Introduction to John

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By James M. Rochford

The gospel of John is simultaneously the deepest and the most accessible gospel to read. It has been called so simple that a child could wade in it, but so deep that an elephant could swim in it. The purpose of the gospel of John is found in his very own words: “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (Jn. 20:31).

Table of Contents

Authorship. 2

Date. 2

Historical Accuracy. 3

How to use this commentary well 9

Review of Commentaries. 10

Commentary on John. 11

John 1. 11

John 2. 24

John 3. 31

John 4. 39

John 5. 51

John 6. 61

John 7. 71

John 8. 79

John 9. 91

John 10. 98

John 11. 106

John 12. 116

John 13. 124

John 14. 134

John 15. 141

John 16. 150

John 17. 157

John 18. 161

John 19. 170

John 20. 179

John 21. 185

Authorship

Who Wrote the Four Gospels? Critics contend that we do not know who really wrote the gospels. In fact, it is argued that the standard titles of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John weren’t added until a century later to give these documents apostolic authority. Does the evidence support the authorship of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?

Date

Evidence for an Early Dating of the Four Gospels: Many historians and commentators date the Gospels between AD 70 and AD 100. This subject is surely up for debate. However, based on the manuscript evidence, the citations of the Church Fathers, the dating of the Book of Acts, and the early citations from Paul, we think there is good evidence for an early dating of the Gospels.

According to Clement of Alexandria, John wrote his gospel last (Church History, 6.14.7), and Irenaeus reported that John wrote it while living in Ephesus (Against Heresies, 3.1.2) and even into the reign of Trajan (post-AD 96, Against Heresies, 3.3.4). Borchert states that “these three statements were among the foundation stones that provided the basis for the traditional view of dating.”[1]

Regarding an exact date for John’s Gospel, we are not sure. But at the same time, we are in good company! No one that we’ve read lands on a firm date. D.A. Carson holds to a tentative date of AD 80 to 85—though he states that any date from AD 55 to 95 is possible.[2] Likewise, J. Ramsay Michaels dates the gospel to the second half of the first century (AD 50-100), though he leans toward after AD 70.[3] Leon Morris follows J.A.T. Robinson in dating this book before AD 70—perhaps as early as the AD 50’s or 60’s.[4] Gerald Borchert dates the book sometime at the end of the first century.[5]

Historical Accuracy

Critics of the NT have long held that John’s gospel is not good history. It describes a Jesus in such exalted terms that it has all of the signs of being a later embellishment. However, John’s gospel claims to be written by an eyewitness, and this can be supported from the historical accuracy of the document itself.

The Romans devastated Jerusalem in AD 70. The Roman legions exiled the Jews from Israel, scorched their land, and burned their Temple and city to the ground. Since John’s gospel claims to be a first-century, eyewitness testimony (Jn. 19:35; 21:24), the author would need to be acquainted with life in Israel before the Jewish War of AD 66.

And this is precisely what we find! Despite the fact that Israel was ravaged by war, foreign occupation, and exile, the author correctly mentions many historical details. Paul Barnett writes, “The fourth evangelist mentions as many as twelve places not referred to in the other gospels.”[6] Consider a few examples:

John correctly mentioned a “deep” well near Mt. Gerizim (Jn. 4:4, 11, 19-20). Historian Edwin Yamauchi affirms, “Halfway between Galilee and Judea in Samaria is one site which all authorities believe to be authentic. This is Jacob’s Well where Jesus spoke with the woman of Samaria (John 4). Above it loom the twin mountains of Ebal and of Gerizim. It was the latter which the woman pointed out as the sacred place of worship for the Samaritans.”[7]

John noted that the official told Jesus to “come down” from Cana to Capernaum to see his son (Jn. 4:47, 49). This wasn’t just a figure of speech. Geographically, Cana is several hundred meters above Capernaum, so this off-the-cuff remark happens to be geographically accurate.

John accurately identified the Pool of Bethesda. For years, critics held that the pool of Bethesda was purely legendary. Yet, in the 1890s, archaeologists discovered this pool, and it had exactly five colonnades—just as John recorded. Blomberg writes, “Reconstruction showed how two juxtaposed rectangular enclosures would have created five porticoes.”[8]

John accurately identified the Pool of Siloam (Jn. 9:7). Archaeologist James Hoffmeier writes, “During the summer of 2004… thanks to the use of a metal detector, four coins were found embedded in the plaster… [The] coins and pottery associated with it suggest that it flourished right up to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Because it stands at the bottom end of the valley, it would quickly have silted over and its location been forgotten. The stone-lined pool was in all probability the Pool of Siloam of Jesus’ day.[9]

John accurately identifies geographical locations. John correctly named the Kidron Valley (Jn. 18:1), and he appropriately distinguished Cana in Galilee from Cana in Sidon (Jn. 2:1; 4:46). He knew that there was “much water” in “Aenon near Salim” (Jn. 3:23). He knew that Ephraim was “a town… near the wilderness” (Jn. 11:54). He was familiar with the Hebrew names for the places in Palestine (Jn. 19:13). He knew that it was a one day trip from Cana to Capernaum (Jn. 4:52), and a two day journey from Bethany beyond the Jordan to Bethany near Jerusalem (Jn. 10:40; 11:18).

Remember, this was written in a time before Google Earth, Wikipedia, or even extensive cartography of the ancient world! Time and again, John recorded details that would be unique to an eyewitness before the destruction of Israel in AD 70.

John was also aware of cultural details that would only be relevant to Israel before the destruction of Jerusalem. After the Romans destroyed the Temple, Judaism changed radically. Specifically, the Jewish religious parties (e.g. the Sadducees and Pharisees) became virtually extinct. And yet John described Jewish culture with detailed precision. He discussed ritual purification (Jn. 2:6), cultural relations (Jn. 4:9), burial procedures (Jn. 19:40), the view of the Law (Jn. 7:49), Sabbath regulations (Jn. 5:1-19; 9), and the high priest Caiaphas (Jn. 11:49, 51; 18:13). It’s interesting to note that in 1990, investigators discovered an ossuary or a “bone box” that contained Caiaphas’ name and bones. Hoffmeier notes, “There is widespread agreement that this ossuary belonged to the high priest.”[10]

John’s knowledge of Jewish culture, topography, architecture, and religion was so accurate that Israel Abrahams (a Jewish scholar) wrote, “My own general impression, without asserting an early date for the Fourth Gospel, is that the Gospel enshrines a genuine tradition of an aspect of Jesus’ teaching which has not found a place in the Synoptics.”[11] These facts don’t necessarily mean that John wrote his gospel before AD 70, but they do support the thesis that he lived before this time.

Why does John omit so many events recorded in the Synoptic gospels?

Most of John’s gospel is original to him (~90%). He excludes Jesus’ baptism, his parables, his calling of the Twelve, his transfiguration, his exorcisms, his temptation by Satan, his teaching at the Lord’s Supper, and his Olivet Discourse. Why did John exclude this material, and choose to include so much novel material?

First, it could be that John knew what Matthew, Mark, and Luke had already written, and he felt no need to repeat their pre-existing material. Scholars debate whether John had access to the Synoptics, or whether he is a truly independent source.[12] We are inclined to agree with C.K. Barrett that John did have some access to the Synoptics.[13] Furthermore, Clement of Alexandria wrote that “John” wrote his gospel “last of all, conscious that the outward facts had been set forth in the Gospels, was urged on by his disciples, and divinely moved by the Spirit, composed a spiritual Gospel” (see Church History, 6.14.7).

Second, it could be that John wanted to offer different emphases. For example, John was definitely present at the Last Supper (Jn. 13), and yet, he failed to mention the inauguration of the Lord’s Supper. Morris comments, “He must have known of this and known that it was important. Yet he omits it. We need not be too surprised if he omits other things that we consider important.”[14]

Third, John is very similar to the Synoptic gospels—even if he adds more content:

Similarities between the Synoptics and John

Synoptics

John

(Mk. 1:3) “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’” [Citing Isaiah 40:3]

(Jn. 1:23) [John the Baptist] said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” [Citing Isaiah 40:3.]
(Mk. 1:10) Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him.

(Jn. 1:32) John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him.”

(Mk. 1:7-8) [John the Baptist] was preaching, and saying, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. 8 I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

(Jn. 1:26-27) John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. 27 It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
(Mk. 2:11) “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.”

(Jn. 5:8) Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.”

Jesus fed the 5,000 (Mk. 6:32-44)

Jesus fed the 5,000 (Jn. 6:1-15)
Walking on water (Mk. 6:45ff)

Walking on water (Jn. 6:16-21)

(Mk. 8:23) Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?”

(Mk. 7:33) Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva.

(Jn. 9:6) When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes.

Dispute over Sabbath laws (Mk. 2:23-24).

Dispute over Sabbath laws (Jn. 5, 9)
Being Lord of the Sabbath (Mk. 2:27-28; 3:4).

Authority over the Sabbath (Jn. 5:17-23).

(Mt. 9:37-38) Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

(Jn. 4:35) Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.’
(Mk. 6:4) Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.”

(Jn. 4:44) For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country.

(Mt. 25:46) These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

(Jn. 5:29) Those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
(Mt. 11:25-27) At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26 Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 27 All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

(Jn. 10:14-15) I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

(Mk. 4:12) While seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.

(Jn. 12:39-40) For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.”
The disciples are able to bind and loose (Mt. 16:19; 18:18).

The disciples are able to retain or forgive sins (Jn. 20:23).

Why is Jesus ‘different’ in John’s gospel?

John includes the famous “I am” statements of Jesus, which do not appear in the Synoptic gospels.

The portrait of Jesus in John’s gospel doesn’t contradict the portrait given in the Synoptics; instead John merely adds material that we didn’t previously know.[15] Morris writes, “If modern biographies can’t quite capture all aspects of great men of history, how much more would it be impossible to capture the Son of God?”[16] He adds, “The Jesus whom all four Evangelists depict was a gigantic figure, greater by far than can be comprehended in any one Gospel.”[17]

Is John theologically embellished?

Many scholars believe that John’s highly developed view of Jesus’ deity and the Trinity must date the book later. However, this argument doesn’t carry much weight for a number of reasons:

First, Paul’s earlier letters contain even stronger passages on the deity of Christ (e.g. Rom. 9:5; Phil. 2:5-8). Even critics date these specific letters to the 50’s or 60’s AD.

Second, John contains a “high Christology,” but also contains a high view of Jesus’ subordination. While no gospel teaches the deity of Christ more strongly, it is also true that no gospel teaches the subordination of Jesus more strongly.[18] If John is really just a “theologically embellished” text, then why would he emphasize the humanity and subordination of Jesus so strongly?

Third, the earliest church fathers contain stronger affirmations of Jesus’ deity. For instance, Ignatius (~AD 108) contains even stronger language for the deity of Christ (see “High Christology” of Ignatius). If John is really such a late and embellished gospel, he isn’t as “embellished” as the very earliest church fathers.

Fourth, John contains far less miracles than the Synoptics. If John is really so theologically embellished, then why does it contain far less miracles than the other gospels? Mark is considered to be the first written gospel, and it contains roughly forty miracles, while John contains only seven miracles in Jesus’ pre-passion ministry. Furthermore, John contains no cases of exorcisms, while the gospels contain dozens.

Is John anti-Semitic?

John refers to Jesus’ interlocutors simply as “the Jews,” while the Synoptic gospels refer to them as the Pharisees or Sadducees—specific types of religious leaders. Did John write this because he was anti-Semitic? This doesn’t seems fair. After all, John writes that:

  • Salvation came from the Jews (Jn. 4:22).
  • Many Jews became believers in Jesus (Jn. 11:45; 12:11).
  • Jesus was “a Jew” (Jn. 4:9).
  • Some Jews believe in Jesus (Jn. 11:45; 12:11).

Carson writes, “‘Anti-semitic’ is simply the wrong category to apply to the Fourth Gospel: whatever hostilities are present turn on theological issues related to the acceptance or rejection of revelation, and not on race.”[19] We agree. After all, John himself was Jewish! This absurdity would be similar to Dave Chappelle’s satirical rendition of “Clayton Bigsby”—a blind African American man who was a member of the Klu Klux Klan. If John was hateful of Jews, then he would need to be hateful of himself, the other eleven apostles, and Jesus himself! This seems wildly implausible.

What are the Seven Signs of John?

The Gospel of John lists seven signs to confirm Jesus’ identity:

  • The turning of water into wine (2:1-11)
  • The healing of the official’s son (4:43-54)
  • The healing of a paralytic (5:1-15)
  • The feeding of the multitude (6:1-14)
  • The walking on the water (6:16-21)
  • The cure of the blind man (9:1-41)
  • The raising of Lazarus (11:1-44)

How to use this commentary well

For personal use. We wrote this material to build up people in their knowledge of the Bible. As the reader, we hope you enjoy reading through the commentary to grow in your interpretation of the text, understand the historical backdrop, gain insight into the original languages, and reflect on our comments to challenge your thinking. As a result, we hope this will give you a deeper love for the word of God.

Comparing parallel accounts. At the beginning of each section, we included the parallel accounts in the other gospels. By reading these other accounts, we develop a three-dimensional view of the historical event. This gives greater nuance to our interpretation, and we would be wise to read these parallels.

Teaching preparation. We read through at least five commentaries on this book in order to condense some of the scholarship on the subject. We footnoted these authors to share their insights. We hope that this will help those giving public Bible teachings to have a deep grasp of the book as they prepare their teachings. As one person has said, “All good public speaking is based on good private thinking.”[20] We couldn’t agree more. Nothing can replace sound study before you get up to teach, and we hope this will help you in that goal. And if you complain about our work, don’t forget that the price is right: FREE!

Discussion questions. Each section or chapter is outfitted with numerous discussion questions for small group study. We think these would work best in a small men’s or women’s group. In general, these questions are designed to prompt participants to explore the text or to stimulate application.

Discussing Bible difficulties. We highlight Bible difficulties with hyperlinks to articles on those subjects. All of these questions could make for dynamic discussion in a small group setting. As a Bible teacher, you could raise the difficulty, allow the small group to wrestle with it, and then give your own perspective.

As a teacher, you might give some key cross references, insights from the Greek, or other relevant tools to help aid the study. This gives students the tools that they need to answer the difficulty. Then, you could ask, “How do these points help answer the difficulty?”

Reading Bible difficulties. Some Bible difficulties are highly complex. For the sake of time, it might simply be better to read the article and ask, “What do you think of this explanation? What are the most persuasive points? What are the weakest? Do you have a better explanation than the one being offered?”

Think critically. We would encourage Bible teachers to not allow people to simply read this commentary without exercising discernment and testing the commentary with sound hermeneutics. God gave the church “teachers… to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). We would do well to learn from them. Yet, we also need to read their commentary with critical thinking, and judge what we’re reading (1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Thess. 5:21). This, of course, applies to our written commentary as well as any others!

In my small men’s Bible, I am frequently challenged, corrected, and sharpened in my ability to interpret the word of God, and I frequently benefit from even the youngest Christian in the room. I write this with complete honesty—not pseudo-humility. We all have a role in challenging each other as we learn God’s word. We do well to learn from Bible teachers, and Bible teachers do well to learn from their students!

At the same time, we shouldn’t disagree simply for the sake of being disagreeable. This leads to rabbit trails that can actually frustrate discussion. For this reason, we should follow the motto, “The best idea wins.” If people come to different conclusions on peripheral or insignificant issues, it’s often best to simply acknowledge each other’s different perspectives and simply move on.

Review of Commentaries

D.A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991).

Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995).

Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003).

Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 91.

Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002).

Merrill C. Tenney, “John,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John and Acts, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).

Commentary on John

Unless otherwise stated, all citations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

John 1

John 1.1 (The Word became Flesh)

At one point, I had John’s prologue committed to memory, because I was so in love with this section of Scripture. Even though John uses simple Greek and short, terse statements, he communicates so much in so few words. Indeed, in these opening 18 verses, John sets the table for the rest of the gospel. That is, when we read the gospel over and over again, we see just how many allusions he was making right from the very beginning.

(1:1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

“In the beginning” harkens back to Genesis 1:1. Only here, we see that before creation there is the Word (logos).

Why does John use the term “Word” (logos) to describe Jesus?

Was John targeting Greek readers? Merrill Tenney writes, “The term Logos was used by the philosophers of the day, particularly the Stoics, to express the central principle of the universe, the spirit that pervaded the world, or the ultimate Reason that controlled all things.”[21] Carson writes, “The Stoics understood logos to be the rational principle by which everything exists, and which is of the essence of the rational human soul.”[22]

Philo—a first-century AD Jewish philosopher—used the term to describe a “divine” being who was second only to God himself (Philo, On Dreams, 1.228-30). Yet, Philo was clear that the Logos was created by God (Philo, On the Creation, 20; 30; 146, and Allegorical Interpretation, 3.171; 175). Carson, “Still others think John has borrowed from Philo, a first-century Jew who was much influenced by Plato and his successors. Philo makes a distinction between the ideal world, which he calls ‘the logos of God,’ and the real or phenomenal world which is but its copy. In particular, logos for Philo can refer to the ideal man, the primal man, from which all empirical human beings derive. But Philo’s logos has no distinct personality, and does not itself become incarnate.”[23]

Was John targeting Jewish readers? The “word” in Hebrew is dabar. In Hebrew thinking, the “word” (dabar) was connected with God’s power in creation (Gen. 1:3; Ps. 33:6), revelation (Jer. 1:4; Isa. 9:8; Ezek. 33:7; Amos 3:1, 8), and deliverance (Ps. 29:3ff; 107:20; Isa. 55:1).

Conclusion: John likely has BOTH groups in view. John takes pains to translate certain words to make them applicable for a Gentile audience (Jn. 1:38, 41-42; 4:25; 5:2; 9:7; 19:13, 17; 20:16), yet his gospel is thoroughly Jewish.

“Was the Word” can also be rendered “the Word continually was”[24] or “The Word already existed” (NLT). Instead of using the word for “became” (egeneto), which he uses for creation (v.3), John uses the verb (ēn) which describes a “supertemporal reality in existence.” Indeed, “there is here no time envisaged when the Word was not in existence or in relationship to God.”[25] The “Word” is uncreated and eternal in nature.

“The Word was with God…” This means that the Word was separate from God in person. This expression (pros ton theon) uses the word for “face” (pros), and it describes a close relationship between the “Word” and “God.”

“And the Word was God…” This means that the Word is the same in essence with God. This can be translated, “God was what the Word was.”[26]

John calls Jesus God in verse 18 (at the incarnation) and in 20:28 (after his resurrection). He is making a connection between (1) Jesus’ pre-incarnate state, (2) Jesus’ incarnate state, and (3) Jesus’ post-resurrection state. He is God throughout all three. Thus Morris writes, “John thus asserts the deity of his Lord at three very important places in his narrative.”[27]

(Jn. 1:1) Was Jesus God or simply a god?

(1:2) He was in the beginning with God.

The Word and God existed apart from the universe (cf. Jn. 17:24). As verse 3 makes clear, the “beginning” refers to the beginning of material origins. There, the Word already existed.

(1:3) All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

The entire creation came through the Word (“all things” versus “nothing”). He is the Creator of everything (cf. Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2).

(1:4) In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.

Life was found in the Word. After all, he was the Creator of all life (v.3). Later, Jesus says that his life comes directly from the Father’s own life: “Just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself” (Jn. 5:26). Moreover, this life was the light of the world. Life and light are placed alongside one another. Jesus later calls himself “the Light of the world” (Jn. 8:12; 9:5; 12:46).

(1:5) The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

The word “comprehend” (katelaben) is the same root word (lambano) used for “receiving” Christ (Jn. 1:12). Rejection could be a good way to translate this word. The problem with the human race is not that they simply can’t understand, but that they won’t understand Jesus. Throughout the gospel, we that this is a willful ignorance and an active rejection of Jesus.

Kruse[28] and Borchert[29] take a different reading. This term “comprehend” (katelaben) can also be translated as “overcoming” the Light (cf. Jn. 12:35). Because there is a conflict between Jesus and the world-system, this is a possible reading. But context is king: an active rejection of the light makes the most sense of translating this word (see v.11).

John the Baptist

(1:6) There came a man sent from God, whose name was John.

The Synoptics go into so much detail about Jesus’ birth and John the Baptist’s ministry. John cuts right to the chase with both, throwing the reader right into the middle of the action.

(1:7) He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.

John came to “testify” about the Light (i.e. the Word; i.e. Jesus; v.5). Morris writes, “Testimony is a serious matter and the means of substantiating the truth of a matter; there is a legal air about it. It is clear that our author wants his readers to take what he writes as reliable. He is insistent that there is good evidence for the things he sets down.”[30]

“So that all might believe through him.” Grammatically, this “him” could refer to either Jesus or John, but the structure of the passage implies that this is about John.[31]

“Believe” is in the aorist—not the continuous tense. Morris takes this to mean that John’s testimony brought people to the point where they needed to make a decision about Jesus.[32]

(1:8) He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.

There was some confusion from the people about the identity of John (Acts 19:1-4). John the Baptist himself denied that he was the Messiah. Instead, he came to lead people to the Messiah. Kruse notes, “The evangelist’s main reason for including so many references to John (6-9, 15, 19-37; 3:22-30; 4:1-2; 5:31-36; 10:40-42) was that he might add to the strength of the witness concerning Christ.”[33]

The Incarnation

(1:9) There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.

Earlier, John wrote that the Logos existed from eternity past. But the verb changes from “was” to “coming” into the world. The Messiah was the “Coming One” (e.g. Jn. 4:25). This teaches that the Logos was preexistent, and entered into time from eternity.

While the human race didn’t all receive the Light and were in darkness (v.5), the Word came to enlighten all of them (every man”). God shares his Light with all people, but not all people receive it (Jn. 3:19-20).

(1:10) He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.

The Creator entered his creation, and they didn’t recognize him. It would be like the Great Gatsby being at his own party as the waiter, dishwasher, or bartender.

(1:11) He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.

This opening clause can be translated, “He came home.”[34] This is the way the expression (eis ta idia) is translated later (Jn. 16:32; 19:27). John seems to be thinking of the Jewish people here, subtly moving from “know” (v.10) to “receive” (v.11), from the propositional to the personal.

(1:12) But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.

“But as many as received Him…” While many of Jesus’ fellow Jewish people did not receive him, this holds out hope for anyone and everyone—not just the Jewish people.

“…to them He gave the right…” The word “right” (exousia) is a word often translated as “authority.” BDAG defines it as “a state of control over something, freedom of choice, right.” At the same time, the focus is not on our decision, but on God’s gift. The language of “receiving” implies that the Gift of God is the focus—not our free will. Verse 13 explains the power.

“…to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” We aren’t born with the right to be children of God. God gives this to those who are willing to receive and believe. John retains the word “Son” (huios) for Jesus, but gives the word “children” (teknon) for us. He did this to maintain “a distinction between Jesus as the ‘Son’ of God, and believers as ‘children’ of God.”[35]

(1:13) Who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

What are the wrong ways to try to attain this new birth? Put simply, these three ways all refer to physical inheritance in contrast to spiritual rebirth, which has been the context up to this point (i.e. the Jewish people; v.11).

(Jn. 1:13) Does this passage support Calvinism?

“Not of blood[s]” makes us think of John 3, where Jesus explains the new birth to Nicodemus. Salvation is “not the result of natural bloodline relationships.”[36]

“[Not] the will of the flesh” makes us think of Jesus’ saying, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (Jn. 3:6-7). It’s also similar to Jesus saying, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe” (Jn. 6:53-54). It is “not necessarily negative,” but rather refers to “fleshly… desire.”[37] It also stands in contrast to the “Word became flesh” in the next verse.

“[Not] the will [thelematos] of man” reminds us of Jesus’ statement: “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself” (Jn. 7:17).

“But of God…” Morris understands these negatives as referring to the Jewish conceptions of salvation at the time. He writes, “The piling up of these expressions is to be understood in the light of Jewish pride of race. The Jews held that because of the ‘Fathers,’ that is their great ancestors, God would be favorable to them. John emphatically repudiates any such idea. Nothing human, however great or excellent, can bring about the birth of which he speaks.”[38]

(1:14) And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” What a mind-blowing concept! The Cosmic Logic behind the universe entered into the universe. It’s like an author writing himself into his own story. John later considers the incarnation as an essential test for true Christianity (1 Jn. 4:1-3).

In the OT, God took residence in the Tabernacle. Like the Tabernacle in the OT, Jesus “dwelt” among humans. When Christ came, God revealed that the Tabernacle—this moveable tent—foreshadowed the incarnation. At the incarnation, Jesus “became flesh, and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). Regarding this passage, D.A. Carson comments, “More literally translated, the Greek verb skenoo means that the Word pitched his tabernacle, or lived in his tent, amongst us.”[39] Just as God dwelt in the portable tent with his people in the OT, God dwelt in a human body in the person of Christ (see Endless Hope or Hopeless End, p.27).

“We saw his glory…” In the OT, the “glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Ex. 40:34). Even the priests needed to run and hide when God’s Shekinah glory came into the Temple. Here, John says that they could see God’s glory through the person of Jesus, who was the Temple (Jn. 2:19-21). John is including himself among those who were eyewitnesses of Jesus (cf. 1 Jn. 1:1-4).

“Full of grace and truth…” This expression (charis kai alētheia) only occurs here and in verse 17. This is “almost certainly”[40] John’s translation of the Hebrew expression “lovingkindness and truth” that is repeated of God throughout the OT (ḥesed we’ĕmet). For example, Moses records, “The LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth” (Ex. 34:6).

John the Baptist

(1:15) John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ ”

Luke states that John the Baptist was born before Jesus (Lk. 1:36). Yet John the Baptist affirmed that Jesus was preexistent. Even though he “comes after” John the Baptist, he still “existed before” John the Baptist. Morris writes, “This was a noteworthy statement, for in antiquity it was widely held that chronological priority meant superiority.”[41] John uses the word “existed” (eimi) to refer to existence—not physical birth. Later Jesus will say, “Before Abraham was born, I am” (Jn. 8:58, ego eimi).

(1:16) For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.

The author (John) was one of the people who “received” Christ (see v.12). He viewed coming to know Christ as “grace upon grace” (NASB) or “one gracious blessing after another” (NLT). This is the same concept in Exodus 33:13. The NET note states, “Now therefore, I pray you, if I have found charis (LXX) in your sight, let me know your ways, that I may know you, so that I may find charis (LXX) in your sight.”

Again, John uses the aorist tense for “received” (elabomen). Instead of characterizing Christ’s fullness as being dispensed in an ongoing, continuous sense, John writes about it as being given in a completed sense.

(1:17) For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.

Jesus battles the religious leaders throughout this gospel regarding their use of the Law. John opens the book telling us that we don’t discover God’s grace through the Law, but through Jesus. The Law shows us our need for grace, but it itself doesn’t give us grace. This is the first time that Jesus Christ is explicitly named.

(1:18) No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

“No one has seen God at any time…” This picks up the OT theme that God cannot be seen directly. Remember, God told Moses, “No man can see Me and live!” (Ex. 33:20). This allusion fits with the earlier allusions to this same section of Exodus (v.14, 16).

Translations render “the only begotten God” in different ways: “God the One and Only” (NIV), “the only one, himself God” (NET), or “the unique One, who is himself God” (NLT). The manuscripts differ on this. The oldest and most reliable manuscripts read monogenēs theos (“the only God”), while the majority of later texts read (monogenēs huios (“the only son”).

“Who is in the bosom of the Father…” This seems similar to John laying on Jesus’ bosom at the Last Supper (Jn. 13:23, 25). Jesus has access to the Father’s bosom, and we have access to Jesus’ bosom; so we have access to the Father! The second person of the Trinity made the first person of the Trinity known to us. The term “bosom” (kolpos) was “used of both males and females in relation to the affection, care and protection of a parent for a child.”[42]

“He has explained Him.” The term “explained” (exēgeomai) is where we get the term “exegesis” or “exposition.”[43]

(Jn. 1:18) Was Jesus “begotten” in the sense of being created?

(Jn. 1:18) Can we see God or not?

John 1.2 (John the Baptist)

The location for these events is in “Bethany beyond the Jordan” (Jn. 1:28).

(1:19) This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”

While the prologue is in some sense separate from the narrative, it is in another sense integrally connected. Woven through the prologue, we read of John the Baptist. Here in verse 19, we discover further explanation of John the Baptist. Even the word “testimony” (v.19) was used throughout the prologue (v.7-8, 15).

In Israel, John the Baptist was famous in religious circles. The Jewish and Roman historian Josephus writes, “Now some of the Jews thought that it was God who had destroyed Herod’s army, and that it was a very just punishment to avenge John, surnamed the Baptist. John had been put to death by Herod, although he was a good man, who exhorted the Jews to practice virtue, to be just one to another and pious towards God and to come together by baptism. Baptism, he taught, was acceptable to God provided that… the soul had already been purified by righteousness. Because of this suspicion on Herod’s part, John was sent in chains to the fortress of Machaerus… and there put to death.”[44]

(1:20) And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”

John was so famous and influential that many believed that he himself was the Messiah. It would’ve been tempting for John to be a messianic pretender, as people had done before and after him (Mt. 24:24; Mk. 13:22; Acts 5:33-39; 21:37-39). Instead, he outright denied this.

(1:21) They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

Why did they think he was Elijah? Since Elijah was predicted to return before the Messiah, they may have thought that he was Elijah (see comments on Mt. 11:14).

Why did they think he was the Prophet? The Prophet was not just any prophet, but a specific person predicted by Moses (see comments on Deut. 18:15).

Again, showing incredible integrity and humility, John the Baptist said that he was neither Elijah nor the Prophet.

(1:22) Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”

The religious leaders knew that John was sent from God and an incredibly unique and important figure. But if he wasn’t the Messiah, Elijah, or the Prophet, then who was he? Apparently, these were messengers sent from the religious elite (“so that we may give an answer to those who sent us). Verse 24 states that the Pharisees had sent these messengers.

(1:23) He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”

John cites OT prophecy to explain who he is (Isa. 40:3). How did John know that this passage applied to him? He may have heard of his mission as a young boy. After all, he was related to Jesus (Lk. 1:36), and he had the Holy Spirit in the womb.

John’s self-description shows that he was inferior to Jesus. John states that he was merely a voice, while Jesus was the Word incarnate.

(1:24) Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.

See comments on verse 22.

(1:25) They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

Baptism was usually reserved for Gentile converts—not “good” Jewish believers. The Pharisees were scandalized and offended that John would baptize Jews. Morris writes, “Baptism was not a new practice in Judaism. It was the regular rite in the admission of converts from other religions. When such a conversion took place, the males of the family were circumcised and all, of both sexes, were baptized. This was seen as the ceremonial removal of all the pollutions contracted in the Gentile world. The novelty in John’s case and the sting in his practice was that he applied to Jews the ceremony that was held to be appropriate in the case of Gentiles coming newly into the faith. All Jews were prepared to accept the view that Gentiles were defiled and needed cleansing. But to put Jews in the same class was horrifying. The Jews were God’s people already. It is true that on the basis of certain Old Testament passages some people expected that there would be baptizing when the messianic age dawned (Ezek. 36:25; Zech. 13:1). But John had denied being the Messiah. It was all very perplexing and the Pharisees wanted to know more about it.”[45]

(1:26) John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know.

John is already unpacking what he wrote in his prologue: The Jewish people didn’t know who Jesus really was (Jn. 1:5, 11). Kruse notes the irony in John’s words: “His interrogators wanted to know if he was the Christ, but they were asking the wrong person, for the Christ was already among them and they did not recognize him.”[46]

(1:27) “It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”

The NLT renders this as, “I’m not even worthy to be his slave.” Untying a person’s sandals was the job of a slave. Even Jews wouldn’t commonly have this role—only Gentiles.[47]

(1:28) These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

John gives the historical location: Bethany.

(1:29) The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

How did John know who Jesus was when he first saw him? This is not the first time John saw Jesus. According to the subsequent verses, John had already baptized Jesus (vv.31-34).

Kruse contends that John was referring to Jesus as a “warrior lamb,” not a sacrificial lamb. He expected Jesus to give out judgment—not receive it (Mt. 3:12). Kruse mostly draws this connection from extra-biblical literature (1 Enoch 90:9-12; Testament of Joseph 19:8-9). Of course, in retrospect, this reference would have a “double meaning,” where John the Baptist was speaking better than he knew.[48] We disagree with this interpretation, and think this is an oft-repeated hermeneutical mistake. We should draw from biblical allusions before jumping to extrabiblical allusions.

(1:30) This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’

See comments on verse 15 above.

(1:31-34) “I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” 32 John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

Twice John says, “I did not recognize him” (v.31, 33). It wasn’t until Jesus’ baptism that he recognized Jesus, because God spoke from heaven and the Spirit descended on Jesus. Matthew (3:16), Mark (1:10), and Luke (3:22) all mention the voice from heaven announcing who Jesus was. However, John omits the words of God, and only says he saw the Spirit descending like a dove.

How did John know that Jesus was the “Son of God”? He had already baptized Jesus, and then he heard God say, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Mt. 3:17). This is a case of interlocking between the gospels.

(1:35-36) Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

Apparently, John the Baptist said this about Jesus a lot (see v.29). John the Baptist had disciples of his own, but he kept pointing “his” disciples to Jesus. One of these disciples is Andrew—Peter’s brother. The other is anonymous, though because of the increased level of detail,[49] some like Richard Bauckham have wondered if the other disciple is the author[50] of this gospel.

(1:37) The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

John didn’t try to build up a personal kingdom of disciples. He believed that “his” disciples really and rightfully belonged to Jesus. Indeed, John was happy to see his disciples follow Jesus (Jn. 3:28-30). Yet, while John encouraged his disciples to follow Jesus, not all of them did (Jn. 3:25-27; Acts 19:1-7).

(1:38) And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?”

“What do you seek?” These are Jesus’ first words in the gospel. Jesus is still asking us this question two thousand years later: What exactly are you looking for?

“Where are You staying?” By asking where Jesus is staying, they were asking to become his disciples and follow him.

(1:39) He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.

Jesus gives the evangelistic invitation: “Come and… see.” Later, Philip gives the same invitation (“Come and see”) to Nathanael (v.46).

(1:40) One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.

Peter’s brother (Andrew) was originally a disciple of John the Baptist. We don’t know who the other disciple was—though see comments on verses 35-36.

(1:41) He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ).

The first thing that Andrew did after meeting Christ was to bring his brother to him. He wasn’t seminary trained, nor did he have a longstanding relationship with Jesus. He heard him talk (for one day!), and he decided to immediately bring his brother Peter to Jesus.

But will Peter listen…?

(1:42) He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

Peter came to investigate. Jesus tells him that his name is “Simon,” but he prophesies that he will be called “Cephas.” The name Cephas is the Aramaic transliteration of the word for “rock” (kēpha). Only the apostle Paul refers to Peter as “Cephas” (1 Cor. 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Gal. 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14).

(1:43-44) The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.

Jesus calls on Philip to follow him in Galilee, likely because Philip grew up in the same town as Andrew and Peter. It’s quite possible that they knew one another.

(1:45) Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Philip reaches out to his friend Nathanael, saying that the OT Scriptures predicted the Messiah, and he claimed to have found him (see Deut. 18:15). We only see Nathanael mentioned in one other place in the entire NT (Jn. 21:2). There, we learn that Nathanael was from Cana in Galilee. Later, this is the place in which Jesus would turn water into wine (Jn. 2:1-11).

(1:46) Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

Nathanael seems skeptical. This sounds like it’s going to turn into a debate! Instead, Philip uses the same tactic of Jesus: “Come and see” (cf. v.39).

(1:47) Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”

How could Jesus say this to a sinful man? The word “deceit” (dolos) is used of Jacob before his change of heart in the Septuagint (Gen. 27:35).[51] This could be a play on words, where Jesus is saying, “An Israelite in whom there is no Jacob!”[52] Jesus seems to be encouraging Nathanael for his desire to investigate spiritual matters for himself. The subsequent verses indeed demonstrate that Nathaniel is an honest seeker.

(1:48-49) Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.”

Why is Nathanael so impressed with this statement from Jesus? Jesus knew what Nathanael was doing, even though he was many miles away. Jesus was in Galilee when he “saw” Nathanael (v.43), but Nathanael was in Bethsaida (v.44). Nathanael must’ve been sitting under a fig tree. Nathanael must have gotten chills when Jesus said this.

(1:50) Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”

To paraphrase, Jesus is saying, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” This statement gives us a cliffhanger. What will Nathanael (and the reader!) see about Jesus in the following chapters?

(1:51) And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

This might be an allusion to “Jacob’s ladder” (Gen. 28:10-12). But instead of ascending on a ladder, the angels ascend on the Son of Man. That is, Jesus is the ladder to heaven. Carson writes, “What the disciples are promised, then, is heaven-sent confirmation that the one they have acknowledged as the Messiah has been appointed by God. Every Jew honoured Jacob/Israel, the father of the twelve tribes; now everyone must recognize that this same God has appointed Jesus as his Messiah.”[53] Just as Jacob called this place Bethel (“the house of God”), Jesus is going to become the fulfillment of “the house of God” (cf. Jn. 2:19-21). Kruse adds, “The greater things people were to see, then, would be the revelation of God in the life, ministry, death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus.”[54]

Discussion Questions

Read verses 19-37. In what ways does this section demonstrate that Jesus is greater than John the Baptist?

Read verses 41-46. Both Andrew and Philip bring people to Jesus. What does their example teach us about evangelism?

Conclusions

John the Baptist was humble enough to not take people’s praise or a false identity (e.g. the Messiah, Elijah, the Prophet). He was also humble enough to pass off “his” disciples to Jesus, rather than grow a personal following.

It’s only natural for people to do evangelism once they meet Jesus. Andrew brings Peter. Philip brings Nathanael. As we continue to read the gospel of John, we see how more and more people bring their friends, family, or other loved ones to meet Jesus.

John 2

John 2.1 (Wedding in Cana)

(2:1) On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.

Is there anything significant about this wedding being on “the third day”? Some interpreters think that this could be an allusion to Jesus’ resurrection occurring on the third day. We disagree. Jewish people traditionally get married on the third day of the week (Tuesday) because that day was called “good” twice in Genesis 1. Thus it became a tradition to get married that day.[55]

Cana is eight miles north of Nazareth. Did Jesus know the couple who was getting married? Were they friends of the family? He was personally “invited” (v.2), so this seems likely.

(2:2) And both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.

Jesus was the kind of guy that you would want to “invite” to your wedding.

