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Friday, November 25, 2016

Evil Intent, John 11:45-54

Evil Intent
John 11:45-54

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why would anyone do something like that?”  For example, I will never understand people’s fascination with fear and adrenaline.  I mean… I used to wonder at some people’s desire to ride rollercoaster’s… or jump out of perfectly fine airplanes.  But now there are those who jump off bridges with a rubber band attached to them!

And I can remember as a youth… long before “bungee jumping” was even thought of in the Western World… seeing pictures in my dads National Geographic of African tribesmen doing this very thing with vines attached to their feet as they jumped off tall trees or cliffs.  Now years later…it’s made its way to America.  I just can’t see the logic here!  To me… it’s absolutely insane!

I will never understand the reasoning behind sitting on the back of an animal whose only purpose at that point is to throw you off and kill you for sitting on his back.  It’s almost like… He took it personal!  But we see this every time we attend America’s own Gladiatorial Games which we call Rodeo’s.  I mean… bronc riding is one thing… but bulls?  Now that’s just crazy!

Oh, and that jumping out of airplanes thing that I mentioned… Did you know that there are people who do that… intentionally… without parachutes!  There are also people who intentionally swim with sharks… and walk among wild African lions… handle deadly snakes… and walk alone and unprotected through the streets of Chicago… AT NIGHT!

There are a multitude of things that humans do that are illogical… mind boggling… and just flat out insane.  I can’t understand why they do these things, or what pushes them to defy death in such a manner.  I mean… about the craziest and most dangerous thing you’ll see me do is drive my car without buckling up my seatbelt.

But as incomprehensible as these things are to me… something most of them… or all of them have in common is that they’re things that we do to ourselves.  If something goes wrong… we are the ones that suffer the pain, broken bones or even death.

So if there are these things that we do to ourselves that are incomprehensible… how much more incomprehensible are those things that we do to our fellow man?

Why do people do things to hurt other people?  Now, its one thing to do something that has the unintended result of hurting someone else.  Accidents do happen.  But why do people do things with the express intent of causing harm to someone else?

Of all those things that we do that boggle the mind… this is by far and away the most baffling and bewildering…  Man’s inhumanity to Man defies logic.

There are those who do things to other people that have the sole intent of causing harm to another person… or group.  They’ll do it with intent and malice… simply because they can.

Psa 64:2-5 KJV  Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity:  (3)  Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words:  (4)  That they may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not.  (5)  They encourage themselves in an evil matter: they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them?

This is what I truly don’t understand.  People who plan to do evil… and intentionally do evil… simply because they’re evil.  They enjoy hurting people… destroying their lives… and ruining their livelihoods. 

Sometimes they do it because they’ll gain something from it.  And that’s usually money.  Other times they will lie, cheat, or steal simply to see how much destruction they can cause.

Lying tongues have irreparably damaged lives… caused marriages to be broken… caused good and honest men and women to stay away from political office… and brought about the downfall of many godly ministers and ministries.

And it seems that no one is immune… Matter-of-fact… those who are doing what’s right and good are the most susceptible.  Myself included.  After years of faithful service as a volunteer in the prison system… men whom I thought were Christian… or maybe moving in that direction… created lies about me in order to embarrass, humiliate, and ruin the ministry that God has given me.

And I don’t understand why.  I’ve done them no wrong, but have only showed Christ’s love toward them.  Someone might say, “Well, they’re prisoners.  They’re not in there because they sang too loud in church.”

But the truth is… these things happen outside the prison with much more frequency than inside.  Practically every day, a pastor or other church member is brought to ruin because of gossip.  And it’s one thing to have these arrows shot at you from the ungodly… but when the archer is a Christian, or at least someone who “claims” Christ… then it’s especially hurtful. 

And it’s at times like this that the one that’s under assault can truly identify with David’s sorrow after his trusted advisor, Ahithophel, abandoned him for his son, Absalom.

Psa 41:9 KJV  Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.

But you know what?  Jesus told us that… Joh 15:18 KJV  If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

And as Paul told Timothy… 2Ti 3:12 KJV  Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

And throughout the NT… we see the very same thing happening to Jesus, over and over again…. Evil people… plotting evil things… to cause harm to someone who only loved them, spoke truth and tried to point the way to salvation.

