Sermon on John 2:1-11 – “The Glory of Jesus Revealed”

June 9, 2019

Sermon Text:

[Jhn 2:1-11 ESV]

1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

INTRODUCTION

In this account from John’s Gospel we reach the seventh day of Jesus’s public ministry.

It is somewhat complicated to keep track of the days.

On the first day John the Baptist gave his testimony to the delegation of priests and Levites from Jerusalem.

On the second day He saw Jesus and said “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

On the third day Jesus gathered the disciples Andrew, John, and Simon Peter. They stay with Christ for a day. The fourth day.

Then on the fifth day Jesus gathered his disciples Philip and Nathanael.

Now on the third day from then, we come to the 7thday. And here we have the wedding at Cana.
As I preach on this passage I will address it in three points:

I. The Setting for the Miracle

II. The Miracle itself

III.. The Meaning of the Miracle

 

1. THE SETTING FOR THE MIRACLE – THE WEDDING AT CANA

We start then on a new day—the 7thday of Jesus’s public ministry. And on this day we also have a new person introduced. So far in the Gospel of John we have heard of John the Baptist, we’ve heard of Jesus, and we’ve heard of the first five disciples. Now, entering the scene is “the mother of Jesus.”

You might ask, “why is she not named?” We know from the other Gospel accounts that the mother of Jesus is named Mary. Why doesn’t John name her? Well, we don’t really know. But, remember, John doesn’t give his own name either. He is just “the other disciple.” And later he refers to himself as “the disciple that Jesus loved.” So he doesn’t put his own name into the story, and neither does he put Mary’s name in the story. Perhaps it is out of humility that he avoids naming names.

We have a new person – the mother of Jesus – and we have a new place, Cana of Galilee.

Well, I have a personal story about Cana. Maybe it fits into the sermon, maybe it does not. I’ll let you judge. I was blessed with the opportunity a few years ago to travel to Israel. I spent some time in Jerusalem and then went up to Galilee. Well, I was riding in a taxi-van there and passed a village, and I saw the sign “Kana.” They spelled it with a “K.” K-A-N-A instead of C-A-N-A. But it was the same place as mentioned in the Bible. Well, the interesting thing was that as we were passing through this place, I looked out and saw a shop that sold wedding cakes. So there are still people having weddings in Cana of Galilee, even today. I don’t recall if I saw anyone selling wine or water, but I definitely saw that one shop selling wedding cake. And it reminded me of this passage. That’s my story.

With this Biblical wedding at Cana, it is probably the case that someone rather close to Jesus and Mary was getting married. Perhaps it was a family member or a close friend from their area. Cana was not far from Nazareth, where Mary lived. And it seems that Mary was called upon to have some role in working for the wedding. Jesus was invited too, as were his disciples.

It would have been a grand affair. The Jewish weddings were not 1-day parties but could last for many days. It was a true time of celebration. A time of joy.

Jesus, in attending the wedding celebration puts, in a sense, his stamp of approval on it. He approves of marriage itself, and he approves of celebration. We can take encouragement in the fact that it is good that we enjoy and celebrate these good times.

But, a major crisis loomed at the wedding celebration. The wine was running out. One commentator notes that a “Such an embarrassing faux pas could have stigmatized the couple and their families for the rest of their lives.”

Running out of supplies is a great embarrassment.

Have you ever traveled a long way to some store or restaurant only to find it out of what you wanted? Or maybe the store is closed entirely; having just odd open hours. You might never go again. Likewise, if a family invites you to a wedding celebration and you travel far to get there, and the celebration is all day long, and they give you nothing to eat or drink, would you not be very turned off? Quite upset? I would be. Or if you friends invite you over for the superbowl and then they run out of queso. That would be the end of it for me. I’d go home.

So we have the setting for the miracle. Jesus, his disciples, and his mother are all at a wedding in Cana of Galilee and the supply of wine is running low, threatening social ruin for the families involved.

That is the setting. Let’s look next at the miracle itself.

II. THE MIRACLE ITSELF

We read:

When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now, this language is not so rough in the original as in the English. It is true that Jesus refers to Mary as “women” rather than “mother.” And this might not seem so endearing, but it points to an additional form of relationship between them. Yes, Jesus is Mary’s son. But he is also her Lord. Thus Mary says to the servants “Do whatever he tells you.”

But before she says that, Jesus says “My hour has not yet come.” What does he mean? He means this – his major purpose in life is not to improve a wedding, nor to transform water into wine, but his major purpose is die for the sins of His people on the cross. His hour had not yet come. When it does come, “wine” comes back in to the picture. At the last supper Christ relates the wine of the cup with his blood of the covenant, shed for all who will believe. The people in Cana do not have wine and they do not yet have Christ’s blood either.

But even though the hour has not come, even though the main purpose of Christ’s life has not arrive, there is yet another purpose. We’ll see what this is later, but first now to the miracle itself.

So at Cana there were at the wedding six stone water jars, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Their purpose, the text tells us, is for the purification rituals of the Jews.

We read about these rites in Mark’s gospel:

[Mar 7:3-4 ESV] 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.)

There was a lot of washing to be done, and thus there were very large jars for water for the washings.

So Jesus tells the servants to fill these jars with water. And when the master of the feast takes a drink from one of them he finds that it is now wine. A miracle has occurred. These six jars now hold upwards of 150 gallons of wine! I know that a gallon of water or of wine weighs about 8 lbs. So 150 gallons is 1200 lbs. That’s a lot of wine. It must have been a large celebration. And the quantity goes to prove the miracle. Certainly that much wine would not have been overlooked by the master of ceremonies when the wine stock was running low.

Now in some fundamentalist circles a century ago, there were many attempts to argue that this was merely grape juice and not wine. But the text says wine. In times past some were so opposed to alcohol that they apparently could not accept that Jesus turned water into actual wine. They would argue that this wine had a very low alcohol content. But that is not what the text says. It refers to this as the good wine. It says “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. Bu you have kept the good wine until now.” Clearly, “the good wine”—or even all of the wine—has alcohol in it. The idea is that after drinking some wine, the wedding-goers are less perceptive to the quality of other wine. And this is evidence of Jesus’s miracle. Had the good wine been there from the beginning of the celebration, it would have been consumed. But the wine had just appeared. And they didn’t have convenience stores in Galilee. A truck did not arrive with a new shipment. A miracle occurred – Jesus had turned water into wine.

There is no promotion in this story, however, no promotion nor acceptance of drunkenness. If some at the celebration did drink too much, that is immaterial to the story. Wine was a common drink, safer than water because the alcohol in it keeps germs from growing in it. Wine was a normal part of life. But drunkenness was never acceptable in Jewish law.

We find opposition to drunkenness in the Old Testament:

Proverbs 23:20-21 – “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.”

Isaiah 5:22 – “Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink.”

But while drunkenness is opposed, yet alcohol itself is not banished or forbidden.

In Psalm 104:14-15a God is praised for giving wine to man.

“You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man.”

And Paul even says in 1 Timothy 5:23 that one could “use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”

So wine is a gift from God; drunkenness a sin of man against God. [REPEAT]

Jesus then does not let the celebration come to a sad ending, but miraculously turns the water into wine. This is said in the text to be “the first of his signs.” That is, it is the first of his public miracles. There was already the miracle of his birth to a virgin. And n the calling of his disciples Jesus had already displayed that the Holy Spirit empowered him to know things that a person would not normally know. Jesus knew Simon Peter immediately upon meeting him. And likewise, Jesus “saw” Philip under the fig tree, though he was not present at the fig tree at that moment. But the turning of water into win is the first public miracle, seen by more than Jesus’s mother and disciples.

III. THE MEANING OF THE MIRACLE (THE GLORY OF JESUS REVEALED)

But, what does it all mean? This is the third part of the sermon. We’ve had the setting for the miracle, and then the miracle itself. Now, the meaning of the miracle. What does it all mean? What was the purpose of the miracle.

