Indifference? H.C. Question 64

But doesn’t this teaching make people indifferent and wicked?

Luke 6:43-45 – “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

John 15:5  – “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Acts 10 – Clean and Unclean

Read Acts 10

As the Gospel continues to spread in the first century, there were many barriers to overcome.  We’ve see persecution and even language barriers be overcome through the work of the Holy Spirit.  One thing that happens here, something that is abundantly important to the rest of the world, is the Gospel going out to the gentiles.

Until now, all that we have read has been primarily a movement within Judaism itself, a sort of Jewish reformation. When the believers were scattered, they would go to the synagogues of other towns and preach the name of Jesus in those places.  They would go to the people that were familiar, keeping to tradition of Israel that encouraged avoidance of outsiders (which is completely contrary to the Law, but that is another subject for another time).

Here Peter receives a revelation of the true nature of the Gospel and its impact: God, in Jesus Christ, has taken the unclean and made it clean.  Jesus’ death was a once for all sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; the truest, deepest realization of His statements, “I AM the Light of the World,” “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father  accept through me,” and all the other I AM statements too.  Through Him, this way has been open to all people who place their faith in Jesus Christ.

In many ways, this is the beginning of the reality of freedom that comes in Christ Jesus.  Through sin, the world was made unclean, but in Christ Jesus, all of that has been reversed and true restoration has happened and is happening.  This is the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven, the realization of the redemption of the whole universe through the work of Jesus Christ.

John 15 – Abide

Read John 15

Depending on the translation of Scripture that you are reading you either encountered the word “abide” or the word “remain.”  These words come from a Greek word that has the conotations of “existing in” or “being present to” whatever subject, in this case, God’s love.  This is a deep and intimate word because it cannot be passive, it has to be a conscious, active decision.

John’s recording of this conversation echoes Jesus’ teaching in the sermon on the mount, emphasizing that the fruit we bear is how we will be identified.  Here, however, He takes it a step further to impress upon them both the need to bear fruit and the way in which that will happen.

If we are to bear fruit we cannot do it under our own power or by our own works.  Only through a deep abiding in Jesus Christ, being present to His love in our lives, living into the grace that He offers, do we have any hope of this.  For some this can be very comforting; we are glad that we don’t have to do it on our own.

However, for others this teaching of Jesus can be very tough.  America is the place in which we do things on our own, pull ourselves up by our boot straps, and earn our way forward.  Being told that we cannot earn our way toward bearing fruit, and that there are consequences for those that bear no fruit, can be unsettling to say the least.

But the simple fact is that Jesus has already spoken to this, 6 other times in fact.  Each of the I AM statements is a claim and a promise: that He is the only way to a relationship with God and that He will open that way for us.

John 14 – The Only Way

Read John 14

In the last several decades there has been a considerable push towards “tolerance” in society.  As western culture moves away from Christianity, much effort has been made to move everyone towards an ideal that says “all roads lead to God.”  Whatever you believe, if you follow it with a true heart, you will reach some sort of “greater” being at life’s end.

Christians especially have been targeted in this, being called  “intolerant” for claiming to have the only way to God and Heaven.  The ridiculousness of targeting one of the world’s three major religions (all claim to possess the only way to God) notwithstanding, what Jesus says here not only predicts that this will happen, it speaks to the truest and deepest nature of who Jesus is.

While this conversation, this I AM statement, may seem like one among many, it really is a focal point in Jesus’ claim of who He is.  Making the statement “I AM” in the way that He does is a claim that He is God, yet here Jesus amplifies it by making sure His disciples know exactly what that means.  Only through belief in Him (because He is God) can one find the path to God.

No one else, in any religion, can make this claim.  God became human to create a way, the only way for humans to have a relationship with God.  His claim is exclusive, even if society and culture frown upon such exclusivity.

Does believing that Jesus is the only way to God make us intolerant?  No.  Trying to force someone to renounce their beliefs because you don’t like them does.  It seems culture doesn’t like to follow its own claims of tolerance when it comes to Christianity.  This, however, does not change our calling… or our faith.

John 11 – Raising the Dead

Read John 11

It’s hard to imagine that a miracle so great as raising someone from the dead warrants the harsh reaction of the religious leaders that we see here.  But for them, it was the last straw.  It isn’t entirely clear here why it comes down to this, but in the end, they put forth a plot to capture and kill Jesus.  For John’s Gospel, this is the turning point in Jesus ministry, the divide between the book of signs and the book of glory.

Yet even in the midst of all the scheming and plotting, God’s will and plan are still being worked out.  Remember in Matthew 27, when the people screamed for Jesus’ blood to “be on us and on our children”?  Here we see yet another irony as Caiaphas speaks to the current predicament: “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”  Little does he know how right he is.

All of this, as Jesus often reminds us, has to happen for His glory to be revealed.  As we begin to shift our focus from Jesus’ earthly ministry to His glorification on the cross, we need to keep in mind the recurring themes that John infuses into His writing.  First, Jesus is the light of the world, the one who gives true sight, but the world hates the light and does not recognize it.  The Pharisees are still in the dark here.

