As Jesus is the cornerstone upon which the Church is built, so are his teachings the unifying cornerstone of Christian doctrine.

Knowing God

In John 17:2-3 Jesus prayed about his authority to “give eternal life to as many as” the Father had given Him. He also defined what He meant by eternal life, “this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” This means to know the one, true God, in contrast with the polytheism of the Gentiles. How? This recognition or knowledge of God includes knowing Him in Jesus and involves an intimate relationship akin to marriage. As we receive the words which Jesus has given us, the words which God gave him, then we come to know and believe God.

Glory

In John 17:1, Jesus prayed “Glorify Your Son.” What did he mean? Glorify is from the Greek root δόξα (doxa) from which we get the word doxology. It means to give power, honor, praise and magnificent greatness. In this context it includes the exalted position that Jesus had from the beginning, “the glory which I had with You before the world was.” It includes the glory of the cross. He said, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” It also incorporates the glory that is given to him by those who follow him, “I am glorified in them.”

How we Got Jesus’ Prayer

Part of the Lord’s “high priestly prayer” is found in John 17:1-11. How did we get that prayer? Did someone take word-for-word notes in a shorthand? Did God inspire a later writer word-for-word? Did John just summarize it in his own words? We don’t know. Forensic linguists theorize about a set of notes called Q, from the German word Quelle (source), and that later writers used Q to write individual accounts. Witnesses using reference notes does not diminish their testimony. We don’t know if the words are exact or more general. However, the prayer’s emphasis is unmistakably Jesus, as he prayed for glory, eternal life and unity for his followers.

Why Church Division?

The Christian Church is united on the essentials. We probably agree on 95% of our faith. We are divided over a lot of non-essentials. Rather than continue the division, it is good to understand various sides of a doctrine without prejudice. To understand all sides of an argument over a non-essential issue can eliminate bigotry. It does not mean that we compromise on sin or heresy, but it does mean we recognize that the Holy Spirit is not exclusive. The more we learn to respect other opinions instead of being dogmatic that only our way is right, the more we recognize God’s grace in the world, and find differences less important.

Love and Manifestation

In John 14:21 Jesus rephrases verse 15, He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.” This involves the mutual indwelling of Father, Son and Holy Spirit with us. Those who dwell in Christ are obeying His commands, perhaps summarized in words like faith and love. We accept His words and act on them. The result is being loved by My Father.” This relationship that exists between us and God rests on faith. Jesus then promises that He will love us and manifest Himself to us. This revelation is a Coming different from His Second Coming. It is the manifestation of Christ in the Spirit.

In That Day

In John 14:20 Jesus said, “In that day,” either referring to the day when “another Helper” “the Spirit of Truth” (verses 16-17) would come, that is, the Day of Pentecost beginning the Christian era or perhaps the day of His resurrection, celebrated every Sunday. His disciples will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” This union of mutual indwelling is lived out in our mystical personal relationship with God the Father and God the Son through the Holy Spirit. Is this oneness with God what the resurrection life is all about? Is this the realization of a life at peace with God?

You Will See Me

In John 14:19 Jesus promised his disciples that after His death, the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me.” This has two possibilities. They would see Jesus as they did between Resurrection Sunday and His Ascension. The second possibility is that this includes seeing Jesus through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus also spoke of their future eternity, “Because I live, you will live also.” This also refers to the higher life of Christ which is independent of death. Because He lives, we will be partakers of life forever more. This indicates that our eternal life is dependent directly on Jesus giving it to us.