Jesus’ miracles were designed to reveal his glory, to reveal who He really was. [REPEAT]

The miracle is a sign. And that is the term John uses – a sign. And signs point to something else. Something of greater significance. The purpose of a sign is not to say “here is a sign” but to point to someone or something else. Have you ever seen a street sign that says “here is a street sign.” No, that would be ridiculous.

So the miracles of Jesus point to Jesus himself.

The purpose is not to point to how great the wine is, but to tell us how great Jesus is. [REPEAT]

The Glory of Jesus is revealed. He is seen to be wonderful. And this is a testimony to his power.

The disciples saw this testimony. And the disciples believed in Him.

This is John’s purpose in writing the Gospel. The signs revealed Jesus’s glory, but John writes about these signs so that you might believe. He writes:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Now, you might think, “didn’t the disciples already believe in Christ.” They called him the messiah, and the son of God, and the King of Israel.

Yes, they did believe. But this sign revealed Christ’s glory to strengthen their faith.

All of us Christians believe in Jesus, but our faith is strengthened when we read His word or hear the Word preached. And our faith is strengthened by the sacraments.

We are like the father of the child whom Jesus healed in Mark’s Gospel. The father said “I believe, help my unbelief.” [REPEAT: “I believe, help my unbelief.”]

We have doubts, we have struggles, our assurance waxes and wanes. And so we pray to God, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

The confession well says of saving faith:

This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory: growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.

Jesus revealed his Glory, and he did so for the sake of the faith of the disciples, and for our sake that we may grow in faith.

The miracle of turning water into wine declared, for the first time publicly, that Jesus was the King of Glory. And we are to believe in Him.

APPLICATIONS

Now, I want to look at two applications. And maybe we’ve had one already – that is, alcohol (wine) is to be enjoyed only in moderation. Drunkenness is a grave sin. But we should not therefore declare that that which God has given us (wine) is bad in itself. No, only the overindulgence is bad.

So here are two more applications.

1. LIFE IS TO BE JOYOUS

Life is to be joyous. Not filled with frivolous trivialities, but with real joy. And a marriage ceremony is one of those joyous times. Jesus’s presence at the wedding at Cana and his giving of a gift (150 gallons of wine) shows us that Christian discipleship is not incompatible with enjoying nice things in life. [REPEAT: Christian discipleship is not incompatible with enjoying nice things in life.] Thank the Lord that you have a nice house, a nice car, and plenty food. These are blessings from God. Do not feel guilty for having these things, but praise God that He has so provided for you.

2. (And this point will double as the conclusion for this sermon). NOT ONLY CAN JESUS TURN WATER INTO WINE, HE CAN CHANGE YOU FROM A SINNER TO A SAINT.[REPEAT]

This is the power only Jesus Christ has. Your salvation, your justification, your sanctification cannot be attained of your own will, nor of following any other man nor false god, but only in following Jesus Christ. He, and he alone, is the one in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus Christ alone can change you from a sinner to a saint, he alone can transform you from death to life.

This is the promise to all who believe: now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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Γορδονος Κλαρκος Απομνημονευματα (Gordon Clark Remembrances)

[Here is something that to my knowledge I haven’t posted previously. It is a transcript of a document of Gordon Clark’s remembrances, given in his later years.]

 

Γορδονος Κλαρκος Απομνημονευματα

(Gordon Clark Remembrances)

though they are not so memorable

My earliest memory is of a vacation trip to Niagara Fall when I was just a few days under four years old. There is a rather swift but narrow stream that flows from Lake Erie about a mile before tumbling over the Falls. My father found a small wooden strawberry box. He had a stone or two in it, threw it in the stream, and watched as it sailed off the Falls. That winter as my father sat in a rocking chair in our dinning room on 2438 N. 19thSt. in Phila., I would ask him if the strawberry box had by then reached the Atlantic Ocean.

It must have been that autumn that my maternal grandmother died. She and my grandfather lived on the third floor of the house. My mother, my grandfather, and perhaps my father were in the bedroom. My mother was very upset, and presumably as my grandmother gasped, my mother told me to run down to the kitchen and bring up the small bottle of aromatic spirits of ammonia. There was always a few bottles of medicine on the open shelf of the cabinet. I brought up the bottle, but my grandmother had died.

The funeral was very English, for my grandparents were English. A crepe hung outside on the front door. The English relatives were present – I had never seen them before. After a service that I do not remember carriages took the mourners to Hillside Cemetery – almost as far as Willow Grove. Some of them returned to our house. Years later automobiles took my mother to the same place.

My grandfather, naturally remained in our house Once in two weeks or so he would visit his son, my Uncle Charlie, in Haddonfield. Coming back, he would have to walk up a small hill from the ferry boat to the street car. During his last illness he groaned that he could not manage to walk up that hill anymore.

Until his death in 1913 or 1914 he gave me Chatterbox as a Christmas present. This was a child’s magazine published monthly but bound together in a year’s edition. One story was Martin Hyde, an excellent boys story by the well known author … Another year it Little Christian’s Pilgrimage in twelve parts. I read it a dozen times.

My grandfather worked as a wool carder until he was about 60 years old. His oldest boy, Charles K. Haddon, struck it rich, and I suspect he paid my mother to take care of their parents. My grandfather was also a member of the Plymouth Brethren.

Having had little schooling in England and desiring to know more about the New Testament, he taught himself Greek. I do not know what become of his New Testament. I had it for a time, and in it I could see how few verses he could cover in an evening.

Our house had no electricity until after his death. The ordinary gas lighting was quite yellow. Bright white mantles could be put on the gas jets and the result would be brilliant. But my grandfather preferred a student oil lamp. With a shade, dark green on the outside and very white on the inside, it gave a very good light. Every morning he would come down to the kitchen to trim the wick, refill the oil, and be ready for the evening’s study. I don’t know how he spent his days; but once a day I would go up to the third floor to receive a piece of candy. I don’t think this continued after I was eight or so, possibly six when I began to go to school.

Though I had no realization of it as a boy, my parents were very poor. The church paid my father a very small salary and once it was nine months in arrears. Even later my mother never told me much about their poverty; but once I heard her say that he sent me to the butcher’s shop for ‘a half a pound of the bottom of the round, run through the grinders’ because she was so embarrassed to go to the butcher’s and buy so little.

Uncle Charles gave us Christmas presents, but until later they could have hardly alleviate our situation. He gave me Victor and another year a cornet. Still later he gave his three nephews – cousins Joe + Bessie, and myself – a hundred dollar check and he gave my mother a thousand dollar check, but mother died after receiving only six of them.

Uncle Charlie must have become a millionaire by the end of Word War I. His close friend Eldridge Johnson invented the Victor Talking Machine, called Victor because his dog really did recognize his master’s voice. Thomas Edison sued Victrola for infringement on his patents. The Victor defense was that the sound box was sufficiently different from Edison’s approaches that it was no infringement. In the trail an important witness was a judge, a friend of the judge in the case. Johnson – when a child my mother had played with him + her brother – was anxious to get a very important bit of evidence before the jury. The Victor lawyer led up to the question, but when he asked it Edison’s lawyer protested, successfully, and the trial judge ruled it inadmissible. I suppose the Victor lawyer tried at least twice. Since the trial judge and the Victor judge were good friends, they discussed the point, and the Victor judge agreed that his friend, the trial judge, was quite right in ruling the question inadmissible. Then when the confab. – two judges and two lawyers – was over and the witness-judge resumed his seat in the witness box, he spoke to the jury “I am not allowed to answer this question, but if I were, I would answer. Yes.” Edison’s lawyer exploded. The trial judge was flabbergasted but contented himself in telling the jury that they must not allow that answer to affect their decision. Of course Victor won the case.