Second, and more importantly, Jesus is the great I AM, and the way that this is going is, as He reminds us here, the only way… He is the only way for life, freedom, and true sight.  As Jesus moves forward now, His actions will expand the resurrection from local, one man, to a universal reality.

John 8 – Testify

Read John 8

When Jesus declares Himself to be the Light of the Word, effectively saying that God is the light and that He is God (see John 6 for more on “I AM” statements), the religious leaders once again try to challenge Him.

The basis for this challenge comes from Hebrew law that talks about the valid testimony of people for conviction.  Deuteronomy 19:15 says, “A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”  Jesus’ declaration of Himself as God, to be valid in the eyes of the Pharisees, must be established by the testimony of two or three people.  They knew no one else would validate Jesus’ claim and probably thought that they had the basis to both challenge and nullify Jesus’ teachings.

Jesus would not be undone by such an argument.  The one who testifies on His behalf is much greater than any human testimony.  “I stand with the Father, who sent me,”  Jesus says.  He then proceeds to point out that, if they truly knew the law they were trying to use against Him, they would know God the Father and would not be challenging Him to begin with.

Sometimes in our lives as Christ followers, we feel like we are standing alone.  People challenge the teachings of Scripture as well as the message of the Gospel often.  They will point to a “lack of evidence” or a “contradictory” passage as sufficient evidence to discount our testimony.  Yet we, like Jesus, do not stand along.  Paul writes in Romans 8 that “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us so that we would never stand alone in this world but would always have a witness to the Truth of the Gospel in us.

John 6 – I AM

Read John 6

Here we see the first of 7 “I AM” statements from Jesus.  These statements are intimately connected to John’s major theme of Jesus as the Divine Son of God.  Jesus statements here are scandalous, even blasphemous to the Jewish people, an offence that warranted death by Jewish law, but once again connects Jesus to the Father as His statements do in John 5.

The connection to this comes all the way back in Exodus 3.  God reveals Himself to Moses in the burning bush, calling Him to go and challenge Pharoah for the freedom of the people of Israel.  When Moses asks God for His Name,

God said to Moses, I AM who I AM.”  And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”  

This becomes the name by which the Israelites know God, a name so Holy that to even say it was a desecration of the Name.  They even came up with a number of substitutes like “Adonai” and “Jehovah” to refer to God without taking God’s name in vain.

God’s name would have been recorded in Hebrew, but as the centuries passed and languages changed and evolved, the Old Testament was translated into Greek, a text known as the Septuagint.  At this time, the Hebrew name of God was translated to the Greek: “ἐγώ εἰμι,” (pronounced“egō eh – mi”).  Literally this means “I I am” or more appropriately, (I AM that I AM).

So when Jesus makes the statement “I AM the Bread of Life,” or any of the other “I AM” statements, this Greek phrase, that would have been recognised by the Jews especially, is present.  This statement, then, is a two-fold claim:

  1. God (I AM) is the only one who sustains and nourishes.
  2. Jesus is saying “I AM God.”

Introduction to John

The Gospel of John is the fourth and most unique of the four Canonical Gospels.  John the Apostle wrote this Gospel later than Matthew, Mark, and Luke and writes to a much wider audience as well.

John records the life of Jesus in an effort to prove Jesus’ identity as the divine Son of God who is one with the Father.  His writing is highly symbolic, a literary masterpiece.  One could read John on the surface and gain considerable knowledge and wisdom, or start to dig deep and find truths and wisdom that come alive in the text.  I have heard it likened to a swimming pool: you can splash around in the shallow end or dive into the deep end; in either case you will still get wet!

Because of the way John writes, this Gospel is not considered a “Synoptic” Gospel.  John records things in a way that brings out the truth that is being proclaimed here.  Some have argued that, because of John’s lack coherence with the other Gospels, it calls into question the truth of Jesus.  Yet it is important for us to know that “facts” and “truth” are not necessarily always the same thing.  While facts are always true (think: timelines, dates, weights, etc.), truths are boundless and timeless (think: parables, stories, proverbs, etc.).  The Gospel of John contains some of the deepest truths about Christ, even if its timeline is not the same as the other Gospels.

Things to look out for:

John’s Outline:

  • Prologue – 1:1-1:18
  • Book of Signs – 1:19-12:50
    • Sometimes considered the general revelation of Jesus.  Contains 7 miracles of Jesus during His public ministry.
  • Book of Glory – 13:1-20:31
    • Sometimes considered the special revelation of Jesus.  His public ministry finished, Jesus shares with His disciples and then goes to the cross.
  • Epilogue – 21:1-21:25

John records 7 statements made by Jesus, all pointing to who He is as God. Photo Credit:

John records 7 statements made by Jesus, all pointing to who He is as God.
Photo Credit: