Lessons from John
By Paul Robison

On a few occasions when I worked in Italy, some excellent American Christian preachers and teachers visited with us and shared some sermons and lessons.  Of course, they needed a translator to go from English to Italian, and that would be my task.  Now, a translator has to be a good listener and do his best to communicate the speaker's ideas.  In order to do this effectively, you also must do more than just communicate words.  You must also imitate actions. For example, when the speaker pauses to let the audience think, you should pause also.  When the speaker raises his voice and punches two or three key words, you must raise your voice and emphasize those words.  When the speaker uses a gesture, you also try to do something similar.  With all these actions, you are trying to communicate the speaker's message in similar manner so that the original impact comes across as well to the Italian audience.  We'll apply this illustration later.

Now let me share another story with you.  It's the one about the man who walked the tightrope at the circus.  He walked several times across a 40 foot rope stretched high above the arena below. Then he descended and came to the crowd.  He told them that he was now going to push a wheelbarrow across the tightrope as he walked.  “Do you believe I can do this?” he asked the crowd.  They all clapped and cheered excitedly in anticipation.  Then he asked: “Is there a volunteer who will agree to ride in the wheelbarrow as I push it across?”  At this question, nobody in the crowd took he man up on his offer!  The audience's clapping affirmed that they had believed with their heads, but nobody's willingness to ride shows that they had not really believed with all their hearts that the man could do what he claimed!

In John 20:30-31, the apostle John informs his readers: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, but these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ [or the Messiah], the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” John just did something wonderful—he tells us his purpose behind His gospel!  In essence, he says: “I wrote these things about Jesus so that you might believe [a word used 98 times in this book], that you might fully understand and put your complete trust in these great truths—that Jesus is Israel's long-awaited Messiah, that He truly is God's Divine Son, and that He can give you the gifts of both abundant and eternal life!”  “Be trusting!” is a two word summary of John's Gospel.  Thank you, Brother John, for telling us why you wrote your profound Gospel!

And what a different Gospel, John provides from the other three!  In John's Gospel, there are no parables, no driving out of demons, no temptation in the desert, and no transfiguration.  But in John's Gospel, we find many wonderful things: an introduction that links Jesus all the way back to the creation of the world, characters who met with Jesus that we've never known before, some miracles that we've never seen before, an insight into some more marvelous promises, an emphasis on Jesus' humanity as well as His divinity [Jesus grows weary, thirsts, weeps at death of a close friend, and real blood and water flowed together from his side when it was pierced with a Roman spear], and so much more!  We're going to look at three more unique contributions in just a moment.  But first, let's notice two other matters about this Gospel—its audience and its structure.  Someone has rightly noted that Matthew's Gospel was written for a Jewish audience, Mark's Gospel was written for a Roman audience, Luke's Gospel was written for a Grecian audience, but John's Gospel was written for a universal audience—it was written for all the world!  Now let's look at an interesting structural element which divides the book into two parts.  In John 1:11, we read that Jesus came to His own, but His own did not receive Him. The word “receive” here means “to receive with favor”.  Jesus came to the Jews, His own race, but instead of accepting Him with a welcome mat, they slammed the door in His face!  Now look at John 13:1 where we find that Jesus knew that it was time for Him to depart from this world to be with God and that He loved to the end those who were His own.  Who were “His own” in this verse?  It was His disciples, wasn't it?  So John has used the term “His own” to provide two major divisions for his book.  In the first twelve chapters, Jesus reaches out to the Jews, while in the last nine chapters, He reaches out to His disciples.  Or another way to say it is that He has a public ministry in chapters 1-12 and that He has a private ministry in chapters 13-21.  Alright, now let's look at three more unique features from John's Gospel which can challenge us to put our trust in Jesus as God's Son who can give us real living!

