Revelation 7 – Part 3

16 They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:16-17

Previously, we discovered in the interlude between the sixth and seventh seal judgments, that the apostle John received two visions of God’s great mercy involving the salvation and sealing of 144,000 Jews on the earth (7:1-8) and the salvation of an innumerable group of Gentiles and Jews who are taken to heaven (7:9-12). The question John answers in today’s lesson is who are all these people standing before the throne of God and where are they from?

“Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?’” (Revelation 7:13). “One of the” twenty-four “elders” asked about the identity and origin of this innumerable group of people “arrayed in white robes” before God’s throne so John and his readers would not be left wondering about their identity. This elder asked John a question anticipating the question that was in John’s mind. 1

Is it not significant that if the twenty-four elders represent the church (and they do), these described here are a different group of the saved? 2

When John indicated that he did not know the answer the elder himself answered the question as to who this multitude was and where they were from. “And I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ So he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14). This elder disclosed the identity of this innumerable group of people to John saying they came “out of the great tribulation.”

“Jesus coined the term ‘the great tribulation’ (Matthew 24:15, 21), and identified it as the second half of Daniel’s seventieth week (Matthew 24:15-22; Mark 13:14-20; cf. Daniel 9:27).” 3

This innumerable multitude in heaven had “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” when they believed in Jesus for everlasting life (Revelation 1:5; cf. John 3:16; I Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:4-7). This suggests the 144,000 Jewish evangelists will lead many Jews and Gentiles to trust Christ as their Savior during the last half of the Tribulation period. God wants everyone to know that even amid terrible judgment, He offers abundant mercy and opportunity for forgiveness as well as abundant opportunity for turning from evil. Of course, that opportunity will end at Christ’s Second Coming. Yet for the moment, men and women cannot claim God kept them from getting right with Him through faith in Jesus Christ. 4.

That these are not Christians from the Church Age is clear from the following contrasts: 

– Christians from the Church Age are kept from the great tribulation wrath via the Rapture of the church (Revelation 4:1-5:14; I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11), whereas these believers came out “of the great tribulation” (Revelation 7:14).

– Christians from the Church Age wear white “robes” (himátion) which are an outer cloak worn over under-garments (Revelation 4:4), 5 whereas these believers wore “robes” (stol) which are long flowing robes worn by upper classes (7:14). 6 

– Christians from the Church Age wear “crowns” (Revelation 4:4), but these believers do not (7:9-17).

– Christians from the Church Age carry “harps” and “bowls” (Revelation 5:8), but these believers carry “palm branches” (Revelation 7:9b).

The multitude in Revelation 7:9-17 “are Tribulation believers who, because of their conversion to Christ, will suffer earthly affliction, disaster, tears, pain, anguish, grief, sorrow, and tragedy. This great multitude will fully understand the meaning of Paul’s words, ‘I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.’” (Romans 8:18).” 7

John describes their eternal glory in verses 15-17. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.” (Revelation 7:15). Because these believers died in the Tribulation they are now in heaven “before the throne of God” where they continually “serve Him day and night in His temple” as believer-priests with direct access to His presence (“He who sits on the throne will dwell among them”). They will have unimpeded access to God (cf. Heb 4:16; 10:19-22) and will enjoy the security of God’s sheltering presence.” 8

The word “dwell” (skēnōsei) is related to the Greek word for “tabernacle” or “tent.” On earth these believers will live during the Tribulation period which will be the worst period of suffering and satanic oppression people have ever known. But in the kingdom of Christ, they will never fear since God will “pitch His tent” over them and they will be under His continual protection. A tent is a place where one eats, is cool, finds rest, and is sheltered from the sun. 9

As a result, 16 They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:16-17). These Tribulation believers shall no longer “hunger” nor “thirst” nor suffer from sunburn or heat exhaustion because “the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to fountains of the waters of life” which will provide a richer and fuller experience of eternal life. Like a good Shepherd, Jesus “will wipe away every tear from their eyes” that was shed because of their sufferings on earth.  

The presence of these Tribulation believers in this vision reminds us that no matter what type of suffering we endure on the earth, the eternal glory that awaits us in heaven will eclipse whatever we faced on earth. The glory God has prepared for us far exceeds in worth and value the temporary deprivations that sufferings entail (cf. 2 Cor 4:17).” 10

This vision also challenges us not to focus exclusively on our sufferings because that would tempt us to lose heart. For believers, the glory ahead is not only greater than our present suffering. It is so much greater that we will look back on our earthly existence from the joys of eternity, and our only response will be, “Suffering? What suffering?” 11

Finally, John’s vision brings us back to the Lamb of God, Who takes center stage in God’s throne room in heaven. Both Church Age believers (represented by the twenty-four elders – 4:1-4; 7:11) and Tribulation believers (7:14) will be there because of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, all believers in Christ whether they be from the Old Testament, Church Age, Tribulation, or Millennial Kingdom, will be with Jesus in eternity because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Their faith in Christ alone apart from any good works is credited to them for righteousness (cf. Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:1-25; Galatians 3:5-14; Revelation 1:5; 12:11). Jesus laid down His life as the Good Shepherd for all people – past, present, and future (I Timothy 2:3-6). Therefore, all people are savable, but only those who believe in Him will experience this eternal glory described in these verses (John 3:36).

Prayer: Gracious Father in heaven, we praise You for this incredible vision of the innumerable multitude of believing Jews and Gentiles from the great tribulation who will be gathered around Your throne in heaven with Church Age believers because of their faith in the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. No longer will they experience unprecedented suffering on earth. Instead, they will enjoy unspeakable glory in heaven that is the opposite of their experience on the earth. Father, we are eternally grateful that You do not desire that any perish in the lake of fire, but that all would be saved through faith in Christ alone. Help us to look beyond our own painful experiences on earth to the eternal glory that awaits us in heaven in Your presence. In the midst of Your throne will be our Good Shepherd in Whose presence we will be forever fulfilled, safe, and secure. To Him be all the glory both now and forever. In the majestic name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 101.

2. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

3. Constable, pg. 101.

4. Adapted from Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2385.

5. Joseph Henry Thayer, The New Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon fo the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1981), pg. 2438; cf. ; cf. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 475.

6. Thayer, pg. 4750.

7. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 167-168.

8. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition

(Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1527.

9. Ibid.

10. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 804.

