Week Commencing 1st July 2018 With a PDF found here
Notes for July sermons from the Gospel of John
The Gospel of John is one of those books in the Bible that can both fascinate and perplex readers. It explores the themes of Christ’s extraordinary claims as the promised Messiah and the Son of God, and yet gives a deeply personal and eyewitness account of the life of our Lord. Written by the Apostle John, a Palestinian Jew and close follower of Jesus, John’s primary message is an invitation to all people to believe in Jesus, to receive the gift of eternal life. Because John’s original audience was both Jews and Gentiles living in the larger Greco-Roman world toward the end of the first century A.D., John records a variety of conversations Jesus had with a diversity of people.
For our sermon series, we’ve chosen five such conversations where Jesus makes significant claims about himself. The big idea of the series is this “Christocentric” focus; in other words, what do these passages reveal about the authority and character of God Incarnate, the Word Made Flesh? Christ’s claims changed the tenor of each conversation and went on to change the world. How can they change us? Our goal for this series is to better understand his claims in these conversational contexts as well as their implications for our life together as a church. For if Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), our prayer is to hear God’s voice saying to each of us: “This is My Beloved Son; Listen to Him”.
DAY 1: Read John 3:1-15 “Jesus Talks with Nicodemus”
This is a familiar and fascinating interaction between Jesus, the young rabbi from Galilee, and an older “teacher of Israel” named Nicodemus. At first glance it might seem like a simple theological discussion between two spiritual leaders. But a closer look reveals a teacher who’s hungry to learn from a man he can’t quite figure out. Having heard of Christ’s works and words, and perhaps even witnessing some for himself, Nicodemus comes at night to ask Jesus his questions. Perhaps he is concerned about his status as a Jewish leader, afraid that if he’s seen during the day talking with a new spiritual leader, Nicodemus’s reputation might be compromised. Nonetheless, he comes acknowledging God is with Jesus—how else could he do these things? (v2)—but not quite sure what to make of Him. Then Jesus invites Nicodemus to think beyond his Jewish training and consider that God might have a different plan for being a part of the Kingdom: he must be born again. Christ claims the Son of Man—like Moses lifting up the serpent—must be lifted up (on the cross) so that “any who believes in him may have eternal life.” We know from John 7:50-52 and 19:38-40 that Jesus won over Nicodemus. What do you think it was like for Nicodemus (or modern scholars) to hear such claims? How does Christ’s invitation to be born again affect you?
DAY 2: Read Ezekiel 37, DAY 3 Read Deut 30:6, DAY 4 Read 2 Cor 5:17
DAY 1: Read John 4: 1-42 “Jesus Talks with the Samaritan Woman”
In his human form, Jesus is thirsty. While his disciples are shopping, Jesus asks a woman for a drink of water from the well. But she is not just any woman. She is a Samaritan, a culture of mixed race and religion whom most Jews avoided at all costs. As if that isn’t bad enough, she is also a woman with a troubled past having been married several times, as Jesus points out. She is surprised by his request first for water and then his willingness to talk with someone like her. But people ‘like her’ are the very reason he has come to earth and so He then claims to be both the living water that will fully satisfy her deeper longings, and the Messiah who seeks true worshippers! She is so amazed at his actions and his words that she leaves her jar at the well, and runs to tell everyone in her town about him. John records the great verse (39) that “many Samaritans believed because of her testimony”. What a wonder! That the Lord of Lords would first invite us to be born again to enter the Kingdom of God, and then give an opportunity for such radical transformation to people others might never talk with. Read this story a few more times this week. What else do you learn about Jesus and his love for those on the margins, and about what it means to worship the King of Kings?