(2:3) When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”

This would’ve been extremely embarrassing. Jewish weddings could last as long as a week in duration (Tobit 8:19; 11:18). Carson writes, “The financial responsibility lay with the groom. To run out of supplies would be a dreadful embarrassment in a ‘shame’ culture; there is some evidence it could also lay the groom open to a lawsuit from aggrieved relatives of the bride.”[56] Morris writes, “The ancient Near East there was a strong element of reciprocity about weddings, and that, for example, it was possible to take legal action in certain circumstances against a man who had failed to provide the appropriate wedding gift.”[57] The Mishnah states, “The groomsmen’s gift [counts as a loan and] can be recovered through a court of law” (Mishnah, Baba Batra, 9:4).[58]

Mary doesn’t tell Jesus what to do. She merely brings the need to Jesus. In his devotional book Prayer, Ole Hallesby comments, “To pray is to tell Jesus what we lack… Let us notice that she did nothing more. When she had told Jesus about the need of her friends, she knew that she did not have to do any more about it. She knew that she did not have to help Him either by suggesting what He should do or anything else. She knew Him and knew that this need had been left in the proper hands. She knew Him. She knew that He Himself knew what He wanted to do. She knew also that she did not have to influence Him or persuade Him to give these friends a helping hand. No one is so willing to help as He is!”[59] We see many examples of petitioning God for specific needs, as well as imperatives to do so (e.g. Jas. 4:2). However, Ole Hallesby’s insight in profound: Like Mary, sometimes we don’t know what to ask for, and simply bringing the need to Jesus is enough.

(2:4) And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.”

What is the connection between the wedding wine, and Jesus’ “hour” not yet coming? Some interpreters connect this based on the ultimate wedding supper of the Lamb.[60] Under this view, Jesus is at a friend’s wedding, but he’s thinking forward to his future wedding feast with his Bride the Church. But in order to get to his ultimate wedding, Jesus needs to go through his “hour.” In John, Jesus’ “hour” refers to the Cross (Jn. 12:27; 13:1; 17:1).

(Jn. 2:4) Was Jesus being disrespectful by calling Mary “woman”?

(2:5) His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

Mary places herself underneath the leadership and direction of her Son. Kruse comments, “It has often been remarked that Jesus’ mother only ever gave one instruction that has been preserved for us: people should do whatever Jesus told them to do.”[61]

(2:6-7) Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim.

The ritual waterpots were used for external cleansing—not internal cleansing (cf. Lk. 11:38-40). Jesus turns this external ceremonial into an internal one.[62]

If the six pots had 25 gallons each, and they were “filled… to the brim,” then that would be 150 gallons of wine. There are 128 ounces per gallon, and 25.4 ounces in a 750 ml bottle of wine. This means Jesus made 768 bottles of wine!

(2:8) And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him.

They took the wine to the “headwaiter” (NASB) or “head steward” (NET) or “master of ceremonies” (NLT), who tested Jesus’ wine. It’s funny that Jesus told them to take the wine to this man to be examined. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Wait until he gets a load of this!”

(2:9) When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom.

He tries the wine. This is the moment of truth. Is this wine snob going to spit it out in disgust? Will he call this wine sour and ruin the entire wedding?

(2:10) And said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.”

Did Jesus make cheap box wine? No way, he made top shelf wine!

(Jn. 2:8-10) Did Jesus turn the water into wine or into grape juice?

(2:11) This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

Why was this Jesus’ inaugural miracle? When a president takes over, his inaugural speech sets the tone for his candidacy. Why did Jesus pick this to be his first miracle? Why not raising someone from the dead? Multiplying the fish and loaves? Walking on water? He must’ve been trying to show that the goal of the Christian life is that God loves us and wants to celebrate his love with us! In the OT, an abundance of wine was a sign of the kingdom arriving (Jer. 31:12; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13-14).[63] This inaugural miracle resulted in the disciples believing in Jesus. Jesus chose this to be his first miracle in order to show us that he is no killjoy. Instead, he wants to invite us into a life of joy and abundant happiness (Jn. 10:10).

Discussion Questions

What is the significance to the fact that Jesus chose ceremonial water to turn into wine? Why didn’t he simply choose to draw water from a well?

Why did Jesus choose to do this miracle as his very first inaugural miracle? What does this tell us about what he offers for his followers?

Why do religions lean towards ritualism and formalism, rather than relating personally to God? Why would people prefer this?

What would you say to someone who said this? “I make religious rituals personal. Also, I feel close to God when I engage in religious ritualism.”

John 2.2 (Cleansing of the Temple)

(2:12) After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.

Capernaum seems to be Jesus’ home base. He would return here after travelling, and people knew to look for him here (Mt. 4:13; Jn. 6:24). Peter’s house was in Capernaum (Mt. 8:5, 14), so this could be where they stayed.

Jesus initially travelled with his family and his disciples. Later, we learn that his brothers didn’t believe in him (Jn. 7:5), and they must have wandered off. This explains why Jesus didn’t entrust his brothers with his (likely widowed) mother after his death (Jn. 19:26-27). Instead, he trusted John the “beloved disciple” with taking care of his mother after he was gone.

(2:13) The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Jesus went “up” to Jerusalem. Topographically, Jerusalem is higher than Cana. Carson writes, “This geographical approach to the expression fits the context, since the verse’s purpose is to explain why Jesus went up to Jerusalem in Judea. (People went up to Jerusalem, both because Jerusalem stood at a higher elevation than Galilee, and also because historically Jerusalem was the capital city—just as people go up to London from all over Britain.)”[64]

(2:14-15) And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.

This cleansing of the Temple occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It seems that this cleansing is in addition to the one that the Synoptics mention at the end of Jesus’ ministry.

(Jn. 2:14-15) When did Jesus cleanse the Temple? (c.f. Mt. 21:12; Mk. 11:15; Lk. 19:45)

(Jn. 2:14-15) Why did Jesus get so angry? Was his anger justified? (cf. Lk. 19:45-46, Mt. 21:12-13, and Mk. 11:15-17)

(2:16) And to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.”

These religious leaders were profiteering off of a poor culture. The historical background of this graft is important (see below).

 (2:17) His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume me.”

The disciples remember Psalm 69:9 and apply it to Jesus. In context, the psalmist faced antagonism from the people because of his zeal for the Temple. Similarly, Jesus faced persecution and eventual death.

(2:18) The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?”

Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple during Passover was not good for business: This would be like shutting off the power at Wal-Mart on Black Friday! The authorities wanted to dispense of him, but they couldn’t because he was well-liked.

Jesus had already shown his first “sign” at the wedding in Cana. But these religious men hadn’t been there. By the end of the gospel of John, they would see “many signs,” but still not believe (Jn. 12:37).

 (2:19) Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

Ancient people believed they could meet with the divine in specific places called temples. The supernatural and the natural intersected in temples—like a nexus between worlds—a crossroads. Virtually all ancient people believed that you couldn’t just stumble into the presence of the divine. Instead, you had to meet your deity in a temple of some kind.

The ancient Jews held to a similar concept, but their Temple was different. It was portable. It followed them. Or rather, they followed it.

Before the Jewish people built their massive Temple under King Solomon, God had them build a simple tabernacle. Instead of a massive and immovable Temple, God wanted a portable tent—a mobile home—that the people could carry with them wherever they went. Even the Hebrew term for the Tabernacle (miškān) is a derivation of “the word ‘to dwell’ (šāḵan) and is the place where God dwells among his people.”[65] Since God is omnipresent (Ps. 139:7-10; 1 Kings 8:27), it’s odd to think of him uniquely dwelling in a portable tent, but it’s only symbolic of his presence. He wanted a picture that would point to how people can relate to him.

We discover the fulfillment of the Tabernacle in the person of Jesus. When Christ came, God revealed that the Tabernacle—this moveable tent—foreshadowed the incarnation. At the incarnation, Jesus “became flesh, and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). Regarding this passage, scholar D.A. Carson comments, “More literally translated, the Greek verb skenoo means that the Word pitched his tabernacle, or lived in his tent, amongst us.”[66] Just as God dwelt in the portable tent with his people in the OT, God dwelt in a human body in the person of Christ. Here, Jesus makes the absolutely astounding claim that he himself was the Temple (v.21). In himself, people could come into the very presence of God.

Destroy this temple.” Jesus said that the destruction of his body would be the way to connect with God. It is in Jesus’ death that we can come into God’s presence.

This claim was so scandalous to this religious community that Jesus’ enemies brought it up in a garbled form at his trial (Mt. 26:60-61; Mk. 14:57-59) and execution (Mt. 27:40; Mk. 15:29). It later recurs in Stephen’s trial (Acts 6:14).

(2:20) The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”

They miss the point. They think he’s talking about the physical temple. Moreover, in the Greek, the term “you” is emphatic.[67] They are saying, “Who is going to raise it up in three days…? You?!”

“Forty-six years to build this temple.” Regarding this timeframe, Morris writes, “Josephus says that the work was begun in the eighteenth year of Herod’s reign (Antiquities of the Jews 15.380). This would be 20-19 BC, and if the Jews’ statement is accurate the date of this incident will be AD 27 or 28.”[68] Although, Morris also writes that this gives us “no firm date.”[69]

(2:21) But He was speaking of the temple of His body.

Jesus’ death and resurrection were the sign that he gave to the religious leaders elsewhere (Mt. 12:39-40).

(2:22) So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

The disciples were slow to know what Jesus was saying. It was only in retrospect that they were able to piece his enigmatic statements together.

“Scripture” and “the word which Jesus had spoken” are placed side by side—almost as if God’s written words and his incarnate Word have equal authority!

(2:23) Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing.

Jesus did more miracles there (“observing his signs), which John doesn’t record (cf. Jn. 21:25).

(2:24) But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men.

John uses wordplay here: While the people were trusting in Jesus (pisteuo), Jesus was not trusting them (pisteuo). He knew that these same people would later betray him.

(2:25) And because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.

Jesus loved humans without having blind faith in humans. He gave his life away without being naïve. Only God knows the hearts of humans (1 Kings 8:39).

Discussion Questions

Read verses 14-18. Jesus clearly made a demonstration of anger when he cleansed the Temple. Yet he did not sin (Eph. 4:26; 2 Cor. 5:21). What is the difference between righteous anger and unrighteous anger?

Read verses 22-25. Jesus didn’t trust people—even though they were placing their trust in him. How is Jesus’ example different than being cynical of others or being self-protective of being hurt?

What if someone said, “I think it’s really messed up that Jesus would drive people out of the Temple with a whip… I thought Jesus was supposed to be loving!”

John 3

As we noted before, John’s gospel is incredibly simple and straightforward, and yet, it is also deeply profound. John 3 is no exception. It gives us some of the clearest affirmations about salvation, while also confounding one of the most brilliant theological minds of Jesus’ day—a man named Nicodemus. Borchert comments, “Many of [John’] theological formulations press even the best of Christian minds just as Jesus pressed Nicodemus to consider a new depth of reality involving truth and salvation.”[70]

John 3.1 (Jesus and Nicodemus)

(3:1) Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.

“Pharisees.” This was an exclusive fraternity of roughly 6,000 highly religious men in Israel (see “Judaism in Jesus’ Day” for some historical background of the Pharisees).

“A ruler of the Jews.” This implies that he was a member of the elite Sanhedrin—the 70-person ruling council in Israel.[71]

While Nicodemus seemed to have it all, he was missing something. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been travelling at night to encounter Jesus. In reality, Nicodemus was missing the most important aspect of life: eternal life!

(3:2) This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

Why did Nicodemus come “by night”? It could very well be that he was afraid of ruining his prestigious reputation. He didn’t want to be seen in public with Jesus. John usually refers to the “night” with negative connotations (Jn. 9:4; 11:10; 13:30), and this alludes to the prologue where John writes, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (Jn. 1:5).

As a theologically brilliant leader in the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus probably thought that he was being generous in referring to Jesus as a fellow rabbi. Yet, he would’ve surely thought that Jesus was no Bible scholar (cf. Jn. 7:15). Yet, after this conversation was over, Nicodemus realized that he was the biblical novice—not Jesus.[72] Labelling Jesus as a “teacher” is accurate, but it isn’t adequate (see Lord, Liar, Lunatic, or Legend). If Nicodemus believes that Jesus came from God, then calling him a mere teacher isn’t going far enough.

Why does Nicodemus refer to “we” when he speaks to Jesus? Some understand this to mean that other rabbis came with Nicodemus, but they were not mentioned. This is possible, but doesn’t seem likely. Jesus responds to Nicodemus in the second person singular (“you”) throughout this section. More likely, this refers to Nicodemus’ colleagues back in Jerusalem. Apparently, reports about Jesus had spread all the way to the Sanhedrin.

(3:3) Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus uses a play on words: Nicodemus affirmed that no one “can” (dynamai) do the miracles that Jesus did, and Jesus uses the same language to communicate Nicodemus “cannot” (ou dynatai) enter the kingdom unless he is born again.

In first-century Judaism, it was considered adequate to be “born” into Judaism in order to go to heaven.[73] But Jesus threw a wrench in the gears: He tells Nicodemus that he needed to be “born again (cf. Jn. 1:12-13).

Does this refer to being born again or born from above? Commentators note that the term “again” (anōthen) can also be translated “from above.” It is translated that way elsewhere in the gospel of John (Jn. 3:31; 19:11, 23), as well as in other places in the NT (Mt. 27:51; Mk. 15:38; Jas. 1:17; 3:15, 17). However, the context should inform our understanding. In the next verse, Nicodemus understands Jesus as referring to being born a second time—not being born from above.

(3:4) Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”

I don’t think I would fit back in! That’s like fitting 40 people into a Smart Car—it just wouldn’t work… Although, Will Ferrell did it!

(3:5) Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

We understand “water” to refer to the amniotic fluid of our first birth, and the “Spirit” to refer to being spiritually born. See comments in the article below.

(Jn. 3:5) Does this passage refer to water baptism?

(3:6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Just as we need a physical birth to be physically alive, we also need a spiritual birth to be spiritually alive.

(3:7) Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

A lot of people in our culture are “amazed” at this teaching—especially religious people like Nicodemus. To some, it is the greatest news they’ve ever heard. To others, it is the most offensive news they’ve ever heard.

(3:8) The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.

Was the wind blowing when Jesus said this? Perhaps Jesus was making an illustration based on a gust of wind in the night. The movement of the Holy Spirit cannot be predicted or controlled. Solomon writes, “Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things” (Eccl. 11:5). Kruse writes, “This is a reminder for us not to tie the experience of being born of the Spirit to particular evangelistic formulae, but to recognize the ways of the Spirit with different people may be different, though always, as this Gospel makes abundantly clear, connected with faith in Jesus Christ.”[74]

If a sociologist interviewed 100 people who came to faith in Christ as adults, they would likely discover 100 unique stories.[75] While the stories would have similarities, they wouldn’t be the same. Some people come to Christ by sitting under good Bible teachings; others are moved by the love found among Christians; still others find Christ through a one-on-one relationship with a Christian friend or relative. Some Christians would describe the peace they felt when coming to Christ; others the freedom from guilt; still others would describe the ineffable joy that they experienced. The list could go on. This is because “the Spirit blows where it wishes.”

(3:9) Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?”

Jesus has just wrecked Nicodemus’ religious paradigm, and Nicodemus is struggling to keep up.

(3:10) Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?”

Jesus seems to expect Nicodemus to know that this teaching was present in the OT. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have asked this rhetorical question. But where is spiritual rebirth taught in the OT? Carson understands this to come from Ezekiel, where the prophet uses similar language to promise a “new heart” and a “new spirit” (Ezek. 36:26).[76] Carson reaches this conclusion because he places a lot of emphasis on the “water” mentioned in verse 5. This is a possible reading, but at the same time, Jesus could simply be referring to the general teaching of the OT where it is clear that we need God to cleanse and forgive us (e.g. Ps. 51:9-10). That is, the OT teaches that we need God to intervene for us to find forgiveness, and we need him to recreate us.

(3:11) Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony.

“We” is rarely used by Jesus (cf. Jn. 9:4, where it refers to the disciples, Mk. 9:40; Mt. 17:27). Some commentators think that this refers to the Trinity, or the Johannine community.[77] We agree with Carson who holds that Jesus is simply using the same approach Nicodemus used in verse 2, and we shouldn’t read too much into this shift.[78] To Carson, it’s as if Jesus is using the royal “we” to tease Nicodemus. To paraphrase, he is saying, “Nicodemus, you said, ‘We know some things.’ Well, let me turn that around… We know some things as well we do!” By contrast, Jesus’ use of “we” is used against the plural “you.” Jesus is saying, “Nicodemus, you and your colleagues in the Sanhedrin do not accept our testimony.”

The problem with Nicodemus is he doesn’t “accept” (lambano) the testimony (cf. Jn. 1:12). He is an example of those who did not “comprehend” (katalambano) Jesus (Jn. 1:5).

(3:12) If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

Carson holds that the “new birth” itself is the “earthly thing,” because it takes place on Earth. He explains, “Entrance into the kingdom depends absolutely on new birth; if Nicodemus stumbles over this elementary point of entry, then what is the use of going on to explain more of the details of life in the kingdom? The ‘heavenly things’ are then the splendours of the consummated kingdom, and what it means to live under such glorious, ineffable rule.”[79]

Our view is that Nicodemus wasn’t able to grasp the simple illustrations and metaphors of the “wind” and “birth” that Jesus mentioned earlier. If Nicodemus couldn’t understand these basic “earthly” teachings, then he wasn’t ready to accept the spiritual teachings regarding the new birth. Moreover, if Nicodemus can see the “signs” of Jesus (v.2), but won’t believe, then how can he believe Jesus’ unverifiable statements about heaven?

(3:13-14) No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.

Again, to paraphrase, Jesus is saying, “Nicodemus, you’ve never been to heaven—only I have” (cf. Jn. 1:51). Jesus identifies himself as the heavenly “Son of Man” (Dan. 7:13-14).

(Jn. 3:14-15) How does the story of the brazen serpent prefigure Jesus?

(3:15) So that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

This message of eternal life is universally available (whoever believes”).

(3:16) For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

While it is cliché, this may be the most comprehensive description of the gospel in a single verse of Scripture.

“For God so loved the world…” Morris writes, “His love is not a vague, sentimental feeling, but a love that costs. God gave what was most dear to him.”[80] Furthermore, God loved the “world” (kosmos), which is a system of values set up against him and rejects him. Carson writes, “Jews were familiar with the truth that God loved the children of Israel; here God’s love is not restricted by race. Even so, God’s love is to be admired not because the world is so big and includes so many people, but because the world is so bad: that is the customary connotation of kosmos (‘world’; cf. notes on 1:9). The world is so wicked that John elsewhere forbids Christians to love it or anything in it (1 Jn. 2:15-17). There is no contradiction between this prohibition and the fact that God does love it. Christians are not to love the world with the selfish love of participation; God loves the world with the self-less, costly love of redemption.”[81]

“He gave His only begotten Son…” God is a giver, and he “gave” his Son—his greatest possession. If he was willing to give us Jesus, what would he hold back from us? (Rom. 8:32)

“Whoever believes in Him shall not perish…” Our role is simply to trust and “believe” in Jesus.

“But have eternal life.” The result of our trust in Jesus is that we avoid “perishing” and judgment, and we get “eternal life” instead.

(3:17) For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

God didn’t come in the flesh to judge us, but to save us. Of course, Jesus will return to judge the world, but he initially came to offer us a peace treaty before the war (Jn. 5:22, 30). We need to accept his terms of peace now before it’s too late. The good news is that the terms of peace are completely in our favor: Our “Enemy” has all of the power and might to destroy us, but He has decided to give his life for us instead. Only a proud and twisted person would reject terms like this.

(3:18) He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

This judgment must refer to God’s legal verdict against us, rather than his wrath. We are already judged (i.e. found guilty). We need to believe in Jesus’ name—that is, Jesus himself—to find forgiveness (cf. Jn. 1:12).

(3:19-20) This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

Like cockroaches scattering when you turn on the kitchen lights, humans hide from the revealing light of God. God’s light exposes and scares them. Humans “love” (agapao) the darkness: that is, we sacrifice for it. Morris rightly notes that “there is a moral basis behind much unbelief.”[82]

(3:21) But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.

Could this refer to Jewish believers in Jesus? If a Jewish person (like Nicodemus, for example) was really practicing the truth of God, then he would naturally come to Jesus when he appeared. However, if the person was a religious hypocrite, then he would scatter. Perhaps Jesus is closing his discussion on this point to ask Nicodemus, “Which sort of person are you?

Discussion Question

Read verse 10. How is it possible to be such a highly educated religious leader, but still not be able to understand something as simple as how to go to heaven?

Nicodemus thought that he had eternal life because of his morality, his position, his ethnicity, etc. People still identify with Nicodemus’ barriers today:

  • Why is self-righteous morality such a barrier in coming to Christ?
  • Why is having a high position in society such a barrier in coming to Christ?
  • Why is our ethnicity or upbringing such a barrier in coming to Christ?
  • Why is our religious pedigree such a barrier in coming to Christ?

Do you remember a specific time that you were born again?

John 3.2 (John the Baptist)

(3:22) After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing.

This is the only mention of Jesus baptizing people in the Bible. Though, later we discover that it was actually Jesus’ disciples were the ones baptizing people. Later we read, “Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were” (Jn. 4:2).

(3:23) John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized.

John the Baptist was also baptizing people in the same region. Surely John the Baptist couldn’t help from noticing how many people Jesus’ disciples were baptizing compared to him. It would be easy to imagine John thinking, “Jesus is baptizing people, but that’s kind of my thing! After all, they don’t call me John the Baptist for nothing? Why is Jesus coming into my territory?” Was John counting the people and comparing Jesus’ ministry with his own? Was he jealous that Jesus was getting more attention? Will these two end up being rivals? Will he hate Jesus’ flourishing ministry, just as the Pharisees did?

(3:24) For John had not yet been thrown into prison.

John tells us nothing about John the Baptist’s imprisonment. We need to turn to the other gospels to even know what he’s talking about (Mt. 14:1-12; Mk. 6:14-29; Lk. 3:19-20).

(3:25) Therefore there arose a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification.

John’s disciples started to argue about the subject of purification with a Jewish man. This debate could’ve arisen based on Jesus turning the ritual water pots into wine, creating a scandal in the Jewish mind (Jn. 2:6-9). Apparently, this particular Jewish started to pit John the Baptist against Jesus.

(3:26) And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.”

They point out that more people are going out to Jesus, rather than to him. How will John respond to this news? Anger? Jealousy? A competitive spirit?

(3:27) John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.”

John didn’t cling to his following as his identity, his value, or his worth. Instead, he believed that his influence for God was a gift from God.

(3:28) “You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’”

John is saying, “I’m not what it’s all about. He is what it’s all about.”

(3:29) He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full.

There is one type of joy that you have when you’re the groom at the wedding, but another form when you’re the best man. Morris writes that in ancient Jewish culture the best man “was responsible for many of the details of the wedding, and in particular it was he who brought the bride to the bridegroom. But when he had done this, his task was over. He did not expect to take the center of the stage.”[83] In the OT, God was the bridegroom, and Israel was the bride (Isa. 62:5).

 (3:30) He must increase, but I must decrease.

This is a pretty good motto for your life!

(3:31) He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.

John had learned the lesson that Nicodemus had missed. He knew that Jesus was spiritual, and he himself was earthly. He continues to confess that Jesus is above all—including himself (cf. Jn. 3:13).

(3:32-33) What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. 33 He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true.

Jesus has testified to his transcendent nature, but people have rejected him. Accepting Jesus’ testimony is agreeing with God himself. Kruse writes, “To accept Jesus’ testimony is to certify that God is truthful, because Jesus, in his testimony to the world, passes on the message/words given him by God (cf. 7:15-18; 8:38, 46-47; 12:49; 14:10, 24; 17:8).”[84]

(3:34) For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.

God didn’t hold back on giving Jesus the Holy Spirit. Now that we’re in Christ, we too have the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14).

(3:35) The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.

The gospel of John lists just some of the things that God the Father put into Jesus’ authority. These would include “responsibility for the judgment (5:22, 27), to have life in himself (5:26), all believers as his possession (6:37, 39; 10:29; 17:6, 9), authority over all people (17:2), the ‘name’ (17:11, 12), and the glory (17:22, 24).”[85]

(3:36) He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

(Jn. 3:36) Does this passage require obedience in order to have saving faith?

Discussion Questions

John the Baptist gives us a good example of what it looks like to serve passionately, while at the same time not allowing ourselves to create an identity from our following. What specific lessons do we learn from John the Baptist’s example?

What is the difference between having a passionate desire to influence others for Christ, while not becoming obsessed with our following? In what ways could these attitudes look similar? In what ways would they look different?

John 4

John 4.1 (The woman at the well)

(4:1-3) Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), 3 He left Judea and went away again into Galilee.

The Pharisees heard that Jesus had a more popular baptizing ministry than John the Baptist. Aware of this, Jesus moved from Judea into Galilee.

(4:4) And He had to pass through Samaria.

Why did Jesus need to go through Samaria? This can be interpreted geographically or theologically. Geographically, the Samaritan route was the fastest way to travel from Galilee to Jerusalem (The Life of Josephus, 269; Antiquities of the Jews, 20.118). Theologically, it was necessary (edei) for Jesus to pass through Samaria, because there was someone that needed him: this is foreshadowing for the account to come…

Rabbis would travel the long way around Samaria to make this trip, because Jews and Samaritans hated each other (see “The History of the Samaritans”). Josephus records that the Galileans had a custom of taking this shortcut through Samaria. But on at least one occasion, the Samaritans ambushed the Galileans and “killed a great many of them” (Antiquities of the Jews, 20.118). Jesus was deliberately entering the “wrong neighborhood” by entering Samaria, and other rabbis would be too afraid to make this trip.

(4:5) So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.

Sychar is a town in Samaria.

Is there any theological significance to the fact that this is the plot of land that Jacob gave to Joseph? Or is John just signifying the place that they were? It should be noted that the woman at the well brings up Jacob in verse 12 (cf. Gen. 33:19; Josh. 24:32), but we aren’t sure if this carries significance or not.

(4:6) And Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

Jacob’s well is still there to this day. Paul Barnett writes, “Approximately one kilometer to the north of the well is a village called Askar which was apparently known as Sychar in the fourth century.”[86]

At this point, Jesus had travelled roughly 40 miles,[87] and he was in the noonday sun (i.e. “the sixth hour”). It’s no wonder why the text states that he had become “weary” from travelling. He stopped for a rest.

(4:7) There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”

Why was this woman coming to the well during the hottest time of day? And why did she come alone? Morris writes, “The woman had a bad reputation, and the explanation may be very simple—she chose the time and the place to avoid other women.”[88]

It wasn’t typical for Jewish men to talk to Jewish women in public—let alone a Samaritan woman (v.9). The Mishnah stated that Samaritan women were in a perpetual state of uncleanness (Niddah 4:1). Craig Keener writes, “According to Jewish sages, Jewish men were to avoid unnecessary conversation with women. Thus among six activities listed as unbecoming for a scholar is conversing with a woman… a wife could be divorced without her marriage settlement if she spoke with a man in the street. Any wife being in private with another man other than her husband was normally suspected of adultery… Romans also regarded wives speaking publicly with others’ husbands as a horrible matter reflecting possible flirtatious designs and subverting the moral order of the state. Even today in traditional Middle Eastern societies, ‘Social intercourse between unrelated men and women is almost equivalent to sexual intercourse.’ If a man and woman ‘are alone together for more than twenty minutes,’ it is assumed that ‘they have had intercourse.’”[89]

“Give Me a drink.” There is great irony in this request. Borchert writes, “she was in for a surprise because instead of his original request for water, Jesus suggested that she might want to ask him for ‘living water.’”[90]

(4:8) For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.

Jesus was all alone during this scene.

(4:9) Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

Verse 7 sounds like Jesus is bossing the woman around. However, she interpreted his communication as an act of love. No one of Jesus’ status would ever talk with her (cf. Jn. 8:48). Jesus was breaking down cultural barriers.

(4:10) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

Jesus asked for a drink, but he says that the woman is the one who is really thirsty. This is the only time “gift” (dōrea) is used in the gospels. It isn’t the gifts of God (plural), but the gift of God (singular). What is the singular gift of God? The OT refers to God himself as “living water” (Jer. 2:13; 17:13; cf. Isa. 44:3). In John, the greatest gift given to the believer is the Holy Spirit (Jn. 7:37-39).[91]

(4:11) She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water?

She thinks Jesus is talking about literal water. Her reaction is similar to the religious leaders who believed Jesus was speaking of the literal destruction of the Temple (Jn. 2:20), or Nicodemus thinking that Jesus was speaking about a literal rebirth (Jn. 3:4).

(4:12) “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?”

Samaritans believed they were descended from Jacob (Antiquities of the Jews, 11:341). She is asking, “Are you really claiming to be greater than Jacob—our great patriarch?” Jesus was probably thinking, “Greater? Oh yes, far greater! Lady, Jacob has nothing on me!”

(4:13-14) Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Jesus doesn’t follow her down the rabbit trail of a discussion about Jacob. Indeed, by arguing about the ancestry of Jacob, Jesus only would be following “an evangelistic tangent that might appeal to those of us who love to argue.”[92] Instead, he doesn’t bring up Jacob again.

“Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again.” Consider how it feels to be parched and dehydrated in the noonday sun. Your mind becomes fuzzy; you wonder if you’ll die if you can’t access water soon; you can thinking of nothing else besides a cool drink. Of course, Western people have access to clean and potable water at every turn, but in this culture and landscape, water was a premium commodity.

Jesus uses the concept of physical thirst as a metaphor for our spiritual thirst. Just as a person would be literally dying of thirst, Jesus sees that people are literally dying in their present human conditions—being dead in their sins. He has “water” that can cure this unquenchable thirst.

Jesus doesn’t use the continual tense for these verbs (“drinks,” “thirst,” “become”). When we drink from this living water, something fundamentally changes at that moment onward. In the epistles, we learn that we receive forensic justification, regeneration, and possess a new position before God.

(4:15) The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.”

The woman’s response tells us two things: First, she was interested in Jesus’ offer, and second, she still had no idea what Jesus was talking about! It may sound like she’s ready to receive Jesus’ gift of eternal life, but Jesus discerns that she’s not ready.

(4:16) He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.”

Whoa, why the shift in conversation? They were just talking about water, and now, Jesus is bringing up her marriage. What’s the deal? As we soon discover, Jesus is going to incisively speak to the greatest pain in her life to show the need she has for him (and his living water).

(4:17) The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband.’”

The woman’s answer is surprisingly short. She is being honest, but she omits a great deal of her past. The reader can tell that she doesn’t want to talk about this touchy subject.

(4:18) “For you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.”

What does this information tell us about this woman? It’s possible that she was widowed five times, but not statistically likely. It’s more likely that she was serially divorced. In this culture, a husband could divorce his wife and throw her out on the street for virtually any reason. Josephus—a scrupulous Pharisee—writes, “I divorced my wife also, as not pleased with her behavior, though not till she had been the mother of three children” (Life of Josephus, 426). The Mishnah states, “The School of Hillel [says]: He may divorce her even if she spoiled a dish for him, for it is written, ‘Because he hath found in her indecency in anything. Rabbi Akiba says: ‘Even if he found another fairer than she’” (Mishnah Giṭṭin 9.10). Moreover, only men could divorce women—not the other way around (m. Yebam. 14.1.).

When a woman was divorced, she was viewed as a spoiled commodity in this religious culture. But to be divorced five times? She would’ve been treated as trash. Consequently, she had given up on the institution of marriage, and she was settling for cohabitation.

Jesus had some sort of supernatural insight into her life, knowing everything about this woman. Later, this supernatural insight and grace became an essential part of this woman’s testimony (v.29).

(4:19) The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.”

The woman calls Jesus a “prophet” because he had supernatural insight into her life. The Samaritans expected the “Taheb, a prophet-like figure similar to Moses, whom they believed would be able to answer all the vexing questions of the law.”[93] This would be similar to the Jewish expectation of an ultimate prophet in line with one greater than Moses( cf. Deut. 18:15-18). Thus, there wasn’t anything explicitly wrong with this woman’s affirmation. The problem wasn’t that the woman’s statement was wrong, but simply that she didn’t go far enough.

(4:20) “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”

All of the sudden this woman has become a theologian! Jesus hit too close to home by exposing her life of being passed from man to man, experiencing serial divorce. Rather than pursuing this further, the woman throws up a smokescreen, preferring to speak about theological differences between the Jews and Samaritans.

The Jews and Samaritans had an intense theological debate over whether God should be worshipped in Jerusalem (the Jews) or Mount Gerizim (the Samaritans). The Samaritans had built a temple on Mount Gerizim in 388 BC, which opposed the Temple in Jerusalem.[94]

(4:21) Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”

Jesus didn’t follow her down the theological red herring. Instead, he skillfully responds to her false dilemma: The new “worship” will not be enclosed to a space or place (“neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem).

(4:22) “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.”

He doesn’t dodge the Samaritan-Jewish theological debate. He clearly says that the Samaritans are in the wrong. Kruse comments, “No matter how much grace Jesus was to show to the Samaritan woman, it would not be at the expense of truth.”[95]

(4:23-24) “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

What does it mean to worship the Father “in spirit” and “in truth”? Whatever Jesus is describing, it is radically different from old covenant worship, because he contrasts this new worship apart from the location of the Temple. Hence, Kruse comments, “This is a reminder that worship is not restricted to what we do when we come together in church, but about the way we relate to God through the Spirit and in accordance with the teaching of Jesus, and that touches the whole of life.”[96]

“In spirit” could mean in the spiritual realm (Rom. 1:9; 2:29; Phil. 3:3), in contrast to the physical confines of the Temple. It could also mean in the power of the spirit—rather than the flesh (Phil. 3:3). We are inclined to take the view that Jesus is referring to the spiritual realm, because the context is in contrast to the physical location of the Temple. Moreover, this fits with Jesus’ earlier statement that people need to be “born of the Spirit” (Jn. 3:6). Earlier, Jesus said, “An hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father” (v.21).

“In truth” could either mean in reality or in sincerity. People recognized Jesus as “truthful” and “[teaching] the way of God in truth” (Mt. 22:16). John elsewhere writes that we should “not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 Jn. 3:18). We’re more inclined to understand “in truth” to refer to in reality, because of the context (“You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know,” v.22).

(4:25) The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.”

Instead of engaging with Jesus’ message, this could be “her last effort at changing the subject and putting this strange speaker in his place.”[97] Since she didn’t know who the Messiah was or when he was coming, this raise yet another theological smoke screen. She’s saying in effect that we can’t know about this until the Messiah tells us. She didn’t realize that this was precisely the wrong smokescreen to use.

(4:26) Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

Owners will often go into their companies as “secret shoppers” to talk to their workers, but they don’t reveal this until later. Once a worker finds out they were talking with the Boss, they become flushed and surprised. We might wonder if this woman experienced a magnified version of that sensation when she realized to whom she was speaking.

(4:27) At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why do You speak with her?”

What awkward timing! Jesus just dropped a bomb on this woman, and she must have been standing there with her jaw laying on the ground. The disciples immediately interrupt the conversation just when it was getting good.

Jesus’ disciples were shocked that he would be talking to a woman in public—let alone a Samaritan woman (!!). If you recall, the woman herself was shocked at this (v.9). Indeed, everyone besides Jesus was shocked!

(4:28) So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and said to the men.

Is there any significance to the fact that the woman “left her waterpot”? Yes. The woman had travelled all the way there to the well in the hot sun, and she was so shocked that she left the waterpot behind. Because she had the “living water,” she no longer needed the water from the well.

Is there any significance to the fact that the woman spoke to the “men”? Again, yes! This wild and loose woman no longer felt afraid to share publicly—even with men. She had been ostracized by her community for her relationship with men. Now, she was dead set on leading them to Christ.

(4:29) “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?”

“Come [and] see.” This is an oft-repeated invitation that the disciples used in John’s gospel to simply introduce people to Jesus—before entering into dialogue or debate (cf. Jn. 1:39, 46).

The thing that touched this woman the most was the fact that Jesus knew what she had done—yet he still talked to her and still accepted her. These Samaritan men had treated her poorly, and so, she says, “Come and meet a real man!”

“This is not the Christ, is it?” This woman seems astonished that this could be the Messiah. Yet, we sense a ring of hope in her words. She wanted him to be the Christ. She was probably asking herself how the Messiah could be so gentle and kind toward a sinful Samaritan woman like her. No doubt, this woman was still confused. But this shows that “people do not need to be fully convinced in order to be witnesses.”[98]

(4:30) They went out of the city, and were coming to Him.

Even the newest (and most sinful) believers are fully equipped to share about Christ. Apparently, this woman’s testimony impacted the whole village, and they came to seek Christ. Many believed as a consequence of her testimony (v.39).

Don’t forget the historical animosity between the Jews and Samaritans which makes this revival all the more astounding. And, we should also not forget that women (especially promiscuous women) were not considered valid, legal witnesses at this time (Lk. 24:11). Despite everything cultural working against her, God was still able to use her to reach the entire town.

Real food

(4:31) Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”

Remember, the disciples had originally left to buy some food (v.8). They brought back lunch and told Jesus to eat, because he had been “weary” (v.6).

(4:32-34) But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples were saying to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.”

Apparently, serving this woman didn’t make Jesus more exhausted, but less. The encounter had actually energized him even more than before.

(4:35) “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.”

As he was talking, many Samaritans were coming to see Jesus (v.30). Jesus is pointing out that there is a massive harvest ahead of them.

(4:36-38) “Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.”

What does Jesus mean by multiple persons sowing and reaping together? This could refer to the preaching ministry of John the Baptist,[99] the Father and Son working together,[100] or the evangelistic ministry of the woman at the well (v.30). In our view, it is a general statement that is true of ministry in general: Even when we reap a harvest in ministry, we are standing on the shoulders of giants who preceded us (1 Cor. 3:6).

(4:39) “From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.”

This woman was effective because she merely shared her story. They must have seen one woman when she left that morning for the well, and a completely new woman when she came back that afternoon.

(4:40-41) So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 Many more believed because of His word.

Jesus stuck around for a couple of days, and many Samaritans came to faith.

(4:42) And they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”

The woman’s testimony opened an opportunity for them to hear Jesus’ testimony. This mini revival surely lay a foundation for the post-Pentecost revival, when many more Samaritans met Christ (Acts 8).

Discussion Questions

Jesus takes a very unique approach with the woman at the well. Study how he approached her, then consider these questions:

  • Why did he ask the questions that he did?
  • How did he masterfully avoid theological red herrings?

Compare and contrast Nicodemus with the Samaritan woman. What differences do we see between these two figures? What outcomes do we see from their encounter with Jesus?

  • Nicodemus was a respected, wealthy Jewish male, well-trained in the Scriptures and looking for answers.
  • The Samaritan woman was viewed as a despised, half-breed, promiscuous woman, who wasn’t looking for Christ.
  • Nicodemus left confused.
  • The Samaritan woman left and led her whole village to Christ. Plus, she laid the foundation for many more coming to faith in Samaria in Acts 8.

