurrection Sunday, Jesus once again spends time with Peter. It seems that although Jesus had specially met with Peter, (and we can only assume He pronounced forgiveness and peace to Peter) the time had come for Jesus to reinforce Peter’s forgiveness and restoration.

We’ve all heard a sermon on the different Greek love words that Peter and Jesus use. Twice Jesus uses “agape” and Peter answers “phileo” and so the last time Jesus uses “phileo”. Commentators debate and warn us not to be too dogmatic about it, but at the very least, we would have to say that “agape” seems to be a higher and more pure form of love than “phileo” which seems second prize to “agape”.

Jesus comes to restore Peter, to reinstate him, to heal him of the self-imposed exile he has placed himself on. “If you love me – even if your love is imperfect – feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, and feed my sheep.”

This is what Jesus came to do. To restore us and make us new. We’re not perfect yet, but we’re doing His work.

I can think of no more beautiful way to end John’s gospel.

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