Today’s readings are from Exodus 22, John 1, Job 40 and 2 Corinthians 10.
Exodus 22 is filled with case laws, laws of restitution in vv. 1-15 and social or religious laws vv. 16-31. Throughout this chapter, God is taking laws which were already enacted in the ancient Middle East (for example, the Code of Hammurabi), and making them more humane. Justice would be served, but mercy is present also.
John’s gospel is different from the other three (synoptic gospels). It begins not with the birth of Christ, but His pre-existence.
Each of the Gospels emphasizes a different origin of Jesus.
- Matthew shows Jesus came from Abraham through David, and demonstrates that He is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament (Matthew 1:1).
- Mark shows Jesus came from Nazareth, demonstrating that Jesus is a Servant (Mark 1:1).
- Luke shows Jesus came from Adam, demonstrating that Jesus is the Perfect Man Luke 3:23-38).
- John shows Jesus came from heaven, demonstrating that Jesus is God.
Even though John was written last (in the early 90’s A.D.), it does not “complete” the gospels, for John recognized that the story of Jesus was so big that it can never be completed (John 21:25).
John 1 begins with a prologue in vv. 1-18, which stretches back before time to speak of the Word. This is related to the Hebrew concept of “wisdom” and the Greek word logos spoke of the organizing principle of the universe. John shows that the real logos has always existed with God and was with God (by His side) and was/is God.
Some point out the lack of the Greek article with God (theos) in verse 1, translating it, “and the Word was a god,” making him less than God, a created god. However, any predicate noun that has no article is not indefinite unless the context dictates. In fact, John could not have used the article with theos because to do so would have made in a controvertible statement (meaning you could say it back and forth) and John certainly did not mean “God was the Word” as if minimizing God to the second person of the Godhead. This God created everything (v. 3) and John says, “I mean EVERYTHING” so that He could not have been one of the created things.
Another common theme in John is light and darkness. In Christ was light and the darkness could not overcome/comprehend it–both are true. John the Baptist was a witness to that light (vv. 6-8).
The meaning of verse 9 is that the true Light comes into the world and enlightens everyone. Everyone lives under the spotlight of God’s illuminating revelation in Jesus Christ since the Incarnation (cf. 1 John 1). His light clarifies the sinfulness and spiritual need of human beings. Those who respond to this convicting revelation positively experience salvation. Those who reject it and turn from the light will end up in outer darkness.
Although the Jews (on the whole) rejected Jesus, anyone who receives him will have eternal life as God’s children (vv. 10-12). This new relationship does not come about through physical descent (just because you are a Jew racially), nor of human desire, but of God and His will.
Vv. 14-18 speak of Jesus’ incarnation, that the eternal Word “became flesh.” Notice the contrast with verse 1. Jesus always “was” God, but at a point in time in space-time history “became” a man–He put on flesh, a human nature.
Jesus’ relationship to the Father is unique. He is Jesus’ Son par excellence. He is the “only begotten”–which is actually a poor translation. The Greek verb gennao means “to give birth.” But the word in John 1:14, 18 is monogenous with one nu (n), not two. So this word comes not from gennao, but from genes (which means “race,” or “kind”). So a better translation is “one of a kind.” (the NIV has “one and only”).
Jesus is “full of grace and truth.” It is hard to be “full of grace and truth.” Most of us, by temperament, are either gracious or truthful. Some people (like me) are sometimes too gracious (read lenient, permissive), with others are too truthful (read brutal, cruel). But Jesus always had the perfect balance–and fullness–of both.
Verses 19-29 presents the testimony of John the Baptist as a witness to the light (1:6-8). While baptizing in the Jordan, John was questioning as to whether He was the Coming One.
The Jordan near Bethany Beyond-the Jordan (to be distinguished from the Bethany near the Mount of Olives). It was in this area that John was baptizing.
John admits that he is not the Messiah, but the Messiah is coming and when he saw Jesus he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” and indicates that this is the one of whom he was speaking.
At the very dawn of his ministry, Jesus is greeted with words that remind him of his destiny: His sacrificial agony on the cross for the sin of mankind. The shadow of the cross was cast over the entire ministry of Jesus.
John realized that he was lower than Jesus, his younger cousin, in calling. He felt unworthy to untie his shoes. David Guzik explains…
Among Rabbis and their disciples, there was a teacher-student relationship that had the potential for abuse. It was entirely possible that a Rabbi might expect unreasonable service from their disciples. One of the things which was considered “too low” for a Rabbi to expect from his disciples was the untying of the Rabbi’s sandal strap. John says he is unworthy to do even this.