Why does Jesus take such a different approach with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman? Why does he focus on different elements of faith? (e.g. “born again” versus “living water”)

What theological or moral qualifications did the woman at the well have to share her testimony with the Samaritans? What disqualifications did she have?

John 4.2 (Healing the Royal Official’s Son)

(4:43) After the two days He went forth from there into Galilee.

Jesus lingered in Samaria for a couple of days, presumably to reach a sizable number of people (v.41).

(4:44) For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country.

This statement from Jesus appears in all four gospels (Mt. 13:57; Mk. 6:4; Lk. 4:24). Jesus’ own family was the hardest for him to reach (Jn. 7:5; Mk. 3:21). Believers often receive similar treatment with their own families. After all, it would be hard for a father or mother to listen to their child talk about having answers to the ultimate questions of life, when they spent years changing their diapers and wiping their runny noses! Yet, this statement should not bring despair or discouragement for the Christian. After all, Jesus reached his family! Jesus reached his mother (Acts 1:14), his brother James (1 Cor. 15:7; Acts 15:13; 21:18; Gal. 1:19; 2:9), and the rest of his brothers (Acts 1:14). Most commentators believe that Jesus’ father likely died before Jesus began his earthly ministry; otherwise, Joseph would most likely have become a follower of Jesus as well.

(4:45) So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves also went to the feast.

The Galileans received him, because of the miracles at the feast (Jn. 2:23), but their faith was short lived (Jn. 2:24-25; v.48).

(4:46) Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum.

Jesus came back to Cana which was the place where he started his public ministry of miracles. The people must’ve been watching him to see what he would do now.

The “royal official” was probably a rich man, but all of his money couldn’t save his son. Carson writes, “The Greek word for ‘royal official’, basilikos, sometimes rendered ‘nobleman’, probably refers to someone officially attached to the service of a basileus, a ‘king’—here doubtless referring to Herod Antipas. He was tetrarch of Galilee from 4 BC to 39, AD and not properly a ‘king’ at all; but he was popularly considered one (Mk. 6:14).”[101]

(4:47) When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death.

Capernaum was to the northwest of Cana—relatively close. This rich man must’ve heard that Jesus (some sort of miracle worker) was back in town. He took the chance to come meet him. Incidentally, Jesus’ mention of coming “down” to Cana fits with the topography between Capernaum and Cana (cf. v.49, 51). The “land falls from well above sea level to two hundred meters below sea level, a drop of many hundred meters. The writer has shown, in this narrative, an accurate understanding of the topography of western Galilee.”[102]

(4:48) So Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.”

Why does Jesus admonish the crowd? Jesus seems to be more concerned with faith, rather than just dazzling the crowds. He is making a point about the fact that people should have faith without seeing a constant repetition of miracles. Borcher writes, “If the man had been toying with the idea of viewing Jesus as a wonder-working, cure-all magician, Jesus stopped him immediately in any such pattern of thinking.”[103]

Furthermore, Jesus isn’t simply speaking to the father. He uses the plural (“you people”). That is, he is speaking to the larger audience—not just this man. Perhaps the other people were standing around, waiting to see Jesus “wow” them again.

(4:49) The royal official said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

The man keeps pressing Jesus to heal his son. Morris writes, “The nobleman’s deep concern comes out in this plea. He does not defend himself. He does not argue. He simply urges Jesus to do something before the child dies. The word for ‘child’ is not that used in verses 46 and 47, but a term expressive of affection (Barclay, ‘my little lad’).”[104]

(4:50) Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off.

The man had told Jesus to “come down” with him. But Jesus says, “No.” Typically, miracle workers needed to be present to heal a person, but “here the healer refused to be present.”[105] In a sense, Jesus tells the man, “I’m not the one who is going to go… Instead, you need to go.” Rather than seeing a sign, the man needed to trust in Jesus’ word (cf. Jn. 20:29). The official needed to trust that Jesus’ word was true, and the healing had occurred. This would take a considerable amount of faith, because Capernaum is roughly nine miles away. What if the royal official walked all the way back to find his son still sick, or even dead?

(4:51) As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living.

On the road, his servants met him and told him that he was healed. The servants must’ve been monitoring the boy’s health, and once he was better, they raced off to chase down their master.

(4:52) So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”

Why does the royal official ask about the time of the healing? He must be trying to see if the healing was just a coincidence, or if a miracle had occurred. The fact that the boy became better on the very same hour indicates that a coincidence wasn’t likely.

(4:53) So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives”; and he himself believed and his whole household.

The royal official first believed Jesus’ word (v.50), and now he believes in Jesus personally. This led his whole family to come to Christ.

(4:54) This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

Discussion Questions

This is the second sign that John records. What does this sign communicate about the nature of biblical faith?

John 5

John 5.1 (Healing a man on the Sabbath)

(5:1) After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

We’re not told which feast this was: It was a feast” rather than “the Feast.” There simply isn’t enough information to know.[106]

(5:2) Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes.

For years, critics held that the pool of Bethesda was purely legendary. After all, John’s gospel isn’t historical, right? Wrong! In the 1890s, archaeologists discovered this pool, and it had exactly five colonnades—just as John recorded. Blomberg writes, “Reconstruction showed how two juxtaposed rectangular enclosures would have created five porticoes.”[107]

Jesus went to the poor, disfigured, and marginalized of society. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, we might expect him to strategically travel to the “elite” places and to the “rich and famous,” who could help him “politically and financially with his ministry.” But instead, we find that “He concentrated on people in need, which for the elite of society was part of his problem.”[108]

(5:3a) In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered.

Physically handicapped people would wait there to be healed or beg for money. In this day, handicapped people were utterly at the mercy of people’s charity.

(5:3b-4) [Waiting for the moving of the waters; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]

This portion is not in the earliest manuscripts of John. Morris writes, “The manuscript evidence makes it certain that this is no part of the original Gospel.”[109] Indeed, it gives a bizarre picture of an angel coming at certain seasons to heal people. It isn’t hard to believe that this is a superstitious addition to the text by a later scribe.

(5:5) A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.

This sick man had suffered for 38 years. We don’t know condition he had, but it must’ve related to being paralyzed based on verse 8 (Get up, pick up your pallet and walk”). Imagine how much a severe medical condition would become a part of your identity. Your life would really revolve around your condition.

(5:6) When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?”

Why does Jesus ask this? Is it a mere rhetorical question? We take this as a legitimate question with which God confronts to all of us: Do you want to be healed by Me, or do you want to stay in your condition? Spiritual change comes to those who genuinely desire it.

Furthermore, while the man may not have liked his condition, he may have learned to settle for it. He was used to his life, and “an eastern beggar often loses a good living by being cured of his disease.”[110] He may have learned to beg for a living, and this had become normal to him.

(5:7) The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”

Instead of answering Jesus’ simple question, the man starts to complain about the people around him. When we are stuck in a spiritual sickness, we often spend most of our time complaining about how no one initiates with us, no one loves us, etc. We make ourselves victims of circumstance, rather than taking the responsibility to exert faith.

  • SELF-FOCUSED: “I can’t get well!”
  • PEOPLE-FOCUSED: “I have no one to put me into the pool…”
  • CIRCUMSTANCE-FOCUSED: “Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

(5:8) Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.”

Jesus ignores this man’s complaints. He also does not appeal to a “magical pool” of healing, which was a religious (and superstitious) quick-fix. Instead, he offers simple and direct healing from God (as God).

(5:9) Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. Now it was the Sabbath on that day.

This isn’t like a “miracle worker” today, where you feel a little better. This is an instant and complete healing. Moreover, the fact that Jesus healed him on the Sabbath becomes important to the story later…

(5:10) So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.”

The religious leaders had just witnessed a bona fide miracle, and what do they focus on? The miracle? The healed man? No, religious rules! They were angry that the man was “doing work” by carrying his pallet (contra m. Shabbat 7.2). This teaching of working on the Sabbath come from the Bible, but from extrabiblical, man-made rules. The Mishnah records just how scrupulously the rabbis regulated working on the Sabbath:

The main classes of work are forty save one: sowing, ploughing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, cleansing crops, grinding, sifting, kneading, baking, shearing wool, washing or beating or dyeing it, spinning, weaving, making two loops, weaving two threads, separating two threads, tying [a knot], loosening [a knot], sewing two stitches, tearing in order to sew two stitches, hunting a gazelle, slaughtering or flaying or salting it or curing its skin, scraping it or cutting it up, writing two letters, erasing in order to write two letters, building, pulling down, putting out a fire, lighting a fire, striking with a hammer and taking out aught from one domain to another. These are the main classes of work: forty save one. (Šabbat 7:2)[111]

William Barclay writes, “They spent endless hours arguing whether a man could or could not lift a lamp from one place to another on the Sabbath, whether a tailor committed a sin if he went out with a needle in his robe, whether a woman might wear a brooch or false hair, even if a man might go out on the Sabbath with artificial teeth or an artificial limb, if a man might lift his child on the Sabbath Day.”[112]

(5:11) But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.’”

The healed man says that whoever healed him (i.e. had the power of God) told him not to worry about their religious rules.

(5:12) They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?”

We wonder if they suspected it was Jesus. The problem is that they consider Jesus to be a mere man—not the God-man.

(5:13) But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place.

The man didn’t even know who healed him. Apparently, Jesus healed him, and just walked out. Unlike so-called miracle workers today, Jesus didn’t want the praise or adulation of the crowds. It was only later that Jesus returned to follow up with the man, combining the miracle with a message.

(5:14) Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.”

Is Jesus connecting physical sickness with sin? No. After all, he denies that very teaching in John 9:1-2. Jesus points out that the man was physically healed, and next, he points out that he wants to see him spiritually healed. There is no sign in the text that he came to faith. In fact, the man’s bitter attitude and finger pointing lead us to believe that he wasn’t a believer. Borchert writes, “The blaming, self-centered, self-preservation pattern of his former life continued after the healing as he turned from the Healer to investigators (the Jews) and reported Jesus to these authority figures.”[113] Jesus knew that this man was not yet a believer, and he wanted to give him this message to take him to the next step. Most likely, Jesus is giving him “Plan A and Plan B.” Plan A is to live a perfectly moral life. Plan B is to come to trust in Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. Jesus leaves him with Plan A, so that he will come to Plan B. Jesus later gives the woman caught in adultery the same message (Jn. 8:11).

Jesus could have escaped from this situation without any confrontation, but Jesus just couldn’t resist stirring the pot…

(5:15) The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

The man (Jesus) who told him to “break the Sabbath” also performed a miracle. If the miracle was from God, then so was his message. But this would mean that these religious rules for Sabbath observance were clearly against God’s will.

(5:16) For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.

Again, it’s amazing that they were so caught up in their religiosity that they couldn’t marvel at the miracle. A man just had his life changed, and all they could think about was how to persecute Jesus.

(5:17-18) But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” 18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.

God, of course, didn’t need to keep the Sabbath. The Jews in Jesus’ day believed that God continued to work on the Sabbath (e.g. bringing rain, sunlight, etc.). Thus Jesus’ statement (that the Sabbath didn’t apply to him) was interpreted properly to mean that he was God.[114] Morris writes, “There is an account of a visit to Rome by four eminent rabbis who on being asked why God does not keep the Sabbath retorted that it is lawful to carry things within one’s own courtyard and this whole universe is God’s courtyard (Midrash Rabba: Exodus, 30.9). That the Father works on the Sabbath was accepted.”[115]

“My Father is working until now. Jews in Jesus’ day didn’t refer to God as their personal father (see “From Slaves to Sons”). Therefore, this was an audacious claim for Jesus to make.

Discussion questions

What might be ways to tell the difference between someone who is willing to change, and someone who really wants to change?

What might be some helpful ways to encourage a person from merely being willing to actually wanting to change?

If you came into a person’s home, and they had nothing but Cavs memorabilia in their house… that would communicate something about the person. Based on the religious rules listed above (v.10): What do these religious rules communicate about what God is like?

John 5.2 (Jesus confronts the religious leaders)

(5:19) Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.”

Jesus says he could do “nothing” without the Father. How much more should we say this! Jesus spent his earthly ministry in total dependence on the Father. He mimics the Father’s actions much like a father and son relationship.

(5:20) For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel.

The Father loves Jesus and keeps him close to his heart (Jn. 1:18). We too are close to the Father’s heart through identification with Jesus (Eph. 1:7).

(5:21) For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.

Both the Father and Son work in concert together to raise people from the dead. In the OT, only Yahweh could give life (Deut. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6; 2 Kings 5:7). Borchert writes, “Among the unique characteristics of God in the Old Testament, perhaps none is more significant than God as the Life-giver. It is God who breathed into the first human the breath of life, and that is the reason the mortal who was formed from the dirt is a ‘living being’ (nepeš ḥayyâ, Gen 2:7)… To make a person live was the prerogative of God and his special servants like Elijah (1 Kgs 17:21-24). But according to John, Jesus is not merely a servant of God who acts for God like Elijah. Instead, the evangelist proclaims, ‘In him was life’ (John 1:4). Raising a person from the dead therefore was a sign of the presence of God.”[116] Here, Jesus is said to be the giver of life.

(5:22) For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son.

The One who took our judgment on the Cross will be the One to dispense judgment to those who refused his forgiveness.

(5:23) So that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

Jesus is claiming to receive the honor that belongs to the Father. In fact, he claims that you cannot truly honor the Father without honoring the Son. Philo—a first-century Jewish philosopher—wrote that honor cannot go to idols or polytheistic deities: “They who deify mortal things neglect the honour due to God” (Philo, On Drunkeness, 110). Again, Jesus is claiming his deity.

(5:24) Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

This passage doesn’t say that we need to believe in Jesus. It says that we need to believe in the Father who sent Jesus. Of course, to do this, we need to believe in Jesus’ word (“he who believes my word”).

This is a strong passage on eternal security. We pass from death and into life. Morris writes, “The saying points to their permanent safety. To have eternal life now is to be secure throughout eternity.”[117]

(5:25) Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

This is “already, not yet” language. He says that this hour is “coming” in the future, but already “now is” in some sense. It is revealed in a spiritual sense through our justification by faith (v.24). So, even though we haven’t been physically raised from the dead (“an hour is coming), it is as sure as if it had happened already (“now is”).

(5:26) For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself.

God the Father is self-existent, and Jesus depended on this for his physical life. If Jesus depended on God the Father in this way, then how much more should we?

(5:27) And He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.

See verse 22.

(5:28-29) Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29 and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.

Jesus says that they really shouldn’t be surprised about his message of the resurrection of the dead. He paraphrases Daniel 12:2. At the voice of Jesus, all of the dead will rise.

The word “deeds” is not in the Greek (note this is italicized in the NASB). What does John mean by “the good” or “the evil”? Some commentators take this to refer to good works which demonstrate our faith.[118] We disagree. The context refers to simply having faith. In our view, “the good” means exerting faith and “the evil” refers to rejecting Christ. We agree with Kruse, who writes, “In this Gospel doing good means believing in the one God sent into the world, while the ultimate evil is to reject this one, and refuse to believe in him.”[119] Carson writes that the ones who do “the good” are “those who have come to the light so that it may be plainly seen that what they have done they have done through God [Jn. 3:21]”[120] and those who do “the evil” are those who “loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. [Jn. 3:19]”[121]

(5:30) I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

Similar to verse 19, Jesus depends completely on the Father. Jesus is the one who will execute judgment (v.27), but he does this in perfect unison with the Father. From here, Jesus goes on to validate his bold claims, citing witnesses that can attest to what he has been claiming. Since these religious men required two or three witnesses according to the Law (Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6), Jesus follows their standards, aptly fulfilling them.

Witness #1: God the Father

(5:31-32) If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true.

God the Father supports Jesus’ testimony. But, of course, the religious authorities would dispute this because they couldn’t directly speak with God the Father.

(Jn. 5:31) Is Jesus’ testimony true or not (c.f. 8:14)?

Witness #2: John the Baptist

(5:33-34) You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. 34 But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved.

The religious leaders sent for John the Baptist, but they refused his testimony. Jesus makes clear that this is only the beginning of his testimony. In fact, the testimony he has does not come “from man.” Jesus gives them this evidence so that they will come to saving faith (“I say these things so that you may be saved”).

(5:35) He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.

Was John the Baptist dead at this point? Is that why Jesus is speaking about him in the past tense? In Matthew’s account, John dies in Matthew 14:1-14, and then the feeding of the 5,000 occurs in Matthew 14:15-21. Similarly, in John’s account, Jesus speaks of John in the past tense just before the feeding of the 5,000 (Jn. 6). If this is chronological, rather than topically arranged, then this would align quite nicely with the Synoptics. John would’ve just recently died.

What does it mean that they “rejoiced” in John’s message? Morris takes this to mean “merrymaking,” but not actually taking John’s message seriously.[122] It could simply mean that they liked John’s message to a certain extent, but they wouldn’t follow everything that he taught—especially his teaching about Jesus.

Witness #3: Jesus’ miracles

(5:36) But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.

Jesus’ miracles show that he is divinely empowered and approved of by God the Father.

Witness #4: The OT Scriptures

(5:37-38) And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. 38 You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.

Jesus turns the tables for a moment, moving from the defendant to the prosecutor: The religious leaders had God’s words, but they didn’t believe in them. They had the OT Scriptures (v.39), but they didn’t have the word “abiding in [them.]” They needed to believe Jesus’ words and the Father who sent Jesus (Jn. 5:24).

(5:39) You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.

The religious leaders believed that possessing the Scriptures brought about life. As the Mishnah records, “Lots of Torah, lots of life” (m. Abot 2:6). Just like many nominal Christians who have Bible gathering dust on the shelves, these religious leaders possessed the Torah, but this didn’t result in forgiveness or a relationship with God.

This isn’t bibliolatry (i.e. worshipping the Bible) as some postmodern, Emergent authors would claim. This is actually just the opposite. They didn’t understand the Scriptures too much, but too little. They didn’t properly interpret the Scriptures to see the predictions about the Messiah right in front of them. By contrast, Emergents claim that our interpretation of Scripture is irrelevant or unknowable.

(5:40) And you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

The fundamental problem with the religious leaders was their “unwillingness” (ou thelete) to come to Christ.

(5:41-42) I do not receive glory from men; 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.

What is the relationship between Jesus not receiving glory from men, and the religious leaders not having the love of God? We forfeit the love of God when we seek glory from men (see verse 44).

(5:43) I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him.

Jesus is calling them hypocrites. To loosely paraphrase, “Why are you okay accepting leaders who have no testimony but their own, but you reject Me when God has given Me supernatural verification?”

(5:44) How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?

There is a fundamental contrast between seeking glory from men and seeking glory from God. The walking Christian needs to learn this lesson over and over again: Do I serve the Lord for his approval, or for people’s approval? Later, we see a connection with the religious leaders: “Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (Jn. 12:42-43).

(5:45) Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope.

Jesus pulls the rug out from under them. The religious leaders were trusting in the OT Scriptures, but these Scriptures actually serve to condemn them (see v.39).

(5:46-47) “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Jesus unifies himself and his teaching with the OT Scriptures. The two are on par with one another. He was not breaking from the OT law regarding the Sabbath or anything else, but rather, he was fully in line with Moses.

Discussion Questions

What can we learn about Jesus’ view of Scripture from this passage?

In what ways were the religious leaders misusing Scripture?

John 6

John 6.1 (The feeding of the 5,000)

[The parallel accounts are found in Matthew 14:15-21, Mark 6:30-44, and Luke 9:10-17. This is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels besides the resurrection.]

John records that this was during the Passover (Jn. 6:4). This makes sense of Mark’s comment that the grass was green (Mk. 6:39). Throughout the year in this arid place, the green grass was usually burned dry and dead. But in this time of the year (during Passover), the grass would grow. This is a case of interlocking in the gospels that shows the truthfulness of the accounts.

(6:1-2) After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2 A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick.

Jesus tried to get away from the crowds, but they followed him because of his miraculous healing of the sick (cf. Jn. 4:46; 5:7).

When we line up John with the Synoptics, we discover that John the Baptist had just been beheaded (Mt. 14:13). Were the disciples wanting to protect Jesus while he was grieving? Were just tired of serving? Mark records that the disciples had been so busy that “they did not even have time to eat” (Mk. 6:31). Moreover, this event happened at night, after a long day of travelling (Mk. 6:36).

(6:3) Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples.

Commentators are uncertain which mountain this is.[123]

(6:4) Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near.

Is there any significance in the fact that this miracle occurred close to the time of the Passover? Or is John simply making a historical marker? This seems intentional on his behalf to mention this, but we’re not sure.

(6:5) Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?”

Why does Jesus ask Philip where to buy bread? In the account of the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus asks Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” (Jn. 6:5) Why does Jesus ask a relatively obscure apostle like Philip, rather than Peter, James, or John? Philip only appears in three places in John’s gospel (Jn. 1:43ff; Jn. 12:21ff; Jn. 14:8ff). Why is he singled out here?

The feeding of the 5,000 occurred near Bethsaida (Lk. 9:10), but John never mentions this. However, John does mention that Philip was from Bethsaida (Jn. 1:43-44; 12:21). McGrew comments, “One can… picture Jesus asking the question in a slightly teasing manner. The fact that Philip was from that vicinity makes the question (and the joke) more pointed. If Philip is from the nearby town, Jesus is in essence saying, ‘Philip, you’re from around here. Where can we get bread for all these people?’”[124]

Who raised the question of how to feed the people? In Mark,

(6:6) This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.

Of course, Jesus didn’t really believe that Philip could acquire such a massive quantity of food. He was testing their faith.

(6:7) Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.”

A denarius (singular) was one day’s pay for a working man. Two hundred denarii (plural) would be close to a year’s salary (i.e. 200 days’ pay).

Philip shows his inadequacy for the task. Similarly, as believers, we realize just how inadequate we are to feed the ocean of spiritual need around us. Even a year’s wages would only help but a “little.” All of the self-effort in the world couldn’t handle the need.

(6:8-9) One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?”

Was Andrew an extroverted personality like Peter? We might picture Andrew showing the five loaves and two fish, and the rest of the disciples saying, “Andrew, c’mon man, the adults are talking! We’re trying to solve a serious problem here!” Then Andrew follows up by saying, “But what are these for so many people?” Andrew also learns the lesson of inadequacy as well.

Philip was thinking of the money that it would take to feed the people, and Andrew was trying to gather natural resources. Both solutions were hopeless. They hadn’t considered a third option…

(6:10) Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.

Jesus has the massive group sit down. Just the men numbered 5,000, and Matthew 14:21 mentions that there were additional “women and children.” As the good shepherd, Jesus has them recline on the grass to eat (Ps. 23:1-2).

(6:11) Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted.

In the parallel accounts, Jesus has the disciples pass out the food (Mt. 14:19; Mk. 6:41; Lk. 9:16). Since the bread represents Jesus’ spiritual life (Jn. 6:35), then the disciples passing out the bread symbolizes God’s desire to use human agency to reach people with the gospel—Jesus’ spiritual life. While the disciples were inadequate in themselves, Jesus could give them more than enough (“as much as they wanted”).

(6:12-13) When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.

This was a very poor community, so Jesus didn’t want food to go to waste. Instead, he used the leftover food to give to the disciples. While the disciples had to wait to get their food, they were each given a full basket of food (“twelve baskets” for twelve disciples).

(6:14) Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

Why was this particular miracle the one that got the people thinking that Jesus was “the Prophet”? (cf. Jn. 1:21) They must have thought of him as the “greater Moses,” whom Moses himself predicted in Deuteronomy 18:15. Just as God brought the manna to the people through Moses, God was bringing food to the people through Jesus.

Discussion Questions

What insights does this passage give to us regarding how to serve Christ? Specifically, what does it tell us about our own ability? And what does it tell us about God’s role in using us to serve others?

Why would God choose to work through human agency, when he could clearly do a better job delivering his message himself?

John 6.2 (Walking across the water)

[The parallel passages are in Matthew 1422-32 and Mark 6:45-52.]

(6:15) So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.

The people wanted to “force” (harpazō) Jesus to be their King Messiah (literally “seize” or “snatch up”). Clearly, Jesus didn’t want this title… yet (cf. Jn. 18:36). At his Second Coming, he will be the King that we need and desire. But his “time had not yet come.”

(6:16-17) Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.

Jesus had left them to be “alone” (v.15). Why did they pick up and leave Jesus there? Remember, this was in a day before cell phones, where you couldn’t find a person at any given moment. They might’ve thought Jesus had returned to Capernaum, where they had already been twice before (Jn. 2:12; 4:46).

(6:18) The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing.

A storm started to rise on the sea of Galilee (which is really the size of an average lake). Being out in a rowboat (v.19) at night in the dark during a storm would be pretty scary.

(6:19) Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened.

Imagine how scary it would be to see someone walking on the surface of the water at night in the middle of a storm!

(6:20) But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

Jesus just comes strolling across the surface of the water. He says, “Hey, don’t worry. It’s me guys!” In Greek, he literally says, “I am” (ego emi).

(6:21) So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

“Immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” Commentators are divided on how to understand this. Carson[125] and Kruse[126] take this to mean that the boat was supernaturally transported to the shore. J. Ramsey Michaels[127] holds that the boat was already near the shore, pointing to the fact that they were already several miles across the sea (v.19). Others like Morris[128] are simply unsure which view John is communicating.

John 6.3 (The Bread of Life)

(6:22-25) The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. 23 There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus. 25 When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”

The crowd followed Jesus. After all, they just saw him feed 5,000 men without any effort at all. Surely, they were looking for another free meal. The dialogue that follows demonstrates the fact that they were looking for food—not because they believed in his message (see v.26).

Yet God doesn’t bend to our will. He cannot be coerced, manipulated, or bribed. Instead, he wants us to freely align ourselves with his will. God’s nature is so good that we shouldn’t ever want him to follow along with our plans anyhow. Today, much of what is called religion can be understood this way, bargaining and pleading with God to give us what we want. God does want to take care of our needs, but he wants our priorities to align with his own.

 (6:26) Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.”

Jesus immediately discerned why they were so eager to search for him: they wanted more temporary, material blessings, rather than his ultimate claims. They were so focused on the food that they had ignored the miracle!

(6:27) “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”

God doesn’t want us to live for “food” which perishes, and truly, in our world, everything perishes (Mt. 16:26). Jesus acknowledges that their hunger is real. But what will ultimately satisfy the hunger of the human soul? Jesus claims to have the answer, and he’s willing to “give” it away.

(6:28-29) Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

They are approaching him based on works. Jesus responds with faith instead.

(6:30) So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?”

It sounds like they are still trying to manipulate Jesus for some more bread. They just saw him feed the 5,000, so their request for a “sign” is invalid. They already saw a sign. They want him to be a miracle worker who feeds them on command, rather than the Messiah who saves them.

(6:31) “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’”

The crowd cites the OT to persuade Jesus to make more food (Ps. 78:24; Ex. 16:4, 15). It’s like they’re saying, “You could do a sign like Moses… For instance, a good sign would be… maybe… some more food!” Clearly, they are thinking with their stomachs.

(6:32) Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.”

The crowd is so focused on the man Moses that they had ignored God. Jesus wants them to rip their eyes off Moses, and get them focusing on God—the true provider.

(6:33) “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”

The manna prefigured Jesus’ work on the Cross. God supernaturally provided for the people in the wilderness, and now, God will supernaturally provide salvation for humanity. The phrase that which comes down” uses the masculine participle. Other translations render this as “he who comes down” (ESV, NIV) or “the one who comes down” (NET, NLT).

(6:34) Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”

They are still thinking that this is literal bread, or maybe they are still just trying to manipulate Jesus into making them another dinner.

(6:35) Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”

Jesus makes explicit what was formerly implicit.

“Comes to Me… believes in Me.” The thought of believing in Jesus and coming to Jesus are parallel ideas. This becomes important when we interpret what he means by eating his flesh and drinking his blood.

(6:36) But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.

They were looking for signs, but they were missing Jesus. He was standing right there, and they didn’t recognize him (cf. Jn. 1:10-11). We can believe without seeing (2 Cor. 5:7), and we can see without believing.

(6:37-40) All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.

(Jn. 6:37-44, 65) Does this passage teach that God will only draw some people to Jesus and leave others for judgment?

(6:41) Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.”

The religious leaders took offense at the thought that Jesus is the manna of God. They were “grumbling” about this.

(6:42) They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?”

They took offense at the thought that Jesus claimed to have heavenly origins, when they were so familiar with his earthly origins. It was hard to believe that Jesus was who he said he was, when some of them probably knew that he was born in a barn.

(6:43-45) Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.”

(Jn. 6:44, 65) Does this passage teach that Jesus will only draw some people to God and leave others for judgment?

(6:46) Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.

Only Jesus has seen the Father (cf. Jn. 1:18).

(6:47) Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.

Jesus emphasizes faith as the way to the Father. Again, this becomes important when we interpret what he means by eating his flesh and drinking his blood.

(6:48-49) I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.

Moses’ manna cannot be ultimate, because their ancestors still died. Jesus is the ultimate manna.

(6:50) This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.

Just as the manna fell from heaven, so did Jesus. Just as the manna fed the people’s physical hunger, Jesus fulfills our ultimate spiritual hunger.

(6:51) “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

Jesus gives his life so that we can be filled. His use of the word “flesh” could relate back to the prologue (Jn. 1:14).[129]

(6:52) Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”

The listeners balked at the thought that Jesus could give his flesh for us to eat. They are missing the metaphor.

(6:53-54) So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

The people were so focused on the physical manna that they didn’t understand Jesus’ spiritual metaphor.

(Jn. 6:53-54) Does this passage support transubstantiation?

(6:55) For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.

This isn’t cannibalism. He’s speaking metaphorically (cf. Jn. 4:10-14).

(6:56) He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.

John writes about “abiding” more than any other NT author. Here, the way to abide is through faith in Jesus. This is what the metaphor of “eating” and “drinking” represents.

(6:57) As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.

We enter into God’s spiritual life through the Son.

(6:58) This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.

It’s clear that Jesus has the manna on his mind throughout this entire section—not the Passover. Though this event occurred during the time of the Passover (Jn. 6:4), the immediate discourse refers to the manna.

(6:59) These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

This lesson occurred in the synagogue, demonstrating that the religious leaders would’ve been present.

(6:60-61) Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble?”

There is significant wordplay here: Even though they “heard” (akouein) Jesus, they refused to “listen” (akouein) to him. Borchert writes, “The wordplay here is important because it reminds the reader that the mere hearing of words is not enough.”[130]

It wasn’t just the religious leaders who grumbled about this. Jesus’ very own disciples “grumbled” (v.61). Jesus is the stumbling block for Israel.

(6:62) “What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?”

Jesus is trying to validate his radical claims. He asks, “What if you see me ascend? Will you believe me then?”

(6:63) “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”

These words are at the heart of what it means to become a Christian, and bring together the argument that Jesus is making. He isn’t speaking about literally eating his flesh and blood. He is referring to faith and their need to “believe” (v.64). Believers realize that Jesus is the way to solve our spiritual hunger—not our physical hunger.

(6:64) “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.

Jesus knew what was in the “heart of men” (cf. Jn. 2:25). Yet Jesus’ foreknowledge doesn’t let these unbelievers off the hook. They are still responsible for not believing in him.

(6:65) And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

(Jn. 6:44, 65) Does this passage teach that Jesus will only draw some people to God and leave others for judgment?

(6:66) As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.

This was a tough teaching to swallow. Many followers of Christ walked away after hearing this. Yet Jesus didn’t beat himself up over how he could’ve taught them better. The problem wasn’t with his clarity, but with their fidelity.

(6:67) So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”

Jesus challenged his twelve disciples on whether they would leave too. Though Kruse notes, “Jesus’ question (using mē) expects a negative answer. He was not encouraging the Twelve to leave with the other disciples but he was giving them opportunity to do so if they wished.”[131]

(6:68-69) Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

Peter’s words still strike us today. Where would we go apart from Christ?

(6:70-71) Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” 71 Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.

Jesus chose the disciples for ministry, but even within his choosing, one of them chose to betray him. Judas is literally “the devil.”[132]

Discussion Questions

Jesus didn’t give the people another meal—even though that’s what they wanted. How do you react to this quote from Oscar Wilde? He wrote, “When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.’”[133]

Isn’t it cruel that Jesus would let these people walk away from him? Why doesn’t he make more of an effort to stop them?

Why did the crowd walk away from Jesus disappointed? Are there any similarities as to why people walk away from Jesus today?

John 7

John 7.1 (Who is Jesus?)

(7:1) After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him.

Jesus stayed away from Judea because of the violent persecution of the religious leaders, and he does more Galilean ministry. John 6:4 places the time near Passover (March/April), but here, we read that they are celebrating the Feast of Booths (September/October). This means that six months have passed.[134]

(7:2) Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near.

What was the Feast of the Booths? (see “Foreshadowing in the Festival System”)

(7:3-5) Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him.

His brothers challenge him to go into danger in Judea and prove himself as an authentic miracle-worker. His brothers weren’t believers (v.5), so this must be a taunt to get Jesus killed (!!).

Some take a more charitable view of the brothers’ motives.[135] They argue that the brothers of Jesus simply didn’t understand the nature of Jesus’ mission (cf. Jn. 6:15), and they wanted him to seize the “limelight,” rather than waiting in the backwoods of Galilee. Yet, John’s characterization of them as unbelievers (v.5), and Jesus’ estimation of them as being of the world (vv.6-7) seems to imply more than mere ignorance of Jesus’ mission. It implies malice on their behalf—similar to Satan’s temptation of Christ to perform public miracles (Mt. 4; Lk. 4).

(7:6-7) So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.”

Little did his brothers know, Jesus did intend to die. But the timing wasn’t right. Even Jesus’ cryptic response points toward his death (“My time is not yet here”).

“Your time is always opportune.” He’s contrasting his own ministry of the Cross with their lives. The religious leaders were waiting for Jesus (v.11), so he couldn’t go. Being identified with the world-system (v.7), Jesus’ brothers had nothing to fear and could show up anytime they wanted—hence their time was “always opportune.”

(7:8) “Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.”

He tells them to go to the Feast. If he went, he would be captured and killed. He’s waiting for the right timing.

(7:9) Having said these things to them, He stayed in Galilee.

Instead of making the trip to Judea where the religious leaders were waiting to kill him, Jesus stayed in Galilee.

(7:10) But when His brothers had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up, not publicly, but as if, in secret.

Jesus gave this speech to his brothers, and he waited for them to leave. Then he “secretly” went up, rather than “publicly” as they had suggested (v.4).

(7:11) So the Jews were seeking Him at the feast and were saying, “Where is He?”

The authorities were searching for him. They must have been expecting him to show up during this big, public event to make a scene.

(7:12) There was much grumbling among the crowds concerning Him; some were saying, “He is a good man”; others were saying, “No, on the contrary, He leads the people astray.”

Public opinion was clearly mixed about Jesus. He was a controversial figure—just as he is today.

(7:13) Yet no one was speaking openly of Him for fear of the Jews.

Pressure from the religious authorities led people to stay quiet about Jesus.

(7:14) But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and began to teach.

Jesus waited until the feast was at its peak, and then, he stood up publicly and began to teach. He must’ve wanted to have a maximum platform to reach as many people as possible.

(7:15) The Jews then were astonished, saying, “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?”

Jesus wasn’t taught in traditional schools. So, in the minds of this religious culture, he was unqualified to teach. Borchert writes, “The rabbis considered the common people (ʾam hāʾāre) to be below the dignity of theological discussion and certainly incapable of teaching the requirements of God. Persons who sought to enter into the activity of the rabbis who had not been students both of the Scripture and of the oral law (codified as the Mishna) were regarded as not much better than cattle.”[136] This standard is not unlike the modern clergy-laity dichotomy today—or the scholar-pastor dichotomy. The average person is disqualified—not for his or her views—but for credentials. But in the case of Jesus, there is a high level of irony that the religious leaders were calling the Logos uneducated![137]

(7:16) So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.”

Jesus doesn’t take credit for his own teaching. In perfect humility, he claims that the Father is the one who taught him.

(7:17) “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.”

One way to know God is to be willing to follow him. Morris writes, “His hearers had raised the question of his competence as a teacher. He raises the question of their competence as hearers.”[138]

(7:18) “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”

Jesus is accusing them of being self-glorifying. By contrast, what mere human being could say the things Jesus said? Jesus doesn’t claim to seek the truth, but that he himself is true. He also claims that “there is no unrighteousness in Him.” If Jesus was a mere religious teacher, his claims would be outrageous, false, and blasphemous.

(7:19) “Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?”

Jesus’ argument is an interesting one: If we can know God’s will by living it out, and they don’t live out the Law of Moses, then they must not know God’s will. Moreover, if they know the Law so well, why are they breaking the Law by conspiring to murder him?

(7:20) The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?”

It’s interesting that the gospels include embarrassing accusations like this (cf. Mt. 12:24; Mk. 3:22). Instead, of refuting Jesus’ arguments, they resorting to ad hominem name-calling.

(7:21) Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all marvel.”

Jesus didn’t only perform one miracle. He is merely referring to the healing of the man at the Pool of Bethesda in Judah.[139]

(7:22-23) “For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath?”

Jewish babies would sometimes get circumcised on the Sabbath. Extrabiblical Jewish law actually spoke to this (Mishnah, Shabbat 18:3; 19:1, 2; Nederim 3:11).[140] After all, if the eighth day landed on a Saturday, the religious authorities would still do the “work” of circumcising the boy. Jesus is in effect saying, “If it’s okay to circumcise an infant on the Sabbath, why then would you hate me for healing a man on the Sabbath?” Indeed, later rabbis argued in a similar vein: If one part of the body could be operated on in circumcision, then “why not the whole body?”[141] Incidentally, later rabbis ended up siding with Jesus in this respect (t. Šhabbat 5.16; t. Kippurim 85).

(7:24) “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

He’s calling on them to think through their confused ethics and theology. They’re so focused on the external that they’re missing the “spirit of the law.”

(7:25-26) So some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is this not the man whom they are seeking to kill? 26 Look, He is speaking publicly, and they are saying nothing to Him. The rulers do not really know that this is the Christ, do they?”

The people were wondering why the religious authorities did not act to kill Jesus. They should either crown him or kill him. But why are the religious leaders doing nothing?

(7:27) “However, we know where this man is from; but whenever the Christ may come, no one knows where He is from.”

Why did these people claim that the Messiah’s origin would be unknown? The view of the crowd is inerrantly reported by John to us, but that doesn’t mean that they are making inerrant claims (v.28). The Messiah was supposed to be born in Bethlehem, which rabbis affirmed in Jesus’ day (see comments on Mic. 5:2; Mt. 2:4-6).

