Lecture 7: Healing of the Man Born Blind
Course: New Testament Introduction
Lecture: Healing of the Man Born Blind
We have a textual problem here and this is a good time to deal with you in regard to the issue of textual criticism.
Our earliest and best manuscripts of the gospel of John do not include this beautiful story. John 7:53-8:11. It does not appear to have been an original part of this gospel.
That doesn't mean it's not a true story. It doesn't mean it's not a Johanan story. It simply means that it was not a part of this gospel when it was originally put together. We shouldn't be surprised that there were a lot of extra such stories. The end of this gospel says, in John 20, "There are not enough books in the world to write down all the things that Jesus said and did." Remember?
So, how do you deal with such an issue as this? The basic principle that all scholars, whether they are conservative, moderate or liberal, when dealing with text criticism is that the earliest and original text is what we are trying to recover. That is, we're trying to recover what the original inspired authors wrote, plus nothing.
Here is our problem: We don't have any copies of the original manuscripts of any of these books. What is have is copies of copies of copies of copies. That's what we have. Okay?
So what we have to do, is we have to sift the over 5,000 part or whole manuscripts that we have of the Greek New Testament according to certain key principles in order to get back to the original text of the Greek New Testament.
The Greek New Testament that we have today is based on that kind of sifting. It's not identical with any one Greek manuscript of the New Testament. Okay?
It's based on a critical sifting of all of the pieces, early or late, big or little, and not just in Greek but with other languages as well to try and get back to the original Greek.
Now I should tell you just a little bit about how that's done. There are certain rules of text criticism. When I'm talking about text criticism, please understand that I'm not talking about criticizing the text. I'm talking about trying to discern the original form of the text. That's called text criticism. Unfortunately, the word criticism has a negative connotation in our world.
Here are some of the principles that we go by.
Principle number one would be, the earliest reading that we have of a text is likely to be original. More likely to be original. That's one principal.
Another principal - the reading that is supported by our earliest and best witnesses is likely to be original.
The more difficult reading is likely to be original. The shorter reading - more likely to be original. And there are more, but these are probably the top four.
Man 1: Seems like three and four are contradictory.
No, the more difficult reading is a reading that is - would have been offensive to later Christian scribes. I can give you a good illustration of this. We have a textural problem in the middle of the beautiful story of Jesus, Mary and Martha at their house.
What, in fact, did Jesus say to Martha at the end of the story? The key saying at the end? Did he say, "Few things are necessary or perhaps only one?" That's one reading.
Did he say, "Only one thing is necessary"? Did he say, "Many things are often necessary, but one is more important"? There are several readings here. Okay?
And that particular text is usually decided upon on the basis of this last rule. What tends to happen with scribes is they go explanatory.
That is, if there is a short reading that seems too pungent, too pointed, too difficult, they tend to do what? They tend to put yeast in the dough. They tend to add or they try to clarify it a little bit. Okay?
And so we have texts that are like that. Now if you were to look at a Greek New Testament, in the Metzger New Testament, at the bottom of every single page there are variant readings, and they get ratings. A ratings - likely reading; B rating - not so much; C rating - really wishy-washy; D rating - probably not. Probably not original. Okay?
Well we need this because, of course, the goal is to get back to the original inspired text plus nothing. We don't want doodlings from later scribes, do we? We want the original Bible plus nothing. That's what we want. And that's why text criticism is both good and a necessary and important thing.
Here is where I tell you that there were good scribes and there were bad scribes. There were careful scribes and there were sloppy scribes. Just like students, right? It's really important that we understand that.
One of the ways that you might think we would judge this issue is majority rules. Okay? Let me show you what's wrong with that.
Lets say we have two scribes. We'll call one Publius [writing on board] and we'll call the other Julius. Okay? Now we've got two Christian scribes, right?
Publis is not a detailed guy. He's not really all that careful but he's fast. He has this reputation for copying things fast. Alright? So Publius and Julius both start out with the same original. Lets say it's the Gospel of John, and they have to hand copy it, right? The rule in the monastery is: We want as many copies as we can get. Go to work. Right?
So Publius is copying away, and copying away, and copying away, and copying away, and copying away, and he's made five manuscript copies at the same time Julius has made one. You know?
In America, Julius's job would be in danger. However, Julius is meticulously careful.
Now here's what happens with Publius, the speed scribe. Alright? Well, the manuscripts that he has made are then copied by others, and of course you're only as good as the source manuscript you've got. Right? Because you don't have 10 others to compare it to. You're only as good as the source manuscript you've got.
In the copying tree of Publius all of a sudden what's happened is we've got like 20 second generation copies of the Publius manuscript - way more. And you know what's happened with poor Julius? The next guy that got Julius's text could only make two copies.
Now over here, you've got all of these copies that in various places have mistakes in the text. Right? Majority. Two over here, ten over here - don't go with the ten. It all depends on the scribe and how carefully he copied, you see.
Now, why is this little esoteric demonstration important? I'll tell you why. It has everything to do with the King James version. One of the things you hear a lot in the debate about the King James version is that we should go with the majority text. That is, we should go with the text that is most represented by the most copies. The answer to that is no.
You have to critically read all the copies and figure out who was the most careful copier, what did the earliest manuscript say, and you go with the earliest and best readings. You've got to go with the earliest and best readings. Okay? So, the truth of the matter is that the King James English translation - they did the best they could.
Guess what. They didn't have any manuscripts earlier than medieval manuscripts. Most of the manuscripts from which it was translated were, in fact, Latin; very few Hebrew manuscripts; only a few more Greek manuscripts, and mostly they were trying to follow the tradition. They were very conservative translators. Very conservative.
Now, they did well with what they had, but you're only as good as your source materials, right? Why is it not inadequate any more to simply read a King James Bible? Because of the text criticism.
We know better today, 300 - 400 years later, we know better today, what the original text of the Greek New Testament said than they did in 1611. Why? Because we have much earlier copies. We have much better copies. We've got many more copies. We've got over 5,000 part or whole manuscripts of the Greek New Testament.
This is why text criticism is so important. We are getting closer and closer to the original, and I think this is in the providence of God. The further we get away in time, from when the Greek New Testament was written, the closer we are actually getting to the text as a beneficence from God. And that's really good news.
Now, how does that affect this story? Well, here is what I say. I love this story to pieces. I think it's a true story. Certainly it reveals the character of Jesus, that wonderful balance between justice and mercy, and I would certainly not want to leave us with that but you could have gotten that from some of the other stories about Jesus that are not textually questionable. Okay.
So, what do I do with this story? I use it as a supplement. I'm not going to preach on it because I don't think it was originally in the Word of God. I'm going to use it as a supplement to illustrate the character of Jesus, which I could also demonstrate from other texts that are not textually questionable.
One of the reasons the scholars have come to the conclusion that this is clearly inserted into the text is this is a text looking for a home. In one manuscript, the story of the woman caught in adultery, comes early in the Gospel of John. In another manuscript it comes late in the Gospel of John.
In some manuscripts it comes right where we find it here, John 7:53-8:11. In one manuscript this story is in the Gospel of Luke. Now clearly this means that Christians loved this story, but they didn't know where to put it, because it wasn't an original part of the manuscript.
So what are you going to do? Put is somewhere. Put it in Luke if you need to. We need it. You know? And that's what happened to this story.
Undoubtedly there were a lot of other authentic, genuine, historical stories about Jesus that didn't make the cut. This happens to be one that we know about that wasn't in the original Gospel of John, but it certainly, I think, is a true story.
Man 2: So using your hypothetical there on the board, Julius may have included that in his version, but Publius didn't.
Oh, no - the other way around.
Man 2: The other way around.
Julius didn't have it in his original and because he was a careful copier, his version didn't have it in the copies.
Man 3: So where did it come from then?
