One More Thing to Do

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. John 20:11-18 ESV

John indicates that he and Peter left the empty tomb and “went back to their homes” (John 20:10 ESV). The Greek phrase eis ta idia can also be translated as “to their own.” and since it is unlikely that either of these men had private homes in Jerusalem, it seems more plausible that John is saying that they rejoined the other disciples. But he also indicates that Mary Magdalene lingered at the graveside. She had returned with the two disciples after she had told them about the empty tomb and the missing body of Jesus.

Left by herself, Mary Magdalene stood outside the tomb weeping. She was overcome with sadness and grief at this second blow to her hopes and dreams. Not only was Jesus dead, but now His body was missing as well. Could things get any worse? But she decided to take one last look into the empty tomb.

And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. – John 20:12 ESV

Imagine the shock and surprise she must have felt at this unexpected sight. While John describes these two individuals as angels, there is no indication that Mary Magdalene recognized them as divine beings. When one of them asked the reason for her tears, she responded rather matter-of-factly, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him” (John 20:13 ESV). Her answer reveals her lingering sorrow over the loss of her friend, the one who had miraculously cast seven demons from her (Luke 8:2). Jesus had freed her from demonic possession and she had hoped that He was Israel’s Messiah, who would free them from their subjugation to Rome. 

But how does John’s narrative fit in with that of Mark’s? In his gospel, Mark indicates that Mary went to the tomb with Mary the mother of James and Salome, in order to anoint the body of Jesus with spices (Mark 16:1). Finding the stone that sealed the tomb had been rolled away, they entered, and “saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed” (Mark 16:5 NET).

This “young man,” who was actually an angel, told them, “Do not be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been raised! He is not here. Look, there is the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples, even Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you” (Mark 16:6-7 NET). Despite the angel’s words, “they went out and ran from the tomb, terror and bewilderment had seized them. And they said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid” (Mark 16:8 NET).

But what about Mary Magdalene? Why does John describe her as being at the tomb alone and encountering two angels, not one? It would seem that Mary Magdalene and the other two women had traveled together to the tomb that morning, but that she was the first to arrive and find the tomb empty. She immediately left and ran to tell Peter and John. In the meantime, the other two women arrived and encountered the angel. In shock and terror, they ran from the scene but told no one what they had heard and seen. But Mary Magdalene had leter returned with Peter and John. When the two men had entered the tomb, they had seen nothing but the discarded burial cloth. But when Mary Magdalene had entered on her own, she had been greeted by the two angels.

Most likely, she believed these two men to be groundskeepers or gardeners, so John indicates that, having found the tomb empty, she turned to leave. And when she did, she found herself staring into the face of the risen Jesus. But she failed to recognize Him. John provides no explanation for her inability to recognize Jesus. Perhaps she was suffering from shock. But she would not be the only one who would encounter the risen Jesus and fail to recognize Him. Luke describes two unnamed followers of Jesus who were traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus, having just witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus. They were discussing all that had happened in Jerusalem when, suddenly, they found themselves joined by a “stranger.”

Jesus himself approached and began to accompany them (but their eyes were kept from recognizing him). – Luke 24:15-16 NET

They too failed to recognize Jesus. And the text seems to indicate that they were miraculously prevented from doing so. This could have been the case with Mary as well. But whatever the reason for her memory lapse, when this third man spoke to her, she just assumed he was a gardener. He asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?,” and she sadly responded, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away” (John 20:15 ESV).

She had come to the tomb expecting to find the lifeless body of her friend and healer, and she had found nothing. At no point does she show any signs that she believed Jesus might be alive. There are no indications that she considered His resurrection as a possible explanation to the empty tomb. She was still hoping to find a body. And her failure to believe what Jesus had said about rising again is made all the more glaring by the fact that He was standing right in front of her.

But when He addressed her by name, everything changed.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”). – John 20:16 NLT

She was not even looking at Him when He spoke. She was too busy grieving over her loss and wondering what she was going to do next. But as soon as she heard Jesus speak her name, she turned abruptly and immediately recognized the one whom she had thought to be dead. Her grief was replaced by overwhelming joy and she impulsively wrapped her arms around Jesus, refusing to let Him go. But Jesus lovingly rebuked her, saying, “Don’t cling to me, for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father” (John 20:17 NLT).

For Mary Magdalene, the sudden reappearance of Jesus was more than she could have ever dreamed or imagined. He was alive! In a split second, her sorrow had been turned to joy. It must have been similar to the overwhelming sense of freedom and relief she had felt when Jesus released her from the control of the seven demons. But Jesus wanted Mary Magdalene to know that His reappearance would be short-lived. He would not be staying. And He knew that the vice-like grip with which she held Him revealed her desire that He never leave her again.

But there was more for Him to do. He had risen from the dead so that He might return to His Father’s side. His work was done. He had finished what He had come to do. And He had told the disciples that His departure would be necessary and for their own good.

But now I am going away to the one who sent me…But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.” – John 16:6, 7 NLT

And Jesus gave Mary Magdalene an important assignment. She was to find the disciples and give them a message.

“But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” – John 20:18 NLT

Notice the nature of Jesus’ message for the disciples. He didn’t instruct her to tell them that He was risen or alive. He wanted her to let them know that He was ascending to His Father, whom He described as “my God and your God.” Jesus was returning to His rightful place at His Father’s side. This was something Jesus had repeatedly told His disciples was going to happen.

“I will be with you only a little longer. Then I will return to the one who sent me. – John 7:33 NLT

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. – John 14:12 NLT

“Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am.” – John 14:28 NLT

“But now I am going away to the one who sent me…” – John 16:5 NLT

“Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more.” – John 16:10 NLT

“Yes, I came from the Father into the world, and now I will leave the world and return to the Father.” – John 16:28 NLT

As vital as the crucifixion and resurrection were to God’s redemptive plan, the ascension of Jesus was absolutely crucial. With Jesus’ departure, the Spirit of God would come to take up residence within each and every one of His followers. They would receive “power from on high” (Luke 24:49 ESV), enabling them to “do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father” (John 14:12 NLT).

And Mary Magdalene faithfully followed His instructions, finding the disciples and telling them that Jesus was alive and well, and passing on to them the news that He would soon be ascending to the Father.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

It Is Finished!

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” John 19:28-37 ESV

Just as he did with his recounting of Jesus’ trials, John presents a highly truncated version of Jesus’ crucifixion. In some sense, John portrays the death of Jesus as the work of men. The Sanhedrin had plotted and planned for it to happen, and the Roman governor had given his official approval, commanding his troops to carry out the execution of Jesus. John has portrayed Jesus as the King of the Jews and purposefully juxtaposed Him with two of the most powerful men in Israel at the time: The chief priest and the Roman prefect. These two men played significant roles in the death of Jesus, ensuring that His crucifixion was carried out. And John’s abbreviated treatment of the death of Jesus may simply be His way of diminishing or downplaying the power of men over the Son of God.

During his interrogation of Jesus, Pilate had arrogantly proclaimed, “Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” (John 19:10 ESV). Pilate was backed by the full power and authority of the Roman government. He had been appointed by Caesar and had thousands of well-trained and heavily armed Romans legionnaires at his disposal. He could issue a command and it would be carried out. But Jesus, unphased by Pilate’s boastful declaration, had calmly responded, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11 ESV).