The Jewish religious leaders hated Jesus.  And when they discovered that He was near… and had just done the greatest miracle of all time… raising a man from the dead after he had been dead for 4 days…

They do as evil does…  They gathered together behind closed doors in order to plan out their evil intentions…

I. The Concerned Council

Joh 11:45-48 KJV  Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.  (46)  But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.  (47)  Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.  (48)  If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.

Considering the enormity of the miracle they had just witnessed… it’s remarkable that anyone would come away from this a non-believer.  We’re told that many did believe… but that statement is qualified in a word… “But”.

“But”—what an ominous word.  It connects one statement with another.  It acknowledges the truthfulness of the first statement… and then gives notice that an exception follows.

Many “believed on Him”… Joh 11:46 KJV  But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.

Almost everywhere Jesus went, He was followed by three types of people… those who believed… those who were only hanging around for the next “show”… and those who were plain, out and out spies.

I’m sure that there may have been some among these who went to the Pharisees in Jerusalem in order to tell them about this miracle of miracles, in an effort to sway their thinking… “He’s raised the dead!  How can He NOT be the Messiah?”

But others among their number were simply spies and rushed back to tattle on Christ once again.  And the news that they brought was so remarkable that it caused a temporary truce between two groups who hated each other… the Sadducees and Pharisees.

You see… before now… it was primarily the Pharisees who had been plotting how to murder Christ.  But they didn’t have the judicial authority to do anything about it.  That belonged to the Sanhedrin, which was dominated by the Sadducees… the chief priests.

And neither of these groups got along.  But the old adage that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, held true… and it brought two opposing groups together to plan a course of action.

In their minds… Jesus posed an imminent threat to their authority… and their way of life.  They couldn’t deny the obvious miracles He had done, because too many people had witnessed them.  And they were sure that if He were allowed to continue doing these things… they’d lose everything!  

Joh 11:48 KJV  If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.

They’re concern isn’t that Jesus had performed miracles that gave evidence to His Messianic claims… but that they might lose their temple and their nation.

They claimed to be waiting for the promised Messiah… but when He arrived, and provided proof of who He was… and they acknowledged that these proofs were genuine… instead of bending their knees and calling Him LORD… they only think of themselves, and their station in life.

No amount of evidence will bring anyone to repentance.  We can argue till we’re “blue in the face”… but those who haven’t been moved upon by the Holy Spirit of God are still “dead in their trespasses and sins” and they will not believe.  Unbelief is a far more deeply seated disease than many people think it is!

And it’s at this point that the High Priest gathers all the factions together… and unifies them with…

II. The Corrupt Counsel

Joh 11:49-52 KJV  And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,  (50)  Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.  (51)  And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;  (52)  And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.

The council thought that Jesus represented a threat to them… but what to do about Him… they had no idea.  Up to this point, they simply asked each other questions… and then the High Priest sweeps in, and brusquely and contemptuously… swept aside all their discussions.

Joh 11:49b-50 KJV Ye know nothing at all,  (50)  Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.

“All of you are ignorant and uneducated fools.  Stop disputing and arguing, one way or the other about this guy.  What needs to be done is obvious.  He has to be killed and it doesn’t matter who or what He is. This man must die… in order that we might live!” 

Caiaphas spoke like an unscrupulous politician who is willing to sacrifice truth and righteousness in order to maintain the status quo or advance the Party’s interests.  Sounds real familiar to us today, doesn’t it?  Especially coming so soon after a Presidential election…

They were so concerned that with such a large influx of people coming to Jerusalem in just a short while, for the Passover… who might get so caught up in these miracles of Jesus… and in Messianic zeal… that Rome would consider it a rebellion and destroy everything… and carry everyone off into captivity.

So their solution is to blame everything on Christ… and throw Him to the wolves… so that their temple and nation would be spared.  And what’s so ironic here is that the very thing they feared would happen if they didn’t kill Jesus… actually did happen some 37 years later with the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 AD by Titus.

But what the Jewish leaders intended for evil… God intended for good.  God took the immoral intentions of the godless and turned it around into not only a prophecy of what was to come… the sacrificial death of the Lamb of God… but also causing the leader of the godless into making an open declaration of the gospel message!

Caiaphas is on the record for eternity… declaring the vicarious death and sacrificial atonement of Christ! 

 And the Holy Spirit emphasizes this very thing by adding the notation… Joh 11:51 KJV  And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;  (52)  And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.

Jesus had said that if man didn’t praise God… He’d make the very rocks to cry out… This time however, God caused the rock hard heart of the unbelieving High Priest to sing out His glories!

Just like Balaam of old… Caiaphas uttered a prophecy of honor over the very One he despised.

From the human side… the death of Christ was a brutal murder for political gain… but from the Divine side… the death of Christ was a vicarious sacrifice for sinners.  It was God making the wrath of men to praise Him.

The greatest crime ever done in the world… turned out to be the greatest blessing ever given to the world. – (Dr MacLaren)

III. The Criminal Conspiracy

Joh 11:53-54 KJV  Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.  (54)  Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.

 From this point on… the only concern left for the religious leaders was how to capture Jesus without causing an uproar among the people.  There would be no trial… He had just had that.

His trial and sentencing had been carried out “in absentia”.  All that remained were the logistics of carrying it out.

Not only did “his own” not “receive” Him when He came unto them, and not only was He “despised and rejected of men”… but they thirsted for His blood too, and wouldn’t be satisfied until they drank deeply of it.

And Jesus knew of this decision by the council.  This knowledge could be another display of His omniscience… or it could be because some who were a part of this council (such as Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea), came and told Him of its decision.

But however this knowledge came to Him… just as He had done in the past when men attempted to thwart the counsel and purpose of God… He left and…  Joh 11:54 KJV  …walked no more openly among the Jews

He removed Himself from the area and went to a place we know very little of, named Ephraim.  He didn’t leave out of fear… or to hide from His Father’s call… but as He did before… to remove Himself from danger until the appointed time.

The Father’s purpose would go forth to the very end… and no one would stop it.

And just as Caiaphas had said in that council meeting… Jesus would die in the place of many.  And though he didn’t comprehend the full measure of what he had said… we do.

We know that it was for this very purpose that Jesus came into the world.  To die on the cross for our sins so that anyone who believes in Him will never die!

Our debt has been paid… our salvation was won… and our eternity is secure.  And all of this is appropriated by grace… through faith.

We did nothing to earn it… not a single one deserves it… and we can do nothing to keep it.


Friday, November 11, 2016

The Election’s Over… Now What?

The Election’s Over… Now What?

You know… I really struggled with today’s sermon.  I had fully intended on continuing with preaching through the gospel of John, without interruption…  But recently, we all, have gone through something that I think needs to be addressed. 

If I didn’t address this issue, and try to bring some comfort and encouragement to those who are saddened or hurt by recent events… or maybe to splash some cold water of spiritual reality on those who are joyful and elated by the same events… I’d be remiss in my duties as your pastor.

You see… in some ways… this recent election has been just like all the others.  There are mainly two sides… and each side tries their best to belittle and demonize the other.  And eventually… one side will win… and the other side will lose.

There’s usually hurt feelings and sadness experienced by those who lost… and joy and elation by those who won.  It’s inevitable.  It’s our system.  It occurs every 4 years… over and over again… on November 8th

(Yes… I realize there is an election every year at that time… But those elections don’t elicit the extreme emotions that are connected with a presidential election.)

Every 4 years, emotional levels get elevated to the extreme and people become rude, crude and sometimes even violent toward those on the other side.  Friendships are strained… or ended.  Families become divided… Reason and common sense seems to fly right out the window.

In other words… every 4 years… we all pretty much become selfish idiots.  And it seems that the harder we try to remain neutral in our speech and actions… those of us who have strong convictions will usually say or do things that are hurtful.  We may not intend to hurt… but we do just the same.

Then once the election is officially over… and the campaigning is ended… the votes are in… those emotions of anger and strife change into joy for some… and sadness, or even more anger for others.

But this election seems to be different.  All the negative and positive emotions that are normally expressed in presidential elections… appears to me to have been elevated by a factor of 10 in this particular election. 

And I could do as many others do, and try to expound on why I think this is so.  I could tell you why I think that this particular election was especially contentious… but that wouldn’t bring the healing that’s needed. 

Matter-of-fact… it would probably be more like pouring salt on an open wound… when what I want to do… what I need to do… is to apply the healing salve of the Word of God on those who are hurting…

And the cold splash of theEph 5:26 NKJV …washing of water by the word  on those who are gloating.

Because folks… we are in this together.  For better or for worse… this is the United States.  Even though lately… because of heightened emotions… we’ve become very divided.