This was really the legal beginning of he Victor Talking Machine Co. Johnson, my mother of course always called him Eldridge though she really met him after she married, conferred with Uncle Charlie as to who should occupy the highest position: he of course wanted president, Uncle Charlie would be Sec’y-Treasurer – and did ?? work his brother – my uncle Joe – in the group. For some unknown reason Uncle Charles excluded his brother. Later Uncle Joe got a job in the company, perhaps half way up the ladder but his immediate superior mad his life miserable. In 1928 (?) Victor sold out to RCA. In 1925 Uncle Charlie, I think, set up my Uncle Joe and my cousin Joe in the chicken business. Cousin Joe had been manager of the Purdue Univ. chicken department, and he knew chickens from A to Z. Eventually the price of feed went to high and they had to quit. Uncle Joe still had his 25 or 30 acres, but cousin Joe became a policeman and was killed in an auto crash, in Fort Washington, PA. (mid 50s) In 1926 m parents took a long vacation, in conjunction with a General Assembly meeting in Denver, and I stayed with Uncle Joe. I read Strack and Billerbeck [editors note – These are German New Testament commentators] every morning for two hours, and gave dubious help on the chicken farm the rest of the day. My work was not hard, but Joe had to bury a water pipe in a trench, and he remarked to me, “This requires a strong back and a weak mind.”

My father was born in Prospect Pa., 1859, where his father, James Armstrong Clark and other members are buried in a plot surrounded by what is imposing obelisk for the village. He went to Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio, where his favorite professor was Dr. Shunk. When he graduated from Princeton Seminary, he had no definite plans and intended only to return to Prospect. On the train to Phila. the man who sat next to him began a conversation and asked if he could postpone his trip home and preach that Sunday in Camden (???) – I think it was the Third Presbyterian Church. My father stayed for three years. Then he was called to Wissionoming, a suburb of Phila. One day a girl appeared in church wearing a red hat and apparently the attraction was so obvious that she never wore it again. They were married in 1895 and I was born in 1902. About that time my father became Asst. Pastor to Dr. Mutchmore, a rather prominent minister. He started a mission at 19th, York St. a locality which had until then been farm land – or at least not built up. I remember in 1910 when the basement for the S.S. building was dry – the church building was built in 1904 – they dug out an immense stump of a tree. My father could not have stayed very long at Wissionoming, for he was pastor at Bethel (19th+ York) from 1895 to his death in 1939, just a bit before his 80thbirthday. My mother had died in 1932. Shortly after, my father married again, and it almost destroyed the church. About 1/3 voted to ask him to resign. Our church had very few fights. One big trouble – not a fight – was basketball. The basement of the S.S. building was made deep enough for basket ball. It was so sufficient that it attracted many teams: but somehow a rough element developed, and the session put an end to the games. There was a later fuss. We had a member Mr. Merkle, who with his family and relatives, were a small group. Mr. Merkle was extremely excitable, and on one occasion he thought that one of the elders had insulted him. It was the youngest elder Bill Campbell, a bachelor who took very good care of his frail mother. The elders, no doubt as tactfully as possible, suggest that he apologize to Mr. M. They knew he had done nothing that needed an apology, but they also knew Mr. M. Bill did so – a very precious act of self-effacement, and so the congregation did not lose six or eight members.

Before World War I, in 1915, Billy Sunday conducted a six week evangelistic campaign in Phila. He had a tremendous tabernacle where the main library now stands, and the sawdust was thick on the ground floor. Later the speech professor at the U of P. told me that the tabernacle had + was designed to have excellent acoustics. Not that the prof. Was much in favor of the Gospel, but he recognize acoustics. He even defended Billy Sunday’s acrobatics, and, making a limp gesture asked how polite gestures could ever be impressive in such a large auditorium. He might also have mentioned Billy Sunday’s voice – for there were no loud speakers in 1915. Our church received about 150 new members that spring. Most of them disappeared after a while, but a few very good people stayed.

For a number of year in the 20ies my father taught in the Phila. Deaconess School, 1277 Spruce St. It was run by Presby. Ch. And the RCA. One of his student was a Miss Brown, a very lovely character [The girls were all older then, later they came at college age] who went to Chimayo N.M. as a missionary to the Indians. It was she who gave me the large Indian blanket, so tightly woven, that now has. (???) She died some years before my father did.

Ralph Wallis was a boy in our church. I don’t think he ever went to college; but a little later than usual he decided to become a minister, and went to Temple – now Temple University – for night school. When my father died, the neighborhood was becoming largely negro; the church had a moribund existence, and was merged by Presbytery with Ralph Wallis’ church in the northern end of the city. R.W’s first church was in Daretown N.J. and though him I met Floyd Graf. R.W. then went to a church on Broad St. near Temple, and then to the north. He grew exceedingly fat + died, at an early age.

Throughout my life I have never dreamed very often, once a month or once in six weeks, or even longer. Two boyhood dreams I distinctly remember> I was probably about eight years old and I dreamed my mother sent me to the grocery store, Robinson + Crawford, on the corner, with some small change to buy some small items. I walked down the street to 2430 and there dropped a nickel on the side walk. It landed on its edge and rolled in a circular path and fell into the street. I suppose I dreamed I picked it up; but there the dream stopped. The following morning that is what actually happened: the dream came back to me as the real nickel rolled on edge into the gutter.

But the second dream, it was a series of identical dreams, was frightening. I would get out of bed – in my dream – and walk to the door of the sitting room, also on the second floor – rear – It was a long room. Towards its rear there was a curio cabinet, containing a few coins, pieces of different kinds of wood, shells, etc. The cabinet stood on legs, about 24 or 30 inches from the floor. There was a foot long rope of tobacco which my father had brought home from Jamaica. Franklin Baker, the clerk of our session and S.S. Superintendent, a man everybody loved, founded a firm that dealt in coconuts. He made and lost three fortunes, and then his eldest son kicked him out with a pension + made the firm profitable. Well, Mr. Baker took my father to Jamaica on one of his ships. At any rate, the curio cabinet stood near the rear of the sitting room. In my dream I got out of bed + walked to the door of the sitting room. From under the curio cabinet a mouse of ordinary size came out from under the cabinet. It filled me with great terror, really great terror. I turned and was unconsciously transported to the third floor at the top of the stairs. Somehow I floated down the stairs partway and found myself horizontal over the door of the closet in my bedroom. Then I rolled down an invisible inclined plane, landed on the bed, turned over once and woke up. Had I not turned over that once I would have died. This dream recurred many times, 8, 10, 12, I don’t remember. Every detail was exactly the same. One day I said to myself. I’ve got to stop that dream. Shortly after that decision, the dream came again – but this time the mouse was the size of a small dog, and very horrible. I don’t think I went to the mouse or the mouse came to me. But I had him in my hands and choked him to death. That dream never came back again.

Lightning

One day my mother visited uncle Joe in Fort Washington. Several people were sitting in the dining room – I was not there. A terrible thunder storm was in progress. There was a flash of lightning, a blue ball of electricity came from the outside o to the base board, about as big as a baseball – it moved slowly around the base board to the radio set, blew it out with a clap of thunderThe people all sat still, then without speaking they slowly faded out across the hall into the living room. The radio was a mess of burnt wires and junk, but no fire was started.

Posted in Notes on the thought of Gordon H. Clark | 1 Comment

Sermon on John 1:35-51 – “The First Five Disciples”

June 2, 2019

Sermon Text:

[Jhn 1:35-51 ESV]

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

INTRODUCTION

This is where it all started. The first five disciples. There are millions of disciples of Jesus Christ today, perhaps billions throughout history, but here we learn of the first five.

This is the beginning of the Christian Church. And it has very humble origins.

Andrew, John, Simon Peter, Philip, and Nathanael. These are common men. Men who worked as fisherman and in other common trades. These are not philosophers, rabbis, or politicians. These are average people like you and me.

And so as I preach on how each of these men became disciples, I want you to think of how these stories relate to you. “What are you seeking?” Listen to Christ who says “Come and you will see” and who says “Follow me.” These are simple commands, but they carry with them the power of God, the power of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit. “Follow me” and you will see greater things; “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

One by one, Jesus is gathering his disciples.

I. ANDREW

We start then with Andrew. The first disciple of Jesus Christ was Andrew. He and another man were first disciples of John the Baptist, and then they become disciples of Jesus Christ.