In His trial before the Sanhedrin, Jesus had been confronted by Caiaphas, the high priest, who had demanded that Jesus publicly state His claim to be the Messiah.

“I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” – Matthew 26:63 NLT

Caiaphas was looking for a confession from Jesus, not some kind of confirmation. He harbored no suspicions that Jesus might truly be the Messiah. He was simply wanting Jesus to condemn Himself by proclaiming His claim to be the Son of God – in public and in front of witnesses. This powerful and influential leader of Israel’s religious elite believed that he held the fate of Jesus in his hands. But Jesus had responded by stating, “…in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64 NLT).

Like Pilate, Caiaphas had no power over Jesus. And for John, the crucifixion seemed to represent man’s vain attempt to thwart the plans of God. Their treatment of Jesus had been cruel and unjust. They were putting to death an innocent man. But little did they know that they were actually fulfilling the will of God and the desires of Jesus. They were not the ones in control. While they believed they were taking the life of Jesus, He had made it clear that no one had that kind of authority over Him.

“No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” – John 10:18 NLT

The death of Jesus was the will of God. It was being carried out by men, utilizing a man-made instrument of death, but it was all according to the sovereign and providential plan of God and the full consent of the Son of God. So, John seems to fast-forward through the gruesome details surrounding the crucifixion, focusing only on a few carefully chosen scenes. He is more interested in what happens next.

After recording how Jesus had personally commissioned him to care for His mother, John provides an interesting first-person impression of what he saw. He describes Jesus as “knowing that all was now finished” (John 19:28 ESV). Somehow, John ascertains that Jesus was reaching not only the end of His life but also the completion of His mission. And he reports hearing Jesus say: “I thirst” (John 19:28 ESV).

The one who had stated, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again” (John 4:14 ESV), was declaring His own thirst. He was nearing the completion of His earthly ministry, having suffered greatly at the hands of sinful men, and He found Himself suffering from intense spiritual thirst. John indicates that the words of Jesus were in fulfillment of Scripture. It is likely that he is referring to two passages found in the Psalms that seem to prophesy this very moment.

I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death. – Psalm 22: 14-15 ESV

You know my reproach,
    and my shame and my dishonor;
    my foes are all known to you.
Reproaches have broken my heart,
    so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none,
    and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me poison for food,
    and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink. – Psalm 69:19-21 ESV

But Jesus’ expression of thirst has even great implications because they tie back into His earlier declaration: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34 ESV). Jesus was about to complete the work of His Father, and that work had been grueling, painful, and exhausting. It had left Him physically and spiritually depleted. Jesus had told James and John that they would not be able to drink from the cup that He would be forced to drink (Mark 10:38). This cup represented the wrath of God (Jeremiah 25:15-16). In His crucifixion, Jesus was taking on Himself the full weight of God’s wrath against the sins of mankind. And, as He had told Peter, “shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11 ESV).

Doing the work of His Father had left Jesus thirsting after righteousness. He was bearing the sins of mankind and, in doing so, feeling the displeasure of His Father for the first time in His life. And He longed to be restored to fellowship. Isaiah describes the extreme nature of His sacrifice.

because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors. – Isaiah 53:12 ESV

It is impossible for us to comprehend the burden that Jesus bore on our behalf. When Isaiah states that “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6 ESV), we have a difficult time understanding the gravity and intensity of that weight.

And in response to Jesus’ words, He was given a sponge dipped in sour wine. The one who had turned ordinary water into extraordinary wine was given sour wine to slake His spiritual thirst. He who had poured out His blood as a drink offering to satisfy the just demands of a holy God was given spoiled wine to satisfy His need for refreshment.

And then, John records the last words Jesus would utter from the cross: “It is finished” (John 19:30 ESV). With His final breath, Jesus proclaimed the successful completion of His God-ordained mission. He had done what He had come to do. Now, the rest was in the hands of His Heavenly Father.

In order to expedite death, the Roman soldiers broke the legs of the three men, making it impossible for them to push themselves up in order to breathe. But Jesus was spared this indignity because He was already dead. Yet, as a precaution, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ body with a spear. Even in death, Jesus was subjected to indignity and disrespect. And John declares that all that he has written is true because he saw it with his own eye.

This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also may continue to believe. – John 19:35 NLT

John reveals the reason why he chose to report the things he did. The facts that the legs of Jesus remained unbroken and that His side was pierced are crucial to John. For him, they provide further proof of Jesus identity as the Son of God. He sees these two details as evidence of the deity of Jesus because they fulfill Old Testament prophecy. John seems to have three primary passages in mind: Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; and Psalm 34:20. The first two deal with the divine prohibition against breaking the bones of the Passover lambs. In His death, Jesus performed the role of the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Paul ties Jesus directly to the Passover lamb, stating, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7 ESV). Psalm 34:20 describes how God protects the truly righteous man, preventing anyone from breaking his bones.

Even in His death, Jesus was fulfilling the prophecies of Scripture, providing further evidence that He truly was the Son of God and the Savior of the world. And for John, the proofs for Jesus’ identity are far from over.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Behold Your King!

1 Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13 So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. John 19:1-16 ESV

When Pilate had asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18:33 ESV), he was not implying a hidden suspicion that perhaps Jesus was who the rumors claimed Him to be. The Roman governor was simply trying to ascertain the reason behind the Sanhedrin’s hatred for Jesus. If Jesus was their king, why were they so desperate to have Him put to death? At the end of the day, Pilate could have cared less whether Jesus was a king of not. He simply wanted to avoid any kind of trouble during the Passover celebration, a time when Jerusalem was overflowing with pilgrims, making the city a potential tinderbox for civil unrest.

And when Pilate had found no evidence that Jesus had committed a crime worthy of capital punishment, he had offered to release Jesus, as part of an annual custom during Passover. But the Jewish religious leaders had refused his offer, demanding instead that the governor release a convicted criminal names Barabbas.

From what happens next, it seems quite evident that Pilate harbored no suspicions that Jesus was royalty. He had Jesus flogged and then stood back and watched as his soldiers “twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe” (John 19:2 ESV). As the blood flowed down the face of Jesus, the soldiers took turns slapping and mocking Him, crying out, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (John 19:3 ESV). This blattant display of disrespect was not only aimed at Jesus, but was intended to offend the high-minded religious leaders. It was a reminder of what would happen to any Jew who chose to stand against the power of Rome and the sovereign reign of Caesar.

After beating and humiliating Him, Pilate presented Jesus to the members of the Sanhedrin who remained outside the royal residence. He parades Jesus before them, dressed in a purple robe and wearing a crown of thorns, and announces once again, “I find no guilt in him” (John 19:4 ESV). Don’t miss the significance of what Pilate is doing. He is presenting Jesus to them as their “king” – dressed in nothing more than a borrowed robe and wearing a crude crown of thorns. And he loudly and sarcastically declares for all to hear, “Behold the man!” (John 19:5 ESV).

This scene brings to mind the prophetic words of Isaiah, describing the future suffering of the Messiah.

He was despised and rejected by men,
    a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… – Isaiah 53:3 ESV

Here was the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and the true King of Israel, being displayed before His own people as a wretched and rejected, beaten and abandoned shell of a man. But rather than feeling pitty for Jesus, the chief priests and the officers cried out in anger, “Crucify him, crucify him!” (John 19:6 ESV).