And beyond that… those of us that are in this building right now… are brother’s and sister’s in Christ.  And we have obligations to each other that go way beyond any obligations we may have toward those outside the faith… including our own families.

Jesus told us that…  Mat 12:25 KJV  … Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:

We have been a “house divided” for too long.  We need to heal as a nation.  And as a church we must do what we can to… Eze 34:16b NKJV … seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick

Each of us, individually, doesn’t have the ability to do this on a national level.  But we can bring back… bind up… and strengthen each other individually, on a personal level… and as a church body.

And I think that there are some steps we can take to facilitate this… some truths that we can acknowledge and take to heart… that will help us with this healing that we so desperately need.

And I think that the first step is to acknowledge that…

I. No Matter Who Wins… God is in Control

Dan 2:20-21 NKJV …Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. (21) And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding.

Dan 4:17 NKJV …that the living may know That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will, And sets over it the lowest of men.

Folks… God is in charge!  Whoever becomes the President of the United States… though they’re elected into that position by the people… ultimately… he (or she) is there at the Lord’s direction. 

We may like them, or we may hate them… (and if we’re Christians and hate them… then we’ve got another problem…) but we have to understand that they is there because our Lord saw fit to put them there.  And whoever gets put into that position is a mere man (or woman), and they all bring their own baggage along with them.

Because they are… just men… and many times… they are unregenerate men. 

Some are there for the good… and others are there for the bad.  Some are there to build up… others are there to tear down.  Some want to strengthen this country… others want to strengthen themselves and their influence.  The Lord can bring up leaders for our praise… or He can bring them up for our judgment.

Sometimes you get David or Hezekiah… but the nation that turns away from Him may very well get Jeroboam or Ahab.  But whoever is put in the leadership position over us… as Christians… we are to submit to them.

Rom 13:1-2 NKJV Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. (2) Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

The scriptures are clear in this and there’s no way around it… But as Christians… why would we even want to try to find a way around it? 

If we say that we love God and want to follow Him and abide by His word… then do we have the option of looking for loopholes when something occurs that we personally don’t like?  If we do that… aren’t we then acting as mere men?  No longer Christian but carnal and controlled by the flesh?

Some may say, “Well that’s easy for you to say… your guy won.”  And, I won’t deny that there’s some truth in that.  It’s always easier to be a little more aloof, and above the fray when you’re not the one who’s hurting.  I acknowledge that.

But this is God’s Word, not mine.  I would have had to preach this same message had the tables been turned…which they have been in the past.  You see… God was in control when Carter became President.  He was in control when Reagan became President.  He was in control when Clinton, the Bushes, and Obama became Presidents.

He is still in control with Trump.  He would have been in control if it had been Hillary.  God puts who He wants… where He wants… when He wants… because… Psa 75:7 NKJV …God is the Judge: He puts down one, And exalts another.

Trump may be in this position for our good… or for our judgment… that remains to be seen.  But he is there nonetheless… because God put him there.  And we need to pray for him and his family… just as we are to pray for all of our leaders.

Now the next thing I want to bring to remembrance is that…

II. America is Not the Kingdom

Mat 6:33 NKJV But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

We all know that there has been a concerted effort to minimize the influence of Christianity upon the American psyche.  There are those who would love nothing more than to remove all reference to religion… in regards to the founding of our country.

Atheists and some others love to point to founding fathers like Jefferson and Franklin in their effort to prove that America wasn’t founded as a Christian nation.  But the truth of the matter is that long before the Revolution and the Declaration of Independencethe majority of those who came to this land came seeking religious freedom… NOT welfare or free healthcare.

And the truth is that the vast majority of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Christians and many were pastors.  Now… Jefferson and Franklin may have been Deists… but they were NOT atheists… and they are on record as acknowledging the importance of religion, specifically, Christianity to the proper behavior of citizens, and the role model of good government.

And sometimes I think that we, as Christians, get so caught up in our patriotic zeal… and the assaults against our “ideal” that this is a Christian nation… that we tend lose sight of something very important.  That this place is not our home!

Heb 11:13-14, 16 NKJV These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (14) For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland….(16) But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

America is not the kingdom of God!  This place is only our temporary residence.  And as good citizens of this country we will do what we must to protect it and it’s citizens… but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we seek…  Heb 11:10 NKJV … the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Maybe if we get this message back into the forefront of our thoughts… we’ll realize that though we live in the kingdom of man… we should be acting as if we’re living in the kingdom of God.