11. Evans, pp. 1940-1941.

Revelation 5 – Part 1

“But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.’” Revelation 5:5

Christian author and speaker, Chuck Swindoll writes, I never cease to marvel at the advances of the modern world. The field of medicine has given us a life expectancy higher than ever. In many countries, even some people living in poverty live longer and have more comforts than kings of the past. Technology has sped up communication and transportation, essentially shrinking the globe. Within seconds, a person in Canada can chat with a friend in Thailand. Within a day, they can shake hands. At least in the Western world, humans have overcome many social and political problems, learning to face new challenges in the twenty-first century. We human beings have certainly come a long way!

“Or have we?

Over a century ago, liberal theologians thought we were on the verge of ridding ourselves of the barbarism, imperialism, and superstition that had led the world astray for so long. This included what they saw as the ‘mythical’ trappings of Christianity—things like the Virgin Birth, the deity of Christ, and the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Armed with modern science and philosophy, those enlightened intelligentsia were convinced that people could finally mold the world into what it was meant to be—an enduring kingdom of peace and prosperity on earth. In short, they believed that humanity, equipped with the latest ideologies and technologies, was worthy to forge a glorious destiny, trusting in human ability rather than trusting in God.

“As you probably know, this overconfidence in humanity evaporated like a morning fog. In 1914 an assassin’s bullet ignited the fire that exploded into World War I. Germany was armed to the hilt with the most advanced weapons produced at the time. And they had the unwavering support of Germany’s leading philosophers and even theologians! That great conflict, dubbed ‘The War to End All Wars,’ was quickly followed by the terror and atrocities of World War II. By then, mass killing had been reduced to a science at Auschwitz, and science had also been used to create the massive destruction of the atomic bomb! Then came the horrors of terrorism, which military authorities say is here to stay. The reality of human depravity has dashed the misplaced hopes of humanistic philosophy and liberal theology. Today the world is left wandering in unbelief, doubt, uncertainty, and fear. People wonder whether anyone or anything is able to truly remove the evil around us.

“Is anyone worthy to vanquish wickedness and usher in a world of true peace and prosperity? As the world continues its desperate and disappointing search for worldly answers to life’s problems, the Bible reveals the solution in clear words and vivid images. In Revelation 5 we experience the inexpressible joy that John felt when the attention of all creation finally centers on the only One who can take the reins of history and tame a world spinning out of control—Jesus, the worthy Lamb.” 1

Before God pours His wrath on rebellious humankind on earth (Revelation 6-18), He describes the Person Who is worthy to open a scroll containing God’s judgments to be unleashed on the earth during the 7-year Tribulation period. Chapter 5 continues the vision the apostle John was given of God and His throne room in Chapter 4. “And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.” (Revelation 5:1). The “scroll” that John saw “in the right hand of” God the Father is representative of the judgments God will pour out on the earth throughout the Tribulation period (cf. Revelation 6:1ff).The opening of just one seal alone, the fourth seal, will result in the death of one fourth of the world’s population (cf. Revelation 6:7-8). 2

This “scroll” was the focus of John’s attention in chapter 5, and it is what Jesus Christ opens (unseals) in chapter 6, resulting in the judgments that will be unleashed upon the earth. This rolled document was so full of words that John could see writing on the outside (“on the back”) as well as on the “inside” of the scroll (cf. Ezekiel 2:9-10). 3 Papyrus documents have been discovered that contain writing on both surfaces of the sheets, though this was unusual. 4

Someone, probably God, had “sealed” the scroll with “seven seals,” suggesting the profound nature of the revelation it contained. 5 Roman law required that people seal their wills “seven” times because they were very important documents. 6 The perfect number (i.e., seven) of seals may also hint at the absolute purity of the scroll. 7

“In John’s day, people used a seal to keep the contents of a document secret, unchangeable, and free from tampering—until some authoritative person broke the seal. In this case, after Jesus broke the first seal, the scroll unrolled until the second seal kept it from opening further. Then He had to break the second seal in order to reveal more of the contents, and so on. Probably the seals were located on the edge of the scroll.” 8

The scroll is like a title deed to the earth. It depicts God’s ownership of all creation and right to hold accountable those who misuse it and thus dishonor Him. Through judgment administered by Jesus, God once again will lay claim to His creation, which was plunged into sin by Adam in Genesis 3.” 9

Because God the Father has decreed that He will not execute His judgments on mankind personally (cf. John 5:22), 10 John hears “a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?’” (Revelation 5:2). This is the second of twenty-one times “loud voice” occurs in Revelation (cf. 1:10; 5:2, 12; 6:10; 7:2, 10; 8:13; 10:3; 11:12, 15; 12:10; 14:2, 7, 9, 15; 16:1, 17; 18:2; 19:1, 17; 21:3). His “loud voice” manifested his authority and the importance of what he said. 11 “The Greek word rendered ‘scroll’ is biblion, from which is derived the word ‘Bible.’” 12

One with sufficient authority and worthiness was necessary to “open the scroll and to loose” or break “its seals,” to unleash the judgments on the world that it contained. Next John writes, “And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.” (Revelation 5:3). After searching every level of the universe, no created being “in heaven or on the earth or under the earth” in Hades possessed the authority or ability to “open” or even “look at” the scroll.

“In fact, no one is worthy even to look at the Lord’s plan for worldwide judgment, much less administer it, prompting John to weep.” 13 “So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.” (Revelation 5:4). John “wept much because no one was found” who was qualified to “open the scroll” and execute God’s wrath and bring His enemies into submission to Him.

“John knew that if no one had been found worthy, the hopeless condition of the present world would continue indefinitely. The suffering, pain, sickness, and death that characterize everyday life would never come to an end! Yet John’s weeping may have had another dimension. For over sixty years he had placed all his hope in Jesus Christ to turn the world right side up. If heaven’s search for a worthy heir failed, so would his confidence in Jesus Christ.”  14

Spiritually minded people long for that future day when the evil cosmos will be subjugated, and God will be obeyed. Because no one is found worthy to execute God’s wrath and bring this subjugation about, John is extremely grieved.” 15

How deeply grieved are we to see the postponement of God’s wrath upon the earth which will bring all His enemies into subjection to Him? Does our heart yearn to see God’s righteousness bring to justice those who have rebelled against Him and caused much suffering and pain to His servants? For centuries, believers have prayed for God’s kingdom to come on earth (Matthew 6:10) only to be disappointed. Perhaps our generation will be the one to see this come to pass.