Here's the thing - there were circulating, isolated sayings of Jesus, isolated stories of Jesus. You see some of this in the Gospel of Thomas. There were all kinds of extra material. What are called agrapha out there floating around at the end of the first century, the beginning of the second century into the third and fourth century.
So, some scribes said, "You know - I really like this story. It sounds Johanan to me. Lets put it in here." You know.
I want you to understand that most of the scribes were very conservative and careful. Some of them were sloppy and a few of them were tendentious. What I mean by that is they tended to amplify and clarify things in a way that comported with their own theology.
Now, where this really comes into play, especially with the King James, is the Book of Acts. The so-called Western Text of Acts is 20 percent longer than the Alexandrian Text of Acts. There are all kinds of additions and changes, and it's not just additions, there are changes.
Let me give you a good example. In the Western Text of Acts, there is the story about Priscilla, Aquilla and Apollos. Remember this story? Apollos comes to the synagogue. In Ephesus they discover that he's a Christian, he knows the way of the Lord, he teaches it accurately; but the only baptism he knows about is John the Baptist's baptism. Right?
So, according to our earliest Greek manuscripts, Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and taught him more accurately the way of the Lord. Now that's what the earliest text says.
Guess what the Western text says. The Western text says, "And hearing him speak in this way, Aquila took him aside and taught him the way of the Lord more accurately."
Now, why? Well, because what we know about the medieval church. They wanted to eliminate evidence that women taught men. This is a good way to do it. You just sort of gerrymander the text a little bit.
There were dishonest scribes. There were tendentious scribes, and one of their agendas was -Unfortunately there are several agendas. They had an antifeminist agenda. They didn't like women teaching and preaching.
They had an anti-Jewish agenda so they heightened elements in the text that might seem anti-Semitic. They thought this was a good thing. They had agendas. There were scribes with agendas.
What we want is the original text because I hope if you've learned anything from the story of the Good Samaritan, and from the story of the Samaritan woman, Jesus would be death and taxes on this sort of stuff. He was certainly not anti-woman. He was certainly not anti-Semitic. He wasn't anti-Samaritan. He was pro everybody.
We need text criticism to get away from later bad theology to start with, and later bad ethics as well. We need to be honest about our text criticism however dearly we might love a story like the woman caught in adultery. So I'm just being honest in saying I don't think it was originally in the Gospel of John, but I do think it's a true story. So, I can learn from it, but I'm not going to preach on the basis of it and say, "Thus sayeth the Lord: Boom."
That's going to be reserved for what is the real text of the Bible. Okay?
Now, lets press on in the Gospel of John having that little side lesson on text criticism, and we want to go to another important story.
Now we talked a little bit about this last night. This is the second, or penultimate to the last miracle in the Book of Signs. If we look at the structure of the Gospel of John, there are four parts to the structure.
There is the prologue: "In the beginning was the word..."
There is the Book of Signs, which goes from John 1:19-12:50, climaxing with the raising of Lazarus - that whole story.
Then there is the Book of Glory, which is basically Jesus's discourses with his disciples, John 13 all the way through John 17, and the Passion narrative.
Then you have the appendix, John 21.
So there are just four parts to this gospel - a prologue and an epilogue, John 1 the prologue; John 21 the epilogue; and the Book of Signs. We're in the middle of the Book of Signs.
The story that we have just looked at is penultimate. It's the sixth one of seven and you'll remember what I said to you last night about this, that this miracle would have been seen as exceedingly remarkable since it's not recorded anywhere in the Old Testament.
You heard the man say, "Nobody has given sight to a person born blind since the beginning of creation."
Jews didn't think that had ever happened, so this is a really singular and important miracle. It's like there is this crescendo; the miraculous; the "can you top this?" finishing with the raising of Lazarus in Bethany. And, of course, that's all the more appropriate since this is the gospel that goes back to Lazarus in Bethany. Of course, he's telling his story as the last of the great sign narratives here.
Some unpacking of this story. One of the most important theological points that you need to get is that ancient peoples believed, as many modern people do, that there is a connection between sickness and sin.
If you're sick, it's because you sinned. If you're deformed it's because somebody sinned, so at the beginning of this story, the question that the disciples quite naturally ask is, "Is this man blind because he sinned, or his parents sinned?"
There is assumed a strong nexus of connection between sin and sickness. Now I'm not denying that sinning can lead to sickness. Look at all the sexually transmitted diseases.
I'm not denying that there are at times connections. I am saying that you can't make that an invariable rule. There are plenty of robustly healthy non-holy people in the world, and on the other hand, some of the great saints of the church have been sickly and died prematurely.
So, you can not make a one-to-one correlation between sickness and sin. You just can not go there, and Jesus is trying to break that assumption here in John 9.
He also tries to break this assumption in Luke 13. In Luke 13 the disciples say, "Were those people on whom the Tower of Siloam fell worse sinners than everybody else?" I mean, is that why that happened to them? And Jesus says no. Then He says, "If you don't repent something worse than that can happen to you."
So, one of the things he's trying to do is sever the assumption of a hard connection between not only sickness and sin, but calamity and sin. Okay? That sin necessarily leads to materialistic calamity or it leads to sickness. No. That's not true and Jesus does not affirm that that's true.
In fact, what He's doing is He's building on a teaching that comes from Ezekiel, when Ezekiel begins to talk about individual responsibility for sin. It's an important prophetic teaching and it's a teaching that went against earlier teaching which said things like, "The parents ate the sour grapes and the children's teeth were set on edge." Remember this teaching, where it was assumed that the sin of the parents would be visited on the children and the grandchildren, etc., and not just the sin would be perpetuated, but the punishment would be perpetuated on the children and the grandchildren, and all of that.
Well, the later prophets began to say, "Well, that's not quite right, nor is it fair." And Ezekiel was one of the first to talk about individual responsibility for sin.
Jesus is also a person who affirms that. The parents' sin is the parents' sin; it's not the children's sin, and so on.
Now when we deal with this particular story here, there is a connection between this story and the woman caught in adultery.
Here is what you need to know about the story about the woman caught in adultery. The elders of the community, the older ones, were responsible for the moral uprightness of the community. In early Judaism, if you caught someone in the act of adultery - first of all, you wouldn't be catching just a single person, it takes two to tango. Right? The first question to be asked about that story is where is the man caught in adultery? See, this is inherently an unjust situation. Where is the man caught in adultery. Right?
And we are told that they are not so interested in upholding the law. They are interested in trapping Jesus in His words. The story says that the point of this exercise was not to execute justice on this woman, but to trap Jesus in His words; to put him in an impossible place. Between a Mosaic rock and a hard place - that's what they are trying to do here.
Moses says, "Stoning. What do you say?" You know, if He says stoning, then He agrees with Moses but He loses the Mr. Compassionate Award of the Year. You know, if he says no stoning, he's perceived to have violated the law of Moses. You with me now?
So here's what He does, and it's exceedingly clever because He knows it's the job of the elders to deal with the moral failures of the community, or potential moral failures of the community. Who He is actually blaming for this sin are the ones standing around holding the stones. And what His saying means is, let the person without guilt in this particular matter cast the first stone. The reason the elders are all dropping the stones and walking away is not because just in general they are sinners. It's because they are responsible for the moral rectitude of their community and they have failed this woman. They have failed her because their first job was to interrupt the act of adultery to warn them.
You don't just stone them right off the block. The first thing you're supposed to do is warn them that what they are doing is a violation of the law and they must stop right now. That was the job of the elders of the community and they failed in that. They just snatched the woman and dragged her off to use as a toy, or a tool, to trap Jesus. That's what they are doing here.
So the issue here is they have failed in their moral responsibility and they understand the implications. The reason they dropped their stones and walked away is they know they are implicated in this sin. They know it! And they leave.
Now, how does He deal with her at the end? He says, "Is there anybody here still condemning you?" She says, "No, sir." He says, "Well then neither do I condemn you, but don't ever do that again. Go and sin no more."
Now here is the balance of compassion and justice. He's not calling her sin not a sin. He's not baptizing her sin and calling it good. He's saying, "From now on, better ethical rectitude out of you. But we're not condemning you this time."
Now, how does that relate to this story? Well this story of the man born blind is also a story about sin. And in this story, guess who gets accused of being a sinner. Jesus, Himself.
You know, human beings have an infinite capacity for self-justification. Human beings have an infinite capacity for self-rationalization. As for that fellow, we don't even know where he came from, but we know he's a sinner. [chuckles] We don't know much about him, but we know he's a sinner. Talk about premature judging of somebody.
Now one of the things you need to understand about the Gospel of John and this is a wonderful story of the man born blind is that in the Gospel of John, understanding who Jesus is requires that you understand where He came from - from God - and where He's going - back to God.
If you don't know where He came from, and you don't know where He's going, you don't know who He is. Unfortunately it's not just these antagonistic officials that don't know where Jesus is going. Read the Farewell Discourses in John 14-17.
"We don't know where you're going, Jesus" and "Why can't we come, too?"
Even the disciples don't understand who Jesus is because they don't know where He came from, and they don't know where he's going. He came from and returns to God. It's the key to understanding who He is.
And that disconnect is seen in this story. This story is a powerful story of ships passing in the night, because what happens to the man born blind is he gains sight and insight as the story crescendos and develops.
At the same time, the Jewish authorities are going, slipping into darkness further and further. Their hearts are getting harder and harder as the story goes on. So we have ships passing in the night.
The man born blind is going into the direction of light and insight, spiritual understanding and renewal and the authorities are becoming blinder and blinder and blinder.
Light, as I said to you before, is the Johanan word for revelation. Just as life is the word for salvation, light is the word - Johanan word - for revelation. So that man born blind is getting it. He's receiving the good news about Jesus, whereas the authorities are blinded by the light.
It's the same light; two different effects. It depends on whether your heart is receptive or not. So, that's part of what's going on with this story. And you can see how the man born blind becomes increasingly brave in what he's prepared to say about Jesus.
At first, to the authorities, even before he goes to the authorities he's talking to those men who were selling grapes in the story, and they say, "Where is this man who gave you His sight?" The man says, "I don't know."
That's always a negative signal in the story that this person doesn't yet fully understand Jesus. He's never even seen Jesus, yet. He was blind when Jesus touched him. Right? He's never seen Jesus yet, so he doesn't really know Jesus yet. But he's favorably disposed because he's been healed of his blindness.
Did you also notice at the beginning of the story that Jesus wants him to participate in his own healing? I mean, if you're wondering what is the this whole mud on the eyes go to the Pool of Siloam thing all about, there are three things you need to know about that from the culture.
Number one - ancient people believed that the saliva of a holy man had healing properties. So he spits into the mud and he puts the mud on the eyes, and this was a traditional technique used in healing. So this is not a mud pack. This is a traditional technique used by ancient healers to help people have a certain part of their body, whether it's the eyes or something else, be healed.
So Jesus spits in the mud and since he mocked to the Pool of Siloam. Could he just have restored the man's sight without all of that rigamarole? Of course he could have. He does it elsewhere in the gospels.
Giving sight to the blind is found both in the synoptics and the Gospel of John. Okay? That's one of the kinds of miracles that we have in both the synoptics and the Gospel of John.
Absolutely Jesus could have done it that way. He does not for two reasons. Number one - He wants this man to participate in his own healing. The second reason he does it that way is He's dealing with His disciples who are watching, and they know this technique of healing, of using saliva in mud to heal something.
So He is using a traditional technique that His disciples were already familiar with to indicate healing in progress. That's what this signals - healing in progress. Good outcome hoped for. Right?
And why would he do this? Because His disciples had already been ready to write this man off as a sinner, precisely because he was blind. Is this man blind because he sinned, or his parents? And Jesus said neither one, but God's going to use it for His glory.
So what is he doing? He's deconstructing the received cultural prejudices about a blind person, dealing with his disciples indirectly while healing this man directly. See, He's really got two audiences here that He's dealing with.
Alright. Then, when the blind man gets to the authorities we see the progression in motion as he's "getting" it.
"What do you say about this man?"
"He's a prophet. There can be no doubt."
"He can't be a prophet. He healed on the Sabbath."
Jesus did this with regularity. Have you ever wondered why? I mean, the man born blind had been blind all his life. He could have waited another 12 hours. Why does Jesus deliberately heal on Shabbat? This is the question you've got to ask about Jesus.
Why is He deliberately an agent provocateur? An agent of provocation. Why is He that way? The answer is because He believes Shabbat is the perfect day to heal somebody.
After all, what does Shabbat mean? It means to cease, or to rest. What better day to give somebody rest from something that ails them? What better day to give them the sense of Shabbat Shalom? The peace of the Sabbath, than by relieving them of what ails them? It's the perfect day to give them peace and rest. Who are you kidding?
See, Jesus doesn't interpret the Sabbath as chiefly about the absence of activity. He interprets the Sabbath as chiefly about the presence of the healing of God. It's about something positive, not something negative. So He has a very different interpretation of the function of Shabbat.
He's a prophet, there can be no doubt. You know, these Jewish authorities even make the mistake of saying, "Go back and read the scriptures and you will find that no such prophet comes out of Galilee."
You see, this is part of the Judean versus Galilean debate. The truth of the matter is about Judeans that those northern prophets, the Israelite prophets, the Elijah and Elisha - they had question marks about them in Judea.
Okay - if they were prophets, how come they didn't say "thus sayeth the Lord"? Have you ever noticed that you don't have any "thus sayeth the Lord" sayings from Elijah and Elisha? They are political prophets. They are miracle working prophets. They are always meddling in politics.
But they are not like the oracular prophets from the south. They're not like Jeremiah, they're not like Isaiah, they're not like Amos. They are a different kind of breed.
Now here is where I say to you that I think that Jesus - when he was in Galilee - presented Himself as a prophet like Elijah and Elisha. It's one of the reasons you have the same kind of miracles Jesus is doing in the north that Elisha and Elijah had already done. Okay?
There was a positive feeling about Elisha and Elijah in the northern tribes and in Galilee in Jesus's day. He's playing off of that. But when He gets to Judea, He not only teaches in a different way, without parables for the most part, He not only teaches in a different way, He does miracles in a different way. Because He has a different audience here.
He gives sight to this blind man. He says go to the pool that's called "Sent" - Siloam - and wash your face.
The second thing that happens to this man when he's in front of the authorities is they keep asking him, "How did He cure you of your blindness?"
"I have already told you. Perhaps you, too, wish to become his disciple."
You have to have some chutzpah to do that. I mean, He's knowing the expulsion from the synagogue is coming, so He might as well get his nickel's worth in now. You know? "I'm going to get it in now. I'm going to muster up my courage. Here I go. You boys don't know what you're talking about. This guy has got to be somebody good. God doesn't honor a man. He doesn't honor a sinner with the great gift of giving sight to the blind. An unknown miracle otherwise. Without this man having come from God He could not do a thing."
You see, at that point you say "Yahtzee." He finally got it right. Nobody else in the narrative has gotten it right yet. He figured out He came from God.
What does the beginning of the Gospel of John say? "In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God and it came from God and took on flesh. He's the incarnation of the Word of God, and the blind man had this moment of illumination while he was arguing, and he said, "This man came from God."
That's the right answer. But you see, the story is still not over. Do you notice that Jesus never performs miracles in order to make Messianic hay out of them? All of his miracles are acts of compassion. There is never a single miracle that He performs where He does it for the sake of proving who He is.
Not once does He do a miracle simply to say, "Look, I'm going to demonstrate to you that I've got the Almighty power and I am the Grand Poobah, therefore I'm going to use this poor man as an illustration that I am a great guy."
