The Jewish lawyers knew the law in Deuteronomy (chapter 13) required them to execute anyone who incited rebellion against their one true God. So here was this son of Joseph, a Galilean, who repeatedly challenged their orthodox system with his heresies. If however these men had believed Jesus and repented, God’s great plan of salvation would not have happened as it did.
The scene in verse 66 has the religious leaders asking Jesus point blank if he is the Messiah. Jesus answered by alluding to several Old Testament references, which were undoubtedly familiar to the interrogators. The first one was Jeremiah’s audience with King Zedekiah, when the prophet pointed out that no matter how he answered the king he knew he’d be killed. Second, Jesus refers to one of Daniel’s visions when he saw “one like a son of man”, and third, one of the Psalms portrays the Lord sitting at God’s right hand. Since Jesus had not given a yes or no answer He was asked again if He claimed to be the Son of God. Wisely, Jesus turned it back on them by saying, “You say that I am.”
Infuriated, the leaders decided there’s no way Jesus was a prophet like Jeremiah whom Jesus had referenced. Thus they determined that to honor God they had to dishonor and get rid of Jesus. But there was a caveat – these religious men had no authority to kill heretics while they were under Roman rule. How difficult would it be to convince the governor of Judea that Jesus’ capital offenses required the death penalty? Remember Pax Romana? Their chief trouble maker certainly wasn’t promoting peace or being supportive of the government. When Pilate refused to make charges against Jesus, Herod got a shot at trying the miracle worker in his Galilean court. Jesus didn’t say a word in His defense and fulfilled Isaiah 53. A little later Pilate has Jesus brought before him again. Again Pilate vindicated the accused. This process was taking toooooo long and the Jews got into an impatient frenzy and screamed that Jesus must be crucified and so the innocent One was condemned to death. It appeared to be a travesty of justice.
We can trust the almighty God to only do what is good even when, from our limited perspective, it looks all wrong. God was in control of the events in Luke 22 and 23 and His will was fulfilled so that we could receive the gift of eternal life.
Luke 22 presents one of Scripture’s greatest dramas: a play in five parts in three different locations.
Scene One: the upper room: Yesterday we saw Jesus hosting his twelve disciples at the Last Supper, which concluded with eleven following him to the Mount of Olives. Today, look as the next four scenes play out. Question: why only eleven? Would I have left the Supper?
Scene Two: The Mount of Olives. Having experienced the direct temptations of Satan before he began his public ministry, Jesus is now facing the most difficult testing of his life. He knew of the horror that separation from the Father would be, and he pleads to avoid it. “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” The stress of this fervent prayer was so great that he sweated profusely, and was strengthened by an angel (v. 43). Question: Have I ever prayed so hard that I suffered physically and needed strengthening from above?
When he went to his disciples, he found them sleeping. Lest we fault them too severely, we are told that they were “exhausted from sorrow.” Had they sensed something of the turmoil their Lord was undergoing and passed out, drained emotionally? Question: Would I have slept through Jesus’ worst night?
Scene Three: Betrayal and Confrontation. The drama intensifies. Jesus is betrayed by the disciple who had stolen away from the Last Supper, and he is confronted by a crowd including priests, temple guards, and elders. His disciples are ready to defend their Lord, and one of them even strikes the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. Jesus healed the man and said, “No more of this.” Why did he say that? It wasn’t time for Jesus to establish his physical kingdom on earth. “If it were,” he said to Pilate in John 18:36, “my servants would fight to prevent my arrest …” Question: Would I fight to save Jesus’ life?
Throughout the Gospels we were told that Jesus’ hour had not come, but as he prepared to serve his disciples at the Last Supper, “Jesus [knew] that the time had come …” In the garden, he said to the arresting crowd “This is your hour—when darkness reigns” (v. 53). What follows is the darkest hour of human history, the hour of Satan’s dominance and mankind’s following the evil prince.
Scene four: Denial. Luke says Peter “followed at a distance” and “sat down together” with the crowd (vv. 54-55). Then there are Peter’s three denials. We see now a most dramatic picture: “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter” (v. 61). What do you suppose was in that look? Was it accusatory: “Peter, I told you so; you failed me; you denied me”? Or was it the agonized gaze of a loving Savior, saying, “Peter, I love you so much that I allowed you to come to the end of your miserable self, and I am here to pay the price for your sin; I forgive you and want you to return to me”? Peter’s immediate response was bitter weeping, and as we see later, a return to Jesus as a completely changed man, empowered by the Holy Spirit—courageous instead of weak, fearless instead of fearful. Question: Would I have denied knowing Jesus?
