Unexpected Jesus #4 - What does Jesus Do?
Dr. Kurt Bjorklund looks at the next portion of the Gospel of John to examine John's choice of words in explaining who Jesus was and his role in our lives.
This is an auto-generated transcript. Please excuse any errors.
Good morning, and welcome again to Orchard Hill. It's great to be together here in Wexford in the auditorium, in the chapel, in the Strip District, Butler County. Let's take a moment and pray together.
Father, as we come together this morning I ask that you would speak to each of us, wherever we're coming from this week, whatever we face, whatever joys, whatever challenges are before us. Father, I pray that my words would reflect your word, in content and in tone and in emphasis. And we pray this in Jesus name, amen.
There's a parable that has made its way around for some time. Goes like this, once upon a time there was a rich king who had four wives. He loved the fourth wife the most and adorned her with rich robes and treated her with the finest of delicacies. He gave her nothing but the best. He also loved his third wife very much and was always showing her off to neighboring kingdoms. However, he feared that one day she would leave him for another. He also loved his second wife. He was his confident and was always kind and considerate and patient with him. Whenever the king faced a problem he could confide in her, and she would help him through his difficult times. The king's first wife was a very loyal partner and had made great contributions in maintaining his wealth and his kingdom. However, he did not love his first wife. Although she loved him deeply, he hardly ever took notice of her.
One day the king fell ill. He knew that his time was short. He thought of his luxurious life, and he pondered, "I now have four wives with me, but when I die I fear I will be alone." Thus, he asked his fourth wife, "I have loved you the most, endowed you with the finest clothing and showered great care over you. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?" "No way," replied the fourth wife, and she walked away without another word. Her answer cut like a sharp knife right to his heart.
The sad king then asked his third wife, "I have loved you with all my life. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?" "No," replied his third wife, "Life is too good. Once you die I'm going to remarry." His heart sank and turned cold.
He then asked his second wife, "I've always turned to you for help, and you've always been there for me. When I die, will you follow me and keep my company?" "I'm sorry. I can't help you out this time," replied the second wife, "At the very most, I can only send you to your grave." Her answer came like a bolt of thunder, and the king was devastated.
Then a voice called out, "I'll leave with you and follow you no matter where you go." The king looked up and there was his first wife. She was skinny and pale and suffered from malnutrition from the years of neglect. Greatly grieved the king said, "I should have taken much better care of you when I had the chance."
And then the commentary on the parable goes like this, in truth, it's as if we all have four wives. Our fourth wife is our body. No matter how much time and effort we lavish on making it look good and be healthy, it will leave us when we die. Our third wife is our possession, status, and wealth. When we die it will all go to others. Our second wife is our family and our friends. No matter how much they have been there for us, the furthest they can stay by us is up to the grave. And our first wife is like our soul, often neglected in pursuit of wealth, power, and pleasures of the ego. However, our soul is the only thing that will follow us wherever we go. And then the line just says this, "So cultivate, strengthen and cherish it now, for it is your greatest gift to offer."
I believe that this ties into what we're looking at today in John chapter one, versus 19 through 34. You heard a portion of that read. Because Jesus addresses your deepest need, even though sometimes it isn't completely obvious to you or to me how he does. And the reason that's true is because often we assume that our greatest need is to cultivate our relationship with our family and friends, or our greatest need is to accumulate stuff, and the security that goes with it and the pleasures it can by, or that are greatest need is to take care of our body so that we can be healthy or look a certain way. And all of those things matter. They're all important. But Jesus alone actually transcends that, because whatever is invested into a relationship with Jesus Christ transcends the grave, transcends this life. Death can't take it away.
And what's unexpected in our culture is, for most people, when they think about Jesus Christ what they think about is they think of Jesus as a nice additive that's important for some people who need that kind of thing in their life, or they see Jesus as a get-out-of-jail-free card, a punch-your-ticket-to-eternity card, or maybe they see Jesus as completely irrelevant to anything that matters, or Jesus as a crutch for people who are really weak. But not everybody today would say, "Oh, cultivating a relationship with Jesus, that's what matters."
Well, we have begun a series in which we're walking our way through the first several chapters of the gospel of John, and we've called this Unexpected Jesus, because what we continue to find is that Jesus in these chapters in not how we in our culture, or people in that culture expected Jesus to be. And today, as I mentioned, we're looking at chapter one, versus 19 through 34 and these versus are still part of the introduction of John. But what we see here is we see an interaction between John the Baptist, not John the author of this gospel but John the Baptist, where he designates some titles, some names for Jesus.
Now, we know that John is written for a very specific purpose, because John chapter 20 verse 31 tells us what that purpose is. It was written so that you and I might believe, and by believing might come to have life. In other words, the evidence that's presented, the signs, the things that are here are all presented so that you and I would come to faith, and that that faith would lead to life.
And here, as John the Baptist interacts with some of the people and John records this, the other John here, what we see is, we see some titles that he comes back to, the themes later in the book, because he's still introducing the idea here, but he shows how these titles come to be. And so, I want to walk through this morning. And you have a chart in your program that might be helpful because there's quite a few categories I'm going to give you. It's not complicated, but it might just help you keep straight what we're going to talk about.
And so, here's the first title. And the first title is Messiah, and we see this in verse 21. We also see it verse 34. And here's where we see this, and how we see it. In verse 20 it says, "He did not fail to confess, but confess freely. I am not the messiah." Now, this is John being queried about all the things he's doing. He says, "I'm not the messiah." The ESV I think translates it Christ. There are two titles that would have been jarring to people in that day, and they're interchangeable in some parts of scripture. And then he asks them, "Then are you Elijah?" He says, "I'm not." "Are you a prophet?" He answered no. Finally, he said, "Who are you. Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?"
And so, what they're asking John to do is to say, "Who are you? Are you this promised messiah?" And he says, "I'm not the messiah." But then in verse 34 he says, "I've seen, and I testify that this is God's chosen one," speaking of Jesus Christ. And so, what he's doing here is he's saying that this Jesus, the one that we're reading about all these years later, the one he was pointing to then is the messiah. And again, this is a jarring phrase for people of that day, and it's one that maybe you and I could get used to in our day. But what this is referring to is a future time when Jesus will return and set everything right. Now, to the Jews this is purely just a future time because they reject the idea of Jesus being the messiah. To a Christian, they would say Jesus came once as the messiah, but he didn't fulfill his entire mission. He'll come back a second time in which he'll make things right in the future. But his first journey was to go the cross.
And so, there's a distinction between those two faiths of the world. But either way, even though in the Christian world there's a sense in which the messiah has already come, there's a sense in which his mission is future. And certainly, this has a future aspect. And what this is pointing to is this idea of a coming king who will one day set the world right. And you may hear that say, "Well, that sounds like pie in the sky." In fact, you may hear that and, even if you're a person of faith, or a person who says I'm not sure where I fit in my own faith journey, you hear that, and it sounds almost too good to be true that there will come a day when God will set things right.
But here's my guess about you, regardless of where you sit in own understanding of Jesus, your own embrace of Jesus. And that is, there's a piece of you that longs for justice, that when things are broken in this world that longs to see them be different. Let me just give you a few examples from recent events. If you have paid attention to the news at all recently you saw that Robert Kraft, who's the owner of the New England Patriots, was charged with soliciting prostitution in Florida. And if you saw the story, and he hasn't been arrested as of the time that I'm speaking here, but if you saw the story what made the story so galling was that it was clear that it was part of a human trafficking sting. And if you see that story and there's a little piece of you that says rich people shouldn't be able to buy poor people for their sexual pleasure, there's something wrong with that and long for a day and a time when the world would be different, what you're longing for is this concept of the messiah.
Or if you saw the story about Jussie Smollett, who is an actor on the Empire TV show, I haven't seen the show, but where he claimed that he was beaten because he was black, and he was homosexual. And as he made the allusions to this, allegedly, that he was attacked what he said was that, in essence, because of my status in these minority groups I've been picked on. And people quickly said, "Yeah, I can see that." We live in a country where that's entirely possible, and then police came out and now have alleged, I'm gonna keep using the word alleged because who knows where this story will go, have alleged that he made it up and paid these people to do it. And you think about living in a country where somebody will take two groups that have been victimized, one for sexual orientation and one for race, and use it for a personal agenda, potentially, allegedly to advance themselves. And you say, "I wish I lived in a time, and a place where those things weren't so."
Or maybe you've seen the stories around abortion, and I realize that if I just say the word abortion that not everyone who participates in Orchard Hill has the exact same view on this issue, but with the laws that have been increasingly passed to say we can go later and later in the term before abortion, so that it can be a crime if you accidentally hurt somebody who loses a baby on side, but the same baby can be aborted at the mother's choice, and then you have public figures coming out and say even after birth we can take the life of this child. There has to at least be some piece of you that says there's something here that I say I wish I could see things be differently, or you could talk about issues of poverty, or how sometimes, just back to the Jussie Smollett thing, how sometimes issues of race and sexual orientation can be conflated. And what we long for is a time when things will be put right.
And what Jesus really does is he is the promised messiah, the promised Christ who will one day put everything right. But it isn't just a future promise, because what he's doing here in this idea of this coming king is he's promising something, which is cultural transformation. And his invitation to people, when he invites people to follow him is not just to say ... wish that one day things will get better, but you have to endure until then. Be he says, "I want you to be a part of helping to bring about this cultural transformation, to be a part of this program, to be a part of saying this world doesn't have to be the way that it is." And if you've ever longed for that, whether you had a category for that or not, what you've longed for is the biblical idea of a messiah, the biblical idea of Jesus and saying, "I want a world in which things are made right."
But the truth is, many times we're far too easily pleased, and we're far too easily pleased because we settle for easier things. You see, the purpose that this speaks to, or the human need that this speaks to is purpose, the desire to say I live for something bigger than myself. But what happens for many of us is we settle for very easy things to live for.
There's a lady who's become popular here recently with one of these Netflix shows, Marie Kondo. And here's what happens for some of us. Now, if you wanna organize your sock drawers, that's a beautiful thing. Get minimalist. It's good if you wanna get rid of some things. But here's what happens, people will glom onto something like this and say, "Here's a way for me to find some meaning in my life right now. I'm now a minimalist." And you think about it and you say, "Is that really bringing you meaning?"
But by the way, just as an aside, if you've seen this, when she taps on books to wake them up that is pantheism. That's not Christianity, so if you start emulating tapping on books and telling them to wake, that's a very non-Christian thing. Just as an aside.
But you see, it isn't just living as a minimalist. What we'll do, many times, is we'll get bored with our existence, because what we do is we fill our lives with a small enough purpose that it's about us not about something grand like cultural transformation. I heard somebody put it this way a long time ago, they said that in our country, our time that one of the most dangerous things in our house is our easy chair, or our sofa, because it signifies all the time that we don't invest relationally, we don't pursue something that's worthwhile.
And this same person said something along the lines of an average man may live his life having a typical day. It says the average man will wake up to the same old alarm clock, walk into the same old bathroom, look in the same old mirror, shower in the same old shower, greet the same old wife with the same old kiss. Go downstairs, eat the same old cereal, get in the same old car, drive the same old way to work, work at the same old job, interact with the same old boss, eat the same old lunch. Drive home the same old way back to the same old house, sit down at the same old table, eat the same old dinner. Sit down in his family room in the same old chair, go to sleep in the same old chair watching the same old TV. Go upstairs to the same old wife. Ask the same old wife the same old question, get the same old answer and fall asleep and do it all over again.
Do you ever feel that way? See, God sent Jesus to be the messiah but part of his invitation is to say it isn't just endure and one day God will make it all right. But he's saying, "I want you to be a part of this," and that's all embedded in this idea of messiah. And you see this if you trace the theme through the Old Testament where the theme is richly developed that there will come a king who will make things as they should be.
But here's the second title that we see, and this is the Lamb of God. And this in chapter one, verse 29. It says, "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him." And he said, "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This, again, is rife with Old Testament imagery. Because in the Old Testament what people would do is they would bring sacrifices. Certainly this might have a reference all the way back to the exodus where people would put blood on the doors to say, in essence, "Our home is being covered." And what this points to is a past act.
Now, this was future yet, in a sense, when John said it because he says, "There's the Lamb of God," speaking of Jesus. But for us it's past, because Jesus has gone to the cross. And what this is ... what the role is here is the substitute, because a lamb was meant to be a substitute for people who don't live according to the standard that God has. And what this ultimately points to is a personal deliverance from our own sinfulness, and it points to the human need of pardon, of the need for pardon. But here's our cultural moment that we live, and here's what people in our world basically have as an opinion of Jesus, and that is Jesus is a nice additive to a few people's lives. And some people handle it well because they become nicer, better people, and if Jesus helps them do that, great.