He never does that. All of His miracles are acts of compassion. It's not His main task to perform miracles. So what happens is, of course, this man is expelled. You notice his parents weren't quite ready to pass the buck. You did notice that, right?
"Ask him, he's old enough. You can ask him for himself. Oy vay! We'd like to keep going to the synagogue and being with our friends." Okay?
Yes, okay. This is the "Here I am, Lord. Take my son." You know? One of those deals.
After the fact, Jesus goes and finds this man. He doesn't find Jesus; Jesus finds him. Did you notice that? Jesus sought him out because He wanted to elevate his understanding of who Jesus was to a level that amounted to a confession of who He really was.
Here is the only time in the gospels or anywhere else in the New Testament where somebody asked the question, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" This is the only place it happens. The blind man is just as honest as the day is long.
"Sir, tell me who He isn't, that I may believe in him."
Jesus gives the same answer He gave to the Samaritan woman: "You're looking at Him."
"You're looking at Him." That would be "moi". Say moi - it's me. That's exactly what He says.
And the man born blind falls on his knees and gives a far more adequate confession of who Jesus is than has occurred previously in this gospel because we're heading not only for the crescendo of the miraculous work, heading for the crescendo of the confessions.
The greatest confession, of course, comes from Thomas, who falls on his knees like the blind man falls on his knees and confesses Jesus to be "my Lord and my God" and for the first time in this gospel, a human being has confessed what the prologue already told us. He's God.
So we have a crescendo not only to the miraculous, we have a crescendo of confessions. This confession of Jesus as Son of Man is well on the way to that great Christian confession that He is Lord and God.
What we have here is the Book of Signs. Seven striking miracles only one of which - these two really - that are combined in the synoptics are parallel to the synoptics, otherwise this one, this one, this one, this one, this one - not found in Matthew, Mark or Luke at all.
But that's not the end of the story, is it? We have these long, internal discourses in John 13-17. We have the Farewell Discourses. We have the internal teachings of Jesus, called the Book of Glory. It goes from 13:1 to 20:30-31. Then you have the epilogue in chapter 21.
Now, what I'd like to deal with in that whole segment is just one aspect of it. I want to deal with the paracletos. I want to deal with what Jesus says these of verses about the Holy Spirit, because it's important.
Just so you will know, what I think is going on in John 13-17 is that that first meal, where there is the foot washing, I don't think that's the last supper. I think it's a meal earlier in the week, and that's what the Greeks suggest. The Greeks suggest that this meal was taken several days before the Passover, so not Thursday [coughing] night.
So I think the foot-washing episode is one episode and it's not a surprise that in John, in that story we don't have "this is my body, this is my blood", now do we? It's not there in John 13. I think this is a meal earlier in the week at the house of Lazarus.
I think there is a last supper that takes place later and what our author has done, is he's conflated the two stories, so the beginning of chapter 13 is about the meal that's earlier in the week and then he throws in the Judas bit, so that we will know where the story is going to go at the end. It's really a conflation of two of the meals that happen that week.
But the teaching that's important in John 14 and following has got a lot of dimensions to it, but what we want to focus on is the paracletos. Turn with me to John 14.
Here is the Greek word: Paracletos. I once saw a church sign at a Bible church that said, "Holy Spirit - Paraclete or Parakeet?"
I thought, "No, that doesn't really work."
The spirit is called Paracletos. We're looking at chapter 14, beginning with verse 25.
"I have said these things to you while I am still with you, but the Paracletos, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you."
Now, lets deal with the translation of the word first. Paracletos - comforter is not a good translation. It's the old translation that goes all the way back to Tindal, I think. But it's not a good translation because this is a legal term.
Remember when I talked to you about the disciples being Jesus's agent? Well, the Holy Spirit is Jesus's secret agent. In fact, there is another way to put this. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is presented as the agent or apostle of the Father and the spirit is the agent or apostle of the Son.
Now remember what I said to you about agency. The one that you sinned doesn't have independent authority, doesn't have independent power. He has power and authority as that which has been given to him and he has a very specific commission.
Remember that? It seems like 20 days ago, but if you remember that, okay - well it's good.
Well, the Holy Spirit is being presented here as Jesus's agent; as His Shaliach; as His apostle who comes and, if you will, continues to carry out the mission of Jesus. It is not the job of the Holy Spirit to generate entirely new revelations. It's the job of the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth about what Jesus has already said.
So, listen again to what it says here: "I have said these things to you while I am still with you, but the advocate" - best translation would be advocate; not counselor, not comforter - advocate. It's a legal term. A Paracletos is a legal advocate.
"But the advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you everything."
Notice this next verb, very crucial in the Greek: "He will remind you of all that I have said to you."
You see, the major job of his is to bring it to mind what you have already been taught.
"Beware of a person who comes up to you and says the Holy Spirit told me, when you know perfectly well that this is something Jesus would never tell you."
Beware. Beware of that. My first instinctive reaction to people that have done that to me is, "Okay, why didn't the Holy Spirit tell me?"
Since it was for me, and I have the Holy Spirit in my life, how come he isn't talking to me? That's the first question I'm going to ask.
"The Holy Spirit will come and remind you of the things that I've taught you."
Now, actually you can see this at work. Turn with me just for a second to John 2. [chuckles] This is so powerful at verse 21 of John 2, right after the story of Jesus cleansing the temple.
It says this: "Jesus was speaking of the temple of His body. The next verse says: "After He was raised from the dead His disciples remembered that He said this and they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken."
What brought it to mind? The internal workings of the Holy Spirit. They remembered. The Holy Spirit is your date reminder book, friends. It's the teaching of Jesus reminder. It's the internal GPS device. That's the Holy Spirit.
Okay - that's the first place He really talks about the advocate and if we turn over to the 15th chapter we're going to hear a little bit more about the advocate, so lets look at the very end of the 15th chapter, verse 26.
It says: "Now when the advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the spirit of truth who comes from the Father, He will testify on my behalf."
You see, the spirit is Jesus's agent. He's not testifying on his own behalf. On whose behalf is he testifying? He's testifying on behalf of the one who sent him. That would be Jesus.
Jesus and the spirit are tight. You know? You aren't going to get something out of the spirit that you wouldn't get from Jesus. If it's out of character for Jesus the spirit is so not saying it. You may have gotten it from some kind of spirit, but it wasn't the Holy Spirit.
These boys agree and it's like Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. If Jesus says it, the Holy Spirit's just pronouncing the amen. That's the way it goes. The Holy Spirit may clarify, He may amplify, He may help you understand the implications of it, but basically He's just reminding you and reaffirming for you what Jesus means; the significance of the Christ event.
What He said; what he taught; what He did. He's the exegete of Jesus for you. He's the internal exegete of Jesus for you. That's the point here.
But the advocate doesn't just have an internal role in your life. He has another role - a role that of course we see in the Book of Acts - the spirit's been poured out on us so that we may do what? Proclaim the Word of God; prophesize; see visions; dream dreams, and generally share the good news with the world. That's one of the chief functions in the spirit is to give us unction to function, so that we will be empowered to proclaim and teach and heal, and do all these good things.
Well listen to what it said in chapter 16, and this begins with verse seven.
"Nevertheless, I tell you the truth. It's to your advantage that I go away for if I don't go away, the advocate will not come to you. But if I do go, I will send him to you."
You see - this is absolutely right. When agent goes on behalf of the person who sent him, it's because why? The sender is not going. You get the point? That's the way it works. When Jesus sends out the apostles, they are doing the job that Jesus would have done if He was wherever they are.
The Holy Spirit is Jesus's agent; his advocate here. So listen to what it said here at the end.
"If I had not done" - verse 26 - "When the advocate comes whom I will send to you from the Father the spirit of truth that comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf and you also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning."
