John, The Gospel of Grace (9)


Jesus Cleanses the Temple

13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” John 2:13-17

The very place that was to be a place of worship and sacrifice to God had become a flea market. Worship and prayer and praise to God had been reduced to commerce.

For the merchants it was good old capitalism. It was an excellent location to turn a quick buck. Lots of people were in Jerusalem for Passover and there were throngs of ready buyers who were willing to purchase an offering at likely high prices. The “money-changers” didn’t have God on their minds at all, they were there for one thing, to make money.

Those visitors to the Temple from all across the known world, and also from Jerusalem, should have been there thinking about God and praising him for the deliverance of their people long ago. Every Jew knew the story. But, apparently they were no more godly than the merchants. It was easy to enter the temple court, quickly buy pigeon or a lamb, sacrifice the animal, and check that box as “done”.

People have not changed very much have they? How many people every Sunday, attend Sunday School and “church” (worship), eat a cracker, drink some juice, mouth some words to a few songs, put some token amount in the passing plate and check off the box, “done”? Jews attend synagogue each Saturday and many go through the ancient rituals and that few moments at the temple is unfortunately the only time during the week when they think very much about God.

This story of Jesus driving out the greedy, ungodly merchants should be a warning that God has not changed his mind about half-hearted worshipers who are only going through the motions. What those people were doing was religion, and God was not pleased. Our worship and adoration of God should be from the heart,  in the Spirit, with our minds set on Christ and pleasing him.

In the gathered churches across the globe there are possessors and professors. There are devoted disciples of Christ and there are impostors. Don’t think you can fool God. He knows his own.

Oh how we all need Christ! Every one of us desperately needs God’s grace as expressed in the person and work of Jesus for sinners like us. We should determine that our worship will be from our hearts to the glory of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. He is so worthy of far more than traditional motivation, religious ritual, and sham Christianity.

Royce Ogle

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John, The Gospel of Grace (8)


The first Miracle of Jesus

The Wedding at Cana

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 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.

The first 11 verses of John chapter 2 give us an amazing glimpse into the life of Jesus. There are a few things that highlight the humanity of Jesus and then of course there is the event that shows off his deity as well.

My first observation.  Jesus received an invitation to a wedding and he accepted! Jesus accepted the invitation and decided to attend a wedding party with friends and family who were also in attendance. He knew wine would be served and went anyway. This was a rather large party, “the master of the feast…v9a” might have served the role of wedding planner, or a friend or family member was in charge of the event. It was no small group. 120 gallons of wine is a lot of wine. There were lots of people there including the disciples and Mary the mother of Jesus.

2nd observation. That Jesus accepted an invitation to a wedding affirms his endorsement of the rite and covenant of marriage. God uses marriage to illustrate his relationship with the church and Jesus is called in Scripture the bridegroom and his followers the bride. It is the most holy of all human relationships. In verse 4 Jesus answers his mother Mary with “Woman…”. His relationship with his Father trumped every human relationship. His closest human relationship had no advantage.

3rd observation. The wine ran out, v3. Mary says to Jesus “they have no wine“. They were out of wine to soon, so Mary looks at Jesus and simply says, “they have no wine“. She seemed to imply, “Fix it!”. Jesus replies “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus was no doubt referring to his impending death. He was very serious. So was his mom! We can’t see the look on her face but I can imagine that she gave him that “mom look” and then she said to the servants “Do whatever he tells you, v5″. She didn’t doubt that he was going to solve the problem. Ahh, a mother’s faith!

4th observation. There were 6 jars that held “purification water“, v6. There was not 7 jars, not 5 jars, but 6. 7 in Scripture is the number of perfection, there were 6 stone jars. 6 is not 7 and ceremonial cleansing is only symbolic of the cleansing from sin that only God can do. The best humans can offer is insufficient to take away what stains us. The most humble, nor the most elaborate ritual can take away our sins.

Jesus made a minimum of 120 gallons of wine! That wine symbolized his blood. Not only was there an ample supply of wine, it was the “good wine“. Jesus freely gives only the best!

5th observation. Verse 11 says Jesus manifested his glory and his disciples believed in him. Only God can take water and in an instant turn it into the best wine. Remember the purpose of John’s writing, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:39 Just as Jesus changed water into wine he can change a sinner into a saint. Believe on him alone. It’s the safe thing to do.

Royce Ogle

 

John, the Gospel of Grace (7)


“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

When the President, a dignitary, or some other celebrity is to visit a certain venue a key person, often called a “front man” or “key man” will go weeks before to make certain arrangements, to attend to details, and to make preparations so that the intended visit goes off smoothly with zero problems. This person is very, very important to the success of the anticipated visit of the more important person. So it was for the man called John the Baptist.

John’s account of what John the Baptist said and did are only slightly different from the synoptic gospels. John’s telling is more focused on Jesus and less on the Baptizer. It is quite evident that John the Baptist knew his role well. His posture was “more of Christ and less of me”.

John the Baptist’s primary purpose was not just to call people to repentance and to baptize them. He had an even greater purpose.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

John came to bear witness to the Christ of God “that all might believe through him”.  That people would come to believe though Him is always the end game.

Interestingly, John does not give very much detail about the Baptizer. Matthew, Luke, and Mark took care of that. John’s focus in the gospel that bears his name is the Christ, the Messiah. Who Jesus was, what he said, and what he did is the heart of John’s story.

However, John is careful to not miss the most important details of John the Baptist and his mission. In verses 19-28 John the Baptist makes clear that he is not the Christ or some prophet from the past. He also makes clear that he is not very important compared to the Christ. John (the author) very early in the book states the primary purpose of John the Baptist’s ministry.

  • That people would believe through Jesus. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. John 1:6,7

This is the reoccurring theme of  John’s gospel.

Then, later in the chapter John the Baptist himself gives his purposes.

  • To show people the “Lamb of God”.  “…he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29
  • That Christ might be revealed to Israel.   “I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel. ” John 1:31

This Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the “Lamb of God had a purpose too, and that was “to take away the sin of the world”. v29. Paul said it this way. God “justifies the ungodly” Romans 4:5. He also said God is “not counting their sins against them”. 2 Cor 5:19.

I recently read, “Jesus didn’t come to give us a better report card. He came to give us His report card”. Paul said it this way. “ For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:21

Look only to Christ Jesus our Lord, He alone can give eternal life and a righteous record.

Royce Ogle

 

 

John, The Gospel of Grace (6)


The key verse of the Gospel of John, in my view, is found in chapter 1 verse 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.

This statement is critical to the gospel story. As we have written earlier in this series, the pre-existent Christ became a man and lived 33 years on the earth. He experienced all of the experiences common to mankind. He knew both joy and sorrow, he became weary and needed rest. He needed community, he needed friends. He ate, went to parties, and loved the most unlikely in the society where he lived and ministered. And, Jesus prayed, a lot! In his humanity he was totally dependent upon his heavenly Father. His life was common in many ways but it one way it was not only uncommon, it was unique. He lived his life never transgressing the law of God and having never failing to to what he should have done. His record was perfect before the Father.

Not only did Jesus live among us humans and do it flawlessly, there was more. His uniqueness was manifest. It is one thing to be a good man, the best man, it is quite another to be the God man. Even for the casual observer Jesus was unlike other men, in good ways. When he started calling his disciples he went to common people, sort of a cross section of society in the first century middle east and said “Follow me” and the amazing thing is they did! Think of what was happening. A guy is busy with his fishing business, mending nets and Jesus walks up and says “Follow me”, and the guy dropped what he was doing and tagged along. That alone is amazing to me!

And then there are his miracles. John only recorded six of those. Only six, but those six put on display his Glory. Mere men did not do the things he did. Only God can raise the dead, command the weather, give sight to the blind, turn water to wine, and more. And only God can love the most unlovely, unlikely suspects without measure. And, only God can forgive sin. Yes, we saw “his glory”. When his followers saw his “glory” they believed in him.

John concluded his gospel book saying in the next to last chapter about what he had written:

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. (John 20:31

The beautiful thing is that as we read through John’s gospel, we too can see his glory. And we can believe too. John said of Jesus in verse 14 above that he “was full of grace and truth”. Jesus said of himself I am “the truth“. Thank God the one who is truth is also “full of grace“. Because he is full of grace there is plenty for you and for me. God treats you and me with love and forgiveness because Jesus gives us himself. That is grace!

Royce Ogle