The chapter ends (vv. 35-51) with Jesus interacting for the first time with some of his potential disciples, several of whom had been John’s disciples.
Andrew came to Jesus because of John’s proclamation about the Lamb of God. Then Peter came to Jesus because of his brother’s witness. “Come and see” is the simplest invitation we can give.
In the next verses, Philip will come to Jesus as a result of a direct invitation from Christ, and Nathanael will come to Jesus when Jesus showed himself so great in relation to Nathanael’s small question. Our Lord will meet us wherever we are and draw us to himself with gentleness and graciousness. May we be eager to follow Jesus!
Even today, one of the best ways to help someone believe is simply to bring them to Jesus. Word-of-mouth advertising is always the best.
Thomas Constable notes:
At least 16 different names and titles of Jesus appear in chapter one: the Word (vv. 1, 14), the Light (vv. 7-9), the Only Begotten of the Father (v. 14), Jesus Christ (v. 17), the Only Begotten God (v. 18), the Lord (v. 23), the Lamb of God (vv. 29, 36), a Man (v. 30), the Son of God (v. 34), Rabbi (Teacher, vv. 38, 49), Messiah (v. 41), Jesus of Nazareth (v. 45), the son of Joseph (v. 45), the Son of God (v. 49), the King of Israel (v. 49), and the Son of Man (v. 51). Clearly one of John’s purposes in this Gospel was to draw attention to who Jesus is.
Job’s first response to God is that he was dumbfounded. Earlier he had wanted to challenge God in court; now he has nothing to say.
So God speaks again (40:6-41:34).
After Job’s first response, God narrows his focus down to Job’s acute problem. The verse Job 40:8 seems to be the closest we get to understanding what actual sin Job might have committed: “Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?” God asks. How easily righteousness can slip over into self-righteousness and accusing God.
This second divine discourse is similar to, yet different from, the first. It began as the first one did with a challenge to Job (40:6-14; cf. 38:1-3), but it did not end with one (cf. 40:1-2). In the first speech Yahweh spoke of His inanimate creation and of His animate creation, specifically 10 animals. In the second speech He concentrated on only two creatures: Behemoth (“great beast”) and Leviathan (“sea monster”).
God does not want to crush Job, but to instruct him. He challenges Job to refute him (40:6-14) and then asks Job questions (40:15-41:34).
In 2 Corinthians 10 Paul begins defending his apostleship (chaps 10-12). He pleads with them and hopes that the Corinthians will change their attitude towards him and his apostolic authority so that he can come to them in gentleness, not severity (vv. 1-2).
Unlike his opponents, the “super-apostles” who were trying to win the Corinthians’ loyalty, Paul did not minister in the flesh, but with divine weapons. They are the only ones who can tear down Satanic strongholds.
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
Redpath writes of a practical way to battle with spiritual weapons and break down a stronghold: “When the thought comes and the person is reported to have said what he has said, and the unkindness has been passed over to us, and the criticism has been made, whereas carnality would say, ‘Counterattack!’ spirituality recognizes that nothing that any person could ever say about any one is really one hundredth part as bad as the truth if he only knew it. Therefore, we have no reason to counterattack, but one good reason to submit and to forget.”
“Taking every thought captive” means that we don’t have to surrender to our thoughts and the voices in our head. We take them captive by first preaching to ourselves the gospel and then asking our commander for marching orders.
Paul speaks of his authority as an apostle in vv. 8-11, how a ministry should be measured in vv. 9-16, and ends with the vital importance of the Lord’s commendation upon a minister’s ministry (vv. 17-18).
Let me close with a quote from Eugene Peterson. I am currently reading Working the Angles, and this quote is similar but not from that book:
As it turns out, the people I serve would often prefer an idol who would do what they want done rather than do what God, revealed in Jesus, wants them to do. In our present culture, the sharp distinction between a job and a vocation is considerably blurred. How do I, as a pastor, prevent myself from thinking of my work as a job that I get paid for, a job that is assigned to me by my denomination, a job that I am expected to do to the satisfaction of my congregation? How do I stay attentive to and listening to the call that got me started in this way of life – not a call to make the church attractive and useful in the American scene, not a call to help people feel good about themselves and have a good life, not a call to use my considerable gifts and fulfill myself, but a call like Abraham’s ‘to set out for a place…not knowing where he was going’, a call to deny myself and take up my cross and follow Jesus, a call like Jonah’s to go at once to Nineveh, ‘a city he detested’, a call like Paul’s to ‘get up and enter the city and you will be told what to do’?