WHY SHOULD ANYONE LISTEN TO JESUS?
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
July 5, 2020
14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man's whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
— John 7:14-24, ESV
Why should anyone listen to Jesus?
That was the question “The Jews,” the religious rulers of Israel, were putting forth to the people as Jesus’ public ministry began to wind down. It was a negative, rhetorical question lodged against the most positive rhetoric ever preached, the good news of the kingdom of God delivered by the Son of God.
Christ’s critics claimed He was no King, just a nobody from the peasant class of Galilee. They said Jesus was no Messiah, merely a megalomaniac trying to pull people away from the Jewish religious establishment. They said Jesus was not the Lord sent from Heaven, but a demon-possessed pawn in the palm of Satan.
The critics today are a little kinder. They say Jesus was a good man, but not the God man. They say He preached the truth, but the religious truths of yesterday are not practical for the prerogatives of today. They say He showed people the way to God, but today there are many ways to God of which Jesus is only one, not the only One.
So why in this present age would anyone want listen to Jesus? This passage in the Gospel of John would like to give us at least three reasons.
The Teaching of Jesus is of the Finest Quality
Teachers, preachers, and other public speakers have about thirty seconds or less to compel someone to listen to what they have to say, then about thirty minutes or less to tell them what they have to say. The ways to make first impressions and hold attention spans have changed throughout the centuries, but Jesus faced the same public pressures that preachers have faced throughout history.
How did Jesus do? It seemed people could not take their eyes, or ears, off of Him. His preaching and teaching was other-worldly, yet at the same time it contained this world’s finest intellectual, emotional, and volitional quality.
In terms of intellect, Jesus is the one man in human history who really knew everything. His perfect mind was put on display every time He preached. Even His contemporary critics marveled that Jesus had “grammata” (“learning” in vs. 15), which would have been unnatural for a mere carpenter’s son from Galilee, but not surprising for the supernatural Son of God.
In terms of emotion, Jesus preached not only from the head, but straight from the heart. His great, heart-felt messages were the only explanation for the great range of emotions that were returned to Him, either in loyalty or loathing. Passion begets passion. Jesus’ emotional range could climb to the highest form of love for God and then descend to the hottest form of indignation for the enemies of God. There was not much middle ground at the feet of Jesus.
In terms of volition, or will, God’s will was Jesus’ sole ground and goal in preaching. “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will,” He said in vs. 17, they would acquiesce to the life-changing quality of Christ’s words. This is what excellent preaching and teaching does, it informs the mind, inspires the heart, and it moves the will to conformity with God’s will. No one has ever preached or taught as perfectly as the Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, more than eleven people should have listened to Jesus then. Many more people should be listening to Him now. And we can! The Bible contains four Gospels, each Gospel contains passages which some editions color in red.
The red words cut the deepest,
The red words are the call.
The red words come from Jesus,
And they mean the most of all.
— Vince Gill, “The Red Words”
I challenge you to read the red words of Jesus, then tell me who is more intelligent than Him? I beg you to hear the words of Jesus, and tell me who loves you more than Him? I charge you to read the commandments of Jesus, and tell me who is more worthy of Him of being followed and obeyed. All people should listen to Jesus, because of the sheer quality of His words, and because they are the words of God.
But the red letters are not the only words from God. There is quality, authority, and gravity in the black letters, too.
The Teaching of Jesus is of the Highest Authority
There are two mentions of the word “authority” in this text. Also, two sources of God’s authority are revealed. One, of course, is the word of Jesus Christ, who plainly speaks with the beauty, quality, and the authority of God. The other, mentioned by Jesus, is the “law of Moses.” Here is where the black letters come into important view.
God is one, but He reveals Himself to us in the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God has one voice, but He channels His voice through all three persons of the Trinity. There were times, albeit rare, when God the Father spoke audibly. There was a season, of some thirty years of life which included three years of public ministry, when God spoke through the person and work of the Son, Jesus Christ. And through many years in many ways through many authors, the Holy Spirit has spoken through Holy Scripture, beginning with “the law of Moses.”
The Pentateuch (five books of Moses) is known to the Jews as the “Law.” People of faith in the Old Covenant also recognized God’s hand and authority in the “Writings” (Joshua through Song of Solomon) and the “Prophets” (Isaiah through Malachi). Early Christians received and revered the New Covenant through the writing of the “Gospels and Acts,” the “Epistles,” and the “Revelation.”
“All Scripture is breathed out by God …”
— 2 Timothy 3:16
Jesus is clearly claiming here that His spoken words and the written word of God, now known as the Bible, both carry the highest authority possible, the authority of Almighty God. When the Word of God, Jesus Christ, speaks, people should listen. When the word of God speaks, the Bible, speaks, people should listen. But, they don’t.
“Now I think I know,
What you tried to say to me.
And how you suffered for your sanity,
And how you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they're not listening still,
Perhaps they never will.”
— Don McLean, “Vincent”
And this is where the controversy comes in.
The Teaching of Jesus causes the Greatest Controversy
If the teaching of Jesus and the right interpretation of Scripture is true, then the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day were wrong. He is, and they were. So, they killed Him.
Jesus scolded them for not listening to Him and for not interpreting and obeying the Bible correctly as well. The Old Testament had a lot to say about honoring the Sabbath, but Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath, the “one work” (ref. John 5:1ff) referred to in the dialogue, in no way violated the word of God. It violated some of their man-made misinterpretations and additions to the word of God.
If the teaching of Jesus and the right interpretation of Scripture is true today, then every other religion is wrong, and the whole of mainstream culture — politics, courts, media, entertainment, etc. — is going the wrong way. So, what will our present world do with Christ, and Christians? This is a fight for which you want to go down with the Lord Jesus Christ, dying to self and taking up your cross and following Him.
Remember that Jesus’ words in this text arise at the peak of His unpopularity. In six months, He will be hanging on a tree. He offered His teaching, but the people would not listen. They wanted a different kind of Messiah made in their own image. So, they used their influence to persuade people not to listen to Jesus.
The world today is doing the same thing and asking the same question. Why should anyone listen to Jesus? Why should anyone honor and obey the Holy Scriptures? Whey should we obey God, when we can all just go our own way?
“All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned — every one — to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
— Isaiah 53:6
We stand today, as they did in Jesus’ day, at a great crossroad. Go your own way, listen to the sirens of the world, or listen to your own autonomous voice, take pleasure now and punishment later. Or, go the Jesus way, repent and believe, trust and obey, live your life according to the gospel and the word of God. They road you choose will determine your destiny for eternity.
“Judge with right judgment,” Jesus said. Listen to Jesus. He is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
THE ANTI-CHRISTIANS ARE EVERYWHERE
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 14, 2020
1 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews' Feast of Booths was at hand. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him. 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee. 10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. 11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.
— John 7:1-13, ESV
John is the most skillful biblical writer of all when it comes to defining and describing what a Christian is. He is also quite proficient at teaching us what a Christian is not. As we continue to slog through the slough of despond in John’s Gospel, describing the final months of Jesus’ life when unbelief became militant, we meet a diverse group of anti-Christians.
Anti-Christians are the offspring the Anti-Christ, a figure forged by John in his epistles (ref. 1 John 2:18, 2:22, 4:3; 2 John 1:7). The Anti-Christ has spawned a multitude of extra-biblical and pseudo-prophetic books meant to strike terror in the hearts of readers. But the Anti-Christ does not come to us with horns on his head, fangs in his mouth, and a pitchfork in his hand. He simply walks into our homes, business, and churches dressed like an ordinary man. He is a brother, a banker, or even a Baptist preacher.
But an anti-Christian is fully what a Christian is not. He is an unbeliever who uses his unbelief to belittle and battle true belief. Our families, the world, and the church, are full of them.
Anti-Christians in the Family
Jesus Christ was surrounded by anti-Christians in His own home. “For not even His brothers believed in Him” (vs. 5). Many Christians today, no matter how Christ-like they are, have the same problem.
Protestant theology and the plain reading of Scripture attest to the fact that Jesus has blood brothers, albeit half-brothers. Joseph and Mary had children together after the virgin birth of Jesus. Two of the boys were named Jacob (James) and Judah (Jude), after whom two of our New Testament epistles are named.
What little is said about them in the Gospels is not good. They joined with their mother to try to have Jesus institutionalized at the beginning of His ministry (ref. Mark 3:20-21). As His ministry nears its end, they are seen here making fun of Him. James and Jude were certainly not Christians at this point; therefore, they were anti-Christians.
It is sad and perhaps shocking that people can be so close to Jesus and not believe in Him as Lord and Savior. Maybe the brothers were jealous. Maybe the brothers were callous. Maybe the brothers were trying to be humorous. One thing is certain, they did not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We who are Christians have members of our families who are not, and it is the saddest fact of life to face. They do not share our faith commitment to Christ. They do not share out time commitment to worship and serve Christ. And, they will not share our eternity with Christ, unless they repent and believe.
How are we to respond to anti-Christians in our own families? Jesus will show us the way.
Anti-Christians in the World
Jesus had to face brothers who did not believe in Him, and a whole world who hated Him. The hostility increased as Christ’s steps to the cross grew shorter. “The world ... hates Me,” (vs. 7) Jesus said.
“World” is a word John uses differently according to context. Overall, he makes it clear that while “God so loved the world,” the world does not love God, nor His Son Jesus Christ. The world, apart from saving grace, is anti-Christian.
The world, contextually the lost world, is much like Jesus’ brothers at this time. They do not have time for Jesus. People are busy making money, busy making love, making movies for Netflix. Sundays and other days spent worshiping God, reading the Bible, engaging in church ministry does not fit into the world’s otherwise busy schedules. A schedule where Jesus is absent is anti-Christian.
The lost world enjoys its sin and does not want anyone, not the Christ and not some Christ follower, telling them that they are wrong. In these modern times, it seems the only thing a person can do wrong is to tell a person they are doing wrong. The world does not want the church telling them what to do. It does not want the police to tell them what they cannot do. Such moral relativism and criminal nihilism is decidedly anti-Christian.
The anti-Christian world is seldom ugly as it has been lately, though. Normally, the world makes beautiful art, films, and music. It believes in social justice and social programs. But people in this world do not repent and do not believe, which are the definitive New Testament prerequisites for being saved and becoming a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Non-Christians are by nature anti-Christians.
The anti-Christian and the Christian are as different as love and hate. If you love this present world with all of its sins, then you hate the gospel of Jesus Christ (see also 1 John 2:15-17). If you love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, as Jesus commanded (ref. Matthew 22:26ff), then you will hate sin and the destructive effect it has upon people.
That the anti-Christians are in the world all around us is no secret. Is there a secret to reaching them? Jesus will show us the way.
Anti-Christians in the Church
It should not surprise us that many of our family members are unbelievers, nor that unbelief is the dominant belief in the world at large. What is shocking still to me, however, is how many anti-Christians there are in the Christian church.
The context of every text in the Gospels is a religious context. “The Jews” (of vs. 1 and vs. 13) were the most religious people on the planet, in ways good and bad. The good astutely adhered to the Old Covenant while waiting for the dawning of the New Covenant. The bad perverted the Old Covenant and prevented people from being introduced to the New Covenant. It was a mixture of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
“The Jews” more specifically in the Gospel of John point to the religious rulers of Judea and Jerusalem who were adamantly opposed to the Lord Jesus Christ. They intimidated the people, too, and bullied anyone suspected of belief or even sympathy towards Jesus Christ. They ignored the good news, and they were bad and ugly about it.
As Jesus prepared to appear at the Feast of Tabernacles, about six months after the feeding of the five thousand and six months before His last Passover, the anti-Christian elements of Jesus’ family, the world, and the Jewish “church” were all conspiring against Him, against Christ. They were anti-Christ. There was virtually no one left who would speak up for Jesus, for the Christ.
Do not think this is merely an Old Covenant Jewish problem? Today it is very much a New Covenant church problem. If you take into account all the Christians in all of the churches of the world today, most of them are worldly and anti-Christian. They deny the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith, pillar the five pillars of the Great Reformation, and live lives untethered from the most basic teachings of Holy Scripture, which they relegate to myth and legend. Most Christians today are actually anti-Christians.
So what are the real Christians supposed to do? Jesus will show us the way.
The Christian Response to Anti-Christians
How did Jesus respond to His brothers, to the lost world around Him, and to the religious hypocrites of His day?
Jesus loved His brothers. He lived with them and provided for them for thirty years. They may have mocked Him, but He loved them. They may have abandoned Him at the cross, but He came to them after the resurrection.
We must be the resurrection to our families. We must show them the love of God that saves by loving God in front of them and loving them in front of God. So often, love find a way and leads people to the way.
Jesus shined a light in the lost world. At the Festival which featured rituals of pouring water and lighting candles, Jesus offered living water and the light of the world. His true righteousness, not self-righteousness, and His direct preaching of the gospel provided a saving light at the end of a lost tunnel.
We must be the light of the world to lost people in the world. We must shine for Jesus in our faith commitment and our moral character, We must offer them as much forbearance and tolerance as Scripture will allow. If Christ is alive in us and the Bible is true to us, perhaps the living Word and the written word will find a way to change their hearts the same way He has changed ours.
Jesus rebuked religious charlatans. This is the one group of anti-Christians that even the Christ could not take. “The Jews” killed His reputation and then killed Him, but Jesus never backed down from them for a moment. Where is Christ now, and where are they?
Liberal theologians and prosperity gospel preachers are the parasites sucking the life out of Christianity today, and we must expose them and remove them from our midst at every opportunity. They are the anti-Christs that the true Christ just could not stand.
The only antidote for anti-Christians is true Christianity. True Christianity shows itself in love, moral excellence, and courage. True Christians’ lives are the means of grace that fuel the gospel and can turn anti-Christians into Christians. This is the reason why we are still here, in our families, in the world, and in the church.
DROPOUTS AND DISCIPLES
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 7, 2020
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.
— John 6:60-71, ESV
Last year the number of church members who do not attend church services or offer other signs of spiritual life reached 65% (according to Barna Research). Southern Baptists are among the worst, as on any given Sunday 75% of our members cannot be accounted for. During last century’s heyday of Billy Graham Crusades and local church revivals, 90% of persons making so-called professions of faith never followed up with baptism and membership in a local church.
But these numbers pale in comparison with the evangelistic ineffectiveness of Jesus as described in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. Here our Lord preached the gospel to approximately 20,000 people and wound up with only 11 real disciples of Christ. In the concluding verses of the chapter, that ugly cloud of unbelief is traced by a silver lining of genuine faith and real discipleship.
The word “disciples” in this context is used about as loosely as the term “Christian” in our age. Titles and testimonies too often do not tally up. Thousands of people were following Jesus during His next to last Passover pilgrimage, but it became clear that their faith was superficial for selfish reasons. Once Jesus laid out the gospel plain and clear, claiming absolute lordship and demanding real repentance and faith, the crowd began to drop out, for a variety of reasons.
Dropouts find the gospel is too “hard.” Not everyone is a United States Marine. The higher you try to climb on the educational ladder, the easier it is to quit before completion. And while there is no shame in not being a soldier or obtaining a Ph.D., it is a curse to put your hand to the gospel plow and then turn back.
When Jesus told the crowd they must consume His flesh and blood He meant they must be consumed with His person and work, the gospel, the kingdom of God, New Testament Christianity. You cannot get the benefits of Jesus’ life and death until you are willing to live for Christ and die to self. You should not count on going to Heaven if you have given lip service to the gospel but no life’s service to the kingdom of God and Christ’s church. Perfection is not required, but commitment is absolutely necessary, and keeping your commitment can be hard. Dropouts don’t do it.