John’s grief was probably lifted when he writes, “But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.’” (Revelation 5:5). One of the twenty-four “elders” representing the church in God’s throne room in heaven, told John not to weep because Jesus, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David has prevailed to open the scroll and its seven seals” to execute God’s wrath on the earth. The “Lion . . . of Judah” (Genesis 49:9) and the “Root” or Offspring “of David” (Isaiah 11:1, 10; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Matthew 22:42-43; Romans 15:12) are both titles of the Messiah-God, Who would fulfill the Old Testament promises of salvation and rule. This is the only place in the New Testament where they occur together, however. As God’s ultimate Anointed One, Jesus alone possessed the authority and qualifications necessary for this task. 16

The word “prevailed” is the Greek word enikēsen and is from the same word used in Revelation 2 and 3 to describe the victorious believers who earn the title of “overcomer” and thereby reign eternally with Christ (cf. Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21). The implication is that Christ was completely and perfectly faithful to God in His role as Messiah. He is the ultimate Overcomer, and therefore only He has earned the right “to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals” as the Executor of God’s judgments. 17

This scene reflects the fact that sinful people, even when they are redeemed, fall short of the qualifications necessary for one who could judge the earth. But Christ, by virtue of His full divinity, sinless humanity, and atoning death, is qualified. God the Father has granted judging authority to the Son (see John 5:22, 27). Jesus died to redeem humanity at His first coming. He will judge in order to redeem the entire creation at His second.” 18

Through tear-filled eyes now sparkling with renewed hope, John looked for the Lion—but instead he saw something else. 19 “And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” (Revelation 5:6). John now saw the “Lamb” of God, the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:6-7; John 1:29), “in the midst of the throne” room of God. The Lamb of God now took center stage among all the angelic creatures and the twenty-four elders gathered around the throne, as the central character and most important Personage in the entire heavenly scene (cf. 3:21; 4:6; 7:17). The Lamb “stood” ready to complete His work, bearing the marks (wounds, scars) of His death (“as if slain”). 20

“In one brilliant stroke John portrays the central theme of NT revelation—victory through sacrifice.” 21

The Lamb possessed “seven horns” representing His fullness of power and strength (Numbers 23:22; Deuteronomy 33:17; 1 Samuel 2:1, 10; 2 Samuel 22:3; 1 Kings 22:11; Psalm 75:4; 132:17; Daniel 7:20-21; 8:5) 22 and “seven eyes” representing His fullness of wisdom and discernment through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (“seven Spirits of God,” cf. 1:4; 4:5) 23  which made Him aware of all that was taking place on “the earth.” 

Because Jesus is qualified to bring judgment to earth, “Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” (Revelation 5:7). John saw the Lamb of God come and take the “scroll out of the right hand of” the Father “who sat on the throne” to signify the transfer of authority to execute judgment from the Father to the Son. The word “took” (eilēphen) is in the perfect tense to provide a vivid dramatic picture of the actual scene. 24 The transfer of authority was complete. During His earthly ministry Jesus had said, For the Father… has committed all judgment to the Son… and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” (John 5:22, 27).

In conclusion, Jesus Christ is the only One worthy to execute God the Father’s judgments on rebellious humankind during the Tribulation period (5:1-7). This serves as a motivation for believers now to live for Him Who will judge rebellion in the future.

Prayer: Holy Father in heaven, for centuries people have trusted in themselves and their own ingenuity to rid this earth of evil only to find themselves overcome by more unbelief, doubt, uncertainty, and fear.As the world continues its search for solutions to life’s problems, You remind us in Your throne room in heaven of the only One Who is qualified to tame a world that is spinning out of control – Your Son Jesus Christ, the Lamb Who was slain and the Lion Who alone is worthy to judge the earth. Since Jesus will judge rebellion in the future, we who know Him as our Savior bow before Him and commit ourselves to give Him all our love and devotion. For He alone is worthy of all glory, honor, and power both now and forever!!! In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 137-139.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1519.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 74.

4. Ibid., pg. 75 cites Adolf Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East Revised ed. (Translated by Lionel R. M. Strachen. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1965), pg. 35.

5. Ibid., cites R. H. Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John Vol. 1 International Critical Commentary seriesa (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1920), pg. 138.

6. Ibid., cites Ethelbert Stauffer, Christ and the Caesars (London: SCM, 1965), pp. 182-183. 7. Ibid., cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol 1 The Daily Study Bible series 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 209; Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983), pg. 142.

8. Ibid.

9. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2379.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1519.

11. Constable, pg. 75.

12. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

13. Evans, pg. 2379.

14. Swindoll, pg. 140. 

15. Vacendak, pg. 1519.

16. Constable, pg. 76.

17. Vacendak, pg. 1519.  

18. Evans, pg. 2379.

19. Swindoll, pg. 140.

20. Constable, pg. 77.

21. Ibid., cites Mounce, pg. 144.

22. Swindoll, pg. 140; Constable, pg. 77; Vacendak, pg. 1520; Walvoord, pg. 164.

23. Vacendak, pg. 1520; Walvoord, pg. 164.  

24. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!), 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2017 Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 216335-216339.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 1

“Pilate then went out again, and said to them, ‘Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.’ ” John 19:4

The cross or crucifixion of Jesus Christ is one of the two most important events in human history. The other most important event, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which took place three days after His death on the cross. The cross of Christ is central to what it means to be a Christian, especially a committed Christian who follows Jesus. Although Jesus’ death took place nearly 2,000 years ago, it has implications for every day of our lives. Even though the cross was such a huge and powerful event in history, it also applies to the parts of our lives that are mundane and routine.

My prayer for us is that as we look at the last day of Jesus’ life leading up to His crucifixion and the crucifixion itself, we will discover that this is not only something that happened 2,000 years ago, but it is something that impacts our lives today. I pray we will not only see this as an historical event from the first century, but also as an historical event which applies to our lives today and tomorrow.

In John 19:4-42, the apostle John has recorded different pictures containing lasting lessons from the last day of Jesus’ life before the Roman soldiers sealed His tomb containing His dead body. John has several images he wants to make sure that we see in the life of Jesus Christ. He does not include everything that happened to Jesus on that day. When Luke wrote his gospel he wanted to make sure he included as much as he could (Luke 1:1-4). But since John already knew that Luke was written, he did not include everything. What John did include are some of the pictures we all need to know about when it comes to Who Jesus really is and who we truly are in light of this.  

Before we look at the details of what John wrote, we need to understand a couple of things: the person writing and his purpose for writing. When we understand the person who was writing and the purpose for which it was written, it magnifies the power of what we are going to read. The person writing says, “And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.” (John 19:35).

First, we see that “he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true.” He knows that he tells the truth. John, the writer of this gospel, was close to the cross. The other disciples, except Peter, fled when Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:56). Peter was close and then he denied Jesus and fled (Matthew 26:57-58, 75). But John the Apostle ends up being the one apostle that was there at the cross. 