Believe in Jesus today because of the seven unique sayings that we find in John's Gospel.  The first one is found in John 6.  Let's start reading in verse 32: “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  Now drop down to v. 51: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever; and the bread I shall give him is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” Just as God had provided the Jews manna to sustain them in the wilderness under the Old Testament, so now He gives Jesus to sustain all people under the New Testament.  Yes, Jesus is the bread that can sustain our souls for eternity; those who believe in Jesus can have everlasting life!  Praise God that He is God's only Living Bread who blesses us with abundant life here and everlasting life in the hereafter! 

The second affirmation is found in John 8:12. Before we read it, let's remember that chapter 7:2 tells us that it was during the Jewish feast of Tabernacles.  One thing the Jews did during this feast was to remember the guidance God had given their forefathers in the wilderness by the light of the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.  Now notice what Jesus says in 8:12: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life!”  Jesus provides us with the light of His guidance!  Glory be to God that we used to live in the kingdom of darkness, but through Jesus, we have been conveyed into His kingdom of light and we can live as children of light (Ephesians 5:8-9)! 

The third saying is found in John 8:58.  But before we read it, do you recall something that Moses asked God in Exodus 3:13: “God, when the Israelites ask me, 'What is Your name?', then what shall I tell them?”  God replies: “Moses, you tell them that the I AM has sent you.”  The I AM shows One who is always in existence, Someone who is timeless.  Now let's start reading with John 8:56 where Jesus is speaking: “‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.’  Then the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet 50 years old, and have you seen Abraham?’  Jesus said to them: ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’”  I am the timeless One, I have always existed, I am God!  It's no wonder that in the next verse the Jews pick up stones to kill Him for what they perceive to be blasphemy.  “I am before Abraham, I am the Eternal One.”  You see, only He who is truly everlasting can offer to men everlasting life as well! 

The next saying is found in John 10:7-11: “Then Jesus said to them again: 'Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.  I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly!  I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”  Sheep pens in Palestine were usually made of large flat rocks which were stacked about 3-4 ft. high in a circular pattern.  There was an opening where the sheep could enter and exit.  The shepherd would stretch himself out at that opening to complete the circle of protection.  He would literally lay down his life to become the door in order to protect the sheep.  We know that Jesus continues to be the door of the church. “Anyone who enters by Me will be saved!”  He laid down His life so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly!  Only when one is following the Good Shepherd can real living be experienced!

The next saying is truly a fantastic one and was spoken at the death of Jesus' good friend Lazarus.  Let's look at John 11:23: “Jesus said to her [to Martha]: 'Your brother will rise again.'  Martha said to Him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.'  Jesus said to her: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.’”  I am the resurrection.  I can raise the dead and give life.  Now such a claim is startling enough, but then we go on to read how Jesus indeed calls Lazarus from the grave and restores his life back to him!  He who claims that He is resurrection actually gives resurrection to one who was dead! Again, what Jesus did physically, He also does for us spiritually.  The apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2:4-6: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (for by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus!”  Praise God that spiritual life is possible through Jesus, and physical death is not the final victor! 

The next saying is another great one found in John 14.  Let's begin reading with verse 4: “ 'And where I go you know, and the way you know.’  Thomas said to Jesus, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?’  Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”  The apostle Paul also affirms that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).  Jesus tells Pilate during His trial that He has come into the world to bear witness to the truth, and everyone who is on the side of truth will listen to what He has to say (John 18:37).  Jesus was not only a defender of truth; He Himself was the personification of truth!  “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” 

The next saying is found in John 15:1: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. ... [drop to v. 5] I am the vine, and you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me, you can do nothing.”  As the nourishing vine, Jesus can give you a productive life which bears godly fruit!

What sayings Jesus utters!  Would you believe me if I told you: “Listen if you will follow me, I can sustain you, guide you, protect you, provide hope for you, transform you, correctly inform you with truth, and I can make you live a productive life!You'd probably be very suspicious that I could deliver on such fantastic promises. Jesus, however, is God's only begotten Son, and you can put your absolute confidence in Him that He will deliver on His sayings!  “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, but these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ [or the Messiah], the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”  Believe that Jesus is God's Son because of seven unique sayings! 