Dropouts find the gospel is “offense[-ive].” The Greek word is “scandalon,” from whence we get our English word “scandal.” A scandal is an harmful, embarrassing, scandalous situation caused by someone’s sin.
The cross of Christ is the greatest scandal in the history of the world, perpetrated by all of the sinners in the world against the Savior of God’s people. Confessing to being a sinner and crying out to God for mercy is something the typical man finds untenable. Many may drop into the church for a season to release some tension or enjoy some social benefits, but the scandal of the cross will eventually offend them, or bore them, and give them a reason to walk away.
Dropouts discover that the gospel is impossible for the “flesh” to “believe.” This prompted Jesus to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted by the Father.” There can be no faith in man apart from the grace of God.
The lost man suffers from total depravity unadorned by irresistible grace. The flesh can fake it, but belief in the Gospel of John is always used as a verb, usually present tense. The lack of ongoing discipleship is proof that a profession of faith is false, and those who drop out simply evidence the obvious that they were never saved in the first place.
Dropouts now make up the quantitative majority of the modern church. Disciples, however, are the real quality of Christ’s church.
Jesus’ last words in the last part of John six is addressed to “the twelve,” “yet one of you is a devil.” That means at the end of this day, Jesus had eleven true disciples sitting at His feet. They were uncommon men who would change the world, yet there are some things about them that all disciples have in common.
Disciples call on the name of the “Lord,” and mean it. Though the Bible tells us in both Covenants, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (ref. Joel 2:32;Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13), many who have said it throughout history never really meant it. At the end of the day, and at the end of every person’s life, what you say means nothing if not backed up by what you do or what you’ve done with your life.
A disciple by definition is disciplined to take actions based on the doctrines of their mentor. In the case of Christianity, Christ has commanded many spiritual disciplines. He commands baptism, responsible church membership, holiness of life, generosity of spirit, witness of lips and life, and agape love. Disciples are never perfect in this life but always persistent, in keeping with the key doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.
Disciples hunger for “the word” of God, hear it and heed it. Those first eleven had a wonderful advantage, hearing the word of God from the Word of God face to face. They would stumble and fall but they would never fail to get back up and follow. They treasured God’s word above bread, above healing, above money, and just about any other thing.
Simon Peter, the leader, would to on to write that the ensuing generations of Christians would have an even better gift than hearing Jesus in person, that of the Holy Scriptures, which to us today are “the words of eternal life.” A body that refuses to eat is either sick or dead. So is a so-called disciple who has no desire for the Bible or biblical truth. Disciples crave it more than candy.
Disciples “believe” that Jesus Christ was, is, and always will be “the Holy One of God,” and live their lives accordingly. Jesus’ signs and the sayings send forth the message of the deity of Christ. The 99.99% just did not get it, but the .01 percenters did, transformed by grace and taking constant actions, revealing they are the true disciples.
If Jesus is God, and He is, He made you. If Jesus is Lord, and He should be, He saved you. If you believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, your life will show it, consistently and persistently. Disciples do not drop out. They drop everything else to be disciples. Find a church full of them and stick with them. Be a disciple, not a dropout.
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
May 31, 2020
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
— John 6:35-59, ESV
As we have progressed through this lengthy sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, the longest chapter in the fourth Gospel and fourth largest in all four Gospels, I have been hinting to you that the unfortunate ending will be unbelief on an unbelievable scale. After drawing His biggest crowd ever and miraculously feeding them all, after walking on water to get away from their earthly entanglements to make Him king, and after preaching to them again on the other side of the sea in Capernaum, everyone in this crowd of thousands will walk away from Jesus, except for twelve.
Here then, in this largest part of the long chapter, is an autopsy of unbelief. From the aftermath of the fourth and fifth of seven “signs,” to the giving of the gospel in the first of seven “I Am” statements, to this worldly crowd’s response, lies seven reasons why people do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Unbelievers do not believe because they have not been chosen by God.
In the Old Covenant, the people who believed in the true and living God were the chosen remnant from among the chosen people of Israel. God passed over all the other nations of the world and made people from one small nation His elect, His chosen people. Is God a racist, discriminating against all other races but the Jews? Is God unfair, denying equal access and opportunity to all people? No, God is Almighty, Sovereign, Omnipotent. He has the power and He has the right to pick the people He wants for Himself.
In the New Covenant, the people who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are called the church, the bride of Christ. Does God not have the right to choose His own bride? Yes, He does and He does, through the ordo salutis of election, predestination, effectual calling, and regeneration (ref. Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:4; Titus 3:5, etc.). God chooses, members of the church are brought in and saved, and together with the redeemed of Israel will live with the Lord forever.
God is the Whosoever Who wills (ref. Romans 9:14-18). Mankind is the whosoever who won’t, apart from the grace of God. Grace by biblical definition is not a human right, not a human ability, not a human condition. Grace pours into people the faith to come to Jesus (vs. 37). Grace draws and enables people to follow Jesus (vs. 44). Grace is not given to everyone, or else it would not be grace.
The mystery of grace is great, especially since both God and man have certain freedoms. God uses His freedom to bring people into His kingdom. Man, on the other hand, uses his freedom to reject God, as exemplified by this crowd of unbelievers.
Unbelievers do not believe because they refuse to repent.
Believing and repenting go hand in hand, and the depraved man has neither in either hand. He refuses to believe and he refuses to repent. Saving faith is for only those who turn away from their sin and self-centeredness and come to Jesus (vs. 37). Unbelievers are unrepentant.
Faith is easy but repentance is hard. Faith can be faked but repentance must be real. Faith can be manipulated to make God do for you, but repentance reorients your life to where you give everything to God.
Repentance requires you to give up your pride, surrender your control, and place all your worldly goods in the hands of God. In this era of the modern gospel, people seem glad to superficially believe but reluctant to spiritually repent. But without repentance, Jesus said, people will perish in unbelief (ref. Luke 13:3,5).
Unbelievers do not believe because they cherish their will above God’s will.
Jesus, being God, was completely consumed with the will of God. Jesus, being fully human yet not bound by human sinfulness, was completely free to do His own will. It became clear by the time Jesus arrived in the Garden of Gethsemane that there was more than a mild conflict between the two wills of two persons of the Godhead, Father and Son. Yet what did the Son do?
The Son’s surrender to the will of the Father should be of supreme interest to us. It also should have supreme implications for us. Salvation, accomplished and applied, requires total submission to the will of God.
I did not say salvation requires total perfection with the will of God, for only Jesus Christ accomplished this perfect righteousness. But faith is accepting this righteousness, and faithfulness is the deep desire to do the will of God. True believers live in pursuit of the will of God. Unbelievers never will.
Unbelievers do not believe because they underestimate the end of time.
“The last day” is an expression in the New Testament used only in the Gospel of John. How many times? Why seven times, of course. It speaks of the second coming of Christ, when time as we now know it will be now more. It speaks of Judgment Day, when believers are collected with Christ and the wrath of God is poured out upon all unbelief.
Do you believe this day is coming? Believers do, and are prepared for it. Unbelievers, however, either do not care or have the wrong idea about the end of time.
Unbelievers live for the here and now. They are concerned with comforts and freedoms. They accumulate money and material goods. They either do not believe in Heaven or wrongly believe Heaven is a place where everybody goes in the end. Wrong belief is unbelief.
Unbelievers do not believe because they deny the deity of Christ.
People who don’t believe in Judgment Day are going to be really surprised when they see the Judge. He is Almighty God, the Creator, the Alpha and Omega, and He is the Lord Jesus Christ.
The people in Jesus’ day, although they had witnessed Him feed the five thousand and walk on water, did not believe in Him as Lord and God. They called Him “the son of Joseph,” but He is the Son of God.