The person writing is an eyewitness (“he who has seen has testified, and his testimony …”). This is an eyewitness account of the cross of Jesus Christ. It is different from any other gospel because of that. Matthew was an apostle of Jesus but he was not there at the cross. He talked to a lot of people who were there and wrote down what happened. But he was not there at the cross. He was an eyewitness of the resurrection. But he did not see with his own eyes what had happened at the cross. Mark and Luke compiled records from others, but they were not present at the cross. But John was there. 2  

So we have an eyewitness who was actually there sitting down to write down for us the images of what he saw that day Jesus died. When you think about it, that is amazing! Two thousand years later we can pick up what he wrote and look at this eyewitness account of what happened to Jesus on the last day of His life before the Roman soldiers sealed His tomb containing His dead body.

The second thing was the purpose for which it was written. This is not just historical details. John testified “so that you may believe.” John recorded these details to enable us to believe. When we look at the pictures that John is going to show us about the cross, the result that is intended to take place in our lives is not pity for Jesus. It is not a deeper interest in history. It is belief or trust. Belief in our lives towards the One Who loves us the most. Believing in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life (John 20:31). The cross is intended to enable us to believe in Christ more and more and more in our daily lives, no matter how difficult or mundane those days are.

We already looked at how Jesus was brutally flogged and then mocked by the Roman soldiers (John 19:1-3). Now we see Jesus standing before Pilate and a hostile crowd. The first lasting lesson we will learn from this, is, LIKE PILATE, WE CAN AVOID DOING THE RIGHT THING BECAUSE OF THE COST INVOLVED (John 19:4-7).

“Pilate then went out again, and said to them, ‘Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.’ ” (John 19:4). After severely injuring Jesus through scourging, Pilate came out of the Praetorium to speak to the Jews. He announced that he was presenting Jesus, beaten and mocked,as innocent when he said, “I find no fault in Him.” Pilate was saying that Christ deserved nothing more than ridicule. There was no criminal basis for further legal action.

“Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the Man!’ ”(John 19:5). When we first read that as believers, we may think, “What an awesome thing Pilate just said. He brought Jesus before those who were taunting Him and said, ‘Behold the Man!’ We may read that to mean, “Here is the most amazing display of what a man could be, because He was God and man at the same time!”

But upon further study, I believe Pilate’s words were spoken in a manner intended to elicit pity. He was attempting to demonstrate to the Jews the absurdity of executing such a weak and unintimidating man. Christ probably looked pathetic – bruised, bloodied, and disfigured from the flogging and crown of thorns pushed down into His scalp with blood flowing down His face (cf. Isaiah 53:2b-3). When Pilate said, “Behold the Man!” he was saying, “What’s to be scared of in this man?” Of course Pilate was scared. They all were scared. He knew even his words were wrong. 3

I also believe it is possible that Pilate is also trying to honor Jesus. “Probably Pilate intended to appease the crowd, and John and the Holy Spirit intended the reader to see the deeper significance. Ironically, ‘Behold the Man!’ is the answer to Pilate’s own question, ‘What is truth?’ (John 18:38). Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). 4

“Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.’ ” (John 19:6). Pilate hoped the spectacle would quench the crowd’s thirst for blood, but it only seemed to whet their appetite for more as they cried out, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” For the third time Pilate affirms Jesus’ innocence when he said, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him” (cf. John 18:38; 19:4, 6).

John is portraying Jesus as the innocent Passover Lamb of God without blemish (Exodus 12:5; cf. John 1:29; I Corinthians 5:7; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). Jesus, the innocent Lamb of God, would die for you and me so we would not have to die forever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). But we must come to Jesus on His terms which means believing in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life to escape the eternal punishment of the lake of fire (John 3:36; Revelation 20:15).

What an amazing picture John presents to us. Can you imagine John sitting down to write those words of Pilate before a hostile crowd? Here is Jesus standing before them in His bloodied purple robe with a crown of thorns that the soldiers put on His head. The priest are ridiculing Him and Pilate is shouting, “Behold the Man!”

When you compare all the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – you find that Pilate pronounced Jesus innocent seven different times (Matthew 27:24; Luke 23:4, 14, 22; John 18:38; 19:4, 6). Seven times he said, “I don’t find any guilt in Him. He has not done anything wrong. He is not the guilty one here. Why don’t we let Him go?” Some way or another Pilate said, “He has no guilt.” If he is the Roman governor and he has the power of life or death in Jerusalem and he said seven different times there is no guilt in this man, why didn’t Pilate release Jesus?

I believe the reason was more than politics in this case. The primary reason that Pilate did not release Jesus is it did not cost him anything. What do I mean by this? As we said in previous articles, Pilate created much antagonism between himself and the Jews on a number of occasions.

“He was a weak leader who made some serious blunders early in his rule. He had his soldiers march into the temple area with shields bearing the image of Caesar, which to the Jews was idolatrous desecration. Caiaphas called out 2,000 Jews who surrounded Pilate’s house in protest. He foolishly threatened to slaughter them, a threat that politically he couldn’t carry out. When he had to back off, he lost face and undermined his leadership.

“Later, he built an aqueduct to bring water into Jerusalem, but he used funds from the Jewish temple tax to pay for the project. The Jews rioted and this time Pilate did slaughter many of them. The Jewish leaders protested to the Emperor Tiberius, who issued a scathing rebuke to Pilate for his poor leadership. Since Tiberius was notoriously paranoid and had executed many for trivial reasons, Pilate couldn’t risk another complaint to Rome by his subjects. He hated the Jews, but he knew that they held the upper hand over him.” 5

So Pilate did not want to cause further tension with the Jews who might quickly notify the Emperor and put Pilate at risk of losing his position as governor. Pilate did not want to risk his political career by releasing Jesus.

After Pilate affirmed Jesus’ innocence again (John 19:6b), the Jews took a different approach to persuade him to grant their illegal wish. “The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.’ ” (John 19:7). Earlier the Jews had tried to kill Jesus by stoning Him when He claimed to be equal with God the Father (cf. John 10:27-33). They considered it blasphemy for a human being to claim equality with God. 6  Even though Jesus had not violated the Roman law, the Jews thought perhaps Pilate could be persuaded to enforce their Jewish law by appealing to the Mosaic law which called for the death penalty for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16).

Now Pilate is afraid! “As a superstitious Roman, he believed that sometimes the gods came incognito to earth. If you treated them well, they would look out for you in the future. But if you treated them badly, they would make life miserable for you.” 7  To increase Pilate’s fear, his wife sent word to him as he examined Jesus and said, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.” (Matthew 27:19).

It may be easy for us to criticize Pilate in this situation. Granted, he was morally weak and self-serving. He was not a strong or wise leader. But let’s put ourselves in his place for a moment. Would you risk losing your job, your comfortable way of life, and perhaps your life to defend an innocent man? Have you ever avoided doing what is right because of the cost involved?

For example, have you ever compromised your integrity at work to keep your job? The boss asks you to falsify some records and lie to cover his wrongful actions. When you hesitate, he suggests that if you don’t comply, he can find someone else to take your job who will comply. What do you do?

Pilate didn’t have anything against Jesus and he thought that Jesus was innocent of the charges; but to do the right thing and free Jesus would have cost Pilate dearly. So he rejected Christ, thinking that he was protecting his own interests. 8  But in reality, he lost his peace of mind by condemning an innocent man to death!

Whenwe avoid publicly identifying with Jesus Christ as our Lord at our school or at our work to avoid rejection or conflict, we are behaving like Pilate did. If we are saying to ourselves in any situation in life, that we cannot let other people know that Jesus is our Lord, then we are thinking about the cost. What is it going to cost me in my job or in my school or even in my family? We must be honest with ourselves. We can show the same weakness of Pilate in our lives. The key is, are we willing to admit this? If not, we are making ourselves more susceptible of repeating the same mistake that Pilate made.

Prayer: Lord God, there is such a contrast between the innocent Lamb of God and the selfish and self-serving governor named Pontius Pilate. But are any of us really any different than Pilate? If we are honest with ourselves, we will have to admit that we, too, have refused to do what is right to avoid the cost involved. We have denied any association with You in public to avoid conflict or persecution. We have compromised out integrity at work, at school, or even in our families to avoid loss of some kind. Lord Jesus, You already know these things about us and yet You still love us. In fact, You died for these wrongful things we have done. Thank You, our Lord and our God, for being so merciful and gracious with us. Please grant us the power to do what is right no matter what the cost. May our desire to please You override any tendency to compromise what is right in Your eyes. You did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. May that spirit manifest itself in everything we do. For Your name’s sake we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s July 24, 1996 message entitled, “A Day in the Life of…  Jesus Christ.”

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 557.

5. Steve J. Cole’s message on June 7, 2015 entitled, “Lesson 95: What Will You Do With Jesus? (John 18:28-19:16)” at www.Bible.org.

6. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pg. 557.

7. Steve J. Cole’s message on June 7, 2015 entitled, “Lesson 95: What Will You Do With Jesus?

8. Ibid.

How can we endure difficult times? Part 1

“When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron…” John 18:1a

All of us face stressful times, but how do we handle them? Some people spend time serving those less fortunate than them. For example, one psychologist says, “Every Friday for ninety minutes at lunch, I become the Beverage Lady at a local soup kitchen. I serve coffee, tea, and juice to people whose problems are much bigger than mine – poverty, homelessness, paralyzing disabilities. Having direct contact with folks with real problems is a big stress-reliever.”

A physician comments, “Staring into our aquarium with its Angelfish and Fantail Guppies, puts me in touch with another realm. And whenever I get especially upset, I spin the globe in my office. San Jose, CA, where I live, is just a tiny spot. California is a sliver. There’s a huge world out there, and even my worst problems are just a microscopic part of it.”

Retreating to the bathtub is where one psychologist goes to prepare herself to deal with stressful times. “A long hot bath is a luxurious way to relax. In addition to the soothing effect of the steamy water, bathing gives me time to catch up with all the little things I do for myself. Sometimes I read cookbooks or magazines. Other times, I shop through catalogues. I might bring in a TV and watch sitcoms or videos.”

When stressful times approach us, how do we respond? In John 18, Jesus Christ was about to face the most stressful time of His earthly life. We saw in John 14-17, Jesus and His disciples making their way from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane. It is in the garden where Jesus prepares Himself to face His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. We are going to learn more about who Jesus is and what He can do for us in the first twelve verses of John 18. So how we can endure difficult times?

The first way is to LEARN ABOUT THE LOVE OF CHRIST (John 18:1a). This may not seem obvious to you at first, but please allow me to explain how the Lord showed me this principle. John tells us, “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron…” (John 18:1a). After finishing His High Priestly prayer in John 17:1-26 (“spoken these things”) on the west side of the Kidron Valley, Jesus and His disciples crossed “over the Brook Kidron” to go up to the Garden of Gethsemane. The Kidron Valley lies east of Jerusalem and separates the city from the Mount of Olives. The valley has a small stream that flows during winter and spring rains, but it is dry most of the summer. 1 None of the other gospel writers mention Jesus crossing the Brook Kidron, but John does. Why?

One major reason for including this detail is because the apostle John is presenting Jesus as the New Passover Lamb in his gospel (cf. I Corinthians 5:7). In John 1:29, John the Baptist says of Jesus, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” If you read through the Old Testament, you will find it is filled with many blood sacrifices. Abel, the son of Adam, offered a lamb to God and God smiled upon that sacrifice (Genesis 4:4). Later Abraham made offerings to God (Genesis 15:9-21).

While slaves in Egypt, the children of Israel were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their doorposts, so the angel of death would see the blood and pass over their family without killing the firstborn (Exodus 12:1-13). To commemorate His deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, God instituted the Passover feast to be observed every year (Exodus 12:14-51). But this feast also pointed to the coming Deliverer and Savior of all people – Jesus Christ.  

John wants his readers to know that Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb. Just as “the blood of the lambs served as a substitute for the blood that the people should have shed as punishment for their sins (see Leviticus 4:32-34; 5:6),” 2 so Jesus is our Substitute Who died in our place to satisfy God’s demand to punish the sin of the world (John 1:29; 19:30; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18).

Consider these similarities between the Passover lambs and Jesus: 3

  • Passover lambs had to be a young male “without blemish” (Exodus 12:5). Jesus was also a relatively young adult male without blemish or sin (Luke 3:23; John 19:38; 19:4, 6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 1:19).
  • Passover lambs had to be examined four days from the selection to the sacrifice (Exodus 12:3, 6a). Christ lived a meticulously examined life.
  • The Passover lamb had to be slain in public (Exodus 12:6b-7). Jesus also died publicly (John 19:16-30).

Beginning with John 19:24 and continuing to verse 37, John the apostle records four events that demonstrate Jesus truly is our substitutionary Passover Lamb which the Old Testament animal sacrifices foreshadowed: 4

  • They cast lots for His garments (John 19:24)…………… Fulfillment of Psalm 22:18
  • His legs were not broken (John 19:33)……… Passover fulfillment of Exodus 12:46
  • He was pierced (John 19:34a-37)………………………… Fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10
  • Blood and water came out (John 19:34b)…………………………… Fulfillment of what??

Why did John record this last detail involving “blood and water” coming out of Jesus’ side when He was pierced with a spear? John’s reference to Zechariah 12:10 says nothing of the “blood and water” flowing together. This is an important detail because John writes, 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. 36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, ‘Not one of His bones shall be broken.’ 37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.” (John 19:34-37). John testifies to these events so his readers “may believe.” John recorded this blood and water coming out as a proof of Who Jesus was by what He fulfilled. But there is no Old Testament verse referring to lamb’s blood and water streaming in unison. So what did Jesus’ blood and water coming out of His side fulfill?

“John was also thinking of the Passover in his day, not the Egyptian Passover only. What is the difference? In the first Passover there was no temple. Even its predecessor, the tabernacle, had not been set up; this did not occur until the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai where they received Torah, the Law. At the first Passover the lambs were slain at home and eaten at home, Exodus 12:1-8. Since there was no tabernacle or temple, there was also no central sacrificial altar for the slaying of such animals. However, in John’s and Jesus’ time centuries later, there was a resplendent white limestone temple atop Mount Moriah (today’s Temple Mount in Jerusalem) where hundreds of lambs were slain.

“As a result, thousands of gallons or liters of lambs’ blood had to be disposed of. But how? By being poured into a drain at the ‘base of the altar’ (Leviticus 1:11, 13; 4:7, 18, 25, 30, 34), a rule that applied to both tabernacle and temple. For instance, the First Temple ( i.e., Solomon’s ) required ten lavers of water for rinsing blood from sacrificial offerings, II Chronicles 4:6. Therefore in the Second Temple of John’s day, voluminous amounts of water were poured into the altar’s drainage system to flush away the blood of lambs. Since the Temple Mount was a hill with a flat limestone surface, where did the drains empty? They spewed into the Kidron Valley below. The Temple’s drains are referred to in various sources such as the Jewish Talmud and in archaeologist Leen Ritmeyer’s, The Temple and the Rock, p. 57.5

Only John records that Jesus compared His own body to the Temple:  19 Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ 20 Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” (John 2:19-22).

According to John, Jesus not only became the New Atoning Passover Lamb, but also the New Temple through whom the Divine Spirit – symbolized by water (cf. John 7:37-3) – could now flow to the masses, as had been symbolized by the gushing drains of King Solomon’s Temple and later by Herod’s Temple. To John, at least, “the blood and water” was proof that the Temple building and its sacrifices paralleled Jesus’ body and His crucifixion (John 2:19-21). Hence, the “missing” fulfillment verse is not an Old Testament one, but rather one spoken earlier by Jesus, which implies that Jesus saw Himself as the Temple personified, and John the gospel writer is the only one who recorded this. 6

  • Blood and water came out (John 19:34b)……………… Fulfillment of John 2:19-21

At the risk of being redundant, one of the possible reasons why John included the detail of Jesus crossing “over the Brook Kidron” was because the people in Jerusalem would have known that during the time of Passover something significant would have happened if Jesus would have crossed over the bottom of this valley to the top of the other side. William Barclay writes, “All the Passover lambs were killed in the Temple, and the blood of the lambs was poured on the altar as an offering to God. The number of lambs slain for the Passover was immense. On one occasion, thirty years later than the time of Jesus, a census was taken, and the number was 256,000. We may imagine what the Temple courts were like when the blood of all these lambs was dashed on to the altar. From the altar there was a channel down to the brook Kidron, and through that channel the blood of the Passover lambs drained away. When Jesus crossed the brook Kidron, it would still be red with the blood of the lambs which had been sacrificed; and as he did so, the thought of his own sacrifice would surely be vivid in his mind.” 7

So Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who was going to be slain for the sins of the world (John 1:29), had to step over this brook which by this time was soaked with the blood of the Passover lambs (cf. Luke 22:7). As Jesus and His disciples stepped over this brook, no doubt they saw and smelled this water mixed with the Passover lambs’ blood. What a foreshadowing of what Jesus was going to do for them, and for you and me. What a beautiful picture of His love for us (cf. Romans 5:8). He was willing to go up to the Garden of Gethsemane where He would be arrested even though He knew what was going to unfold that night. That is love! When people are at their worst, God stills gives us His very best. He gave His only begotten Son to die in our place for our sins.

When we face difficult times, we may doubt that God loves us. We may feel like He has abandoned us. We may accuse God of being unfair when He allows us to suffer. But please understand there was a time when God was unfair. It is when He sent His sinless Son to die in the place of guilty sinners. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21).

The perfect Son of God was punished on the cross instead of guilty sinners. Was that fair to Jesus!?! Of course not. But thank God for His love and grace which sent His perfect Son to pay the debt for our sins that we could never pay – “the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (I Peter 3:18). We can endure these difficult times when we ponder our Savior’s great love for us. Christ knew what was going to happen that night before His crucifixion, yet He still crossed the Kidron Brook because of His love for you and me. Learn about His infinite love. It will give you the hope you need to endure trials.

The Bible tells us, 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5). As Christians suffer, they learn to “glory in tribulations, knowing” that their sufferings develop spiritual growth (“perseverance… and character, hope”). 

As Christians faithfully endure difficulties, it results in a sense of “hope” or confidence that God will see them through to the end of their sufferings. This “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” the moment we believed in Jesus for everlasting life (cf. John 7:37-39; Romans 8:9; Galatians 3:2; Ephesians 1:13-14). Our hope does not disappoint us because it is the hope of God’s love. God’s love gives us this hope. Knowing He loves us and has our best interest in mind, increases our hope. Tony Evans writes, “Even in our suffering, God’s Spirit provides a fresh experience of God’s love to us and for us.” 8 Hope is the confidence that we will receive good from God. Without this hope, we would not be able to remain faithful to God when we face difficulties in life.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your Word is so powerful and relevant to us today. All of us are facing difficult times. And all of us need to know You still love us when we face these hardships. You understand what it is like to suffer for a greater cause. The night before Your horrible death on a cross, You crossed over the Brook Kidron which was still red with the blood of the Passover lambs which had been sacrificed in the temple above, and as You did this, You were probably thinking of Your own upcoming sacrifice on the cross when both blood and water would flow from Your pierced side after You would die. Jesus, thank You for going up that hill to the Garden of Gethsemane to be arrested. Even today You still give us Your best when we may be at our worst. Knowing Your amazing love for us empowers us to endure difficulties without fear or shame (I John 4:18). O Lamb of God, thank You for being our Passover Lamb!!! In the matchless name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 316.

2. The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, copyright 2014 EvanTell, Inc.), pg. 1161.

3. The NKJV Study Bible, General Editor Earl D. Radmacher (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), pg. 108).

4. See Tony Badillo’s article at http://templesecrets.info/jnbldwtr.html.

5. Ibid., also on the Temple drains, see also Hastings, A Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 5, p. 696, and the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Middoth, Chapter III, Mishnah 2 Soncino 1961 Edition, page 12; and Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah, Folio 4.

6. Ibid.

7. William Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, Commentary on John, 1956-1959, vs. 18:1-14. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/john-18.html.

8. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1930.

How to be greatly used by God – Part 4

“I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’” John 1:33

If God is going to greatly use us, we must recognize who we are not (John 1:19-21), who we are (John 1:22-23), and point others to Jesus Christ (John 1:24-29). This is what John the Baptist continues to do.

He pointed others to Jesus by telling them about Jesus’ Pre-existence. “This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” (John 1:30). John returns to a statement he made earlier in John 1:15 regarding the pre-existence of the Son of God. He wants his audience to understand that the Lamb of God is more than a man laying down His life for a good cause. The One who died to take away the sin of the world was none other than the eternal Word who has always existed (John 1:1-2). Even though John the Baptist was born six months prior to Jesus (Luke 1:26, 36), John says, “He was before me.” Jesus was always before John in His Pre-existent state as God. Christ is God without beginning or end (I John 5:20; Revelation 1:17; 22:13).

If we are going to be greatly used by God, we need to be able to tell others of Jesus’ Pre-existence as God. We must recognize how great Jesus is! We are not worthy to be mentioned in the same sentence with Him. Because Jesus is eternal, He can give life that never ends to those who believe in Him (John 11:25-26).

The next way John pointed others to Jesus was to tell them of Christ’s deity. The Baptist refers back to that moment at Jesus’ baptism when it was revealed that Jesus was the chosen Messiah. “‘31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water. 32 And John bore witness, saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’” (John 1:31-33).

Do you remember what happened at Jesus’ baptism? The Spirit descended in the form of a dove upon Jesus to confirm Him as the Messiah and the Father testified from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17). God approved the ministry of Jesus. Thus, while John baptizes with water, Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit. He is the Giver of the Spirit. Jesus came that people might be brought into contact with the Holy Spirit.

Since the fall of man in Genesis 3, people have longed to be free from the struggle with evil. Some of us today wish we could eliminate our struggle with sin, selfishness, and self-centeredness. There have been times when I wished I could have had a surgical operation to remove my tendency to be stubborn, critical, and selfish. When I saw the hurt I caused, I wished somehow to be able to stop doing those kinds of things.

The Bible tells us that it takes God Himself to do that. The work of the Spirit is to do that very thing. What John is saying is, “I deal with the external…that is as far as I can go. But, when I baptized Jesus, I saw the Spirit coming down like a dove and lighting on His shoulder. The One who sent me to baptize had said to me, ‘When you see that happening, that is the One who will not only change men outside, but will change them on the inside, by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.’ When that happened, I knew who He was. My own cousin, Jesus of Nazareth, was the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.”

When we believe in Jesus, God the Holy Spirit places us in the body of Christ, the Church (John 7:39; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:26-27). That is Spirit Baptism. He comes to live inside of us and wash us clean. He gives us the power to overcome sin in our lives as we depend upon Him. Water baptism, however, does not cleanse you spiritually. When we baptize believers, we do it by immersion because Jesus was baptized that way. Why was Jesus baptized? Did He need to be saved? No. He was perfect. He was baptized because it pleased His Father in heaven and provided an example for us to follow. Christ was also baptized with water to begin His public ministry. So every time a believer is baptized with water, it puts a smile on God’s face and it initiates that believer into the discipleship process whereby he or she begins to minister to others (Matthew 28:19-20).

In the Old Testament, the animals sacrificed by the Israelite worshiper had to be “without blemish” (Leviticus 1:3, 10; 3:1, 6; 4:3, 23, 28, 32; 5:15, 18; 6:6; 9:2-3; 14:10; 22:19; 23:12, 18) which was a foreshadowing of the perfect sacrifice of the Lamb of God. In order for the Lamb of God to be a perfect sacrifice, He had to be sinless. The only way this could be possible, was for the Lamb of God to be fully God and fully Man.

Is it any wonder then that John’s public testimony climaxes in his identification of Jesus as the Son of God. “And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34). John wants his audience to know that the Lamb of God is more than a man laying down his life for someone. The Lamb of God is God in human flesh. He is fully human and fully God. He is the One who was with God and who was God (John 1:1-2). This is the only way He could be the perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world (John 1:29).

What a testimony this was from John the Baptist! What a witness! What a voice! John points people to Jesus. He recognizes that it is not about him. He understands both who he is not (the Christ) and who he is (a voice). He understands his role: point people to Jesus.

Understand who Jesus is, so that you might believe on Him, and believing you might have life in His name (John 20:31). Recognize who you are not. This takes humility. Also recognize who you are. This takes confidence. You are a voice, a highway builder. Tell others of Jesus. Do not be ashamed. We are to be like bird dogs. As they point to a group of birds, we are to point people to Jesus, who is the eternal and perfect Lamb of God.

A father and his small son strolled down the street in Chicago past the place where a skyscraper was being constructed. Glancing up, they saw men at work on a high story of the building. “Father,” said the little boy, “What are those little boys doing up there?” “Those are not little boys, son. They’re grown men.” “But why do they look so small?” “Because they’re so high,” his father answered. After a pause the boy asked, “Then, Father, when they get to heaven there won’t be anything left of them, will there?” It’s so true, the closer we get to Christ, the less others see of us and the more they see of Him. Point them to Jesus.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me not to lose sight of who You are in the midst of this crazy world.My heart was deeply touched by the contrast between John’s baptism with water and Your baptism with the Holy Spirit. You are far more concerned with my heart than you are my appearance. You are in the business of changing lives from the inside out. When the Father said to You at Your baptism, “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased,” I think this is something every boy longs to hear from his own earthly father, but they often don’t. Jesus, please help me to hear the Father’s voice saying to me, “I love you and I am very proud of you.” That is the cry of my heart, Lord. In fact, I believe it is the cry of many hearts belonging to men. I want to grow closer to You, Jesus, so others will see more of You and less of me. I love You, Lamb of God. Thank You for always having time for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How to be used greatly by God – Part 3

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” John 1:29

If God is going to greatly use us, we must not only recognize who we are not (John 1:19-21) and who we are (John 1:22-23), but we must also point others to Jesus Christ (John 1:24-29). This is what John the Baptist does next.

After John’s examiners basically ask him what gives him the right to baptize (John 1:24-25), John points them to Jesus. “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” (John 1:26-27). John is saying,“This is not about me. It is not about the rite of baptism. It is not about by whose authority I baptize. It is all about Jesus.” John’s interest is in Christ and Christ alone. In accordance with the gospel of John’s purpose (John 20:31), John the Baptist’s testimony tells us who Jesus is.

So first, John tells us about Jesus’ greatness (John 1:26-27). John informs these religious leaders that there is one who stands in their midst, who they do not know, whose sandals he is not worthy to unlace (John 1:26-27). Loosing another’s sandal was the most menial of tasks. Only the lowest slaves would loosen sandals. Even disciples were not asked to loosen the sandals of their teachers. Yet John says, “I am unworthy to do the single most humbling task—loosen His sandals.” Why? Because of His greatness.    

Throughout this passage we see John’s humility. As the introducer to Jesus, John possessed a tremendous privilege. God trusts the humble with great privileges because He knows they will not receive any glory for themselves. They will give God the glory. If you want God to use you greatly, you must get out of His way and humbly follow Him.

Second, John tells us of Jesus’ sacrifice (John 1:29). John’s public testimony continues the following day. As the Baptizer ministers, he sees Jesus coming toward him and makes one of the great statements of the New Testament. “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). What is John saying here? If you read through the Old Testament, you will find it is filled with many blood sacrifices. Abel, the son of Adam, offered a lamb to God and God smiled upon that sacrifice (Genesis 4:4). Later Abraham made offerings to God (Genesis 15:9-21). Then the children of Israel were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their doorposts, so the angel of death would pass over their family without killing the firstborn (Exodus 12:1-28). Israelites were also taught at the foot of Mount Sinai to bring certain animals to slay and to offer the blood and meat of those animals to God (Exodus 20:24).

Many are offended by the fact that the Old Testament is replete with animal sacrifices,  of actual blood being spilled. Every morning and every evening there were animals slain in the temple in Jerusalem. On the great feast days of Israel thousands of animals were sacrificed. A stream of blood runs all through the Old Testament.

Every sacrifice was a testimony that Someone was coming who would supply that explanation. Now, at last, there is an answer to the cry of Isaac, as Abraham his father was taking him upon the mountain to offer him, “Where is the lamb?” and Abraham replied, “God will provide for Himself the lamb” (Genesis 22:7-8). Centuries later, as John sees Jesus coming toward him, knowing who He was, having baptized Him six weeks earlier, he says to the crowd, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Here is the One who will satisfy God’s demand to punish our sins.

John states that the sacrifice of this Lamb “takes away” the sin of the world. The verb used here (airōn) symbolizes more than just “covering” (to cover something means it is still there). When John says the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world, it means that He removes it.         

When I shared this message in a church in South Des Moines, Iowa, we had an individual wearing a T-shirt with the word “SIN” taped on it. They tried praying and reading their Bible, but the “SIN” label was still there. The person tried to wear a jacket to cover the sin. Others may not see his sin, but God still sees it. Another person came representing Jesus. The “SIN” label was then placed on him. This was the only way his sin could be removed.

Only Jesus’ blood can remove the stain of sin in our lives. No amount of good living on our part can remove the stain. “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). When God looks at the good things we think, say, and do, He sees that they are all stained with sin. Only Jesus can remove the stain of our sin through His shed blood. This is why John the Baptist pointed people to Jesus, the Lamb of God. And so must we.

Furthermore, Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient for “the sin of the world” (John 1:29b). It is comprehensive in its nature. In other words, when Jesus died, His sacrifice was completely adequate for the needs of all people. It was sufficient for all. Listen to what the Bible says about Jesus’ sufficient sacrifice:

We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” I John 2:1-2. The word “propitiation” refers to God’s satisfaction with Jesus’ death being the full payment for all of our sins.

11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrews 9:11-14 

“He [Jesus] has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Hebrews 9:26

“ But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God… For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:12, 14

My wife shared something with me today at lunch that really touched me. You can see her insights in the picture above. The horizontal cross beam reminds us of what Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” The cross of Jesus provides the basis for removing our sins as far as the east is from the west, far out of our reach. The vertical post of the cross points to Micah 7:19 which says, “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” The cross provides the basis of casting our our sins out of our sight into the depths of the sea.

To receive the benefits of Jesus’ sufficient sacrifice, you must believe or trust in Him as your Savior from sin. No further sacrifice is required. Christ’s sacrifice was all that is needed. We are told that His sacrifice is substitutionary (Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3-4) and sufficient (Hebrews 9:11-10:14; I John 2:2).

Have you believed in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, to take away your sins? If not, why not believe or trust in Him now for His unlimited forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14)? The apostle Peter invited a religious man named Cornelius to believe in Christ for forgiveness: “All the prophets say it is true that all who believe in Jesus will be forgiven of their sins through Jesus’ name.” (Acts 10:43). Does the word “all” include you? Yes. It includes everyone from every nation, tribe, and language group. Jesus loves everyone and He died for everyone (John 3:16; I Timothy 2:3-6) so that everyone may be forgiven of all their sin if they will come to Him on His terms. What are His terms? Jesus said to “believe in Him” (John 3:15-18; cf. John 6:40; 11:25-26; Acts 10:43). Stop trusting in yourself or your good life and trust in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, to take away your sins forever!

If you just believed in Jesus for His forgiveness of all your sins, the Bible says your sins are forgiven – past, present, and future (Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14; Revelation 1:5). All your sins are removed beyond your reach as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103:12). They are cast out of your sight into the deepest part of the sea (Micah 7:19). Nothing, including your guilt and shame, can separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39)! God is now your Father and you are His child forever (John 1:12; 6:37). God wants to use you now to share this good news with others. Learn to follow Jesus and He will teach you how to fish for men and women, boys and girls with His gospel message (Matthew 4:19).

Being used greatly by God involves knowing who we are not (John 1:19-21), who we are (John 1:22-23), and pointing others to Jesus (John 1:24-29). Lord willing, we will talk more tomorrow about pointing others to Jesus. Until then, may Jesus richly bless you.

Prayer: Precious Lamb of God, thank You for taking my place on the cross to pay the full penalty for my sins. Your sacrifice was sufficient not only for all of my sins, but for the sin of the world. The moment I believed in You and Your sufficient sacrifice for my sins, all of the wrong things I have done, said, and thought were all forgiven and removed from my sight and out of my reach forever! Please use me, Lamb of God, to point others to You by focusing on Your greatness as a Person and Your sufficient sacrifice for the sin of the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.