Pilate, frustrated by their incessant demands, once again declared His belief that Jesus was innocent. “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him” (John 19:6 ESV). Jesus had committed no crime worthy of death. He had led no insurrections or had fomented no rebellions against the Roman government. So, if the Jews wanted Him dead, they would have to do it themselves.

Pilate’s persistent insistence of Jesus’ innocence force the Jews to take a different tactic. They reminded Pilate that, according to Jewish law, anyone who committed blasphemy was to be put to death. And since they were prohibited by Roman law from carrying out capital punishment on their own, they wanted him to use his authority to sanction Jesus’ death. In his gospel account, Matthew indicates that things got so heated that Pilate feared a riot would take place.

So, in one last attempt to avoid a very ugly situation, Pilate asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” (John 19:9 ESV). The Jews had just claimed that Jesus “ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God” (John 19:7 ESV). But Pilate’s question regarding Jesus’ place of origin doesn’t indicate that he was beginning to believe Jesus was from heaven. He was simply wanting to know what part of the country Jesus called home. Luke makes this clear in his gospel account. The Jews had accused Jesus of stirring up the people, “teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place” (Luke 23:5 ESV). This led Pilate to ask whether Jesus was a Galilean.

And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. – Luke 23:7 ESV

John’s emphasis on Pilate’s question is intentional because it supports the overall theme of his gospel account: The deity of Jesus. Pilate’s question was intended to solicit geographical information for jurisdictional purposes. But John used it as a subtle reminder that Jesus was “the living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:51 ESV). Or, as he put it in his first epistle, Jesus was the Son who had been sent by the Father.

…the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. – 1 John 4:14 ESV

Jesus refused to answer Pilate’s question, because He knew the governor had no interest in who He really was. But Pilate, shocked by Jesus’ silence, arrogantly responded, “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?” (John 19:10 NLT). Yet Jesus informed him that nothing was further from the truth.

“You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” – John 19:11 NLT

Pilate’s authority came from Caesar but Jesus revealed that there was a much higher authority behind all that was happening. Every player in this unfolding drama was under the sovereign hand of God Almighty. And while Pilate would be held responsible for his actions, he was only operating according to God’s will. The one who had committed the greater sin was Caiaphas, the high priest of the Jews who had chosen to turn Jesus over to the Romans. Both of these men would be complicit in the death of Jesus, but Caiaphas, as a Jew and a priest over the people of Israel, would have a higher degree of culpability. But neither man had any real power or authority over Jesus. They were simply instruments in the hands of God, accomplishing His divine will by playing the roles they had been assigned by Him.

John indicates that Pilate went out of his way to release Jesus. Matthew adds that Pilate’s wife had warned him against convicting Jesus because she had suffered a disturbing nightmare about this man (Matthew 27:19). The Jewish leaders, sensing that they had Pilate on the ropes, pressed their demand for Jesus’ death, warning the governor that his refusal to carry out their wish would make him look like an enemy of Caesar. So, finally giving into the pressure, Pilate mounted the dais to the seat of judgment, where he proclaimed, “Behold your King!” (John 19:14 ESV).

Once again, John carefully chooses the details he wants to include in his record of the proceedings. And he continues to focus his attention of the kingship of Jesus. The soldiers have dressed Jesus in a robe of royal purple and placed a mock crown on His head. Now Pilate declares Him to be the King of the Jews. And in anger and indignation, the Jews cry out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” (John 19:15 ESV). They refuse to acknowledge Jesus as their King. They reject the deity and sovereignty of the Son of God.

And when Pilate mockingly asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?,” the chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15 ESV). With these words, the religious leaders think they are condeming Jesus to death. But, in reality, they are condemning themselves. And they are fulfilling the words spoken by Jesus to Nicodemus, one of their own members. 

“God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” – John 3:17-18 ESV

Jesus was their King, but they refused to accept Him. Now, their failure to believe in Him would condemn them. They sealed their fate when they declared their allegiance to Caesar over the one who had come to be their Savior.

And John closes this scene with the sobering words, “he delivered him over to them to be crucified” (John 19:16 ESV).

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

A Long and Painful Goodbye

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.” John 13:31-38 ESV

After the shocking announcement that one of His own would betray Him, Jesus begins  what has come to be known as His “farewell discourse.” Judas has left the upper room, leaving Jesus alone with His 11 remaining disciples. These men were likely still in a state of bewilderment, trying to assimilate all that Jesus had just said and done.

The fact that no one attempted to hinder Judas from leaving reveals that they had not fully comprehended the gravity of the situation or the meaning behind Jesus’ words. John even alludes to their misunderstanding by revealing what he and the other disciples were thinking when Jesus said to Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly” (John 13:27 ESV). 

Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. – John 13:28-29 ESV

From their places at the table where they had just celebrated the Passover, the 11 disciples watched as their brother walked into the night. With Judas’ departure, another form of cleansing or separation took place. When Jesus had finished washing the disciples’ feet, He had told them, “you are clean, but not every one of you” (John 13:10 ESV). The inference was that Judas, who had also had his feet washed by Jesus,  remained unclean. He was not one of them. His intention to betray Jesus revealed his true heart and exposed his state of disbelief.

But with Judas gone, the room was occupied only with those whom Jesus had originally chosen to be His followers and who were destined to His future ambassadors. Everything Jesus would say from this point forward would be designed to brace these men for all that was about to happen but also to prepare them for the role they would play once He was gone. He began by telling them:

“The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will give his own glory to the Son, and he will do so at once.” – John 13:31-32 NLT

In the opening verses of his gospel, John testified regarding Jesus: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV).

As one of those chosen by Jesus, John had been an eye-witness to all that Jesus had said and done. He had been able to see the amazing miracles Jesus had performed. He had sat under the remarkable teaching of this Rabbi from Nazareth. And over the three years he had spent with Jesus, John had become convinced that Jesus really was the Word become flesh. Jesus was the Messiah, and His entire life and ministry revealed the glory of His identity as the Son of God.

Now, Jesus tells John and the other disciples that the time has come for Him to “enter His glory.” He was going to be returning to His Father’s side in heaven, but the path to His glory would pass through the cross. Jesus had already alluded to the fact that His glorification would require His crucifixion. Earlier in the day, Jesus had told His disciples:

“Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” – John 12:23-24 NLT

In the physical world, life precedes death. But in the spiritual realm, it is the other way around. Death precedes life. All that Jesus had done in His earthly life had given evidence of His glory as God’s own Son. But God would use His Son’s death on the cross as the ultimate proof of His identity by raising Him back to life. The Son of Man would die, but the Son of God would rise again and return to His Father’s side in heaven.

This was not the first time that Jesus had communicated to His disciples the idea of death preceding life. He had told them that they too would be required to sacrifice their temporal earthly lives in order to gain eternal life.

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” – Matthew 16:24-25 NLT

What they didn’t understand was that Jesus was about to take up His own cross. He was just hours away from laying down His life for their sake. But with the Father’s help, He would pick it up again. In a split second of time, God would restore to life the beaten, broken, and bloodied body of His Son. And He would see to it that His glorified Son was restored to His rightful place at His side.

The apostle Paul describes this death-to-life transformation in powerful terms, stating that Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Philippians 2:8-11 ESV).

But Jesus informs His disciples that His glorification will result in their isolation from Him. In addition to the news that He will be betrayed by one of His own, Jesus now informs them that He will be leaving them and they will not be able to follow Him.

“Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going.” – John 13:33 NLT

Upon His departure, the disciples would find themselves alone and in need of one another’s companionship and support. Jesus wanted them to understand that they were going to be part of a new and totally unique community, made up of all those who believed in Him and would become members of His body. And one of the requirements for membership in this community would be mutual love for one another.

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” – John 13:34-35 NLT

Later on, in this same farewell discourse, Jesus will elaborate on this command to love one another, using His own death as an example of the kind of love He is talking about.

“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:12-13 NLT

Jesus had earlier described Himself as the Good Shepherd and had indicated that His love for His sheep would be exhibited by His willingness to die for them.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.” – John 10:11 NLT

Now, He was telling His disciples that they too would need to be willing to die for one another. The life of a follower of Christ is marked by self-sacrifice and selfless love for others. Again, the apostle Paul used Jesus as the prime example of what this kind of selfless, sacrificial life was to look like.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. – Philippians 2:3-5 NLT

With His death on the cross, Jesus exhibited an attitude of humility, sacrifice, obedience, and love. He faithfully followed the will of His Father and willingly laid down His life for the good of others. And He expected His disciples to do the same.

But Peter, as the unofficial spokesman for the group, vocalized their confusion by asking, “Lord, where are you going?” (John 13:36 ESV). All the talk about glorification and loving one another went right over their heads. All they had heard was “Where I am going you cannot come” (John 13:33 ESV). In spite of all that Jesus had said, they were oblivious to the reality of the cross. The last thing on their minds was the death of Jesus.

And Jesus, speaking rather cryptically, assured His disciples that while they could not immediately accompany Him to His destination, they would one day join Him. This is probably a veiled reference to both His death and His glorification. He was headed to the cross and, ultimately, to His Father’s side in heaven. And one day, each of the disciples would experience their own physical deaths, most by martyrdom, and then join Jesus in heaven. But for now, they would remain behind because God had work for them to do.

But Peter, impulsive and outspoken as ever, blurted out, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you” (John 13:37 ESV). He boldly proclaimed his love and allegiance to Jesus, declaring that he was willing to face anything, even death, to prove His faithfulness. But little did Peter know that his commitment to Jesus would prove wholly insufficient and, ultimately, insincere. The next words out of Jesus’ mouth must have left Peter devastated and embarrassed. 

“Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times. – John 13:38 ESV

But Jesus knew that Peter, however well-intentioned he might be, lacked the one thing he and the other disciples were going to need if they were going to survive His departure: The Holy Spirit.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Better That One Man Die

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.

55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him. John 11:45-57 ESV

John gives what appears to be a surprisingly brief summary of the peoples’ response to the raising of Lazarus from the dead. He simply states that many who had been eyewitnesses to the miracle Jesus performed “believed in him” (John 11:45 ESV). But what did they say? How did they react? Did anyone scream in fear as they watched Lazarus come out of the tomb? Were there tears of joy, shouts of praise, and gasps of disbelief and shock? We don’t know because all John tells us is that many believed and others went to the Pharisees to tell them what Jesus had done.

There is little doubt that Jesus’ miracle made a powerful impression on all those who witnessed it. It had been a jaw-dropping display of supernatural power that was impossible to dismiss or ignore. And for many in the crowd, it had been enough to convince them that Jesus was the Messiah. Who else but the Anointed One of God could have raised a dead man back to life?

But John’s lack of detail regarding the peoples’ reaction is because he has a different point of emphasis. In the very next chapter, John will provide a more satisfying glimpse into the peoples’ emotional state as he recalls what happened when they accompanied Jesus into the city of Jerusalem. But for now, John is far more interested in the reaction of the religious leaders. It would appear that these men had Jesus under 24-hour surveillance. They wanted to know His every move and had commissioned spies to report back on everything they saw and heard. And the miracle in Bethany had sent them scurrying back to Jerusalem, eager to tell the Pharisees what they had seen. Upon hearing the first-hand report of what had taken place in Bethany, the Pharisees informed the high priest, who called a special meeting of the Jewish religious council, the Sanhedrin.

This entire scene is strangely similar to one that would take place after Jesus’ own resurrection. John gives a detailed account of it in chapter 20 of his gospel.

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed — for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. – John 20:1-9 NLT

Notice the differences. Mary found the tomb of Jesus empty and ran to tell the disciples. Shocked at the news, Peter and John rushed to the scene and discovered the burial wrappings discarded and the tomb empty. And they believed.

The men who witnessed the empty tomb in Bethany had also run to tell others. But the Pharisees had made no effort to verify the facts. Upon hearing the fantastic nature of the news, they didn’t bother to make the two-mile journey to Bethany to see for themselves. They simply reported what they heard to the high priest, who decided it was worthy of an emergency meeting of the council.

The news that a dead man had walked out of a grave was not enough to make these men believe. Their only response was to ask, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs” (John 11:47 ESV). In a real sense, what they were saying was, “What are we supposed to do now? Our current course of action isn’t working.”

They realized that the longer they delayed, the more powerful and popular Jesus seemed to become. They had tried to discredit Him. They had even threatened to stone Him. But He wouldn’t go away. And now they had a real problem on their hands. He had reportedly raised a dead man back to life and the rumors were flying. Those who had witnessed the miracle were probably spreading the news that Jesus was the Messiah and the religious leaders were fearing the worst.

“If we allow him to go on in this way, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away our sanctuary and our nation.” – John 11:48 NLT

They saw Jesus as a threat to their way of life. He was a trouble-making, crowd-inciting thorn in their sides who was fomenting discord and rocking the proverbial boat. Everything had been just fine until this rabble-rouser from Nazareth had shown up on the scene. Now, what were they going to do? Jesus had supposedly raised a dead man back to life. How were they supposed to discredit someone who could do the impossible? And with the celebration of Passover just days away, the crowds were gathering, and the news of His latest miracle was going to spread like wildfire.

But Caiaphas, the high priest, tried to put it all in perspective. He calmly and arrogantly responded, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is more to your advantage to have one man die for the people than for the whole nation to perish” (John 11:49 NLT). He had made up his mind. Jesus had to die. It was the only logical solution to the problem facing them. The sacrifice of one man’s life was necessary if they wanted to preserve the overall well-being of the nation.

Little did Caiaphas know that his words were divinely ordained. He was prophesying and didn’t even know it. John reveals that the high priest’s words were Spirit-inspired.

Now he did not say this on his own, but because he was high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the Jewish nation, and not for the Jewish nation only, but to gather together into one the children of God who are scattered. – John 11:51-52 NLT

It is interesting to note that the Jewish high priest was appointed by the Romans. He served at their behest and knew his power and position were solely dependent upon their approval of his performance. If he were not careful, this “Jesus problem” could get out of hand and turn into an armed revolt, with the people trying to replace the Romans by crowning their new Messiah as King. This was all unacceptable and if it meant that Jesus had to die, so be it. Better that one man dies than that the Sanhedrin risk the loss of their power and the potential destruction of their temple.

The office of the high priest had originally been a God-ordained role, first held by Aaron, the brother of Moses. And as a God-appointed leader of the nation of Israel, the high priest was intended to be a spokesman for the Almighty. And even in the dark days of the 1st-Century when the spiritual leadership of Israel was in a state of apostasy and populated by men who were self-righteous hypocrites, God still spoke through Caiaphas. And while the high priest thought he was declaring Jesus’ death as the logical means of preserving their way of life, God was announcing the death of His Son as the key to eternal life.

