Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Comments on John 10

This chapter is a continuation of the teaching of Jesus following the conversion of the blind man who had received his sight. I puzzled over the characters in the analogy of the shepherd…the shepherd, the thief, the sheep, the watchman, the hireling, the owner of the sheep, the fold and the door. (these are characters too) So far what I see is that Jesus is both the door and the shepherd. V. 3 says the sheep listen to the shepherd’s voice and heed it. I am constantly challenged by that idea,”My sheep know my voice…” I know there have been many times when I’ve thought, “Is that Your voice, Father, or is it my own….or worse….the enemy’s” and I’ve also thought if I could be more certain about knowing the voice, I would certainly be quicker about heeding it….obeying. But it is one of those things that we almost have to learn by experience….if we have a practice of second guessing….or ignoring His voice…..we will not learn to recognize it, and possibly even lose the capacity to hear it, but if we make a practice of heeding it….we will learn to hear and recognize it….seems backwards, but oh well….

I find it interesting when you link this story with the chapter before it, about choosing the light/life over the institution, in v. 3 it states…”and he calls his own sheep by name and brings (leads) them OUT. This is stated again in v. 4 “When he has brought his own sheep outside, he walks on before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice….

When you just grab a few minutes and read a few verses in the Bible, you will probably always receive something on some level….but when you read with the idea of following the thread from where Jesus started and where He takes it….and consider “the turn” when it happens….sometimes there is even more to be gained. In any event, it seems to me that Jesus was teaching the people, that though they were to be taken out of the Institution that they knew and loved, He was walking on before them, and would lead them.

When I tentatively took my first steps out of the IC (institutional church) I was a little nervous about being led astray. I think this is a learned thing. That we are taught to put our trust in the professional theologians, and not trust that we will hear or recognize Father’s voice. However, in v. 5 Jesus reassures us that “They will never (on any account) follow a stranger, but will run away from him because they do not know the voice of strangers or recognize their call.” There are many religious movements we can get in on and many bandwagons to join, and I don’t feel any responsibility to debunk them, but I recognize that they are not the voice I’m listening for. Thank you Father….you are giving me ears….to hear.

Besides being the Shepherd, Jesus is also the door. It is by means of Him (and only by means of Him) that we enter into spiritual life. In V. 9 He states, “I am the Door; anyone who enters IN through Me will be saved (will live).” That’s what being saved is….receiving life...God’s life…the eternal kind of life. It’s not that we are just saved from the death of ET (eternal torment) we are saved from the condition we are now in….death….the kind spoken of in Genesis 2:17.
“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and blessing and calamity you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” God said we’d die...and God does not lie…. And now, Jesus is telling the people, the way to be saved not from death…but OUT OF death.

Now Jesus compares the Good Shepherd, with the hireling, who He says, works for wages, and runs away and deserts the flock when trouble comes. The Good Shepherd, on the other hand knows and loves each of his own, and lays down his life for them. V. 15 says, “I am giving My life for the sheep.” He doesn’t ask us to stay in the fold because He knows that’s not the way of the sheep and that we’ll simply die if kept in and not brought out to pasture. V. 9 states, “He will come in and he will go out (freely) and will find pasture.” That’s because He leads us….and if we go astray….He will come and find us and lead us back to be in His care.

v. 16 is a verse which people have puzzled over. “I have other sheep (beside these) that are not of this fold. I must bring and impel those also; and they will listen to My voice and heed My call, and so there will be (they will become) one flock under one shepherd. I’ve heard this verse used as support for the idea that there is life on other planets. It is also thought that since He is addressing Jews, he is referring to Gentiles. I think that’s certainly one facet of the truth, but the AMP Bible that I use, has a note taking me back to Ezek. 34:23, which is the verse that it seems Jesus is quoting. In speaking of the evil shepherd, He is also referring back to that passage in Ezekiel. From this we learn that Jesus is identifying Himself in the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophesy, just as He did with Isaiah’s prophesy, when He said (Luke 4:21) “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

As well as self-identifying as the Messiah, and I believe, preparing the Jews with the knowledge that the Gentiles were included in his plan, it is a message to us, that while there are some that are His sheep, and know His voice, there are other, that are not of THIS fold, but who He says He “must bring and impel also; and they will listen to My voice and heed My call, and so there will be (they will become) one flock under one Shepherd.” This is supportive of 1 Cor. 15: 22-28 , which is possibly the most clear teaching found in the Bible, of the eventual restoration of all thing under Christ. God does things in ages and stages…and that does NOT mean sleepers, creepers, leapers, pre-school, primary, intermediate, jr and sr high, c&c, Young married’s, homebuilders, seniors. It means each in his own rank and turn: Christ…then those who are Christ’s at His coming, and then the kingdom wholus bolus. It means in ever widening circles… Jerusalem...Judaea…Samaria… the uttermost part of the earth. It means over the course of ages….aeons…

So then in v 17and 18 He speaks of the love of the Father which accrues to Him in special measure “because I lay down My (own) life – to take it back again. V. 18 No one takes it away from Me. On the contrary, I lay it down voluntarily…” I used to think that there was something wrong there….because I felt that when one is executed, one’s life IS taken from one. And Jesus was executed, He did not commit suicide. I’ve learned though, that whenever there is an especially puzzling bit it scripture, there can usually be found a nifty little key which opens up something that was formerly closed to us. In this case, I believe Jesus was not talking about giving up his temporal life on earth; something He had not yet done. In v 15 He speaks in the present tense -not in the future, about giving his life. Also, in my Amplified Bible the word life is amplified with (very own) which seem to indicate a special meaning to the word life. In v. 18 He takes especial care to spell out the fact that, “No one takes it away from Me. On the contrary, I lay it down voluntarily. [I put it from Myself.] I am authorized and have power to lay it down (to resign it) and I am authorized and have power to take it back again. These are the instructions (orders) which I have received [as My charge] from My Father.”

For these reasons, I believe that Jesus is referring here to laying down His pre-existent life rather than his physical life. In John 17:5 He speaks of his resurrection from this “death-life” to his pre-existent life when He prays, “And now, Father, glorify Me along with Yourself and restore Me to such majesty and honor in Your presence as I had with You before the world existed.” He laid down his pre-existent life voluntarily, with the understanding that He would take it up again. His physical life was taken from Him, even though He did give it in the sense that He was “brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”

Also, Jesus consistently refers to the carnal or temporal life as death. Consider what he said to the disciple when he called him, “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.” So Jesus voluntarily laid down His (very own real pre-existent life) to become one of us (dead) in order that He might share His (eternal kind of) life with us when He has resumed it…which He has done.

V 19 says, “Then a fresh division of opinion arose…” Everywhere Jesus went division arose, because as He Himself said in Matt. 10:34, He did not come to bring peace, but a sword. A sword is a tool, not just for battle, but often used to separate or divide. Consider Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” He came to sort, who’s in and who’s out, sheep from goats…but today, there is almost nothing worse that you can be than divisive….it’s almost as bad as intolerance. There is a lot of pressure on us all to stay homogeneous with the crowd, to not set ourselves apart by becoming too spiritual. It seems you have to act carnal to be normal, and to not make anyone feel spiritually inferior. It’s like work to rule. If no one raises the bar, then we’ll all feel a lot more comfortable. But everywhere Jesus went, the sword of division went too. And anyone who is serious about following Jesus will be persecuted and ridiculed by those who are happy where they are. If we attempt to live the Christ life, we will have the same divisive effect Jesus had, and if we are highly successful, we will very likely be treated as cruelly as He was.

So they badgered Him and mocked Him “He is insane – He raves, He rambles…” They ask Him if He is the Christ, and He plainly tells them that He has already affirmed that He is. He says in v. 26 “But you do not believe and trust and rely on me because you do not belong to My fold [you are no sheep of Mine.]” Once again we are reminded that there are more folds than one. Jesus reiterates in v. 27 that the sheep that are His own hear and are listening to my voice…not only that they hear…but they deliberately hear…they are listening and following. He knows who they are, and no one is able to snatch them away from Him.

His remark in v. 30 “I and the Father are One,” reminds me of the opening two verses of the book of John. “…and the Word was with God (two) and the Word was God (one) The same was in the beginning with God (two). Is Jesus God? Well If a man has a son, is the son the father? Are they one person or two? Jesus has referred to Himself as the Son of God, and even more commonly, the Son of man, I believe that when He makes the statement, “I and the Father are one," He is saying they are in complete and total agreement and alignment. Jesus’ prays for us in John 17:21 “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us:” It is our destiny to be one with the Father in the same way that Jesus is. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” It’s affirmation that we deliberately align our will with His and agree with Jesus’ prayer, that we all be one.