Scene five: Mockery. Before the travesty of illegal trials and condemnation, there is another scene all too human in its character. The guards could not help but mock this self-proclaimed king. Their insults and behavior demonstrate the depraved nature of men who stand in the very presence of God and do not recognize him. Question: Does the way I live in some way mock Jesus before others?
Words are inadequate to describe what it cost God and Jesus to provide salvation by his mercy and grace in spite of our rejection, disobedience, and failure to acknowledge him as Lord and God. The drama is not over. Today’s reading is not the end of the story, thank God! Read further this week.
You have probably heard this discussion-starting question before: if you knew you had just one week left to live, what would you do? I honestly probably wouldn’t do anything super elaborate, but there’d surely be a Star Wars movie marathon in there and as much time spent with family and loved ones as possible.
We, of course, don’t get that kind of knowledge of knowing when we will die, but Jesus did. He entered Jerusalem knowing that his time was near and that he would be crucified. So how did he spend his final week? We read about that in the gospel accounts, including today’s passage from Luke 22. And what we see is that Jesus spent time during his final days with his disciples.
These were the people with whom Jesus had lived with, ate with, talked with, and taught during the past few years, and in his final days before his death Jesus wanted to spend time with them and also wanted to teach them.
Luke gives us some much-needed background information as we begin to read about this last true encounter with the disciples before Jesus was arrested: the religious leaders wanted to put Jesus to death (vv.1-2), Judas – one of Jesus’s twelve apostles – agreed to betray him (vv.3-6), and Jesus sent Peter and John to make preparations for the feast of the Passover (vv.7-13).
It is at this meal that Jesus instituted the elements of the bread and the cup that are no doubt familiar to all Christians (vv.14-23). Upon eating a meal with his disciples (spending time with them in conversation, fellowship, and presence), Jesus proceeded to explain what was going to happen: his body was going to be given for them, and his blood was going to be poured out for them. The breaking of his body and the shedding of his blood was for his people. He was about to give up his very life for them, so that they might have forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, and life forevermore. And this shedding of blood inaugurated a new covenant for God’s people that had been promised many years earlier (Jeremiah 31; Ezekiel 36).
This was to happen in accordance with what the Scriptures had foretold (vv.35-38) in a beautiful portrait of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53, which says in verse 12: “… he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” Jesus came to be the fulfillment of that as he was indeed numbered among the transgressors (even though he himself committed no wrong) for the sake of his people, that he might bear their sins. We remember his atoning work by taking communion, which Jesus instituted and commanded at the Last Supper.
His disciples, though, didn’t fully understand these things in the moment. At some point during the evening after Jesus had instituted the elements, the disciples resorted to a familiar debate: who was to be the greatest among them? (vv.24-30) They were angling for positional power in the coming kingdom and missed the point. So Jesus told them that those who want to be great and lead must serve. He would soon display the most glorious and stunning display of service and humility by going to the cross. And even Peter, who was zealous in saying he would die with Jesus, was told that he would deny his master and friend three times (vv.31-34).
It may be easy for us to look at the disciples in this situation (and others) and say, “how could you miss this?” But that is not the response that the Bible is intending to prompt. Rather, it is intending for readers to orient their hearts and minds on the person and work of Jesus and say, “do not miss this!” Jesus is the long-awaited and promised Messiah who came to redeem his people from their sins, to be numbered among the transgressors on their behalf, and to be delivered up to crucifixion (giving up his body and blood) so that we might live.
So we in turn remember the work of Christ continually but especially by partaking in the bread and the cup, and we exemplify these truths having taken root in our lives by loving Jesus and serving others.
As we come to the end of 1 John, it’s appropriate to step back and take in the big picture. What was the overall message of the book? What prompted John to write this letter-essay in the first place?
For married couples, sooner or later—unfortunately—the newness of marriage can wear off. Maybe the spark that started the relationship, or the fire that was burning in the early months and years of marriage, begins to fizzle. Questions may arise: Did I marry the right person? What if I had married someone else? This is not good.
From what we can surmise about the state of Christianity 50-60 years after Jesus had been on earth, many in the churches began to wrestle with questions about their “marriage” to Christ. It was definitely not good.
For some, the freshness of faith had begun to get stale. The flame of devotion seemed to be getting dimmer and dimmer. Doubts and uncertainties were on the rise. False teachings were brewing in back corners. Some who claimed to be Christians were capitulating to pressures from the Roman Empire. Jews who had been part of the church were dropping like flies, because they couldn’t accept a gospel that didn’t require certain Jewish practices.
All this left the door open for God’s truth to come under attack.