This transition from being a disciple of John to a disciple of Jesus is important in a number of ways. [REPEAT: This transition from being a disciple of John to a disciple of Jesus is important in a number of ways.] I’ll note two.

1.It shows John the Baptist’s humility, and his role as a witness.

John is not upset about his disciples going off to follow Jesus. Rather, in a couple chapters further along in this Gospel account, we find John the Baptist continuing to exalt Jesus Christ. He says “I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.” There is no jealously on John’s part. His goal, in fact, is for all of his disciples to believe in Christ. John is humble.

2. Then also, the fact that Andrew goes from following John the Baptist to following Jesus Christ shows the superiority of Jesus Christ. And it shows the power of Jesus Christ.

It is very difficult to get someone to switch their allegiance. How hard is it to switch from being a Democrat to being a Republican? Surely it is even harder to switch from being a fan of one sports team to being a fan of another. And perhaps it is hardest of all to switch one’s religious beliefs. It is very difficult to switch one’s allegiance. But here we have Andrew and another man, both disciples of John the Baptist who soon become disciples of Jesus Christ. WHY? Why do they do this? Because Jesus has, or rather JESUS IS, what they are seeking. John the Baptist is a witness to Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ is the LAMB OF GOD who takes the sin of the world. This is what they are seeking; forgiveness from sin. It is what all men should seek. And it is found only in Jesus. Switching your allegiance to Jesus Christ is the best decision you can make.

So we find Andrew as he is standing with John the Baptist and another disciple, and John the Baptist says “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Andrew and the other man then physically follow Jesus. Jesus turns around and asks “What are you seeking?”

Now, Jesus, in his divine nature, already knows exactly what they are seeking. But he asks the question for their benefit.

Andrew and the other man apparently have a lot to talk to Jesus about, for they ask “Where are you staying?” And Jesus responds, “Come and you will see.”

Their conversation which followed, which is not recorded, must have been very influential on Andrew and the other man, for shortly thereafter we find Andrew running to his brother Simon and saying to him, “We have found the Messiah.”

This is all we hear of Andrew at this point. Andrew found the messiah. Let’s move on then to the second disciple.

II. JOHN

Now, I’ve titled this sermon “The First Five Disciples.” But did you get a chance to count the names of the disciples in the story? If you have, you’d only find four, not five. There are four disciples mentioned by name: Andrew, his brother Simon Peter, Philip and Nathanael. But remember also this “second man” standing alongside Andrew as a disciple of John the Baptist. This man, though not named, is, with some pretty reasons, thought to be the author of this Gospel, the Apostle John.

If so—and it does seem to be the case that this unnamed disciple is John—this helps to explain how the author (John the Apostle) knows all the details of what is going on here. He is a witness to these things. The Apostle John, with Andrew, was a disciple of John the Baptist. He heard John the Baptist say “Behold, the Lamb of God” when Jesus walked by, and he was a witness to those events which followed. The author even knows the hour — the tenth hour — in which certain things occurred. But humbly, he does not name himself in the account.

Also, of good evidence that the unnamed disciple is John is the fact that all of the other disciples are mentioned. Had the second disciple been someone other than John, he likely would have been named. Andrew is named, Simon Peter is named (twice), Philip is named, and Nathanael is named. Only the second disciple is anonymous.

This second disciple, most likely John, then, like Andrew, goes from being a student of John the Baptist to being a student of Jesus Christ. That is a major upgrade; he has found a far better teacher.

Andrew found the messiah. And John found the messiah.

III. SIMON PETER

So then, we move on to the third disciple. We have Andrew, and then John, and third is Simon Peter.

Simon Peter is the brother of Andrew. Andrew finds him and tells him “We have found the Messiah.” Andrew is confident. And Jesus does not disappoint. Knowing more than a mere man could, Jesus looks at Simon and says “You are Simon, the son of John. You shall be called Cephas (which means Peter.)”

Simon was a common name at the time, and there are a number of ‘Simons’ in the Bible. There is Simon the Leper, Simon the Zealot, Simon the magician, and Simon of Cyrene among others. But this Simon under consideration in our text becomes the most well known of them all.

Jesus gives this particular Simon a second name. Jesus calls him “Peter.” The reason is not stated, but can perhaps be partially discerned in the Scriptures.

Now, “Peter” the Greek word for Rock. Greek was most common language in the world at this point.

But our author records Jesus as saying “You shall be called Cephas.” “Cephas” is the Aramaic word for “Rock.”Aramaic is the common language of the Jews at this point in history. It is similar to Hebrew. Either way, “Cephas” or “Peter”, the name means “rock.”

The Bible shows Simon to be an impulsive and overeager man. But Christ calls him “rock” to show what he intends to turn him into. Peter wasn’t a rock. He was a mess. He was shifting sands. But God would turn him into a leader of the church. So long as Peter is grounded in the Word of God, he would be as stable as a rock.

So Andrew has found the messiah, and John has found the messiah, and Simon is now Simon Peter.

IV. PHILIP

Simon Peter is then the third disciple. We have Andrew, John, and now Simon Peter. Fourth is Philip. And the story of Philip is my favorite. It is very simple. It is only one verse long.

“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.”

That’s it. That is all Jesus needed to say. How powerful must have his words been. He says “Follow me” and Philip obeys. We should take heed of this. Oh how wonderful it would be if we all were like Philip. The Lord says to us “Follow me” and we’d actually do so!

Our cases are often much more difficult. We know that Christ says “Follow me”, but what do we do?

Some say: Oh, I’ll follow you on Sunday.
Others say: Oh, I’ll just pray to God on my death bed.
Or yet others say: Oh, I’ll follow my own ways; they aren’t that bad.

To this I must say: NO, NO, NO.

Christ says “Follow me.” And we are to do just that. Without wavering; and without delay. Follow Christ. Do so today. Do so now. Not later. Now. As Christ command Philip, so he commands you and me: “Follow me.” Let us not hesitate to obey.

Philip obeyed. We know this because he immediately went and found Nathanael and said to him:

“We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

When Christ says “follow me” —and we obey— there is no room for following anyone else. When he says “follow me” he means “follow me alone.” The Lord is a jealous God. And Christ is “the way.” There is no other. Do not follow Christ for one moment, and then someone else for another, but follow Christ always. Look to the word of God in times of trouble and in times of joy. Follow Christ always.

So Andrew has found the messiah, and John has found the messiah, Simon is now Simon Peter, and Philip is following Christ.

V. NATHANAEL

Now we come to Nathanael, the fifth disciple. In other gospels he is called Bartholomew. That is is last name – son of Tolmai or Bartholomew. He full name would be Nathanael Bartholomew. Here he is just known as Nathanael.

If Philip (the fourth disciple) followed Christ with the most ease, Nathanael (the fifth disciple) came with some resistance.

But maybe this resistance had a Scriptural reason. Philip had told Nathanael that Jesus is from Nazareth. Perhaps Nathanael though knew from the Scriptures that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem. For some reason anyways Nazareth was not expected and even disparaged as a town.

Nathanael responded:

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth”?

To prove it, Philip says

“Come and see.”

They walk together to find Jesus. When they are approaching, Jesus says to Nathanael:

“Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit.”

Nathanael responds:

“How do you know me?”

And Jesus says:

“Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

This miracle of knowledge so changes the mind of Nathanael that he responds:

“Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

And to this, Christ finally says:

Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

This is in obvious reference to Jacob’s Ladder of the book of Genesis.

10 Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! – Genesis 28:10-12

And Jesus declares himself to be that ladder in fulfillment; he is the true link between heaven and earth; the bond of union between God and man.

It is the work of Christ in salvation that is among the “greater things” that Jesus told Nathanael he would see. And this salvation is promised. Nathanael will see it. He will know God because the Son of Man (Jesus Christ) makes God known.

Now, this term “the Son of Man” is used thirteen times in John’s Gospel, and here in our passage we’ve come upon its first use. This is often said to be the favorite way in which Jesus would refer to himself. He is the Son of Man. This definitely means to emphasize that half of the doctrine of Christ. Remember, Jesus Christ is God and Jesus Christ is Man. Two natures in one person. So “the Son of Man” emphasizes that Jesus is man.