Caiaphas was focused on protecting and preserving Israel. But God had bigger plans in store that would include not only the Jews but the nations of the world. And while Caiaphas didn’t realize it, he was going to be used to bring about the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles by participating in the death of Jesus.

The stage is set. The conflict between darkness and light is intensifying. And the days are drawing near when Jesus will complete His God-given assignment and fulfill the will of His Heavenly Father. But for the time being, Jesus avoided the limelight and removed Himself from public view, content to await the very moment for which He had come. The Passover was coming. And the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world was preparing to make His final entrance into Jerusalem

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

A Case of Contrasts

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. John 10:22-31 ESV

Sometime after His lesson on the Good Shepherd, during the annual celebration of the Feast of Dedication, Jesus returned to the temple complex. But this time He made His way to Solomon’s Colonnade, an area located on the east side of the Court of the Gentiles. This roofed, but open-sided “porch” was reserved for the Gentiles, who were prohibited from entering the temple proper.

Jesus’ decision to mingle with the Gentiles is significant. Earlier, when He had described Himself to the Jews as the Good Shepherd, He had told them, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16 ESV). Jesus was informing them that His offer of eternal life was not reserved for the Jews alone. There were those outside the flock of Israel who would hear His voice and willingly received the gift of salvation He had come to make available. This was the same message He had conveyed to the Samaritan woman.

“the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” – John 4:21-23 ESV

The Samaritan woman, a non-Jew, but a believer in Yahweh, had raised the issue of whether the Samaritans or the Jews worshiped God in the right place. The Samaritans worshiped Him at Mount Gerizim, while the Jews viewed the temple in Jerusalem as the proper place of worship. But Jesus informed her that this argument was about to become irrelevant. With His coming, the means and the method of worship would change. It would have little to do with the right place, and everything to do with worshiping God in the right way. And He was that way.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6 ESV

Whether you were a Jew or a Samaritan, the only way you could truly worship God would be through faith in His Son. And Jesus’ offer of salvation would be available to all, regardless of their ethnic or religious background.

So, in Solomon’s Colonnade, surrounded by Gentiles, Jesus finds Himself accosted by the Jewish leaders once again. They somewhat sarcastically ask Him: “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24 ESV). They want to hear Jesus openly declare Himself to be the Messiah. But they chose an interesting place to have Him do it. They are standing within the Court of the Gentiles and it has not escaped them that Jesus has chosen to associate Himself with non-Jews. Perhaps they were goading Him to announce Himself as the Jewish Messiah in this particular setting because it would make Him look like a fool.

It’s impossible for us to know the motivation behind their actions, but it seems clear that Jesus was fully aware of what they were up to. He responds to their question by returning to His discussion of the sheep and the shepherd.

“I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.” – John 10:25-26 ESV

Jesus had not hidden anything from them. He had repeatedly declared Himself to be the Son of God, sent from heaven to offer the gift of eternal life to all who would believe in Him. But these men had refused to believe. Why? Because they were not among His sheep. They were Jews but they were not included in His flock. When He spoke, they did not recognize His voice.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” – John 10:27-28 ESV

Again, don’t miss the context. Jesus has willingly placed Himself in the company of Gentiles, on the one day of the year when the Jews celebrated the Feast of Dedication or what is now known as Hanukkah. This was a feast that was begun in the intertestamental period in order to celebrate the Maccabean revolt that drove the Syrians (the Gentiles) out of Israel. The temple had to be cleansed and rededicated because Antiochus Epiphanes, the Syrian King, had desecrated it by sacrificing swine on the temple altar as a tribute to the god Zeus. This pagan king further humiliated the Jews by forcing them to offer sacrifices to the Syrian gods and to eat the flesh of pigs. It was a spiritual low point for the people of Israel, and the Jewish historian Josephus describes the joy the people experienced by celebrating their release from Syrian oppression.

And from that time to the present we observe this festival, which we call the festival of Lights, giving this name to it, I think, from the fact that the right to worship appeared to us at a time when we hardly dared hope for it. – Josephus, Jewish Antiquities

At the festival of Lights, the light of the world stood among the Gentiles and declared Himself to be the Jewish Messiah. What an amazing moment, filled with seeming contradictions and contrasts. On the day when the Jews celebrated their deliverance from pagan oppression, Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, stood among the Gentiles and offered the gift of eternal life – freedom from the condemnation of sin and death. He stood among the unclean, offering Himself as a way for all men, both Jew and Gentile, to be made pure before God. And Jesus described this gift of eternal life as irrevocable.

“My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” – John 10:29-30 ESV

Those who placed their faith in Him would never experience a loss of their salvation. Their gift of freedom from sin could never be revoked. Their promise of life eternal could never be lost. But for the Jews, their temple would be desecrated and destroyed yet again. In 70 A.D., the Romans would lay siege to Jerusalem and completely demolish the temple, burning it to the ground.

Jesus would later foretell of this coming day.

As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings. But he responded, “Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!” – Matthew 24:1-2 NLT

The Jews put a high priority on the temple. It was there that they offered sacrifices to God. It was in the Holy of Holies that the glory of God was said to dwell above the Mercy Seat on top of the Ark of the Covenant. The temple was their key to their continued access to God. It was through the sacrificial system, which was relegated to the temple grounds, that they could receive atonement for their sins. But the day was coming when the temple would be destroyed and, with it, the means of offering sacrifices for sin and receiving atonement from God.

And yet, here was the Messiah, the Son of God, offering Himself as the sole source of salvation from sin and death. It was as He had told Nicodemus.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. – John 3:18 ESV

And the reaction of the Jewish leaders speaks volumes. John says they “picked up stones again to stone him” (John 10:31 ESV). He was not their Christ or Messiah. They refused to believe His claim to be the Son of God. He was the Good Shepherd, but they were not His sheep. And they stood condemned. The Light of the world had come, but they “loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19 ESV). During the celebration of the Festival of Lights, these men remained trapped in the darkness of their own sin.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Are We Also Blind?

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.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 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.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

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. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. John 9:24-41 ESV

The Pharisees were beside themselves in frustration and anger. Standing before them was a common street beggar, claiming to have had his congenital blindness miraculously healed by Jesus, their arch-nemesis. They had already threatened to excommunicate from the synagogue anyone who claimed Jesus to be the Messiah. And while this man had only proclaimed Jesus to be a prophet, they essentially accused him of blasphemy for having given glory to Jesus rather than God. They seriously doubted the veracity of this man’s story, but they still found him guilty of attributing to Jesus what only God could have done.

The formerly blind man was perplexed by their reasoning and their declaration that Jesus was nothing more than a sinner. Their logic made no sense to him. But in his simple way of thinking, it didn’t even matter. He responded, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25 ESV).  All he knew for certain was that he used to blind, but now he could see. And it was all because of this man named Jesus.

Unable to coerce a confession out of the man, they resorted to further questioning, hoping to expose a hole in his story. But the man responded with a hint of exasperation mixed with sarcasm, “Look!…I told you once. Didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” (John 9:27 NLT). The content of his statement and the tone with which he said it produced an immediate and intense reaction from the Pharisees.