People inside and outside the church make the same mistake today. Jesus is doubted and dismissed as merely a good man, a wise teacher, or a benevolent monk. Scholars in the name of Jesus blaspheme His holy name by teaching the Gospels are mythological accounts of an unlucky religious leader from ancient Palestine.
Jesus’ repeated claims and proofs of deity and lordship are eagerly believed by genuine Christians. Scoffers and doubters are unbelievers. A Jesus who is not Lord is a Jesus who cannot save.
Unbelievers do not believe because they ignore the Bible.
The Father and the Son are one, along with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit inspired the Holy Scriptures, so those born of the Spirit are inspired to search the Scriptures regularly and hear and heed the word of God.
But most people are not interested in coming to Christ and learning the Bible. The Bible is the best selling and least studied book of all time. It is a treasure of salvation and assurance, of serious and joyful living, and a comfort in time of sorrow and death. Belief craves the Bible, the word of God. Unbelief does not have a healthy appetite for Holy Scripture.
Unbelievers do not believe because they do not understand the cross.
Christ’s last teaching to the crowd was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and kept him from passing through the eye of the needle into the kingdom of God. Jesus offered Himself to them as the broken bread and the slain lamb. People should have believed Him then, people should believe Him now, but somehow they just won’t.
While all of the Bible is literally true, all of the Bible is not to be taken literally. Excellent literature, especially from the eastern hemisphere, is rich in metaphor, parable, and symbolism, such as Jesus’ reference here to eating His flesh and drinking His blood. The Jews dropped the ball by thinking He was taking about cannibalism. The Roman Catholic Church confused the issue a thousand years ago by creating the false doctrine of transubstantiation. Jesus was plainly talking about the cross, then embarked on a one-year mission to get there.
Upon the cross of Calvary, the bread of life was nailed to a tree. The blood of the lamb of God flowed freely to the ground. Whoever believes in the reality of Jesus and the centrality of the gospel, “Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever” (vs. 58). Faith saves, while unbelief is doomed to die.
The indictment against unbelief in this passage can be placed in reverse and serve as a roadmap to saving grace. Only God knows who the elect are, but you can know you are one of the chosen if you repent, desire God’s will, believe in Heaven, trust in Christ, honor His word, and come to Jesus through the cross. The whosoever will travel this narrow road, while the broad road of unbelief remains for whosever won’t.
THE BREAD OF LIFE
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
May 17, 2020
22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father 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.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
— John 6:22-35, ESV
Jesus created a monster with a miracle, a five-thousand-headed food monster. With another miracle, walking on the water, He escaped from their plan to make Him their king by force in order to force the King to give them free food and other material things.
Now, on the other side of the Sea of Galilee with His disciples, Jesus faces the monster again. The only thing that could make them go away was the preaching of the gospel with an emphasis on the sovereign grace of God. This Jesus did, and by the end of the chapter, the monster is gone.
People still pursue Jesus for all the wrong reasons. They use Him as a good luck charm, a genie in a bottle, or a ticket to get out of Hell free. But God governs by providence, not luck. God did not become a man to grant everyone three wishes and their best life now. And, God will not spare anyone from Hell who does not come to Him on His terms.
The Search for the Bread of Life
Let’s try to give the crowd credit where credit is due. The text tells us they were “seeking Jesus” (vs. 24) and Jesus agreed, “You are seeking Me” (vs. 26). Surely seeking Jesus is a good thing, isn’t it?
Seeker sensitive churches started sprouting up a generation ago and now have a stronghold on church culture. The basic idea is to create services that lost people love (just think about that for a minute or two). In many cases, crosses and other Christian symbols are intentionally removed to not offend (just like in communist China?!). Language is censored to get rid of words like sin, repentance, and judgment (just read anything by the late Robert Schuller). Sacred psalms and hymns are replaced by loud rock bands, staged lighting, and sometimes even smoke machines (I actually like concerts, but not for Sunday worship). And, biblical sermons are replaced by moral therapeutic deistic pep talks (thank you, Christian Smith, Mark Noll, David Wells, and Wade Clark Roof). Such churches are often found full, as is the broad road leading to destruction (ref. Matthew 7:13).
It is impossible for lost people to seek salvation from the Lord (ref. Romans 3:11). This is because man in his natural state is depraved, spiritually disabled, sinful, and selfish to the core. What lost people will seek from the Lord, however, is anything that will entertain them, stroke their ego, or enrich their pantries or pocketbooks.
Jesus encountered such seekers on the road from Capernaum to Jerusalem. They did not come to Him as God, which is where His signs were pointing, but as a genie who could grant them wishes for bread. “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves'” (vs. 26).
The fact is they were seeking for something. But that something or someone was not God. They were solely focused on “food that perishes” (vs. 27), according to Jesus. Such food can mean real food and drink, of course, but bread can also represent money and material things. And most people, including many church people, are simply using the eternal God to get the earthly things they want most.
Are material things unimportant to God? No, or else Jesus would not have fed them earlier, and He will feed a four-thousand-headed monster later. But material things should not be the foundation and focus of our lives. Yet, money and material things are the bread that most people want from God.
Jesus shows us a better way, better bread, of which He is the exclusive source.
The Source of the Bread of Life
There are three ways to get bread. You can make it yourself. You can go to the store and buy a loaf of bread. Or, someone can give you bread.
There are also three ways to look at salvation. You can save yourself, by works or by being a perfect person (I witnessed our current President saying he never asks for forgiveness because he never does anything wrong). You can buy your salvation, like the Roman Catholic church was selling in Martin Luther’s day (which sparked the Great Reformation). Or, you can receive salvation as a gift of grace.
Jesus offers the latter. “My Father gives you the true bread … “ (vs. 32). He was not talking about something to eat, or money to buy things, but salvation. The Savior tended to talk about salvation, and The Savior saves. In order to freely offer salvation to those present and future, Jesus says and John records the first of His seven great “I Am” statements:
Jesus said to them, “I Am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst” (vs. 35).
This is the gospel in one sentence, one statement. It begins with God. It offers grace. It demands repentance and faith.
Jesus is the great “I Am,” which His original Jewish audience would have heard as, “I Am God.” Salvation cannot be earned, it cannot be bought. It must be received from God by receiving God in the person and work of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The five-thousand-headed monster eagerly received the material bread which is here today and gone tomorrow. Jesus told them they needed eternal bread, they needed Him, as God and Savior. “The bread of life” received today will stay with you forever.
Who gets the bread of salvation? “Whoever comes to Me,” Jesus said. This is repentance. This is turning away from sin, selfishness, and self-control of you life and giving that life to the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance is a gift from God (ref. Acts 11:18) that enables one to turn to God, or “Come to Me,” in Jesus’ words.
Why repent? Because you believe. “Whoever believes in Me,” Jesus said, will be saved. Faith is the gift of God that keeps on giving to God, and receiving from God spiritual gifts and the eternal blessing of salvation.
The source of salvation is the bread of life. You will die without food, and a piece of bread for a man starving to death is life, physical life. You will die in your sins and suffer an eternal death without the bread of life. Jesus Christ is the bread of life. We all need him more desperately than we need air, food, water, or anything else.
As we will see in the remainder of this chapter, the people Jesus fed with miraculous bread rejected the monumental offer of the bread of life. They wanted what Jesus could do for them, but they did not want Jesus. His offer of bread remains on the table.
Please, take it. It is soul food, salvation for your soul. If you already have it, you know it, and you want more, more of Jesus. If you do not have it, and you are not hungry for the Lord, then I can do no more for you than Jesus did for this selfish and spiritually dead crowd. But if you have a spiritual hunger, for forgiveness, for assurance of life after death, for a reorientation of life that truly puts the true and living God in the center, then pay attention, hold out your hands, and heart. The bread of life can be yours, today and forever.