I Will Come to You

In John 14:18 Jesus promised his disciples, “I will not leave you orphans.” The Greek word is orphans. The word comfortless in some translations misses the context of the conversation beginning with “Little children...” (John 13:33). Here is another coming of Jesus Christ, in the Spirit. He said, “I will come to you.” This refers perhaps to two things, the time Christ would be with them after the resurrection and his presence with them through the Holy Spirit. MacLaren's Expositions calls this presence through the Holy Spirit the absent-present Christ. As Jesus promised in Matthew 28:20 I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Spirit of Truth

The Holy Spirit is called the “paraclete,” variously translated as Comforter, Helper and Advocate. More closely aligned with being “the Spirit of Truth” in John 14:17 is the translation Advocate. Whenever we meet someone who does not have what we deem to be the truth, we do not need to coerce or persecute them as some Christians have been tempted to do. It ought not surprise us that “the world cannot receive” the Spirit of truth. Our best arguments will all fail, because the world cannot receive the truth. We should simply trust the Holy Spirit to do His job, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

East-West Divide

An east-west division is visible in John 14:16. I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper...” Who does the Holy Spirit proceed from, the Father or the Father and the Son? The Nicene Creed in the East leaves out the words “and the Son” (filioque in Latin). This verse seems to say that the Father sends the Spirit on behalf of the Son. Both East and West may agree on that. Because the addition was never authorized at a truly ecumenical council of Eastern and Western churches, it has caused unnecessary division. Jesus is a Comforter (1 John 2:1). The Holy Spirit is another Comforter.

Jesus’ Commandments


Some Christians presume that the word “commandments” always means the Ten Commandments. That’s a false assumption. Obedience to Jesus’ commands proves that we love Him. He said, “If you love me…” In John 14:15 Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” In this context Jesus commanded, to “believe also in Me” (verse 1). The natural reading (in context) is His commandments, not the Ten Commandments. Jesus also reminds us of several of over 600 Old Testament commandments that we love God and neighbor. The commands of Christ do not dismiss Old Testament commandments, but rather fulfill their spirit through faith in God the Father and God the Son.

Greater Works

In John 14:12 Jesus said, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do”. Andrew evangelized Constantinople, Ukraine, Romania and Russia. Peter and Paul evangelized Antioch and more. James the Greater evangelized Spain. John preached at Ephesus. Philip evangelized Greece and Syria. Bartholomew (Nathaniel) evangelized India, Ethiopia, Mesopotamia and Armenia. Matthew evangelized Caucasia, Macedonia, Persia and Parthia. Thomas evangelized Parthia and India. James the Less evangelized Lower Egypt. Judas Thaddeus evangelized Judea, Samaria, Syria, Mesopotamia and Libya. Simon the Zealot pastored Jerusalem and traveled to Africa and Europe. “Greater works” was one of Jesus’ greatest promises.

Show us the Father

In John 14:8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” Verse 6 reveals Jesus as the way to our Father. Could the devil be deceiving our society to create such hatred of manliness and fatherhood so that we no longer wish to come to our heavenly Father? Jesus highly honored womanhood, but he chose men to be the twelve disciples. Why? He could have chosen women. Are manly leadership and male role-models despised in today’s world? Do we feminize men? Do we caricature manliness like a freak show? More than ever, our world needs fathers and the Father we need most is God.

The Life

Jesus made the bold claim, “I am the way, the truth and the life” in John 14:6. Is this a claim to divinity, that Jesus is within himself the possessor of eternal life? Is it also a claim that He can give it to whomever He wishes? In the beginning it was God who gave man life (Genesis 2:7). Whoever believes in Jesus should have everlasting life (John 3:16). Jesus is the prince of life (Acts 3:15). The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23). God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son (1 John 5:11).

The Truth


People believe that a particular distinct doctrine is the truth, which in reality may be mere human understanding. They claim that a different understanding is a lie and not the truth. Yet, all Christians agree on the truth, at least the most important element of the truth, Jesus. After all, Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life” in John 14:6. Whatever disagreements Christians may have — forms of baptism, qualifications for ordination, formal versus informal formats, wine or grape juice for communion, Psalms, hymns or spiritual songs, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant authority, tongues, church polity — we agree that what Jesus taught is still the truth.