But “Son of Man” is a reference also the prophecy of Daniel 7:13-14. This reads:

[Dan 7:13-14 ESV] 13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

When Christ applies “Son of Man” to himself, he is declaring that he is fulfills this prophecy from Daniel. He is proclaiming himself to be the messiah of whom this passage speaks.

So we have John the Baptist declaring Jesus to be the Lamb of God. And Andrew says “We have found the Messiah.” All of this would be negated if Jesus were to deny it. But he doesn’t. Jesus confirms these things said of him. He declares himself to be the Messiah. The kingdom is here because the king is here.

So Andrew has found the messiah, and John has found the messiah, Simon is now Simon Peter, Philip is following Christ, and Nathanael recognizes Jesus as the Son of God and the King of Israel.

APPLICATION 1:–You are a disciple of Christ.

So we have five. Andrew, John, Simon Peter, Philip, and Nathanael. These are the first five disciples. They are also apostles.

What is the difference between a disciple and an apostle?

An apostle is an ambassador for God, specifically sent out to spread the message of the Gospel. There were only twelves apostles. The age of the apostles ended when the last of the twelve died, and from there forward there are no more apostles. If anyone claims today to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, they are quite in error.

But now, there are disciples today. A disciple is a student, a follower of some teacher or teaching. The twelve apostles were also disciples. And the Bible speaks of another group of 70 disciples specifically called to their own task.

There were 12 apostles of Jesus Christ; He has millions of disciples.

You and I — all who believe in Jesus Christ — are his disciples.[REPEAT]

Andrew was the first, John the second, Simon Peter the third, Philip the fourth, and Nathanael the fifth. Possibly you are the 5 billionth or the 5 billionth and 1stdisciple.

The same question Christ gave to the first disciples apply to us:

What are you seeking?

Are you seeking Jesus Christ? He invites us to “come and see.” Jesus is still calling his disciples today. And tells us that we will see far greater things.

APPLICATION 2: WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR US?

What does this mean for us? (that we are disciples of Christ)

Well, for one, its pretty cool that we are in the same category as the first five disciples. It means that we are part of the family of Christ. And it is a world-wide and pan-historic family. It reaches across the world and across time to all those who believe.

Being disciples of Christ means that we are students and also followers of him. We will study the Word of God, meditate upon it day and night, and let it guide our paths. We will walk in the way of the Lord.

CONCLUSION

Now, I want to conclude with this.

I had mentioned before that my favorite of the stories here is that of Philip. All Jesus says is the simple “Follow me” and Philip obeys.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, the church’s evangelism today can be just as effective. [REPEAT]

We are to give the invite – “come and see” and we are to broadcast the message “We have found the messiah.” The Holy Spirit then gives belief to those chosen of God. And so it is not so much that “we have found the messiah” but that “The messiah has found us.” Jesus Christ comes to rescue us from our sin and misery. He reconciles us to God and provides the true link between heaven and earth so that we may know God’s love for us and know the salvation he has planned for us.

Recognize him, follow him, be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, for he is the messiah, the Christ, the Son of Man, the Son of God, and the King of Israel.

Amen.

Let us pray.

Lord, work in us that faith which brought the first disciples to you. We pray that we be truthful followers of you, for Lord there is nowhere else to go, and nowhere else we’d want to go, for you have the words of eternal life.

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Sermon on John 1:19-34 – “Who Are You?”

May 26, 2019

Sermon Text:

[Jhn 1:19-34 ESV]

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

INTRODUCTION

Who are you? [REPEAT: Who are you?]

In our society today, when someone wants to know who you area, they are likely to ask “What is your job?” or “What is your career?” You ARE a teacher. Or you ARE a farmer. Or, you ARE a truck driver. Who you are is intimately connected with what you do.

This isn’t necessarily the way things have to be. In other societies, so I am told, when a person wants to know “who are you?” the conversation will center on “Who is your family?” And you might take photos out of your wallet, or find some on your phone, and say “I am the son of these fine parents” or “I am aunt of these wonderful children.”

Who are you? That is a very important question, with some very important answers.

As we think about that question, and look at our passage today, there are 3 parts that shall look deeper into:
1. Who is John?

2. Who is Jesus?

And

3. Who are you? [REPEAT ALL]

 

I. WHO ARE YOU? – JOHN THE BAPTIST

In our text today, we find that it is just this question that the delegation sent from Jerusalem asks John the Baptist. Who are you? In a series of responses he denies being (1) the Christ, (2) he denies being Elijah, and he denies being (3) the prophet. Finally, when pressed with the question “Who are you,” John the Baptist gives a response. Before we got to his response, let us look at those three denials he first makes.

As we know from the other Gospels, John the Baptist is a wild-haired locust-and-honey-eating figure who lives out in the deserts. His activities have gained a lot of attention. Now he has come to the attention of the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem. And in this time, there was great messianic expectation. Many people believed that the messiah, the christ, the anointed one was soon to come on the scene. But there were also false prophets who were leading the people astray. The Jewish leaders were then doing there job, coming to investigate John to bring a report back to the Sanhedrin—the high council in Jerusalem—that they might determine what to think about John.

A. Three Negations

(1) Not the Christ.

When the group of priests and Levites arrive, they ask John, “Who are you?” And his first response is “I am not the Christ.” The Apostle John who wrote this gospel wants to emphasize this fact, saying, “He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” John the Baptist quickly and openly confessed, “I am not the Christ.” He does not pretend to be so.

The false prophets always claim to be someone great, but John the Baptist is humble. He not only denies that he is the Christ, he also denies that he is Elijah and he denies that he is the prophet.

(2) Not Elijah

In the Old Testament Book of Kings, Elijah was a prophet of God. In the Book of Malachi there is a prophecy that Elijah will return “before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.”

Then, Jesus Christ himself in Matthew and Mark affirms that John the Baptist is Elijah.

So why then does John the Baptist here deny that he is Elijah?

John responds according to the opinion of the Jews that the literal exact same person—Elijah—would return. John is not the same person. The soul of Elijah has not returned into another body. Elijah is not reincarnated, but one like Elijah has come. John the Baptist is truly called Elijah by Christ because John came “in the spirit and power of Elijah.” (Luke 1:17)

So there is no contradiction between John the Baptist’s denial and Jesus’s affirmation. John was not literally Elijah, but came in that same role to announce the coming of the Lord.

(3) Not the Prophet.

As the questions keep coming to John the Baptist, he makes his third denial. I am not the messiah, and I am not Elijah, and I am not the Prophet.

Jesus does affirm elsewhere that John was A prophet. But he is not THE prophet.

In Deuteronomy 18 Moses had said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen.” The book of Acts later confirms that this prophet is Christ.

So just as John the Baptist denied that he is the Christ, so also he denies that he is the foretold prophet.

A. An affirmation.

But the delegation cannot go home empty handed. If the priests and Levites came back home and said to the authorities, “John is not the Christ, not Elijah, and not the prophet” what do you think the authorities would say? They would say, “who then is he?” So the delegation presses forward:

“Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

And John responds:

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

John is the herald of the coming King. He is not the Light, but he is a witness to the Light.

Who are you, John the Baptist? – The voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’

This reference is from Isaiah, chapter 40, which prophesies that the glory of the Lord will be revealed. It reads:

[Isa 40:3-5 ESV] 3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

John’s answer is the humble, “I am a voice crying in the wilderness.” Not the messiah, nor the prophet, but simply a voice.

2. WHO IS CHRIST?

John then has answered who he is, but he very quickly turns his attention—and the attention of the members of the delegation—to a greater subject. Who is Christ? [REPEAT: Who is Christ?]

While answering the question, John explains three ways in which Christ is greater than he is.

A.3 ways in which Christ is greater than John the Baptist.

(1) John baptizes with water, but Christ baptizes with the Spirit

The first of these three ways in which Christ is greater than John the Baptist is that John baptizes with water, but Christ with the Holy spirit.