NOTHING TO FEAR
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
May 10, 2020
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
— John 6:16-21, ESV
My middle name is Franklin, named after my father, who was named by his father, in 1941. Obviously, Pop was a big fan of the President at the time, and he was not alone. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (I’m glad my middle name is not Delano) is the only US President to be elected to serve not one, not two, not three, but four terms.
While historians and political philosophers argue over his legacy, there is no debate about his strong leadership and superlative oratorical skills. Everyone knows his most famous line from his first inaugural address: “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
The context behind the quote included a great depression at home and a brewing world war abroad. People were afraid, they were very afraid, and they had a right to be afraid. People are afraid today, of a new and dreadful virus, of the ensuing economic difficulties, of whatever China may do next.
Fear is a part of every generation, every life, even every Christian’s life. But is fear really to be feared? Could fear be a something good that leads us to something better?
In this episode in John’s Gospel, the fifth of the seven great signs is shown. Jesus walks on the water. The presence of God and the word of God puts the fear of God into followers of the Son of God, until faith in God takes over. Here is what they learned from the Lord, and here is what we can learn from them:
Fear is a Gift from God
“They were frightened” (vs. 19), those twelve disciples, in a small boat on a medium-sized lake surrounded by large mountains. The cut of those rocks could whip the wind upon the sea in such a way that waves raise up large enough to sink a boat. Added to their seafaring fears was their scared faces when they thought they saw a ghost, walking on the water towards them. They were very afraid, and fear does not feel good.
Fear feels bad, but is fear a bad thing? No, fear can be a good thing, even a healthy thing, that God has given to us for our good. There are many phobias (the Greek word for fear found in this text) that help protect us and guide us through life.
Fear is a sign of good sense. I have a bit of acrophobia, which helps keep my feet on the ground and my hands on the rail when I am in high places. I have a big case of ophidiophobia, which is why I never became one of those snake handling preachers. I, like many others, suffer from glossophobia, which is the fear of public speaking, which makes me prepare incessantly and pray unceasingly to deliver sermons. Fear makes us prepare and put up safeguards that are simply signs of good common sense.
Fear is a sign of godly respect. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (ref. Psalm 110:10; Proverbs 9:10). “Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word” (ref. Isaiah 66:5). Healthy fear makes us listen to the right words from the right person for the right reasons, especially when that person is God and the source is God’s word, the Bible. The fear of God honors God and keeps us from committing sins that will do harm to others and ourselves.
Fear is sign for help. Fear can make you ask for help, especially from the Lord, who is always in the boat with you. Fear can make you place your hand on the rail, or take someone else’s hand, or put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee.
Jesus’ disciples were afraid because Jesus had put them in the boat and sent them into the storm (ref. Matthew’s and Mark’s account). They had been in a similar storm before, but Jesus was in the boat with them. This time He was not, yet. They feared death, a healthy fear. They knew they needed Jesus to save them, a good spiritual observation. Then, Jesus showed up, and fear was conquered by faith.
Faith is a Gift from God
It was not a ghost, but God who came to the twelve in the boat. This fifth sign of John points once again to Jesus doing something that only God can do; therefore, Jesus Christ is God, Jesus Christ is Lord! Believe in Him! And they did, at least eleven of the twelve, as they brought Jesus into the boat and arrived safely at shore. Christ came into their lives once again, bringing faith in Christ with Him, and kindled it in His disciples.
Faith is a present from the Lord. Faith is primarily something God gives us to before we turn it back over to Him. Jesus will later reveal to His followers in John’s Gospel that they follow Him by the faith He first gives to them (ref. John 15:16). Paul wrote that faith is a gift from God (ref. Ephesians 2:8). Peter wrote that faith is a gift from God (ref. 2 Peter 1:1). James wrote that faith and every other good gift comes from God (ref. James 1:17). These are impeccable witnesses, so the case should be closed concerning the origin of faith.
Faith is the presence of the Lord. God is real, whether one believes in Him or not. But faith makes Jesus personal, in the boat, in your life. Faith is a humble, sometimes desperate, yielding control of your boat and your life to the Lord. The disciples obviously remembered this day when Christ came into the boat, as every Christian should remember the day Christ came into our lives, by grace through faith, took control, and conquered our fear of death.
Faith is the promise of the Lord. Faith is the gift that keeps on giving, through the inspired and enduring word of God (ref. Psalm 19, 119, Romans 10:17, 2 Timothy 3:16; etc.) God gives the gift of faith through the gift of His word, when we receive it, hear it, believe it, obey it. It was a word from Jesus, God incarnate, that inspired the disciples’ faith, calmed their fears, and brought them safely to shore.
Only One Gift Will Endure Forever
With a final word, Jesus conquered their fears with faith. “It is I; do not be afraid” (vs. 20). God gave the disciples a reason to fear by sending them to the sea. He gave them the faith to overcome their fears with His word and His presence. Faith endured after fear was gone.
In the original language, that phrase is only four words. A literal rendering is, “I Am, no fear.” Jesus Christ is Lord (the purpose of the seven signs and the seven “I Am” sayings in the Gospel of John is to demonstrate the deity and saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ). If you have faith in Him, in His person and work, then the day will come when you will have absolutely no fear, no fear of heights, no fear of snakes, no fear of speaking, no fear of death.
In every epoch of biblical history, God has come to His people in fear and given them faith. To Israel, Moses, and Joshua, God replaced fear with faith (ref. Genesis 46:3, Exodus 20:20, and Joshua 11:6). To Elijah, Nehemiah, and King David, God replaced fear with faith (ref. 2 Kings 1:15, Nehemiah 4:14, and Psalm 56:4,11). To Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, God replaced fear with faith (ref. Isaiah 44:8, Jeremiah 1:8, Ezekiel 3:9, and Daniel 10:12,19). To Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, the Apostle Paul, and the Apostle John, God replaced fear with faith (ref. Matthew 1:20, Luke 1:30, Luke 2:10, and Acts 18:9; Revelation 1:17.). To the disciples on that boat on that night, God replaced fear with faith in Himself and His word (vs. 19-20).
In every case and to every person God says, “I Am, no fear.” If you repent, believe, and obey the Lord Jesus Christ, the great I Am, God incarnate, the feeder of five thousand, the walker on the water, the Savior of the world; then, you have faith. And if you have faith, you really have nothing to fear, not the coronavirus, not death, not even fear itself.
FAST FOOD FOR FIVE THOUSAND
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
May 3, 2020
1 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
— John 6:1-15, ESV
The sixth chapter of the Gospel of John gives us the fourth and fifth of seven signs and the first of seven “I Am” statements made by the Lord Jesus Christ. Along with the rest of the dialogue, they travel upon a mountain road that takes Jesus to the peak of His popularity then down to the bottom where He is abandoned by everyone but the twelve (and one of them is a traitor). We begin with the miracle known as the feeding of the five thousand, the only miracle of Jesus reported in all four Gospels.
On the Road with Jesus
The setting for this great miracle is the second Passover season sprinkled into the Gospel of John. The next one would be Jesus’ last, so we have about a year left to go in the greatest story ever told. If Jesus came to be popular, which He most certainly did not, this day would have made His ministry complete.
Most of Jesus’ miracles were offered in Galilee, so by now a large number of Galileans were interested in Him. It was time for the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover, which all God-fearing males and their families were supposed to attend, which also helps explain the unusually large crowd. The story records five-thousand men, which means the added women and children would push the count to approximately twenty-thousand souls.
Why were so many people on the road with Jesus? At the beginning it was because Christ was offering free health care, “They saw the signs that He was doing on the sick” (vs. 2). At the end, it was because Jesus was giving away free food, “They had eaten their fill” (vs. 12). People tend to want a Savior who can give them money, or save them money by giving them other things for free. A big crowd of Americans look at government that way, now. A big crowd of Galileans looked at Jesus that way, then. But of course, nothing is free, not even pardon for sin. Someone has to pay.