Some people, people in our culture, would say become more full of the world, or full of angst because of Jesus, and they're less nice. But either way, the predominant view is, whatever God wants, whatever God needs, if there is a god, I'm going to live a moral life as I self-define it and I'll take my chances on God one day. But you see, the way Jesus is presented here, the unexpected thing to our culture is he's presented not as a self-improvement deity, but as a substitute, as the very lamb of God. And what this requires is that we understand that God has standards and that you and I cannot, will not meet those standards. Therefore, we need a substitute. We need a lamb to go in our place and Jesus becomes that lamb, is that lamb and it brings about personal deliverance. But in order for us to live in the reality of that what we have to do, at some point, is acknowledge that God is the one to whom we owe something. In other words, that we've sinned against God.
If I were to say something like this, if I were to say I'm feeling really generous and next week I wanna help anybody who has a mortgage out. So if you bring your mortgages in next week, I got a little paid-in-full stamp and if you bring them down from I will stamp your mortgages paid-in-full next week. We'll take care of everyone's mortgage next week. Now, you laugh a little because you know that that's ridiculous. You don't owe me the money. I can't forgive a debt that is not owed to me. And here's the rub in our culture for many people, and that is, what they'll do is they'll say, "Well, God is irrelevant to my life. I don't owe God anything. Therefore, I don't need forgiveness from God. I don't need a savior. I don't need a substitute."
But what we see here in the way that John interacts and give these titles is a theme that will be played out later in the gospel of John, which is he is the coming messiah. He'll make things right, but he's also the substitute. But we get another title here as well, and this title is more implied at than stated directly. And we see this in verses 32 and 33. It says, "Then John gave this testimony. I saw the spirit coming down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me. The man on whom you see the spirit come down and remain as the one who will baptize with the holy spirit."
So, John is baptizing with water. This dove comes down representing, or actually being the holy spirit, and what happens when the spirit comes, John says, "You know what, the one who's coming will baptize with he holy spirit." So the title here is The Baptizer of the Holy Spirit, and this probably raises some questions. Certainly, if you've been around church for any time you've probably heard this phrase and churches actually disagree about what it means to be baptized with the holy spirit. There are churches that will basically say this, and that is, you can come to faith in Jesus, experience the lamb of God, but then if you wanna go on to your real experience you have to be baptized with the holy spirit, and what you need is a second work of the spirit, because when you get the second work of the spirit then you'll be open to all the good things that God has.
And usually, when people say that, it's tied to this phenomenon that they'll tongues, or speaking in ecstatic utterance. And so, the way that you know you have the holy spirit in these churches is that you speak in an ecstatic utterance, a tongue that's unknown to you, and that the only way that you know you have the spirit is if you speak in this tongue. Now, here at Orchard Hill, what we would say is that the baptism of the holy spirit is done by Jesus at conversion. We point to 1 Corinthians 12 that talks about there being one baptism. We'd even point in other places to the use of the phrase and the idea that it is initiated by Jesus at conversion, 1 Peter chapter one that says you have everything you need for life and godliness. In other words, you don't need something else.
And the idea of tongues, just as we understand it, was a known language. And so, what it would be like is it would be like somebody speaking in Italian who didn't know Italian, and then somebody would interpret it and help everybody understand that they were speaking a language they didn't know and everyone goes, "Oh, that's God," not just a known language, or an unknown language, an ecstatic utterance.
And here's the point of this. When we come to this and we hear about Jesus talking about the baptism of the holy spirit, what's happen is it's become so controversial that people either so indulge in it and speculate and make it everything, or they're afraid of it and they make it nothing. But here, as we're seeing the ministry of Jesus about to be initiated, his human earthly ministry be initiated, what we realize is that God is speaking about something that's a current reality, in terms of its time.
And here's what is true. And that is the way that we see the spirit, maybe, most fully is talked about Galatians chapter five where we're told about the fruit of the spirit. It says this, "But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law." And so, what Galatians does is it says if you wanna know how you know that you have the holy spirit, it's because these things will become true of you in increasing measure. And the current reality of the spirit of God, being baptized in the spirit of God is not an ecstatic utterance, but it's increased joy, increased love. It's increased peace.
And again, wherever you fit into your own idea of your spiritual journey, don't you long to have more joy, more love, more peace? Well, what this speaks about, when he says you've been baptized into the holy spirit, is that that is possible for you because you have a current reality of, and here's the role of this part of this, and that is the role of the indwelling god in your life and what he brings, what he promises is personal transformation, personal empowerment and the human need that that gives is ultimately the need for power, the need to feel as if we're not alone. We're not left to ourselves.