Extrabiblical sources confirm that some rabbis held to the view that the Messiah’s appearance would be sudden, without knowing his origin. For instance, Rabbi Zera taught, “Three come unawares: Messiah, a found article, and a scorpion” (b. Sanhedrin 97a). We also read, “Just as no-one can explore or know what is in the depths of the sea, so no-one on earth can see my Son or those who are with him, except in the time of his day” (2 Esdras 13:52). Justin Martyr’s Jewish debate opponent stated, “Messiah, if indeed He has ever been and now exists anywhere, is unknown, and does not even know Himself at all nor has any power, until Elijah shall have come and anointed Him, and shall have made Him manifest to all” (Dialogue with Trypho, 8.4).

(7:28-29) Then Jesus cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, “You both know Me and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. 29 I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.”

The people are so focused on Jesus’ human origin (i.e. Bethlehem) that they cannot see his heavenly origin (i.e. from God).

Reactions to Jesus

(7:30) So they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.

Some people wanted to kill him. Yet Jesus was in the divine will, so he couldn’t be touched until the time was right.

(7:31) But many of the crowd believed in Him; and they were saying, “When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?”

Others in the crowds came to trust in Jesus. Who else could perform miracles like this other than the Messiah?

(7:32) The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about Him, and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Him.

The religious authorities moved in for the kill.

(7:33-34) Therefore Jesus said, “For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me. 34 You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come.”

Jesus warns them that he will be going away soon. Now is the time to come into a relationship with him, because he will soon be gone.

(7:35-36) The Jews then said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find Him? He is not intending to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks, is He? 36 What is this statement that He said, ‘You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come’?

The religious leaders understand this to mean that Jesus would travel to the Jewish Diaspora and teach the Gentiles. Ironically, this is true. After all, when Jesus dies, his disciples (the Body of Christ) take Jesus’ teaching and message to Gentiles (Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

(7:37) Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.”

Is there any significance to the fact that he makes this call on the “last day” of the Feast? Yes! First-century Judaism had an elaborate water pouring ceremony on the last day of the Feast of Booths/Tabernacles (Sukkah 3:9; 4:4-10; 5:1-4).[142] Water pouring was central to this festival, and Jesus claims to be the one to quench their thirst:

Days 1-6: The people carried water from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple. When they reached the Water Gate, three notes on the shofar (ram’s horn trumpet) were played loudly, and the people sang the Hallel (Pss. 113-118). Then, the priest poured their water onto the altar.

Day 7: The people circled the altar seven times. Celebration was at its peak on the seventh day.

Day 8: The ceremony finished on a somber and dour note. There was no more water pouring or singing. Rabbinic tradition held that the Messiah would come to bring water for the people: “As the former redeemer made a well to rise, so will the latter Redeemer bring up water, as it is stated, And a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord… [Joel 3:18]” (Qohelet Rabbah, 1:9.1).

Did Jesus claim to have “living water” on Day 7 or Day 8? We’re not sure. Either would be significant. Since John records that Jesus came on the “last day,” we might think he is referring to Day 8. But since he includes “on the last day, the great day of the feast,” this implies that the “great day” was Day 7—not Day 8.[143] On the other hand, if Jesus made this statement on Day 8, it would make his claim of bringing “living water” equally provocative to the people, because they would be somber (and thirsty!).[144]

“Cried out” (ekraxen) refers to a “vehement outcry, cry out, scream, shriek” (BDAG). Jesus was screaming this message at the top of his lungs over the noisy din of the crowd. While rabbis typically sat down to teach,[145] Jesus “stood” for proclaim these powerful words.

(7:38) “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”

Which Scripture is Jesus quoting? Jesus might be quoting from various OT passages (Isa. 12:3; 44:3; 55:1; 58:11; Ps. 105:40-41; Zech. 14:8). The “innermost being” (koila) refers to “seat of inward life, of feelings and desires,” which referred to the “belly” in this culture or the “heart” in our culture today (BDAG). The term was “regarded by the ancient Hebrews as the seat of the emotions.”[146] He is claiming to fill the emptiness of the human condition.

(7:39) “But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

God waited to give out the Holy Spirit until after the death of Christ. Morris writes, “This probably points to the period after Pentecost. The gift of the Holy Spirit to the infant church that day transformed everything, so that all that followed might be called the era of the Spirit. The Bible does not speak of the Spirit as totally inactive until that point; there is much about him in the Old Testament and the Gospels.”[147]

(7:40) Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet.

Some believed he was the Prophet predicted by Moses (see comments on Deut. 18:15).

(7:41) Others were saying, “This is the Christ.” Still others were saying, “Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He?”

Some believed he was the Messiah, while others were skeptical, getting hung up on his earthly origins (“Galilee”). These doubter couldn’t get past the fact that the Messiah would come from the backwoods region of Galilee.

(7:42) “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?”

They were getting this information from Micah 5:2.

(7:43) So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him.

People were divided over Jesus’ identity back then, and they are still divided over Jesus today (see “Lord, Liar, Lunatic, Legend”).

(7:44-46) Some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him. 45 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, “Why did you not bring Him?” 46 The officers answered, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.”

Why wasn’t Jesus captured? The text tells us that the Temple guards so were enamored with Jesus’ teaching that they couldn’t bring themselves to arrest him.

(7:47-49) The Pharisees then answered them, “You have not also been led astray, have you? 48 No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he? 49 But this crowd which does not know the Law is accursed.”

The religious leaders were furious that Jesus could win over the crowds. They throw out the charge that no important person (Pharisee or ruler) believed in Jesus. And just like religious leaders today, they used their trump card of fear and threats to call them “accursed” for believing Jesus.

Just then, our old friend Nicodemus speaks up (see John 3). He was both a Pharisee and a ruler. What does he have to say about Jesus?

(7:50-51) Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them) said to them, 51 “Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?”

Nicodemus subtly sticks up for Jesus. He requests that the Pharisees give him a fair trial, citing the Law (Deut. 1:16-17; 17:2-5; cf. m. Sanhedrin 5:4).

(7:52) They answered him, “You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee.”

The Pharisees’ question sounds like they are suspicious of Nicodemus—almost as though they are asking, “You’re not one of his followers, are you?” Or maybe they are not so suspicious. They could just be name-calling, as Carson paraphrases: “The only explanation for your strange outburst in defence of a Galilean, Nicodemus, is that you must have sprung from such inferior stock yourself!”[148] They tell him to search the Scriptures to make sure that prophets do not come from Galilee. Of course, Jonah was from Galilee (2 Kings 14:25), and regardless, God can raise up prophets from wherever he wants.

Discussion Questions

These people all had the same evidence, but they came to radically different conclusions. Some thought Jesus was a mere moral teacher (Jn. 7:12), a menace (Jn. 7:12), a madman (Jn. 7:20), or the Messiah (Jn. 7:31, 41). Of these four views, which makes the most sense of Jesus’ identity?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LDM88QVN5g&t=5s

Read through chapter 7. What reasons do the people give for accepting or rejecting Jesus?

The people were split over Jesus’ identity. But while everyone was arguing over who Jesus really was, we don’t see Jesus fretting or worrying about public opinion. He wasn’t reading his “press clippings” or “googling himself online.” How can we get to this point where we don’t take the slightest identity from what people think of us—whether good or bad? (cf. Jn. 5:44)

John 8

John 8.1 (The woman caught in adultery)

(Jn. 7:53-8:11) Does this belong in the Bible?

(Jn. 7:53) Everyone went to his home.

(8:1-2) But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them.

The scene begins at the Mount of Olives, and then transfers to the Temple. The Temple should be the place where justice and godly worship occur. But instead, Jesus encounters something else entirely…

(8:3-4) The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act.”

They brought the woman… But where is the man? After all, it takes two to tango! This is immediately suspicious that they would only bring one of the lawbreakers to Jesus—not both. In enforcing the Law, they aren’t going through the legal, judicial process. The Law recorded, “If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die” (Deut. 22:22).

(8:5) “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?”

This is a trap! They’re trying to get Jesus to stone this woman, or break the Law of Moses. Morris writes, “This can scarcely indicate anything other than a trap deliberately set.”[149] Carson adds, “There is little evidence that [capital punishment] was carried out very often in first-century Palestine, especially in urban areas.”[150] This implies that the religious leaders were pushing for something that wasn’t common in order to indict Jesus.

The “you” here is emphatic. They are asking, “The Law says that she deserves death, but what do YOU say?” Morris notes that this put Jesus into a dilemma: “If he said ‘Stone her,’ he would lay himself open to the charge of counseling action contrary to Roman law, which did not provide for a death penalty in such cases. If he said ‘Do not stone her,’ he could be charged with offending against the law of God.”[151] Which horn of the dilemma will Jesus choose…?

(Jn. 8:5) Why were adulterers stoned to death in the Law of Moses?

(8:6) They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.

Clearly, this was a setup, because they were “testing” him, and the account “has all the features of a set-up.”[152]

What did Jesus write in the sand? There are multiple speculations with regard to this question:

(1) OT Scriptures? He could’ve written, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Ex. 20:16). Or he could’ve written, “O Lord… all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water” (Jer. 17:13). This passage from Jeremiah would fit with Jesus’ earlier message regarding being the “living water.”

(2) Their personal, private sins? This could’ve shown them that they were guilty of equally egregious crimes.

(3) Did he draw something? Morris notes that the word should likely be translated “wrote on the ground,” but it could also refer to drawing a picture.[153]

(4) Did he write that they should be the ones to cast the first stone? In this case, he would be telling them to execute the woman, and put themselves on the hook with the Romans.

(5) Did he cite the sixth commandment on murder? The religious leaders orchestrated this scene in order to kill Jesus (and kill this woman) unjustly. Perhaps Jesus was citing this commandment because it showed their sin all the more.

So, what exactly did he write? We have no idea. The text doesn’t tell us. But this itself speaks to its historical reportage. After all, why include this detail without explaining it in further depth? It seems like the detail that an eyewitness would mention—even if it didn’t advance the narrative of the story.

(8:7) But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Is Jesus saying that we can’t judge adultery as a sin? No. Adultery is morally wrong, and Jesus explicitly taught this (Mt. 5:27-28, 32; 15:19; 19:9, 18; Mk. 7:21). Indeed, Jesus calls this a “sin” in the very context (v.11). Jesus is pointing out that the Pharisees didn’t care about the Law; instead, they were using the Law for their own agenda: sacrificing this woman as a means to destroy Jesus. If the Pharisees were innocent in their plot, then they should be free to execute the woman. However, they weren’t carrying out the Law honestly (i.e. the man wasn’t present), and therefore, they were committing sin at that moment. Instead of being skewered on either horn of the dilemma, Jesus split it down the center.

In the OT law, the witnesses needed to be the ones to cast the stones (Deut. 17:7). But again, where are the witnesses? All we have are false witnesses, and Jesus could be leveraging this fact. Borchert writes, “Jesus went beyond the usual interpretation of that prescription and demanded of the accusing witnesses that they themselves not be in breach of God-given precepts, namely, that they be without sin.”[154]

(8:8) Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.

See comments on verse 6.

(8:9) When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court.

His point must have landed: one by one, they dropped their accusation, dropped the rocks in their hands, and left the Temple.

(8:10-11) Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”

“Sin no more” can be rendered “Stop your sinful habit.”[155]

Jesus is the only one truly without sin. Yet he was gracious enough to let her off the hook. This is a sweet picture of the gospel. Jesus doesn’t give the woman the judgment she deserves, and instead, he interceded on her behalf.

Discussion Questions

Why does Jesus tell this woman to “sin no more” (v.11), when it’s clear that all people continue to sin? After all, John wrote elsewhere, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:9).

Some people say that we can’t judge anyone based on this passage above. Is this a correct application of the text?

John 8.2 (The light of the world)

(8:12) Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Jesus starts to unpack what John wrote earlier: “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (Jn. 1:4-5). Here, we need to “follow” Jesus in order to not walk in darkness. This is similar to Paul’s statement, “Walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart” (Eph. 4:17-18).

(8:13) So the Pharisees said to Him, “You are testifying about Yourself; Your testimony is not true.”

The religious leaders are becoming bolder—outright denying Jesus’ claims. In first-century Judaism, it was held that a person could not speak for his own testimony—only for another. In the Mishnah we read, “So, too, if there were two men and one said, ‘I am a priest’, and the other said, ‘I am a priest’, they may not be believed; but when they testify thus of each other they may be believed” (Ketubot, 2:7).

(8:14) Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.”

Earlier, Jesus gave evidence for his testimony being true (Jn. 5). Here, he just takes a stand on his knowledge versus theirs.

(Jn. 8:14) Is Jesus’ testimony true or not (c.f. 5:31)?

(8:15-16) You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. 16 But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me.

Could this refer back to the woman caught in adultery? (cf. Jn. 8:1-11) It would make contextual sense: The religious leaders feel so confident in judging (when they really shouldn’t), but Jesus actually refrains from judging (when he has every right to).

(8:17) “Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true.”

Jesus cites Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15.

(8:18) “I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.”

The Son and the Father are both on the same page. If they wanted someone to testify for Jesus, the Father would testify—surely an incredible witness to have on the stand!

(8:19) So they were saying to Him, “Where is Your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.”

The Son reveals the Father (Jn. 1:18).

#1. Perils of denying the light: JUDGMENT

(8:20) These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come.

He said these things right out in the open air of the Temple, but no one seized him then. Later, they would come under the cover of darkness to apprehend Jesus.

(8:21) Then He said again to them, “I go away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come.”

They will “seek” Jesus in the sense that they will seek to kill him (Jn. 7:1, 11). They cannot go to Heaven with the Father, because they failed to grasp who Jesus was.

(8:22) So the Jews were saying, “Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?”

This accusation of committing suicide is harsh to our modern ears, but even harsher to the original audience. The Jewish people repudiated suicide categorically, and Josephus states that the Jewish people would not even hold a funeral for one who took their own life (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 3.375). In rabbinic thinking, because a person could not pay with their life for self-murder, that “person was bound to spend the life hereafter in a state of damnation.”[156] But “Jesus certainly was not headed to the lower regions of Sheol as suggested by the Jews. They had the direction for Jesus completely wrong. Jesus’ orientation was ‘up.’”[157] He was “from above” (v.23), and he would return there in death.

This accusation reveals just how dense the religious leaders are. In one sense you might think that they are just too slow to understand, but in another, you wonder if they are willfully not listening. Indeed, they are twisting his words, creating an entirely bizarre narrative of what Jesus was saying.

(8:23) And He was saying to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.”

Jesus makes it clear that he has a supernatural nature, but his opponents are mere men.

(8:24) “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

Jesus urges them to place their faith in him. The consequences are severe. Jesus uses the divine name: ego emi (“I am”). Regarding this, William Temple writes that this statement “cannot be reproduced in English, for it combines three meanings: (a) that I am what I say—sc. the Light of the World; (b) that I am He—the promised Messiah; (c) that I am—absolutely, the divine Name. All these are present; none is actually indicated.”[158]

(8:25-26) So they were saying to Him, “Who are You?” Jesus said to them, “What have I been saying to you from the beginning? 26 I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world.”

They keep asking the same question, but they won’t listen to the answer. We wonder if this really frustrated Jesus. This wasn’t a lack of intelligence, nor an issue of ignorance. This was an outright refusal to listen to good answers—a willful denial.

(8:27) They did not realize that He had been speaking to them about the Father.

See comments on verse 22.

(8:28-29) So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. 29 And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”

We see incredible humility and servitude here: “I do nothing… I speak… as the Father taught Me… I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” Later Jesus will tell the disciples, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).

#2. Perils of denying the light: DISSATISFACTION & RESTLESSNESS

(8:30) As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.

Many people came to faith in Christ—even as they were listening to him speak. The message bounced off the hardened hearts of the religious leaders, but it landed on the others who were listening. This must mean that coming to faith can happen during a Bible study—not necessarily after it. Similarly, when Peter shared the gospel with Cornelius’ family, we read, “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message” (Acts 10:44).

Jesus stretched their faith a step further. He wanted them to continue in his teachings (unlike the believers who left in John 6:68-69).

(8:31-32) So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Jesus has something for disciples that others don’t have access to: truth and freedom.

(8:33) They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”

They have two faulty premises: (1) they are in right relationship with God because of their ethnicity, and (2) the freedom Jesus is talking about is political freedom (cf. Jn. 6:15).

(8:34) Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.”

The freedom Jesus wants for them is freedom from sin. We’re free to sin, but not free to stop sinning. Sin is enslaving.

(8:35-36) The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

This is a good passage for eternal security. Once we are set free, we are in the house “forever.”

#3. Perils of denying the light: A DARKENED MIND

(8:37) I know that you are Abraham’s descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.

They have the right heritage, but the wrong hearts.

(8:38) I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.

Who is their father? (see verse 44!)

(8:39-40) They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. 40 But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.”

If Abraham was truly their father, then they should act like it. Abraham didn’t reject God, but trusted him deeply. By contrast, these men were conspiring to murder Jesus—not trust him.

(8:41) “You are doing the deeds of your father.” They said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.”

This is probably an allusion to the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin. Obviously, the religious leaders didn’t believe this account from Mary. They thought Jesus’ mom was lying about the virgin birth. This passes the historical criterion of embarrassment—namely, John wouldn’t have written this if it never happened.

(8:42) Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.”

Jesus is standing shoulder to shoulder with God. If you love God, then you would love Jesus (and vice versa).

(8:43) “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word.”

Why can they not understand? This must refer to the noetic effects of sin mentioned in the next verse (v.44). They can’t understand because they reject truth (v.45), and because they are not interested in knowing God (v.47).

Does this support the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity? Calvinists argue that lost people are incapable of understanding the Bible—or in this case, the words of Jesus—because they are spiritually dead. They argue that we cannot place faith in God until we are first regenerated (i.e. the ordo salutis). After all, they argue, this verse states, “You cannot hear My word.” On Calvinism, a person is fundamentally incapable of coming to Christ. Thus, they argue that people are incapable of understanding the gospel and exercising faith apart from irresistible grace and unconditional election. Thus, the Calvinist view really surpasses total depravity (which we affirm), and instead could be classified as total inability (which we deny). To show the distinct, see our earlier article, “Total Depravity.”

Instead, when Jesus says, “You cannot hear My word,” he is referring to the noetic effects of sin (i.e. the psychological effects of sin). In the context, these religious men had been repeatedly rejecting Jesus. But this doesn’t mean that they were literally deaf! Instead, he means that they will not follow his teachings (Mt. 18:15; Lk. 16:29, 31; Jn. 10:8; Acts 4:19). Kruse comments, “These people were not willing to obey Jesus’ message; no wonder it was not clear to them.”[159] Of course, we agree with Calvinists that no one would come to faith without the drawing of the Holy Spirit, but we disagree that this is irresistible or that people are in a state of total inability.

(8:44) You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Jesus drops a bomb on them: their father is Satan! They are acting like their father. They want to murder (v.40) just as Satan is a murderer.

What does it mean that Satan was a “murderer from the beginning”? This could refer to the murder of Abel (Gen. 4). It could also refer to the “murder” of convincing Eve that she “would not die” when she ate the fruit (Gen. 3). While Satan didn’t stab or shoot Adam and Eve, he deftly used his words to murder them.[160]

(8:45) “But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.”

They reject Jesus because they reject truth.

(8:46) “Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?”

They are speaking collectively, rather than individually. It’s easier to make accusations when you’re in a group. Jesus wants one of them to man-up and step forward to accuse him.

(8:47) “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”

Similar to verse 43, they rejected Jesus’ teachings because they were not truly following God or obeying his Law. We think that Calvinistic interpreters press the text too hard to see total inability here. The text simply states that some people are “of God.” Under Calvinism, this would refer to the “elect.” However, we do not see this in the text. It could just as easily refer to those who were following God during this period of history—those who chose to believe (v.30). The text simply doesn’t say how one becomes “of God.”

(8:48) The Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

Why do they call Jesus a “Samaritan”? Put simply, this was a derogatory statement. The Jewish people deeply hated the Samaritans, so this would be similar to using a racial slur today (see “The History of the Samaritans”).

(8:49) Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.”

Jesus flatly denies being demon possessed. This accusation (v.48) seems to be retaliatory from Jesus accusing them of being Satan’s offspring (v.44).

(8:50) “But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges.”

Jesus didn’t need to seek his own glory from people. God would do that for him (Jn. 17:4-5).

(8:51) “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.”

He gives them the gospel again. Will they have a change of heart?

(8:52-53) The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.’ 53 Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?”

The prophets died, but Jesus claims to have authority over death. If Jesus has this authority, then who is he claiming to be? He can’t be claiming to be just another prophet. The religious leaders have no change of heart. They only further double down in their stubbornness!

(8:54-55) Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; 55 and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word.”

Jesus refuses to retract his statements; otherwise, that would make him a liar.

(8:56) “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

When did Abraham see Jesus’ day? It could be that he saw that God would bring about the Redeemer through his offspring in the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1-3). It could also be after the near sacrifice of Isaac, when he predicted, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided” (Gen. 22:14).

(8:57) “So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”

They were putting all of their religious stock in being an heir of Abraham, but Jesus claims to have preceded Abraham. Moreover, Abraham longed to see Jesus (v.56). How could this be the case if Jesus was not even 50 years old? They are really not realizing what Jesus is communicating. They are asking him if he saw Abraham, when Jesus was actually claiming that Abraham saw him (v.56).

(8:58) Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.

Jesus uses the divine title to call himself God (“I am,” ego eimi, i.e. Yahweh). The Septuagint translated Exodus 3:14 (“I am who I am”) with this exact same Greek phrase: ego eimi ho on.[161] Morris writes, “It is an emphatic form of speech and one that would not normally be employed in ordinary speaking. Thus to use it was recognizably to adopt the divine style. In passages like verses 24 and 28 this is fairly plain, but in the present passage it is unmistakable. When Jesus is asserting his existence in the time of Abraham there is no other way of understanding it. It should also be observed that he says ‘I am,’ not ‘I was.’ It is eternity of being and not simply being that has lasted through several centuries that the expression indicates.”[162]

(8:59) Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.

Jesus’ opponents tried to kill him for this “blasphemy” (Lev. 24:14-16, 23; 1 Kgs 21:13-14), and he escaped.

How did Jesus hide himself? Maybe there was so much commotion that he escaped in the uproar. The Greek phrase is in the passive voice (“He was hidden”). Whatever happened, God must’ve hidden Jesus through some special means.

The phrase “went out of the temple” may symbolize the fact that Jesus was leaving the religious leaders to focus on the lay people or perhaps the Greeks.[163]

Conclusions

The Pharisees had no real interest in coming to know Christ. Instead, they scoffed at him. They made fun of his dead dad (v.19), accused him of suicide (v.22), implied that his mom was promiscuous (v.41), and called him racial slurs and insane (v.48). When people lack the truth, they fall back on mere name-calling.

Jesus didn’t let their attitude or name-calling stop him from finishing his debate. It wasn’t until they physically tried to kill him that he left.

Discussion Questions

Have you ever been sharing your faith, only to see people twist what you’re saying? Sometimes we feel like if we only said things the right way we could avoid misunderstanding. But Jesus—the perfect example—didn’t see this at all! He spoke clearly and perfectly, but he was still persecuted. How can we balance being good communicators of the gospel without being obsessed with how people respond?

Do you believe it’s possible for people to reject God—not based on the evidence—but based on reluctance? How do you react to this statement from this atheistic philosopher? Thomas Nagel writes, “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”[164]

What are some reasons that might make people reluctant to come to Christ?

Atheist Aldous Huxley openly admitted that his reason for rejecting Christianity was because he “objected to the morality because it interfered with [his] sexual freedom.”[165]

In his book Why I Rejected Christianity, John Loftus—a former Christian apologist—openly admitted that he began to reject Christianity because of a sexual affair and a poor experience of Christian community.

John Loftus: “I was having problems with my own relationship with my wife at the time, and Linda made herself available. I succumbed and had an affair with her… There is more. After a few months I decided I could no longer reconcile the affair with my faith or my family life. So I told Linda that it was over… She went off in a rampage and told the board of directors at the Shelter that I had raped her.”[166]

What’s the difference between an honest investigator of Christianity and someone who won’t accept the truth?

Do you think it’s possible for authentic Christian-believers to be blind to the truth of Christ? What would be some signs that a Christian was becoming hardened to the truth?

John 9

John 9 (Healing the blind man)

(9:1) As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.

This happened as Jesus was leaving the Temple (Jn. 8:59). Jesus was running for his life, but he still stopped to heal a guy. This man had congenital blindness (i.e. “blind from birth”).

(9:2-3) And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

“Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Modern Western people surely take this to be a very odd question! But most religions on Earth blame the victim of suffering, claiming that the person did something to deserve their fate. While the Bible doesn’t teach such a thing, ancient rabbis debated this very issue. If a person was born with a congenital disease, they argued, then someone must be morally responsible. They advanced two (unbiblical) alternatives: (1) the person sinned in utero—as a fetus in the womb[167] or (2) the parents had some sort of sin that God was punishing in their unborn baby.[168] Craig Keener writes, “Jewish literature provides many examples of the connection; one who saw a blind, lame or otherwise seriously afflicted person should praise God as the righteous judge.”[169] For instance, Rabbi Ammi said, “There is no death without sin, and there is no suffering without iniquity” (Shabbat 55a).[170] Most religious thinking is this way: God is punishing us for our wrongdoing.

Growing up under these traditions, Jesus’ own disciples thought that this was a result of divine judgment. They offer a false dilemma. Jesus answers, “Who sinned? Wrong question!” After all, what could a fetus do in the womb? Sin against other fetuses? (Indeed, some rabbis argued this based on Genesis 25:22!)

Why then did this man have a congenital handicap? Jesus says, “It was so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (v.3). Does this refer to all congenital defects? Not necessarily. At the very least, it refers to this man’s blindness. Jesus could confidently claim this because he knew that he was about to perform a miracle on this man. It’s also true that Jesus’ healing work in the life of the believer shows the grace of God (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Citing F.F. Bruce, Leon Morris argues that “God overruled the disaster of the child’s blindness so that, when the child grew to manhood, he might, by recovering his sight, see the glory of God in the face of Christ.”[171]

(9:4) “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.”

Who is Jesus referring to when he says “we”? The disciples? The Trinity? Most likely, it seems that he’s referring to the disciples.

“Night” must refer to Jesus’ departure from this world (v.5). That is, Jesus would only do his ministry of miracles on Earth and in person for a little while longer.

(9:5) “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”

This is similar to John 8: Those who respond to Jesus’ light receive more sight. But those who reject Jesus’ light become more blind.

(9:6-7) When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing.

Why does Jesus feel the need to spit in the ground and make mud? In Mark, Jesus used saliva to perform a miracle as well (Mk. 7:33; 8:23). But with his other miracles, Jesus simply speaks or “snaps his fingers,” and the miraculous occurs. Why does he use mud to heal the man’s eyes? Jesus likely did this so that it would constitute “work” in the minds of the religious leaders, and this miracle occurred on the Sabbath (v.14). Keener writes, “Kneading (dough, and by analogy clay) was one of thirty-nine classes of work forbidden on the Sabbath.”[172] Alfred Edersheim concurs, “In general, the principle is laid down, that anything by which the ground may be benefited is to be considered a ‘work’ or ‘labour,’ even if it were to sweep away or to break up a clod of earth. Nay, to pluck a blade of grass was a sin. Similarly, it was sinful labour to do anything that would promote the ripening of fruits, such as to water, or even to remove a withered leaf. One Rabbi allowed to spit into the handkerchief, and that although it may necessitate the compressing of what had been wetted; but there is a grave discussion whether it was lawful to spit on the ground, and then to rub it with the foot, because thereby the earth may be scratched.”[173]

(9:8) Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, “Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?”

Jesus’ prediction comes true (v.3). This man’s healing spoke to the entire community about the power of God.

(9:9) Others were saying, “This is he,” still others were saying, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the one.”

What a natural human reaction. The people weren’t dumb, pre-scientific idiots. They knew that congenital blindness didn’t just fix itself. Some were skeptical.

(9:10-11) So they were saying to him, “How then were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went away and washed, and I received sight.”

The NASB renders this as “anointed my eyes.” The NET renders this as “smeared it on my eyes.” The NLT renders this as “spread it over my eyes.” The word (epechrisen) means “to apply a viscous substance, anoint, spread/smear on” (BDAG).

(9:12) They said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.”

This miracle gets some people asking where Jesus was. They start seeking for him to ask him for an answer.

(9:13) They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind.

Instead of seeking Jesus, they sought out the Pharisees.

(9:14) Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.

Oh no! Jesus had the audacity and irreverence to heal this man… on the Sabbath! How could he do such a thing??

(9:15) Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, “He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”

The man explains how Jesus performed the miracle: Jesus used physical substances (e.g. mud and saliva), and this would constitute work.

(9:16) Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them.

This verified miracle led to intense debate among the people. Notice that no one denied the miracle here—only its cause. Moreover, the people noted that Jesus had performed “signs” (plural), not just this one.

(9:17) So they said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes?” And he said, “He is a prophet.”

The healed man thought Jesus was a prophet,” not the Prophet.” He doesn’t discover Jesus’ identity until later (vv.36-38). Without propositional teaching, mere miracles can actually be quite confusing to people.

(9:18) The Jews then did not believe it of him, that he had been blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight.

Once the man explains the theological implications of this healing, then (all of a sudden!) the Pharisees start to deny the miracle. Their theological presuppositions skewed the evidence.

(9:19) And questioned them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?”

The Pharisees weren’t holding an objective investigation. They seem to be trying to pressure witnesses to deny Christ. They interrogate the parents. This would be intense social and religious pressure.

(9:20-23) His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. 23 For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

The religious leaders had “already decided” their view about Jesus (v.22). They weren’t honest investigators, but had a political and religious agenda. As a result, the parents wimp out, remaining agnostic (“we do not know”). How will their son hold up under this intense social pressure? We discover that the man develops a sarcastic attitude toward these religious leaders…

(9:24-25) So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He then answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

Instead of following them down their theological rabbit hole, the man focuses on what he does know with certainty.

How did the religious leaders already “know that [Jesus] was a sinner”? Clearly, their theological assumptions based on their man-made laws about the Sabbath were skewing the evidence. They were convinced Jesus had broken the Sabbath, because they trusted the reports about Jesus making mud out of dirt. But they denied these same reports that confirmed a genuine miracle.

(9:26-27) So they said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?”

The healed man holds his own! He asks why they keep asking the same questions over and over. Often, people do this when they are being stubborn or when they are trying to pressure you to change your view. This wasn’t an open dialogue; it was an interrogation.

(9:28-29) They reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.”

If excommunication from the synagogue was at stake (v.22), then this would be a really serious accusation.

(9:30) The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes.”

The healed man is pushing back on their faulty reasoning: If Jesus really was a miracle worker, then why wouldn’t they investigate where he came from? How could they fail to look into this? Morris paraphrases the man’s statement in this way: “This is the really marvellous thing; your unbelief in the face of the evidence is more of a miracle than my cure!”[174]

(9:31-33) “We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. 32 Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

The healed man is revealing the contradiction in their religious presuppositions. Morris comments, “It is not a bad chain of reasoning for one who had hitherto been a beggar all his life, and presumably a stranger to academic and forensic argument.”[175]

(9:34) They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” So they put him out.

Jesus didn’t condemn this man in this way (v.3), but the Pharisees (wrongfully) did. The Pharisees refused to listen to the man’s testimony about who Jesus was, and consequently, they plunged into further spiritual darkness.

What must it have been like for this man to be questioned, accused, and thrown out of the synagogue? On the very day that he reentered society as a newly respected person, the religious authorities declared him a “sinner” and cast him away. This man must’ve felt all alone in defending Jesus. But look who shows up next to keep him company…

(9:35-37) Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.”

Jesus heard about this man’s faith, and he went searching for him (“finding him”). This man thought that Jesus was just a prophet (v.17). But Jesus ups the ante and tells him that he is the “Son of Man” (cf. Dan. 7:13-14).

(9:38) And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him.

The healed man lost the synagogue and the approval of the religious authorities, but he gained Christ (cf. Phil. 3:5-10).

(9:39) And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”

This miracle had a spiritual message frontloaded into it, speaking to the “spiritual blindness” of humanity.

(9:40) Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?”

Apparently, the Pharisees overheard this conversation, but still refused to believe.

(9:41) Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

Their sin was in the fact that they falsely claimed to see God.

Discussion Questions

Compare and contrast the account of the healed man and the Pharisees: What key differences do you see?

Blind Man’s response

Pharisees response

“the man” (9:11)

“a prophet” (9:17)

A unique Servant of God (9:32-33)

“Lord” (9:38)

“You were never really blind” (9:18)

“Someone else other than Jesus must have healed you” (9:24)

“You are too ignorant to know what you’re talking about” (9:28)

“You are a pre-natal sinner. We will excommunicate you!” (9:34)

The man acted on the small instruction from Jesus, and God built his faith over time.

They were given plenty of evidence, but rejected it (8:13).
Knew he couldn’t see.

Thought they could “see.”

In this account, we saw that the religious leaders were biased by religious presuppositions. How can bias (e.g. religious, philosophical, experiential, etc.) affect our interpretation of Christianity?

What are signs that someone thinks that they can “see” just fine without God?

  • “I have a relationship with God, because I grew up in a religious household.”
  • “I have a relationship with God because of my good works.”
  • “My life is just fine without Christ.”
  • “If I dedicate my life to Christ, it would lead to regret and misery.”
  • “I’ve already read that passage of Scripture before.”
  • “I don’t need to seek counsel or consider correction.”
  • “I can ignore Christ’s instruction on a specific area, and it won’t affect the rest of my life.”

John 10

John 10.1 (The good shepherd)

While this chapter contains no introduction, we later read, “A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?” (Jn. 10:21) This shows that Jesus delivered this teaching in John 10 was given on the heels of John 9. The setting is the “Feast of Dedication” (v.22), which is also known as the Festival of Hanukkah—inaugurated in the extrabiblical book of 1 Maccabees 4:36-61.[176]

(10:1) “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber.”

No, there are not multiple ways to God. No, we can’t come to God on our own terms. We can only through the door.” Jesus is the door (v.7). Merrill Tenney writes, “The imagery of the first two paragraphs is based on the concept of the ‘sheep pen.’ It was usually a rough stone or mud-brick structure, only partially roofed, if covered at all, or very often a cave in the hills. It had only one opening through which the sheep could pass when they came in for the night. The pen served for the protection of the sheep against thieves and wild beasts.”[177] If a person (or beast of prey) came over the wall, they were there to ravage the sheep; hence, Jesus calls them a “thief” or a “robber.”

(10:2) “But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep.”

Who is the shepherd of the sheep? When Jesus says, He who enters…” it sounds like it could refer to anyone. Later, we realize that Jesus himself is this Shepherd.

(10:3) “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

The good shepherd has access to the sheep (“To him the doorkeeper opens”).

The good shepherd garners trust from the sheep (“The sheep hear his voice and follow his lead), which is similar to verse 5.

The good shepherd is personally invested at a deep level (“He calls his own sheep by name). Morris writes, “The Eastern shepherd often has an individual call for each of his sheep, and it is this that is in mind here.”[178] While others might just see a mass of white fur, the shepherd loves and respects each individual sheep.

(10:4) “When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

The good shepherd leads by example (“he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him). He doesn’t drive them from behind with a cattle prod. He leads them from the front of the pack (cf. Num. 27:16-17).

(10:5) “A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

The good shepherd garners trust from his flock. This is similar to verse 3. Merrill Tenney writes, “A pen frequently held several flocks; and when the time came to go out to morning pasture, each shepherd separated his sheep from the others by his peculiar call. The sheep refused to follow a stranger because his voice was unfamiliar. In fact, if a stranger should use the shepherd’s call and imitate his tone, the flock would instantly detect the difference and would scatter in panic.”[179] Theologian Bruce Ware tells the story in one of his lectures of visiting sheep herders in Europe. He saw various shepherds meeting together, and all of their sheep were muddled together in a cluster. But when one of the sheep herders gave his call, his specific sheep separated from the others and followed him.

(10:6) This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.

Jesus taught in parables or “figures of speech.” 2 Peter 2:22 translates this word (paroimian) as a “proverb.” But Jesus would explain these difficult statements, so that they were not left in confusion.

(10:7) So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”

See comments on verse 1.

(10:8) “All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.”

Who are those who came before? Jesus is likely referring to the greed of the Sadducees, Pharisees (Lk. 16:14), and scribes (Mk. 12:40). These men didn’t lead to help the sheep, but to take from them (“thieves… robbers”). True believers were able to discern that these leaders were illegitimate (“the sheep did not hear them”). There is an allusion to the OT, where God criticizes the false shepherds (i.e. leaders) in Israel (Jer. 23:1-8; Ezek. 34). Evil, self-absorbed leadership isn’t anything new—not then, and certainly not now!

(10:9) “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”

This verse is both inclusive and exclusive. It is inclusive in the sense that “anyone” can come, but it is exclusive in the sense that we have to enter through Jesus (“enters through Me). The thought that they will “go in and out and find pasture” refers to how Jesus “provides for those who believe in him.”[180]

(10:10) “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Who is “the thief” mentioned here? In context, it seems to refer to the false teachers and religious authorities. Earlier, Jesus referred to “all who came before me” (v.8). Indeed, the Pharisees were trying to kill Jesus (Jn. 8:39-40, 59), so this would fit with the nefarious leadership of his day.

At the same time, the use of the singular (“the thief” not “the thieves) implies a specific thief. The ultimate villainous leader is Satan himself.

“Kill” (thuō) usually refers to “slaughter.” This could refer to killing for a sacrifice or food (or both). Morris notes that “apart from this passage, there is no occasion on which the verb does not have one or other of these meanings.”[181] In this case, the “sheep” are slaughtered for the shepherd to eat. This is metaphorical language to show that the thief devours the sheep, but the good shepherd dies for the sheep (“lays down his life for the sheep,” v.11).

“Abundantly” (perisson) refers to “that which is not ordinarily encountered, extraordinary, remarkable” or “to being extraordinary in amount, abundant, profuse” (BDAG). Additionally, Jesus uses the present tense: We can currently have this rich life of joy right at this moment, living on into eternity. John wanted us to know that “the gift of Jesus is life beyond our wildest dreams.”[182]

But how do we receive this abundant life that Jesus promises? In order for Jesus to give us abundant life, he needed to die…

(10:11) “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

The good shepherd is sacrificial. In the OT, David laid down his life for the sheep he looked after—even fighting lions (1 Sam. 17:33-37). On one level, it’s outrageous that a shepherd would die so that stupid sheep would live. But think of it: How much more outrageous is it that Jesus (the God-man) would die so that stupid, sinful humans like us can live!