The Way


In John 14:3 Jesus said, “I will come again.” Then he told them in verses 4-5, “where I go you know, and the way you know.” Thomas speaking for the others said, “Lord, we do not know.” How often do we not know that we know something? A little more instruction clarified what they already knew. Jesus then say, “I am the way.” The way a person and not a road. It has a destination, “to the Father,” also a person. So Jesus is the way to the Father. He went to prepare a place for us and will come again to take us to the place He has prepared.

The Meaning of Mansions


In John 14 Jesus said, In My Father’s house are many mansions”. Jacob dedicated Beth El as God’s house, the gate of heaven (Genesis 28:15-22). The tabernacle and the temple in Jerusalem were called the house of God. The people of God are also called God’s house (1 Corinthians 3:8-10). True believers are also promised a place of eternal abode with God. The Greek word μοναὶ (monai) translated as mansions or abodes means literally “an abiding dwelling-place (i.e. not transitory).” Our homes on earth are only temporary abodes, but our place in eternity is permanent. The emphasis then is that there is plenty of room in heaven for all.

Life to the Full

Jesus said, I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” This is contrasted with the thief who enters the church “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” We have slowly drifted away from Jesus Christ and substituted material abundance for the abundant life in Christ. Heretical Gospels that emphasize self-indulgence are popular. The delusion of materialism has brought spiritual and family destruction. Divorce and crime are direct results of our hedonistic rush for power and wealth. The thief has come and stolen and killed and destroyed us. Will we return to the one who can give us life to the full?

Who is the Gate

Jesus said, “I am the door of the sheep.” He is the gateway or gatekeeper for the sheepfold. Listen to the voice of the gatekeeper. He will lead us out to safety. Ignore his voice and we may romp in the green grass at the wrong time, headed into danger. If we enter into safety through the gatekeeper, then we know that he will be watching. It is important for us to be following the right voice, the voice of the gatekeeper, Jesus. Inside the gate is freedom from harm, because the gatekeeper guards us. Outside the gate is freedom to run and frolic with protection, because the gatekeeper leads us.

Thieves and Robbers

Jesus said, All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers.” Is a particular church the door? Claims of who is one true church are everywhere, but they can’t all be right. Are all who claim to be the door into the sheepfold, except Jesus himself, thieves and robbers? When humans compete for sheep, where do we hear Jesus’ voice? Is it the loud and wealthy televangelist? Is it soft words of someone letting their light shine in good works? Is it the encouraging words of an elderly Christian? Are sermons preaching the words of denominational division or of the Great Shepherd who has come that we may have life?

When a Gate is a Gate

Why did Jesus say, I am the door of the sheep?” Picture a shepherd sitting or sleeping at the entrance to a sheep pen. There is no wooden gate. He is the gate. Even a pastor or shepherd who does not enter by the legitimate gate is a thief and a robber. The only legitimate way to enter the true Church is via Jesus. He is the gate. We do not enter the sheepfold via Moses, Paul, the Ecumenical Patriarch, Pope, Luther, Calvin or Wesley. The best servants of God are not the gate. Only Jesus is the gate. So, when is a gate a gate? When that gate is Jesus.

Parable of the Sheep Gate

When “Jesus used this illustration” or parable of being the gate for the sheep he was not speaking literally but figuratively. Parables use hyperbolic language not literal. Let’s not pride ourselves on always taking the Bible literally, when an overly literal interpretation often misses what God intended. Let’s not be thieves and robbers entering a church to steal the peace, kill the joy and destroy the unity. The more we listen to Jesus, the more we find spiritual pasture that feeds our souls. Our lives become more fulfilled now as we experience paradise on earth in a manner not available to those who never come to church, to the sheep fold.

Following a Stranger

Jesus said that His sheep “will by no means follow a stranger.” The idea of “dumb sheep” is a myth. Sheep are very intelligent animals. They remember up to fifty other sheep and ten humans. They find their way out of mazes quickly and are smarter than humans in being able to find the plants they need for herbal cures. In England they taught themselves to roll across cattle grids to feed on neighboring pastures. After meeting a group of people, sheep remember who brought the food. They know by instinct that togetherness is the best defense against a predator. They flock together and gladly follow a shepherd that they trust.

They Know His Voice

Is the voice of Jesus harsh and authoritarian, or soft and effeminate? The Bible gives us a picture of Jesus’ voice: the sheep hear it. People listen to all kinds of voices. Yet the sheep listen to His. All other voices are potential robbers. Just as in a real flock of sheep, where each can be taught its name, so too does the voice Jesus call each by name. It is a personal relationship. Jesus’ sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” They will never follow another. In fact, they go the other way from the un-recognized voice of a stranger. We can learn to recognize the voice of Jesus.

The Sheepfold


We can learn a lot about Christianity from a “sheepfold.” Sheep are very social, flock together and readily follow a lead sheep. Healthy lambs feed frequently. A lamb that bleats all the time is probably hungry. Lambs remain close to their mothers but curiosity can get them into trouble. Sheep are generally docile, but rams can be aggressive during breeding season, headbutting to dominate. Ewes may become aggressive to protect their young. Sheep have excellent memories and trust a shepherd who handles them gently. Shepherds can train sheep by voice command. Like shepherds, churches use various group assemblies to tend God’s sheep. Sheep instinctively know that they are better off together.

The Mystery Revealed

An original definition of the word sacrament was simple. It meant “a visible sign of an invisible grace" according to Augustine of Hippo or as many still teach today, “all of life is a sacrament.” Eastern Orthodox call these sacraments mysteries because we see one thing and believe another. Let us pray to see God’s invisible grace in the visible things around us. For instance, communion bread is far more than a mere symbol. It is a sacrament, a visible sign of an invisible grace through which Jesus the Messiah is revealed to us. Has the mystery also been revealed to us that, The Lord is risen indeed” (Luke 24:34)?

Our Hearts Burn

Along the road to Emmaus two disciples encountered Jesus, but did not recognize Him. He explained the Scriptures to them, but they did not recognize Him. He almost departed from them, but they invited Him to stay. Then, the guest became the host, as Jesus broke the bread at the meal table. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.” (Luke 24:31) Is this a picture of our lives? Does Jesus join us on our journeys? Does He expound the Scriptures to us? Do our hearts burn? Does He then open our eyes at simple events like a meal?

The Mystery of Jesus

Imagine your pastor preaching, O foolish ones, and slow of heart” as Jesus did in Luke 24:25. Joining two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (verse 27) Yet, they failed to recognize Him until later that day. He also talks with our hearts as we hear the Holy Scriptures read. He speaks to us softly through every living thing. He discusses issues with our consciences as we do daily tasks. Yet, often, like the two disciples we see Jesus and don’t recognize Him. Is it because faith is the … evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1)?

Jesus the Stranger

On the road to Emmaus we read in Like 24:15b-16 “Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.” Two disciples thought Jesus was a stranger. Is He a stranger to us who faithfully attend church? They were well-known to Jesus. As close as they may have been, they did not recognize Him. Sometimes, those who are closest to the Church also do not recognize Jesus. We are distracted by events and material things that take our minds off Him. Yet, in the midst of all the paths life takes us, Jesus is there gently walking alongside of us.

The Road to Emmaus


Luke 24:13 says, “Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem.” That road once led west out of Jerusalem through a landscape of trees and fields to a warm spring and a town called Emmaus. The ruins are by Route 1, 40 minutes west of Jerusalem at the Latrun exit inside Canada Park, a national park maintained by a Canadian Jewish fund with beautiful trees and fields. Along the ancient road Jesus met two disciples and their eyes about to be awakened to the resurrection. Do we recognize Jesus on our travels? They did not at first.

MY Lord and MY God

At the cross all the disciples abandoned Jesus. He appeared to them and offered his peace. Thomas confessed very personally, “My Lord and my God!” He did not say OUR Lord or even THE Lord, but MY Lord and MY God. This is what is meant when people speak of a personal relationship with God. Jesus went on to give a special blessing to us who would believe even though we have not seen. We see Jesus, not with physical eyes. When we see Jesus with spiritual insight, we also believe like they did. And as Jesus revealed himself to those disciples, so he reveals himself to each of us.