And here's why this is so significant as you and I just ponder this, think about this, is God didn't simply come and say, "One day I'll make it all right. There's a past act that you believe in, and then you get to share in it." What he's done is he said, "But I've put my spirit inside of you in a way that you can be part of bringing about cultural transformation and you can bring about personal transformation because of me inside of you." And wouldn't our world be better if more of us were focused on growing and love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self control, rather than saying I need to fix everything out there? I'm not suggesting that there's not a time to say, "I wanna fix things out there," but what I'm saying is that when the spirit of God takes up residence inside of a person what happens is that we begin to think and to be believe and to act like God calls us to believe, think and act and it changes everything.
Now, there is a challenge. I believe that although you're baptized with the holy spirit the moment that you believe that there's still a filling with the holy spirit. John Stott wrote an excellent little book on this years and years ago called Baptism and Fullness where he makes the distinction and shows it all exegetically. I'm not gonna take the time to try to show that here today. But what is true is that you can have the holy spirit, have all you need of the holy spirit and yet not utilize the power that God has given you.
I think of it a little bit like this. It's like have a challenging task in front of you and you need a power tool, and you've been given a power tool that can be plugged into the wall. And you have the tool, but if you don't plug it into the wall for power you don't actually have the power. You have the tool, but you don't have the power. And what happens for some of us is we know, intellectually, theologically that we have the power of the holy spirit in our lives, but we live powerless lives because we aren't plugging in to the source of God's power. We're not studying scripture. We're not worshiping with a band, and we're not repenting of our own sinfulness, and we're not coming to a place where we're saying, "God, I am yours." Instead, what we're doing is, we're negotiating at every turn.
I mean, people from time to time, people of faith, people that have been around church a long time who will say something like this, they'll say, "You know, I just don't sense God. I'm not experiencing God anymore. I used to feel God. I don't feel God anymore." And there's certainly seasons where that may be true. If you read the psalms, there were people who were following after God who didn't always sense God. But one of the reasons that sometimes people don't sense God who believe is because they've stopped obeying what it is that they believe. And what I mean is, it's like ... When you say, "I'm going to do it my way," it's like unplugging from the power source and saying, "I'm going to use this tool any way that I see fit," instead of being plugged into the power source. And then we say, "You know what, I don't know where God is. I don't sense God."
Well, part of what may have happened, again not every instance, but what may have happened is you may have come to a point where you said, "Okay. I believe in Jesus the Messiah. I believe in the Lamb of God. But this indwelling God thing who is with me every day guiding me, directing me that I obey," what we'll do is we'll say, "You stay over here and let me live my life. Give me the benefits of everything else, but I don't want the interference with now." We probably don't say it in that may words, but when that's true what happens is we end up not sensing God.
And here's what we're like at that moment. We're like the mythical king with four wives who says, "You know what, my soul, my first wife, so to speak, I'll forget about that. What I'm really interested in right now I how can I secure family and friends? How can I make enough resource to secure status and opportunity? And how can I take care of my body?" Now, again, those things are good things. Some of us should work harder at our bodies. Some of us should work harder at securing resources. Some of us could do a better job with family and friends. I'm not at all suggesting that those aren't important. What I'm suggesting is that if that's primary in your life, what you're doing, at least in part, is you're saying, "Right now that's where my focus is, and I'll deal with this soul thing, with this Jesus thing later," rather than letting him be the baptizer with the holy spirit and form you from the inside out indwelling you at every turn.
And again, what's expected here for us in many ways is that we expect that Jesus is a nice additive for those who need it in our culture, rather than a revolutionary god who changes everything about the way we approach life. You may be here today and you may be saying, "I'm not sure I believe this. I not sure that this is the god that I understand." But guess is, even as we've talked here today, there's a little piece of you that says, "I would like a god like that, a god who will make everything right one day, a god who will promise to be my substitute, a god who will give me power," and that's the god that John talks about. And although this passage wasn't full of evidence or signs, what he's going to do is he's going to give signs in the coming chapters that lead all the way up to the sign of the resurrection, and he's going to say that this is the god that you can believe in, you can know, and in believing in him you will have life, eternal life and current life. And this will make your journey stronger.
Father, we ask today that you would just help each one of us who's gathered in all of the locations, services of Orchard Hill listening later, that we would not settle for just good things with our finances, our bodies, our families and friends but, God, we would also tend to the bigger questions. And in tending to them, that we would feed our soul. And we pray this in Jesus name, amen.