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2022-11-06 God's Final Word

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 GOD'S FINAL WORD (Book of John) November 6, 2022 Read John 20:24-28 - As we enter Xmas season, we want to look at John 1:1-18. But to give context, today we'll look at the whole gospel. Nothing in all literature compares to it. Its message and presentation are unique. It is the apex of God's revelation. If rejected, the critic must explain how a single mind invented these concepts. But if true, it holds out the last and greatest chance for hope beyond the grave. It is the greatest expression of the encounter between human and divine ever laid down - and it was written by a humble, aging Galilean fisherman - but a fisherman who knew God. The book tells us, in the days of Tiberius and the tetrarch Herod Antipas, there lived in Palestine a Jew named Jesus, who claimed to be the Rightful Owner of all things, the Bread of Life, the Living Water, the Good Shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the predicted Messiah, the Way to God, the proper Object of faith and worship, a person so completely and in every sense divine that he was able to say: "I and the Father are One." This is astounding. But even more incredible, the writer of the book accepts these claims as true, and then demonstrates from his own eyewitness testimony that indeed, they are. Augustine says of John's prologue, "It is beyond the power of man to speak as John does in his prologue." It is brilliant. Who would start a life of Christ by saying, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"? Words beyond human comprehension. Calvin says these words say "much more than our minds can take in." Though profound at one level, it leads us to God through the simple gospel message. Jesus prays in John 17:3: "And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" - if eternal life depends on knowing Him - this book is paramount. Today, we'll see 4 main elements of the book, I. The Beloved Writer The author is John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved". He's at the center of the action, clearly an apostle, one of the 3 inner circle, and close to Peter. External evidence also points to John. Irenaeus, in the first century says he heard Polycarp, a disciple of John, testify that "John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned upon His breast, had himself published a Gospel during his residence in Ephesus in Asia." Others affirm this account; no others named. John was perhaps the youngest apostle. He lived into his late 90's. He outran Peter to Jesus' empty tomb. He and brother James were fishing partners of Peter and Andrew. Perhaps John's mother, Salome, was sister to Jesus' mother Mary, making them cousins - note that at the cross Jesus gave His mother into the care of John. James and John were known as "sons of thunder" for their impetuous ways - like their desire to call fire from heaven on the rejecting Samaritans (Luke 9:54). They were ambitious - "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory" (Mark 10:37). John ministers in partnership with Peter in the early church days, both in Jerusalem and Samaria (Acts 8:14). Paul later identifies John along with James and Peter as "pillars" of the church (Gal 2:9). He eventually moved to Ephesus where he wrote this gospel as well as I, II and III John. He was later exiled to Patmos, where he wrote Revelation. He died in Ephesus sometime after Trajan became emperor in 98 AD. John's life was overwhelmed by one fact -- He was the disciple Jesus loved. He reclined on Jesus' breast at the last supper, and it seems there was a special affinity between Jesus and John. This doesn't mean Jesus didn't love the other apostles equally, but John reveled in the privilege of Jesus' love. I think if we all grasped how much Jesus loves us, and what it cost Him to redeem us, we'd be equally desirous to identify ourselves as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." A guy man named Cody was on a short mission to Thailand. He went to a movie one night with a friend. There he saw a video about Thailand's king. People rose and clapped - some crying, to see the king on screen. Cody asked, "Why all the emotion?" His friend replied, "We love, and honor our king, because he cares for his people. He often leaves his palace and comes to villages to be with the people - to know them and identify with them. We know our king loves the Thai people, and we love him." Moving,, isn't it? But I know a greater King, One who not only came to be with us, but gave His life to save us. Pastor Jack Miller summarizes the gospel like this: "Cheer up: You're a worse sinner than you ever dared imagine, and you're more loved than you ever dared hope." That stirred John to the depths of his soul, and I hope will do the same for us. Perhaps you've never been loved as you would like - but I tell you, you are loved, more than you ever dared imagine. John wasn't highly educated. Once he and Peter were arrested for healing a lame man. Then: Acts 4:13: "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished." Bold - but uneducated. That was the label. Yet he wrote the greatest book ever written. How in the world did that happen? I'll tell you how. God! God once told Paul - "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (II Cor 12:9a). John's committed weakness was occasion for God's power. Speech prof Waldo Braden once was speaker at the LA Trial Lawyers Assn. He said, "Among you brilliant trial lawyers, I feel like Wm Howard Taft's great granddaughter. Asked to write a bio in 3rd grade she wrote, 'My great grandfather was pres of the US; my grandfather was a US senator; my father is an ambassador; and I'm a Brownie.'" Braden said, "Among such distinguished company, I feel like a Brownie." Ever feel that way? Not up to the mission God has given you. Well, you're not! But I Cor 1:27: "God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong." God loves to do great things thru little people. That's the lesson of John's life. So keep praying; keep plugging away; stay faithful. One day you'll see, He did more than you believed possible. II. The Epic Presentation John's is one of 4 versions of a life of Jesus. The other 3 are remarkably similar. John's is strikingly different. It has no parables, no prophesies, no exorcising demons or healing lepers, no temptation or transfiguration account and no mention of the ascension. In fact, 90% of the material in John is not found in the Synoptics. He writes later - probably the mid to late-80's. By then the other gospels are known. Information in them is assumed by John. Matthew wrote to Jews who were familiar with the OT. He presents Jesus as the fulfillment of OT prophecies and thus, as their Messiah and King. Mark wrote for a Gentile audience, the Romans, and emphasized Jesus as a servant and man of action. There is little dialogue and much action. Luke presents Jesus as the Son of Man, demonstrating the uniqueness of His humanity, giving an apologetic argument that God really did become man. But John has a profound purpose for his writing. John 20:31: "but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." He highlights Jesus' deity, sacrificial death and resurrection - belief of which results in eternal life. It's a spectacularly profound message. Eternal life is available, but only thru Jesus. This "uneducated, common man" gives us a brilliant depiction of the deity of Jesus built around seven public miracles, or "signs." Each is designed to show Jesus is God: (1) Turning the water into wine at the wedding in Cana (2:9). (2) Healing the nobleman's son (4:46-54). (3) Healing the crippled man at the pool of Bethesda (5:2-9). (4) Feeding the 5,000 (6:1-14). (5) Walking on the Sea of Galilee to rescue His disciples from the storm (6:16-21). (6) Healing the man blind from birth (9:1-7). (7) Raising Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44). These were public. Then there is an eighth sign performed only for His disciples after the resurrection-the miraculous catch of fish (21:1-14). There are 7 "I am's" in the book - John borrowing the OT name for God, "I am", to show how that deity is expressed in Jesus' claims to be the bread of life; the light of the world; the gate for the sheep; the good shepherd; the resurrection and the life; the way, the truth and the life; and the true vine - claims which could never be credibly made except by God Himself. John gives us the great intercessory prayer of Jesus in John 17 with its profound insights in the inner workings of the Trinity. And John has no genealogy as do Matt and Luke. He begins with the divine nature of Christ - which has no beginning, thus starting off with a stunning indication this is no ordinary man. And John's crowing feature is the death of Jesus, by which He becomes "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" who was introduced way back in 1:29. Then the resurrection validates everything. John says of himself upon seeing the empty tomb, "and he saw and believed." He wants us all to experience that same eternal life thru faith in Christ. It is a brilliant and unprecedented presentation from start to finish. III. The Final Word But here's one final question? Why in introducing Jesus does John call Him - the Word? That is hardly a term any of us would use in describing a friend - "I'd like you to meet my friend - the Word!" So why does John do this? And does he use Word (λογος) in a Greek or Hebrew sense? The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus coined the term Logos to mean the ordering principle of the universe - Philo termed it the "captain and pilot of the universe." The Greek philosophers said, "There's a truth, a principle, that gives us the logic, the purpose, for everything -- the meaning in life." It meant reason," some unifying principle. But centuries of philosophical wrangling had failed to reveal that underlying principle which ordered the universe. The logos remained a great unknown mystery. To the Hebrew mind, the term equated to "Word of the Lord" which carried the idea not just of communication but active power! In the creation account of Gen 1, God had only to say, "'Let there be light' and there was light" (Gen 1:3). The word produced results. God's Word created and ordered reality. The Word was God in action. Prof John Patterson in The Goodly Fellowship of the Prophets put it like this: "The spoken word to the Hebrew was fearfully alive ... It was a unit of energy charged with power. It flies like a bullet to its target. For that very reason, the Hebrew language was sparing of words. Hebrew speech has fewer than 10,000 words; Greek speech has 200,000." So, which meaning did John intend? I think both. Why? John is Jewish but living among Gentiles in Ephesus. He wants to reach both. He's learned, the gospel is for everyone. John often uses words with multiple meanings to bring out nuances of meaning. We'll see this too often for it to be coincidence. For example, John 3:3, "unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." The word "again" (ἄνωθεν) can mean either "again" or "from above". So which is it? I believe both. In one word, Jesus is telling Nic he needs new life, this time from above. John's doing the same here, using the word, Logos, which had significant, but nuanced meaning to all hearers, Jew and Greek. Plato once once said to some followers, "It may be that someday there will come forth from God a Word, a Logos, who will reveal all mysteries and make everything plain." Now John is saying, "Yes, Plato, and the Logos has come; now God is revealed to us perfectly." The Jews, on the other hand, thought action. Their prophets said, "The word of the Lord came to so and so." To them, John is saying, "Here is the ultimate Word of the Lord - the Word in personal form. So, listen up!" To both Jew and Gentile, introducing Jesus as the Logos meant God's FINAL and most amazing revelation had arrived - not as a new philosophy or a new prophetic utterance, but as a PERSON - Jesus Christ. And that has big ramifications for all of us. Conc - In The Idea of Revelation in Recent Thought, Prof John Baillie of Edinburgh U in Scotland tells of a complaint he once received about Xnty from a legal representative of an elite American university. The man said, "You speak of trusting God, of praying to him, and doing his will. But it's all so one-sided. We speak to God, we bow down before him and lift up our hearts to him. But he never speaks to us. He makes no sign." He could not have been more wrong. He might have said, "God never wrote me a private text message." That would be true. But God never spoke?! He has spoken in the most intensely powerful way possible. He has sent the Logos - in person. That is exactly what John is telling us: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." In calling Jesus the logos, the logic of God, John is saying, "God did not give us a watertight argument to prove Xnty is true; He did not give us airtight apologetic; He gave us a watertight Person." So look to Him -- His miracles, His claims, His teaching and His extraordinary life, His atoning death and His astounding resurrection. Do that with an open mind, and you will find that Jesus Christ is a watertight person against whom in the end there is no argument, because He's perfect. He's inexplicable. He's God's final Word. Now we must decide - Hear the Word - or refuse the Word. Let's pray. 7
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