John’s baptism couldn’t take away sin. It was with water. But Jesus’s baptism is with the Holy Spirit. It gives life. The baptism of water is a sign pointing to this greater reality – as water cleans dirt away from us, so the Holy Spirit cleans away our sins. Surely the washing away of our sin is the far greater of the two.

(2) Not worthy to untie his sandal

John also shows that Christ is greater than him when he says, regarding the one who is to come, that he is not worthy to untie his sandal!

Untying the thong of his master’s sandal was the task of the lowliest slave. Feet are dirty, gross. And the dirt and sand and sweat of walking in the desert might have surpassed even the smell of a AT hikers boots. You may know that in Middle Eastern cultures, so negatively do they view the bottom of shoes that showing them, showing the bottom of your shoes, is a great offense. You should not sit cross-leged in the Middle East such that you show the bottom of your shoe to another. And remember when the statues of Saddam Hussein came down and the people took off their shoes and hammered the statue with them as a sign of contempt or scorn.

So much greater is Christ than John that John is not even fit to do the lowliest of tasks for Christ.

(3) He who came after me ranks before me.

Then, we come to the third of the three ways in which John says the Christ is greater than him. He says:

“after me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.”

We saw this same statement in an earlier passage. Jesus is coming after John, but because Jesus is God, He has always existed. And, being God, Jesus is perfectly holy; something neither John nor any other man can never measure up to. Christ ranks before John.

We see that John the Baptist’s ministry is all about someone greater than himself. He is constantly pointing to Jesus. He is the witness, the herald, crying in the wilderness, that all might prepare the way for the coming King.

John the Baptist, who was identified as the greatest prophet among those born of women, identified Jesus Christ as the greatest prophet of them all.

But we have more in the text than just the comparisons between John and Jesus. There is a positive answer to the question “Who is Jesus?” [REPEAT: Who is Jesus?]

B. Jesus is the Lamb of God

In verse 29, we read:

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Jesus IS the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Who is Jesus? He is the Lamb of God. He takes away the sin of the world.

In various Old Testament passages there are lamb sacrifices. Most prominently is the account of the Passover in the book of Exodus.(Chapter 12:1-13)There, a lamb without blemish is killed so that its blood can be put on the doorposts of their houses. When the Lord then comes in the night and strikes down the first-born children of all of the Egyptians, he passes over the houses of the Israelites who have the blood of the lamb on their doorposts.

But all of the sacrifices of the Old Testament were insufficient to take away sin. The people of God still needed a messiah, one who was to be “a lamb that is led to slaughter.”

1 Peter 1:18-9 tells us that this did indeed happen in Jesus Christ:

“you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that lamb without blemish or spot.”

The sacrifices of the Old Testament had no power whatever to atone for sins, but that they were only figures, the truth of which was manifested in Christ himself.

Jesus is the Lamb of God. He takes away the sin of the world. Who is Jesus? He is the Lamb of God. He takes away the sin of the world.

C. Known by Revelation

Before we move on to the third and final question, “Who are you?”, we must note that all of this which John the Baptist tells us, all of his testimony, rests upon divine revelation. That this Lamb of God was Jesus was revealed to John by a direct message from God. John’s knowledge of who Christ is, is revealed to him from God. It is not a lucky guess on his own part.

God had told John:

“He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”

When John then saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and remain on Jesus, he KNEW that Jesus was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world.

III. WHO ARE YOU?

So we know that John is the voice in the wilderness, and Jesus is the Lamb of of God.

We then come to this question: WHO ARE YOU? What do you say about yourself?”

It is ok to answer that with your profession, or your family, but more importantly the question is:

Are you a Christian? Do you believe in Him who takes away the sin of the world? Is Jesus the Lamb of God for you?

It is my great hope that you all can answer this question, “Who are you?” and say “I am one who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ.” “My identity is in the Lord who made heaven and earth.” “I am forgiven in the blood of the lamb.”

John the Baptists message was “The Messiah is here.” He has borne witness that this is the Son of God.

You have heard his testimony; you have heard the message. Do you behold the Lamb of God? Do you see him in this passage, and understand that Christ alone is the only savior, the only one through whom sins are forgiven. Understanding this, then Believe in Jesus Christ. Believe in his Word and trust in Him as your savior, the lamb of God. Amen.

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Sermon on John 1:14-18 – “Grace and Truth Made Known”

May 19, 2019

Sermon Text:

[Jhn 1:14-18 ESV] 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

INTRODUCTION

I saw a cartoon comic this week that said “Pessimist – glass half empty”; “Optimist – glass half full”; “Psalmist – my cup overfloweth.”

In our passage today from John 1:14-18, the final verses of the prologue to John’s Gospel, we find a fullness of grace and truth in Jesus Christ, a cup brimming to the top, so overflowing that we receive grace upon grace. Jesus Christ, we learn, is full of grace and of truth, and through Him, God is made known.

HEADING 1. THE WORD IS MADE FLESH.

First we come to verse 14. And this is the very important culmination of all that has been said previously in John’s Gospel. We read,

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

In the previous passages heard about “the Word,” and “the Life,” and “the Light of the World.” All of these terms, we learned, apply to Jesus. And we learned that Jesus is divine, and eternal, and has been working in the world ever since the creation of the world. BUT, there was a problem. Man fell into sin and so was in darkness. Though some “sparks of light” did shine even in the darkness, man had ignored God and was living in sin.

But now, God can no longer be ignored. The Light, the very Light of the World, came into the world. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Jesus is no longer merely behind the scenes, He is now the main player. He came to world, not in some form that we could not see, but as a man just like us.

And he dwelt among us. This term “dwelt,” the commentators agree, means that he “tented among us.” This might remind you of how God “tented” or “tabernacled” with the people in the Old Testament. There can be no closer physical proximity and intimacy with a people than to tent among them.

On the Appalachian Trail small groups may form, may tent together, and hike together. And VERY quickly you learn about those in your trail family. A single 8-hour hike with someone will likely lead to hearing at least their partial life story.

Theologically, the term for this idea that Christ “became flesh” or “took on flesh”; it is called the INCARNATION. Now, that word is not in the Scriptures, but it is a good word, used in our confessions and elsewhere, to describe what is going on here. The INCARNATION.

Perhaps you have gone to a Mexican restaurant and ordered ‘Carne Asada.’ And what do you get? You get MEAT. Beef, more specifically. Or, in school, probably you’ve heard of animals that are ‘Carnivores.’ What is a carnivore? It is an animal that eats MEAT, or Flesh. These words all come from the same source. Carne Asada, Carnivore, Incarnation. They all related to MEAT or Flesh.

And so when we speak of the Incarnation, we speak of Jesus taking upon himself human flesh. The second person of the Trinity took on flesh and dwelt among us.

Now, one has to be careful here. Because, with the Incarnation Christ had not only a human body, but also a human soul. The Christian Church has always held that Jesus was fully human; he had both a human body and a human soul.

With the Incarnation, we now better round out a doctrine of Christ; an understanding of the nature of Jesus Christ. Two weeks ago, I had one of the points of my sermon to be “Jesus is God.” That is, Jesus is divine. Now, we find the other half of the Biblical teaching about Jesus Christ. Jesus is MAN. The Word became flesh. He took on the human nature. But He did not cease to be God. Jesus Christ was both fully man and fully God, two natures in one person.

We read again:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

It is possible that in saying “we have seen his glory” that John is merely saying “we have see Jesus who is glorious by nature” having fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament, being God himself, and being the light of the world. All of these are true. John and the other Apostles came to know these things about Christ. But, perhaps more specifically and more literally, John saw Christ’s glory at what is called THE TRANSFIGURATION.

Do you remember what that is? Or possibly you’ve never heard of the transfiguration? I had to refresh my memory on this. The transfiguration was a time when John, and two other apostles, quite literally saw the glory of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew’s gospel we read about the transfiguration when Jesus becomes radiant in glory:

[Mat 17:1-2 ESV] 1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.

And in Luke’s gospel:

[Luk 9:32 ESV] Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory

The Incarnation and the Transfiguration then show the Light of the World to be in the world and shining in an unmistakable glory. An unmistakable glory that is of the only begotten son of the Father. While there is a sense in which we are all children of God—and I preached this last week when we saw that we must be BORN again, born of God. While there is sense in which we who believe are all children of God, Jesus Christ is the only-begotten. He is not a created son, but eternally begotten of the father as one of the persons of the Triune God. And, as being divine, He is truly glorious.

HEADING 2: A BRIEF INTERLUDE – JOHN BORE WITNESS

Now, when we reach verse 15 we take a step back to John the Baptist. Remember, he is “the Witness” we heard of in the earlier passage. And we now read:

15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”)

While John the Baptist was the greatest of all men up to his time, he quickly announced that Jesus is greater. Jesus is greater because He is God. He was, he existed, before John. He was the creator Himself. And so John is merely the witness of Christ who is the Light.

HEADING 3: GRACE AND TRUTH MADE KNOWN

The importance for us in all of this, the importance for us in the Incarnation, and the glory of Christ, is that in him grace and truth are made known to us.

Grace and truth are two things are are closely connected with salvation.The Bible teaches that salvation comes through believing God’s TRUTH in the gospel, and through believing one receives God’s saving GRACE.” So in Jesus Christ the TRUTH of gospel is made clearly known. Though shadows of it were visible in the Old Testament, we now know more fully this truth. And the truth that we know is that salvation is by GRACE alone.

This truth is well seen in Acts 15:11 which reads:

But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus

Grace is well-defined as “God’s unmerited favor.” [REPEAT: “God’s unmerited favor.”] God, for His own purposes, not for any merit on our part, has shown us favor through Jesus Christ. And this grace is greater than all our sin. God loved us even though we were sinners.

So if you are a sinner — and I have a pretty good idea that you are, since ALL people are sinners — since you are a sinner, know that God’s grace is greater than your sin.

I told a friend this story recently. My nephew, when he was just a few years old, would put his hands out wide. His father asked, “How big is your sin.” And he’d put his hands out wide. And then his father would ask, “How big is God’s grace.” And he’d stretch his hands out even further. This marvelous grace is greater than all of our sin.

Like the Psalmist who’s cup overfloweth, we have all received, as the text says, “grace upon grace.”

We read in verse 16:

16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

From his fullness — his cup overfloweth. Though we receive grace from God, he is not depleted of grace.

Grace upon grace. Other translations better say “grace instead of grace.” Some commentators explain that this means we receive a “grace ever new and greater.” This is true. We are constantly receiving God’s grace. But, for a fuller understanding of verse 16, it is important that we read it in context with verse 17.

Verse 17 says:

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

This is a strong “for” or “because.” It connects the two verses.

From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace. For (or because) the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

So, in context we see that the Law of Moses was itself a type of grace. Though not a saving grace, it was a blessing to man to have the law. But now, there is a new grace “instead of” that grace. The law came through Moses, but grace and truth through Jesus Christ. THIS is a saving grace. A new and overflowing grace.

How do we know God’s grace and truth? Through Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus Christ that God’s grace and truth are made known, and it is through Jesus Christ that God himself is made known.

HEADING 4: GOD MADE KNOWN

We finally come to the last verse—verse 18—of our text which reads:

18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

We read last week in the shorter catechism, during our Sunday school hour, that God is a spirit. God does not a physical body, and so cannot be seen.

But now, Christ has made Him known.

Though we can’t see God directly, we can see Him through His work. It is like the wind. We cannot see the wind, but we can see a flag fluttering, we can see the umbrella flipping itself inside-out. We can see the effects of the wind.

Now we see that Christ, who is at the Father’s side, has made God known. It is as Jesus says in John 14:9: if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.

Jesus has made known, or declared, the Father. He has done this through the Incarnation and the Transfiguration as well as the Crucifixion and Resurrection. The Word became Flesh and Dwelt among us so that we can know the truth and the grace of God.

APPLICATIONS

Now, I want to mention two applications, or at least “two things to think about” regarding this passage.

1. It is right to treat your physical body well. [REPEAT: It is right to treat your physical body well.]

While “flesh” is often synonymous in the Scripture with our sinful corrupt nature, that doesn’t mean that we are to treat the body poorly and elevate the soul. Man is both body and soul. And both body and soul have become corrupted in the fall.

So we see that Christ came to the world, not as just a spirit, but also in the flesh. This is not the sinful nature that is being referred to, but rather it is referring to the human body. Christ took on flesh, both body and soul, to redeem us. And he did not consider the body, the flesh, as something beneath him.

We likewise are not to treat the body as something without dignity, but we are to praise God for the physical bodies he has given us, and we are to take care of them, to take care of ourselves. As the Scriptures say, the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

While bodily health is not some legalistic requirement for salvation, it is a good thing to attend to. We are not to spend our entire day in the gym like some who get obsessed with the body, but neither are to spend our entire day on the couch! If we are able that is. Activity is good for the body and should be done in accord with your abilities. And healthy eating is good for the body as well. The body is to be considered a gift from God, not to be despised.

So, it is right to treat your physical body well.

And a second application, or item to consider:

2. We need limitless grace, because we keep sinning. Fortunately we have a savior who is full of grace.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the grace of God, has been shown. And it is powerful. Through Jesus Christ, God forgives even the most hardened criminals. He forgives the repeat offenders. He forgives even us, all of us lowly sinners. So take heart in God’s grace. Your sins are forgiven in Christ. This bears repeating: Your sins are forgiven in Christ. Alleluia.

CONCLUSION

So we conclude with this:

Grace and Truth. These things we’ll hear much more about as we continue in John Gospel. Grace and Truth. But it starts here, at the Incarnation. We are saved by Grace alone. This is a great truth. But it starts with the Incarnation. The penalty for sin is death. And so to be saved from this penalty and from the wrath of God, we need another to take that punishment. For our salvation to be worked out, a major first step is that Christ is born into the world, incarnate. The Word is made flesh. We then have a Christ to be our savior. He must come into the world in order to accomplish God’s plan of salvation in the world.

And he did just that. His glory has been seen, and grace and truth are made known. And God has been made known in Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Review of The Incredible Scofield and His Book by Joseph M. Canfield

The Incredible Scofield and His Book, by Joseph M. Canfield, Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1988, 2004, 394 pp.

The Incredible Scofield and His Book is an expose of Cyrus Ingerson (C. I.) Scofield (1843-1921) and his Scofield Reference Bible. The historical research put into this volume is impressive and the reading is interesting, but the presentation is marred by the author’s overriding drive to find fault with Scofield.

The simple historical facts are sufficient to indicate the character of C. I. Scofield. Though having fought (as an underage volunteer) for the Confederates for one year, Scofield would later hold a political post in which he signed approval to a statement saying he had never fought against the United States. Canfield rightly calls this “rank perjury.” (p. 61) Scofield’s opportunism also sees him getting caught for forging checks, and prioritizing his own ambitions over supporting his family. His first wife is eventually granted a divorce. This might all seem to be excusable as being his character before Scofield converts to Christianity. But even after his supposed conversion, he never provides any support to his children nor makes good on financial debts owed. Though never receiving any official training, Scofield is ordained a minister and later takes it upon himself to assume the title “Dr.” and to put a “D.D.” after his name though neither earning nor being granted either.

Scofield’s location is sometimes difficult to keep track of. Born in Michigan, he resides for a time (or times) in each Tennessee, St. Louis, Kansas, Dallas, and Massachusetts to name a few. While pastoring churches in some of these places he tended to travel more than preach. This allowed him to speak at places like the Niagara Bible Conference and so gain notoriety. He then uses plenty of funds for world travel while writing his Scofield Reference Bible. Canfield notes repeatedly that this travel seems to have been largely unnecessary for Scofield’s work. It does lead though to connections with Oxford University Press who decides to publish the book and which brings Scofield great financial gain and notoriety.

