03 June 2013

Encountering Jesus - Jesus speaks with the Jews in Charge

Today, let's look at more specifics 
from one of Jesus' first showdowns with the Jews in charge!

Painting: "The Pharisees," by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, painted in 1912.
So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”  
For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. 
Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me." 
“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true. You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5.16-47)
I taught this as a Bible study at our local church several years back. It was one of the more difficult studies I taught, mainly because I struggled preparing, which is not the norm. Preparation time is something I love... I enjoy the time with the Lord, the opportunity to really dig into His Word and the challenge of preparing to share with women from such a different world a lesson that already touched my heart. This week, that lesson, however, it was a struggle the whole way. Finally figuring out why was a light bulb moment: the Jesus encounter preceding it, with the lame man... and the Jesus encounter immediately following it, the feeding of 5000... are both event centered. This section of Scripture isn't. Jesus has a discussion with the "chief Jews." I wasn't sure how to teach that passage to illiterate women. A "story" is much easier to make concrete and memorable - so my original plans were simply to summarize and move on to that next concrete, more action-y story. God had other plans that week four years ago, because it became very obvious each time I tried to work on this Bible study that I was working only in my own strength, relying on my own "intellecutalism" and striving. And it wasn't coming together the way it should.

Once I gave up, returned to the second half of John 5 and Jesus' words to the Jews, I immediately sensed the Lord's presence helping me, clarifying things and giving me some ideas. I immediately discovered that the Lord had two lessons for me in all of this: 1) Trying to prepare to God's work in any other strength than His is pointless; and 2) I have a lot more in common with those chief Jews than I care to admit.

As I began to prepare on Friday afternoon, I read the following words: 
The purpose of the Bible is not just to convey a message but also to reflect an image. The images of the Bible are presented primarily through the lives of its characters. These images are not only to be hung on the wall like a portrait to show me what I should look like, but also like a mirror, to show me what I actually look like. If I do not see myself reflected in the bible, then its value to me is greatly diminished or lost entirely.... I need to take a closer [look] at the Pharisees [or the chief Jews in John 5] and at myself, but not to ridicule them and pat myself on the back. I think Jesus wanted there to be no mistake about His attitude toward external religiosity. Unfortunately, the Pharisees are often so scathingly caricatured that I cannot bring myself to see myself in them. If I see myself only in the noble or semi-noble characters of the Bible, perhaps I do not really see myself at all. the Spirit of God prevents me from being too harsh on the Pharisees for I am potentially more like them than anyone else in the entire Bible!" (Tom Hovestol, p. 12-13 of Extreme Righteousness, Seeing Ourselves in the Pharisees).
And just like that, the Lord gave me a way to approach this more abstract and difficult passage of Scripture.

I printed out the following image and took it to Bible study to show the ladies. It is a caricature of Tim and I, as well as a "portrait."

After several giggles (Go ahead... we do look pretty silly! *smile*), discussion centered on the difference between a caricature and a real picture or photo - focusing on which could be more like what we'd see in the mirror. Obviously, the mirror is more accurate. 

With that as the basis, it was easy to make the following conclusion clear and understandable. When I only take bits and pieces, no matter how prominent (or not) of the people I study in the Bible, I end up with a caricature. If I only compare myself to those bits and pieces, I will always end up looking better than that caricature. Thus, I need to see a real picture or portrait of the people I am studying so that when I look in the mirror of our Bibles, I can accurately compare and see where I am doing well, where I am making progress, and where I need to change.

Most familiar with descriptions of the Pharisees and chief Jews as:

(look up the translation of self-righteous in French - "pharasaïsme" is there)
"whitewashed tombs," and 
"brood of vipers." 

At the same time and according to Tom Hovestol (in the fore-mentioned book), taking a closer look at these men reveals that they were ALSO:

"trying to reclaim the identity of the Jews as the people of God's Word," (p. 26) 
they believed fervently in one God and one way, 
they advocated Biblical education, 
they fought against the Hellenic and sinful culture of their time, 
much of their doctrine was affirmed by Jesus, 
they wanted all aspects of their lives brought under the authority of God's Word, 
they strove to live, work and worship righteously and purely 
(holding tenaciously to traditional values in a world where lifestyles/norms were rapidly changing)
&many Pharisees were among the notable first Christians 
(Paul, for example)

Whoa, wait up and hold on for just a minute. I want ALL those things to be true of me. The lesson of the Pharisees is that in my desire for that second list to be true, I often find myself falling into the pitfalls of the more commonly known characteristics listed first.