We read in 1 John 3:1 “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” We can read this verse and we can sing it….but if we really believe that it is our destiny to become sons of God, then we will be treated the same as Jesus was. Our consolation for the persecution we can expect to suffer is found in 2 Timothy 2:12 “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:”

In V. 36 He asks, “ “Do you say of the One Whom the Father consecrated and dedicated and set apart for Himself and sent into the world, You are blaspheming, because I said, I am the Son of God?” (Once again, Jesus makes a clear claim to be the Son of God.) At the end of v. 39 Jesus makes the statement “The Father is in Me, and I am in the Father [One with Him]. I think that reinforces the concept of being in a state of complete and perfect unity with God. I will repeat Jesus’ prayer for us which is found in John 17:21 “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us:” This is what I understand to be meant by the term “Sonship.”

Monday, May 21, 2007

comments on John 9

I’m in the book of John today and you know how tempting it is for me to go to chapter one, (or go and comment on 1 Peter one…or for that matter begin at Genesis 1, but since I am on chapter 9, that’s where I’ll begin.

The first three verses tell of the disciples question about the man born blind. Whose sin is this poor man being punished for. Jesus answer of course is that he’s not being punished for anyone’s sin but that he was born blind “in order that the workings of God should be manifested.”

This is evidence to me that ALL THINGS are of God. In this case, a miracle of healing was going to be performed to bear witness to the power of God manifested by Christ. I believe that God is sovereign and that what He does is good, even if it doesn’t seem to be in human terms. Even if there are not signs, wonders and miracles, what He has done is good, and His testing and challenges, are not to destroy us but part of the creation process. We would not be who we are without the sufferings of molding and the times in the kiln.

In verse four Jesus says, WE must work the works of Him Who sent ME. I notice the word WE and I don’t think He is using the royal we….I think he is including us….as his own body….partnering with Him in doing the work of Our Father.

In verse five, he says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the world’s Light.” This reminds me that He also said in Matthew 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Also Acts 13:47 he says, “I have set you to be alight for the Gentiles….and it also reminds me of the first chapter of John verse 4 - 9….”In Him was life and the life was the light of men…that illumines every person.” We are his body and we share his function of illuminating the world with the light…which is life of God….which is the eternal kind of life. Often people have expectations of us, and will be disappointed in us if we don’t live up to those expectations, but as Jesus said, in the previous chapter – John 8:29, “I do nothing of Myself (of My own accord or on My own authority), but I say [exactly] what My Father has taught Me.” This is our pattern and our ideal as we make choices whether to please men or to please God. Jesus was a disappointment to those who expected Him to set up an earthly kingdom, and we will disappoint people too, whose expectations for us conflict with the way Father wants us to live His life… Anyhow…moving along….

I would love to know why Jesus chose to use mud and saliva in healing the man….His methods are sometimes surprising to say the least….in any case, I suppose there is demonstrated a trusting and obedience on the part of the man healed…or maybe Jesus didn’t want him to be able to see Him and identify Him until after the Jews had grilled him. But when he was asked he bore witness that he had been healed by Jesus, but he did not know where he was….perhaps he wouldn’t have recognized Jesus as he had never seen Him yet.

In v. 16 where the man has been brought to the Pharisees, they said, “This Man (Jesus) is not from God, because He does not observe the Sabbath.” Once again, Jesus didn’t live up to the standards that the Pharisees had set, but He certainly was sent from God….and pleased God. We are always doing this to each other….”If you loved God, you would do ___.” (Fill the blank with what the speaker expects) If you loved your children you’d spank them….If you loved your children, you would never strike them…. So they got the “therefore” wrong. Because Jesus didn’t conform to their interpretation of the Sabbath, they ruled Him not to be of God. The arrogance of the elite. It’s why we need to do only what we see the Father doing….and we have to know Him personally not just through the interface of the elite.

So the Pharisees next interviewed the parents…who chose the institution over the Life/Light. Afraid to lose their place in the synagogue, they pled ignorance. Verse 22 demonstrates that even before the crucifixion of Jesus, believers were being expelled from Judaism. They couldn’t follow Jesus and have the institution too. Some weighed the cost longer than others. Look at Nicodemas and Joseph of Arimithea…secret believers….but eventually they had to make a choice whether to be a pillar in the synagogue or a lively stone in the body of Christ. The parents, in this story bowed to social pressure to avoid becoming pariahs.

Meanwhile, the Pharisees went back to the man and harassed him until in verse 25 he says,” I do not know whether He is a sinner and wicked or not. But one thing I do know that whereas I was blind before, now I see.” He seemed to be trying to preserve his place in the mainstream too, but they prodded him until he was frustrated and said, “I already told you and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Can it be that you wish to become His disciples also?”

