November 17, 2019

Which Gospel Do You Believe?

Speaker:
Passage: John 10:31-42

As I do most Sundays, I want to remind you of the scope and scheme of the gospel of John. His stated purpose for writing is found in the last chapter of his gospel account: “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (Jhn 20:31) Throughout his gospel John took aim, ever so subtly, to show Jesus was the fulfillment of all things, particularly the feasts. Recall with me - Jesus pointed to himself in chapter 2, as the one who will purify and bring joy at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, then he pointed to himself at Passover as the one sacrifice for the sins of his people, and the temple which will be destroyed in 3 days and then rebuilt. In chapter 4, he offered living water to the samaritan woman. In chapter 5, he pointed to himself as the One who will bring healing to Israel, and bring life. He fed the thousands and pointed to himself as the true bread come down from heaven. John was pointing to Exodus themes in the history of Israel, and Jesus as the fulfillment. In chapter 7, Jesus points again to himself as bread and water at the Feasts of Booths. Then again as Light in that same feast. He healed a man blind from birth, symbolizing that He is the one who gives light, true spiritual light, and in doing so displayed the spiritual blindness of the pharisees. 

The last we were together in the book of John, the narrative took place at the Feast of Dedication. This is the feast where the Jews commemorate the cleansing and consecration of the temple, or dedication of the temple, after it had been desecrated some 200 years prior. Jesus, in his conversation with the Jews, reintroduced the theme of the Good Shepherd of Israel, and pointed to himself as the one lays down his life for the sheep. He calls out his sheep, they know his voice and they follow him. He has the power to protect them, for no one can pry them out of his hand. And today, as we resume John 10, we will see even more how Jesus is the temple of God, consecrated and sent into the world.

Would you stand and open your Bible to John chapter 10. Our passage today will being in verse 31, but we will read from verse 22 to the end of the chapter.

Passage: John 10:22–30

[22] At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, [23] and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. [24] So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” [25] Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, [26] but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. [27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. [28] I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. [29] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. [30] I and the Father are one.” 

[31] The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. [32] Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” [33] The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 

[34] Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? [35] If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—[36] do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? [37] If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; [38] but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 

[39] Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

[40] He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. [41] And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” [42] And many believed in him there. (ESV)

[pray]

The Stone of Offense

The Dedicated Temple of God

The People, the Jordan, and the Promised Land

The Stone of Offense

[31] The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. [32] Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” [33] The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 

The Jews were offended. They were believing a different gospel— a false gospel. They were offended because Jesus, being a man, made himself God. That truth attacked their ‘gospel beliefs’ at its core. Jesus, as the Son of God, has authority over all flesh. The Jews rightly understood his claim as God, and if that was true, they would then be in subjection to Him— all of them, and all of Israel, and all of humanity. And this truth attacked their sense of purpose, identity, and significance. This was part of their creation narrative. The ruling class of the Jews saw their purpose to govern, to rule over Israel- and the world. That was part of their identity. It gave them their sense of significance, and was their source of pride. Jesus, the Son of God, is not subject to them, but rules over them. This offended their false belief of their own purpose, identity, and significance. 

Jesus also pointed out their sin, on many occasion, and in these few verses identified that which they were doing as evil. “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” In essence, you are calling the work of the Father evil! And now seeking to kill me— which is itself against the Law. The Jews— in their false gospel, believed Jesus to be the source of the fall of Israel. They believed hailing him as Messiah would lead to the destruction of the people. Caiaphas, the high priest at that time, testified in the next chapter of John that “it was better that one man die than the whole nation perish.” The Jewish authorities believed Jesus would further injure the people of Israel. They did not see themselves, their sin, as the problem. It was in John 8 that Jesus declared to them that they were slaves of sin, and needed to be set free. 

Jesus declared to them that he was the Messiah, their Redeemer! The Jewish authorities had a different savior in mind. They, themselves, sat as judge and would welcome a political and military leader to cast out Roman authority, while they sat as judge. The Law was their spiritual savior, the means to be made righteous before God. They didn’t understand the great depths of sin they needed to be saved from, nor the kingdom of darkness by which they were oppressed. They did not understand that sin is a human problem and required a human solution. Why did Jesus have to die? Because we have sinned against a holy, mighty, glorious and powerful God. We have dishonored and marred his character in our response to His grace. In order to repay our debt, we must offer something equal to the dignity and worth of the one we sinned against. No man can atone for his own sin. Certainly, a sheep or goat or heifer cannot atone. Only someone equal to the dignity, power, worth, and glory of God himself can atone for our sin against him. The Jews believed their righteous works would atone for their sin. They underestimated the holiness of God, and over-estimated their own worth. It led to a false gospel, and a false understanding of what the gospel in Scripture pointed to in the New Creation.

