In this (the 6th part of a 9 part Bible Study series on the "I am" sayings in John's Gospel) Jesus tells a peculiar parable. In this parable, he implies that the people of God are like a sheep pen- that is, a walled inclosure providing shelter and safety to the flock. Jesus goes on to explain that he himself is the GATE to that sheep pen. What does Jesus mean by this? That's what we will explore in today's Bible Study.
Our culture encourages an obsession with identity. "Who am I," we often ask, "in light of my race, ethnicity, economic background, sexual orientation and so on?" Today's reading from Mark's Gospel (the story of Jesus' baptism) is all about identity; specifically, the identity of Jesus. Who exactly is Jesus? What does God the Father say about him? How is his identity shaped by what he does? The story of Jesus' Baptism also encourages us to contemplate our own identity in light of Jesus. How does Jesus' identity shape and define whom we are? That's what Terence will be exploring in his sermon on Mark 1:4-11 (the story of Jesus' Baptism).
In ancient times, leaders (i.e., judges, kings, emperors) were often likened to shepherds. After all, shepherds were responsible for feeding, protecting and directing their flocks- tasks which ancient rulers saw as their own. As most of us are probably aware, Jesus used shepherding imagery in many of his teachings and parables, even going so far as to liken himself to a shepherd. However, instead of simply saying, "I am like a shepherd," Jesus actually says, "I am the GOOD shepherd." What does Jesus mean when he says that he is specifically the good shepherd? That's the question we'll be exploring today in our Bible Study on John 10:11-18.
A crucible, as most people are aware, is a vessel used to contain precious metals as they are purified and refined under intense heat. In today's Old Testament reading, the Prophet Malachi uses the image of the crucible to describe what will soon happen to the nation of Israel: A mysterious messenger will one day come and, through the intense heat of his preaching, purifying the nation of Israel of its impurities. Who is this so-called "messenger?" And how can we, as the people of the church, cooperate in God's refining work? This is what we'll explore in today's sermon on Malachi 3:1-4.
The passage of scripture that we'll be looking at today is part of a longer dialogue that Jesus is having with a crowd of people. At the beginning of this dialogue, we are told that Jesus' audience is mostly sympathetic to his cause. In fact, we are told that they were "Jews who had believed in him" (John 8:31). However, by the time this encounter has finished, the same people "who had believed in him" now want to stone him to death (John 8:58). The reason the people want to stone him is this: Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:58). What was so offensive about this statement? Why did it result in a murderous anger on behalf of the crowds? This is what we'll be talking about in this, the fourth Bible Study in a Bible Study series on the I AM sayings of John's Gospel. John 8:51-57 51 Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, ‘He is our God,’ 55 though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would 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 ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” 57 Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell 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.
Today's sermon centers around a provocative question - a question that countless Christians have contemplated over the ages. How should we, the people of the church, behave towards the great political powers under the shadow of whose authority we go about our daily mission? Or, to put all that far more bluntly, what’s our relationship to the state? When should we disobey? When should we cooperate? How can we avoid being corrupted should we cooperate? In answering these questions, the prophetic vision found in the book of Daniel, chapter 7, is very helpful. In his dream, the prophet Daniel sees four terrible beasts emerging from the sea. Later, in the second part of his vision, he sees "an ancient one" and "one like a Son of Man" reigning on a throne. As strange as this vision may seem, it does offer a great deal of insight into how the people of God (whether the church or the nation of Israel) ought to relate to the political powers that dominate our age.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus uses a number of "I am" statements- statements which disclose some unique aspect of his identity. Today, we explore another "I AM" statement of Jesus: "I am the Light of the world."
The idea that sin alienates people from a Holy God certainly isn't new. Indeed, the ancient Jews saw sin as a thing that pollutes or defiles. And if someone (or even something) was sullied by sin then that person dare not enter into the presence of a Holy God. According to the Old Testament, however, God has provided for his people a kind of solvent- a means of obtaining purification after defilement from sin. That thing is blood- specifically, the blood of certain animals that are sacrificed to God in the tabernacle by specially designated priests. This way of dealing with sin is what the author of Hebrews refers to as "the old covenant." The old covenant was always meant to be provisional. In other words, it was never a longterm solution to the problem of human sin. It only existed to point the way to a new and ultimately better way of dealing with human sin. It is this "new and better way" that is the subject of today's sermon. According to the new covenant, the Old Testament priests are no longer necessary. Instead, there is now one priest; namely, Jesus Christ. It is through him that sinful humanity can enter into the presence of a Holy God.
Why Did Jesus Say, I am the Bread of Life? (A Bible Study John 6:25-40) The day after Jesus fed 5,000 men with five loaves and two fish, he found himself surrounded by a large crowd of hungry people, demanding more food. Instead of giving them what they want, Jesus says, "do not work for the food that perishes but the food that endures to eternal life" (John 6:27). What is the food that Jesus is talking about? In short, himself. Jesus says, "I am the bread of life."
Today- in this second part of a Bible Study series on the I AM sayings of John's Gospel- we will take a closer look at what Jesus truly means when he says, "I am the bread of life."
What Jesus Taught about Marriage and Divorce It's common to see headlines in the tabloids about the divorce of celebrities and other, high profile public figures. If there were tabloids in Jesus' time, a headline might read like this: “Royal Marriage Scandal: King Herod to Wed Herodius, the Divorced Wife of His Brother. John the Baptist Outraged!" With this divorce scandal on everybody's minds , the Pharisees approach Jesus with a question: "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" (Mark 10:2). In response, Jesus offers a lengthy teaching- a teaching that focusses, not so much on divorce itself, but marriage. The unspoken question that Jesus poses is this: What is God's ultimate will for marriage? What do the scriptures say? The response to this question ultimately informs Jesus' teachings on divorce. Join us as we take a closer look at Mark 10:1-12 .