Throughout the volume Canfield describes the dispensationalism of Scofield (and John Nelson Darby and the Plymouth Brethren) as a defeatist almost anti-church position; having what he calls “failing church syndrome.” He contends that the dispensationalist emphasis on the world being on the verge of ending limits their efforts to build the church for the future. Canfield takes many opportunities to promote his own Postmillenialism. The aggressiveness of his anti-dispensationalism increases steadily through the volume. On page 284 he refers to Scofield’s “prophetic cult.”

As for the second half of the title—“and His Book”— this volume is more focused on Scofield’s theology than on the history and impact of the Scofield Reference Bible itself. This is unfortunate. This reviewer is certainly interested to know how the book achieved such success. The best Canfield approaches to answering this question is in suggesting that in the Gilded Age there was a desire for home study courses where one could easily be thought an expert without doing the hard work, and that the Scofield Reference Bible was considered to be such an aid. He notes also the importance of the Niagara Bible Conferences and the Bible Institute movements, but analysis of their contribution to the success of the Scofield Reference Bible is mostly lacking.

Despite my criticisms, I still contend that this is a book well-worth reading; even necessarily so for dispensationalists. Scofield certainly isn’t a hero. One must wonder, given Canfield’s research, if he was even a Christian.

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Gordon Clark’s Half-Preformation Theory

In this article I contend that philosopher Ronald Nash erred when he claimed that Gordon Clark held to the Preformation Theory. I believe it is better said that Clark held to only half of this theory. It seems likely that Nash erred by reading his own view into Clark.

Nash’s contention that Clark held to the Preformation Theory is found in his essay “Gordon Clark’s Theory of Knowledge” in The Philosophy of Gordon H. Clark (1968). In the same place some explanation of Preformation Theory is given. Nash writes:

“Like Kant, Clark believes that the possibility of human knowledge depends upon man’s possession of some innate ideas. But Clark goes beyond Kant in holding that these aptitudes for knowing are implanted by God who harmonized them with the laws of nature.” (p. 141)

“Clark points out that Kant was never able to explain why all men possess the same categories. Since science studies the phenomenal world, is it pure chance that all scientists seem to talk about the same world?” (p. 143)

“In spite of these objections, Clark agrees with Kant that there are universal and necessary truths that transcend sense experience. He proposes to skirt Kant’s difficulties by defending a modified form of Kantianism that he calls The Preformation Theory. This position holds that knowledge is possible only because God has endowed man with certain innate ideas (in the sense of dispositions or aptitudes to think in certain ways). These forms of thought correspond to the real world which is also a creation of God. Kant actually mentioned this possibility in an often overlooked section in the second edition of The Critique of Pure Reason. Clark considers all of Kant’s objections to the preformation theory and rejects them on the grounds that Kant either misrepresents the preformation view or else fails to see how his objections apply with more force to his own position. Clark’s charge that Kant misrepresented the preformation view seems justified.” (p. 143)

“Clark holds that the laws governing reality are not simply the result of a subjective aptitude of the human mind to think in a certain way. Not only has God implanted aptitudes for knowing, He has also ordered things so that man’s mind harmonizes with the structure of the world. The rational structure of man’s mind is similar to the rational order of the world.” (p. 145)

But, writing in the third person as he does in Clark Speaks from the Grave (1986), Clark denied Nash’s (and Robert Reymond’s) contention:

“A critique can properly reject the half or even the third it does not like. One thing it does not like is the assertion on page 78 that what Kant rejected, ‘Clark calls … the Preformation Theory and advocates it himself.’ This statement is untrue. Clark did not accept the preformation theory. Reymond simply misread page 410 in Thales to Dewey, for that is about the only place Clark every mentioned the preformation theory. Even his students in college recognized that this section did not commit Clark to the theory. The argument is that Kant’s position is vulnerable to the very objections that Kant had raised against preformation. The whole is an ad hominem argument against Kant, not an acceptance by Clark. Anyone should be able to realize that Clark’s Scriptural-deductive method can have no place for preformation.” (p. 20)

Yet in the second edition of Clark’s Thales to Dewey (which Nash quotes in Life’s Ultimate Questions) it is seen that he did in fact accept some sort or some element of preformation theory:

“Kant wrote as if space, time and the categories were the same in all human minds and that these a priori forms could guarantee a sort of unitary human experience. But when he argues against all types of preformation systems that would unify experience by grounding the possibility of knowledge in the Creator’s ordering of human minds, he ruins every hope of discovering unity and of making knowledge possible. Only theism can do this.” – Gordon H. Clark, Thales to Dewey, 2nd ed. (Unicoi, TN.: The Trinity Foundation, 1957, 1989), 410.

How are we to reconcile these points? Or, how are we to understand what is going on here? I think the answer is that Clark held to one part of the preformation theory as Nash explained it, but not to another part of it. That is, Clark certainly believed man is created in the image of God who gives all men innate ideas. But he did not believe that the fact alone of man and nature having been created by the same God, he did not believe that this makes knowledge of the world possible for man. Rather, Clark’s theory of knowledge (especially in his Wheaton Lectures) entirely discounts any knowledge of the outside world and limits the knowledge available to man to the propositions of Scripture along with logical deductions from those propositions and the innate ideas the Scriptures confirm.

Might it be that Nash read his own view into Clark? Nash himself held to preformation theory and believed Clark to hold to the same. He explained in his lectures:

“Leibniz had developed the preformation theory. … I’ll tell you something else, Gordon Clark is the major defender of the preformation theory in the 19th and 20th centuries. He really is. Nobody has articulated and defended the preformation theory in a more powerful or eloquent way in the last 200 years than Gordon Clark. Now let me tell you what the preformation theory says. It says that there is only one reasonable answer to the question, why does every human being possess the same categories. You can’t account for this by evolution, you really can’t. Darwinism is hopeless in the face of the rationality of the human race. It makes no sense at all to suggest that the survival of the fittest has brought about a condition in which only people with these categories have survived. You know the whole business of Darwinism. Silly. Now the preformation theory says that the only reasonable explanation for this incredible situation in which every human mind possesses the same categorical structure, is that every human mind is created by another mind that possesses the same categorical understanding, categories of understanding.” (Lecture 28 Immanuel Kant – 01 in “History of Philosophy and Christian Thought.” min 54-55)

And:

“I want to show you how a preformation theorist, remember that word? That’s Gordon Clark. That’s me, I’m a preformationist. How a preformationist can avoid Kant’s skepticism. Here’s how. Kant denied any role for God in creating the human mind, in creating the human world, so he kinda trapped himself into this skepticism in which the real world, the noumenal world is always beyond the bounds of human knowledge. A preformationst doesn’t have that problem. Here’s why. A good sensible Augustinian, like Clark, or some other people that I know would tell you that first of all, there is a correlation between the mind of God and the mind of man. The God who created us in His own image, creates us with a structure of rationality that is similar to his own. Now what that means then is, and is one of the points I make in the context of the whole book The Word of God and the Mind of Man. This is what that book calls the Logos theory. Because God has created us as creatures who are capable of knowing the mind of God, we’re not left in the dark, we’re not stuck as creatures who can never have knowledge about God. God has created us as creatures who are capable of knowing His mind and His will and His revelation. But moreover, the same God who created us as rational creatures created the universe as a rational cosmos. Consequently a preformationist doesn’t have a wall existing between some phony phenomenal world and some phony noumenal world. The same God who created the world, created us with a mind that is capable of knowing that world. We’re not trapped in this bifurcation between noumenal and phenomenal.” (Lecture 29 Immanuel Kant – 02, min 19-21)

While Clark would certainly agree with Nash that “there is a correlation between the mind of God and the mind of Man,” Nash goes too far if he thinks that Clark would agree with the second part of the theory—that because man and the world are both created by God man is capable of knowing the world. Nash’s view of preformation may surmount “Kant’s Wall” between the noumenal and phenomenal, but there still remains many obstacles to overcome to explain how sensation leads to knowledge. Nash, so far as I know, does not overcome these obstacles nor even attempt an explanation. It is one thing to say that man can know the physical world and it is another to show how man can know the physical world.

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