At this, of course, they went ballistic.I like the Amplified which states,”they jeered, they sneered…etc” and the verbal battle escalates, till in a rage, the leaders show their conceit and their utter contempt for the laity, and they shout,” You were wholly born in sin (from head to foot); and do you (presume to) teach us?” …”So they cast him out (threw him clear outside the synagogue.)

I wonder whether if he had not faced this persecution, he might just have settled back into his old life (only with his sight) and never have come to believe in and follow Christ. But Jesus, after the man had been cast out, then chose to go and look him up….anonymously, for the man had not yet seen Him….he was blind….Jesus asked him, “Do you believe in and adhere to the Son of Man?” And the man, who had nothing left to lose….he had already been kicked out….said, (this guy has some personality I think) “Who is He, Sir: Tell me, that I may believe in and adhere to Him.” When Jesus identified himself, immediately the man said, “Lord I believe”….and worshiped Him.

It seems to me that there is a very strong object lesson in this story. It wasn’t just a case of a blind man being healed. But he was showing them something about the Kingdom of God…Jesus was ALWAYS teaching about the kingdom of God. So when He stated in v. 2 that the purpose of the man being born blind was so that “the workings of God should be manifest” ….well now He comes around in the last three verses of the chapter to the moral of the story.

Jesus says in v. 39, “I came into this world for judgment (as a Separator, in order that there may be separation between those who believe on Me and those who reject me) AMP. It’s quite plain that the parents chose their status in the institution over the light and the life of Christ. Their son, chose to pay the price of losing his temporal status, in order to receive and believe In Christ. In order to drive the message home, Jesus goes on to say, “…to make the sightless see and to make those who see become blind.”

The blind man had received his natural sight, but he had also received his spiritual sight. It’s another sort of literary device…if you will… that I always see in Jesus’ teaching….what I call… “the turn”…when Jesus turns in mid sentence, or mid story…anyway…without much warning…to the spiritual.

(Like for example in Luke 21:18 where he has just given a hideous litany of persecutions which He says we will face…including being put to death….and then He ends with, “ But there shall not an hair of your head perish.” He has turned to the spiritual and though the hair of your head sounds like a very physical symbol, He obviously doesn’t mean we won’t suffer physically…even die….but that spiritually, we will be safe and secure. I digress….but this defines what I refer to when using the term “the turn”)

So this use of “the turn” is something that the Pharisees did not fail to notice, and they then asked (rhetorically I’m sure), “Are we also blind?” This very nicely set Him up, so Jesus replied, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but because you now claim to have sight, you sin remains. [If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but because you insist, ‘We do see clearly,’ you are unable to escape your guilt.]

There might be a bit of a case here for the idea that those who have never been given an opportunity to hear about Christ, will be held to a different standard than those who have …as it says in Luke 12:48 “But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” I believe that they will simply be brought in to the kingdom at another stage according to 1 Cor. 15:22-23 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.

Be that as it may, I think the lesson Jesus is presenting is, that the only way to escape our guilt is to admit it. Pride keeps us blind. How can we ever be taught if we are proud enough to think we have nothing more to learn?


Hi Steph,

I’m sure there is risk in anything we might choose to do. I’m not planning to be reckless about it, but I don’t want to be ruled by fear either…especially other people’s fear… I’ve booked 14 nights in hostels so far and so will be filling in the blank spaces as time goes on. I hate to have everything sewed up with no flex for serendipitous opportunities, but on the other hand since I am a woman and going alone, and cycling, and really….can hardly imagine what it will be like, (think shepherds in bathrobes, biblical scenery…etc…everything in miniature…and on flannelgraph….haha)…I think I will try to have all my lodgings arranged prior to going…and I will let you all know what I’ve planned as I go so that you won’t be concerned.

My Dad has a friend…an old widower, who went solo to Israel recently, and he just bussed around, and saw the sights and really enjoyed himself. I am planning to cycle from place to place….but possibly stay 2 or three days here or there….So far here is what I have planned.

Arrival in Tel Aviv at Noon on the 13th of September…..and go directly to the HI hostel in Tel Aviv, where I can hole up for three nights, get my bike assembled, and get my legs under me from the long trip…..I can go to the beach and explore the area around Tel Aviv during that time. Hostels run around $20US per night and include hearty breakfasts….so not too expensive….