Well, John to the rescue! The life preserver that he threw out was careful teaching and reminders of the most important truths of the Christian faith.
Though John’s letter was short and to the point, he spoke boldly to stir up conversations and bring about conviction, hoping believers would regain their commitment to truth, their devotion to the Lord, and their love for one another.
APPLICATION: Are there church-goers today that need to hear what John wrote in his letter 2,000 years ago? What did John say that you and I most need to hear?
We all know what the “typical” idol of old looked like, there are lots of them in museums. They are gold-covered statues, squat and ugly, often sexual in nature, maybe in front of an altar. But what about modern idols? Anything that takes the place of God, or is elevated above God in priority and dedication, is an idol. Ironically some of our modern idols are also gold-covered (seeking wealth and material things), and are often sexual in nature. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” The biggest difference now is how we spend our time, things we put ahead of God. You all can list dozens of things that come before God in our time priority: Facebook, sports, TV, even spouse and family. All of those things are fine IN THEIR PROPER place and order, but place them out of order and they become idols.
Nothing new here, but what might be new is to ask God for help in actually changing it. (I am preaching first of all to myself.) Interesting that this is addressed to “little children.” The way you train a little child is by repetition, and then over time, the new habits replace the old bad habits. Might work for adults too?
Even though this is the last verse from 1st John, do not assume that it is continued in 2nd John, they may be out of sequence. But this does end the five chapters of John’s Epistle with simple advice and one command. It all boils down to this: put God first.
For the adventurous the thrills of taking risks override the blandness of feeling safe, but for the majority of us we identify with wanting security so much it can take the form of idolatry. (By this I don’t mean spiritual security, but financial or relational kinds of security.)
What did John mean by believers being kept safe? He certainly wasn’t referring to having problem-free paradise during our time on earth. Hebrews 12 tells us the Lord disciplines those He loves and James 1 says we will face trials of many kinds. In the Narnia Chronicles when Susan and Lucy ask Mr. Beaver if the lion Aslan is safe, he answered, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king I tell you.”
A nineteenth-century hymn has the lines, “Leaning on the everlasting arms . . . safe and secure from all alarms.” The leaning has to precede the security. Many people keep trying to lean on things that topple.
“A New Creation” is a chapter in Tom Julians’s book, The Three Princes (2011). The opening paragraph tells of the only place where true believers are safe, no matter how difficult life’s circumstances are, or how evil the world is and answers my earlier question of what John meant by being safe:
The resurrection marks the start of a new race of people whose citizenship is in heaven. Their authority supersedes that of Satan and all his angels, whose former authority is now totally illegitimate. The believer’s position is in Christ (Ephesians 2:6), raised with Christ, and seated in heavenly places far above all other powers. This is a legal transaction, giving the believer divine authority. In addition, Christ is in the believer, filling him or her with power, and transforming the believer into His image.
John 17:15 records part of what Jesus prayed for His followers. “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.”
We don’t need to try to play it safe, for we have been declared safe when that legal spiritual transaction took place. Hallelujah!
Our reading today brings up a dreadful subject: a fellow believer who sins. To properly understand John, we must consider the context, so note the preceding verses:
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
Our assurance of salvation gives us confidence that God will hear our prayers and give us what we ask. What follows in today’s passage begins in some other translations: “For instance …” (The Message) or “In this regard …” (The Voice). In other words verses 16-17 are an application of our confident praying. John gives us an example of what it means to pray about sin in the life of a fellow believer.
What a shocking contrast: there is a sin that leads to death and one that doesn’t. The Apostle Paul wrote a warning to the Corinthian church about believers who sin and do not repent. He said that some who dishonored the Lord’s Supper were “weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep (died)” (1 Cor. 11:30). That’s pretty serious stuff! We can conclude that unconfessed sin in the life of a believer might even result in premature death.
In 1 John 1, the Apostle had written about the awful possibility that a believer would sin (2:1). He had assured us that we could confess our sin and receive God’s forgiveness (1:9). In helping another who sins, however, we must exercise great care. In a spirit of meekness, we should pray, interceding for the brother or sister, not gossiping, criticizing, or judging. In Galatians, Paul suggests going to that brother in an attempt to “restore him” (6:1). When there is confession and restoration, John writes, “God will give him life.”
John’s talking here about a believer who is unwilling to repent of his sin. Dare we ask, “Is that you?” Such sin brings shame on the name of God and his church. There’s no reason to even pray for the unrepentant . . . except that he repent.
So, remember these two important truths:
We have noted before that John’s reasoning for writing 1 John is made clear in 5:13: so that we may know that we belong to Christ and have eternal life. It’s about confidence and assurance.
Confidence. That’s what we’re going to be looking at in today’s reading. We have seen over and over again what John’s main theme is: abide in Christ! But why is that such a major emphasis for John? Because abiding in Christ means that we have truly embraced his saving work, and when we have truly embraced his saving work then we will live it out in obedience to his commands, and when those things are present then we will have assurance that we belong to Christ! So his main message (abide!) and his reasoning for writing this letter (that you may know!) go together.
As he nears the conclusion of the letter, he makes that clear: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (v.13). Isn’t this remarkable? There are a number of religions that say it is impossible to have confidence before god, yet the Christian faith says that not only is it possible, it is actually God’s desire for His people!
In fact, this confidence is so resolute that the Christian can actually come into the presence of God through prayer and bring requests to Him (v.14)! We often fly by prayer, but think about that for a moment: we come into the presence of the almighty, holy, sovereign Creator and ruler of all things and can dare to offer requests. Who does that? Only those who know their status as sons and daughters of the King. So because we have the confidence of eternal life (v.13), we can have confidence in prayer (v.14).
John writes that, “if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (vv.14-15). So the fact that we have confidence in our eternal life and that we have confidence in our position before God means that we can have confidence in the requests that we bring before Him – provided that they are in accordance with His will (which Christians should desire anyway).
So as we get close to the end of this letter, take some time to think on your life. Salvation in Christ comes through no work of our own but only through faith in him; that’s why John says that the one who believes in Christ is the one who has eternal life (v.13). But as we’ve been reading this letter we have realized that there are plenty of outward evidences of this internal reality that should give us confidence that we truly believe in Christ and give us blessed assurance that we are his!
The Olympic and Paralympic Games are probably the world’s biggest celebrations of skill and dedication. For both types of Olympians, athletes must have two things: a DNA of exceptional physical ability and a determination to push the limits of the human body.
Question: Which kind of Olympics is most like the Christian life? In which does a person overcome the most impossible odds and achieve the greatest victory?
Lauren Woolstencroft was born missing her left arm below the elbow as well as both legs below the knees. That would seem to have left her hopelessly incapable of doing anything athletic. But with a ski-enthusiast father and a lot of trial and error, they figured out a way for her to go skiing along with her dad. Soon she was hitting the slopes as a weekend pastime, and her natural ability to ski became more and more apparent. Going as fast as possible on the slopes grew into an impassioned vocation for the budding athlete. Incredibly, Lauren began racing with the Alberta Para-Alpine Ski Team when she was just 14 years old. She said:
“When I first started competing, I definitely thought being on the top step of that podium seemed impossible. But through years of training and hard work, I was able to translate that into ten medals at the Paralympic Games.”
Wow! Now that’s doing the impossible. The analogy is, Christians can face huge hurdles too and we can also do the improbable, if not the impossible. The devil is intent on doing everything possible to destroy us, which can take the form of illnesses, temptations, false teachings, even persecution; there seems to be no limit to how Satan works against what God wants to accomplish.
But here’s good news: John recorded Jesus saying, “Take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). John follows that up, using the word “overcome” more frequently than any other author in the Bible, actually twenty-one times (in contrast to the Apostle Paul, for example, who only uses it twice). Here’s a few of the ways John describes an overcomer’s victory in the “Christian Olympics”:
Maybe we can imagine a little of what an Olympic athlete needs to do to become an overcomer. But what about a Christian? How do we become overcomers? John addressed that as well.
APPLICATION: Is living the Christian life difficult at times? Does it seem that the devil has us down on the mat and won’t let us up? What steps we can take to gain the victory and be overcomers?
My grandmother used to have a set of wooden nesting dolls (Matryoshka). I could tell the proper order because you couldn’t fit a larger one inside of a smaller one. That is, until I read the last book of the Chronicles of Narnia. Lucy says, “‘I see now. This garden is like the Stable. It is far bigger inside than it was outside.’ ‘Of course, Daughter of Eve … the further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside.’” (Similar to Dr. Who’s TARDIS, if you will.)
In John’s writing, he refers to things inside of other things. The beauty is that the things inside are so much bigger than their containers. There are four items: us, the Son, the witness/testimony, and eternal life. Then eternal life is further defined.
“The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” [1st John 5]
“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” [John 17]
Note like the wooden nesting dolls, we are the smallest of the dolls but contain the biggest of the items. In us is the Son, in us is the testimony/witness; the Son contains eternal life, the testimony contains eternal life. And finally, eternal life (in us) is here and now: knowing God and His Son.