The Jews had a different picture of the New Creation as a realized kingdom of Israel on the earth- in the here and now. This, ultimately, will be true, but the Kingdom of God is so much bigger. They were looking for political freedom from Rome, and the right to rule over the nations of the earth. They did not see that God was preparing himself a people from all nations, for he is not merely a local deity, but the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the God of the Cosmos. 

So, the Jews were offended. Offended that the core of their good news, their beliefs, were attacked. And in their false beliefs, sinned. 

I want to make the point now that all of our sin is a result of a false belief, a false understanding of the gospel. It begins with our Creation Narrative. When we misplace the truth, or find our purpose and significance in something other than what we were given by God, it leads to all varieties of sin and destruction. It begins with failing to believe the truth about God, and the truth about us. 

We then look to blame for the Fall. We blame others, typically. We even blame others for our own sin: she made me do it! He did this, so I did this! I wouldn’t have done such/n/such if they would have done what they’re supposed to! Because… other people can control me. It’s an interesting conundrum, isn’t it? In our sinfulness, we don’t want to submit ourselves to others, yet we blame them for forcing our own actions.

Then, Redemption. How will this be made right? First, atonement. They must pay for what they did to me. I’m going to withhold relationship. I’m going to leave. I’m going to yell at them, and then leave. Or, they deserve a greater punishment! One that matches the crime— and I get to be judge and deliver the sentence! 

This leads to our New Creation, the utopia every generation has sought for. Now that the wrongs against me have been restored, the right person has paid, I look pretty good, pretty righteous, being the person who was “victimized” and then took power to deliver the sentence. In fact, I’m my own savior, and the one who brought everyone else “into the land” of the New Creation. 

When we sin… we believe wrong truths about us and about God. We blame others for the our beliefs not being fulfilled. We take redemption into our own hands, and we believe we, ourselves, or others, are the savior if they deliver the just consequence we deem they deserve. And we create our own little utopia where we sit as judge.

Do you see how easy it would have been to be of one accord with the Jewish authorities of the day? No wonder the people were divided. They were sinful, and had false beliefs about God, without a full understanding of his plan to save us from our fall through the man, Jesus the Son of God, so that we would redeem us and make us a new creation.

Look at the passage. The Jews pick up stones to stone him. They do so because he made the statement: “I and the Father are one.” They rightfully understand that he was claiming to be God, but it didn’t fit in their ‘gospel.’ It tore their gospel to shreds. They respond in sin and pick up stones. And Jesus responds with a question… gentle and pointed…

“I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?”

I don’t believe that would be my or your response if people were picking up stones to kill me! What an amazing savior. He, instead, asks them a question to challenge their beliefs. He, in essence is saying, ‘Consider the evidence. Does healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, casting out demons— do these works support the belief that I am against God, or with God? That I oppose God, or that God is in me?’

We must acknowledge the absolute genius of the Spirit of God in the gospel of John. Remember, this scene was unfolding during the Feast of Dedication. And Jesus was revealing a truth about God, rooted in the Creation narrative: Jesus is the dedicated Temple of God, on whom the Holy Spirit remains.

The Dedicated Temple of God

[34] Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? [35] If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—[36] do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? [37] If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; [38] but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 

First, we must understand the flow of this argument. Jesus was not arguing to find a loophole to get him out of trouble. Our children do this. Friends, we do this, don’t we? “Technically… you said this, and this means this, so… I can say or do this without consequence because of this precedent!”

That’s not what Jesus was doing. Recall that in the gospels Jesus disappears multiple times when the crowds go to kill him. He had just stated “No one takes [my life] from me. I have the power to lay it down, and the power to take it up again!” (10:18). Jesus wasn’t trying to escape their grasp, he was giving them a grasp of the truth! He was arguing from the lesser to the greater to change their beliefs so that they may see and believe the only true gospel. He quoted Psalm 82, “I said you are gods.” He wasn’t supporting or bolstering their own false beliefs of self-importance; he was pointing to himself as the Son of God! Lets take a second to understand that. Open your bible to Psalm 82, A Psalm of Asaph

[1] God has taken his place in the divine council;

in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:

[2] “How long will you judge unjustly

and show partiality to the wicked? Selah

[3] Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;

maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

[4] Rescue the weak and the needy;

deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

[5] They have neither knowledge nor understanding,

they walk about in darkness;

all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

[6] I said, “You are gods,

sons of the Most High, all of you;

[7] nevertheless, like men you shall die,

and fall like any prince.”