With this as the background, and knowing that I am to be an imitator of Christ, I need to look carefully at the things that Jesus said to the chief Jews in John 5.16-47, and come up with questions to ask myself, requiring that I look intently at the Biblical mirror and see what the Lord wants for me to see.
  1. The Jews were angry with Jesus for breaking their Sabbath traditions - what are different ways that I can keep a day holy and set apart to the Lord, a rest from my regular routine so that my neighbors see the difference? Do I keep the Sabbath rest for selfish reasons, or for God's glory?
  2. "...the Son can do nothing of Himself..." : Are there things I try to do of my own initiative, instead of being led by God?
  3. Do I try and imitate God's manner when relating to others... truthfully, lovingly, mercifully, unself-servingly?
  4. Am I transparent with my co-laborers and fellow ministers regarding my goals and plans?
  5. When I "judge" others - their actions, motivations, etc., I steal honor from Christ; the Father himself limits himself and has given all judgment to the Son so that Jesus will be honored. Do I realize the gravity of what I an doing?
  6. "I can do nothing on My own initiative." : Again, am I acting and ministering because it is something I've decided to do, and not because I've been directed by the Father?
  7. Are my motives pure, seeking only God's will or is there a hidden agenda?
  8. "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life." : Do I search the Scriptures looking for revelations of Jesus... or am I searching looking for things I want to find, for reinforcement of my preconceived ideas?
  9. Am I looking for pats on the back and accolades from men, or for God's pleasure in me?
  10. And... any honest listener who professed to love, follow and obey God would have to be asking him/herself: Do I seek to have this same sort of relationship with God that this man Jesus has with the Father?

Cartoon by Dave Walker, www.cartoonchurch.com/content/cc/

Pointing the finger at the "Pharisees" and chief Jews is so easy - but maybe so much about this group was included in the Bible so that I could hold up a mirror and look at myself ~ and recognize my tendencies to substitute rules and religion for true relationship (after all, relationships get messy), and to warn me of the danger of placing any confidence in my capacity to be righteous and to earn God's favor, outside the power of God.

What do you think?

this week's gratitude list

(#'s 3879 - 3904)

profitable yard sales

classes finished

on line classes almost finished

grad banquet coming up this week

fun dinner and nice conversation at the end of the year staff party

one surprise last weekend with some of our friends from the dorm

french toast, yogurt, apple sauce and mango crisp for a Sunday brunch

pizza parties for the Wrightlings

appreciating anew the luxury of a cool night's sleep - 
or at least the privilege of moving air

a mostly empty fridge coinciding with Nigelec's current rash power cuts

starting the final pack

Gammie and Gampy flew in last night!

Sahel's yearbooks arrived with the grandparents

still no chickenpox

people who've prayed for no chickenpox

tests finishing TODAY

grades completed and mostly in the computer

play dough cathedrals with their very own flying buttresses

hearing that my boy wasn't interested in joyriding around town in the middle of the night with his buddies - because right now especially, that seems a really poor choice... gives me some hope for decisions he'll make next year when he's off at school

anticipating hugging the necks of some dear friends, numbering the days

crazy big sty (actually a cluster of them) on my eye finally gone - no antibiotics needed!

emptying the cupboards

empty action packers

suitcases packed, weighed and stacked

tickets for the banquet sold, reservations made... all that's left is to dress up and enjoy the event with our boy

that things didn't get worse over the weekend

Ten most recent posts in this series: 


  1. Thanks for drenching me in thankfulness and challenging me to think deep.

    Delighted to meet you today. I hope you don't mind if I splash around a bit to get to know you. This looks like a refreshing place to dip onto goodness.



    1. hope you enjoy your "swim."

      thanks for stopping by and thanks for saying hi!


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