If we apply this to leadership today (cf. 1 Pet. 5:1-7), we realize that leaders are living sacrifices—not dead ones (Rom. 12:1-2). Are you willing to pour out your life—one day at a time—for fellow sinners in the Church? Are you willing to give up your life for the sake of others?

(10:12-13) “He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.”

The “hired hand” doesn’t really care about the sheep—only for his paycheck. He acts exactly like a good shepherd… until danger strikes. When a wolf comes, he says, “I’m not getting paid enough for this!” And he quickly flees.

How can we discern a good shepherd from a hired hand? We can’t see the difference until we watch them both encounter a wolf. So too, we often can’t discern quality leaders until they encounter pain, pressure, punishment, and persecution.

(10:14-15) “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

Who are Jesus’ “own” in this passage? Five-point Calvinists claim that this passage supports limited atonement (see “Limited Atonement: A Critique” for further analysis). But this is a misreading of the text for a couple of reasons: First, Jesus doesn’t say he only lays down his life for the sheep. To say otherwise commits the negative inference fallacy.[183] For comparison, note that John 10:17 states that the Father loves Jesus because he would die on the Cross. Of course, this is not the only reason the Father loves the Son—or even the only person God loves. But it is the one reason and the one person mentioned there. Second, the very next verse mentions “other sheep” (v.16). If verse 15 refers to the elect, then who are the “other sheep”?

(10:16) “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”

Who are the “other sheep” Jesus is talking about? Some Christians have speculated that Jesus is referring to extraterrestrial life in the tradition of C.S. Lewis’ fictional Space Trilogy. Of course, the Bible simply does not speak to such a thing, and certainly does not do so here. After all, if Jesus is referring to space aliens, then he is implying that he “laid down his life” for these beings, which is biblically false. Jesus had to become like a man in order to identify with us (Heb. 2:17) and his atonement was “once for all” (Heb. 7:27; 9:12; 10:10), never to be repeated. Furthermore, Jesus’ earthly ministry focused on the “house of Israel” (Mt. 10:5-6). Here Jesus is predicting the expansion of the kingdom to Gentiles as well as Jews. The “one flock” is reminiscent of Paul’s teaching about the breaking down of the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:11ff). It’s also similar to what John later writes, “Not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (Jn. 11:52).

Virtually all commentators understand the “other sheep” to refer to the Gentiles. These would include Morris,[184] Carson,[185] Borchert,[186] Tenney,[187] Kruse,[188] Beasley-Murray,[189] and Whitacre.[190] Indeed, we couldn’t find a single Johannine commentator who understood this to refer to extraterrestrials. Extraterrestrial life could exist, but the Bible is simply silent with regard to its existence.

(10:17) “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.”

God loved Jesus for the fact that he was willing to lay down his life. This isn’t the only reason the Father loved Jesus, but simply one reason. It’s also possible to understand the Greek connectives (dia toutohoti) to be the result—not the cause. Thus, Borchert renders this as, “Because [dia touto] the Father loves me, that is the reason [hoti, therefore] I lay down my life.”[191]

(10:18) “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”

God the Father didn’t force Jesus to take up the Cross. Jesus volunteered to serve and sacrifice in this way. To be more precise, the two worked together. Even though Jesus went into utter humiliation, we see that he wasn’t helpless. He states that he is totally in control of his death and resurrection.

(10:19) A division occurred again among the Jews because of these words.

A “division” (schisma) implies that some liked this teaching, while others rejected it. Jesus was a polarizing person.

(10:20) Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?”

Again, they accuse him of demon possession (cf. Jn. 8:48). It’s simply astonishing that one of Jesus’ closest disciples would include these blasphemous accusations.

(10:21) Others were saying, “These are not the sayings of one demon-possessed. A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?”

Others were sticking up for Jesus, showing the obvious point that demons wouldn’t heal the blind. This shows that this chapter is connected with chapter 9.

Discussion question

Read John 10:1-21. What do we learn about godly leadership from Jesus’ description of the good shepherd? What characteristics of a godly leader do we learn?

What do we learn about ungodly leadership from Jesus’ description of the thieves, robbers, and hired hands? What characteristics of a ungodly leader do we learn?

Where do you see this in the text?

John 10.2 (Arguing with the religious leaders)

(10:22) At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem.

What is the Feast of Dedication? This is the holiday of Hanukkah,[192] which was a celebration of the victory of the Maccabean Revolt (1 Macc. 4:36-59; 2 Macc. 1:9, 18; 10:1-8). This was celebrated on the 25th of Kislev, which is in November-December on our calendar today. This explains why John would record that it was “winter” during this time (v.23).

(10:23) It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.

Jesus is back in the Temple, so this is a change of location from the earlier exchange.

(10:24-25) The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying 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, these testify of Me.”

The religious authorities are trying to get Jesus to reveal his Messianic status. Why was Jesus being secretive? In reality, he wasn’t. The people refused to believe.

(10:26) “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.”

Calvinists take this passage to mean that we can’t believe unless we are one of the elect.[193] After all, the causal language implies that only the sheep can believe: “You do not believe because you are not of My sheep.” It would be different if Jesus said, “You are not of My sheep because you do not believe.”

We would respond that this hangs far too much on this connecting word. A comparison can be found in Jesus’ statement, “Her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much” (Lk. 7:47). John 10:26 uses this same Greek connecting word (hoti). If we take Luke 7:47 as causative (i.e. she was forgiven because of her love), then the statement would imply a works-based righteousness, which all Christians should rightly reject. Furthermore, Jesus doesn’t explain in this one verse how one becomes one of his sheep. But the following verse tells us this: the sheep “hear” and “follow” Jesus. Indeed, Jesus makes a genuine invitation to this same crowd of people: “Though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father” (Jn. 10:38).

(10:27) “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

What does it mean to “follow” Jesus in this context? We’re not sure if he’s talking about discipleship here. It sounds like the metaphor of the sheep and the shepherd is referring to evangelism.

(10:28) “And I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”

This is a powerful promise for eternal security. Theologian Millard Erickson writes, “In the clause ‘and they shall never perish,’ John uses the double negative ou me with the aorist subjunctive, which is a very emphatic way of declaring that something will not happen in the future. Jesus is categorically excluding the slightest chance of an apostasy by his sheep. A literal translation would be something like: ‘They shall not, repeat, shall not, ever perish in the slightest.’ …All in all, this passage is as definite a rejection of the idea that the true believer can fall away as could be given.”[194] Likewise, D.A. Carson writes, “The focus is not on the power of the life itself, but on Jesus’ power… To think otherwise would entail the conclusion that Jesus had failed in the explicit assignment given him by the Father, to preserve all those given to him. The ultimate security of Jesus’ sheep rests with the good shepherd.”[195]

(10:29) “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.”

We can’t be snatched out of Jesus’ hand (v.28), nor out of the Father’s hand (v.29). If we could lose eternal life, then the Father wouldn’t be “greater than all.” For more on this topic, see our earlier article, “Eternal Security.”

(10:30-31) “I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him.

This is a good verse for the deity of Christ. The religious leaders understood what Jesus was communicating with this statement: they tried to stone him for blasphemy (cf. Lev. 24:14-16, 23; 1 Kgs 21:13-14).

(Jn. 10:30) Does this passage invalidate the Trinity?

(10:32) Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?”

Jesus asked the best questions. He’s getting them to think about what they’re doing. Why are they filled with murderous rage for a man who is healing the congenitally blind and handicapped?

(10:33) The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”

They hold back on the stoning for a moment to answer his question. It isn’t the good works, but the blasphemy (Lev. 24:16). He is claiming “to be God.” If Jesus wasn’t God incarnate, he would quickly correct their false understanding. But we find Jesus affirming their view—not denying it.

(10:34) Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?”

Jesus cites Psalm 82:6.

(Jn. 10:34-36) Did Jesus believe in many “gods”?

(10:35) “If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken).”

Jesus believed in the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture. Even confusing or downright bizarre passages like Psalm 82:6 couldn’t be “broken.”

(10:36) “Do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?”

Jesus makes an a fortiori argument: If this, how much more that?

(10:37-38) “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”

To paraphrase, Jesus is saying, “Even if you don’t trust Me, at least trust the evidence right in front of you.”

(10:39) Therefore they were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp.

How was Jesus able to be so elusive? Surely God the Father was divinely guarding Jesus, because his “hour had not yet come.”

(10:40-42) And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was first baptizing, and He was staying there. 41 Many came to Him and were saying, “While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true.” 42 Many believed in Him there.

Jesus went back to the people who were receptive, rather than talking incessantly to those who weren’t. Incidentally, John the Baptist was a righteous man, but he didn’t perform any overt miracles. This really goes against the charismatic idea that miracles are normative for the believer. Moreover, this continues to show Jesus’ superiority to John the Baptist.

Discussion Questions

Read John 10:22-39. Why did the religious leaders refuse to believe in Jesus? Was it a lack of evidence, or something else? What implications does this have for working with skeptics in our own day?

John 11

John 11 (Jesus at a funeral)

At the end of the sci-fi classic Blade Runner (1982), Gaff (Edward James Olmos) tells Deckard (Harrison Ford), “It’s too bad she won’t live, but then again… who does?” Compare that with what we read here!

(11:1-3) Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”

In John 11, Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus fell deathly sick (v.1). In this day and age, medicine was a joke. But fortunately for them, these two women had a family friend—a miracle worker—named Jesus of Nazareth. They sent messengers to contact him. But they didn’t command Jesus to do anything. They simply placed the need at Jesus’ feet (cf. Jn. 2:3).

John identifies Mary before the event of her anointing his feet (ch. 12). This could be foreshadowing to show that the story will end well.

 (11:4) But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”

This is similar to the reason for which Jesus healed the blind man (Jn. 9:3).

(11:5-6) Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.

Lazarus was dead for four days (v.17). The trip to Bethany was only a day’s journey. So the messengers took a day to reach Jesus, then Jesus waited two days, and then it took him a day of travel to meet them; thus equaling four days. Lazarus must’ve died shortly after the message was sent. Even after he received their message, Jesus didn’t come charging to the rescue. John writes that he purposely stated “two days longer.” But why? Why would Christ wait because he loved them? What kind of love is that? Jesus waited so that he could work an even greater miracle than a healing (v.15), and he waited so that this family could come to faith and escape spiritual death.

Jesus loved this hurting family far more than they anticipated. When we read this story in English, we miss a nuance in the original language:

“The sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love (phileo) is sick’” (v.3).

“Jesus loved (agapao) Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (v.5).

In English, the same word is used for “love,” but not in the original Greek. Phileo refers to a brotherly love, while agapao refers to a deeper, sacrificial love. We all have our own misconstrued views of God and his character, and this applies to Mary and Martha as well. In this case, Mary and Martha believed that Jesus “loved” (phileo) their brother enough to heal his sickness. But in reality, Jesus “loved” (agapao) Lazarus far, far more than they could’ve imagined.

(11:7-8) Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?”

Going back to Judea would put Jesus in imminent danger. The religious leaders tried to stone Jesus in the previous chapter, but he eluded them (Jn. 10:31ff), and now, he’s going back! But in order to save Lazarus, Jesus would need to face the danger of death. In order to save humanity in the resurrection, Jesus would need to die.

(11:9-10) Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

This seems to draw on the previous statement from Jesus that the “day” refers to his active ministry on Earth (Jn. 9:4-5), and being the light of the world (Jn. 8:12).

(11:11-14) This He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.” 12 The disciples then said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. 14 So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.”

The disciples thought Jesus was talking about literal sleep—not death. Perhaps they didn’t want to believe that their friend was dead, and Jesus needed to make this explicit.

(11:15) “And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.”

Sadness and outrage will later fill Jesus’ heart (vv.33-35). But here he says that he is “glad.” He knows that this plan of action is for the glory of God (v.4) and for the benefit of people coming to faith (v.15, 24-26, 40, 42, 45).

(11:16) Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”

Thomas was expecting that Jesus would be stoned to death (see v.8). He must have inferred that the disciples would die with him. That’s how the NLT takes this passage (“Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus”). Thomas was very brave, but maybe also kind of morbid and perhaps skeptical (John 20).

(11:17) So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.

What is the significance of Lazarus being dead for four days? Jewish rabbinical tradition held that a soul would hover over the body for three days before it left for the afterlife. Carson writes, “From a slightly later date there are sources attesting the rabbinic belief that the soul hovers over the body of the deceased person for the first three days. ‘Intending to re-enter it, but as soon as it sees its appearance change’, i.e. that decomposition has set in, ‘it departs’ (Leviticus Rabbah [a 544f).”[196] Morris writes, “Rabbi Abba, Rabbi Pappai and Rabbi Joshua of Siknin said in the name of Rabbi Levi: For three days (after death) the soul hovers over the body, intending to re-enter it, but as soon as it sees its appearance change, it departs.… Bar Kappara said: The full force of mourning lasts for three days. Why? Because (for that length of time) the shape of the face is recognisable” (Lev. Rab. 18:1; Soncino edn., p. 226; see also Eccl. Rab. 12:6). In line with this the Mishnah provides that evidence of the identity of a corpse may be given only during the three days after death (Yebamot 16:3).”[197] This view was attested by AD 220, but probably goes back to the time of Jesus or even before.

While this is not a biblical teaching, we still observe cases where bodies lay in a comatose state before spontaneous resuscitation. For instance, even in modern times, we read about such cases:

“Mourners at a recent funeral in Zimbabwe were caught by surprise when the guest of honor sat up in his coffin. According to local reports, 34-year-old Brighton Dama Zanthe, the seemingly dead man, woke up last week while friends and family prepared to pay their respects at his home. ‘I was the first to notice Mr. Zanthe’s moving legs as I was in the queue to view his body. At first I could not believe my eyes but later realized that there was indeed some movements on the body as other mourners retreated in disbelief,’ Lot Gaka… told The Herald. Fortunately, Zanthe woke up just in time; his body was set to be transported to a funeral parlor later that day.”[198]

Jesus doesn’t affirm this extrabiblical teaching. But it wouldn’t surprise us to see him appealing to this common view to show that Lazarus was truly dead before raising him.

(11:18) Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off.

They make the two-mile trek to Bethany.

Martha comes to talk with Jesus

(11:19) And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother.

“Many of the Jews.” This could imply that Lazarus was an influential and notable man. (Incidentally, this could explain why the religious leaders would later want him dead, because so many people knew who he was.)

At this point in the narrative, however, all hope was lost. The doctor had left, and the mortician had arrived.

(11:20) Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house.

Was Mary too sad (or mad?) to come and meet with Jesus?

(11:21-22) Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

There is a little bit of an accusatory tone here, but there is also an attitude of trust in Jesus. We don’t see a two-dimensional character here.

(11:23-24) Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Martha thinks that Jesus came to teach about basic biblical truths in order to console her. She thinks he’s referring to the general resurrection of the dead at the end of history.

(11:25) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”

To paraphrase, Jesus says, “It’s not that Lazarus will be raised in the resurrection… I am the resurrection. He will be raised in Me.”

(11:26) “Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus wants to stretch her faith: “Do you believe this?”

(11:27) She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

Martha affirms that she did indeed believe in Jesus as the Messiah. But she didn’t realize just how far reaching these implications were.

Mary comes to talk with Jesus

(11:28-29) When she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him.

Martha grabs her sister. We can imagine her saying, “You need to go talk to Jesus. You won’t believe what he just told me…”

(11:30) Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him.

Jesus must have met these women at a distance, not entering the village. He didn’t want to invade their mourning. We waited for them to come to him when they were ready.

(11:31) Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

Mary brings a crowd of mourning people. Carson writes, “Jewish funeral custom dictated that even a poor family was expected to hire at least two flute players and a professional wailing woman (Mishnah Ketuboth 4:4).”[199]

(11:32) Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Jesus was patient with these grieving women. When we go through suffering and grief, we discover emotions we never knew we had. We might discover bitterness and anger bubbling to the surface. When the grieving family accused Jesus of being unloving or weak, he didn’t defend himself; he just sat and listened. Billy Graham notes, “Jesus didn’t reason or argue with Martha when she accused Him of neglect. He patiently understood.”[200] He also writes, “I wonder if she later wished she had never said those words when Jesus brought Lazarus out of the tomb.”[201]

(11:33) When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled.

“Saw her weeping.” The term “weeping” (klaiein) can be rendered “weep” or even “wail” (BDAG, p.545).[202]

“Deeply moved in spirit” (embrimaomai) literally refers to “an expression of anger and displeasure” (BDAG). It is used elsewhere to refer to a stern warning (Mt. 9:30; Mk. 1:43; 14:5). Carson writes that literally Jesus “was outraged in spirit, and troubled.”[203] Morris writes, “It signifies a loud inarticulate noise, and its proper use appears to be for the snorting of horses. When used of people it usually denotes anger, and many exegetes hold that this is the meaning here; if so, it is probably anger against death that is meant.”[204] Jesus wasn’t just sad. He was mad. Indeed, he was outraged at death!

“Troubled” (etaraxen, from the root tarassō) is used elsewhere for Jesus contemplating the Cross (Jn. 12:27) or contemplating Judas’ betrayal (Jn. 13:21).

(11:34) And said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”

Jesus went to see the body. He was already angry and troubled before he even made it to the tomb. Just seeing the mourners turned his heart inside out, but how will he react to seeing the dead body of his friend?

(11:35) Jesus wept.

This is the shortest verse in the entire Bible. Yet it’s hard to find a single verse that communicates so much with so little. Death is a twisted distortion of God’s design, and Jesus weeps at the horror of it. The psalmist writes, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones” (Ps. 116:15).

(11:36) So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!”

Did Jesus uncontrollably sob? Was he beside himself with an open expression of tears? However he wept, the people could see how deeply grieved he was.

(11:37) But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”

The problem of evil is nothing new. Ancient people thought about this just as much as modern people do. In a sense, these onlookers were asking, “Was Jesus not loving enough to heal Lazarus, or was he not powerful enough to heal him?” In this account, Jesus splits the horns of this oft-repeated dilemma.

(11:38) So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.

This is similar to the tomb in which Jesus would soon be buried.

(11:39) Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.”

The ever-practical Martha is worried about the smell. Indeed, the Jewish people didn’t embalm their dead, as the Egyptians did,[205] and Lazarus’ corpse would’ve been puffed and swollen in the heat of decomposition. While spices were used for cadavers, this was only to mask the smell—not to remove it. Martha wanted to avoid a disgusting public spectacle.

(11:40) Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

To paraphrase, Jesus asks, “Did I stutter?”

(11:41-42) So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.”

Jesus had confidence that God was always listening to him in prayer.

(11:43) When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.”

“Cried out” (ekkraugasen, from the root kraugazō) means “to utter a loud sound, ordinarily of harsh texture, cry (out)” (BDAG). Morris writes, “This is the one place (out of six occurrences) where John uses the verb of Jesus… The word often indicates passion and lack of self-control… It is significant that the one place where Jesus uses it is when he is concerned for others.”[206]

“Lazarus, come forth.” Jesus’ spoken word is so powerful that he needed to specify Lazarus… Otherwise, every dead body on the Earth would’ve risen from the dead![207]

 (11:44) The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Picture the awkward hobbling of Lazarus as he exited the tomb. One minute he was dead; the next minute, he was jumping off the cold slab of stone and blindly hopping out of the tomb.

Everyone must’ve been shocked to see this scene. But Jesus’ words slice through this moment of utter shock. We can imagine Jesus saying, “Don’t just stand there… Give him a hand for goodness sakes!”

What did this experience feel like for Lazarus? The real victim in this story is Lazarus—but not for the reason we might initially think. Pastor Greg Laurie states that he feels bad that Lazarus had to come back from Heaven: “That would be like trying to take a kid out of Disneyland who has been there for twelve minutes.”[208]

(11:45) Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.

In one moment of time, Jesus turned this funeral into an evangelistic event.

The reaction of the religious leaders

(11:46) But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done.

Not everyone had the same reaction to this miracle (v.45). Some of the people ratted Jesus out to the authorities.

(11:47-48) Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. 48 If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

If the people really follow a Jewish King, this would be considered sedition to the Romans. Thus, they are worried that this “false teacher” will bring down the wrath of Rome on their nation. “Our place” probably refers to the Temple (cf. Acts 6:13-14; 21:28).

(11:49-50) But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.”

Caiaphas was thinking in terms of political judgment, but he didn’t realize how accurate his statement was with regard to divine judgment. Jesus would die to take the place of the people. Josephus regarded the Sadducees as incredibly aggressive and violent: “the behavior of the Sadducees one towards another is in some degree wild; and their conversation with those that are of their own party is as barbarous as if they were strangers to them” (Wars of the Jews, 2.116). Of course, as a Pharisee, Josephus could have some implicit bias in these words.

(11:51-52) Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

Were high priests also prophets in some sense? Kruse comments, “There is evidence in the writings of Josephus that a high priest might function as a prophet and that it was thought that a ‘true priest’ was necessarily a prophet.”[209] Josephus described John Hyrcanus as being both a high priest and a prophet (Josephus, Jewish War, 1.68; Antiquities, 13.299). Philo writes that “the true priest is necessarily a prophet… and to a prophet nothing is unknown” (On the Special Laws, 4.192).

(11:53) So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.

God’s plan coincided with their plan. What they meant for evil, God meant for good (cf. Gen. 50:20).

(11:54) Therefore Jesus no longer continued to walk publicly among the Jews, but went away from there to the country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim; and there He stayed with the disciples.

Jesus was well aware that the religious leaders wanted him dead. Ephraim was about 15 miles from Jerusalem.[210]

(11:55) Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover to purify themselves.

This is the third mention of the Passover (cf. Jn. 2:13; 6:4), demonstrating that Jesus’ ministry was at least three years long.

(11:56-57) So they were seeking for Jesus, and were saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think; that He will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he was to report it, so that they might seize Him.

The religious leaders put an APB on Jesus of Nazareth. They wanted him arrested, tried, and killed. The plot thickens!

Conclusions

Mary and Martha brought their need to Jesus. They didn’t know God’s will in this area, so instead of making demands or trying to manipulate Christ, they simply made their need known. When we go through grief, we don’t always know what to pray or how to pray it. But like these two women, it’s also okay to simply bring your needs to Jesus. We don’t need to instruct God on what to do when we’re confused. We can merely bring the need to him and trust that he’s in control.

Jesus had the two things we wish we had during suffering—yet he still mourned! When we suffer, we want (1) an answer to the question of why this happened, and (2) the power to change the suffering and make it right. Jesus had both of these coveted attributes, and yet he still was outraged and grieving. How many of us would be outraged and weeping if we knew that our loved one would rise from the dead fifteen minutes from now? Jesus had this knowledge and power, but wept anyhow! Despite his knowledge and power, suffering deeply affects the heart of God.

This passage shows us the nature of substitutionary atonement. In order to raise Lazarus from death, Jesus had to face death (v.8, 53).

Discussion Questions

What insights do we gain about the problem of evil from this passage?

What do we learn about the effects of grief from the examples of Mary and Martha?

How do people often seek to comfort grieving people? How does this compare to Jesus’ example of comforting Mary and Martha?

John 12

John 12.1 (Why this waste?)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9. We hold that the account in Luke 7:37-39 is a separate incident. The setting is Bethany in Judea for John, Matthew, and Mark. But the setting is in Galilee for Luke. Matthew and Mark state that they were in the home of Simon the leper, while Luke places his account in the home of Simon the Pharisee. Moreover, Mary could hardly be described as one and the same as the “sinner” depicted in Luke 7:37.]

Six days from Passover

(12:1) Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.

Jesus returns to Bethany. John tells us that this is six days before the Passover. So, Jesus will be dead within a week.

Was it six days before the Passover (as John states) or two days (as Matthew and Mark state)? Matthew 26:2 and Mark 14:1 both affirm that Passover was only two days away, but our text states that it was six days away. This is a difficulty to be sure. Perhaps John is merely saying that Jesus arrived at the home six days before Passover, and we are merely assuming that the meal took place on that same day. If we harmonize this with Matthew and Mark, then it would stand to reason that Jesus stayed with the family for four days before this meal took place.

(12:2) So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him.

Martha sounds like a hard worker and a good woman who loved Jesus. She had earlier learned the lesson from him to prioritize time with him above all else (Lk. 10:38-42).

We might like to ask Lazarus, “What was heaven like? Did you want to come back? Give us details!” Unlike many popular books of near-death experiences, John doesn’t give us any details. It doesn’t appear that Lazarus signed any book deals either…

(12:3) Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

This unit was measured by its weight which was roughly “a pound,” though Morris states that it was closer to 12 ounces.[211] This was probably Mary’s retirement package or her dowry for getting married. So, she was placing all of her future security at the literal feet of Jesus. It was worth a full year’s salary (v.5), and she freely chose to “waste” it on Jesus. Borchert writes, “Mary had depleted her potential of gaining a husband. That move is not to be understood as merely some nice act of honoring the Lord but as a tremendous demonstration of commitment to him. As a result, Jesus graciously accepted the act of dedication that many might consider both strange and wasteful. Thus, Jesus in John gives this act a theological significance far beyond the mere act itself.”[212]

She used this to “anoint the feet” of Jesus. This was an act of devotion. Earlier in Jesus’ life, a different woman let down her hair and wiped Jesus’ feet, and Jesus said, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair” (Lk. 7:44). This is in contrast to the disciples’ boasting that led to Jesus washing the disciples’ feet in John 13.

(12:4-5) But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?”

“Three hundred denarii” is equivalent to 300 days’ wages for a working person. In this case, Mary had given a fully year’s salary in a moment of devotion to Jesus.

Not everyone saw it this way. Judas raises the pragmatic question: Why did she waste this money on Jesus, when it could’ve been given to the poor? In some respects, this is a fair question. On the other hand, we discover Judas’ motives in the next verse.

(12:6) Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.

Judas didn’t really care for the poor. He was trying to get his hands on that money for himself. Morris comments, “It further opens up the possibility that disappointed avarice may have been one of the motives leading Judas to betray Jesus.”[213] We agree. Matthew and Mark place this event immediately before Judas makes the decision to betray Jesus to the religious leaders.

(12:7) Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial.”

It sounds like Mary didn’t use up the entire bottle of perfume oil. She must’ve broken it open and used some, and she could save the rest of it for later. But once that alabaster bottle was broken, it wouldn’t last long, having a short shelf life.

(12:8) For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.

Some Christian teachers use this verse to support the idea that we should spend exorbitant money on worship services, church décor, etc. They argue that Jesus is teaching that the worship of him takes precedence over our ministry to the poor. However, this is patently false. The implication is that once Jesus is gone, then we should take care of the poor. After all, serving the poor is a form of worship (see “What is Worship?”).

(12:9-11) The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus.

The religious leaders were trying to snuff the evidence of Jesus’ power. In this case, they needed to put Lazarus back in his tomb!

Discussion Questions

Judas wasn’t the only one to think that Mary’s devotion was a “waste.” The other disciples did as well. How could a genuine Christian consider commitment to Christ to be a “waste”? What might lead them to hold such a perspective?

John 12.2 (The [un]triumphal entry)

Five days from Passover

(12:12-13) On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem 13 took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.”

The “feast” refers to the Passover (see v.1). This is now five days before Passover (v.1).

“The branches of the palm trees.” The people treat Jesus as a king (cf. Jn. 6:15). They prepare the way with palm branches, singing Psalm 118:26. Morris writes, “Palms were an emblem of victory, and in John’s mention of them here we must detect a reference to the triumph of Christ.”[214] Palm branches are used to describe worship of Jesus in heaven (Rev. 7:9).

“Hosanna” comes from the Hebrew (hōsiʿāhna) which means “Save, I pray” or “God save him”[215] or “Salvation now.”[216]

(12:14-15) Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”

Jesus rides a donkey into Jerusalem, fulfilling Zechariah 9:9. Regarding his riding of a donkey, Morris writes, “A conqueror would ride into the city on a war horse, or perhaps march in on foot at the head of his troops. The [donkey] speaks of peace.”[217] By riding a donkey, Jesus visibly demonstrating his humility as a king. For more on this prediction, see comments on Zechariah 9:9.

Why does John change the citation in Zechariah 9:9? In the original Hebrew, we read, Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion,” but John writes, “Fear not, daughter of Zion.” This could be because Jesus knew that the next few days would be a “traumatic experience” for the people, filled with fear. And the people “were in for a shock.”[218]

(12:16) These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.

John goes to great pains to show that the disciples were not up to speed with the significance of Jesus’ actions. However, John clues in the reader throughout the narrative.

(12:17-18) So the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him. 18 For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign.

The witnesses of the Lazarus resurrection continued to testify about the miracle, drawing a great crowd.

(12:19) So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.”

The Pharisees witness this charismatic movement with intense jealousy, because it “probably seemed that their control was collapsing.”[219] Their plans to snuff out Jesus and Lazarus had not worked (Jn. 11:57). Jesus’ popularity was reaching the “world” (kosmos). Of course, this is hyperbole—perhaps referring to the Greeks (v.20).

(12:20-22) Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; 21 these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus.

These Greeks ask to speak with Jesus. They ask Philip, who asks Andrew, and both men ask Jesus. Since Jesus answered this crowd of Greeks (v.23, 30), this might imply that Jesus spoke Greek.

(12:23) And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

Up until this point, Jesus kept saying that his hour had not yet come. Now, the time has finally arrived. Of course, the “hour” refers to the Cross (cf. Jn. 2:4; 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1; cf. Mt. 26:18, 45; Mk. 14:41).

(12:24) Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

The breaking and death of a seed leads to the life of a massive field of wheat. So too, Jesus’ death gives rise to a great harvest of life for others.

(12:25) He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.

Jesus ties his mission closely with the lives of believers. The key to life is to give it away. The word “hate” is a Semitic idiom when used in contrast to love.[220]

(12:26) If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

Jesus is asking, “Are you willing to follow me—even to the Cross?” This is a tall order, but the reward is the “honor” of God himself.

(12:27) Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.

Jesus was not play acting. The term “troubled” (tetaraktai) is “filled with a deep sense that shock or trauma has come upon a person.”[221] Jesus truly wrestled emotionally under the shadow of the Cross. He asks questions in his pain, which shows that this isn’t sinful to do. Rather, as Borchert writes, “The issue is not the presence of questions but what one does with the questions.”[222] After all, Jesus’ questions don’t stop him from his mission; instead, they lead him to prayer and a reaffirmation of his “purpose.” Since John doesn’t include the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, this passage is given to show Jesus’ deep, emotional pain in facing this daunting fate.

(12:28) “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

Jesus ended his emotional wrestling with wanting God to be glorified, rather than getting personal peace. God always answers a prayer like this! Here God says, “Don’t worry… I will!”

(12:29) So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.”

Clearly, this was not a subjective vision, because the crowd heard the voice as well (cf. v.30).[223] But they misinterpreted the miracle, believing that it was (cf. Ps. 29:3), or perhaps the voice was an angel. This is both a naturalistic explanation for the miracle, and a misguided supernatural explanation. Both were wrong.

(12:30) Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.”

Jesus didn’t need the comfort of answered prayers (or even audible voices). His faith was so strong that he realized that the voice was for them—not him.

(12:31) Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.

When will Satan be cast out? In context, the timing seems to refer to the Cross. Amillennialists believe that Satan was bound at the Cross, while Premillennialists believe that Satan’s accusations were ultimately defeated. Moreover, Satan will be cast out permanently in the distant future. The time simply isn’t specified here (will be cast out”).

(12:32-33) “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” 33 But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.

By being “lifted up,” (v.32) Jesus was indicating “the kind of death by which He was to die” (v.33). This refers to being lifted up on the Cross.

Does “all people” refer to the entire world, or only to the elect? (see comments on John 6:44). We hold to the former—not the latter.

(12:34) The crowd then answered Him, “We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?”

They must be using the term “Law” to refer to more than just the Pentateuch, because the Pentateuch never makes this claim.

When Jesus said that he would be “lifted up,” the crowd may not have understood that Jesus was referring to the Cross (v.33). To paraphrase, they seem to be asking, “If the OT claims that the Messiah will rule and reign forever, what does it mean that you will be ‘lifted up’? Are you going to leave for heaven? How then can you be the Messiah?”

The fact that they use the terms “Christ” and “Son of Man” synonymously shows that they are probably thinking of passages like Daniel 7:13-14.

(12:35-36) So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. 36 While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.” These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them.

Time is running out. They could still come into the Light and come to meet Christ (Jn. 1:4-5, 7, 9; 3:19-20). Jesus seems to be thinking of conversion here—not sanctification.

(12:37) But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him.

The agnostic philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if he was wrong about God, and he indeed faced him in heaven. Russell famously answered, “Not enough evidence!” Yet, we are seeing a different picture here: the people saw the miracles, but they also refused to believe.

(12:38) This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

Isaiah predicted that many would not believe the report of the apostles about the Servant of the Lord (Isa. 53:1).

(12:39-40) For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.”

John cites Isaiah 6:10 to make sense of their hardness of heart. Calvinists claim that this supports the concept of total inability (i.e. that people are unable to respond to Christ—even if they are drawn by the Holy Spirit). However, we would understand this to refer to a specific and temporary hardening—not a permanent one. Some theologians call this a “judicial hardening” that was present temporarily, so that Jesus could fulfill his mission of the Cross. For justification of this view, Paul later interprets this same passage to show that humans have responsibility to place their faith in Christ (Acts 28:23-28).

(12:41) These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him.

This is a good passage to support Jesus’ deity. In Isaiah 6, the prophet saw the glory of the Yahweh. Here, John says that Isaiah saw Jesus.

(12:42) Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue.

Many religious leaders did believe, but they kept quiet for fear of persecution and the pressure of excommunication from the synagogue: a spiritual death sentence (cf. Jn. 9:22).

(12:43) For they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.

This ties back to Jesus’ statement in John 5:41, 44. The same word for “approval” or “glory” is used in both passages (Greek doxa).

(12:44) And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me.”

Believing in Jesus means believing in the Father.

(12:45) He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me.

Seeing Jesus is seeing the Father (Jn. 14:9).

(12:46) I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.

This is further unpacking John 1:4-10.

(12:47-48) If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.

Failure to believe Jesus’ words means that we will face the judgment of the Father. Think of this: Our eternities rest on how we respond to Jesus’ teaching. This expresses a transcendent and powerful authority on Jesus’ behalf.

(12:49-50) “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. 50 I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”

Jesus’ message is the Father’s message.

Discussion Question

Is faith merely intellectual? What other factors prevented these people from coming to faith in Jesus?

John 13

John 13 (Serving love)

(13:1) Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

The festival of the “Passover” prefigured the death of Jesus (see “Foreshadowing in the Festival System”). This event loomed over everything that we are about to read.

Jesus knows that his “hour” (i.e. the Cross) has come. He’s got one last night with his disciples to pour into them. You learn a lot about a person by their final words. Consider some of the last words of famous people:

Leonardo Da Vinci: “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”[224]

Alfred Hitchcock: “One never knows the ending. One has to die to know exactly what happens after death.”[225]

Steve Jobs: “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”[226]

Jane Austen: “I want nothing but death.”[227]

Chris Farley: “Just don’t leave me alone.”[228]

Winston Churchill: “I’m bored with it all.”[229]

How do these final words compare with what we see in Jesus? And what does he want to say before he gives up his life at the Cross?

(Jn. 13:1) Does John contradict the Synoptics regarding the Passover meal?

(13:2) During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him.

“Put into” (ballo) means “to throw” or “pour into.” It can be translated as “prompted” (NIV). Satan put this in Judas’ heart, showing that he is able to put thoughts in our hearts or minds. Often, we think that our ideas are self-generated, and we are highly inclined to trust our own thoughts on a subject! But what if many of our thoughts are actually intrusive, coming from an alien source. When we begin to nurse these demonic, intrusive thoughts, they are fanned into flame by believing them. After believing the falsehood, Satan had a foothold to “enter” him (Jn. 13:27).

Luke records that no one had washed their feet, because they were too busy arguing over who was the greatest (Lk. 22:24). Earlier, the disciples were fighting for the positions of authority and glory at Jesus’ right hand (Mk. 10:35). Here we go again!

To visualize the scene, Carson writes, “We must picture the disciples reclining on thin mats around a low table. Each is leaning on his arm, usually the left; the feet radiate outward from the table.”[230] Because men wore sandals in the streets and countryside, their feet obviously stank horribly. So, it only made sense to point them away from the table.

(13:3) Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God.

Jesus was able to serve based on the knowledge of his identity with God and the anticipation of heaven. God the Father had given him everything (cf. Jn. 3:35).

(13:4) [Jesus] got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.

This was the clothing of a slave. It might be similar to CEO putting on a janitor’s suit and going out to clean the vomit in the lobby or unclogging a particularly obstructive object in the toilet!

(13:5) Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

Foot washing was reserved for slaves (1 Sam. 25:41; Mekhilta on Exod 21:2; Kethub 96a). Carson writes, “Peers did not wash one another’s feet, except very rarely and as a mark of great love. Some Jews insisted that Jewish slaves should not be required to wash the feet of others; this job should be reserved for Gentile slaves, or for women and children and pupils.”[231] Borchert comments, “I know of no other example in the literature of the ancient world before the coming of Jesus where such a foot washing by a leader occurs.”[232] In describing his humble status before Jesus, John the Baptist said, “I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandal!” (Jn. 1:27 NET) Here, Jesus is doing the unthinkable by washing the disciples’ feet, performing the role of an unclean slave.

What must it have been like to see Jesus do this? As people were arguing about their superiority, Jesus just quietly started to wash the crud out between the toes of the disciples. No doubt, the arguing slowly stopped until you could hear a pin drop.

(13:6) So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?”

Do you know how in really tense situations people react differently? Some laugh nervously; others looked shocked and shut down; Peter just starts to nervously blabber!

(13:7) Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.”

The disciples still hadn’t learned the lesson of humility and servant-leadership. But they would. After they saw Jesus hanging naked from the Cross, this lesson would be burned into their minds. And after they received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:26; 16:13), they would have the power to change.

(13:8) Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

This “washing” doesn’t refer to forgiveness, but be being willing to serve and be served. It “refers to Jesus’ bathing of the disciples with a new perspective (i.e., humble love).”[233]

(Jn. 13:8) Does the washing of the disciples’ feet refer to justification?

(13:9) Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.”

Peter’s response is “almost hilarious.”[234] Jesus must’ve been thinking, “You don’t want me to wash your feet… but you do want me to give you a sponge bath… What?!” Peter keeps trying to control the situation, trying to boss Jesus around.

(13:10) Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”

The “you” is plural in the Greek. This implies that this is referring to the disciples sitting together—except Judas (“but not all of you”). Is Jesus’ act of serving love a picture of substitution? After all, their filth and stink went on to Jesus. We may be reading too much into the text, but it’s interesting to consider.

(13:11) For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

He washed Judas’ feet even though he knew he would betray him (v.2, 27).

(13:12) So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?”

This shouldn’t be a ritual that we practice. This is an “example” (v.15).

(13:13-14) “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

If Jesus is not above washing feet, then which one of us can be above it?

(13:15) “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.”

This was a teaching lesson for the disciples to imitate.

(13:16) “Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.”

By not serving, you’re really saying that you deserve more than Jesus.

(13:17) “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

“Blessed” (makarios) literally means “fortunate, happy, privileged” (BDAG). The key to a happy life is one of servant love. There is nothing wrong with talking, thinking, or even praying about serving. But notice what Jesus is saying: We only get a blessing from serving if we actually do it!

(13:18) “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.’”

Jesus quotes Psalm 41:9 to show that Judas’ betrayal was predicted by God.

“He who eats My bread.” In the ancient Near East, eating together was a sign of personal friendship.

“Lifted up his heel against Me.” To show the bottom of one’s foot would be “regarded as a breach of honor, especially after one had enjoyed acceptance at the meal.” It “was the epitome of shaming the host and the equivalent to being a traitorous scoundrel, after the manner of Ahithophel and his betrayal of David.”[235]

(Jn. 13:18) How did Judas fulfill this passage that was originally about David?

(Jn. 13:18) Doesn’t this passage imply fatalism for Judas?

(13:19) “From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He.”

Just as the OT predicted the future, Jesus also predicts the future. The next few days would be very confusing and terrifying for the disciples. They would feel like their world was falling apart. To paraphrase, Jesus says, “I want you to pay attention. I’m predicting all of this in advance. I don’t want your faith to be ruined. I want you to know that ‘I am He.’” Literally, the Greek simply states, “You may believe that I am” (ego eimi).

(13:20) “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

This is similar to Matthew 10:40 and Luke 10:16.

(13:21) When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.”

Even though Jesus knew that Judas would betray him, he was still emotionally affected by this.

(13:22) The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking.

In the parallel passages, the disciples asked if they themselves were the betrayers (Mt. 26:22; Mk. 14:19). Judas must have been a smooth operator! The disciples had no idea who Jesus was talking about.

(13:23) There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.

Jesus is in the “bosom” of the Father (Jn. 1:18), and John was on the “bosom” of Jesus. Since we are identified with Jesus, we have access to the bosom of the Father—the very heart of God!

(13:24-25) So Simon Peter gestured to him, and said to him, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.” 25 He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”

Peter asked John to ask Jesus to tell who the traitor was. Perhaps Peter was too gun shy to ask himself after being corrected by Jesus earlier.

(13:26) Jesus then answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.

Why the theatrics of dipping the bread? It must’ve been to fulfill prophecy (v.18).

(13:27) After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”

Jesus didn’t beg and plead for Judas to stay. To paraphrase, Jesus was saying, “If you aren’t willing to be a servant, then you should go and live your life.” Jesus wasn’t loss-aversive (cf. Jn. 6:66-67).

(13:28) Now no one of those reclining at the table knew for what purpose He had said this to him.

John goes to great lengths to show the ignorance of the disciples. Morris points out that Jesus may have only told John (“the disciple whom Jesus loved”) about the dipping of the bread (v.26), rather than telling the whole group.[236] This could explain the ignorance of the disciples. However, we must disagree because the text implies that the disciples did hear him, but simply didn’t understand.

(13:29) For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, “Buy the things we have need of for the feast”; or else, that he should give something to the poor.

Historically, there was a “practice on the eve of Passover to provide gifts for the poor.”[237] But the disciples couldn’t have been more wrong! Judas was a thief (Jn. 12:5-6)

(13:30) So after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night.

“And it was night…” John repeatedly trades on the themes of light and darkness. We understand this reference to night to have symbolic significance to Judas’ decision. By rejecting Jesus, he walked out into a world of darkness. Morris writes, “‘Night’ is surely more than a time note (at Passover there was a full moon). In view of the teaching of this Gospel as a whole it will point us to the strife between light and darkness and indicate that it was night, black night in the soul of Judas (cf. 11:10). He had cut himself off from the light of the world and accordingly shut himself up to night.”[238]

(13:31-32) Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; 32 if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately.”

How could Jesus already be glorified? Morris writes, “Now that the betrayal is under way the glorification of the Son has begun.”[239] Are you ready to see the glory of God? Get ready to gaze upon the Cross!

(13:33) “Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’”

He said this in John 7:34.

(13:34) “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

Many passages speak about loving the world, but this passage tells us to love each other. If we have thriving and warm love relationships with each other, this speaks powerfully to a world of alienated and fractured relationships.

This isn’t a new command (cf. Lev. 19:18). The “new” part of this commandment is based on the love that will be motivated by Jesus’ love (“even as I have loved you”).

(13:35) “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

We can know God through reason, evidence, prayer, and through direct encounter through the witness of the Holy Spirit. Here, Jesus gives us another way to know the reality of God: seeing authentic love in Christian community. When we see naturally selfish people loving each other, this arrests our attention, standing out in direct contrast from our world around us.

(13:36) Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.”

Peter isn’t going to die and go to Heaven yet (v.1). But he will later.

(13:37) Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.”

Jesus must’ve been thinking, “You are going to lay down your life for Me? Wrong order! I’m going to lay down my life for you.” Morris writes, “John may well be indulging here in some more of his irony. Peter affirms his readiness to die for Jesus. The exact opposite is true and that in two ways. In the first place Peter was not really ready, as the sequel would show. And in the second Jesus was about to lay down his life for Peter.”[240]

(13:38) Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.”

Peter was so confident that he would defend Jesus until the end. In reality, he quickly cowers to a slave-girl and some others that very night (cf. Jn. 18:27). Morris writes, “The prediction must have come as a shock to Peter. It evidently quite subdued him, and this may be the reason he remained silent throughout the rest of the time in the upper room, though the others apparently spoke freely. We do not hear of him again until 18:10.”[241]

Discussion Questions

Read through John 13. What reasons does Jesus give for why we should serve?

If a Christian didn’t have this serving mindset, in what ways would this affect their lives?

If you were trying to motivate a younger Christian to adopt a serving lifestyle, what would you do or say?

Assessing the best excuses for not pursuing a lifestyle of serving others

Here are several excuses that we use to avoid serving. At first glance, these seem to make sense, but these are truly bankrupt when examined closely. How would you respond to these excuses? We give our responses below, but this would make for good discussion.

(1) “I’ve tried serving before, but it was awkward and not really all that enjoyable.”

I’m sure the Last Supper felt pretty awkward when Jesus started to silently scrub the feet of the disciples (Jn. 13:15). But that didn’t stop him. Are you going to let two minutes of “feeling awkward” stop you from serving others? So, you don’t mean you feel too awkward… you mean you’re too selfish. We need to learn to push the envelope of what’s comfortable.

Also, we can’t experiment with this lifestyle or dabble in it from time to time. We need to give ourselves over to this servant attitude fully. If we’re just looking to temporarily feel better, it’s quite possible nothing will happen. Instead, “present yourselves to God” and ask him to use you as his “instrument” (Rom. 6:13; cf. Rom. 12:1-2).

(2) “Nobody ever initiates with me.”

On any given night, we should not be held hostage by what other people do or say. Jesus didn’t wait for us to initiate. Paul writes, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6). Love is “not self-seeking” (1 Cor. 13:5 NIV).

(3) “I’m hurt or annoyed by people around me.”

Instead of focusing on how I’ve been hurt, biblical love “endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). Love “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13:5 NIV). Peter writes, “Keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8).

This objection also presupposes that I never hurt or annoy others. How blind and self-righteous! Paul writes, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Rom. 12:3 NIV).

One aspect of biblical love is forgiveness, and the term “forgiveness” (aphesis) means “to release… to let go… give up… to release from legal or moral obligation or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon” (BDAG). Refusal to forgive leads to violent outbursts, cutting remarks, irritability, avoidance, silent treatment, or replaying the incident over and over in our minds. As Christians focus on how much they have been forgiven, it becomes easier to forgive others (Mt. 18:21-35; 5:23-24; Col. 3:13; Eph. 4:32).

(4) “I’m having a bad day.”

Do you have more bad days than other people? Why do some of the best servants also endure the hardest suffering?

Are you working to get your functional life in order, so that you aren’t a victim of circumstance? (e.g. getting fired, unexpected bills, car breaking down, etc.)

Have you considered that serving is really the best medicine for bad days? If you’re waiting to have the perfect day before you serve, then you’ll probably never serve.

How does grumbling or complaining about your bad day build anyone else up?

If we persevere during these “bad days,” we can experience tremendous spiritual growth! Peter writes, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Pet. 5:10). These times of suffering build our faith, provided we cooperate with God. Paul writes, “[We were] burdened excessively, beyond our strength… so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in [Him]” (2 Cor. 1:8-9).

Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, we’re supposed to turn to God and people during suffering. James writes, “Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray” (Jas. 5:13). He also writes, “The testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (Jas. 1:3-4 NIV).

(5) “I’m just not a serious person. I like to laugh and have a good time.”

Fair enough. The best servants I know like to laugh and have fun, and I’d bet my mortgage that Jesus was an absolute blast to have around. I agree that there is nothing “spiritual” about being boring and serious all the time. However, learn to turn the “spotlight” onto others, rather than hogging the attention for yourself.

People need to have fun and laugh, but they also have many other emotional needs for us to meet. Paul writes, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted” (Eph. 4:32), and he writes, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). Are you in tune with the emotional needs of others? Is your sarcasm and humor making people laugh at the expense of cutting others down or making them feel inhibited?

(6) “I need to think more about serving.”

That’s a good idea (Heb. 10:24; Col. 4:12). However, just so you know, you aren’t promised any blessing from thinking, talking, or even praying about serving others—only from doing it! (see Jn. 13:17) Of course, none of these things are wrong, but they are insufficient.

What is the difference between someone who talks about serving but never does it, and someone who doesn’t talk about it or do it? Answer? Nothing!

(7) “I don’t know what to do or say to others.”

There’s nothing wrong with getting equipping and training. However, we need to realize that this could be a manipulative tactic that really replaces serving others. How much direction do we really need before we can start washing people’s feet? Just get off the bench and get into the game. We don’t need to get counsel from ten people before we start washing feet—just get started in small ways that will lead to bigger ones.

(8) “I’m too damaged.”

Do we see that this sort of morbid introspection is actually a manipulative maneuver to avoid serving others? Doubting ourselves in our ability to serve is actually doubting God (e.g. Moses; Ex. 3-4). In effect, we’re saying, “I’m too hurt to serve” or “I’m too broken to be used by God.”

(9) “I’ve tried to build a ministry, but it hasn’t borne any fruit.”

Are you using this time in your life to learn critical lessons from God? If you can’t point to anything you’re learning, then you’re missing out on a key time of spiritual growth.

Legalism occurs when we do X and expect to get Y or Z in return. Grace says that we do X simply because we’ve already been given A-Z!

We shouldn’t want more or less ministry than God wants for us. We should be content to serve wherever God wants us. If God has me mopping the floors in heaven, then I’m going to be the best janitor you’ve ever seen! On the other hand, if he wants me to take on a broader scope of ministry, then I shouldn’t shy away from that either.

(10) “I’m afraid of failure.”

You really can’t mess up washing people’s feet. (Are you going to leave them dirtier than before??) This fear reveals that you’re still focused on yourself, rather than the needs of others around you.

(11) “I enjoy serving, but I’m scared of calling on others to serve.”

It is fundamentally unloving to sit by and watch fellow believers defend a selfish lifestyle. If they don’t develop a servant attitude, they are going to be profoundly unhappy, and wonder why they even “follow God” in the first place.

Have you developed convictions on the importance of serving?

Do people feel comfortable not serving when you’re around?

Are you able to persuade others to serve without coming off as pushy or self-righteous?

John 14

Jesus shocks the disciples with his parting words, telling them that he is going away. No wonder they were troubled (Jn. 14:1), afraid (Jn. 14:27), and filled with sorrow (Jn. 16:6, 22)!

John 14 (The Holy Spirit)

(14:1) Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.

Even though Jesus was “troubled” (tarasso, 13:21), he didn’t want his disciples to be troubled. This word can be translated “to cause inward turmoil, stir up, disturb, unsettle, throw into confusion” (BDAG, 990). Jesus wanted them to grow their faith and trust in him and in God. In a great moment of sacrificial love and on the last night of Jesus’ life, Jesus “concerned himself with his disciples’ distress.”[242] The key to our troubled hearts is to trust or “believe” in Christ. Faith drives out fear.

(14:2) In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.

Jesus has been talking about going back to the Father in heaven for this entire gospel. Now, he starts talking to them about the fact that he’s going to prepare a place for them. In other words, Jesus is leaving for heaven, but so are they.

(14:3) If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

To paraphrase, Jesus is saying, “There’s plenty of room, and I want you to be there with me.”

(Jn. 14:1-3) Does this passage support a pre-tribulational rapture?

(14:4-5) “And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”

Jesus is talking about the “way,” but Thomas wants to know “where.”

(14:6) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

Jesus says that he is the way. In many ways, this exclusive statement is nothing new. He has been equating himself with the Father throughout the gospel consistently (cf. Jn. 1:18; 3:13; 5:23; 8:42). Here, Jesus makes it further explicit that we need him to get to the Father.

It’s interesting that Jesus refers to himself as “the life,” when “within a matter of hours his corpse would be placed in a tomb.”[243] The way to life is through Jesus’ death.

(14:7) If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.

Jesus is saying that they didn’t truly know him before (cf. v.9). But they will from this moment onward. They will see the fuller revelation of God through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus existed eternally with the Father—face to face (Jn. 1:1, 18). Because we are joined to Jesus, we can enter into this level of closeness with the Father.

(14:8) Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”

Philip wants to see the Father. He says this will be “enough” (NASB), will make him “content” (NET), or will make him “satisfied” (NLT). Philip wants a theophany, when Jesus was offering an incarnation.

The problem with going directly to the Father was that it was forbidden in the OT. Even Moses was warned, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (Ex. 33:20; cf. Judg. 6:18; Isa. 6:1-5) Jesus came to be the mediator between us and the Father, so that we could encounter God. The means through which we encounter the Father is through the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is why Jesus tells Philip that seeing him is seeing the Father…

(14:9-10) Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.”

Jesus and the Father are distinct persons, but they are identical in nature. They are both “in” one another. Once again, Jesus shows that he was in complete dependence upon God the Father. If he could say this (“I do not speak on My own initiative… the Father abiding in Me does His works”), then how much more should we?

(14:11) Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.

Believe Jesus, or at the very least, believe in the evidence.

(14:12) Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.

How can believers perform greater works than Jesus? This would seem blasphemous to say, if it weren’t coming from Jesus himself! Here we see the introduction to Jesus’ teaching on the Holy Spirit—the personal and dynamic engine behind the Christian life. Because Jesus will “go to the Father,” the Holy Spirit will take his place (Jn. 16:7). We see incredible change in the lives of the disciples after Pentecost (e.g. compare Peter before Pentecost versus after Pentecost). Pastor J.D. Greear likes to say, “The Holy Spirit inside us is greater than Jesus beside us.”

There are at least two ways to understand how we can perform “greater works” than Jesus.

  • OPTION #1. The “greater works” refer to miracles in the book of Acts (and down throughout Christian history).
  • OPTION #2. The “greater works” could refer to conversions to Christ, whereby the disciples would be the agents of leading people to Christ (Jn. 20:23).[244] John Ryle writes, “‘Greater works’ means more conversions. There is no greater work than the conversion of a soul.”[245] After Pentecost, billions have come to Christ—far more than Jesus reached in Palestine. This would fit with the use of the word “work” (ergon) in John’s gospel, which can refer to evangelism (Jn. 4:34).

On the other hand, maybe we’re being too black and white. Since “works” is such a generic word, maybe Jesus is referring to any and every work done in the name of Christ throughout the last two thousand years (e.g. miracles, conversions, discipleship, compassion, service, etc.). The key to performing “greater works” is praying in the name of Jesus (vv.13-14) and being empowered by the coming Holy Spirit (v.16).

(14:13-14) Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

Through Jesus, we have incredible access to power in prayer, and according to the text, we pray directly to Jesus himself (“If you ask Me anything”).[246]

“In my name” is not a magical formula or incantation. It refers to prayers that are “to be in accordance with all that that name stands for.”[247] Police officers might say, “Open up the door… in the name of the law!” That is, they are making a demand based on what the law says. Or a person might pay for something by putting it on a tab. They might say, “We’re paying for this in John Doe’s name.” Similarly, when we pray in Jesus’ name, we are praying according to his desires and will (cf. 1 Jn. 5:14-15). Borchert observes, “Jesus lived in the will of the Father, and the Christian is duty bound to live in the will of Jesus. Appropriate praying/asking here, therefore, must follow the same model Jesus exemplified.”[248]

(14:15) If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

John revisits this concept in his first epistle: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 Jn. 5:2-3). As we argue in the article below, Jesus “commandments” (entolas) refer to his authoritative teachings (Jn. 8:31, 51-52; 12:48; 14:23-24; 15:13, 20; 17:6).

(Jn. 14:15) Why does Jesus use the term “commandments” here?

But how can we be able to embody love at this level? Jesus tells us that he will give us the power to do this through the Holy Spirit…

(14:16) I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.

The “Helper” (paraclete) can also be rendered “Advocate” (NET, NLT), “Counselor” (NIV), or “Comforter” (ASV). It means “one called alongside.” BDAG defines it as “one who appears in another’s behalf, mediator, intercessor, helper.” This term was used “in the Roman legal system the comparable Latin word advocatus became a technical term referring to a defense counsel.”[249]

John also applies this term to Jesus (1 Jn. 2:1), but here, John shows that this “Helper” (paraclete) is distinct from Jesus. He is “another” Helper. And he will be with us “forever.”

(Jn. 14:16) Does this passage predict the prophet Muhammad as Muslim apologists claim?

(14:17) That is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

Who is the Paraclete? Jesus calls him “the Spirit of truth,” and later, he explicitly calls him “the Holy Spirit” (v.26). He stands in stark opposition to Satan who has “no truth in him, and who is “is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44).

In one sense, the Paraclete is already here (“abides with you”), but there is another sense in which he is not here fully (“[He] will be in you”). The indwelling of the Holy Spirit hadn’t occurred yet, because Jesus hadn’t died for sin (Jn. 7:38-39).

(14:18) I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

This could refer to (1) the sending of the Holy Spirit, see verse 28, (2) the Second Coming, or (3) his post-resurrection return, see verses 19-20 which refer to a “little while.”[250] While we cannot be dogmatic, in our estimation this refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus interprets his words in this way: “You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father” (v.28). When Jesus says that he will go away, he is referring to his death, resurrection, and ascension. This is because he will “go to the Father.” In context, Jesus is promising One who will come to dwell inside the believer while he is gone. It is in this sense that Jesus will come to the disciples—namely, through the Holy Spirit.

God isn’t a deadbeat dad who leaves us to fend for ourselves. We aren’t orphans, but sons. While Jesus is going away, he will send the Holy Spirit to indwell us, taking our spirituality to an entirely new level.

 (14:19) After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.

They will “see” Jesus after his resurrection.

“Because I live, you will live also.” This seems to refer to eternal life in heaven. At the same time, eternal life begins at the moment of conversion. We begin living the eternal life now, and it carries on into eternity. This is why Jesus states that this is fulfilled in verse 20 (“In that day you will know…”). We don’t need to wait to get to heaven to know that we have resurrection life.

(14:20) In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.

This refers to the mystical union of believers to Christ and to one another other.

(14:21) He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.

It isn’t enough to “have” Jesus’ commands; we also to “keep” them. When we follow Jesus’ teaching, we get to experience God’s love, and Jesus discloses himself even further. We aren’t against deep study of the Scriptures, but we are for putting what we’re learning into practice. Indeed, we cannot experience the meaning of a biblical passage until we live it out.

(14:22) Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?”

This disciple expected that the Messiah would have a worldwide influence.[251] Indeed, he would (Mt. 24:14). But first, Jesus would start small, disclosing himself to his small band of disciples.

(14:23-25) Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. 25 “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you.”

Jesus answers that his message is really not exclusive: it is for “anyone” who will listen.

(14:26) But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

The disciples’ education was not over. The Holy Spirit would pick up where Jesus left off. He will not contradict Jesus’ teaching, but remind them of Jesus’ teaching. The Spirit would also add more revelation to the apostles (“He will teach you all things). This doesn’t refer to omniscience, but to the sufficiency of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16). The teaching is the Father’s (v.24), the Son’s, and the Holy Spirit’s.

(14:27) Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

Why shouldn’t the disciples be “troubled” and “fearful,” even knowing that Jesus is going away? (v.1) Jesus promises them that he is going to leave his “peace” with them—no doubt through the gift of the Spirit. This is not unlike the peace that Paul writes about, which we receive through an active life of prayer (Phil. 4:7).

(14:28) You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

“If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced.” They should be happy for Jesus, because he’s going home.

“The Father is greater than I.” John teaches the deity of Jesus in the clearest terms, but also the subordination of Jesus in the clearest terms.

(Jn. 14:28) Was Jesus equal with God or not?

(14:29) Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.

The disciples haven’t come to a mature faith yet. But they will. Jesus’ predictive prophecies will help to confirm their faith (cf. Jn. 13:19).

(14:30) I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.

Satan was on his way. This text shows that Satan isn’t omnipresent or omniscient.

(14:31) But so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here.

Jesus wanted to show the world that he was in perfect harmony with the Father. At this point, they move to another location…

Discussion Questions

If you were one of the disciples, it would be really sad to hear that Jesus was leaving. Imagine how hard it would be to hear that the greatest friend you ever had (or could ever imagine) was going to be gone soon. In verse 1 and verse 27, Jesus tells his disciples not to be “troubled.” Reread John 14 and ask, “How does Jesus speak words of comfort and direction to the disciples to help them fight their fear?”

In what ways is the Holy Spirit superior to the bodily presence of Jesus?

Read verse 6. Jesus claimed that he was the only way to God. Some people argue that this is intolerant—or at the very least—it leads to intolerance. What do you think?

John 15

To abide in Christ is to make him our “abode” or our home. Regarding this passage, Andrew Murray writes, “It is as if there is not one of the principal temptations and failures of the Christian life that is not met here… It is as if one could say with confidence, ‘Let these words enter into my heart, and all will be well.’”[252]

Below, we have repeatedly cited Andrew Murray’s book The True Vine. It should be noted, however, that we have taken license to update his archaic language. We hope this faithfully maintains the integrity of his thoughts, while at the same time offering clarity for the 21st century reader.

John 15.1 (Abiding in Christ)

(15:1) I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

This is the final “I am” statement from Jesus. Jesus is the “vine,” and God is the “vinedresser” (NASB) or “gardener” (NET, NLT). In the OT, Israel is depicted as the “vine” (Isa. 5). However, God chastised Israel for being a degenerate “vine” (Jer. 2:21), and brought judgment on the “vine” of Israel (Ezek. 15:1-6). Here, by contrast, the imagery is quite different: Jesus himself is the vine. Consequently, it is “as though there has been an insertion into the old image that changes it radically.”[253]

Just as a vine depends on the vinedresser to place it, water it, and prune it, Jesus depended on his Father’s power, guidance, and teaching. Earlier, Jesus said, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (Jn. 5:19; cf. 14:10). Likewise, Jesus expects us to have this same level of dependence on him. Murray writes, “At the very root of the Christian life lies the thought that God is to do all. Our work is to give and leave ourselves in His hands, admitting our utter helplessness and dependence, being confident that He gives us all that we need… Just as Jesus trusted God the Father, let us also trust God the Father. Everything we ought to be and have, as those who belong to the Vine, will be given us from above.”

(15:2) Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

The branch is utterly dependent on the vine. If a branch breaks from the vine, it quickly ceases to bear fruit, and simply becomes a dead piece of wood. Murray writes, “The branch has no cure; the vine provides all; it has but to yield itself to the vine and receive from it. It is the sight of this truth that leads to the blessed rest of faith, the true secret of growth and strength… What a life we would have if we only consented to be branches! Learn this lesson: You have but one thing to do—just consent to being a branch—nothing more and nothing less! … Christ will be the Vine that gives all.”

What does it mean to bear fruit? Morris believes it refers to “Christian character.”[254] However, Jesus used the word “fruit” to refer to Christian service (Jn. 4:36) and losing one’s life for God and others (Jn. 12:24). In verse 8, Jesus connects “fruit” with glorifying God, and later, Jesus says, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do” (Jn. 17:4). Later in verse 16, Jesus implies that “fruit” refers to service (“[I] appointed you that you would go and bear fruit”). There, Morris comments, “It is possible that here the bearing of fruit includes the thought of service leading to the conversion of others (why else should they ‘go’?).”[255] In our estimation, service to God is strongly implied in the concept of “fruit.” However, perhaps this is too binary: it isn’t “either/or.” All fruit of character and servant love comes from Christ (Gal. 5:22ff).

“Takes away” (kathairo) is wordplay with “clean” (katharos) in verse 3.

“Bear more fruit.” The goal of a fruitful vine is to continue to bear as much fruit as possible. The same is true of the follower of Jesus: God wants our fruit to continue to increase—not remaining static.

“Prunes it.” The tendrils of a vine grow quickly and wildly. The most important job of the vinedresser is not to water or fertilize them more when they do this, but to prune them. The tendrils are not a sign of a dead vine, but an overactive one. Murray relates this to growing beyond what God has designed and empowered, and showing us our need to draw only from him. Often, God will “cut us down” to show us our need for dependence on him. Murray writes, “What a solemn and yet precious lesson! It is not only sin that is being referred to here. It is to our own religious activity, as it is developed in the very act of bearing fruit. It is this that must be pruned. In working for God, we often use our natural gifts of wisdom, eloquence, influence, or zeal. And yet they are ever in danger of being overactive, and then trusted in. And so, after each season of work, God has to bring us to the end of ourselves. He will bring us to the conscious realization of our helplessness and the danger of self-effort, to see that we are nothing. What is of self-effort must be reduced to its very lowest measure.”

(Jn. 15:2) Does this passage teach that believers will be sent to hell for not bearing fruit?

(15:3) You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.

Jesus’ word has “pruned” or made them “clean” already.

Jesus HIMSELF abides in us

(15:4) Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

The focus here is on bearing fruit—not salvation. After all, they are already “clean” (v.3).

“Abide in Me.” We cannot try to bear fruit for God without abiding in Christ. Jesus compares the absurdity of this to a person squeezing a severed branch and expecting it to grow. We could yell, “GROW!” at the branch all we want, but without being connected to the vine, this would result in nothing more than a hoarse voice and a frustrated heart.

It is not work to abide in Christ. Murray writes, “How much tiresome labor there has been in striving to understand what abiding is. How much fruitless effort in trying to attain it! Why is that? Some people view abiding as a work we have to do… They think of abiding as a continual strain and effort, and forget that it is a rest from effort to one who has found the place of his abode or ‘home’ in Christ.” Murray urges his readers to seek for this in their time with God everyday: “Wait for Him to show all the heavenly meaning of this mystery. Each day, in our quiet time with Him and His Word, our greatest thought and aim should be to get our hearts fixed on Him in this confident assurance: All that a vine ever can do for its branches, my Lord Jesus will do for me, and is currently doing for me. Give Him time. Give Him your ear. He will whisper and explain the divine secret: ‘I am the vine.’”

God’s role is to bear the fruit, and our role is to abide. Murray writes, “Begin each day with Him in the morning, to know and establish that you are abiding in Him and He in you. Christ tells that nothing less will do. It is not your willing and running, it is not by your might or strength, but ‘by my Spirit, says the Lord.’ Meet each new engagement, undertake every new work, with an ear and heart open to the Master’s voice: ‘He that abides in me, bears much fruit.’ Keep your focus on abiding, and He will see to the fruit—for He will give it in you and through you… I pray that you would take the time to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the unspeakably solemn place you occupy in the mind of God. He has planted you into His Son with the calling and the power to bear much fruit. Accept that place. Look to God and to Christ. Expect joyfully to be what God has planned to make you—a fruitful branch.”

(15:5) I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

“You are the branches.” Being a branch is humbling, but also liberating. Being called a “branch” is similar to how God calls us sheep. This isn’t exactly the “spirit animal” that anyone would pick for themselves! But being a sheep points to the goodness and grandeur of the Good Shepherd. We realize that without Him, we would be aimless, defenseless, and utterly vulnerable. Again Murray writes, “You are a branch. You don’t need to be anything more. You don’t need for a single moment of the day to take upon yourself the responsibility of the Vine. You never need to leave the place of entire dependence and unbounded confidence. You need, least of all, to be anxious as to how you are to understand this great mystery, or fulfill its conditions, or work out its blessed aim. The Vine will give all and work all. The Father, the Vinedresser, watches over your union with the Vine and your growth in the Vine. You need be nothing more than a branch. Only a branch! Let that be your motto in life. It will lead in the path of continual surrender to Christ’s working, of true obedience to His every command, of joyful expectancy of all His grace… You will not be disappointed.”

“He bears much fruit.” This promise is not qualified by anything else than whether we will abide in Christ. If we abide in Jesus, he will bear fruit in and through us. Not just a little fruit, but much fruit.” This is similar to Paul’s statement, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

“Apart from Me you can do nothing.” Here is the dreadful alternative to abiding in Christ. Apart from Jesus, it isn’t that we bear minimal fruit or mangled fruit, but rather no fruit. Murray writes, “What a plea and a call to abide in Christ in every moment! Jesus tells us: ‘Abide in me—much fruit!’ But ‘apart from me—nothing!’ … Shall we not cry out to God to deliver us forever from the ‘apart from me,’ and to make the ‘abide in me’ an unceasing reality?”

(Jn. 15:6) If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

(Jn. 15:6) Does this passage teach that believers will be sent to hell for not bearing fruit?

Jesus’ WORDS abide in us

(15:7) If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

One of the great privileges of abiding in Christ is the confidence of seeing answers to prayer—provided these are in line with Jesus’ “words” (i.e. his teaching, his will, etc., cf. v.16). Murray observes that this promise is given in the context of bearing fruit. Hence, he writes, “The promise is given in direct connection with fruit-bearing. If you limit this promise to yourself and your own needs, you rob this promise of its power, and you rob yourself of the power of depending on it… Develop a heart that is burdened with the need of souls, and the command to save them, and the power will come to claim the promise… We bear so little fruit because there is so little prayer.”

(15:8) My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

Contrary to modern Christian culture, this passage tells us that God is not glorified by long worship services. Instead, Jesus says that God is glorified when believers “bear much fruit.” Later Jesus says, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do” (Jn. 17:4). By bearing fruit, we “prove” (ginomai) to be true disciples of Jesus, and this glorifies God. Murray writes, “How can we glorify God? We can’t add to His glory or bring Him any new glory that He doesn’t already have. Instead, we glorify God by simply allowing His glory to shine out through us. By yielding ourselves to Him, His glory manifests itself in us and through us to the world.” Murray states that a flourishing vineyard speaks to the greatness of the Vinedresser. In the same way, when we bear fruit, this points to the goodness and greatness of God.

Jesus’ LOVE abides in us

(15:9) Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you.” Can we even conceive of a greater love than the Father for the Son? They existed together from all eternity in perfect love (Jn. 1:1; 17:24). At Jesus’ baptism, the Father said, “This is my one dear Son; in him I take great delight” (Mt. 3:17 NET). It is this same quality of love that we now have from Jesus—an absolutely indescribable love. It’s no wonder that our “joy may be made full” as we hear these great words (v.11).

“Abide in my love.” God wants the love of Jesus to be our “abode” or our “home.” Murray writes, “We speak of a man’s home as his abode. Our abode, the home of our soul, is to be the love of Christ. We are to live our life there, to be at home there all the day: this is what Christ wants our life to be… Turn away from yourself and your efforts… Abiding means to reject everything else, and to occupy one place and stay there. Come away from all else. Set your heart on Jesus and His love. His love will awaken your faith and strengthen it. Occupy yourself with that love, worship it, and wait for it. You may be sure it will reach out to you.”

When we abide in Christ, we experience the Father’s love. Jesus wants us to live based on this love relationship with him. Murray comments, “Shouldn’t we draw near to the personal living Christ—trusting Him and surrendering everything to Him—so that we can experience his love? Just as Jesus knew and rejoiced about the Father’s constant love for him, we too may live in this same unceasing consciousness: As the Father loved Him, so He loves me.”

 (15:10) If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

As we follow Jesus’ authoritative teachings (entolē), we access his love to deeper degrees. It’s only through action that we experience the reality of his love moving through us.

We keep Jesus’ teaching and commandments based on the fact that he kept the Father’s teaching and commandments. Murray comments, “Obey and abide: That was the principle of Jesus’ life as much as our own. He was made like us in all things, that we might be like Him in all things. He opened up a path in which we may walk even as He walked. He took our human nature to teach us how to wear it… He comes to instruct and encourage us, and He asks us to keep His commandments, even as He kept His Father’s commandments and abides in His love.”

(Jn. 15:10) Why does Jesus use the term “commandments” here?

(15:11) These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

So far, the term “joy” has only been used of John the Baptist being the “best man” in Jesus’ wedding (Jn. 3:29). The term will later be used many times in chapters 16 and 17. Now, this joy is given to the disciples so that their “joy may be made full.” What a promise! We will experience great joy when we follow Jesus! We could kill this promise with a death of a thousand qualifications. (Indeed, Jesus himself will qualify this in verses 18 and following.) But if we’re not experiencing joy from following Jesus Christ, we need to return to him, his love, his teachings, and a life of following him in love.

Murray states that we do not find this joy because we fight God on accepting his love. He writes, “To many Christians, the thought of a life that is completely abiding in Christ is one of strain and painful effort. The problem is that they cannot see that the strain and effort only come from not yielding completely to the life of Christ in them… Let us accept His life, as He gives it to us in through the Vine. His joy will be ours: the joy of abiding in His love, the joy of loving like Him, the joy of loving with His love.” In other words, the real issue is one of self-effort, rather than experiencing the power and reality of Jesus’ parable.

Give Jesus’ love away

(15:12) This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.

Instead of a list of moral imperatives, Jesus calls us to a life of love (cf. v.17). The standard of love doesn’t come from within us or from within our culture. It comes from the transcendent and perfect example of Jesus. Morris writes, “If we love, in the sense in which Jesus uses the term, we need no other rule.”[256]

(15:13) Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

The epitome of love is sacrifice (greater love has no one…”). Jesus will soon lay down his life for the disciples, showing them through example. In fact, Jesus lay down his life for his enemies (Rom. 5:10). We sometimes wonder if our friends are loyal and speaking to us with our best interests in mind. We never need to worry about the quality of Jesus’ friendship: He gave his life to forever prove his loyal love.

(15:14-15) You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

Jesus has already shown the proof of his friendship, but will we? The way to show that we are friends of Jesus is a life of love. Murray writes, “These commands are to be done to show the authenticity of our friendship with Jesus. The power to love rests entirely in this personal friendship with Jesus. I would only do some things for a friend that I would not from anyone else. The friendship of Jesus is so heavenly and wonderful that it enters our lives and begins to take possession. The unbroken friendship with Himself is so essential that it imparts a joy and a love which make the obedience a delight. The liberty to claim the friendship of Jesus, the power to enjoy it, the grace to prove it in all its sweetness—all come as we do the things He commands us.”

This shows the tension between the transcendence and imminence of Jesus. While we are his “friends,” he is also the leader of our lives (“do what I command you”). He is “my Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:28), but he is also my “friend.”

Jesus wants to show us why we should follow him. As Borcher notes, “Slaves are expected to obey even though the master does not explain the reason for any given order. But the friends of Jesus, according to this text, are viewed in a completely different light.”[257]

(15:16) You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

This does not refer to being chosen for heaven or hell. The purpose of the choosing is for the disciples to “go and bear fruit.”

What does it mean for our fruit to remain? The same word for “remain” (meno) is used of “abiding” in Jesus (v.4). For comments on “fruit,” see verse 2 above. Murray comments, “Let Christian worker pause in reading these words. Ask whether you are leaving your mark for eternity on those around you. It is not your preaching or teaching that will leave the mark. It is not your strength of will or power to influence that will secure this. All depends on having your life full of God and His power.” We agree with Murray insofar as our leadership, teaching, and building up of others is done out of our self-will, rather than the love and power of God.

“Ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” Prayer is a clear way to show that we are indeed abiding in Christ. Murray writes, “Seek above everything to be a person of prayer. This is the highest exercise of your privilege as a branch of the Vine. It is the full proof that you are being renewed in the image of God and His Son. This is your power to show how you, like Christ, live not for yourself, but for others. Through prayer, you enter Heaven to receive gifts for others. Here your abiding in Christ has led to His abiding in you, to use you as the channel and instrument of His grace. The power to bear fruit for men has been crowned by power to prevail with God.”

(15:17) This I command you, that you love one another.

“This” is plural. Jesus is saying that all of verses 1-17 have the goal of love (cf. v.12).

Discussion questions

Read verses 1-17. What does God promise to those who abide in Christ? What is our role in abiding in Christ?

Based on verses 14-15. Christians can be motivated by being God’s “friend” or being God’s “slave.” In what ways would these motivations look different from one another? In what ways would they look similar?

John 15.2 (The disciples in the world)

Jesus gives us incredible tools (e.g. his teaching, prayer, power, the Holy Spirit, etc.), so that we can face incredible hardship (e.g. persecution, hatred, etc.). Jesus gave his disciples this teaching, so that they would be kept from falling away (Jn. 16:1). We can never claim that God has allowed us to face temptation without giving us the power to endure or escape it (1 Cor. 10:13).

So far, Jesus’ teaching would be very encouraging to the disciples. Here, however, he gives the bad news: “When you join me on this mission of loving the world, the world will resist you. Be prepared!”

(15:18) If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.

It would be very scary to start following Christ, only to face persecution. Jesus wants to warn his disciples about this in advance. He doesn’t sugarcoat their suffering. Borchert offers an insightful comment, noticing the contrast between the world and the disciples of Jesus: “Jesus knew that hatred was the mark of the world just as love was to be the mark of the authentic Christian.”[258]

(15:19) If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.

When Jesus refers to “the world” (kosmos), he is referring to all of those people who reject him (see “The World-System”). As followers of Jesus, we now have a new identity that is separate from the world.

(15:20) Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

“If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” If they persecuted Jesus, why would we expect anything less? (cf. Jn. 13:16). Sometimes we think that if we just communicate Christ in the right way that we will avoid persecution. Of course, we don’t want to needlessly offend others with an unkind, unloving, and self-righteous demeanor. But according to Jesus, if we are going to authentically follow him, persecution is unavoidable. One author writes, ““The Bible tells us to answer those who attack us. But most books I’ve read on evangelism don’t tell you that. There’s always this suggestion that if you do evangelism in a certain way, or if you learn to be charming or funny or interesting as you share the gospel, you can avoid getting hit. I want to be honest: if you tell non-Christians about Jesus, it will be painful.”[259]

When we are persecuted, however, we need to remember that Jesus stands with us. Later, we see that Jesus literally stands in the way of the disciples facing persecuted (Jn. 18:8-9).

“If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” Jesus associates the disciples’ word (or teaching) with his word (or teaching). He is ratifying what they would go on to teach and write (cf. Jn. 13:20).

(15:21) But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.

The reason people persecute Jesus is because they don’t know the Father.

(15:22) If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.

Does this mean that Jesus’ teaching only further condemns people? Wouldn’t it have been better if he never came? Not at all. If a person throws you a life-preserver when you’re drowning, you are a fool for not grabbing hold of it. In that sense, you are more culpable for your own death. But if no one threw a life-preserver, then you’d still die. Elsewhere, John writes, “If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8). Tenney comments that Jesus “strips away all excuses and exposes their selfishness and rebellion against God.”[260] Kruse comments that their “sin” refers specifically to being “guilty of rejecting [Jesus’] revelation.”[261]

(15:23) He who hates Me hates My Father also.

If someone hated my son or my wife, they would be hating me as well. Similarly, if you hate Jesus, then you hate God the Father.

(15:24-25) If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25 But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’

John wrote his gospel so that people would believe (Jn. 20:30-31). Indeed, the “signs” were sufficient to bring about faith in a person, and the evidence is so strong that a person will face judgment for rejecting it. Jesus quotes Psalm 35:19 or 69:4 to demonstrate that they have no “cause” for rejecting Jesus, because the evidence is more than sufficient. Morris writes, “There is more Johannine irony here. The Jews saw themselves as the upholders of the Law, but in their zeal for the Law they incurred the condemnation of the Law by rejecting the Christ to whom the Law bore its witness.”[262]

(15:26-27) When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27 and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

After such a realistic picture of the hatred and irrationality of the world, Jesus returns to bring comfort through the Comforter.

Both the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:26). Both the Holy Spirit and the disciples will testify to the world about Christ, working in concert together. The Eastern Greek Church rejected that Jesus also sent the Holy Spirit (the so-called filioque or “and son”). This miniscule doctrine split the church from east to west!

John 16

John 16 (The Holy Spirit)

(16:1) These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling.

Jesus doesn’t want to see his disciples “stumble” (NASB) or “fall away” (NET) or “abandon their faith” (NLT). The next few days are going to be tumultuous, and Jesus wants to prepare them in advance. As followers of Jesus, we have these same words to prepare us for a life of following him.

(16:2) They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.

The religious authorities were threatening excommunication for following Jesus (Jn. 9:22), and the religious zeal of the authorities would actually encourage murder. They had “zeal without knowledge,” as Paul puts it (Rom. 10:2). Paul himself faced attempted murder by the religious leaders (Acts 23:12-14).

(16:3) These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me.

Religious persecution comes from not personally knowing Christ. After all, by knowing Christ, we realize that we are more sinful than we ever considered, and more loved than we ever hoped. This realization leads us to view people with humility—not creating distorted caricatures of them. When we believe it, Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness is the engine that drives forgiveness.

(16:4) But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.

Jesus is informing them of the future, because he won’t be there to guide and protect them in person. Instead, he would send the Holy Spirit to remind them of his teaching (Jn. 14:26).

The “hour” of Jesus is in stark contrast to the “hour” of the religious authorities. Jesus came to save in his hour, while they came to kill.

“These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.” If the disciples had heard this as young believers, it may have overwhelmed them. Because Jesus was with them, he was the “lightning rod”[263] that absorbed the persecution of the religious leaders. Now that Jesus is going away, this protection would be removed.

(16:5) But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’

Peter and Thomas had previously asked this question (Jn. 13:36; 14:5), but they were likely not concerned about Jesus—only themselves. Jesus seems to take issue with the intent of their question, rather than their words. Morris writes, “[Peter] made no real attempt to find out where Jesus was going. He had been concerned with the thought of parting from Jesus, not with that of the Master’s destination. He had in mind only the consequences for himself and for his companions. Neither he nor they had as yet made serious inquiry as to what was to become of Jesus. So does self-interest blind us.”[264]

(16:6) But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.

You would be feeling sorrowful too if you heard Jesus was leaving and you would be persecuted or killed (v.2).

(16:7) But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.

In what ways is it beneficial for the Holy Spirit to replace Jesus? For one, Jesus is isolated to a specific place, while the Holy Spirit isn’t spatially located and is across the entire world. Second, the Holy Spirit brings internal power, while Jesus had a unique possession of the Spirit’s power up until this point. Again, as pastor J.D. Greear states, “The Holy Spirit inside us is greater than Jesus beside us.”

(16:8) And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.

The Holy Spirit will come to convict the world of (1) sin, (2) righteousness, and (3) judgment. Morris writes, “This is the one place in Scripture where the Spirit is spoken of as performing a work in ‘the world.’”[265] But what exactly does this mean?

“Convict” (elenchō) means either “to scrutinize or examine carefully, bring to light, expose, set forth” or “to bring a person to the point of recognizing wrongdoing, convict, convince someone of something, point something out to someone” (BDAG). The concept of “expose” is the popular usage in classical Greek.[266] In the eighteen times the term is used in the NT it is defensible that “in every instance the verb has to do with showing someone his sin, usually as a summons to repentance.”[267] Therefore, the Holy Spirit isn’t just leveling a “guilty” verdict for all people, but rather encouraging repentance in people.

The religious leaders considered themselves righteous (Lk. 18:9), but they considered Jesus a sinner (Jn. 9:24). So the ministry of the Spirit is crucial for humans to come to faith in Christ.

(16:9) Concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me.

“Concerning sin…” There are three equally plausible ways to render the Greek here:[268]

(1) The Holy Spirit will prove (intellectually) that people are sinful. That is, the Spirit “will convict the world (of wrong ideas) of sin, in that they do not believe.” The NEB translates this as, “[The Holy Spirit] show where wrong and right and judgement lie.” Advocates of this view note that John 8:46 supports this usage (“Which of you convicts Me of sin?”). This view seems focused purely on the intellectual aspect of sin, rather than a heartfelt realization of our sinfulness. Carson writes, “This sounds far too cerebral: the world merely holds wrong opinions which must be righted by argument.”[269]

(2) The world’s sin is that they don’t believe. This view states that the Holy Spirit “will convict the world of its sin (which consists in the fact) that they do not believe.”

(3) The world’s sin is illustrated by their unbelief. Under this view, the Holy Spirit “will convict the world of its sin because they do not believe.” Morris favors this final view: “The basic sin is the sin that puts self at the center of things and consequently refuses to believe… The Spirit brings the world’s guilt home to itself. The Spirit convicts the individual sinner’s conscience. Otherwise people would never come to see themselves as sinners.”[270] Carson holds this view as well: “[The Holy Spirit will shame] the world and [convince] it of its own guilt, thus calling it to repentance… This convicting work of the Paraclete is therefore gracious: it is designed to bring men and women of the world to recognize their need, and so turn to Jesus, and thus stop being ‘the world’.”[271]

We agree with this third view: The Holy Spirit convicts the world of their sin, so that they can realize their unrighteousness and believe in Jesus. Now that Jesus has come, we have no excuse. Earlier, Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin” (Jn. 15:22). The Holy Spirit brings conviction on us regarding our own depravity.

(16:10) And concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me.

“Concerning righteousness…” Jesus—the Righteous One—has gone away from our world to be with the Father. He is the living, embodied standard and paradigm of righteousness. Since he is gone (in heaven), we have lost our visible standard. Therefore, the Holy Spirit convicts us of God’s righteous standard, and how far we fall short of it (v.9; Rom. 3:23).

(16:11) And concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

“Concerning judgment..” If Satan has already been judged, then those who follow Satan will also be judged (cf. Jn. 12:31). The people of the world will get what the ruler of the world got—namely, judgment. Carson concurs, “If [Satan] stands condemned by the triumph of the cross, the false judgment of those who follow in his train is doubly exposed. The need for conviction of this false judgment is all the more urgent; the world is condemned already (3:36) and in desperate need to learn of its plight.”[272]

In context, Jesus has been speaking of persecution. There may have been a temptation to side with the world, and make a veritable “peace treaty” to avoid such suffering. But Jesus is showing “that to take the side of the world is hardly a viable option because of its dire consequences. The prince of the world and all who side with him stand condemned.”[273]

(16:12) I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

God slowly reveals his truth to us. Here, Jesus doesn’t reveal more because they couldn’t “bear” it yet. The NET note says, “Or you cannot accept it.”

(16:13) But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.

The Holy Spirit would not only remind them of God’s truth (Jn. 14:26), but also reveal further truth.

(16:14) He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.

The Holy Spirit will not contradict Jesus’ teaching, but will only add more of Jesus’ teaching that they weren’t ready to hear yet (v.12). He will bring the glory to Jesus, rather than to Himself.

(16:15) All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.

All three members of the Trinity work together in unity. When we think of team building in Christian community, we model this on the persons in the Trinity.

(16:16) A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.

This refers to Jesus’ death and resurrection.[274]

(16:17-18) Some of His disciples then said to one another, “What is this thing He is telling us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is talking about.”

Once again, John goes to great lengths to show just how slow the disciples were to understand the spiritual depth of Jesus’ teaching—a repeated theme in the gospel(s).

(16:19-20) Jesus knew that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, “Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.”

The world (kosmos) rejoiced at the death of Christ. The disciples originally “lamented” and “grieved,” but after the resurrection, this turned into “joy.”

(16:21-22) Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.

Jesus compares their grief to the suffering of a woman bearing children. A pregnant woman who is delivering her baby is in serious, traumatic pain, but this is followed by an overcoming intense joy. So too, the disciples experienced grief at the death of Jesus, but also incomparable joy at his resurrection. The world couldn’t give them this sort of peace and joy (Jn. 14:27), and it also couldn’t take it away from them.

(16:23) In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you.

Once they see the validation of the resurrection, they will not have reason to doubt. This could be foreshadowing Thomas’ skepticism in John 20.

(16:24) Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.

Jesus encourages the disciples to pray so that they can experience joy (cf. Jn. 15:11). Since Jesus was directly with them, they must not have had the need to pray (“Until now you have asked for nothing in My name”). They had the living and breathing God-man in their midst. But this would quickly change.

(16:25) These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father.

This fits with the concept of the “mystery” of Jesus’ death, or the “messianic secret.” Jesus’ “figurative language” (paroimia) refers to “a pithy saying, proverb, saw, maxim” (BDAG). It isn’t until after the Cross (Jesus’ “hour”) that he can speak “plainly.” After all, this would be after the plan was fulfilled.

(16:26-27) In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.

What does it mean to experience the love of the Father? In this context (v.26), it is accessed through prayer. Through prayer, we are able to go directly into the presence and love of the Father, because of our relationship with Jesus.

(16:28) I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.

Jesus came to accomplish a mission. Once it’s done, he’s going to return home to be with his Father.

(16:29-30) His disciples said, “Lo, now You are speaking plainly and are not using a figure of speech. 30 Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.

The disciples probably felt insecure about not knowing enough, or being too slow to understand. Morris questions how much they really understood: “It is probably significant that they do not say that they understand fully all that Jesus is saying. Instead they say that they know that he knows all things.”[275]

(16:31-32) Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.”

Jesus seems to be showing astonishment that they are only “now” believing. To paraphrase, Jesus says, “You still don’t get it. You’re all going to run for cover (Mk. 14:50), while I bravely follow God’s will.”

Jesus promised, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (Jn. 14:18). Yet, the disciples would abandon him. Indeed, everyone would abandon Jesus—except his Father. Do we have the same hopeful perspective of Jesus? Can we say that we’d be willing to have everyone abandon us, or even hate us, if it meant receiving the approval of God? (cf. Jn. 5:44) Os Guinness referred to this as “living for an audience of One.”

(16:33) These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

The “peace” of Jesus is given in the context of persecution. Morris writes, “This statement, spoken as it is in the shadow of the cross, is audacious. The cross would seem to the outsider to be Jesus’ total defeat. He sees it as his complete victory over all that the world is and can do to him. He goes to the cross not in fear or in gloom, but as a conqueror.”[276]

John 17

John 17 (Experiencing the love of the Trinity)

(17:1) Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You.”

“Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven.” The context of this chapter is not teaching or instruction to the disciples, but prayer to the Father (cf. Jn. 11:41). This is an example of learning to pray in God’s will. It wasn’t that Jesus thought God the Father wouldn’t glorify him on the Cross. Rather, he was praying this to affirm the will of God, knowing that this was God’s will.

“The hour has come.” In John’s gospel, the “hour” refers to the Cross.

What does it mean that the Father and Son will glorify each other at the Cross? In John’s gospel, the word “glory should be understood as a revelation of God, or as the intervention of his power in history (Jn. 1:14; 2:11; 11:4; 12:41).”[277] Carson writes, “It is not just that the shame of the cross is inevitably followed by the glory of the exaltation, but that the glory is already fully displayed in the shame.”[278]

(17:2) Even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.

Jesus has authority over the world. But, instead of using his authority, he laid down his rights to die for the world.

Calvinists see unconditional election in this passage. In this view, God selects the Elect, and Jesus gives the Elect life. For instance, Morris writes, “Though life is his gift, he does not confer it on all indiscriminately. Once again we have the thought of the divine predestination. Life is given ‘to all those you have given him.’”[279] However, we think that Calvinists are reading too much into this passage. Jesus simply states that he will give eternal life to everyone who is given to him. But this doesn’t tell us the conditions for being one of the chosen. Indeed, the Father could choose to elect all those people who want to trust in Christ. The passage simply doesn’t tell us. Later, we see a possible insight. Jesus states that the Father gave the eleven disciples to Jesus. He goes on to say that they “kept [God’s] word” (v.6), they “received” Jesus’ teaching (v.8), and they “understood” and “believed” (v.8). We find these to be the plausible conditions for being one of the Elect—not mysterious divine determinism.

(17:3) This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

Eternal life is not just being on life support for all of eternity. It is knowing God—the greatest conceivable being. We’ll never get tired of exploring this infinitely loving being.

(17:4) I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.

Jesus glorified the Father “by accomplishing” (see NASB note) the work God gave him to do. Many Christians associate glorifying God with praise and worship music. Here, Jesus glorified the Father through ministry—namely, doing his work of loving the world.

(17:5) Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Jesus had an eternal relationship with the Father in the past. He must have experienced indescribable love with the Father (v.24). He wants this “glory” to be revealed through an indescribable act of love at the Cross.

(17:6) I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

Calvinists connect this passage with divine election—similar to John 6:37 (“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me”). In this context, however, Jesus is referring specifically to the disciples—not all people throughout human history (cf. v.9). Thus the focus of the disciples is on their “role in God’s mission strategy through the coming of the incarnate Jesus.”[280]

(17:7-8) Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; 8 for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.

The disciples understood that Jesus wasn’t merely some mystic or charismatic teacher. They had come to believe that he came from the Father.

(17:9) I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours.

Jesus focused this prayer for his eleven disciples—not the whole world. Moreover, he didn’t view them as his own possession, but God the Father’s (“they are Yours). As leaders, we are stewards of the church and leading disciples. But we should always remember that these people whom we lead ultimately belong to God—not us. That is to say, if even Jesus could say that these disciples ultimately belonged to the Father, then how much more should we?

(17:10) And all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them.

As God’s son, Jesus enjoyed everything that the Father had. Now, the disciples would gain this incredible privilege through spiritual adoption.

(17:11) I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.

NLT understands this as Jesus saying, “I am departing from the world.” Jesus wants the disciples to experience unity under God’s leadership once he is gone (cf. v.21, 24).

(17:12) While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.

John 18:9 quotes this passage to refer to physical protection from the authorities.

(17:13) But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.

“Now I come to You.” Jesus couldn’t wait to return to his Father.

“They may have My joy made full in themselves.” The goal of Jesus’ teaching is for his disciples to share in his “joy.” It’s remarkable that Jesus could speak of having joy on the night before he took up the Cross!

(17:14) I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

Our identity changes when we meet Jesus. We are no longer “of the world.” If we “keep” God’s word (v.6), “receive” Jesus’ teaching (v.8), and “believe” in Jesus (v.8), we become at odds with the world.

(17:15) I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.

This is where Christians get the idea of being in the world, but not of the world. Jesus doesn’t pray for them to be removed, but to have the strength to persevere. Jesus wasn’t naïve regarding the severity of suffering that confronts us, and he gives no apologies for what we will face. At the same time, he offers the power so that we will be able to “stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11).

(17:16) They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

See verse 14.

(17:17) Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.

What do we need to be able to enter into Satan’s kingdom with boldness? God’s word! Jesus states that God’s word is not only true, but also transformational. The term “sanctify” (hagiazō) means to “set aside something or make it suitable for ritual purposes, consecrate, dedicate” or “include a person in the inner circle of what is holy, in both cultic and moral associations of the word, consecrate, dedicate, sanctify” or “to treat as holy, reverence” or “to eliminate that which is incompatible with holiness, purify” (BDAG). Jesus uses this word for “sanctifying himself” in verse 19, so the meaning must refer to the concept of “dedication” or “consecration.”

(17:18) As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.

Now that Jesus is gone, we continue to fulfill his mission here on Earth (cf. Jn. 20:21).

(17:19) For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

What does this mean that Jesus “sanctifies” himself? NLT takes this as referring to his sacrifice at the Cross (i.e. setting himself apart for the work of the Cross).

(17:20) I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word.

Here, we see promises for the universal church—not just the disciples.

(17:21-23) That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

In the words of Francis Schaeffer, the unity of the Christian community is the “final apologetic.” It shows the world that God is real. Jesus gives his glory to us so that we can achieve this level of unity (v.22).

(17:24) Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

Jesus wants the disciples to see his glory. This could refer to the Cross, but the difficulty with this is in the fact that only John remained to see the Cross. This could also refer to heaven (Jn. 14:1-3).

(17:25-26) O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; 26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.

The love between the Father and the Son is now shared among the many sons of God. The divine door has been swung wide open. We now get to experience the love of the Trinity.

Discussion Questions

What does Jesus give to the disciples through this prayer?

What does Jesus want his disciples to do as a consequence of praying for them?

What do we learn about prayer from Jesus’ example?

John 18

John 18 (The betrayal and trial)

(18:1) When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples.

This is most likely the Garden of Gethsemane.[281] The Synoptics call this place Gethsemane, but don’t call it a garden; John calls it a garden, but not Gethsemane. We infer that it was the Garden of Gethsemane by comparing this passage with the Synoptic gospels (specifically Mt. 26:36; Mk. 14:32; Luke places Jesus in the Mount of Olives, Lk. 22:39). Carson writes, “Rising to the east of the Kidron is the Mount of Olives. On its slopes there was an olive grove (kēpos, lit. ‘garden’); Matthew (26:36) and Mark (14:32) call it ‘Gethsemane’ (=‘oil-press’). John says that Jesus and his disciples went into it; later he says that Jesus went out: the verbs suggest a walled enclosure.”[282]

(18:2) Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples.

Judas betrayed Jesus in a place where Jesus used to teach him about God. The entire week before the Cross, Jesus would spend the night at this location (Lk. 21:37).

(18:3) Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.

Clearly, it’s night time, because they are showing up with lanterns and torches.

(Jn. 18:3) Was a Roman cohort really necessary?

(18:4) So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”

Jesus knew all of this was going to happen, and he chose to “go forth” to meet them anyhow. He voluntarily stepped forward—in front of the disciples—to protect his disciples (vv.8-9).

(18:5) They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them.

“I am He.” The predicate (“He”) doesn’t exist in the Greek, but is added by the translators. Literally, the text just states, “I am.” Jesus repeats the expression “I am” three times in this section (v.5, 6, 8), which was an answer “in the style of deity.”[283] (cf. Jn. 8:58) Indeed, the fact that “John intended such a connection with the Old Testament in clear from the fact that the arresting band is forced to the ground as if in obeisance to deity.”[284] This is a “confrontation of what philosophers refer to as the mysterium tremendum, or what I call the terrifying mystery of the ultimate reality.”[285]

John omits the fact that Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss (Mt. 26:49; Mk. 14:45; Lk. 22:47), but he adds that Judas betrayed him in the very place where Jesus would teach the disciples about God (v.2).

(18:6) So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Is it really plausible that these soldiers would fall to the ground? The Roman soldiers were likely afraid of Jesus. After all, he was a charismatic leader who possessed the loyalty of the crowds (Jn. 6:15). He was also a confirmed miracle worker. Previous guards had tried to arrest Jesus, but they were too amazed by him to finish the job (Jn. 7:45-46). Perhaps rumors spread among the Roman guardsmen, which left these soldiers wondering, “Who is this guy that we need a whole cohort to arrest him??” It’s also possible that these were some of the same guards who tried to arrest him before.[286] Moreover, they were coming out to arrest Jesus in the middle of the night, which must’ve felt spooky. Morris writes, “The soldiers retreated and fell to the ground. It is possible that those in front recoiled from Jesus’ unexpected advance, so that they bumped those behind them, causing them to stumble and fall.”[287] Carson points out that this was a “sloping mountainside,”[288] which could’ve added to the fall.

(18:7-8) Therefore He again asked them, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus the Nazarene.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me, let these go their way.”

Jesus is substituting in the place of his disciples: “Take me, but let them go.”

(18:9) [This was] to fulfill the word which He spoke, “Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one.”

See John 17:12.

(18:10) Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus.

Jesus had already effectively protected the disciples. They were free to go. Yet Peter thinks that it’s time to fight! But all the “mighty” Peter can do is cut the ear off of a slave. What would that do when a “cohort” of soldiers was present?? (v.3) This was foolishness at its very worst.

(18:11) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?”

The “cup” refers to the wrath of God (Ps. 75:8; Isa. 51:17, 22; Jer. 25:15; Ezek. 23:31-33; Rev. 14:10; 16:19).

(18:12) So the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him.

They arrest Jesus and tie his hands. This reminds us of the soldiers handcuffing Superman in the film Man of Steel (2013). In the film, Superman allows himself to be handcuffed and imprisoned, but at a certain point, he breaks the metal cuffs like they were made of tin foil. To a far greater degree, Jesus could break through his bonds at any moment, but allowed himself to be captured.

Jesus meets with Annas

(18:13) And led Him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.

Annas only officially held the position of high priest from AD 6 to AD 15. Then, he was deposed by Valerius Gratus (Pilate’s predecessor). However, his five sons held the position (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 20.198), and he still remained massively influential in the high priesthood. After all, the OT stated that the high priest ruled for life, rather than when he was removed by a Pagan procurator. Luke also records that Annas was still in a position of influence alongside Caiaphas (Lk. 3:2). This would explain why they took Jesus to Annas—the father-in-law of Caiaphas—because Annas still held a lot of clout.

(18:14) Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people.

This was a kangaroo court. Caiaphas had already decided what the verdict was going to be—long before this interrogation occurred (Jn. 11:50). Nicodemus had already complained with the crooked views of his colleagues (Jn. 7:50-51), but no one listened.

(18:15-16) Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, 16 but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought Peter in.

Peter followed Jesus and the soldiers—likely from a safe distance.

How did Peter gain access to the high priest’s courtyard? It seems odd that Peter—a Galilean fisherman—could cavalierly walk right into this restricted area (Mk. 14:54, 66). Yet John explains that one of Jesus’ disciples knew the high priest, and let him in (“another disciple”). This other disciple may be John himself (Jn. 20:1-8).[289] After all, John had a family business (Mk. 1:19-20), and could’ve had “connections” with the aristocracy. Though, in the final analysis, we’re simply not sure who this “other disciple” is, because John doesn’t call him the “beloved disciple” and leaves him anonymous.

Peter’s FIRST denial

(18:17) Then the slave-girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”

The structure of the Greek grammar assumes that Peter would answer, No, to this question.[290] It is as if the girl is asking, “You’re not really one of his disciples, are you?” The “mighty” Peter couldn’t even keep his courage in front of a slave-girl. It doesn’t even say that she was big girl or particularly tough looking girl—just a slave girl! Peter denies Jesus for the first time. He’s not off to a good start.

(18:18) Now the slaves and the officers were standing there, having made a charcoal fire, for it was cold and they were warming themselves; and Peter was also with them, standing and warming himself.

The city of Jerusalem rested on the side of a mountain, and during the month of Nisan (April), it gets cold and windy at night. Thus, this is an “excellent climatic description of Jerusalem at Passover time.”[291] Peter was probably shivering from fear, as well as from the weather.

(18:19) The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples, and about His teaching.

This is still referring to Annas.

(18:20-21) Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. 21 Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said.”

Jesus argues that he had nothing to hide. He encourages them to go interview the witnesses.

(18:22-23) When He had said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, “Is that the way You answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?”

Jesus is asking what the officer’s legal basis was for hitting him. He is “holding up the mirror” with this question, letting them to see their hate and vitriol for what it is.

Meeting with Caiaphas

(18:24) So Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Annas sends him to Caiaphas—his son-in-law—the official high priest. Interestingly, John doesn’t record Jesus’ conversation with Caiaphas, nor does he repeat the details of how Jesus was mocked and spit upon by those who held him captive.

Peter’s SECOND denial

(18:25) Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it, and said, “I am not.”

The people kept pressing Peter with accusatory questions, and Peter denied Jesus a second time. This interwoven narrative of Peter’s cowardice stands in stark contrast to Jesus’ heroic and undeterred bravery in the face of torture and death.

Did a slave-girl question Peter, or was it a man? Matthew and Mark state that a slave-girl was responsible for Peter’s second denial (Mt. 26:71; Mk. 14:69), while Luke states that a man had questioned him (Lk. 22:58). How do we resolve this discrepancy? John states that a plural group was interrogating Peter (“they”). This subtle pronoun tells us that multiple people were questioning Peter at once. This is not a forced, ad hoc harmonization (as critics often allege); rather, this explanation of the events comes from the text itself.

Peter’s THIRD denial

(18:26) One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?”

The relative of Malchus pressed him further.

(18:27) Peter then denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed.

Peter denies Jesus a third time. Immediately, the piercing and staccato shriek of the rooster fills the air. Jesus had predicted this exact sequence of events (Jn. 13:38). That shrill sound must have sent a tremor down Peter’s spine.

Meets with Pilate

(18:28) Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.

The “Praetorium” was the governor’s household. It was “early,” so we have moved from night into morning.

Why would these men be “defiled” by entering the Praetorium? These zealous religious men couldn’t eat the Passover if they had entered a Gentile’s house. Extrabiblical tradition stated, “The dwelling-places of gentiles are unclean” (Mishnah Oholoth 18:7).[292] In a great and terrible act of hypocrisy, these men were scrupulous about their extrabiblical rules about God, but they proceeded to kill God’s Son! Carson points out the irony: “The Jews take elaborate precautions to avoid ritual contamination in order to eat the Passover, at the very time they are busy manipulating the judicial system to secure the death of him who alone is the true Passover.”[293]

Jesus meets with Pontius Pilate

(18:29) Therefore Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?”

Because the religious leaders wouldn’t come in, Pilate needed to go out. Pilate wanted to hear an official charge against Jesus.

(18:30) They answered and said to him, “If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you.”

The religious authorities avoid the question: they don’t have a formal accusation. They have legal assertions and accusations, but no legal arguments.

(18:31) So Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.” The Jews said to him, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.”

Pilate wants to stay out of this. After all, if there wasn’t an official charge by Roman law, then he wouldn’t want to get involved.

“We are not permitted to put anyone to death…” In AD 6, the Romans removed the judicial ability from the Jewish leadership to perform capital punishment (Josephus, Antiquities, 12:117). Second-century Jewish literature states that this ability was removed 40 years before the destruction of the Temple (i.e. AD 70). Why the discrepancy? Following Bruce, Carson notes that an event around AD 30 could’ve been the reason for why these Jewish documents mention the removal of this right.[294] That is, these second-century authors may have noted the date of AD 30, because this was the time that they weren’t allowed to legally crucify Jesus.

An exception to this law was if a Gentile entered into the inner part of the Temple (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 5.193-194; 6.124-126). This could be why the religious authorities claimed that Jesus had threatened the Temple (Mk. 14:57-59), thus giving them the legal right to kill Christ (or at least have him killed).

(18:32) [This was] to fulfill the word of Jesus which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die.

This refers either refers to Jesus’ explicit prediction of his death by crucifixion (Mt. 20:19; 26:2; Mk. 10:33f; Lk. 18:32), or it could refer to his implicit statements about being “lifted up,” which also refers to crucifixion (Jn. 3:14; 8:28; 12:32).

(18:33) Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

Why does Pilate ask if Jesus is the ‘king of the Jews’ if this accusation never appears on the lips of the Pharisees? John’s account of the trial of Jesus under Pontius Pilate mentions nothing of the religious leaders’ charges that Jesus was the king of the Jews. We only find a blunt question from Pilate out of the blue in John 18: “Are you the king of the Jews?” (v.33) Where did Pilate come up with this question? John doesn’t explain this to us.

It’s only as we read Luke’s account that we discover that the Jewish leaders were raising this charge to Pilate earlier in the trial (Lk. 23:1-3). This is a case of interlocking in the gospels, where different authors explain one another without intending to.

In Greek, the word “you” is emphasized.[295] It is as if Pilate is asking, “Are you really claiming to be a king of the Jewish people? You? Really?” After all, Jesus didn’t lead an army, and apparently, he didn’t fit the profile of a militaristic zealot.

(18:34) Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”

Jesus presses Pilate on where he heard that.

(18:35) Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”

History tells us that Pilate was fiercely anti-Semitic. You can almost hear the scorn, when he asks, “I am not a Jew, am I?”

(18:36) Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”

How could Jesus say that his followers wouldn’t fight to make him king, when Peter chopped off the ear of Malchus that very night? Jesus claims that his followers would not fight to make him King Messiah (Jn. 18:36). However, this contradicts the earlier record in John that Peter did fight by chopping off Malchus’ ear (Jn. 18:10). If we only read John, this is a glaring difficulty.

However, when we read Luke, we find a resolution: Jesus healed the man’s ear after it was chopped off (Lk. 22:47-53). Therefore, Malchus couldn’t be produced as a witness to Pilate, because Jesus had healed him.

Why does Pilate not care that Jesus claims to be the King of the Jews? In Luke’s account, Pilate asks Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?” (Lk. 23:3) In a sense, Pilate was asking Jesus, “Are you leading a rebellion against Rome? Are you guilty of treason and sedition?” Jesus calmly replies, “It is as you say” (Lk. 23:4, NASB) or “You have said so” (ESV) or “Yes, it is as you say” (NIV) or “You have said it” (NLT).

Does Pilate have him beaten, tortured, and crucified on the spot? No, Pilate immediately tells the chief priests, “I find no guilt in this man” (Lk. 23:5). How odd! Why would Pilate respond in this way?

In our passage, John explains this difficulty (Jn. 18:33-38). In John’s account, he explains that Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (Jn. 18:36). Once Pilate discovers that Jesus is no political or military threat, it would make sense for him to absolve Jesus of guilt.

(18:37) Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

Maybe Pilate thought that Jesus was a “philosopher king.”

(18:38) Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him.”

Why does Pilate ask this question? It shows his indifference to truth, and that Pilate is not “of the truth” (v.37). After all, Pilate was staring “truth” right in the face (Jn. 14:6), yet he refused to face it, opting for cynicism instead. Carson comments, “The man in the dock invites his judge to be his follower, to align himself with those who are ‘of the truth’. Jesus is not dangerous; he may also be getting under Pilate’s skin. Either way, Pilate abruptly terminates the interrogation with a curt and cynical question: What is truth?—and just as abruptly turns away, either because he is convinced there is no answer, or, more likely, because he does not want to hear it.”[296] For politically motivated people, “truth is frequently sacrificed on the altar of expediency.”[297]

(18:39-40) “But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?” 40 So they cried out again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas.” Now Barabbas was a robber.

This “custom” is not mentioned elsewhere, but Morris writes that “there is nothing inherently unlikely about it.”[298] Pilate may have used the term “the King of the Jews” to win over the crowds, because he knew it was the Sanhedrin that was really driving this kangaroo court. However, the “ploy failed.”[299]

The people choose a robber over the King. Kruse comments, “This is ironic, for the chief priests and elders had no sympathy for insurrectionists, because they jeopardized the status quo with the Romans; yet still they asked for Barabbas instead of Jesus.”[300]

Discussion Questions

Peter made many confident claims about following Jesus to his death, but he failed miserably. What are some signs that someone is following God based on self-effort? What do they say? What do they do? How do they affect others?

Both Peter and Judas committed horrific sins. But Peter ended up repenting, while Judas took his own life. Peter went on to lead the early church for decades to come, while Judas went on to go to hell. Repentance was the key distinction. That brings us to a question: How would you respond to someone who said this? “I just don’t know what it looks like to seek repentance…”

Why do you suppose that John interwove Peter’s story of betrayal into his account of Jesus’ torture and trial?

John 19

John 19 (The Cross of Christ)

For more information on this, see “The Crucifixion of Christ.”

(19:1) Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him.

Pilate didn’t necessarily scourge Jesus personally (the NASB note says, “Or had him scourged”). Like the President giving the order for nuclear launch, Pilate was the one who was responsible.

(19:2) And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him.

“A crown of thorns…” Rodney Whitacre writes, “The spikes on this plant can reach twelve inches long and were notorious for inflicting pain (cf. Midrash Rabbah on Num 3:1).”[301]

“Put a purple robe on Him…” Hellenistic vassal kings wore the color purple to express their royalty (1 Macc. 10:20; 11:58), as did Roman emperors like Tiberius (Suetonius, Tiberius, 17.2).[302] Obviously, after being beaten to a bloody pulp, the soldiers were mocking Jesus with this robe.

(Jn. 19:2) Was Jesus’ robe “scarlet” or was it “purple”? (cf. Mk. 15:17; Mt. 27:28)

(19:3) And they began to come up to Him and say, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and to give Him slaps in the face.

There is great irony here: They are mocking him as the King of the Jews—even though he is the true King of the Jews. Once again, John’s prologue foreshadowed more than we realized: They mocked Jesus because “did not know Him” (Jn. 1:10).

(19:4) Pilate came out again and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.”

Pilate didn’t find Jesus guilty, but he still had him scourged (v.1). So, he is not some heroic figure, but a cruel and wicked man. He presents the broken and bloody body of Jesus to the crowd to show that Jesus is not guilty of sedition. Carson writes, “Pilate is speaking with dripping irony: here is the man you find so dangerous and threatening: can you not see he is harmless and somewhat ridiculous? If the governor is thereby mocking Jesus, he is ridiculing the Jewish authorities with no less venom.”[303]

(19:5) Jesus then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold, the Man!”

This may be further irony from Pilate: This expression (“Behold, the man”)[304] is similar to a messianic passage in Zechariah 6:12 (see NET note). If this is an allusion to this passage, then Pilate is (unknowingly) presenting Jesus as the Messiah—even though he is so horribly beaten and disfigured.

(19:6) So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.”

The religious leaders and officers led the call for Jesus’ crucifixion, and they won over the crowds.

Why is Pilate so hesitant to crucify him? It could be that he is anti-Semitic, and he doesn’t want to do what the Jewish people want. It could also be that he doesn’t want to act, because this could stir a riot. Whatever the reason, it was because he was “afraid” (v.8).

(19:7) The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.”

They could be appealing to the law in Leviticus 24:16 (“The one who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death”).

(19:8) Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid.

Why was Pilate “afraid” here? There are multiple reasons: (1) It could’ve been because of his wife’s dream, as recorded in Matthew 27:19; (2) it could’ve been because he knew that the death of Jesus could start a riot; (3) since he was already in hot water with Tiberius for being loyal to Sejanus (see v.12 below), he may have feared making the wrong call here and jeopardizing his own life.

(19:9) And he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.

Since Pilate had rejected the significance of truth (Jn. 18:38), Jesus wouldn’t give him anymore answers, fulfilling Isaiah 53:7.

(19:10) So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?”

Pilate tries to muscle Jesus into talking. He’s saying, “I’ve got all of the authority here… I can kill you if I want to… Speak! Right now!”

Again, what irony! This “big” Roman procurator was claiming to have “authority” over the son of God! Yet, the careful reader already knows that Pilate wasn’t in control of Jesus’ life or death; rather, Jesus claimed to have this “authority.” Earlier, he said, “I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (Jn. 10:17-18).

(19:11) Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

Who is the one who delivered Jesus over? In the Greek, Jesus refers to a singular “he,” rather than a group. Is Jesus referring to Caiaphas? To Judas? To Satan? Morris,[305] Carson,[306] and Borchert[307] hold that this refer to Caiaphas. That could be the case, but we simply aren’t sure.

(19:12) As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.”

This threat from the religious authorities really makes sense if we hold to the AD 33 date for Jesus’ death. Emperor Tiberius held Pilate under suspicion of being an insurrectionist like his friend Lucius Sejanus. By threatening Pilate in this way (“you are no friend of Caesar”), this would’ve spooked Pilate into conceding to their demands (see “Dating Jesus’ Death: April 3, AD 33”).

Morris detects further irony here: “Again John is ironical, for there is a sense in which this is true, though not the sense in which the Jews meant it. Jesus was no revolutionary. A just judge could well release an innocent man and still be Caesar’s friend. But the claims of Christ are such that Caesar cannot have the principal place. In that sense it is really ‘Christ or Caesar?’ and John will not want his readers to miss this.”[308]

(19:13) Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.

Pilate is alarmed by this threat. He sits down on the “judgment seat” (bema) to think through his political options.

(19:14) Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!”

Pilate seems to know that he is going to need to kill Jesus, but as a fierce anti-Semite, he wants to rub this in their faces first. It could also be that he wants to incite the crowd so that it will be clear that Jesus is a messianic pretender and worthy of death. Just as he washed his hands to publicly show his innocence (Mt. 27:24), Pilate is here “seeking to escape any accountability.”[309]

(Jn. 19:14) Was Jesus crucified on the third hour or the sixth hour?

(19:15) So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

This is another level of irony: They are bowing to Caesar, instead of bowing to their God in the flesh.

(19:16) So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified.

Pilate signed off on the order to have Jesus killed, so he retains responsibility along with everyone else.

(19:17) They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.

The NET note states, “The Latin word for the Greek (kranion) is calvaria. Thus the English word ‘Calvary’ is a transliteration of the Latin rather than a NT place name (cf. Luke 23:33 in the KJV).” While the site is uncertain, it is most likely “near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, just outside the northern wall, and not far from a road (Mt. 27:39; Jn. 19:20).”[310]

It was common practice for criminals to carry their own cross to the execution site (Plutarch, The Divine Vengeance, 554 A/B). The Synoptics tell us that Simon of Cyrene helped him carry the Cross as well (Mt. 27:32; Mk. 15:21; Lk. 23:26)

(19:18) There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.

Why does John give such a brief mention of crucifixion? In this culture, they knew all about crucifixion, and they didn’t need to go into all of the gory details.

(19:19-20) Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” 20 Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek.

The Romans nailed a sign (titlon) above the heads of the crucifixion victim that recorded their crimes.[311] Pilate wrote this in three languages, so every literate person could understand the charge. There are slight differences between what was written on the placard above Jesus’ head (Mt. 27:37; Mk. 15:26; Lk. 23:38). This could be due to “the trilingual form in which it was written.”[312] Regardless of the translation differences, the message is identical.

(19:21-22) So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’; but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Here is another level of irony: Jesus (the true King) was crucified for being the (supposed) King of the Jews.

(19:23-24) Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. 24 So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be”; this was to fulfill the Scripture: “They divided My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”

The “four parts” were the loin cloth, belt, head covering, and sandals.[313] In addition, Jesus had a seamless tunic. They cast lots for his clothing, fulfilling Psalm 22:18.

(19:25) Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

Where are the male disciples? This is a conspicuous absence, showing that the women are exercising heroic faith—not the men! They are the ones who had the courage to show up at the Cross. The only man that stayed at Jesus’ side was John (v.26).

Mary was a popular name in this culture. Indeed, three out of the four women are named Mary! Only Jesus’ mother Mary (Jn. 2:1-5) and Mary Magdalene (Jn. 20:1-2, 11-18) are mentioned elsewhere in John’s gospel.

(19:26) When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”

Why does Jesus commit his mother to the care of his beloved disciple, rather than his brothers? Jesus tells his beloved disciple to take care of his mother Mary (Jn. 19:26-27). In first century Jewish culture, this would be quite odd! The mother would go into the care of her other sons, of which Mary had many.

We solve this problem by realizing that Jesus didn’t trust his brothers, because they weren’t believers in him (Jn. 7:5; Mk. 3:20-21; 6:4). This is not necessarily an undesigned coincidence between gospels, because John records the unbelief of Jesus’ brothers. However, it’s interesting to note the internal consistency of John’s account.

(19:27) Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.

The oldest son in a Jewish family needed to provide for his mother.[314] Thus, even while going through the agony of the Cross, Jesus was still thinking and caring for others—not himself. William Barclay notes, “There is something infinitely moving in the fact that Jesus in the agony of the Cross, in the moment when the salvation of the world hung in the balance, thought of the loneliness of His mother in the days when He was taken away.”[315]

(Jn. 19:28) After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.”

(Jn. 19:28-30) Why does John cite Psalm 69:21 as a prediction of Jesus?

(19:29) A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth.

“Hyssop” was used at the Passover meal (Ex. 12:22). It’s possible that John is showing a further fulfillment here for Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of the Passover with this throwaway detail.[316]

(19:30) Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

Jesus refused this sour wine before the crucifixion (Mt. 27:34; Mk. 15:23), but he accepts it here so that he can whet his parched throat to make one final declaration: “It is finished!”

“It is finished!” The Greek word tetelestai comes from the root teleō, which means “to complete an activity or process, bring to an end, finish, complete” or “to carry out an obligation or demand, carry out, accomplish, perform, fulfill, keep” or “to pay what is due” (BDAG). Which definition did Jesus have in mind? These all may be in view:

(1) Jesus fulfilled the OT Scriptures. This is the way John uses the term in verse 28: “Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished (tetelestai), to fulfill (teleō) the Scripture, said, ‘I am thirsty.’”

(2) Jesus demonstrated his full love for us. Earlier, John wrote: “Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end (telos)” (Jn. 13:1).

(3) Jesus fully paid for our sins. As BDAG notes in its third definition, the term teleō was used in commercial settings for paying a debt—specifically taxes (e.g. Mt. 17:24; Lk. 20:22; Rom. 13:6). Archaeologists have found manuscript evidence in the second and third centuries that the terms tetel or tetelestai were used for the payment of debts.[317] This fits with what Paul writes about Jesus’ finished work: “[Christ] canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:14).

“And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” When he did this, he said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Lk. 23:46). Jesus didn’t have his spirit taken away from him, but rather, being in control, he chose to gave it up (cf. Jn. 10:17-18).

The burial of Jesus

(19:31) Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

They wanted to expedite the death of the victims, because they didn’t want bodies hanging there on the Sabbath.

(19:32) So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him.

This practice (Latin, crurifragium; or “crucifracture”) accelerated the death of the victim, because the crucified person would no longer be able to push up on their legs to breath properly. They would suffocate within minutes.

(19:33) But coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.

These expert executioners didn’t feel the need to break Jesus’ legs, because they could see that he was already dead.

(19:34) But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.

“Blood and water came out.” This is a key eyewitness detail (see v.35). Edwards, Gabel, and Hosmer write, “The water probably represented serous pleural and pericardial fluid, and would have preceded the flow of blood and been smaller in volume than the blood. Perhaps in the setting of hypovolemia and impending acute heart failure, pleural and pericardial effusions may have developed and would have added to the volume of apparent water. The blood, in contrast, may have originated from the right atrium or the right ventricle or perhaps from a hemopericardium.”[318]

Is there symbolism to the “blood and water”? Commentators speculate all sorts of symbolism in the blood and water: (1) the blood represents the Lord’s Supper and the water represents baptism; (2) the blood represents atonement (Jn. 6:53-54) and the water represents our cleansing (Jn. 3:5), life (Jn. 4:14), and the Holy Spirit (Jn. 7:38-39); (3) the water represents Moses striking the rock, and Jesus fulfills our spiritual thirst (Ex. 17; 1 Cor. 10). Put simply, the reason John mentions “blood and water” is the fact that he saw this! This is a good lesson for biblical interpreters: practice hermeneutical restraint.

(19:35) And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.

Only someone close to the body of Jesus would be able to witness this. The other gospels don’t mention this detail, because they weren’t as close as John (vv.26-27).

(19:36) For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, “Not a bone of Him shall be broken.”

John could be citing Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12, or Psalm 34:20. We think Psalm 34 is in view.

(19:37) And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”

John is citing Zechariah 12:10. John loosely cites this passage in Revelation 1:7 to refer to the return of Jesus in his Second Coming.

(19:38) After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body.

Jesus had secret disciples. Joseph of Arimathea was afraid of his own people, because they were threatening excommunication (Jn. 9:22).

(19:39-40) Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.

Did Nicodemus secretly come to Christ? While he made no profession of faith in John 3, something has changed since then. Carson writes, “John may be telling us that by this action Nicodemus shows he is stepping out of the darkness and emerging into the light.”[319] 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes were quite an expensive amount of spices. Indeed, this was “enough spice to bury a king royally.”[320] Why would Nicodemus bring these if he hadn’t become a believer? Unlike the woman at the well who came to faith on the spot, it must’ve taken Nicodemus longer to come to faith.

(19:41-42) Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

They buried Jesus in a new tomb (Lk. 23:53), which was Joseph’s own tomb (Mt. 27:60). The location was near the place where Jesus was crucified (v.42). The site is not the “garden tomb” that most tourists visit, but more likely the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.[321]

Discussion Questions

Some argue that Pontius Pilate wasn’t responsible for Jesus’ death, because the religious leaders forced his hand. After all, Pilate merely “granted” what they wanted (v.24). How would you respond?

While we hate to admit it, sometimes we lose an appreciation for the Cross. What are ways to keep this incredible act of love a fresh and living reality to us?

John 20

John 20 (Jesus appears to Mary)

(20:1) Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.

Is there any significance to Jesus’ resurrection occurring on the first day of the week”? Obviously, this is reportage of the historical fact that Jesus rose on Sunday. However, God may have raised him on this day to show that Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of a “new creation.”

Because it’s dark outside, Mary Magdalene can hardly see. Mark records that the “sun had risen,” but he also notes that it was “very early” (Mk. 16:2). Hence, “dark” is a relative term, and doesn’t imply pitch black.

(20:2-3) So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” 3 So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb.

Mary assumes many people (“they”) moved the body. This is because of the size of the stone, which would’ve required many grown men to move.

How many women came to the tomb? Mark records three women (Mk. 16:1), Matthew records two (Mt. 28:1), and Luke records more than three (Lk. 24:10). But John only records one. Is this a contradiction? Not at all. These various authors do not write that there was only one woman, or exactly three women, at the tomb. Instead, John is using a common literary device that older commentators called telescoping. This is where a historian or author chooses to focus on one character, not mentioning others. Such a device is not an error. After all, imagine if I said, “I saw a rock concert in August.” What if a skeptical listener asked, “Did you honestly go to the concert by yourself? Were you the only person in the arena? How can I trust anything you have to say??!!” Of course, by claiming that I went to a concert, I am not saying that I was the only person at the concert. Indeed, I could’ve mentioned my spouse, my friends, and the 20,000 other people in the arena! Similarly, historical accounts are free to focus on one figure, rather than exhaustively explaining every detail. Such an omission is the prerogative of the narrator. As one older commentator put it, “Silence is not contradiction.” Moreover, Mary says, We do not know where they have laid Him.” If Mary was the only woman at the tomb, why did she use the plural pronoun?

(20:4) The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first.

Could this be an allusion to the fact that John was a young man, while Peter was older (and slower in a foot race)?

(20:5) Stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in.

Jesus must’ve shaken off the linen wrappings after his resurrection.

(20:6) And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there.

Peter entered the tomb to see it for himself, while John didn’t go in (v.5).

(20:7) And the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.

The linen wrappings were in one place, and the face cloth was rolled up. Jesus must’ve woken up and folded his laundry. Incidentally, this doesn’t seem like the practice of grave robbers, who would most likely just steal the body—linens and all. At the very least, grave robbers would identify the body by unveiling the face. But it’s hard to believe they would unwrap the entire corpse, and fold the linens in the corner of the tomb.

(20:8) So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed.

John comes to faith at this moment. What was it about entering the tomb that led John to faith? Maybe he saw only one set of footprints on the tomb floor.

(20:9) For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

John’s faith was real, but it was still in an infancy stage. He was still putting two-and-two together regarding the OT predictions and Jesus’ predictions (cf. Jn. 2:19-21).

(20:10) So the disciples went away again to their own homes.

They head back to their houses, having a lot to think about. They may have also been frightened, wanting to flee the tomb before the authorities arrived (v.19).

(20:11) But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb.

Mary was probably weeping because she thought people had desecrated Jesus’ body. After all, they had already beaten Jesus to a bloody pulp and nailed him naked to a Roman cross. Jesus’ enemies were surely capable of desecrating his corpse as well. The desecration of corpses was not uncommon in the ancient world (cf. 1 Sam. 31:8-13).

(20:12) And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.

To her surprise, Mary sees two angels inside the tomb, where Jesus’ body was laid. She must’ve realized that these were angels, because it seems that they just appeared inside the tomb.

(Jn. 20:12) Were there two angels or one?

(20:13) And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

The angels ask her why she’s weeping, and Jesus asks her the same question (v.15). She’s confused and grieving over the absence of Jesus’ body.

(20:14) When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.

(Jn. 20:14) Why doesn’t Mary recognize Jesus?

(20:15) Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

She thinks Jesus moved the body. Pause for a moment to consider the irony.

(20:16) Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).

When she hears his voice the second time, she realizes who he is. She needed to “turn” toward him, which implies that she hadn’t been looking at his face.

(20:17) Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”

“Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” What is the connection between not being able to cling to Jesus and the ascension? Jesus could be communicating that a change is occurring in how his followers will relate to him. It could “indicate to Mary that the way of relating to the resurrected Lord would no longer be through the physical senses because the ascent would terminate such encounters.”[322]

“I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.” All throughout the gospel of John, Jesus always says “my Father” or “the Father.” However, very subtly, in John 20:17, Jesus switches to your Father.” The reason Jesus could say “your Father” was because he had just paid for sins on the Cross. Without the Cross, we couldn’t be children of God. Hebrews states, “Both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:11).

(Jn. 20:17) Was Jesus married to Mary Magdelene?

(20:18) Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.

Mary is the first witness to the resurrection of Jesus. She quickly spreads the news to the other disciples, but the disciples didn’t believe her at first (Lk. 24:9-11).

Jesus appears to the male disciples

(20:19) So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

“The doors were shut… for fear of the Jews.” Put yourself in the shoes (or sandals) of the disciples: Just three days earlier, a Roman cohort came at night to arrest, torture, and kill their leader (Jn. 18:3). Now, they are sitting together at night, wondering if they will face the same fate. It’s no wonder that they locked the doors and were trembling with fear of the authorities.

“Jesus came and stood in their midst.” Interpreters disagree over whether this means that Jesus transported through the closed doors,[323] or perhaps he simply walked through them.[324] Others remain agnostic as to how Jesus came through the doors.[325] Regardless, Jesus had a supernatural ability to enter a locked room. If we will be raised like Jesus (1 Jn. 3:2), will we be able to supernaturally transport or perhaps walk through walls?

Does this supernatural dimension of Jesus’ resurrected body show an embellishment in John? Not at all. In fact, the two gospels that emphasize Jesus’ post-resurrection capabilities the most are Luke and John—yet these both emphasize Jesus’ physicality more than any other as well. In Luke, Jesus can teleport at will (Lk. 24:31); in John, he can move through walls (Jn. 20:19, 27). At the same time, these same two gospels emphasize the physical nature of Jesus’ body more than any other. Luke records that Jesus was not a ghost (Lk. 24:39), he could be physically touched (Lk. 24:39), and he ate physical food (Lk. 24:42-43). Likewise, John records that Jesus still possessed a physical body with physical wounds that could be physically handled (Jn. 20:27).

“Peace be with you.” These are incredible words of grace. Morris writes, “After their forsaking Jesus at the time of the arrest the disciples may well have expected rebuke or blame. Instead Jesus pronounces peace on them.”[326] The disciples likely felt tremendous guilt for fleeing Jesus. But Jesus had promised them this very “peace” just a few days earlier (Jn. 14:27).

(20:20) And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Imagine the screaming and cheering in the room when they realized that Jesus had just conquered death. There were likely tears of joy.

(20:21) So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

We are now on the same mission that Jesus was on—namely, reaching people with his love and forgiveness.

(20:22-23) “And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

(Jn. 20:22) Does this support the Pentecostal notion of “Spirit baptism”?

(Jn. 20:23) Does this passage support the forgiveness of sins through a priest?

Thomas the skeptic

(20:24) But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

Thomas wasn’t there to see this earlier interaction with Jesus and the other disciples. Where was he during this time? Mourning? Depressed? Confused?

“Didymus” means “twin,”[327] though no mention is made of his siblings in the Bible.

(20:25) So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

Thomas wasn’t a modern-day skeptic. Rather, he had just gone through turmoil and trauma: The man he followed for three years had just been killed. Formerly, Thomas had been willing to die for Jesus (Jn. 11:16), and his hopes were now crushed. If he was going to believe, he wanted good evidence.

(20:26) After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

Why does Jesus wait “eight days” to reveal himself to Thomas? It might be that Jesus wanted to give Thomas time to hear and become convinced by the testimony of the other apostles (v.29).

Once again, Jesus kept appearing behind closed doors (see comments on verse 19).

(20:27) Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

“Unbelief” occurs when we reject good evidence for Jesus. Jesus gave the evidence that Thomas had asked for, implying that Jesus knew Thomas’ thoughts or the earlier conversation (v.25). It’s possible that Thomas touched Jesus’ body for confirmation. Yet, the text never says that Thomas physically touched Jesus. Instead, Jesus merely invited Thomas to touch his wounds, and Thomas had merely “seen” Jesus and trusted him.

(20:28) Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

This is called the “Christological Climax” or the “high point of confession”[328] in the Gospel according to John. Jesus affirms Thomas’ affirmation and confession of his deity. The terms here are “Lord” (kyrios) and “God” (theos). Thomas doesn’t believe in an abstract sense, but rather personalizes this knowledge of Christ: My Lord and my God.”

(20:29) Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

(Jn. 20:29) Does this passage support blind faith?

(20:30-31) Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Like Thomas, we too can come to faith in Jesus. This episode of Thomas fulfills the evangelistic the purpose of the book (Jn. 1:12-13).

Discussion Questions

How do you think the disciples were feeling before they encountered the risen Jesus? How do you think they were feeling after they saw him resurrected?

What insights does the resurrection give us about the problem of evil and suffering?

What is the significance of verse 29? In context, is Jesus extolling blind faith? Is he negating the importance of evidence to support our beliefs?

John 21

John 21 (The restoration of Peter)

(Jn. 21) Is John 21 a later interpolation by the Johannine community?

There is a bit of unfinished business that John feels the need to address before ending his gospel: the restoration of Peter. Remember, Peter had denied Christ. Now, Jesus confronts Peter about this. If you were in Peter’s shoes, you’d probably expect Jesus to be enraged at your denial of him. Perhaps Peter thought, “Will Jesus strike me dead where I stand? Will he send me away? Rebuke me publicly?” What will Jesus do with Peter? Let’s find out…

(21:1) After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way.

The Sea of Tiberias is another name for the Sea of Galilee (Jn. 6:1).

(21:2) Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together.

Seven of the disciples were gathered together after the death of Christ: Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two other disciples. Jesus had already appeared to Thomas (Jn. 20).

(21:3) Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.

Peter went back to his fishing business. But just like earlier in life, he sat on the water all night, catching nothing (Lk. 5:5).

(21:4) But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.

The disciples couldn’t recognize Jesus, because he was so far away. Remember, this was before glasses or contact lenses (or binoculars!). They could a figure of a man from a distance, but he was roughly a football field away (v.8).

(21:5-6) So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.

What is the symbolism of the great catch of fish? This harkens back to Jesus making the disciples “fishers of men” (Mt. 4:19). This entire event is reminiscent of how Peter originally came to Christ (Lk. 5:1-11).

(21:7) Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea.

John realizes who was talking to them first. This is similar to the scene at the empty tomb, where John was the first to believe (Jn. 20:8). Peter was so impulsive that he put his clothes on to jump into the water. He also leaves his massive catch of fish behind, seeking Jesus instead (cf. Jn. 4:28).

(21:8) But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.

The other disciples just took the boat, rather than swimming frantically.

(21:9) So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread.

Some interpreters see a parallel between the “charcoal fire” (anthrakia) here and the charcoal fire where Peter betrayed Jesus (Jn. 18:18). Is Jesus taking Peter back to his worst failure, so that he can redeem that failure and commission him for the work of ministry? If this is a connection, it is “very subtle indeed.”[329]

(21:10-11) Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” 11 Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.

Richard Bauckham notes that this is such a specific number (“153”) that it speaks to an eye-witness account.[330]

These weren’t bluegill. They were large fish.” This also sounds like the sort of thing that a seasoned fisherman would recount.

(21:12-13) Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to question Him, “Who are You?” knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise.

Now that they were up close, they knew it was Jesus. Jesus doesn’t get down to business immediately. He knew they were tired from fishing all night, and probably hungry. Always the servant leader, Jesus made them breakfast.

(21:14) This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.

The first appearance was to the disciples without Thomas (Jn. 20:19-23), and the second appearance was to the disciples with Thomas present (Jn. 20:26-29).

Jesus has words with Peter

(21:15-17) So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

“Do you love me more than these?” Borchert comments, “Peter obviously had had a high opinion of his loyalty and probably had regarded himself as the model of love and respect for Jesus. But he had hardly lived up to his own view of his loyalty or in comparison to others. So Jesus confronted Peter’s own high opinion of himself and in so doing made Peter face his own frailty head-on.”[331]

Why does Jesus ask the same question three times in a row? Jesus is reminding Peter of his three-fold rejection, and asking him for a three-fold affirmation of love (Jn. 13:38). In other words, Jesus asks three times, because Peter denied him three times. When we read Matthew and Mark, we find that this question makes sense in light of Peter vowing to never abandon Christ—even if the other disciples did so (Mt. 26:31-35; Mk. 14:26-30).

Is there significance in the change of the verb “love”? English translations don’t pick up on this nuance, but the Greek language shifts the word “love” from the deeply sacrificial form (agapao) to the brotherly form (phileō). The first two times that Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, he uses the Greek term agapao (i.e. sacrificial love), but the third and final time, he uses the term phileō (i.e. brotherly love). Some commentators see no significance to these synonyms.[332] However, we do see significance: For one, Jesus’ use of the term agapao is set against Peter’s response with phileō. This isn’t simply using words interchangeably, but rather, in contrast to one another. Second, Jesus switches terms from agapao to phileō in his third usage, and this deeply grieves Peter. It’s possible that Peter is simply grieved at the three-fold questions (like the three-fold denial),[333] but this could also show that Jesus is condescending to Peter’s level. In effect, Jesus is getting Peter to realize that Peter doesn’t love Jesus the way that Jesus loves him.

Jesus doesn’t threaten Peter with judgment or wrath. Instead, he picks up this broken man and puts him into service. Truly, Peter didn’t love Jesus the way that he should have, but Jesus still desires to work with him. Later, Peter learned this lesson, when he wrote to other Christian leaders, “Shepherd the flock of God among you” (1 Pet. 5:2).

(Jn. 21:15-17) Does this passage support the primacy of Peter as Roman Catholic theologians argue?

(Jn. 21:18) Does this passage preclude the imminency of the rapture?

(Jn. 21:18) “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.”

Jesus contrasts the liberty of Peter as a wild young man with the conviction of Peter as an old man, being willing to die for Christ (v.19). Morris writes, “The words are very general, but there is evidence that the stretching forth of the hands was held in the early church to refer to crucifixion.”[334]

(21:19-22) Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!” 20 Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”

Jesus is telling Peter to get his eyes off of others. To paraphrase, Jesus is saying, “Stop comparing your suffering with others. You follow Me!” Believers shouldn’t compare their circumstances with others. Such comparisons are toxic for the soul. Instead, they should keep their eyes fixed on Christ (Heb. 12:2).

(21:23) Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?”

John must’ve been writing this to correct a common misconception in the early church. Jesus uses the subjunctive mood (If I want…”), which means that this might happen—not that it definitely will happen.

(21:24) This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

(Jn. 21:24) Does this passage imply that the Johannine community wrote this book (or final chapter)?

(21:25) And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.

We are on a need to know basis. God made the account short, so we could meditate and focus on the most important aspects of Jesus’ life.

Discussion Questions

Peter failed big when he denied Christ. What are some key ways to learn from our failures? What are barriers that stop us from learning from our failures?

What is it about failure that uniquely shows us God’s love? Why couldn’t we learn about God’s love just as easily through success?

What advice would you give to someone who continually compared themselves to others? (e.g. life circumstances, gifting, provisions, suffering, etc.)

[1] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 91.

[2] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.82, 85.

[3] J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John, The New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), p.38.

[4] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), pp.29-30.

[5] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 93.

[6] Paul Barnett, Is the New Testament Reliable?: a Look at the Historical Evidence (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992), 63.

[7] Edwin M. Yamauchi, The Stones and the Scriptures (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1972), pp.102-103.

[8] Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel: Issues & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2002), p.109.

[9] James Hoffmeier, The Archaeology of the Bible (Oxford: Lion, 2008), p.148.

[10] James Hoffmeier, The Archaeology of the Bible (Oxford: Lion, 2008), p.154.

[11] I. Abrahams, Studies in Pharisaism and the Gospels, I (1917), p. 12. Cited in Bruce, F. F. The New Testament Documents. 6th ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981. 47.

[12] Dodd rejects the notion that John was aware of the Synoptics. C. H. Dodd, Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: University Press, 1963), 423-24.

[13] C. K. Barrett, The Gospel according to St. John (London: SPCK, 1956), 14.

[14] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.14.

[15] John adds 145 words to Jesus that are unknown in the Synoptics. Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.52.

[16] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.15.

[17] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.42.

[18] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.85.

[19] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.92.

[20] Scott Berkun, Confessions of a Public Speaker (Cambridge: O’Reilly Media, 2009), 57.

[21] Merrill C. Tenney, “John,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John and Acts, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), p.33.

[22] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.114.

[23] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), pp.114-115.

[24] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.65.

[25] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 104.

[26] J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John, The New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), p.47.

[27] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.69.

[28] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.65.

[29] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 110.

[30] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.80.

[31] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.81.

[32] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.81.

[33] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.66.

[34] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.85.

[35] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.68.

[36] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 118.

[37] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 118.

[38] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.90.

[39] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.127.

[40] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.70.

[41] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.96.

[42] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.75.

[43] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.75.

[44] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18:116-119. Josephus puts a political spin on John’s execution, while the Synoptics place a moral and religious angle on it. These can be harmonized because the religious and political spheres were inextricably linked in this culture.

[45] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.123.

[46] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.79.

[47] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.79.

[48] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.81.

[49] For instance, John notes the time of day (v.39), and he knows Peter’s original name (v.42).

[50] We use the generic word “author” because Bauckham doesn’t believe that John of Zebedee wrote this book. He contends that “John the elder” was the author. We hold that John of Zebedee authored this gospel for the reasons listed above under “Authorship.”

[51] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.145.

[52] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.145.

[53] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), pp.163-164.

[54] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.90.

[55] I am indebted to Dr. James Hoffmeier at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for this insight.

[56] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.114.

[57] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.156.

[58] Cited in Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995).

[59] Ole Hallesby, Prayer (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1994), p.46.

[60] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.160.

[61] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.94.

[62] Kruse sees this as a “secondary purpose” of the miracle—second to the inauguration of the kingdom. He writes, “The ceremonial washings of the old covenant were replaced by the new wine of the kingdom. The waterpots for ceremonial washing denote the provisions of the old covenant, while the provision of abundant wine denotes the blessings of the kingdom.” Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), pp.97-98.

[63] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.97.

[64] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.176.

[65] Walter Kaiser, Exodus. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 2: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1990), 453.

[66] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.127.

[67] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.102.

[68] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.176. See footnote.

[69] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.176.

[70] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 169.

[71] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.106.

[72] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 171.

[73] Jewish teaching held that denying their faith or apostatizing would result in the forfeiture of heaven (Mishnah, Sanhedrin 10:1-4). Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.107.

[74] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.110.

[75] For a good Christian survey of this kind, see the work of Randy Newman in his PhD dissertation which he turned into a book. Randy Newman, Unlikely Converts (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2019).

[76] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 195.

[77] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 178.

[78] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), pp.198-199.

[79] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.199.

[80] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), pp.203-204.

[81] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.205.

[82] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.207.

[83] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.213.

[84] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), pp.124-125.

[85] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.126.

[86] Paul Barnett, Is the New Testament Reliable?: a Look at the Historical Evidence (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992), 62.

[87] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.129.

[88] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.228.

[89] Emphasis mine. Craig Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Baker, 2003), pp.596-597.

[90] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 203.

[91] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.131.

[92] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 205.

[93] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 206.

[94] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.135.

[95] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), pp.135-136.

[96] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.136.

[97] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 209.

[98] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 211.

[99] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.249.

Merrill C. Tenney, “John,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John and Acts, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), p.58.

[100] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.142.

[101] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.238.

[102] Paul Barnett, Is the New Testament Reliable?: a Look at the Historical Evidence (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992), 62.

[103] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 220.

[104] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.257.

[105] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 220.

[106] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.265.

[107] Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel: Issues & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2002), p.109.

[108] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 231.

[109] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.267.

[110] J. Alexander Findlay. Cited in Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.269.

[111] Cited in Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.150.

[112] William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1963), I, p. 124-125.

[113] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 235.

[114] White writes, “The reason they were so upset is that they had a belief that Yahweh ‘broke’ the Sabbath. That is, Yahweh kept the world spinning in its orbit, kept the sun shining or the rain falling, even on the Sabbath day. Thus, in one sense, God was above the Sabbath law because He continued to ‘work’ in maintaining the universe. You can see, then, why Jesus’ words offended them. He claimed the same right for himself! They are enraged that by calling God ‘Father’ in a way that was unique and special to himself, He was making himself equal with God. They knew that to be the Son of God was to be deity. The son is always like the father, and if Jesus is the Son of the Father in a special and unique way, He must be deity.” James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity (Minneapolis, MN. Baker Publishing Group. 1998), pp.87-88.

[115] See footnote. Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), pp.273-274.

[116] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 238-239.

[117] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.280.

[118] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.285.

[119] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.156.

[120] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.258.

[121] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.258.

[122] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), pp.289-290.

[123] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.303.

[124] Lydia McGrew, Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts (Chillicothe, OH: DeWard Publishing Co., 2017), Kindle Location 1552.

[125] Carson states that “this suggests another miracle, possibly with an allusion to Psalm 107:23-32 (especially v. 30, ‘and he guided them to their desired haven’). This interpretation goes back at least as far as Origen. D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.256.

Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.166.

[126] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.166.

[127] J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John, The New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), p.358.

[128] Morris isn’t sure which view is correct. Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.310.

[129] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 271.

[130] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 274.

[131] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.178.

[132] “Not ‘a devil,’ as in virtually all English translations, but ‘the devil,’ because of the same grammatical rule that dictated ‘the Word was God’ (rather than ‘a god,’ 1:1), and ‘the King [rather than ‘a king’] of Israel’ (1:49), the rule that ‘definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article.’ Moreover, ‘a devil’ would imply a plurality of devils, something of which the New Testament knows nothing… Judas is ‘the devil’ because he does the devil’s work. For Jesus to call him ‘the devil’ here is not so different from calling Simon Peter ‘Satan’ in Matthew (16:23) and in Mark (8:33). There too the etymology of ‘Satan’ as ‘the Adversary’ is clearly at work. On the traditional Jewish principle that ‘an agent is like the one who sent him,’ or ‘the agent of the ruler is like the ruler himself,’ someone who does the devil’s work is in that sense himself ‘the devil’ or ‘Satan.’” J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John, The New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), p.417.

[133] Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband (1893).

[134] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.348.

[135] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 280.

[136] See footnote. Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 283.

[137] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.359.

[138] Emphasis mine. Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.360.

[139] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.361.

[140] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.362.

[141] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 285.

[142] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), pp.190-191.

[143] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.191.

[144] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.374

[145] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.374.

[146] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 291.

[147] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.378.

[148] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.332.

[149] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.781.

[150] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.335.

[151] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.782.

[152] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 373.

[153] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.783.

[154] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 375.

[155] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), pp.785-786.

[156] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 299.

[157] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 299-300.

[158] William Temple, Readings in St. John’s Gospel (London, 1947). Cited in Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995).

[159] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.211.

[160] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 305-306.

[161] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.420.

[162] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.420.

[163] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.421.

[164] Thomas Nagel, The Last Word (New York: Oxford UP, 1997), p.130.

[165] Aldous Huxley, End and Means (p.272) 1937. Cited in D. A. Carson, Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), p.141.

[166] John W. Loftus, Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains (Oxford, UK: Trafford, 2007), pp.21-22.

[167] For instance, the rabbis state, “You were born entirely in sins” (v.34). Moreover, rabbis held that Esau must have sinned in the womb (Gen. Rab. 63.6).

[168] See footnotes in Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.425.

[169] Craig Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Baker, 2003), p.777.

[170] Cited in Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.425.

[171] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.425.

[172] Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary on the New Testament (Intervarsity: Downer’s Grove, 1993), p. 288.

[173] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah: Volume 2 (Bellingham, WA. 1896), 783.

[174] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), pp.437-438.

[175] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.438.

[176] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 327.

[177] Merrill C. Tenney, “John,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John and Acts, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), p.107.

[178] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.447.

[179] Merrill C. Tenney, “John,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John and Acts, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), p.108.

[180] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.232.

[181] See footnote. Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.452.

[182] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 333.

[183] D.A. Carson defines the negative inference fallacy in this way: “It does not necessarily follow that if a proposition is true, a negative inference from that proposition is also true.” D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996), p.101. Consider some examples of this fallacy:

(1) “All the basketball players were exercising at the gym. Therefore, no one else was exercising there.”

(2) “Jeff hates broccoli. Therefore, he likes every other kind of vegetable.”

(3) “Jesus gave an exception for divorce. Therefore, there are no other exceptions for divorce.”

These are all examples of the “negative inference fallacy,” and it does not logically follow. A way to avoid the fallacy is to change or add the word “only” to the major premise of the argument or proposition (i.e. “Only the basketball players…”).

[184] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.456.

[185] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.388.

[186] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 335.

[187] Merrill C. Tenney, “John,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John and Acts, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), p.109.

[188] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.234.

[189] George R. Beasley-Murray, John, vol. 36, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1999), 171.

[190] Whitacre, R. A. (1999). John (Vol. 4, p. 263). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[191] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 336.

[192] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.391.

[193] Morris writes, “The predestinarian strain in this Gospel comes out in the reason given for their failure: ‘you are not my sheep.’ Christ’s ‘sheep’ know him (v. 14), but the knowledge of Christ is not the natural possession of anybody. Faith is always a gift of God.” Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.463.

[194] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987) p. 1010.

[195] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.393.

[196] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.411.

[197] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.485.

[198] “‘Dead’ Man Woke Up During Own Funeral In Zimbabwe, Witness Says” (June 15, 2013).

[199] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.415.

[200] Billy Graham, Death and the Life After (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 2001), 116.

[201] Billy Graham, Death and the Life After (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 2001), 115.

[202] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 359.

[203] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.415.

[204] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.493.

[205] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 362.

[206] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.498.

[207] This is a playful point made by D.A. Carson in his teaching on John 11.

[208] Greg Laurie, As It Is In Heaven: How Eternity Brings Focus to What Really Matters (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2014), 52.

[209] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.255.

[210] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.505.

[211] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.511.

[212] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 38.

[213] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.514.

[214] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.519.

[215] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.519.

[216] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 42.

[217] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.521.

[218] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 44.

[219] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 46.

[220] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 51.

[221] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 54.

[222] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 54.

[223] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.530.

[224] David Shields, The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008), p.196.

[225] Sreechinth C, Scripted Words of Alfred Hitchcock (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018), p.27.

[226] Michael B. Becraft, Steve Jobs: A Biography (ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2017), p. 185.

[227] Ian Littlewood, Critical Assessments—Volumes 1-4 (Helm Information, 1998), p.341.

[228] Joe Guse, The Tragic Clowns-An Analysis of the Short Lives of John Belushi, Lenny Bruce, and Chris Farley (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2009), p.106.

[229] Sreechinth C, Powerful Quotes of Winston Churchill (UB Tech, 2016), p.162.

[230] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.463.

[231] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.462.

[232] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 79-80.

[233] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 82.

[234] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 81.

[235] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 89.

[236] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.557.

[237] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 95.

[238] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.558.

[239] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.560.

[240] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), pp.563-564.

[241] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.564.

[242] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.291.

[243] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.570.

[244] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 116.

[245] John Charles Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, St. John, 3 vols. (London, 1957). Cited in Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.574.

[246] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 117.

[247] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.574.

[248] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 119.

[249] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 123.

[250] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.578.

Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 126.

[251] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.305.

[252] Andrew Murray, The True Vine: Meditations for a Month on John 15:1-16 (Chicago: Moody Press).

[253] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 139.

[254] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.595.

[255] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.600.

[256] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.598.

[257] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 150.

[258] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 154.

[259] Rico Tice, Honest Evangelism: How to Talk About Jesus Even When It’s Tough (Purcellville, VA: Good Book, 2015), 18.

[260] Merrill C. Tenney, “John,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John and Acts, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), p.154.

[261] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.320.

[262] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.605.

[263] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.324.

[264] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.617.

[265] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), pp.618-619.

[266] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.534.

[267] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.534.

[268] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.619.

[269] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.535.

[270] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), pp.619-620.

[271] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.537.

[272] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), pp.538-539.

[273] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 167.

[274] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.623.

[275] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.631.

[276] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.633.

[277] S. Aalen, “Glory, Honour,” ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 48.

[278] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.437.

[279] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.636.

[280] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 193.

[281] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.655.

[282] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.576.

[283] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.658.

[284] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 219-220.

[285] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 220.

[286] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.578.

[287] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.658.

[288] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.578.

[289] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 229.

[290] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 230.

[291] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 231.

[292] Cited in Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.675.

[293] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.579.

[294] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.591.

[295] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 241.

[296] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.595.

[297] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 243.

[298] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.683.

[299] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.683.

[300] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.355.

[301] Rodney A. Whitacre, John, vol. 4, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Westmont, IL: IVP Academic, 1999), 447.

[302] Craig Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2001), p.490.

[303] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.598.

[304] In Latin, this expression is Ecce homo! (“Behold, the man!”).

[305] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.705.

[306] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.601.

[307] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 254.

[308] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.706.

[309] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 259.

[310] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.610.

[311] Eusebius, Church History, 6.44. Suetonius, Col. 32.

[312] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.610.

[313] See footnote. Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.715.

[314] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 269.

[315] William Barclay, The Gospel of John, 2 vols. (Edinburgh, 1956). Cited in Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.717.

[316] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.719.

[317] In a period that dates to the second and third century AD, Grenfell and Hunt write, “The fourteen papyri here grouped together are receipts for various taxes paid by persons transporting goods on baggage animals from the Fayoum to Memphis [in Egypt] and vice versa across the desert road… The formula in these fourteen papyri is with some variations as follows. It begins with the abbreviation tetel (which in one case… written out in full, tetelestai).” Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt, New Classical Fragments and Other Greek and Latin Papyri (London: Oxford University Press, 1897), 78, 79.

[318] Edwards, William D. Wesley J. Gabel, and Floyd E. Hosmer, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” Journal of the American Medical Association. Vol. 255. No. 11. 21 March 1986. 1463.

[319] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.629.

[320] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 281.

[321] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.631.

[322] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 301.

[323] For instance, Boa and Bowman write, “The common assertion that Jesus ‘walked through walls’ is incorrect; the texts state that he suddenly appeared in or disappeared from the room, not that he walked through a wall.” Kenneth Boa and Robert Bowman, Sense and Nonsense About Heaven and Hell, 69.

[324] Carson writes, “As his resurrection body passed through the grave-clothes (v. 6-8), so it passed through the locked doors and simply ‘materialized.’” D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.646. See also Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 304.

[325] Morris writes, “But since Scripture says nothing of the mode of Jesus’ entry into the room, we do well not to attempt to describe it closely. We can scarcely say more than that the risen Jesus was not limited by closed doors.” Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.745.

[326] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.745.

[327] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p.377.

[328] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 314.

[329] See footnote. D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.671.

[330] Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (2nd edition, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2017), p.399.

[331] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 334.

[332] John uses many synonyms in his gospel with no explicit meaning (Jn. 3:5). For instance, John is called the “disciple whom Jesus loved (agapao),” but in John 20:2, John uses the word phileo, rather than agapao. The terms are also used interchangeably for the Father’s love (Jn. 3:35; 5:20) and Jesus’ love for Lazarus (Jn. 11:5, 36). Even in this section, Jesus switches between “lambs” (v.15) and “sheep” (vv.16-17). Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.770.

D.A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.676.

[333] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12-21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 335.

[334] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.773.