Then they cursed him and said, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses! We know God spoke to Moses, but we don’t even know where this man comes from.” – John 9:28-29 NLT

Their response revealed their complete disdain for Jesus and His followers. In their estimation, Jesus was a rogue Rabbi whose teachings contradicted those of Moses. In their minds, Jesus was nothing more than a Sabbath-breaker who associated with sinners. His miracles were the work of Satan, not Yahweh. And all His talk of being the Son of God was nothing less than blasphemy, a crime punishable by death.

But once again, this passage juxtaposes the light with the darkness. It contrasts those who are blind with those who have eyes to see. The Pharisees, so proud of their discipleship to Moses, had failed to understand that Moses wrote of Jesus’ coming. The great emancipator and law-giver had received a promise directly from God.

“I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him. I will personally deal with anyone who will not listen to the messages the prophet proclaims on my behalf.” – Deuteronomy 18:18-19 NLT

And Jesus was the fulfillment of that prophecy. But the Pharisees were too blind to see. They “loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19 ESV). But the lowly beggar, who had received his sight from Jesus, saw the absurdity of their position.

“Why, that’s very strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where he comes from? We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it.” – John 9:30-33 NLT

It was as clear as day to him. There was no way that Jesus was a sinner. And it was idiotic to think that Jesus was able to do what He did without the full support and authority of God. You didn’t have to be a religious scholar to know that the giving of sight was an act of God. And because this man could now see, he knew that Jesus had the ear of God. But sadly, his message fell on the dear ears and sin-darkened hearts of the Pharisees, who angrily responded, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” (John 9:34 ESV). Who was he to lecture them? He was nothing more than a man who had been cursed to blindness because of sin. And with that, they banned him from the synagogue.

This was to become a common occurrence among those Jews who aligned themselves with Jesus. In fact, Jesus would later warn His disciples, “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you” (John 16:2-4 ESV). The Jews, in their religious zeal, would end up persecuting all those who became followers of Jesus. The Book of Acts reveals that the apostle Paul, prior to his conversion, had been a Pharisee whose job it was to hunt down Christians. 

Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains. – Acts 9:1-2 NLT

It was going to become increasingly more dangerous to be a follower of Jesus. And His death and resurrection would not make it any easier. But this lowly beggar was about to have a second “chance” encounter with Jesus. The one who had healed him sought him out and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35 ESV).

From the overall context of the passage, it seems that this was the first time the man had actually seen Jesus with his own, newly restored, eyes. So, when Jesus spoke to him, he had no way of knowing that this was the same man who had healed him. He also had no idea that Jesus was referring to Himself as the Son of Man. Which is what led him to ask, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Even with his restored sight, he was still spiritually blind to the reality of who Jesus was. He most likely understood that this stranger was referring to the man who had healed him, and he desired to know more about him. “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”

And John states that, with this revelation from Jesus, the man expressed his belief and worshiped Him. It is at this point that Jesus reintroduces the metaphor of darkness and light.

“For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” – John 9:39 ESV

As the light of the world, Jesus judged the world by His very presence. He illuminated the darkness, but there were those who chose to remain in the darkness. They rejected the light and, in doing so, they judged themselves. They already stood condemned for their sins, and God had graciously sent His Son to provide them with atonement. But because they refused to “see” Jesus as the Son of God, they remained in their darkness. But those who “saw” and believed received forgiveness and freedom from condemnation.

The Pharisees, overhearing Jesus’ words, were offended by what He said, and objected to His inference that they were blind. But Jesus said their real problem was their belief that they had spiritual insight. They believed themselves to be enlightened and informed. But Jesus informed them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt” (John 9:41 ESV). In other words, if they would only see and confess their blindness, they would receive sight. Jesus would later accuse these very same men of viewing themselves as in need of nothing He had to offer. They did not believe they were sinners, so they had no need for a Savior.

“Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” – Matthew 9:12 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Light and Darkness

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 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.”

18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” John 9:8-23 ESV

A man who lived his life as a beggar, due to having been born blind, happened to have a “chance” encounter with Jesus. Having lived his entire life trapped in a world of perpetual darkness, he had never seen the light of day or the face of another human being. But when the light of the world walked into his life, everything changed. Jesus, the Son of God, took plight on his condition, mercifully and miraculously providing him with sight. But according to Jesus, this man’s blindness, rather than a curse, had been intended as an opportunity to display God’s power and glory. He had been born blind so “that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3 ESV).

And when the man had returned from the Pool of Siloam, having washed away the mud Jesus had placed on his eyes, he was no longer blind. And this amazing transformation was readily apparent to all who saw him. But, somewhat ironically, not everyone could believe what they were seeing. Some questioned whether it was really the same man or simply someone who looked like him. In other words, they couldn’t believe their own eyes. It was just too much to take in. It seems the only one who could see clearly was the formerly blind man. And he was relegated to standing among the scoffers insisting, “I am the man” (John 9:9 ESV).

It was difficult for his neighbors to deny that this was the same man they had seen begging on the streets for years. Now, they were left trying to explain how he had suddenly received his sight. So they asked him the obvious question: “Then how were your eyes opened?” (John 9:10 ESV). And the man responded by telling them about all that Jesus had said and done to him. When they asked the man where Jesus was, he had to admit that he had no idea. The “light” had vacated the premises and everyone was left in a state of darkness or ignorance, including the man who had just received his sight.

Unable to locate the one who had performed the miracle, the people took the beggar to the Pharisees. And this is where Jesus’ use of the metaphors of light and darkness, blindness and sight, comes into clearer focus. The Pharisees immediately demand to know what has happened, and the man tells his story yet again. But it becomes quickly apparent that these men are less interested in the miracle that has taken place than in what they believe to be a violation of the law. It is at this point in the story that John adds a vital piece of information.

Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. – John 9:14 ESV

And this seemingly minor detail begins to explain some of the rather bizarre steps Jesus took to heal the man’s eyes. Why had He spit in the dirt and made mud? Why had He bothered to apply the mud to the man’s eyes and then instructed him to go to the Pool of Siloam and wash? It seems clear that none of this was necessary or required for Jesus to heal the man. But now, His actions take on a whole new light. Jesus had been fully aware that it was the Sabbath and yet, He had purposefully taken steps that appear in violation of the law against doing work on the Sabbath. And His enemies are quick to pick up on this point.

Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” – John 9:16 ESV

They knew who Jesus was and they weren’t surprised by His actions. This was not the first time that Jesus had violated their Sabbath-keeping traditions. But some among them argued, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” (John 9:16 ESV). Jesus was an enigma to them. They couldn’t argue with the miraculous nature of His works, but they couldn’t bring themselves to believe He was who He claimed to be. That is why they ended up attributing His miraculous powers to Satan. In their minds, Jesus was nothing more than a law-breaker, a violator of their code of conduct, and a menace to their way of life. But their continued inability to recognize Jesus as their Messiah is further proof of their spiritual blindness. They could not see the Son of God standing right in front of them. The light was shining in their sin-darkened world, but they were too blind to see it. It was just as Jesus had told Nicodemus, one of their own.

“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” – John 3:19 ESV

Interestingly enough, these spiritual leaders of Israel ended up turning to the formerly blind man for insight. They asked him, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” (John 9:17 ESV). And the man, able to see but still blind to the reality of who Jesus was, simply responded, “He is a prophet.” He had progressed in his view of Jesus, having earlier referred to Him as “the man” and now declaring Him to be “a prophet.” All he knew was that Jesus was someone special. But the Pharisees rejected the man’s assessment Jesus and even denied the veracity of his story and the legitimacy of his claim to have been born blind. They were looking for proof to invalidate the whole affair. So, they sent for the man’s parents.