So the person who gives us the ability to testify on behalf of Jesus is the Holy Spirit. By the way, the Holy Spirit is the second witness. This is why Christian missionaries don't need to go out in pairs, because they are testifying and while they are testifying if they do it truly who else is testifying? The Holy Spirit who is working behind enemy lines, working on them internally. So you have the testimony of two witnesses if you have the Holy Spirit. That would be you and the Holy Spirit.
Now, if we press on to chapter 16 and we look at verse four in following, it says: "I did not say these things to you from the beginning because I was with you."
Why do we need the Holy Spirit? Because Jesus isn't with us any more. That's why we need the Holy Spirit.
"I did not tell you of these things about the advocate from the beginning because I was with you but now I'm going to Him who sent me, and yet none of you ask me 'Where are you going?' But because I've said these things to you sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It's to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the advocate will not come to you."
Jesus has to be gone before the spirit can come. That's what we're hearing.
"And I will send him to you, and when He comes - " Listen to what He's going to do - "He will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment."
About sin because the world does not believe in me and about righteousness because I'm going to the Father and you will see me no longer. About judgment because the ruler of this world is judged.
"And I will have many things to say to you, but you can't bear them just now. But when the spirit of truth comes He will guide you into all truth for He will not speak on His own behalf but He will speak whatever He hears from me."
Hello? Now, see, this is one of the real problems in the whole Pentecostal Tradition because they don't take seriously this teaching. So, almost anything can pass for a Word of God, now inspired, a late Word from God, when in fact it needs to go through the sieve and the sifting and the testing of, "Does this word comport with Jesus? Does it comport with the teaching of Jesus? It is a natural extension of the teaching of Jesus. Is it in character with Jesus?"
I mean, those kinds of questions that you have to ask. Why do I say this? Because we have teachings like the following from Pentecostals. Unless you speak in tongues you're not a Born Again Christian. You're not a spirit-filled Christian.
Well, you know what? That's absolutely false. It's not a Biblical idea at all, and it didn't come to them from the Holy Spirit, either because it's not Jesus's view. Paul is perfectly clear at the end of First Corinthians 12.
He says: "Not all prophesy do that." He's addressing Christians. What's the proper answer to this? "No, not all speak in tongues, do they?" What's the proper answer to this rhetorical question? "No." And anybody who knows anything about rhetoric knows that when you have a Greek sentence that begins with the words "may not" and involves a double negative, the only possible answer to the question is "no".
Paul doesn't believe that everybody has been given the gift of speaking in tongues. He doesn't even necessarily believe that everybody ought to have the gift of speaking in tongues. It's not the litmus test of whether you are a spirit-filled person or not. This is not a Biblical idea. It's not a teaching of Jesus. Yes?
Man 3: Can you confirm that absolutely, because I was raised in the Pentecostal church. My mother, God bless her, is still Pentecostal, and she has never - I don't - she never said it, but I don't think she ever fully believes that I am saved because I have never spoken in tongues.
Man 3: And I have heard her speak in tongues. Yes. She's wonderful. I'm not criticizing, but that is just part of her belief system.
Well, I understand, and my point is, that whenever you have an idea - I'm using this as an example - whenever you have an idea that's not kosher, that doesn't comport with something Jesus Himself taught, or is a logical implication of what He said and did and who He was and what He taught - whenever you have an idea that sets up some kind of spiritual pecking order in the church so that "x" is more spiritual than "y" you should be profoundly suspicious of this because it's not the way it works.
Paul says in First Corinthians 12: "By one spirit we were all baptized into one body and from that same one spirit we all are given to drink."
That is, everybody gets the Holy Spirit at conversion. You know? It's a package deal. You get Jesus, you get the Spirit, you get the relationship with the Father - all in one fell swoop.
Now, you can have subsequent conversion, crisis experiences, other kinds of spiritual experiences, but in none of those experiences are you getting the Holy Spirit for the first time.
Here's where I talk to you about the doctrine of the spirit for a minute. The Holy Spirit is a person. It's not a quantity of water. It's not electrical current. The Holy Spirit is a person. You can no more have a little bit of the Holy Spirit in your life than you can be a little big pregnant.
If the Holy Spirit is in your life, you have the Holy Spirit in your life. It's just like having Jesus in your life. The spirit is a person. So, the language about being filled with the spirit in English should simply be translated and inspired by the spirit somebody sang or said or did, this, that and the other.
It has nothing to do with getting more of the spirit. It has nothing to do with, "Well, poor Dan. He's got 30 percent of the spirit. He needs about 50 percent." You know? Today he's getting another 20 percent and he'll feel ever so much better. You know, more healed, more illuminated, clearer in his teaching and preaching. This is grand.
Nothing like that in the scriptures. It has nothing to do with it. While we're at it, the Greek phrase, "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" doesn't exist in the New Testament. That noun phrase doesn't exist in the New Testament.
The closest you get is first Corinthians 12, the verse I quoted. By one spirit we are all - all of us - baptized into the one body and every single one of us has been given the fount of living waters, the spirit from which we drink.
That's true of every Christian. There is no such thing as a no-charismatic Christian. There is no such thing as a non-Holy Spirit Christian. There just isn't such a person. Period. Exclamation point.
Now, you can have a second blessing, a third blessing, a fourth blessing, a tenth blessing after conversion and God bless you. You know when people - you know, in the Wesleyan tradition they believe in going on to perfection. They believe in an entire sanctification. People ask me, you know, "Have you received the second blessing? And did - no - Do you believe in the second blessing?" I say, "Sure. I believe in as many blessings as God wants to give me because He needs to keep working on me." You know?
I'm a work in progress, like Ruth Graham, you know? I'm a Christian under construction and I don't think I've arrived, and you know what? Paul says that even he hadn't arrived, writing one of his latest letters in Philippians, but I press on to the goal.
I have certainly experienced the perfect love of God in my life that casts out all fear. But experiencing the perfect love of God in my life doesn't make me perfect. I'm just saying... I've still got room for improvement, you know?
So it's one thing to say I have experienced, truly, the perfect love of God that has cast out all fear from my live. I mean, it's one of the things that has allowed me to go all over the world to a lot of dangerous places and share the gospel, because the love of God is in my life and I'm okay. Right? It doesn't make me a perfect person.
What I want to say based on this teaching about the Holy See, first of all, I believe in all the spiritual gifts. I, myself, have spoken in tongues. I'm good with that. I don't have a problem with that. I'm not for bad theology about speaking in tongues. That's my problem. My ordination in the United Methodist Church was delayed because they found out I was a charismatic Christian. [chuckling] And that scared them.
Yes, you know, the Holy Ghost can scare people. I was in Germany. I was in Germany in an old school Lutheran church. They were still using the old lectionary and the old liturgy book from the old Fraktur script in German. We got to the point of reciting the Apostles' Creed and we were all standing up. There was a site in the Apostles' Creed and you know, I was saying, "I believe in der Vater, die Sohn, in die helig Spuk." [giggling]
"Spuk" is the German word for ghost. That's where we get the word spook from. Did you know that? I just cracked up. I've just affirmed, you know, my faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spook. Okay. That's goodbye me. You know? I always did believe in the Holy Spook. I'm alright with that.
I believe in the Holy Spirit. I don't believe the gifts of the spirit died with the apostles. I don't think that there is any basis for that theology whatsoever. But I do think that you need to view the work of the spirit in a Biblical way. That's what I would really want to stress to you.
You need both the wineskins and the wine. You need both the intellectual part of your faith that give form and shape and cognitive content to it, and you need the new wine of the work of the Spirit in your life.
Experience without understanding is like wine without wineskins. Understanding without experience is like wineskins without wine. It's dead orthodoxy. And that's not what God called us to; not either one of those things, for sure.
He wants head and heart to go hand in hand. He wants us to understand that the spirit is Christ's secret agent operating behind enemy lines and within us. He's the invisible one who reminds us of the teachings of Jesus, and through us, the spirit convicts, convinces and converts the world. The three Cs. Spirit convicts, convinces and converts the world. Convicts the world of sin.
