WHAT’S SO DIFFERENT ABOUT JESUS?

 

Week of October 17, 2010

 

Bible Verses:  John 6:66-69; 9:17,24-25,31-33,35-38; 20:27-29.

 

Lesson Focus:  This lesson is about the uniqueness of Jesus as evidenced in His teaching, His miracles, and His resurrection.

 

Consider Jesus’ Teachings: John 6:66-69.

 

[66]  After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. [67]  So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" [68]  Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, [69]  and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."  [ESV]

 

After this or “for this reason” a large number of people ceased to follow Jesus. They went away, not only from the synagogue where Jesus had been teaching, but from all that discipleship means. They returned to their ordinary occupations, which they had abandoned in order continuously to follow the Lord. The events of this chapter had made it all too clear that following Him meant something different from anything they had anticipated. Nothing is said to give us a clear idea of their views, but the probability is that they were interested in a messianic kingdom in line with the general expectation. Instead they are invited to believe, to receive Christ, to eat His flesh and drink His blood, to enter into that eternal life that He proclaimed. It was too much for them. They rejected these words of life and went back to their old lives. Walked is a revealing glimpse of the wandering nature of Christ’s ministry as He was often moving from one place to another. Verses 67-69 are of tremendous importance. So far in John’s Gospel enough of the claims of Jesus has been brought out to make it clear that He was no run-of-the-mill claimant to messianic honors. His claims for Himself and His claims on men are becoming clearer. At first men tended to flock around Him [2:23]. He had chosen to withdraw from Judea because of the problem posed by the number of those who associated themselves with His band [4:1-3]. It had looked as though He might become the head of a very popular movement. But then men began to see what Jesus really stood for and they did not like it. The preceding sections of chapter 6 have shown how first the multitude and then some of His disciples were repelled. Now comes the big test. What will the Twelve do? And here Peter becomes their spokesman in a magnificent declaration of allegiance and acceptance. It is a dramatic moment as Jesus challenges the Twelve. They have heard the sermon and have seen the reaction of the Jews. They have seen the defection of many disciples. Now Jesus puts the question to them: Do you want to go away as well? The form in which the question is put shows that a negative answer is expected. Jesus confidently looks for loyalty from these men. The question is addressed to them all. But it does not surprise us that Peter is the spokesman. He often appears in this role in the Gospels. He is impetuous, ready sometimes to jump to conclusions, and capable of incredible ineptitude. But he is also capable of reaching astonishing heights. He does so now. Peter shows the impossibility of their forsaking Jesus by asking to whom could they go. Then he shows that he has correctly understood verse 63 by saying that Jesus has words of eternal life. No one who has come to know Jesus’ life-giving word would ever forsake Him. When a person once knows Jesus, none else can satisfy. The verbs have believed and have come to know are in the perfect tense pointing to an action in the past that has ongoing significance. Peter is saying that the disciples have come to a place of faith and continue in that faith. They have entered into knowledge and retain that knowledge as the basis for their actions. You is emphatic and stresses Christ’s place and person.  The Holy One of God is meant to assign to Jesus the highest possible title and place. It stresses His consecration and His purity. It sets Him with God and not man.

 

Consider Jesus’ Miracles:  John 9:17,24-25,31-33,35-38.

 

[17]  So they said again to the blind man, "What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?" He said, "He is a prophet." [24]  So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, "Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner." [25]  He answered, "Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." [31]  We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. [32]  Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. [33]  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." [35]  Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" [36]  He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" [37]  Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you." [38]  He said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him.  [ESV]

 

[17]  According to the Pharisees, Jesus may have broken the Sabbath in the following ways (1) since He was not dealing with a life-or-death situation, Jesus should have waited until the next day to heal the man; (2) Jesus had kneaded the clay with His saliva to make mud, and kneading was included among the thirty-nine classes of work forbidden on the Sabbath; (3) later Jewish tradition stipulated that it was not permitted to anoint eyes on the Sabbath, although opinion seems to have been divided. Interestingly, though the story revolves around Jesus and His actions, His name is not mentioned. Although the man is the one being interrogated, Jesus is the actual target of the Pharisees’ investigation, though in the end it will be made clear that the tables have turned [9:39-41]. It is a measure of the Pharisees’ perplexity and division that they ask the man what he thinks of Jesus. Normally they would not have dreamed of putting a question on a religious issue to such a man. But after all he did know what happened. So they request his opinion. The request is the measure of their embarrassment. The man is in a special position. He does not hesitate: He is a prophet. If this seems to us inadequate we must remember that the man had no way of knowing that Jesus was more. His contact with the Lord had been very brief. And for him “prophet” was probably the highest place he could assign to a man of God. His answer puts Jesus in the highest place he knew. It is interesting to notice his progressive apprehension of the significance of Jesus. He passes from thinking of Him as a man [11] to seeing Him as a prophet [17]. Then he advances to the thought of one to whom allegiance may fitly be given [27], then to one from God [33], and finally he comes to believe in the Son of Man to whom worship should be given [35-38]. By contrast the Pharisees, starting with the view that Jesus is not from God [16], question the miracle [18], speak of Jesus as a sinner [24], are shown to be ignorant [29], and finally are pronounced to be blind and sinners [41].

 

[24-25]  Verses 24-34 are the most spirited part of the chapter. The Jews press the healed man, and he withstands them with some vigor. The phrase Give glory to God constitutes a solemn exhortation to tell the truth and to make a confession, with the implication that the person so exhorted has done wrong. Clearly, the veracity of the miracle is no longer the issue; discrediting Jesus is the only concern. The Pharisees saw Jesus as a sinner since He had broken the Sabbath laws. The man is willing to leave the question of Jesus’ guilt to the theological experts.  They take their stand on their preconceived ideas, he on the simple facts that he knows. It is not possible to argue a man out of his position when he can say, one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see. Indeed, far from shaking him, their arguments caused him to clarify his position, and he finished the interrogation with a deeper appreciation of Jesus than he had at the beginning. We should not miss this further example of John’s irony. He depicts those who thought of themselves as enlightened trying to badger the once blind man into denying his certainty that he now had light. So is significant in verse 24. The Jews perceive that further interrogation of the parents will be fruitless. So they switch their attack back to the son. They begin with the pious exhortation to give glory to God. The man should be giving glory to God for his healing and not to the sinner Jesus. The man does not go into the theoretical question of whether Jesus was a sinner or not. He sticks to the facts of which he has certain knowledge, and thus produces an answer which is a classic: one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see. The man had sight. No mere words could alter that.

 

[31-33]  Now the man born blind becomes the teacher, reasoning with the Jewish authorities on their own terms. His tenacity contrasts with the timidity of both his parents. The Pharisees are forced to listen to an uneducated man telling them that they are incapable of assessing God’s activity. We know that God does not listen to sinners is the major premise in the man’s argument. Scripture establishes a clear link between a person’s righteousness and God’s responsiveness to his or her prayer [see e.g., 1 John 3:21-22]. But if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. There is ample Old Testament substantiation for the cured man’s contention [see Ps. 34:15; 145:19; Prov. 15:29]. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind is the minor premise of the formerly blind man: an extraordinary miracle has taken place. Opening of the eyes of the blind is limited to unusual circumstances in the Old Testament [e.g., 2 Kings 6:8-23]. Instances of blind persons being healed in Jewish tradition are extremely rare. But the healing of a man born blind is without parallel. The man’s conclusion: If this man were not from God, he could do nothing is firmly in keeping with Judaism at large, which regarded miracles as answers to prayer. At this point the Pharisees are so enraged that they fail to recall the promises that sight will be restored at the dawn of the messianic age [Isa. 29:18; 35:5; 42:7]. Unable to refute the man’s logic, the authorities resort to personal attack. You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us? They cannot bear the truth he represents; hence, they expel him from the synagogue.

 

[35-38]  Jesus heard that the man had been persecuted by the Jews. Later, when he found the man, Jesus asked him the question: Do you believe in the Son of Man? The man evidently recognizes the voice, for he clearly knows that Jesus is his benefactor, though up till now he has not seen Him. The man’s gratitude to Jesus comes out in his readiness to believe. He wants to know who the Son is so that he may believe. He has gathered from Jesus’ question that Jesus wants him to believe. Jesus discloses His identity. His use of the verb seen must have meant a good deal to the man who up till that day had seen nothing. The man’s instant response is Lord, I believe. This is the climax for the man of a process that has been going on throughout the chapter. His insight into the Person of Jesus has been growing, and now this final revelation puts the coping stone on what has gone before. The man sees that Jesus is the one object of a right faith and accordingly puts his trust in Him. This is the only place in this Gospel where anyone is said to worship Jesus. The verb occurs several times in chapter 4 of worshipping God, and it is found in the same sense in 12:20. The man has already recognized that Jesus came from God [33]. Now he goes a step further. He gives to Jesus that reverence that is appropriate to God.

 

Consider Jesus’ Resurrection:  John 20:27-29.

 

[27]  Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." [28]  Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" [29]  Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."  [ESV]

 

Jesus invites Thomas to carry out the tests he himself had requested, to put his finger into the nail prints and his hand into the side. Our Lord concludes by urging Thomas to cease being an unbeliever and become a believer. But Thomas was not quite such a skeptic as he had thought he was. At the sight of Jesus all his doubts vanished and he did not need to apply any of his tests. It is possible that it was the words of Jesus more than anything which brought conviction, for they showed that Jesus was perfectly aware of what Thomas had laid down as his demands. Thomas gave utterance to his new-found faith in the memorable words: My Lord and my God! Nobody has previously addressed Jesus in this way. It marks a leap of faith. In the moment that he came to see that Jesus was indeed risen from the dead Thomas came to see something of what that implied. Mere men do not rise from the dead in this fashion. The One who was now so obviously alive, though He had died, could be addressed in the language of adoring worship. Jesus addresses to Thomas a word of approval, but one which goes far beyond Thomas to those who had not required so much before believing. Thomas believed on the basis of sight. He saw Jesus and believed. Jesus then pronounces a blessing on those who have believed without seeing.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.         Many churches today seek to avoid the “hard sayings” of Jesus because they are concerned that it will drive people away from church. But this is not what Jesus did. We see in chapter 6 that Jesus confronted His followers with all that true discipleship required. Why do you think He did that? (Focus your attention here on why people come to Jesus. The people in chapter 6 were following Jesus with preconceived notions of who they wanted Jesus to be; i.e. the political Messiah. Many people today claim to follow Jesus with their own preconceived ideas of who Jesus is. But Jesus taught that His true followers must see Him as both their Lord and their Savior. True discipleship requires total commitment to the biblical Jesus.) Encourage your class to read John 6:22-59. After reading the teaching of Jesus here, can you make the same statement as Peter did in 6:68-69?

 

2.         The passage concerning the blind man is a fascinating account of how people respond to who Jesus is. The Pharisees did everything they could to deny the power of Jesus because they lacked faith in who Jesus is. But follow the progressive apprehension of the significance of Jesus in the blind man. Once again in this passage we see the danger of coming to Jesus with preconceived notions of who He is. The Pharisees start with the view that Jesus is not God, which causes them to follow all kinds of faulty thinking in order to prove their point. In your witnessing to the Gospel, how do you deal with the preconceived notions that people have about Jesus?

 

3.         What do you think changed the mind of “doubting” Thomas about the reality of the resurrection of Jesus? Note that Jesus does not rebuke Thomas for his failure to believe, but compassionately offered him proof of His resurrection. What is the importance of the response of Thomas to the risen Christ? Is not this the only proper response to belief in our risen Lord?

 

References:

The Gospel According to John, D.A. Carson, Eerdmans.

The Gospel According to John, Leon Morris, Eerdmans.

John, Andreas Kostenberger, Baker Academic.