Secondly, believe in Jesus because of His seven unique signs or miracles found in John.  Did you ever get a sampler from some company that makes chocolates?  The sampler is just to whet your appetite for more of what they can provide, isn't it?  Well, John just provides us with a sampler of Jesus' miracles.  He tells us at the close of his gospel, Jesus did many, many more miracles, but he has provided this sampler so that we could see Jesus' great power and conclude that He truly is Israel's promised Messiah and God's only begotten Son.  Let's look quickly to see what these signs are and what they teach us. 

In chapter 2:1-11, we find Jesus changing water into wine, and we find the master of the feast calling it good wine.  This miracle shows Jesus' ability to create something of quality.  The result of His miracle was not cheapness with inferiority, but it was excellence with superiority.  

The next sign was the healing of the nobleman's son in 4:46-54.  The nobleman asks Jesus to come and heal his son, but Jesus tells him to believe and go home.  When he returns, his servants tells him not only that his son was well, but the fever left him at the very hour that Jesus had said he would be healed!  This miracle shows that Jesus' ability to transcend space or distance.  Jesus did not have to be present or touch the nobleman's son; he was healed by Jesus' word that was uttered miles away! 

The next sign is found in John 5:1-15 where Jesus heals a man who had been lame for 38 years.  The man had repeatedly tried to enter the miraculous waters of the Pool of Siloam, but someone would always get there before him when the waters were stirred.  Jesus doesn't try to get the man to the pool, He just speaks a word, and the man is instantly healed.  This miracle shows Jesus' ability to transcend time.  He did not need to wait until the waters were agitated, He spoke, and immediately or instantly, the healing happened!  It reminds us of God's speaking so much into existence during the creation in Genesis 1-2.

The next sign is found in 6:1-14 where Jesus feeds a multitude of over 5000 people!  Somehow Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes until everyone had a full stomach.  This miracle shows Jesus' power over quantity.  It is interesting that this might have led to a great welfare program, but Jesus Himself begins to short-circuit that process with some hard teachings causing many to turn away from following Him further (note the end of John 6)!  

The next sign is also found in chapter 6:15-21 where Jesus walks to His disciples on the water and then calms a storm that had come up!  This sign shows His complete control over nature.  Yes, even the winds and waves obey His will!

The next sign was the healing of a blind man found in chapter 9. This man had been blind from birth, so we see here Jesus' ability to overcome misfortunes.  He took this misfortune and turned it into a powerful lesson—those religious leaders who should have recognized His divinity and their own sins were spiritually blind (vv. 39-41).

The last sign is found in chapter 11 where Jesus' shows His power over death by bringing His good friend Lazarus back to life!

“Now that's only a sampler,” says John, “but this should be enough to show that Jesus truly is God's divine Son—He creates quality, He transcends space and time, He produces quantity, He controls nature, He overcomes misfortunes, and He even conquers death! “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, but these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ [or the Messiah], the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”  Believe that Jesus is God's Son because of seven unique signs!

Believe in Jesus because of the seven acts of kindness that we find in the second part of John's Gospel.  All these were done during Jesus' private ministry with His disciples.  

The first act of kindness is seen in 13:1-17 where Jesus washes His disciples’ feet and then teaches them that they should serve one another, just as He has served them!  Jesus was willing to do the dirty work to serve His disciples.  Are we willing to get dirty in serving one another?  Are we willing to wash the feet of members who might be like Judas?  Are we willing to take up towels of service in order to be blessed by God?

The next act of kindness is seen in 13:18-16:33 where Jesus encourages His disciples before going to the cross.  Isn't that amazing: instead of their being an encouragement to Him, He is doing all that He can to encourage them?!  He tells them about heaven, about the Holy Spirit, about their future ministry, and about His victory over the world!  There is no hint of a pity party, but the promise of great rejoicing!  Jesus did not want the cross to destroy His disciples' hopes, so He did all that He could in His final hour to point them to a brighter future.  Are we encouraging others? In June 1993 at Windsor, CT,  motorists got pleasant surprises from the town's police officers.  Many were pulled over, and the police wrote them tickets saying: “Your driving was great—and we appreciate it!”  One motorist commented: “Hearing an officer saying thanks for obeying the law was about the last thing you'd ever expect from them!”  Have we been so critical of others that our neighbors might say, “Well, encouragement is about the last thing you can expect from the bunch in that congregation!”?  Like Jesus, let's always be working towards encouraging others!  

The next act of kindness in seen in chapter 17 where we find that great prayer that Jesus prayed not only for His disciples but also for all of His future followers.  He prayed for our unity, for our being united one day with Him, for our seeing His full glory, and for our knowing God's love and His love (vv. 20-26)!  Yes, even at His final hour, Jesus was praying for others.  Are we praying for others as well?  The apostle Paul exhorts us in 1 Timothy 2:1-3: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” 

The next act of kindness is seen in chapter 18:1-19:16 where Jesus bears the mockery, the agony, and the shame as He faces persecution for righteousness' sake for the benefit of all mankind. He knew early in His ministry that He must be that Lamb of God whose sacrifice would make atonement for the sins of all mankind. John's Gospel shows how Jesus faces this terrible time in His life with courage, with calm, and with confidence!  If God's will meant being butchered and being reviled, He would endure it so that, as Bro. Don Myers pointed out, "God could then cover our sins when we become clothed in His righteousness!"   Just as Jesus Himself had taught, only when the seed died could there be an abundant harvest!  He cried victorious on the cross: “It is finished (or it is accomplished; Your will and Your prophecies have been fulfilled)!” Are we willing to face persecutions for others' welfare and their benefit?  Someone made this interesting remark: “The greatest criticism of the church today is that no one wants to persecute it because [its convictions are so much like the culture around them that nobody in the world really sees Christians as standing distinctly against anything anymore]” (MacLeod in Rowell).  

The next act of kindness is found in 20:11-23 where Jesus appears to Mary and to His disciples after His resurrection.  Mary was very distraught, and His disciples were meeting behind locked doors, but Jesus appears before them both and offers words of comfort and hope!  Jesus was helping the downcast.  Are we willing to follow in His steps and help those who are downcast around us?

The next act of kindness is seen in 20:24-31 where Jesus appears before Thomas and challenges and assures his doubts.  Are we willing to help those who are doubting around us?

The last act of kindness is seen in chapter 21 where Jesus offers His disciples a breakfast and brings restoration to Peter.  Someone has noted that the smell of charcoal fire was present when Peter denied Jesus, and now Jesus provided the smell of a charcoal fire again to draw Peter back to Himself.  We do know for every denial Peter made, Jesus asked Peter to reaffirm his love for Him.  Here we see Jesus helping the fallen?  Are we willing to forgive and help or fallen members to come back home? 

What acts of kindness Jesus has shown: serving others, encouraging others, praying for others, facing persecution for others, and helping the downcast, the doubting, and the fallen!  “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, but these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ [or the Messiah], the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”  Believe that Jesus is God's Son because of seven unique acts of kindness!

As a translator, I could only try to repeat the speaker’s communication.  But as God's Son, Jesus did more than just communicate God's message to us, He translated His whole Being and Personality to us!  “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know Me, Philip?  He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9)!  Jesus is the perfect translation of God, full of both grace and truth!  He has made fantastic claims; He has performed magnificent signs; and He had done marvelous acts of kindness, but the question is: “Will you confess that He is God's Son, and are you willing to ride in His wheelbarrow?”  Don't applaud Him from afar and then shut the door in His face again!  Come close to Him, embrace Him, and adopt His teachings and actions for your life! Through your wholehearted belief and trust in Him, you can have an abundant life here and an eternal life in the hereafter!