Faith and Forgiveness

In John 20:23, does Jesus contradict his instructions mandating forgiveness in the Lord’s prayer? The gospel message is a message of forgiveness of sin to those who accept it, but those who refuse forgiveness are not forgiven. Thomas saw Jesus’ wounds, but faith is evidence of things without visible proof (Hebrews 11:1), a mystery. All the disciples doubted, not just Thomas. This is written that we might believe and that believing we might have life through his name. Faith is a gift from God. God entrusts incredible authority to faulty disciples. We accept the message of Jesus, delivered by ordinary faulty people, and will be forgiven when we do.

Sent Proclaiming Heaven’s Forgiveness

Does John 20:23 mean confession to a priest? Early church fathers taught confessing to God for most sins and in public for grievous sins. In the early Church, confession was before all. Western practices are from the 7th to 11th centuries and are not the most ancient interpretation of this passage. In the east, sins are confessed to God and witnessed by a priest. For practical purposes the priest represents the entire community. Verse 23 literally means, “their sins have already been forgiven” i.e. by heaven. This instruction was given to all those assembled. Anyone sent in power of the Holy Spirit is sent with this message of forgiveness.

Peace in Our Fears

In John 20:19, what did Jesus mean, peace be with you? He said it on Resurrection Sunday and the following Sunday. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines it as "the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is." The apostles began their letters with this greeting. Christians ought to offer peace to friend and foe alike. Many churches offer peace before communion. Jesus came to the disciples in their fears and brought them peace from heaven. They were then sent with the message of peace, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

My Teacher

After our risen Lord called out Mary Magdalene’s name, she addressed Him very personally, “ῥαββουνί” (rabbouni, my Teacher). He asked her not to touch him because he had not yet ascended to heaven and she needed to go to the other disciples and tell them that Jesus is ascending to His and her Father and His and her God. Jesus told Peter, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” (John 13:36) But, he told Mary the disciples were his brothers. Mary exclaimed to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” John saw the empty tomb and believed. Mary heard Jesus and believed.

Woman, Why are You Crying?

After investigating Jesus’ empty grave two of the disciples went to their separate homes (John 20:10-16). Mary Magdalene was left crying at the tomb. Looking inside, she saw something quite different to what the two men described. Mary saw two angels. They asked her, ““Woman, why are you weeping?” In very personal terms she described Jesus as “my Lord.” Unlike the disciple that Jesus loved, who simply believed, Mary’s focus was on the missing body. Then Jesus asked her the same question adding “Whom are you seeking?” At first she thought he was the gardener and then He spoke her name, “Mary.” She seems to have immediately recognized his voice.

He Saw and Believed

Written as an eyewitness account, John 20:6-9 details what Peter saw when he looked into Jesus’ tomb, the burial cloths and the head cloth rolled up separately but no body. Then the beloved disciple went in and believed, implying that he was now convinced. Perhaps this was not yet a full resurrection faith, “For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead,” (verse 9; Psalm 16:8-11; Psalm 22:16-24; Isaiah 53:3-12) but it was a beginning. Jesus had earlier said, “I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe.” (John 14:29).

They Have Taken Away the Lord

Mary Magdalene was from Magdala a wealthy town on Lake Galilee. John 20:1-5 records that she went to Jesus’ grave site early in the morning perhaps just to see it. She had accompanied the disciples on their travels and contributed to their support financially. Had Jesus’ body been moved? Mary ran to Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved. Although he arrived first, the disciple that Jesus loved seems to have deferred to Peter to enter the tomb. Peter’s denials do not seem to have damaged his reputation among the disciples, probably because they all knew that they had fled and Peter at least had stayed around for a while.

Save Please!

