Text: John 5-11
What do you think of Jesus? Many people, respecting that Jesus founded one of the world’s major belief systems, yet not completely comfortable with the Christian’s worship of him as God, try to find a safe middle ground when it comes to Jesus. He was a great teacher, they’ll say. He taught us how to live and the golden rule and all that, but he certainly wasn’t trying to get everyone to worship him as God. If we followed his teachings, then we’d see what a great man he was. Like Buddha or Martin Luther King. While I’m not going to say that I don’t think Jesus was a great man, it is important as we study the book of John to understand Jesus as he is presented. In chapters 5-11 of John’s gospel, the life of Jesus is presented through a series of miraculous events and interactions with crowds of people. In these 7 chapters, Jesus makes seven astonishing claims about himself, that we need to understand in order to gain perspective on the meaning of his life and his teachings. Sometimes these are referred to as the “I am” statements of John. These are significant for us because we believe that He still is.
I Am Worker: In chapter 5, Jesus goes up to Jerusalem for a feast. While there, he healed a lame man and told him to take up his mat and walk. This third sign of Jesus causes much controversy, for it happened on the Sabbath, a day in which it was forbidden for the Jews to do any work. When the Jews accused him of breaking their law, he said to them, in John 5:17, “My Father is working until now, and I am working." John explains the significance of Jesus’ statement to us in the next verse: This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. But God doesn’t need to observe the Sabbath because he’s God! Jesus was explicitly claiming that he was God and the Jews did not miss it. God works. God still works. The Sabbath was a day to rest and reflect on God, it was made for man’s sake.
I Am The Bread of Life: In Chapter 6, we find Jesus near the Sea of Galilee. There he does his fourth and fifth signs. First, he feeds thousands of people having only five loaves of barley and two fish. The astonished people wanted to cease him and make him king immediately, so he withdrew from them. His disciples left without him by boat, but in the middle of the night Jesus came to them, walking on the water. The next morning, the people got into other boats and sought after Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, Jesus scolded them, “You just follow me because you’re hungry and you want me to feed you again, I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. In verse 6:48-52 he explains:
I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."
Jesus was presenting himself as nourishment from heaven, given for mankind that we might live. The metaphor that he used made his listeners uncomfortable. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they scoffed, and many left him. God nourishes.
I Am the Light of the World: In chapters 7-8, Jesus attends the Feast of Booths. Each day, while the people waved palm branches and joyfully praised God, priests would draw out water from the pool of Siloam, proclaiming Isaiah 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Every evening, four huge lamps were lit to enlighten the celebration. On the eighth day, however, no water was drawn and the main lamp was deliberately left unlit as a reminder that Israel had not yet received full salvation.It was on this eighth day that Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" As the lamp remained unlit, Jesus declared: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Jesus’ message was unmistakable: I am the salvation of Israel.God saves.
Before Abraham, I Am: In verse 8:31-32. Jesus teaches his listeners, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Immediately, the Jews countered. “We are children of Abraham and we’ve never been enslaved to anyone.” But Jesus was speaking of spiritual enslavement. Verse 34:
“Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Jesus tells them that if they were truly Abraham’s children, they would accept Jesus’ testimony about himself, for, he says, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and he was glad.” They Jews scoffed again, “You’re not even fifty years old. You’ve seen Abraham, yeah right.” In verse 58, Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." To fully appreciate the significance of what Jesus was saying to them, you must understand that “I Am” was the personal name that God had given to the Jewish people that they were to know them by. To claim God’s name of oneself would be blasphemy of the highest order. That’s why in verse 39, they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. Jesus claimed in no uncertain terms, that he himself was God alone. God is.
I am the Door and the Shepard: Jesus’ sixth sign in the book of John is the healing of a man born blind, in chapter 10. Again it created controversy as the Pharisees refused to believe in Jesus. They were the blind ones because they didn’t understand him and didn’t recognize that he was speaking God’s words. But those who did believe in him were like sheep that hear and follow their master’s voice. Jesus explains that he is the door to the sheep pen, through whom people need to enter to find life. (John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture). In verse 10:11-15 Jesus explains that he cares for the sheep:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
Here we see what kind of savior Jesus is. He’s a loving savior who cares for his sheep. God protects.
I am the Resurrection and the Life: The seventh and final sign recorded by John is by far the most dramatic. In Chapter 11, Jesus’ good friend, Lazarus, falls ill and dies. John records that Jesus intentionally did not go to Lazarus while he was ill, but waited until he was dead before going to see him.Arriving at the scene, Lazarus’ sister Martha, said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus told her that her brother would live again. Let’s pick up the story in 11:24-27:
Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
Jesus then met with her sister Mary. After showing his great compassion by weeping with her, in verse 38:
Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out." The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."
Jesus as raised the dead! He was the resurrection and the life. This miracle was an undeniable sign that Jesus was who he said he was. Verse 45 tells us that many of the Jews believed in him. God raises us to life.
The Response of the People: Throughout these chapters, as Jesus reveals who he is and why he came, John records various people’s reactions to Jesus. Initially, people such as Nicodemus in 3:2 simply regarded him as a “good teacher come from God”.Even in 7:12 we still see some people not yet sure of how to regard him: “And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, "He is a good man," others said, "No, he is leading the people astray."” Yet the more of himself that Jesus revealed to the people, the more divided people grew over him. It was no longer possible to consider him to be merely a good teacher.
In 5:18, Jesus is considered to be a law-breaker and a blasphemer.
In 8:13, Jesus is accused of being a liar, speaking untrue testimony about himself.
In 8:48, Jesus is accused of being demon possessed.
In 10:19-20, there was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, "He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?"
By the end of these eleven chapters of John’s gospel, the battle lines are drawn. Either Jesus is who he claims he is: the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the World, or he is not. If he is not, then he is either an evil man, a liar deceiving multitudes, insane, or demon possessed. John has removed the middle ground. You can’t be neutral concerning what you believe about Jesus. He is no mere good teacher. C.S. Lewis summed this tri-lemma up very clearly: He is either Lord, Liar or Lunatic. Perhaps we could add a couple of more categories: Legend or Lucifer. If the gospel presents an accurate picture of Jesus, then it is impossible to regard him as simply a good moral teacher.
Let’s look to John’s Gospel to help us sort out who Jesus truly is:
Not a legend: One very common modern accusation against the Christian faith is that Jesus did not exist or if He did exist he was very unlike the records we have of Him in the Gospels. The charge is that myths grew up around the person of Jesus until He became more than a man in the imagination of the early church. Yet John writes about Jesus not as a myth he has heard, but a man he has seen with his own eyes.
John 1:14: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John ends his gospel by giving a signed testimony about the things he has written:
John 21:24-25: This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
John also writes in the introduction to his first letter:
1 John 1:1:That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—
John testifies about Jesus as an eyewitness to history. I was there, I saw him, I heard him.
Not Lucifer: While this objection is not raised hardly at all today, it was raised in the Gospel of John: In John 8:48 and 10:19-21, Jesus is accused of being demon-possessed. Could Jesus have been demon-possessed? The gospels give us three answers:
1) Jesus honored God: John 8:49 Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.
2) Jesus that and did things demons couldn’t do: John 10:21 Others said, "These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"
3) Jesus cast out demons: In Luke 11, Matthew 12, and Mark 3, Jesus responds to this charge by saying that if he was in fact a demon, how would he be helping himself by casting out demons?
Not a Lunatic: Maybe Jesus was just a crazy man. It makes sense – some of the things he said were crazy if they weren’t true. I knew a guy once who suffered a breakdown and wasn’t getting enough sleep and for a couple of days actually believed that he was the beast in the book of revelation. Maybe this was what was going on with Jesus.
1) The miracles he did: Crazy people are easy to ignore, because they don’t do anything. This guy not only spoke as if he was God, he acted like it. I don’t care if you’re crazy or not, you’re not going to be able to walk on water or raise the dead or give sight to the blind.
2) The people closest to him believed in him most. If you’re crazy, people are going to catch on sooner or later. His disciples had a chance to leave once Jesus said his “Eat me, I’m bread” statement. But they remained because, as Peter confesses, “John 6:68-69 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."
Not a Liar: Maybe Jesus intentionally deceived people. It seems that he responded to such an accusation in John 5:31 and following: “If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true.” He then goes on to list three witness of himself to testify that He is not lying.
1) John (verses 32-35) In verse 35 Jesus chides them that they were willing to accept his testimony in the past and they should now.
2) His Works (Verses 36) If you can’t believe my word, and you won’t believe John’s word, believe the works I am doing. Again, I’ve got to be some kind of magician to raise the dead or walk on water.
3) The Father: (verses 37-44) The scriptures come from God, and they talk about me, so if you don’t believe me you are calling God a liar.
4) Moses: (45-47) He wrote the Scripture that the Jews so revere, so in a sense he is testifying on Jesus’ behalf.
He is Lord: It is therefore in fact a reasonable conclusion to come to terms with Jesus, that he was who he said he was, not merely a good man, but that He is Lord of all. He is working even now to reconcile all people to himself. He is the light of the world, bringing salvation that we all long for. He is the everlasting one, God himself come to reconcile the world to himself. He is the door keeping the evil one away from his flock. He is the shepherd who laid his life down for us. He is the resurrection and the life, giving eternal life to all who believe in him.