You know, it's hard doing that without condemning the world. Crossing the line between convicting and condemning is difficult. How do you convict somebody of sin without them feeling condemned?
This is what the text says. "When the Spirit of Christ comes He will guide you into all truth. He won't speak on His own. He will speak whatever He hears and He will declare to you the things that are to come." So the Spirit does speak about the future. There is no doubt about that. When that Spirit comes He's going to convict the world about sin because they don't believe in me about righteousness because I'm going to the Father. And about judgment because the ruler of this world has been condemned. Hear me dear friends, the good news is, the ruler of this world is already condemned. He's on a short leash.
"We stand," as Oscar Cullman said, "between D-Day and VE-Day. The great D-Day invasion has already happened."
The forces of Jesus are already taking captive every thought for Christ. Don't give the devil too much credit. He's a man on the run.
When we get to the Book of Revelations you will see that there is a three-fold fall of Satan. He falls from heaven to earth; from earth to the pit; and from the pit to the lake of fire. He's on his way down. He's on his way out. And Christians should be the last people that give the devil too much credit.
Now I have already talked to you about demon possession. This is not something happens to somebody who has the Lord Jesus Christ in their life. You can be bothered, bewitched and bewildered by the powers of darkness from outside of your soul, but unless you willingly choose to be possessed, it's so not happening because Jesus is Lord of your life and He's bigger than any group of demons that can come on you.
He's more powerful than any powers of darkness that might threaten you. All you need to do, as Martin Luther said, is name the name of Jesus. One little word will fell him. That's it.
We don't need deliverance ministries of people who are already Christians. What we especially don't need to do is demonize all the things that go wrong in our life. That was demon of allergy. That was a demon of dust. This was a demon of bad driving.
I've actually heard Christians do this. I've had a student who was driving one of the other professor's car and he wrecked. He said, "The devil made me do it!" He was like Flip Wilson, you know?
I said, "Okay, Sam. Who's in control of your life? Do you believe in Jesus? Is the Holy Spirit in your life?"
"Uh-huh. Then I don't think the devil made me do it."
I'm thinking you need to take ethical responsibility for your behavior because what the New Testament does over and over again with Christians is force Christians to take responsibility for their own actions and to live without excuses, because you have Jesus and the Father and the Spirit in your life and you're supposed to live without excuses.
I mean, my goodness. Paul says, "No temptation has overcome you. That's not common to humanity such with the temptation, you have an adequate means of escape."
Now, I grant you that when some preachers say flee sin we flee but leave a forwarding address. That does happen. I'll tell you one more story about that.
Darlington, Maryland - two farms just on the edge of town, it's summertime, children are playing in the woods next to these two farms. They come out of the woods holding little critters. One of the mothers is in the back yard. She sees this - a true story - and she thinks, "Well they found a litter of kittens. How neat."
The kids go in the front door of the house. They are going to play with them in the parlor. She goes in the back door. She's looking through the kitchen door into the parlor. They are all sitting in a little circle. Each of the five kids have a little black and white wriggly thing. Until she realizes that there is a white stripe down the back of the black and white little tiny, wriggly things.
Then she says, "Children! Skunks! Run!"
At which point each child picks up a skunk and runs.
Now, that's very true about us. The preacher warns about sin so we pack up our bag of sin and take it with us to the next place we're going. This is what we do.
You know the old saying: Wherever you go there you are. You can't escape yourself. That's the truth. The Holy Spirit has a job of revealing to us progressively the areas in our life that need more sanctification.
I believe in progressive sanctification and it's often an "uh-oh" moment when the Spirit says, "You know, Ben, this bit is 15 degrees shy of plum. We need to straighten that out. That's a little squirrelly and not so good."
The Holy Spirit has that job. The Holy Spirit is what illuminates your conscience. The Holy Spirit is the one who says to you, "If you can't do it in faith you shouldn't be doing it."
Whatever is not faith is sin for you. Whatever you can't do in good faith. The Holy Spirit is the one who gives you that insight. Yes?
Man 4: You use the word "possession" when speaking of Agamemnon.
Man 4: I'm wondering if the New Testament has something that would be more of an influence, or under the influence, or something that's manifestation we hear in evangelicalism.
Man 4: Something that does not control. It's something that comes up.
Yes. I like to say Christians can be bewitched, bothered and bewildered by the powers of darkness. They can be misled. Yes, that's true. But that force is coming at them from outside of themselves.
And one of the things I would want to stress to you is, especially if you're a counseling student, my goodness, you need to learn the difference between genuine mental illness and spiritual problems. There is a difference, you know. A bipolar person is not necessarily a demon-possessed person. A schizophrenic person is not necessarily somebody who has seven demons in their life, or whatever. One of the things I think that we have to be aware of doing is over-spiritualizing our discourse about some things that can simply be normal human problems.
I just would urge us to be careful about how - Look at the New Testament. After you get past the gospels and a bit in Acts, do we hear anything about exorcisms? Nothing. Nothing. Nothing in Paul's letters about exorcisms. Zip; zero; nada. Nothing in the Johanan epistles; nothing in the Petrine epistles; nothing in Jude; nothing in James; nothing in Hebrews; nothing in the Book of Revelation at all.
So what we need to do is not judge our situation as if it were the same as the situation during the time of the life of Jesus before the spirit came; before Christ entered our hearts. We need to not make the mistake of taking the gospel situation, which was transitional, as the same as the church age because it's not.
I would say that the role of Satan and the powers of darkness in the church age is different than it was during the time of Jesus because the cross has stripped them. Ephesians says Christ has led captivity captive. Colossians says that on the cross either He stripped himself - there are two ways to read Colossians here. He stripped himself of the powers of principalities or he stripped them of their authority.
I think it's B rather than A. I don't think He's busy shedding demons like flies. I think He's talking about stripping them of their power and authority. So I think we're in a different spiritual situation than Mary Magdalene was during the ministry of Jesus.
I think we need to take that into account. We need to take into account greater is He who is in us than these powers in the world. This is the main thing I would want us to take account of.
Therefore, what that means is that you need to not slough off your sins and mistakes on the devil. Take responsibility for your own actions as a Christian. This is what the New Testament universally would urge us to do. Not making excuses. Living without excuses. I think one of the things that has happened to evangelical discourse is we have over-demonized the discourse. I think that is not entirely helpful to help people deal with the real problems they have in life.
Am I saying that demons can't pester Christians? No, I'm not saying that. I'm simply saying they have no authority to do so, and unless you give them permission, they are not going to have the power to bother you. You would have to be dancing with the devil. Now that does sometimes happen, but it's not inherently a problem. Yes?
Man 5: Steve Robbins has done a lot of teaching where he's talking about demonic attacks -
Man 5: - upon us which I think is what you're saying -
Man 5: - but that is possible -
Man 5: - it is not the possession -
Man 5: - taking over, sort of thing, but I do agree with Steve and probably with you that spiritual warfare does go on.
Yes, I think it does, but what I'd say is it's a rear guard action. The devil is on the way out the door. Were the Nazis still dangerous in 1945? Yes, they were, but they were on the way down, and it was inevitable that they were going down.
Listen for example to what First Peter 3 says. First Peter 3 is talking about Jesus visiting the spirits in prison which are not human beings; these are fallen angels.
First Peter 3:18-20 says, "For Christ also suffered for sins once for all" - notice the word "all" there - "Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh and made alive by the Spirit in which also He went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison who in former times did not obey when God waited patiently in the day of Noah."
He's talking about Genesis 6:1-4. He's talking about when the sons of God came down and mated with the daughters of human beings. He's talking about fallen angels, is what he's talking about. He's talking about Christ going in proclaiming victory over them on Hs way to heaven.