[8] Arise, O God, judge the earth;

for you shall inherit all the nations! (ESV)

First, Asaph was a Levite Psalmist under David. He saw David’s rise, and also David pass his kingdom to Solomon. We must understand that he watched, likely with great anticipation, Solomon, as the son of David, ascend to the throne. He likely had great expectations for this king of Israel. But he watched Solomon, who was given a spirit of wisdom, turn away from God. He watched him fill the temple with idols of his wives. He watched Solomon decline in rule, and lead the nation astray. That which he gave Solomon, wisdom, knowledge and understanding, dissipates when walk not by the Spirit of God! And one goes from light to darkness!

The context is God taking place in the divine council, holding judgement. How long will you judge unjustly? You let the wicked afflict the poor, the fatherless, the widows. You have neither knowledge or understanding, but walk in darkness! The earth itself is offended at you, and it’s foundations shake! This ought not be so!

Then, we read in verse 6 what Jesus quoted: I said you are gods, sons of the Most High…

Jesus pointed to the people of Israel, known as God’s firstborn son, and the king of Israel, who was set over Israel to judge and rule. 

If he called them God… how much more is “him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world,” the Son of God? The point was not the greatness of man, but the greatness of the Son of God who was consecrated, set apart, filled with the Spirit of God.

The Jews, in their false beliefs, held the temple in high regard, as their shrine, their assurance that God was with them, even though Ezekiel had seen the Shekinah glory of God leave the temple. The temple was their savior, where they believed the Spirit of the Lord dwelled. And they were celebrating a feast where the temple was once again regained for the people of Israel, and consecrated.

And Jesus said that He was the One whom the Father had consecrated… He was the one set apart by God, cleansed, and the dwelling place of the Spirit of God. Jesus, as a man, was the dedicated temple of God, for he was and is both God and man. The Father is in Him, and He is in the Father. The proof was in his works. He was doing the work of His Father, works that only God could do. He pointed to the truth so that they might “believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Jesus was not finished applying Psalm 82. Look at Psalm 82:5 

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,

they walk about in darkness;

When you don’t believe His truth, you do not know and understand, but walk in darkness. 

And what did John say from the beginning? Darkness cannot comprehend the light; in fact, darkness hates the light.

[39] Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

Jesus, in his final 6 months of his life on earth, was continually persecuted by the very people he came to save. We must read this in context of the previous paragraphs in John 10. ‘My sheep know me, they hear my voice, they come to me, and no one will snatch them out of my hands!’

So, if in large part the people of Israel had rejected him, how do we understand the gospel? How do we understand…

The People, the Jordan, and the Promised Land

[40] He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. [41] And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” [42] And many believed in him there. (ESV)

John and geography. It’s important. Jesus left. He knew his time was coming. He had planned it from eternity past. And he retreated across the Jordan, to the place John had been baptizing. The place Jesus was baptized by John. The place the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove. The east side of the Jordan. The side of the river the people of Israel were when they the waters parted and they crossed to the promised land.

There’s important symbolism here! Jesus, the Son of God, goes to the other side of Jordan. He makes full circle of his public ministry before he returns to Jerusalem to be crucified. He goes to the east side of the Jordan, because when he crosses, he goes to Jerusalem, as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He goes as the Son of God, who is the Son of David, who is the Christ, the Messiah, who will deliver his people from their shackles of sin! He goes with the Spirit of God, which first crossed the Jordan in the Arc of the Covenant, around which a temple was built, and now he crosses as the Temple of God, indwelled by the Spirit of God, and will deliver the people of God into the promised land! 

This is the true gospel! He spoke to us the truth of our creation. In Him we have truth, purpose, and significance. He revealed to us the depths of our fall, that we were in shackles and chains of darkness, by nature and by choice. He redeemed us by the power of His blood and through His word, and he will deliver us and bring us into the Promised Land, an eternal Kingdom where He is King, and He is Judge, and He will rule at the right hand of the Father in perfect love and justice for all eternity.

This is the gospel.

What now? My prayer is that you come to a greater understanding of the false gospels you and I believe, and that we learn to humble ourselves under the true gospel of Jesus. For He alone can deliver. He has sent His Son, the Son of God to deliver us, and now we are the temple of God, sent into the world, filled by His Spirit, created for good works, that we may walk in them. 

My question to you is this: which gospel do you believe? Will you be reminded of the true gospel and submit yourself to the saving arm of God?

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