The Pharisees’ hatred for Jesus had grown so intense that they had threatened to excommunicate from the synagogue anyone who claimed Jesus to be the Messiah. The beggar’s parents, aware of this edict, were extremely cautious in their response to the Pharisees, choosing to verify that their son had indeed been born blind. They had no information regarding his healing and recommended that the Pharisees take that matter up with him. In a sense, they were throwing their son to the dogs. Rather than face removal from the fellowship of the synagogue, they handed over their own son to the ire of the Pharisees. They fully realized that their son, who had spent his life as a beggar and an outcast, was running the risk of becoming a social pariah yet again.

The contrast between the light and the dark is readily apparent in this story. If you recall, the disciples had originally asked Jesus whose sins had resulted in the man’s condition of blindness.

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” – John 9:2 ESV

While Jesus absolved the man and his parents of responsibility, He did not deny that sin was involved. The very fact that blindness exists is a result of sin entering the world through the fall of Adam and Eve. Disease and disabilities are evidence of the curse that came upon the earth as a result of our first parents’ rebellion against God. With the fall, the entire creative order was plunged into the darkness of sin and relegated to wait for a future day when relief would come. The apostle Paul explains it this way:

…all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. – Romans 8:20-22 NLT

Jesus had come to earth. God had taken on human flesh and entered into the world He had created and which He had been forced to curse. But the Son of God came to redeem and restore. The light came into the world in order to illuminate the darkness and eliminate the curse of sin and death. But in this story, we see that there were still those whose eyes were blind to the truth. There were those who preferred the darkness over the light. Jesus had performed a miracle, yet the Pharisees called Him a sinner. The parents were amazed that their son could suddenly see, but rather than give Jesus credit for what He had done, they chose the comfort and community of the synagogue. In this story, light and sight face off against darkness and blindness. And we begin to see what Jesus meant when He told His disciples:

“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” – John 9:4-5 ESV

The light does not eliminate darkness. It simply illuminates it. But the words and works of Jesus reveal the pervasive nature of the darkness and the hopeless condition of mankind’s spiritual blindness. But He came to change all that. And He would – on the cross.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

A Man Born Blind

1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. John 9:1-7 ESV

As has been noted before, John does not attempt to adhere to a strict chronologically accurate timeline. He has chosen to arrange his Gospel according to a theme, selecting those stories that best illustrate and prove the point he is trying to make. Since John is most interested in establishing the deity of Jesus, the stories he has included are those that best support his premise. As a result, there are many events recorded in the Synoptic Gospels that do not appear in John’s record of Jesus’ life. And, in today’s passage, John provides the details surrounding a miracle that none of the other Gospel writers include.

But John’s placement of this particular miracle at this precise point in his narrative was not without purpose. For several chapters, he has chronicled the ongoing and quickly intensifying conflict between Jesus and the Jewish religious authorities. As the light of the world, He has entered the sin-darkened land of Israel, revealing the glory of God with words of truth concerning His ministry, mission, and identity as the Son of God. But the religious leaders have repeatedly rejected His claim to have been sent from God. They have scoffed at His offers of living water, true bread, and eternal life. And they had found his most recent statement particularly off-putting.

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12 ESV

Who did this man think He was?  What right did He have to question the spiritual integrity of the nation’s preeminent religious scholars? They were incensed by His offer to set them free because they were slaves to no one. And, of course, they weren’t exactly flattered when He had called them sons of the devil. He had accused them of being murderers and liars, completely out of touch with God, and incapable of hearing or accepting His claim to be the Son of God. And John closed chapter eight closes with a not-so-subtle summary of their reaction to Jesus’ words.

So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. – John 8:59 ESV

Jesus simply walked away. The light of the world departed the temple grounds, symbolically leaving the area bathed in darkness. But the story does not end there. John records that “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth” (John 9:1 ESV). it just so happened that as Jesus left the temple and the company of the belligerent religious leaders, He came across a man who suffered from physical blindness. But don’t miss the fact that this man had been born blind. This detail is what will set this particular miracle apart. While there are other accounts of Jesus restoring people’s sight, this is the only instance in which we are told that the man had been blind since birth. In a sense, he had born into darkness. He had never seen the light of the sun. He had never experienced the joy of seeing his parents’ faces. This man had been born into a world marked by an all-pervasive darkness and he was completely incapable of doing anything about his condition.

This man was about to become a visible symbol for the plight of all humanity. He had been born with his debilitating condition. It was not as if he had once had sight and then lost it. He had never had the capacity to see. And he would have remained in darkness had he not encountered Jesus, the light of the world.

For the Jews, physical blindness was closely associated with sin. Because of the egregious nature of this particular disorder, most Jews assumed that it was a form of divine punishment for sin. That is why the disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2 ESV). In their minds, it wasn’t a matter of whether sin had been involved, it was a case of who was the guilty party. Since the man was born blind, the logical conclusion would be that his parents were responsible for his pitiable condition.

It seems quite evident that the disciples made no connection between this man’s condition and the spiritual state of the religious leaders who had just tried to stone their master. To them, this was just another blind man, one of many anonymous sufferers that filled the streets and alleys of Jerusalem. Their only interest in this man was as a point of theological discussion. But Jesus reveals that this man’s condition and his appearance at that moment in time was all God-ordained.

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” – John 9:3 NLT

This simple statement carries a powerful punch, revealing the sovereign hand of God over every detail of human existence. This man’s very existence had been orchestrated by the will of God Almighty. And his encounter with the Son of God had been providentially prearranged. He had been placed in the path of Jesus, not so that his sight be could be restored, but so that the power of God could be revealed. Jesus was about to give this man something he had never possessed: The ability to see. He had been born into darkness, but he was about to have his eyes opened for the very first time in his life.

Jesus took the opportunity to address His disciples, reminding them that time was of the essence. His days on earth were quickly drawing to a close. And in the time remaining, they would need to keep their attention focused on “the light of the world.”  While so many of Jesus’ conversations had been with the religious leaders, His words had been directed at His disciples. They had been His primary audience, and everything He had said had been for their benefit.

“We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” – John 9:4-5 NLT

They didn’t yet realize it, but Jesus’ days on earth were quickly drawing to a close. They would not always have the luxury of His company. And He wanted them to take advantage of every single moment they had in “the light” of His presence because the night was coming.

As usual, Jesus did not explain His words. He left the disciples to wrestle with the meaning of His comments and turned His attention to the blind man. And every single action taken by Jesus is filled with powerful symbolism and meaning. John describes Him as spitting on the ground and making mud from the dirt and His own saliva. Then Jesus took the mud and spread it over the blind man’s eyes. When finished, He instructed the blind man to somehow make his way to the Pool of Siloam, where he was supposed to wash away the mud.

This entire scene was meant to instruct the disciples. Jesus had just told them, “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.” Now, He has shown them an example of the task they had been assigned by God. They didn’t understand it yet, but they had been chosen by God and been given the responsibility of opening the eyes of the blind. And Jesus was giving them a physical demonstration of the spiritual transformation that He had come to bring to those born into the darkness of sin.