Most of those on the road with Jesus were using Jesus to get what they wanted, not following Jesus to see what He wanted. They would make marvelous modern Christians. However, there were a few old school souls in the crowd. These Jesus took into His classroom.
In the Classroom with Jesus
When it became clear to Jesus that the crowd was following Him for what they could get and not what they could give, the Lord actually acquiesced. He decided to feed them all by providing them with a free lunch.
The Lord knew what He was going to do and how He was going to do it, but He wanted to teach a lesson to His disciples in the process. Class was called into session. One question was asked: “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” (vs. 5). Three students participate in the discussion: Philip (vs. 5), Andrew (vs. 8), and an unnamed boy (vs. 9).
The question went to Philip first, since they were near the fishing village of Bethsaida, Philip’s home town. We can’t give Philip a failing grade, for Philip was a faithful disciple. I suppose we could give him is a “D” for doubting. He was a pessimist. He did not think two-thirds of a person’s annual salary could feed a crowd that size. He obviously didn’t think Jesus could do it, either.
Then Andrew raised his hand. He had found this little guy with a little lunch of two fish and five bites of bread. Andrew is always bringing people to Jesus, bless his heart. We’ll give him a “B” for bringing. But Andrew was pessimistic, too, and thought the lad’s lunch was not enough for Jesus to work with to feed all these people.
The boy is not quoted. All we know is that he gave Jesus his lunch, which is no small thing for a small boy to do. It was all he had. Jesus, a person the boy had probably not met heretofore, standing over the boy with twelve strange men, wanted the boy’s sack lunch. The boy gave Jesus all he had. That get’s an “A” in God’s classroom every time.
Christians live constantly in the classroom of Jesus Christ. The Lord is always testing us to strengthen our faith. We should not be pessimistic, like Philip and Andrew. We should not be divas and name it and claim it, either, like the word of faith heretics. Every time we are tested we should simply look to the Lord and say, “All I have is Yours, take it and do what You will.” That’s what the boy did, he gave, and I think at the end of the day he ate more than he brought.
At Lunch with Jesus
My favorite class in school was lunch. I only wish when you got those little bitty servings of food, that Jesus would have been there in person to make the portions bigger. On this day described by John, Jesus made fast food for five thousand, plus. Everyone had plenty, and there were even leftovers to spare. It tasted good, too, how could it not?
Jesus made the food, miraculously. This was not a magic trick, for there was no stage, no props. This was not a psychological trick, where everyone got a minuscule pinch and were manipulated into thinking it was enough. This was not a ministry trick; besides, I’ve never seen the televangelists even try this one. This was a bonafide miracle, organic in nature, with multiple witnesses, for “the people saw the sign He had done” (vs. 14).
Jesus made the food, transformatively. Unlike original creation, this was not done “ex nihilo,” or out of nothing. Since that big bang, God takes what He has made and transforms it into some better. He transforms things, especially people who surrender their all to Him. He turns a small lunch into great feast, water into wine, crumbs into bread, and yes, sinners into saints.
Jesus made the food, personally. In the first miracle in John’s Gospel, Jesus made wine. In this miracle, the emphasis (as the ensuing context proves) is on the bread. Bread and wine. Jesus was giving the people Himself, the bread of life, the wine of forgiveness. Sadly, the hungry crowd did not seem to notice the parable in the miracle.
In Church with Jesus
We’ve walked down the road with Jesus, He’s taken us to school, and the served us lunch. Now it is time to go to church, for the Gospels and the gospel are for the church, to edify and evangelize. So what does this sign say to the church, and through the church to the whole wide world?
Jesus is good. He feeds the hungry. He cares for the poor. He gives common grace to all of mankind made in His image. People do bad things to one another. There is a personal devil and demons who perpetrate bad things upon people. Jesus did only good. But He is more than good.
Jesus is God. Only God can make something out of nothing. Only God can take something He has made and transform it into something better. Only God can take sinners, and transform them into saints. This most notable miracle cannot be performed by big government, by big haired TV evangelist, or by some big con. This could only be done by the hands of a big God, for Jesus Christ was, is, and always will be God.
Jesus is King, but not the kind of king most people want. Most people, then and now, will take a prophet like Moses, as long as he gives them water from rocks and bread from heaven that they don’t have to work for. Most people, then and now, will take a king like David who will fight all their battles for them so they do not have to risk life and limb. Most people, then and now, want a God like Santa Claus, to grant their wishes and give them their best life now. Jesus is not that kind of king.
Jesus is the kind of King that cares about our empty stomachs, but He cares more about our eternal souls. So He performs this miracle, the fourth sign, and all signs point to Heaven. They lead to a road to walk on with Jesus, a classroom to learn from Jesus, and lunchroom to be cared for by Jesus, and a place before the throne to bow the head and bend the knee before King Jesus, Lord of all. For if He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.
MORE ABOUT JESUS
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
April 26, 2020
30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
— John 5:30-47, ESV
Why did you gather with the church today? Did you pick a place to make you feel good, or feel good about yourself? Or, do you assemble with the body of Christ to learn more about Christ? Why are you here?
Why do you read your Bible? Are you looking for secret answers to financial success, or some special knowledge to make you superior to others? Or, do you search the Scriptures to see more about the Savior?
I could ask similar questions about any number of spiritual disciplines practiced by people who call themselves Christians. These are important things done for important reasons. But they are only right in God’s sight when done for the right reasons. So, why do you do attend church services, read the Bible, pray, and other such things? The great hymn writer Eliza Hewitt said it simply and best:
More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of his saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me.
We come to worship to experience “more about Jesus.” We study the Bible to learn “more about Jesus.” We should order every aspect of our lives so that they are “more about Jesus.” To help us in this pursuit comes this grand text in the Gospel of John that teaches us “more about Jesus.”
More About Jesus’ Motives
Why did Jesus do the things that Jesus did?
More important that a person’s hands is a person’s heart. The hands won’t work if the heart won’t beat. And it is a person’s heart that gives the motives for the things the hands do.
Jesus, with the heart and hands of God, did many things. He preached many sermons, healed many people, even raised a few from the dead. But why did Jesus do the things that He did? The text reveals at least two reasons.
Jesus was captivated by God’s will. His earthy life and ministry was dictated by “not My own will but the will of Him who sent Me” (vs. 30). Remember that Jesus is fully God and fully man, Son of God and Son of Man. As a man He was poor and not rich, castigated and not championed, executed in an early death rather than living a long, rich, prosperous life.
So much for His best life now. The humanity in Jesus surrendered to the deity of Jesus in order to accomplish the overall plan of Almighty God. Why such surrender?
Jesus was concerned about saving souls. Everything Christ did was “so that you may be saved” (vs. 34). Jesus was motivated by eternity. So, He spent His earthly life to redeem God’s people, so that we can have eternal life by grace alone through faith alone in the atoning work of Christ alone.
One always leads to another. You show me a father or mother, a pastor or a church member, or anyone who is totally dedicated to the will of God, and they will bring a harvest of souls in their wake. Jesus only left a hundred or so you could count, but there were thousands of others influenced who eventually came to Christ, and millions perhaps billions more since He first came to earth.
When Jesus comes again, the only ones to benefit will be those who did God’s will and those who are saved, which defines both the Christ and the Christian. Think about it, and make your life more about Jesus.
More About Jesus’ Witnesses
What did others say about Jesus?
You’ve heard of the false cult of Jehovah’s Witnesses, so let’s take a look at the true testimony of Jesus’ witnesses. This passage tells us more about Jesus from the mouth of four witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist testifies about Jesus. “You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth” (vs. 33). John the Baptist preached on the deity and eternality of Jesus Christ, the one who was born after him but came before him. John the Baptist preached on the humanity and atoning work of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. John the Baptist preached on the necessity of repentance toward and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. John the Baptist was a good witness for Jesus Christ!