On the 16th I will begin to make my way up the Mediterranean coast….My next hostel stay will be in Haifa, but I don’t want to go the whole distance in one day….I could….as it is 95 K, but knowing my penchant for pushing things to the max…..I want to split it up…Also, I want to stop here and there…Natania looks nice, and I want to see Caesarea….There is a beach campsite just north of Caesarea where I might plan to camp if I decide to bring my tent…otherwise, I’ll book something else…that night is still open..

On the 17th….I’m booked in to the HI hostel in Haifa for two nights…I’ll spend time exploring that area….and Akko…a little to the north.

On the 19th…I plan to cycle across country through Nazareth and Tiberias to Karei Deshe HI hostel at the Sea of Galilee. I’m spending three nights here, as I’ve heard its lovely, and I want to spend at one day cycling around the Lake (sea) and another to poke around…..

On the 22nd, I will begin to follow the Jordan River down to Jerusalem…but again, I don’t want to do it in one day…its 150K….so I’m breaking it in two so I have yet to arrange accommodation for the night of the 22nd. I’m hoping I’m not leaving the Galilee too soon, and that two days will be enough…..I might wish I had broken it into three…to give me a little more time on this bit….in any case…I’ll stick to the plan….and if I’ve missed something….I’ll go again…haha…

So I’ll ascend to the city of Jerusalem on the 23rd…and I have 4 nights booked at the Jerusalem Agron HI hostel…perhaps not enough time to see all I want to see and do all I want to do, but at least I was able to get 4 nights and I’m hoping I might have a little leftover time at the end of my trip to revisit here……

On the morning of the 27th, I’ll descend to the shore of the Dead Sea and begin a rather long ride to Masada HI hostel. I had hoped to get En Gedi….but it was booked….so I’ll have a longer ride….bummer….but I’ll STOP at en Gedi at least….thinking…..I probably will regret not breaking this up so I might have to change it yet….Anyhow….I have two nights booked at Masada …so if I have to backtrack to En Gedi hot springs, then so be it….you know how I hate to miss a hot spring!....and I want to taste that famous water that David refused to drink….because they had risked so much to get it for him…and possibly taste some of those grapes that Solomon raved about in the S of S….HAHA…(*note to self…..re-read Frommer’s guide)

I leave Masada on the morning of the 29….EEK…I hope I will have had the good sense to ride the cable car up to the top and see where those famous Jews made their last stand against the Roman army…...my trip’s almost half over at this point…..So in the first half of the trip, I’ve got 14 of the 16 nights accommodation already booked. That is the end of what I’ve planned so far.

I’m still thinking what I want to do next. I can either be a weenie, and head straight down the relatively flat Arava route to Eilat…..or I can head over some hills and make a point to see the Ramon Crater and other wonderful…eerie landscapes….In either case I think it will take me three days there and three days back….so I’m considering riding a bus for part of the trip through the Negev. When I get to Eilat, I want to use maybe 2 or three days to visit Wadi Rum and Petra in Jordan. I’m still debating whether I want to cycle over there, or possibly buy a bus excursion of some kind….anyhow, it is in my mind to see those places….and I’d love to see them both in the early morning and the sunset hours….because I’d love to take pictures like they have in National Geographic…HAHAHA!....and I want to ride a horse….or possibly a camel…..hehehe. And I want to also spend a day or to in Eilat, snorkeling or scuba diving in the Red Sea…..After that I can happily head back to Jerusalem…or Tel Aviv, either cycling or bussing….depending on time constraints…..and if there to fritter away what remaining hours and minutes I may have doing whatever remains to be done….None the accommodations are booked yet for this second half.

You can get…and I plan to….a green card….which is a national park pass which gets you admission to 65 parks and historic sites….for only 120NIS= $33C. If I get this pass…then I will free go see so much more than if I have to shell out $10 every time I go through a door or a gate…. With the pass, I won’t feel bad about going in briefly wherever I feel like and not worrying about whether I’ll get my money’s worth or I’m wasting my time. There are a lot of things to see….and if I’m not impressed I’ll feel free to shove off…..I’m thinking about a bus pass too….but need better information….I want to cycle and so I’ll consider whether individual bus tickets might be more economical or if it looks like I’m going to want to park my bike at each stop and bus around, then maybe a bus pass would make sense…anyhow…still working on that one….

I’ve deleted the rest of your correspondence…..as I’ve decided to broadcast this email to a few other’s…and maybe since it’s so long, I’ll put it on my blog and add to it as plans progress and the trip becomes a reality. The time is ripe….I can’t wait go until I’m too old and crippley to do this. Time is a wasting…..