John provides no explanation regarding Jesus’ actions. We are not told why He chose to mix His saliva with dirt and apply it to the man’s eyes. His instructions for the man to wash in the Pool of Siloam come with no commentary. But all of it had to have left the disciples scratching their heads in confusion. Yet, the blind man never utters a word. He simply stands there, blindly oblivious to what Jesus is doing, but faithfully willing to do whatever this unidentified and unseen man told him to do. When Jesus told him to wash in the pool, the man obeyed. And John describes what happened next.

So the man went and washed and came back seeing! – John 9:7 NLT

This man’s life had just been radically transformed by an encounter with the Son of God. Born into darkness, he was suddenly able to see for the very first time in his life. As amazed as this man must have been at the transformation he experienced, it was the disciples whom Jesus intended to impress with His actions. His healing of the man born blind was meant to be a powerful demonstration of the Father’s power and a sign of their future ministry and mission.

At one point the disciples of John the Baptist had approached Jesus with a question from their master.  “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3 NLT). And Jesus had responded, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matthew 11:4-6 NLT). Jesus was informing John that everything He did was in keeping with His Father’s will. The evidence for His identity was clearly visible in the things that He did. Jesus was fulfilling the words of the prophets.

In that day the deaf shall hear
    the words of a book,
and out of their gloom and darkness
    the eyes of the blind shall see.
The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord,
    and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel. – Isaiah 29:18-19 ESV

In a real sense, Jesus’ healing of the blind man was designed to open the eyes of His own disciples. The light of the world was illuminating the darkness of their own understanding, helping them to grasp the reality of who He was and what He had come to do. But their lesson was far from over.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

I Am!

51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. John 8:51-59 ESV

The longer Jesus spoke, it seems that the frustration of the religious only intensified. And their growing anger with Him seems to support His accusations against Him. He has claimed to be the light of the glory of God, but they prefer to remain covered by the darkness of their own pre-established notions of righteousness and holiness. He has offered Himself as the only solution to mankind’s sin problem and the key to eternal life. But they have refused His offer, choosing instead to label Him as a blasphemer and sinner, operating in league with Satan himself. He has declared Himself to be the Son of God, yet they accused Him of being illegitimate, and not even knowing the name of His own earthly father. Jesus had described them as being the children of Satan, and now they return the favor by declaring Him of being demon-possessed.

This entire section of John’s gospel is intended to support Jesus’ claim to be the light of the world. He has been standing in the courtyard of the temple of God, speaking to the people of God, and allowing the glory of God to illuminate what has become one of the darkest places within the nation of Israel: God’s own dwelling place.

The location for this latest conversation between Jesus and the religious leaders is extremely important. He is standing in the temple treasury, where all the voluntary and obligatory financial gifts given to the temple were kept. Earlier, in chapter two of his gospel, John described Jesus cleansing the temple of “those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there” (John 2:14 ESV). The Son of God had been appalled to find His Father’s house turned into a marketplace. In His anger, He literally cleaned house.

And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” – John 2:15-16 ESV

The temple was to have been the place where God’s glory dwelled. All the way back at the dedication of the original temple, the glory of God had descended upon the magnificent structure built by King Solomon.

As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord‘s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” – 2 Chronicles 7:1-3 ESV

In response to Solomon’s prayer of dedication over the newly constructed temple, God had told him:

“I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever.” – 2 Chronicles 7:12-16 ESV

But God’s people had proved to be unfaithful. They failed to remain obedient to His commands and chose to worship false gods, even erecting idols to them within the temple Solomon had dedicated to God. And Solomon had been one of the chief instigators behind the nation’s rebellion against God. In time, God destroyed the temple that bore His name. He used the Babylonian Empire as His agent of judgment against His chosen people, turning the capital city of Jerusalem and the glorious temple into a heap of ruins.

The temple where Jesus spoke was the same one that had been rebuilt by the Jews who had returned to Judah after 70 years of captivity in Babylon. That much smaller and less ornate temple was greatly expanded by King Herod during the 1st-Century AD. And it was on the grounds of this temple where Jesus had His confrontation with the Jewish religious leaders.

In a sense, Jesus was presenting Himself as the replacement for the temple. With His coming, the primary purpose of the temple was being eliminated. It was no longer the dwelling place of God. Jesus had made the invisible God visible. He was God in human flesh, manifesting the glory of God through His miracles and messages. And, in time, He would offer His life as the ultimate and final sacrifice for the sins of mankind. The earthly temple would be replaced by the bodily temple of God’s own Son. That is why Jesus had said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19 ESV). His death would accomplish what the temple and the sacrificial system could have never done. And the author of Hebrews makes this point perfectly clear.

…those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to offer. You were not pleased with burnt offerings or other offerings for sin. Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God—as is written about me in the Scriptures.’”

First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. – Hebrews 10:3-10 NLT

One of the things that infuriated the religious leaders was Jesus’ claim that He could offer eternal life. They had been shocked by Jesus’ audacious and ridiculous claim: “if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death” (John 8:51 ESV). His statement was illogical and, therefore, unacceptable. Abraham and all the prophets had died, they reasoned. So, who was He to think that He could offer a life free from death? They even ask Him, “Who do you make yourself out to be?” (John 8:53 ESV). Their question reveals that they know exactly what Jesus was saying. He was claiming to be God. And, almost as if to support their suspicions, Jesus responded, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’” (John 8:54 ESV).

Jesus brings the conversation back to the issue of His relationship with God. He was not just another son of God, as they believed themselves to be. He was the actual Son of God, the second member of the Holy Trinity. He was claiming divinity and authority, provided to Him by His Heavenly Father. But, as Jesus pointed out, their failure to recognize and accept Him was due to their ignorance of God. They didn’t know God as their Father, so how would they ever recognize His Son when He showed up?

But Jesus emphasized that Abraham, their great patriarch, had looked forward to the day when the promise of God was finally fulfilled through Jesus. God had told Abraham, “All the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (Genesis 12:3 BSB). And the apostle Paul had clarified the meaning of this promise when he wrote, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16 ESV).

Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, and He claims, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad” (John 8:56 ESV). In a sense, Jesus is saying, “If Abraham could ‘see’ and rejoice in my coming, why can’t you?”

And when His detractors scoff at Jesus’ words, He adds fuel to the fire by boldly asserting, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58 ESV). And the magnitude of this statement did not escape them. They knew exactly what He was saying. Jesus was claiming to be God, which is why John states that “they picked up stones to throw at him” (John 8:59 ESV). They distinctly heard Jesus using the self-designation used by Yahweh when He had spoken to Moses at the burning bush.

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 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.’” – Exodus 3:13-14 ESV

At this point in the story, John has presented a turning point in the life and ministry of Jesus. The confrontation between Jesus and His adversaries has entered a new and darker phase. Jesus has clearly stated His identity. No more cryptic answers. No more veiled references to deity. He is the great “I am.” And John ends this scene with a simple sentence that is pregnant with meaning: “but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple” (John 8:59 ESV). 

The glory of God, in the form of the Son of God, departed the temple. He vacated the premises, leaving the religious leaders still holding the stones in their hands with which they had intended to kill Him. The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, had walked away from the very place where tens of thousands of sacrifices had been offered for hundreds of years. But this Lamb would be offered on a hillside outside the city, providing atonement for the sins of mankind – once for all.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson