Day 261 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue John.
John 7 – In John 7–8, Jesus’ Christological claims grow even more dramatic, and the response of the Jews grows increasingly hostile. Nothing is as disruptive as grace. The Jews wanted to put Jesus to death. Indeed, they did put Him to death, but only at the appointed time (see 7:6) and only for God’s saving purposes (Acts 2:23–24). God’s sovereignty never sleeps. Even the most disastrous and inexplicable of events are under His wise, governing hand.
Even members of Jesus’ own family struggled with their half brother’s identity—coming to faith only after His resurrection (Mark 3:21; Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 15:7). None of us can presume upon our relationship to Jesus. It comes by grace alone through faith alone. We too, like Nicodemus, must be born from above so that we might believe from within.
In dramatic fashion, Jesus moved into the temple courts and began to teach. His words generated astonishment and rage: astonishment because of the depth of knowledge He possessed as a seemingly untrained rabbi; rage because His teaching exposed the people’s sin. At the same time His teaching further distinguished Him, His earthly authority, and His heavenly status.
The gospel of grace that comes to us because of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done in our place does not land on people in a neutral way. It is either received with joy or rejected with contempt. The gospel is the aroma of life to some and the aroma of death to others (2 Corinthians 2:15–16). There is no middle ground.
The Feast of Booths was a joyful celebration in Jerusalem. It commemorated the ingathering of the fall crops and the years the Israelites spent living in tents as they journeyed through the wilderness (Leviticus 23:33–43; Numbers 29:2–38). Two symbols—water and light—played a significant role in this high feast. During the course of the week, water was drawn from Siloam and poured upon the altar, in commemoration of the refreshing stream that had come forth miraculously out of the rock at Meribah (Exodus 17:1–7).
Jesus’ loud invitation to the thirsty was a startling, even scandalous declaration. He was claiming to be the rock that Moses struck in the wilderness—the rock from which life-sustaining water flowed (see also 1 Corinthians 10:1–4). But Jesus was also looking ahead to the day of Pentecost, when “in the last days” He would pour out His Spirit (Joel 2:28–29; Acts 2). After His ascension, the Father gave the Spirit to Jesus without limit (John 3:34), and Jesus gives us the Spirit without reservation (John 1:33)—both enabling us to believe and confirming that we do believe (Ephesians 1:13–14).
Nicodemus, who earlier sought out Jesus in the darkness, now seems ready to become His defender. While not actually making declarations of Jesus’ true status, he at least tries to slow down the plans of Jesus’ enemies. Nicodemus is not yet ready fully to declare His loyalty to Jesus, but there has been movement in his heart that will mature further in its dedication (see 19:39–42).
Though the change may come in stages, knowing Jesus ultimately changes everything about us. To borrow some phrases from an old hymn, the gospel “charms our fears” of rejection and “breaks the power” of our addiction to people’s approval. For we have, in Jesus, the approval of God Himself. He is our Father who sings over us (Zephaniah 3:17).
How has God’s grace disrupted your life?
John 8 – At the end of the first day of the Feast of Booths, four golden lamps were lit in the temple courts amid great rejoicing. Singing and celebration, with music and dancing, continued through the nights of the feast, and the entire city was illuminated by the temple lights. It is in this context that Jesus makes His startling claim to be the Light of the World.
Light is a rich Old Testament symbol. It was the first thing God created (Genesis 1:3). During the exodus, the people of God were led in their journey by a pillar of cloud and fire (Exodus 13:21–22). The psalmist taught that “the Lord is my light” (Psalm 27:1). The coming age of the kingdom would be a time when the servant of the Lord would be as “a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6), and a time when God Himself would be His people’s light (Isaiah 60:19–22; Revelation 22:5).
Jesus was boldly saying, “The promised day of light has arrived. I am the source of everlasting joy.” He is the sun by which we see all things.
The hostile reaction of the Pharisees to Jesus’ words is understandable, but rather than backing down, Jesus intensifies His claims. The accused now becomes the accuser—the witness takes the role of prosecuting attorney. Jesus is from above, they are from below; they are of this world, Jesus is not of this world. They charged Jesus with sin; they will remain in their sins unless they believe on Him.
The gospel is an unrelenting assault on graceless religion, on all the ways we try to avoid grace. It is also a powerful demonstration of the sovereignty of God. In that very unlikely moment, many believed in Jesus. God can save anyone, anytime, anywhere. He is not constrained by human intuitions about who is really “save-able.” Grace confounds our law-saturated, self-accomplishing expectations of what activates divine mercy.
Jesus promises a freedom that no one else can give based on truth that He alone possesses. As the Messiah, He has come to set prisoners free (Luke 4:16–21; Isaiah 61:1–3). True freedom can be found only in the “right paternity”: not everyone who claims Abraham as their father has God as their Father, “for not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (Romans 9:6). None can claim God as their Father who won’t have His Son as their Savior.
If our spiritual genealogy includes only our earthly heritage (as was true of the “children of Abraham” in this passage), we may be religious, but we are still spiritual orphans. True spiritual heritage requires a connection to One who existed long before Abraham, namely, Jesus: “before Abraham was, I am” (8:58). Only through the gospel can we be rescued from the dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13), where Satan is father, and be brought into the family of God, where we are given the full rights and delights of the children of God (John 1:12; Galatians 4:5; 3:1–3).
How has Jesus brought Light into your life?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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