And isn’t that exactly what our Christian faith teaches us?

Another thing to think on is that…

III. Politics is Nasty… But We Shouldn’t Be

Eph 4:32 NKJV And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

1Pe 3:8-9 NKJV Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; (9) not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

I cannot remember a presidential election that didn’t include mudslinging and hurtful rhetoric… But this particular election seems to have been over the top in that.

And I’m thinking this has much to do with the nature and character of the two candidates.  One is a foul mouthed woman who thought she was entitled to the office… and the other is a hard hitting businessman who is also foul mouthed and used to being the boss and having his own way.  Humility is a virtue that’s seriously lacking in both of them.

But humility is a virtue that every Christian is encouraged to develop within themselves.  We are not to do things… Php 2:3 NKJV …through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

I love this verse… and especially the last 5 words… “esteem others better than himself”.  Try personalizing this phrase and switch out “himself” with “myself”.  “Esteem others better than myself!”

Doesn’t that make this a little less remote and removed from us?  Doesn’t it bring it up close and personal?  As Christians, we are to step back and put others first, and count them as better than ourselves! 

Now, believe me… I know how hard it is to put this into practice.  But this is a characteristic that we are to develop and live by.  This is how we are to treat other people.

So when the nature of politics becomes rough and the name calling begins… as Christians we should refuse to traffic in mockery, demonization, or other tactics that are designed to dehumanize or tear down someone else.

And believe me folks when I say that I’m preaching this more for myself than for anybody else.  I know how difficult it can be to reign in your thoughts and put other people ahead of yourself.

Christ has not called us to hate or tear down our fellow man… but to love him and build him up… To esteem them as better than myself…

IV. The Church is the Conscience of the Nation

Rom 13:3-4 NKJV For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. (4) For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

The laws of this nation were founded upon Christian/Judeo biblical principles…  But yet… the majority of the people in this land aren’t either of those.

And though they’re not Christians… the majority of people in this country accept and live by a value system that’s rooted in Christian thought and principles.

For example… have you ever had a non-Christian say to you… “I thought you were a Christian?”  Because you said or did something that they perceived as “unchristian-like?”  This should show anyone that because of the Christian based values we live by in this country… most people have an understanding of what it means to be a Christian. 

Now it may be a warped, or worldly view… but it still proves the influence that Christianity has had upon this nation.  I mean, after all… you never hear someone say, “I thought you were Muslim?” Or, “Hindu”, or  “Pagan”…

No… Christianity, because of its influence upon our history and culture is the religion that’s singled out.  Everyone knows how Christians are supposed to act.

And as Christians… we need to recognize that one role of the church is that we are to be the conscience of the nation.

Martin Luther King wrote… “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”

We cannot lose sight of this.  If Christians give up their role as this nation’s conscience… some other system will take its place.  And that will probably be a humanistic/atheistic value system which isn’t rooted in any final authority.  It will change as the wind blows it.

Now… the last thing I want to point out is that…

V. Christians Should get Involved

Exo 18:21 NKJV Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.

There are people in this country who are pushing the idea that Christians shouldn’t be able to hold any governmental or judicial offices.  They know that our faith guides us and colors any decision we make.  And they say that because of this… we can’t be objective or fair.

The problem with this is that everyone makes decisions based upon their faith or value system.  For instance… I believe that life begins at conception, and I will always stand for life and against abortion.  And I will be vocal in it.

But there are those who are of a more atheistic and evolutionary belief will say that life doesn’t start until birth… which is why they want to be able to abort their babies right up to that moment, and they will fight for legislation that allows this… at the same time that I’ll fight against it.

Some will say that you can’t “legislate morality”… when the truth is that all legislation… every judicial decision… is based upon someone’s morality.  The very nature of law is that one persons morals are forced upon someone else.

If Christians fail to “get involved”… then we give up the right to be a voice of reason, and the void that’s left will be filled by someone else.  We can’t be “salt” and “light” if we don’t preserve and illuminate… or in other words… positively influence our culture.

Augustine said that those who are citizens of God's kingdom are best equipped to be citizens of the kingdom of man.

And what better way to show our citizenship in God’s kingdom… than to be His ambassadors in the kingdom of man by getting involved?