Matthew 21:9 Jesus approached Jerusalem with bands of Passover pilgrims chanting "Hosanna" or “Yashá Na” in Hebrew (“save please” Psalm 118:25) to the King of Peace, who brings a peace that passes all understanding. Worldly business, worldly government, worldly entertainment are not there to give but to get. They are there to get our money, to get power over us and use us for selfish purposes. Palm Sunday is to remind us that there is need for a new king, a king who will bring reconciliation between people and between people and God. Let us welcome Jesus into our lives as the peacemaker between ourselves and between all of us and God.

Rage Against the Machine

Matthew 21:8-9 A younger generation once expressed their struggle against evil as “rage against the machine.” Christianity is a protest movement against all the corruption and greed that has destroyed our world. Jesus’ triumphal entry was a real success, though not in the manner that the world views. The world does not see triumph in the cross, but self-sacrifice is the ultimate victory. It is the victory over self-centeredness. It is a victory over all the forces of evil in our world and worthy of a parade. Overcoming is our triumph and must also be like that of Jesus, refusing to win by worldly means with violence but by godly means with self-sacrifice.

Easter’s World Change

Matthew 21:8-9 Easter heralds a change in world power. Jesus conquered the powers of this world: death, sin and evil. Jesus triumphed over death and we celebrate the beginning of a new creation. Jesus’ new world order has put an end to a world overrun by sin. Palm Sunday remembers a parade celebrating that victory. Forgiveness of sin is now a way of life. Jesus offers humanity the freedom of life without condemnation. This evil world only had the power to put Christ on the cross. He willingly allowed it because he has power beyond the grave. Our dead lives have been raised with Christ as a new creation where love prevails.

Palm Sunday in the Heart

Matthew 21 There is historic evidence that Pilate was marching in parade into west Jerusalem with his army to police the large Passover crowds as Christ entered from the north. Jesus’ procession challenged and mocked the government of the day. Perhaps this is why Pilate acted as he did at Jesus’ trial. The world believes that the solution to human problems is a war horse instead of a peace donkey, using the word “donkey” as an insult instead. A world that more than ever disparages the Gospel and Christianity, is more than ever in need of it. Let us rejoice with a Palm Sunday parade in our hearts that heaven’s king is coming.

Mocking Pilate

Matthew 21:8 Jesus’ parade into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt mocked Pontius Pilate’s proud tradition as a cavalry officer. History records Pilate as a Roman knight of the Pontii family from the central Italian region of Samnium. He was a cavalry commander appointed military ruler of Roman Judaea to police and collect taxes. Roman Judea included historic Judea, Samaria and Idumea. Pilate insulted the Jews by hanging worship images of the emperor throughout Jerusalem and minting coins with both pagan and Jewish religious symbols. Jewish criticism of Pilate made him vulnerable to discipline from Rome. The Jews capitalized on this and Jesus’ insulting parade to obtain a death sentence on our Lord.

Why a Colt

Matthew 21:5 Contrast the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem on a colt with dignitaries of this world. One monarch has over 100 coaches and carriages in the royal collection. One is covered with gold leaf, weighs four tons and requires eight horses to pull it. Contrast that with Jesus’ royal entry into Jerusalem on a colt with its mother trailing behind. The old world order is over. The new kingdom is already here preparing a people. Old world leadership was self-aggrandizing and arrogant. New world leadership is self-effacing and humble. The colt symbolizes a new day for humanity, a change in leadership style and those who change will join Jesus at his return.

Jesus the Colt Whisperer

Matthew 21:5 As Jesus calmed the storm, he calmed an unbroken colt. Our lives can be like a wild colt, untamed and unpredictable. But, if we let Jesus take the reigns, he’ll calm things down. In business, if a person does not want to help, bosses yell and blackmail workers with their pay check. We cannot steer a church like a business, because a church is made up of volunteers. Churches cannot be yelled at unpleasantly or blackmailed. People just leave. So, as in all volunteer work, we are grateful for those who help, but we do not browbeat those who do not. We look to Jesus the colt whisperer, to change hearts.