DAY 2: Read Psalm 95, DAY 3 Read Romans 12, DAY 4 Read Rev 15:4
DAY 1: Read John 6:22-70 “Jesus Talks with his Friends”
Though this week’s sermon will focus primarily on verses 60-70, the many conversations that precede them in verses 22-59 help establish some context about what Jesus is saying here. His many claims have created quite a stir—that he is the “Son of Man, the Bread of Life, the One about whom the prophets have written and who will give his life and blood, raised up on the last day”. Some in the crowd want to hear more, while some Jews grumble and plot. And his friends, though they love him, don’t quite understand what he’s talking about. So in privacy they ask him to clarify. And as he does, he once again references the Spirit of God, the same Spirit he compared to the wind with Nicodemus, and about whom He draws worshippers, as he told the Samaritan woman. Now Jesus claims the Spirit of God gives life and that the words He gives are spirit and life. Some friends feel he is going too far with such a claim and leave. Twelve stay though because they believe he is “the Holy One of God”. Where else, Peter asks, would we go for the words of eternal life? Indeed! As you review this chapter this week, consider where you are in this story as if you were hearing Christ’s claims for the first time. How do his claims as Bread of Life and the One with Words of Life affect you now? What difference can they make for us as a community of friends?
DAY 2: Read Isaiah 55:11, DAY 3 Read Heb 4:12, DAY 4 Read 1 Peter 1:23-25
DAY 1: Read John 9: 1-41 “Jesus Talks with a Man Born Blind”
“That the blind will receive their sight is, in the Old Testament, one of the promises that belong to the messianic age (Isaiah 29:18; 35:5) and the Gospels both record that Jesus gave sight to the blind and point to this as one of the signs of the dawning of a new age,” writes New Testament scholar Lesslie Newbigin. By this point in the Gospel of John, Jesus his drawing both followers and enemies with his miracles and the many claims he makes about himself. But this chapter, with its many characters and almost comical dialogue of finger-pointing, implies a new messianic age has come. Many cultures believe that sickness or suffering is a result of sin, and consequently, that becomes the focus of the conversation Jesus has first with the spiritual leaders about the blind man. His response is both unexpected and extraordinary: It was not the sin of the man or the parent, but that the work of God would be displayed in the man. Why? Because here is a man in literal darkness and Jesus claims, “I am the light of the world.” When Jesus spits on the ground and touches the man’s eyes, he sees! And such an interaction disrupts everyone: neighbours don’t recognize the blind man, the Pharisees are offended that Jesus broke their Sabbath law and even the man’s own parents are beside themselves. Even when he’s questioned again, the man born blind displays his belief in Jesus and Jesus pursues him (v35) to talk with him about believing in the Son of Man. The man’s response to this conversation? Worship! Christ’s radical claims expose the darkness in all of us. May we respond as the man born blind did: by worshipping the Lord!
DAY 2: Read Isaiah 9:2, DAY 3 Read John 1:1-13, DAY 4 Read 1 Peter 2:9-10
DAY 1: Read John 21: 1-25 “Jesus Talks with Peter on the Beach”
By now we have seen how Jesus, the young rabbi, claims to be the Son of Man, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, and the One who is lifted up for the sins of the world. Not only does he claim these things, his actions reinforce them. His earthly life as the Son of God reflects his relationship with God the Father and God the Spirit. So by John’s final chapter, we see Jesus as the Resurrected One doing what he has always done: restoring the broken, forgiving the sinner and renewing the relationships of all whom he loves. Enter Peter, the fiery apostle and fisherman. Peter has denied he knows Jesus, even though he no doubt overheard his conversation with Nicodemus, watched him interact with the Samaritan woman and marvelled when he made a blind man see! It was Peter who said to Jesus, “Where else would we go, Lord, since you have the words of eternal life?!” Dear Peter—like so many of us—wants to do the right thing but his impulsive and insecure nature often gets the best of him. Jesus, however, decides to cook him breakfast on the beach and gives him three opportunities—parallel to the three times Peter denied he knew Christ—to express his love for Jesus, to be restored to his proper purpose. In one of the most tender conversations we hear Jesus having in the Gospel of John, Jesus reinforces his mission to draw all men to himself, and his deep desire to make new the hearts of those he loves. Peter responds with a sincere and heartfelt expression of “Lord, you know that I love you.” And Jesus recommissions him to feed his sheep and care for his people. Please pray that our lives together as followers of Jesus would reflect his radical claims and change our lives so that all we meet may find refuge in conversations with Jesus every day. Yes, Lord, you know that we love you—because You first loved us!
DAY 2: Read Lam 3:22, DAY 3 Read Romans 5: 6-8, DAY 4 Read 1 John 4:7-19
References: The Light has Come: An Exposition of the Fourth Gospel by Lesslie Newbigin.
ESV Study Bible; Desperate Women of the Bible by Jo Kadlecek