*  *  *  *  *

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Feast of Dedication (Absolutely Secure)

The Feast of Dedication
(Absolutely Secure)
John 10:22-42

After the death of Alexander the Great… the region we know of as Syria, Israel and Egypt fell under the rule of a series of successors… The worst of which was Antiochus Epiphanes (An-tee-o-hos Epi-fan-ees).  Much of what he did was actually prophesied in the 8th & 11th chapters of Daniel.

Antiochus’ control of Egypt, began to slip when the puppet king he had put in place, made an appeal to the new and rising world power, Rome.  So he traveled to Egypt with a vast army in order to regain his control over the area. 

Rome, however, had sent a small contingent to Egypt… along with a Senator named Gaius Laenas.  This small Roman legion and senator met with Antiochus after he entered Egyptian territory… and told him that if he didn’t leave Egypt, he would be at war with Rome.

Antiochus wanted to confer with his generals… but Gaius Laenas however, drew a line in the sand around Antiochus and told him that if he stepped outside the line without giving him his answer… it would be considered a declaration of war.  (Now… I bet you thought that the line in the sand originated at the Alamo… didn’t you?)

Antiochus knew that he could easily over run this Roman contingent with the vast army he had behind him…  But he also knew that though there were only a few very well trained Roman soldiers standing in his way right then… behind them stood all the power of Rome.  So, Antiochus gave his word to withdraw from Egypt… and left in humiliation.

Kings don’t like to be humiliated… and that humiliation soon, turned into fury…  You see, while he was being humiliated in Egypt… word had reached Israel that he had been defeated and killed.  This sparked a revolt by the deposed High Priest, Jason, who gathered 1,000 men and attacked Jerusalem and drove out the High Priest, Menelaus, who had been put in that position by Antiochus.

When Antiochus returned to Jerusalem in 167 BC on his way back to Syria, he went on a killing spree… murdering 40,000 men, women, children… and sending another 40,000 into slavery.  He reinstalled his puppet High Priest, Menelaus… and then he emptied the treasury… outlawed the Jewish religion… sacrificed pigs on the altar of God… and installed a statue of Zeus in the Temple… and forced everyone to worship only Zeus.  The worship of Yahweh or the practice of any Jewish ceremonies resulted in death.

For the next 3 years… the Jews lived under horrible conditions and extreme persecution…  But a resistance grew against the occupying forces.  In a similar way that the French Resistance fought against the occupying Nazi’s… the Hasidim (who were really “proto-Pharisees”) fought against the Greeks in an “underground” fashion.

It was through this revolt… the Maccabean Revolt, that the occupying forces were eventually overthrown.  The temple in Jerusalem was re-dedicated to God on the 25th of Chisleu, which is mid December to us… 3 years after the abomination of desolation.  Ever since then, the Feast of Dedication has been celebrated to commemorate this meaningful event in Jewish history.

Now according to rabbinic tradition… the original Feast of Dedication involved a miracle. When the Jews took control of… and finally re-entered the temple… they could only find one small, sealed jug of olive oil that hadn’t been profaned or contaminated by the Gentiles.

So they used this oil to light the menorah in the temple… and though there was only enough to last one day… it miraculously lasted eight days—giving them the time they needed to make more oil. This is why the Feast of Dedication… which we now recognize as Hanukkah, or Festival of Lights… lasts for eight days.

Hanukkah isn’t one of the original, divinely appointed feasts of Israel… and attendance in Jerusalem wasn’t a requirement…  But it was actually celebrated much like it is today, in Jewish homes, wherever they are.

The celebration has always appealed to the patriotic hearts…  And it undoubtedly awakened hearts every year to the desire to be free… and especially in NT times… free from the Roman yoke.

And they looked for this freedom to come through the promised Messiah… who would cast off the Roman yoke and establish His kingdom of righteousness and justice… with Jerusalem as His capital.

And this is why we see Jesus today… as He walks through Solomon’s porch… being surrounded and questioned by the Jews… when they basically say…

I.  Give Us the Answer

Joh 10:22-24 NKJV Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. (23) And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch. (24) Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, "How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly."

Now, I’ve already given you some background on the Feast… but I want to point out that the Holy Spirit makes a point of telling us that… Joh 10:22 “…it was winter.”

Not only does this give us an idea of why Jesus was in Solomon’s porch instead of the Temple… but it also gives us a vivid description of the state of the Jewish religion at the time.

First… Solomon’s porch… was actually a colonnade, which was covered and provided some protection from the cold, by a wall.  But the fact that the Holy Spirit tells us also that “it was winter”… may go beyond simply giving us further identification of the Feast…

You see.. the close of the 10th chapter is commonly recognized as marking the end of Jesus’ public ministry in the book of John.  From this point on His face is set toward the cross.  By the end of this chapter… a few have come to believe in Him… but most don’t.

The Jews were definitely in the winter years of their faith.  Their long expected Messiah had come… and they didn’t accept Him.  Their “day of visitation” had arrived… and they missed it.  And now, those things which “belonged to their peace”… were hidden from their eyes (Luk 19:42-44).

So as Jesus is walking through the colonnade… He’s surrounded by these Jews who asked Him… Joh 10:24 … "How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly."

Well… they were asking Him the right question… and some of them may have truly wanted to hear His response… but it’s obvious that most simply wanted to gather ammunition to use against Him.

Despite all the evidence Christ had given to them… their eyes and their hearts were closed to the truth.  If He had told them, “I am the promised Messiah”… they wouldn’t have believed Him anymore than a Jehovah’s Witness would, if He had said, “I am God”…in those exact words.
As much as I enjoy reading about apologetics… I am fully aware that no one  will be “argued” or “reasoned” into heaven.  Hearts that are closed will never believe without the definite working of the Holy Spirit in that heart.

The Jews were in the “winter” of their faith.  They claimed that they wanted to hear the truth… but the truth is… they couldn’t handle the truth.  Therefore, Jesus told them…

II. You Got the Answer

Joh 10:25-30 NKJV Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me. (26) But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. (27) My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. (28) And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. (29) My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. (30) I and My Father are one."

You want the truth?  You can’t handle the truth!  From the beginning… Jesus has told the Jews that if they just can’t bring themselves to hear and believe His words… then look at His works.

It’s obvious to anyone who looks at His actions that He’s working through the power and authority of God.  The devil wouldn’t do the good that He’s done.  The devil seeks to kill, to steal and to destroy… but Jesus has brought light and life.  He’s healed the sick, made the lame to walk, opened the ears of the deaf, gave sight to the blind, and raised the dead.  The exact opposite of what Satan would do.

They look at what he does and call Him a deceiver and a fraud… because just as He told them earlier… they aren’t His sheep.  His sheep hear His voice and come running... but these sheep hear His voice… and turn away.  They won’t follow Him because He’s not their Shepherd.  Their shepherd is the devil… Joh 8:44 NKJV You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.

And those who are His sheep… follow Him… and He gives them eternal life.  And eternal life is exactly what its name explicitly says… it’s eternal.  Once its given, it will never be taken away… stolen… or lost.  It is a gift… we can’t earn it… and therefore we can’t lose it.

No where in Scripture is there a stronger affirmation of the absolute eternal security of the believer.  Jesus taught clearly and plainly that salvation doesn’t depend on human effort but on God’s grace… His promise… and His power.

He tells us that no one can… Joh 10:28 …snatch them out of My hand.

Now I was talking with a charismatic friend once about this and he said, “But this doesn’t say that we can’t jump out of His hand.”  To which I responded, “You’re absolutely right.  It doesn’t say that.  Correct doctrine though isn’t built upon what the Bible doesn’t say… but upon what it does say.”

And what Jesus does say is that no one can snatch them out of His hand.  The simple and natural understanding of the Scripture is the right understanding. This doesn’t need interpretation… it needs to be believed.

No one means no one, and that includes me.  I’m as much a no one as anyone!  But, if that’s not enough for you… He goes on to say that… Joh 10:29 NKJV  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.

Folks… it just doesn’t get any more secure than that!  Not only are we in Christ’s hands… but we’re also in the Father’s hands as well.  We have a double indemnity… Christ’s hand below us… the Father above!  We are securely clasped between the hands of Omnipotence!

And to take this a step further… and strengthen His argument… Jesus tells us that… Joh 10:30 NKJV  I and My Father are one.

I was walking through Higgins earlier this week (which is what people like me tend to do because we drive old vehicles that break down a lot)… and as I was walking I was thinking about this passage… It dawned on me that anyone could say that, “If you’re in my hands, you’re secure.”  And it really doesn’t mean anything.  Just like the slogan for Allstate Insurance Company used to be… “You’re in good hands with Allstate.”

It’s catchy and it gives some assurance of protection… but if it’s in reference to my soul… I’d want something stronger than a catchy phrase or slogan.  I don’t want my soul to be in the hands of someone who doesn’t have the power or authority to protect and keep me… anymore than I want to be in the hands of an insurance company who may decide that I didn’t meet certain criteria… so therefore they’re going to drop my coverage.

No… I want to be under the protection and care of someone who has the authority and power to back up His words!  Who’ll never drop or reduce my coverage!  And Jesus gives us His statement of power and authority by saying… Joh 10:30 NKJV  I and My Father are one.

“I’m not just some man, or prophet, or good teacher.  I am one in nature and essence with God!”  Like He said elsewhere… Joh 14:9 NKJV … He who has seen Me has seen the Father

As God in the flesh, Jesus has the authority and backing of deity.

And this is just too much for the Jews.

III. They Don’t Like the Answer

Joh 10:31-39 NKJV Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. (32) Jesus answered them, "Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?" (33) The Jews answered Him, saying, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God." (34) Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, 'I SAID, "YOU ARE GODS" '? (35) If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), (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'? (37) If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; (38) but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him." (39) Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand.

Within Jesus Christ is all the power and authority of Godhead bodily.  He not only has the power to stand in the face of a storm… He also has the authority to tell the storm, “Peace.  Be still.”  The Jews that He had been speaking with were so enraged with His words… that once again… they wanted to murder Him on the spot.

But ever calm in the face of the storm… He asks them what their problem is.  Joh 10:32 NKJV …"Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?"

He didn’t soften or withdraw His claim of being equal with God in any way.  Instead… He pointed them once again toward the works He had done at His Father’s direction.  But the Jews were insane with fury.  They wouldn’t be sidetracked by any miracles… but simply brushed them away.

Joh 10:33 NKJV …"For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God."

They knew exactly what Jesus had said… and they hated it, and they called it blasphemy.  There are those today who say that Jesus never claimed to be God…  But here it is.  These men who were there at that time… hearing Him speak these words… knew exactly what He was saying and what He meant.

If they had misheard… Jesus had plenty of opportunity to say, “Whoa.  Whoa.  You got me wrong.  I didn’t mean that.”  But He never tried to correct their understanding of what He said.

Instead… He reminded them of Psalm 82:6 which saysPsa 82:6 NKJV I said, "You are gods, And all of you are children of the Most High.

If the Scriptures can call unjust human judges, gods (because as judges they have god-like authority to pass judgment on people)… and they’re only mortal men… and as the next verse says… they’ll die as men… then wouldn’t the One whom the Father had sanctified and sent into the world have even more right to say He was the Son of God?

It’s an argument from the lesser to the greater.  If the word “god” could be used in reference to people who were no more than judges… how much more could it be used in reference to one who had greater dignity, greater importance and greater significance than any mere judge?  Now some might think that He’s placing Himself on a level with mortal men.  No.  He’s setting Himself apart from them.

And it would appear that Jesus’ calm and reasoned response blunted their fury somewhat.  They stopped looking for stones to throw at Him… but instead tried to take hold of Him… more than likely, to take him before the Sanhedrin for judgment.

But as we’ve seen before… the Father’s timing will not be rushed.  So Jesus…
Joh 10:39  …escaped out of their hand.

IV. Jesus Is the Answer

Joh 10:40-42 NKJV And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was baptizing at first, and there He stayed. (41) Then many came to Him and said, "John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true." (42) And many believed in Him there.

Jesus ended His public ministry in John’s gospel, and returned to the very place where that ministry began.  He didn’t return to Jerusalem until “His hour” had arrived.

Now many would see a ministry’s return to its “beginnings” as a mark of a failed ministry.  But John doesn’t indicate this at all… Rather… he speaks of many believing on Him there.

They were able to do exactly what the Jews were unable to do.  They not only remembered John the Baptist’s testimony of Jesus… but they also, were able to look at the signs Jesus had done and recognized the hand of God in them.

And anyone who is willing to take an unbiased look at the life and ministry of Jesus Christ should be able to see the same thing.  That He is the answer of God to fallen man.

He is the Messiah who was promised… and that all who believe in Him… will never perish… but have eternal life.

This is His promise to us.  That if we will only repent and believe in Him… He will give us the power to become the sons of God.