Take off the Grave Clothes

From the day we are born we begin to die. Our bodies are winding down. We are already dressed in grave clothes. Life’s greatest enemy is death. Jesus has the power over life and death. As "God in the flesh", Jesus resurrected people temporarily from death, which was a foretaste of the resurrection to eternal life. In a skeptical world it is quite a challenge to hear that whoever lives by believing in Jesus will never die. That’s what he said as he boldly claimed, I am the resurrection and the life. So let’s take off the grave clothes of doubt and fear. Believe in Jesus Christ and live forever.

The Resurrection and the Life

When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life”, it was a claim to divinity. He has the power over resurrection and life. Notice that Jesus said “I am” and not “I will be.” He personalized resurrection in himself. Jesus demonstrated his authority over life and death by raising Lazarus. Then he said, “Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.” The resurrection of Lazarus was a temporary example of what Jesus will do for all believers after death of the body. The body dies, but the spirit lives on, received into heavenly places.

I Am

A close friend of our Savior, Lazarus from Bethany, died. His sisters were Mary and Martha. The resurrection of Lazarus is a vision for the future and for today. When speaking to Martha, Jesus did not say that he would be the resurrection on that final day, although he certainly will be that too. He spoke in the present tense, “I AM the resurrection and the life.” Could it be that when we believe in Jesus, we already enter from death to life? We live in fear of death. God helps. We no longer need to fear death, because when we believe in him who is life, we have life too.

Public Prayers

Jesus taught us to pray in private (Matthew 6:6). Why did others pray publicly in God's house (Matthew 21:13), in small groups (Acts 1:14), by a river (Acts 16:13), on the seashore (Acts 21:5) and everywhere (1 Timothy 2:8)? The context of Jesus’ instructions regarding private prayer, with other examples, shows that he wanted to highlight what our motive ought to be in prayer. If we are uncertain that our motive may be to show off spiritually or promote ourselves as super-spiritual, then it would be better to pray in private. In John 11 Jesus prayed in public to help others, that they may believe.

Four Days Late

When Lazarus was reported dying why did Jesus delay (verses 5-6)? Why did disciples try to dissuade Jesus (verse 8)? Why did Thomas disparage Jesus’ plans (verse 16)? Why did Martha (verse 21) and Mary (verse 32) blame Jesus that if he had been there their brother would not have died? Why did Martha doubt that anyone could do anything after her brother had been dead four days (verse 39)? Is your marriage dead? Is your business dead? Are you too old to do God’s work? Are your hopes and dreams dead? That’s the perfect time for Jesus to come. God may delay answering prayer but he’s always right on time.

A Real Man Weeps

Jesus wept. Why? Theologians speak of Jesus having been the most complete human being to have ever lived since Adam. Adam sinned. So have we. Jesus did not. He was like Adam in every regard except one — he never sinned. He had human nature in its pure, unblemished form. He was the only man who ever lived to have pure, untainted manliness, as God intended it to be. We see that Jesus was deeply moved. It is not manliness to show no feelings. Was it anger or heartfelt compassion upon people with so little faith? It’s hard to tell. One thing is sure: a real man was moved to tears.

Why God Delays

Sometimes we pray and God delays. Why? Perhaps the healing of Lazarus will provide a clue. When Jesus heard of his friend’s sickness, he indicated that the illness would be used for God’s glory. While others panicked and were concerned, Jesus was calm in his faith. Then he went on to say that God’s purpose was “so that you may believe.” Lazarus’ sisters both responded quite emotionally that if Jesus had been there sooner he would not have died. By this time, he had been dead four days. Again Jesus emphasized the necessity to believe. Even his prayer, which was a public prayer, was said so that hearers may believe.

Photina of Samaria

After the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus at the well, we read in John 4:42, Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.” The Samaritan woman went on to become a famous evangelist. According to tradition, she was baptized by the apostles with the name Photina, also known as Saint Photina and Saint Svetlana. She and her family became evangelists, moved to Carthage to preach the Gospel where her elder son Victor was taken prisoner to Rome where he converted his jailer.