Miracles testify about Jesus. “The very works I am doing bear witness about Me” (vs. 36). Jesus did not do miracles to show off, to raise funds for an airplane, or any other of the false reasons the false prophets used today. Jesus did real miracles, things that only God can do, to testify to the fact that He was, is, and always will be God. They gained attention for the gospel message, God testifying about God.
The Father testifies about the Son. “The Father who sent Me has Himself bore witness about Me” (vs. 36). Speaking of God testifying about God, the Father spoke on several occasions concerning the Son. The Son spoke on every occasion with the authority of the Father. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit speaks constantly to draw people to the Father through the Son. God is always testifying about God.
The Scriptures testify about Jesus. “You search the Scriptures …, and it is they that bear witness about Me” (vs. 39). Get baptized and get involved in your church. Understand that your very salvation is a work of God, a miracle of grace. Dedicate yourself to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Then, get into the word of God, the Scriptures. You will know more and more about Jesus. You will be more like Jesus, in ways that will bless you and try you.
More About Jesus’ Enemies
If Jesus is so good, and He is, and if Jesus has such excellent witnesses to testify on His behalf, and He does, then why in the world would Jesus have any enemies? The world, the flesh, and the devil are always hostile to the King of kings and the kingdom of God, and never more so when all three are combined in false religion.
This is an otherwise positive text in John’s Gospel that has a negative context. Jesus’ original audience for these saying were “The Jews [who] were seeking to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (ref. 5:18). By the time of John’s writing, the late first century, Jerusalem had been sacked, the Temple burned down, and the religious ruler Pharisees had scattered to the wind. John simply refers to them as “the Jews,” meaning the religious hypocrites who set themselves up in opposition to the Son of God. It was, and is, easy to spot them.
Enemies of God “do not have the love of God within” (vs. 42). They may appear to love God and the things of God outwardly, but within they only have love for themselves and the things they can use religion to gain, like money and power. Their messages are always more about them, sometimes more about you, but never more about the sound doctrines of Jesus Christ.
Enemies of God distribute and promote false teaching, and false teachers flock together. “If another comes in his own name, you will receive him” (vs. 43) and “you receive glory from one another” (vs. 44). I’ve watched enough religious television, for research purposes of course, to notice how many times the televangelists refer to one another and one another’s false “word of faith” doctrines. The more you learn about Jesus, the more you are able to recognize these wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Enemies of God do not believe in God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. “You do not believe,” (vs. 47) is their bottom line. If one does not believe in the humanity and deity of Jesus Christ, if one does not believe in salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, if one refuses to accept these truths from the inspired and authoritative word of God, then one does not believe in God.
Jesus famously said, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (ref. Matthew 12:30). He has had enemies ever since. Actually, we were all once His enemy, until God revealed to us more about Jesus. Now, more about Jesus is what our lives are all about.
More About Jesus
This text raises a lot of questions and provides some good answers. But there is more about Jesus, in John’s Gospel, in the New Testament, in the entirety of the word of God. All of the Bible bears witness about Jesus, more and more about Jesus.
More about Jesus let me learn,
More of his holy will discern;
Spirit of God, my teacher be,
Showing the things of Christ to me.
More about Jesus in His Word,
Holding communion with my Lord;
Hearing his voice in ev'ry line,
Making each faithful saying mine.
More about Jesus on his throne,
Riches in glory all His own;
More if His kingdom's sure increase;
More of His coming, Prince of peace.
THREE REVELATIONS ABOUT RESURRECTION
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
April 19, 2020
19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
— John 5:19-29, ESV
We are living in a current climate of fear because of the coronavirus pandemic. People fear leaving their home. People fear getting sick. People fear dying. Such fear is rational and even healthy for the most part for most people. But Christians are not most people, and one thing Christians should never fear is death.
Jesus Christ was clearly not afraid of death. As a matter of fact, He courted in at least a couple of ways: He performed miracles on the Sabbath to madden the Pharisees; and, He declared openly that He is the only begotten, the unique, the one-of-a-kind, Son of God and therefore, “equal with God” (ref. 5:18).
As we move forward in the Gospel of John, Jesus defies death by doubling down on His declaration of deity. In doing so, the Lord reveals the key reason why He does not fear death. It is because He, being God, has the power to raise the dead. Only God has this power, the power of resurrection.
The first revelation in this text is that since Jesus Christ has the power of resurrection, the Son of God is God. Secondly, it reveals that resurrection, to be beneficial, must be spiritual before it is physical. Thirdly, it reveals there will be a day when all of mankind is resurrected before the God who created us, and this will be “good” for some and terribly “evil” for others. So, we need to take a good look at these three revelations about resurrection.
A Revelation About God, Who Has the Power of Resurrection
The first amen (ESV “Truly, truly;” KJV “Verily, verily;” Greek “Amen, amen”) Christ gives in this sermon is a partial take on the tri-unity of God, or the Trinity. There is one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity includes the glorious unity between God the Father and God the Son.
A normal father-son relationship in the first century would have been based on love, vocation, and authority. A father who loved his son would find such love reciprocated. A father who worked as a baker, or carpenter, or fisherman, or tax collector, etc., would diligently train his son to perfect the same work. When the father had fully trained the son, the son would become a partner and given a signet ring or some other symbol of authority which matched the father’s, so that the person and work of the father and son would virtually be one.
Though the parallels are plain, God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son are not a normal father and son. They are the supreme Father and Son. There is a supreme love between them, the Son was a supreme learner as He grew from virgin-born baby to Suffering Servant (ref. Luke 2:52; John 15:15; Hebrews 5:8), and in their unity they wield the same supreme authority over death.
Only God can raise the dead. The Father does it. The Son does it. Therefore, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is God. Of course, all other religions besides biblical Christianity deny this, as do the cultic versions of Christianity like Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses. But believing this revelation, that the Son has power over resurrection because He was, is, and always will be God, is necessary for salvation. For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord (God) will be saved (ref. Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13).
If Jesus is not God, He cannot save; but, He is and He does; therefore, He demands and deserves to be heard. For hearing can lead to saving, and salvation is a resurrection.
A Revelation About Salvation, Which is a Resurrection
The second amen speaks of the resurrection of salvation. The formula is quite clear. Whenever someone effectually hears the word of God and the gospel, and truly believes in God’s revelation of Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ, he or she has “passed from death into life.” In other words, they have been resurrected.
Salvation by resurrection is necessary because all of mankind is dead, spiritually, before God (ref. Genesis 2:17; Ephesians 2:1), and dead men have no desires and make no decisions. A drowned man cannot save himself from drowning. A man without a heart cannot reach out and grab a new one to implant into his chest. A lost man cannot catch the Spirit of God and breath Him into his soul. You and I are dead to God, until God resurrects us.
Salvation by resurrection begins when one “hears my word” and “believes.” Paul said it this way in Romans, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (ref. Romans 10:17). The gospel goes out over a valley of dry bones (ref. Ezekiel 37), but when God is pleased to save someone, the hearing of the gospel is carried by the Holy Spirit to the hearer who repents and believes and is born again, resurrected “from death to life.”
Salvation by resurrection is not a matter of free will, but God’s will (ref. vs. 21). Dead men don’t have free will. But men and women and boys and girls resurrected by the free grace of God have freely and willingly believe in God with all their resurrected heart, mind, soul, and strength.
Salvation is not a decision. It is not a transaction. It is not payment for services rendered. It is a resurrection. It is an absolute miracle of God. And it is given by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
And, at the end of days, every person will have to stand, alone, before God.
A Revelation About Judgment, the Final Resurrection
The last “amen” describes the last amen.