And this is because they believed that the powers and principalities were up in the air, not down on the ground. They were the powers of the heavenlies. They were the heavenly hosts, if you will, and Christ on His way to heaven is proclaiming victory over them.
The same story comes up in second Peter and even in Jude, in second Peter, chapter 2 you're hearing about the same thing, verse four of chapter 2 of second Peter, "For God did not spare the angels when they sin, but cast them into Tartarus -" that's the spiritual prison or holding cell - "and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment.
Again, it's the same story, Genesis 6:1-4 is the background to that. Or, in Jude, which is way on down yonder in the canon, right? Before Revelation. In Jude we hear again the exact, same story. Verse six of Jude, which doesn't have chapters, "And the angels who did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling, He has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgment of the great day."
We're being told that some of these powers of darkness are already in jail. That's the point of all of this. Okay? They are not running around willy-nilly. Jesus has already proclaimed the victory over them.
The passage in First Peter 3 is Christus Victor. Christ is the victor over these spirits of darkness that are now in Tartarus; in chains. In Tartarus, being held under wraps. That doesn't necessarily apply to all the powers and principalities, but the point is, that in principle, Jesus already has the victory. That's the principle, and that principle we need to apply.
Now, what you hear in Revelation 20 is that the same fate happens to Satan that happened to these naughty angels. In Revelation 20 we're told that a big dog angel comes and throws Satan into this same prison, holding cell, and seals over the top so that during the millennium the world can not be deceived. by Satan.
Well, we're not there yet. Satan is still out there deceiving people. He's still out there like a roaring lion, looking for somebody to prey upon. That's absolutely true. We are in an already and not yet situation. The point is, not to over-emphasize the already or the not yet, either in terms of our salvation or in terms of our spiritual danger.
There is a balance between already and not yet and you need to get that right. The Gospel of John reassures us that we have the advocate. We have the Holy Spirit in our life who convicts and convinces and converts.
Michelle: The other "b" word: bondage.
Michelle: What can you speak to -
Yes, I don't think that happens to Christians, but you see I'm a person who believes in the possibility of apostasy. I believe Christians can commit apostasy, both moral and intellectual apostasy, and that person, I think, who is now outside of the will of God, could come under bondage. Could be possessed.
My own ministry has suggested that that's a very rare and unusual circumstance, you know? Honestly I can't say I've met a whole lot of people that committed apostasy. I think I know a few. I would say that as long as a person is a genuine Christian person, not a non-Christian, not someone who has rebelled against Christ and repudiated the gospel, but still loves Jesus and may be a troubled Christian who is struggling with some sin, but that's - We've all been there, done that and have a tee shirt, right?
Then, those persons are not in bondage to Satan and can not be in bondage to Satan unless they invite all of that into their life, having committed apostasy. That would have to be after the Holy Spirit left the building.
Michelle: So you think the term probably has been used way too lightly and frequently?
Yes. I think we overuse the language of demonology and bondage and all of that in relation to Christian problems. I think we ought not to do that. I think it's a dangerous thing to do. I do think, as I've said before, that we can be bothered, pestered, annoyed, misled by the powers of darkness that are still out there and still real. I'm not suggesting that the heavens have been evacuated of all powers of darkness. I'm not saying that at all.
I do think that the whole Frank Peretti thing and all of those things, this present darkness and all those novels go way too far in trying to describe our actual spiritual situation at this point in time. It's not helpful or healthy.
See, we already live in a climate where fear, rather than faith, is ruling our judgments. What we don't need to be doing is further ramping up the fear. Unfortunately, preachers are good at this, you know. I believe in faith factor, not fear factor.
One of the ways people most ramp up fear is when they start talking about you having a demon of this and you having a demon of that. That just scares the pants off of people. Then they start acting irrationally and not coherently. Then you have to do pastoral counseling with them to help them recover from the bad theology.
Ron: Change of subject, just a little bit. If you were looking for justification that Jesus heals through the forgiveness of sins, would any of these seven, in the Book of John, fall in that category?
Jesus, yes, heals through the forgiveness of sins. Yes, I wouldn't say any of these stories are about that except the woman caught in adultery. I think that story is about that. But you see, her problem was not a sickness, it was a moral problem, which is not the same as a sickness.
Now we've looked at the four gospels. We've dealt with some of the important issues. We've struggled with the structure. We've asked the question of genre. We have dealt with the fact that we've got three ancient biographies and one historical monograph, Luke/Acts. What I want to do now, is one more time I might want to walk through and give you more particulars about the structure of the four gospels to help you get the big picture one more time. Okay?
So, first of all, we dealt with Mark and I told you that the first half of Mark was all about questions.
Mark 1: "What is this?" the crowd asks. "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" ask the scribes.
Mark 2: "Why does He have to eat with the sinners?" You can hear the scribes whining now. "Why does he have to eat with the sinners?" You know?
Mark 2:24: "Why are disciples doing what is not lawful?" The Pharisees. The real criticism is of Jesus, of course.
Mark 4:41: "Who then is this that even wind and wave obey him?" This is the "duh-sciples". You know, who watch Him still the storm on the Sea of Galilee and still don't get it. The interesting thing about that, if you've ever been to the Sea of Galilee it's in a kind of bowl, surrounded by hills.
Wind can come up very rapidly and disappear very rapidly in this little bowl lake. Okay? But once you've had a storm, the waters remain choppy for a long time. What scared the pants off of these good old fisherman is that not only did the wind stop like that, which could happen, right? What scared the pants off of them is that the water went flat. That gave them a clue that something supernatural had just happened here.
"Who then is this that even wind and water obey Him?"
Right? Well, then the answer, of course, is this is somebody divine.
Mark 6:2: "Where did this man get his wisdom?" The hometown folks - they don't get it.
Mark 7:5: "Why do your disciples not live by the tradition?"
Mark 7:37 could be a question: "Has He not done all things well? He even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak," the crowd is speaking.
So, the first half of the Gospel of Mark, the who questions and the related, correlated questions are being asked, and then the who question is answered in Mark 8:27-30.
The Caesarea Philippi moment - we went over that in detail. Right? Okay.
Then, and only then, can Jesus reveal why He has to go to the cross. The mission statement doesn't come in Mark 1. The mission statement "I am the man born to die" comes in Mark 8, 9 and 10. The chief reason He came was to die for sins; to be a ransom for men. So, in Mark 8:31 and 9:31 and 10:32-34 - it's easy to remember those because they are almost in the parallel place in all three of these chapters - He says the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected and killed and on the third day rise.
Now here's the interesting bit. In none of his Passion predictions does he say, "The Son of Man must be crucified." Now this is just a personal thing, I think that it's probably not until he gets to the Garden of Gethsemane that he realizes that the way He's going to be killed is crucifixion, because what He would normally assume is that He would be stoned.
He almost was stoned a couple of times, you know. That was the punishment for blasphemy. That's what he would probably have assumed as a prophetic figure, so when you get to the Garden of Gethsemane and He realizes that he's going to be executed in a way that Jewish people will see as a curse of God on Him, He says, "Let this pass."
He's not quailing in the prospect of death in general. He just would prefer not to experience a form of death that will be evaluated as the most shameful way to die and a sign of God's judgment on His life and His ministry. That's the problem in the Garden Gethsemane, I think.
So the Passion predictions say "Kill and on the third day rise" and then of course there is a fourth prediction, right at the end of Mark 10:45. "The Son of Man didn't come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for the many."
Just a little exegesis of that one verse. It's the one substituted for the many. So, that verse is not saying Jesus died for some but not all. The contrast is between the one and the many, not between the many and the all. See what I'm saying? The one died for the many.
Maybe you've never thought about this, but Jesus is the one person for whom Jesus did not need to die. That's right. That's how He could be the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He was the unblemished one who didn't give way to temptation. He was like us in every respect save without sin, so He could be the one who died for everyone else who is the many.
