With everything that’s about to happen — betrayal, abandonment, torture, crucifixion, coming face to face with wrath — Jesus doesn’t for a moment cease to love and serve his friends. He doesn’t take “me time” to rest and prepare for the trials (literally) to come. Instead, he strips down, humbles himself, and washes the grimy feet of his disciples. It’s a story I’ve read so many times, it’s easy to gloss over, but today I’m in wonder at what patience and grace it took to wash their feet. So thoroughly and thoughtfully, knowing his time had come, knowing what was in store. It wasn’t hurried or halfhearted. He wasn’t distracted or dejected. He was present, still teaching them the lessons they would need when he was gone, including the “new commandment” to love one another, just as he loved them. What a savior! What a friend!
Jesus comes doing ONLY good — restoring sight, restoring limbs, restoring life itself — but some still can’t see him for who he is, which John reiterates quite starkly in verses 39-40. The miracle that should have made a believer out of anyone is that which further fixes some people in their unbelief. They want Jesus dead, along with Lazarus (again). God the Father himself speaks aloud to the onlookers, confirming Jesus is the Christ, but they attribute it to thunder and angels.
This is a strange comfort when I think of the people in my life who can’t see Jesus for who he is. Even when he was here on earth, working miracles before men’s very eyes, some remained blind. But those to whom Jesus gave sight, they truly saw, truly believed, and were truly saved. Nothing has changed. He still must open eyes.
“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (v. 5). To me, this is one of the most beautiful sentences in scripture. The naming of specific people is comforting; it’s so different from the generic “blanket” love of Jesus for all people that I heard about growing up, as if there’s no difference between his friends and enemies, believers and unbelievers. This is a very personal love for his friends.
But I also love that this sentence is followed by, “So…” Everything that follows happens because Jesus loved these three friends. Jesus stayed put for two more days BECAUSE he loved them. Lazarus died BECAUSE Jesus loved them. Mary and Martha suffered in mourning for four days BECAUSE Jesus loved them. Lazarus was raised from the dead BECAUSE Jesus loved them.
If only I could see my struggles through that lens. Whatever I’m going through, however I’m feeling, it’s because Jesus loves me, and he sees the bigger picture. In fact, he’s the artist. Today I’m struggling for several reasons — recent sin, concerns for a friend’s health, worries about the future. I hope that as I meditate on this verse for a little while longer, I can see myself in this love: “Now Jesus loved Bryan. So…”
Jesus calls himself the good shepherd, who not only leaves the ninety-nine to go after the one lost sheep, as we learn about elsewhere, but also lays down his life for the sheep. There’s no way to truly plumb the depths of this great metaphor. Today especially, I just want to rest in the truth that he’s GOOD. He leads. He knows me, and I know his voice, too. Sometimes I stray, like a wandering sheep, but “in tenderness” he brings me back to his fold again, as one of my favorite hymns says. This is what shepherds do, and he’s the greatest of them, perfectly suited for sinners.
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
Whenever I consider the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, I often focus on my own strength, my holding fast to Jesus. And there’s truth to that. But here, thankfully, I’m reminded of the reverse — that Jesus holds me fast. He’s not letting go, even when I stumble. He will always bring me back to the fold. Thank you, Lord.
The story of the man born blind has always been comforting to me, because I also have an “abnormality” — in my sexuality — that I can’t necessarily attribute to any cause. Like the man’s blindness, same-sex attraction seems to have been with me since I was born. I didn’t ask for it, I don’t want it, and I know it’s not God’s original or ultimate intent for his creation. But it exists and persists in the “already/not yet,” even in the life of believers.
So, I was encouraged when I learned that C.S. Lewis, citing this very text, made the same connection between the blind man and the “homosexual” (to use his term). Jesus doesn’t explain to his disciples why the man was born blind, neither does God tell us why same-sex attraction might exist in the life of a Christian, but we can be sure of the end result — “that the works of God might be displayed in him” (v. 3).
The works of God. Displayed in him.
Those continue to be encouraging words, even though sometimes that glorious end feels far away. In the meantime, my work is to believe, casting my cares on Christ, eagerly awaiting the day when the works of God are finally and fully displayed — even in me.
I’m with R.C. Sproul on this one; I believe the story of the woman caught in adultery is a true event based on eyewitness accounts, which is why scribes tried several times to place it into various texts. Somehow it landed in John 8, and I’m glad it did. I love the mystery behind it. What did Jesus write in the sand? What sins ran through the people’s minds as they surrendered their stones?
As the only human in the universe who is without sin, Jesus had the right to cast the first stone, for this woman was guilty, actually CAUGHT in adultery. But when Jesus was “left alone with the woman standing before him,” he spoke these sweet words: “Neither do I condemn you.” Words that have comforted me time and again, especially in those moments following fresh repentance.
Jesus is the only person we can face with the full extent of our sin and not be utterly condemned. His life and death prove he deals gently with sinners who know their need for him. What a joy for this woman to be left face to face with Jesus!
I love how Dane Ortlund puts it in his wonderful book, Gentle and Lowly: “For all his resplendent glory and dazzling holiness, his supreme uniqueness and otherness, no one in human history has ever been more approachable than Jesus Christ.”
What a polarizing figure Jesus is! One group wanted to crown him king, another wanted to kill him. His own siblings, who for years slept under the same roof, didn’t recognize him as the Messiah. Questions arose about his trustworthiness, his education, his morality. At best, people thought he was unstudied; at worst, demon-possessed. All this during a feast to commemorate the faithfulness of God — yet God himself dwelt among them and they didn’t know it.
Jesus was the perfect human, the most loving friend, the most learned teacher. He did everything right, but there were still many who hated and disbelieved. This is strangely comforting in my Christian walk, as I seek to live in step with God’s Word, but people mock and misconstrue. Of course, I do the wrong things very often, too. But Jesus never did. He was “God with us” and yet his own people did not receive him (John 1:11).
But by the end of John 7, there are a glorious few who say, “This is the Christ.” At this point in John’s gospel, people are taking sides. Eternal life and death hinge on what they believe about Jesus — as it does today. Truly, as A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
Those with a desire for Christ are those to whom it is given by the Father. He draws them to his Son (v. 44), and Christ safeguards their salvation (v. 37). These and other passages throughout John 6 were personal favorites during my teen years as I transitioned to Calvinism, and they still amaze me, not merely as proof texts for the doctrines of grace, but as truths to cherish in difficult times.
But what I love even more now, as an adult who is painfully aware of his weakness and sin, is the way Jesus answers the masses when they ask, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”
This is what we do: “Believe in him whom he has sent” (v. 29).
In other words, “Look upon the Son” (v. 40).
Or simply, “Behold.”
So often I fall into the mindset that to please God I must do and work and earn. But Jesus said our “work” is to believe in him, who DID and WORKED and EARNED on our behalf. When we sin, suffer, or backslide, our hope for rest and reconciliation doesn’t lie in our works; we need only to gaze upon the beauty of Christ and believe in him.