While only a chosen few receive the resurrection of salvation, all of mankind will eventually experience a final resurrection at the end of the world, or Judgment Day. Everyone who has ever lived will die, with the exceptions of Enoch, Elijah, and all who are living at the second coming of Christ. Virtually everyone who has lived will die, then everyone who has died will live. We will all be resurrected and reunited with our bodies when the final trumpet finally sounds, and we will all stand before God, the Lord Jesus Christ, upon His throne of judgment.
Then, two great resurrections will take place. There will be the Judgment Seat of Christ (ref. Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10), where the “good” according to Jesus will be ushered into a new heaven and earth. Then, there will be the Great White Throne of Judgment (ref. Revelation 20:11), which consigns the “evil” to Hell. Common thinking would make Hell almost obsolete, since the common man considers himself to commonly “good” and not “evil.” But the two terms bear a closer look.
“Good,” in the Greek text, is “Agatha” (which transliterated makes for a lovely, old-fashioned name for a girl). It literally describes one who has benefited and is a benefit to others. Those who have received the grace of God are gracious. Those who have faith in God, live and share faith. Those who genuinely follow the Lord Jesus Christ, are clearly the “good” people referenced here by Christ Himself.
“Evil,” in the Greek text, is “Phaula” (which transliterated is almost, but not the same, as another lovely, old-fashioned name for a girl). It is a word much broader than the limited, contemporary meaning of someone who is bad to the extreme, like a pedophile or a serial killer or an Adolph Hitler. “Evil” in Jesus’ day referred to anyone or anything fatally flawed, unacceptable to God, or worthless, which aptly describes depraved, unbelieving, human beings who fill their lives with temporary things which will be worth nothing in eternity. Their Bibles are unopened, their prayers are unspoken, and their hearts are unbelieving; therefore, they will be banished from God in “the resurrection of judgment.”
Amen, amen, verily, verily, truly, truly, this is the way this world is going to end. Jesus Christ has come once and lived, loved, died and rose again. Believers in Jesus Christ have been born again, risen from spiritual death, and given eternal life. All people will be raised to face the returning Christ at His second coming, and the majority of humanity will be banished from God and from Heaven forever.
I do not know if we are living in the end time or not. I do know we are living in a most unusual time. We are confronted with death, the number of dead people due to the coronavirus, every day. We should take precautions. We should search for a cure. But, we should not be afraid of death.
Consider the cure of the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Repent, believe, and follow the Lord, which is the only cure for death. Jesus was not afraid of death. Trust Him, and you will never have to fear death yourself.
A TALE OF TWO CROWDS (REVISITED)
Matthew 21, 27
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
April 5, 2020
8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
— Matthew 21:8-9, ESV
20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
— Matthew 27:20-23, ESV
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
— Matthew 27:46, ESV
I approach Holy Week with two books in my hands, the good book and a good book. The good book, of course, is the Holy Bible, especially the Gospel accounts of the last week of Jesus’ life. A good book, which is an understatement for one of the finest novels every written, is A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens.
To understand how one is illustrated by the other, you’d have to look at two crowds’ reaction Jesus Christ, one on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21) and the other on Good Friday (Matthew 27). Then, turn to the opening words of Dickens’ novel:
It was the best of times, It was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.
The two crowds which surrounded Jesus during the original holy week were not one and the same, as many sermons suggest. On Palm Sunday, Jesus was heralded by an influx of Galilean pilgrims arriving in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. On Maundy Thursday at twilight, they would share the seder, then pack up early Friday morning and return home. Most of them would not learn of Jesus’ arrest, trials, and crucifixion until much later.
The only crowd left standing on Good Friday was composed of religious zealots stirred up by the hypocritical leaders who had long opposed the Lord Jesus Christ. Their conspiracy was complete, the Roman governor complicit, and at their voices and hands Christ would be crucified. They would not learn until the third day that their plan did not work.
I have shared this scenario of a tale of two crowds at many Holy Week services over the years. This year I want to revisit the theme and share some thoughts, old and new. Crowds, whether cheering or cruel, are usually wrong. Jesus Christ is always right, and the only one who can give us a right standing with God.
The Crowd on Palm Sunday
It was the best of times on Palm Sunday, or so it seemed. A million or so were said to be streaming into the city of Jerusalem. Many of them were from the farming and fishing villages of Galilee. They typically camped out northeast of the city on the Mount of Olives. That’s where Jesus stayed with His disciples.
When the Son of God gave the go to enter the city, a big crowd formed around Him. They gave, the very shirts off their backs, to Jesus, and giving to Jesus is always a good thing. They praised the Lord with loud hosannas, and praising Jesus is always a good thing. They professed faith in Jesus as the Messiah, and professing faith in Jesus is always a good thing. All of these things are always good things, unless like most good things, they come to an end.
Now as the dark gathers into the sky,
And legions of might go thundering by;
Regions of light grow dim and then die,
And we with our wings wait for morning to fly.
— Jackson Browne
As the week wore on the excitement did not last. Arguments ensued between the Messiah and the men at the top of the religious Jewish pyramid. The scene grew tense as Roman soldiers appeared everywhere to enforce the Pax Romana. Popular opinion turned against Jesus and by Friday, this crowd was gone.
Andrea and I watched Spartacus on the night Kirk Douglas died. The ending is painful and dramatic as Spartacus’ wife and child are ushered safely out of Rome, while the man who made them free is dying on, of all things, a cross. The best of times ended for the Palm Sunday crowd when they snuck out of the city on Good Friday morning, just as three crosses were being raised outside the city gates.
The Crowd on Good Friday
It was the worst of times to be involved with the crowd that gathered on Good Friday. The rural Galileans were gone and the religious Jerusalem Jews remained, as did the Roman soldiers and Imperial governor, Pontius Pilate. They would have their way with Jesus.
They made a bad bargain, setting free Barabbas instead of Jesus. The world will always choose the sinful and scandalous over the godly and God. They displayed bad faith, obeying the religious rules of the Pharisees and Sadducees rather than the grace and mercy of God. They created bad blood, for themselves, when they ordered Christ’s crucifixion then boasted, “His blood be on us.”
There is no excuse whatsoever for the antisemitism that has existed in this world for centuries. Shame on the Egyptians for enslaving the Jews for four hundred years. Shame on General Titus and the Roman soldiers who destroyed the city and Jerusalem and massacred their citizens in AD 70. Shame on Adolf Hitler and the Nazis of Germany for the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. But shame on the Jewish people for what they did to Jesus on this day, this worst of times, that we ironically call Good Friday.
This is how I spend my days,
I came to bury, not to raise;
I'll drink my fill and sleep alone,
I play in blood, but not my own.
— Bob Dylan
No Crowd at the Cross
When the crowds were gone, save the small group at His feet and the two thieves on His right and left, Jesus uttered seven last sayings from the cross. The one that is the most lonesome is the fourth.
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani.”
A cross holds only one. On one cross, Jesus died. When Jesus died, He died alone, no crowd was with Him. He was forsaken by His disciples, though the Apostle John was near. He was forsaken by His family, though mother Mary was near. He was forsaken by the Heavenly Father, though paradoxically God is always near. But God the Father did forsake God the Son, pointedly parting the precept of omnipresence in order to make propitiation for the sin and salvation of God’s people.
Our sin is paid by Christ. Christ’s death opens the curtain to our salvation. One Savior saves one person at a time. No crowd is required.
The final words for us are to flee from the crowds for the one true Savior. Flee from the crowds of the megachurch which offers non-biblical excitement instead of biblical doctrine and worship. Flee from the crowds of self-righteous and Pelagian religions who think the cross is superfluous for good people saved by good works. Flee the crowds and go to the one, the one true person at the one true place where wrath and mercy meet, and by grace alone be saved through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who died, alone, for you.
It was the worst of times for Jesus. It can be the best of times for you. Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and accept the reward and rest that only He can give. Think of Jesus on the cross, then consider the final words of Dickens’ hero Sydney Carton, who quoted John 11:25 and then said this to close the book:
“It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done;
it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.”
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org