So here is the structure. Who and why questions answered at 8:27: "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God."
That answer matches up with Mark 1:1 which says this is the beginning of the good news about Jesus the Son of God. Then the mission statement is given, 8:31, 9:31, 10:31, 10:45.
Then we have mission accomplished. The Passion narrative, a description of how He accomplished the chief reason He came to earth, which was to die for our sins. So that's what we've got in Mark. We've gone over this.
Now, here we have Matthew and today I would say that I don't think that there are just five discourses, I think there are six because I think Matthew 23 is a separate discourse from the apocalyptic one in 24 and 25. Okay?
So I'm saying today, in revision of this, that there are actually six discourses and we've talked about how Matthew gave us six discourses of Jesus in contrasting to only five books of Moses.
I talked to you about how Matthew groups things topically. This a topical grouping of the teachings of Jesus. We have the Sermon on the Mount which is kind of Jesus's greatest hits. Then we have a discourse largely about discipleship, then parables of the kingdom. We have a discourse largely about issues of forgiveness and humility and then we are going to deal with woes and blessings and then finally on eschatology, the apocalyptic discourse in 24 and 25.
So what Matthew has done is taken the Markan outline and integrated into it these blocks of teaching. Okay? And as I said to you before, this is a theological schema. I mean, Jesus did not go one week simply teaching and the next week simply healing. You know? The teachings have been grouped together for pedagogical purposes.
So here is the overall structure. It goes like this: After the birth narratives you have narrative, then you have teaching; you narrative, then you have teaching; you narrative, then you have teaching; you narrative, then you have teaching; you narrative, then you have teaching. It just goes back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. That's the way Matthew's gospel is actually structured.
The overall impression is way more teaching material than in Mark. Way more. Clearly this is a gospel that's meant to disciple people with.
Luke is a historian and he is operating according to the theories of ancient historiography in regard to how to use sources. Alright? So I told you that when Luke structures Luke/Acts, he's going to follow the precedent that historians used.
And how did they work? They assembled their sources and they would go from one source to another, to another, to another, to another, and that's exactly what he does. After the birth narratives, again you have a Markan block of teaching, then you have a non-Mark, then you have Mark, then you have non-Mark, then you have Mark, then you have non-Mark, then you have Mark, and then you have the Passion narrative.
He's going back and forth between his two main sources in regard to what happened during the ministry of Jesus. That's the way he structures his gospel.
Then, of course, there is the fourth gospel which we just finished looking at. There is a prologue. There is an epilogue, and then there is the Book of Signs and the Book of Glory.
Now, I want us to finish with a bang, so we're going to deal with my very favorite Johanan story here at the - [music crescendoing] [music ends]
Nothing happens by accident in the fourth gospel; nothing at all. The only two places a charcoal fire is mentioned in the Gospel of John is in the courtyard of the high priest Caiaphas where Peter warmed his hands and denied Christ three times. And right here where he is restored three times by Jesus.
Those two stories were meant to be read together; the three-fold denial and the three-fold affirmation. The story resonates with a lot of earlier stories. You know the famous story from Luke 5 where there is a miraculous catch of fish and Peter suddenly realizes that in his midst is Jesus, somebody who is more than an ordinary teacher and says, "Lord, get away from me. I am a sinner."
This story is kind of like that. He is re-commissioning Him to be a fisher of human beings again. He's starting over from scratch. You will notice that He doesn't call him Caiaphas, He calls him by his proper name, not his new nickname. He calls him Simon; Simon, son of John. Simon bar Jonah. He is starting over from scratch with Peter.
Now scholars have debated what to make of verse 15, 16, 17, 18, 19. I don't think anything happens by accident. The question that Jesus asks Peter first is, "Simon, do you agapeo me more than these?" This is what the Greek literally says, okay?
I think there is a playing off of agapeo versus phileo here. I'll get to that in a minute.
Agapeo is God's love; unconditional love; grace-filled love; more than merely human love. You with me now?
Phileo is brotherly love, or sisterly love. Okay?
Jesus asks Peter, "Do you agapeo me?" Peter replies, "I phileo you." I love you like a brother. That's not what Jesus asked. That's why He keeps asking.
The second thing to notice about verse fifteen is that Jesus is saying, "Simon, Son of John, do you love me more than these?" is ambiguous. What does "more than these" mean? Does it mean, "Do you love me more than these other disciples love me?" Does it mean, "Do you love me more than you love them?" Does it mean, "Do you love me more than you love these things, like fishing with your buddies?"
It could be any one of those three things. I think He is indeed asking him, "Do you love me more than you love them?" He's asking, "Do you love me more than you love your brothers?"
And Peter's answer is inadequate.
"Yes, Lord, you know I love you like a brother."
That won't do after Easter. That won't do. Yet, Jesus re-commissions him, starting small. He says to him, "Vos que ta arnia vous."
Vos que means what, you Greek scholars? "Feed my little lambs." Start small. Teach first grade Sunday school first. [coughing] Okay?
Jesus asks him a second time, Deuteron, Simon, Son of John, "Agapeo mei?" "Do you love me with the true, divine love?"
And again Peter says, "Lord, you know that I phileo you." "You know that I love you like a brother. Why are you asking me?"
He's not getting the point.
Jesus says, "Poi mane ta pro bato mu." That is, "Tend my adult sheep." Okay? The second stage in the re-commissioning.
One last time Jesus asks him, now get this, because this is powerful, this will preach.
"Okay, Peter. I'm going to try one more time. Do you at least love me like a brother?"
And he breaks down. He says, "I do. And why are you asking, because you already know? You know my heart."
You see, Jesus condescended to the level of the love He was prepared to give. And that's powerful. He takes us where we are. He takes what we have to give. He multiplies our little old loaves of fishes.
It's hard to give a completely unselfish love to anybody; a completely selfless love to anybody. I reckon the only person who has ever done that perfectly was Jesus.
Yes, we have moments of self-sacrifice in our life. There are some of us who are less narcissistic than others as Christians, but as C.S. Lewis once said, "I can hardly crawl one inch outside my mortal shell. Like a Greek parrot talks of love, I can talk of love," says Lewis. "But I thank you," says Lewis, "that the bridge that I have been building to you is breaking so that you can build a bridge to me with your love."
This is not about a reciprocity exchange. I love you, therefore you need to love me back. This is about being so transfigured by the agapeo love of God that suddenly we become something we weren't before. Really self-sacrificing.
It's such a powerful story, and Peter doesn't get it all yet. You can tell that from the sequel. What about him? This is not about him. It's not about keeping up with the Joneses or the beloved disciples of this world.
"This is about you, and me," says Jesus. "And you're going to have the great honor of dying like I died," says Jesus to Peter.
It's such a powerful story. It's our story, because if there is one disciple with which we ought to be able to identify, who is most clearly portrayed and most fully portrayed in all of the gospels, it is Simon Peter. He is every man. He is us. He is me. I think that's why every time I see that story I cry. [sniffing] Because Jesus is asking me those questions. And when you really think of how many times you haven't given Him your best, how you have fallen short of the glory of God, how you compromised or have been selfish. How you thought that you were in the bless me club when really, Jesus was calling you to be a blessing to others. Not just a container of blessings.
It's easy to say, as Peter did that first time in the boat, "Get away from me. I'm a sinner and I am not worthy of your love. There but for the grace of God."
Here is the good news. It's a terrible thing to swear to God that you don't know the Son of God and Peter did that. He swore an oath to God that he didn't know Jesus. There could hardly be anything more horrible than that. Even Judas's betrayal wasn't that. [sighing] Yet Jesus forgave him. He not only forgave him, he re-commissioned him. He reinstalled him. He said, "Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep."
A three-fold re-commissioning like the three-fold denial. He is saying to you today, "Do you really love me? [music begins] If you do, with every call comes the commission. Feed my sheep." (music crescendos]