Food to Eat

The disciples asked Jesus if he was hungry, and we read in John 4:34, Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. Jesus had food to eat that the disciples knew nothing about. Our food is also to do the will of God and finish his work. A harvest is ready to be reaped. God has already prepared that harvest in our community. Hearts are ripe for harvesting a new crop of Christians. A lone Christian who goes to church and hides all week long cannot harvest. We need to be in our communities and know our neighbors.

The Best Evangelists


After meeting Jesus at the village well, a Samaritan woman said to her fellow villagers in John 4:29, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” Professional evangelists put on an expensive show and leave a church with a flash of excitement and very little growth. The best evangelists are ordinary people. We don’t know the Samaritan woman’s reputation. She may have been a loner, who fetched her water at a time when the crowds were not there. The best evangelists are often new people and those from the fringes, but always those who have had an encounter with Jesus.

Worshipping in Spirit and Truth

Let’s read John 4:23-24, But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” Outward things like music, languages, robes, crosses, gestures and liturgies are NOT worship. They may accompany worship, but true worship is in spirit and truth, true or sincere. We do not need to feel judged or compelled to conform to any outward physical gestures or show of religion. We are free to worship the Father in spirit and truthfully.

A Woman Witness

Let’s look at John 4:16-18. “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband—for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!” Who was the woman Jesus met at the well? Let’s not read more into the story than it says. She’d had five husbands. Whether simultaneously, sequentially, divorced or widowed we don’t know. She lived with a man but their relationship is unclear. What is clear is that Jesus did not condemn her. He taught her about true worship.

Satisfying Every Thirst

In John 4:14-15 we read, But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman about living water, he was referring to something spiritual not physical. Unlike well water, living water is like a stream or river. It flowed from the woman’s encounter with Christ into her community. So the Gospel flows into our communities. We were all once enemies of Christ, drinking from a well with still water. Jesus offers us living water that flows regardless of ethnic or religious background. Only He can satisfy every thirst.

Living Water

Let’s look at John 4:10-11. Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? Jesus seized a Samaritan woman’s curiosity by speaking about living water, a term for flowing water. She assumed he meant good water from the well. But she was about to find out that he was speaking metaphorically about something entirely different, deeper truths which the whole world desperately needs to know.

Bigotry Busting

In John 4:7-9 we read, Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” Jesus broke several taboos talking with a Samaritan woman alone. He did not care. Jesus knew he was doing right. Do we care more about what others think than doing what is right?

An Unbiased Savior

Let’s look at John 4:5-6. Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Jesus was not a bigot, but willing to enter a Samaritan village despite the hatred between Samaritans and Jews. The name Sychar is possibly a derogatory nickname, meaning a place of drunkards, similar to nick names like Sin City or Filthadelphia. Would we enter a neighborhood with a sinful reputation for the sake of the Gospel? Would we enter a bar even if Jesus himself was there?

Jacob's Well

Sychar is between Mount Gerizim (“cut up mount” meaning “rocky mount”) and Mount Ebal (perhaps “bald mount”). On the southern rocky mount Israel shouted the blessings and on the northern smooth mount they shouted the cursings (Deuteronomy 11). This could picture how the way to blessings is often rocky and the easy way is often the way to cursings. Between the two mounts is Jacob’s well. Sychar may be a derogatory nickname for Shechem. The nickname possibly meant place of drunks. The Greek Orthodox St Photini Church near Nablus, Israel, is now built over the well. Photini is a variant of the Christian name of the Samaritan woman in our story.

Saving the World

In John 3:17 we read, God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. We are extremists, either condemning or condoning sins. Jesus did neither. He did not condemn a woman caught in a sexual sin, but neither did he condone her sin. He did not come at that time to condemn the world. At the judgment that is a different story. While we recognize that sin exists in the world, we are not qualified to judge and condemn others. Let’s not be self-righteous haters but allow the Holy Spirit to transform us into lovers who are born from above.

How God Loved the World

In John 3:16 we read, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. This familiar verse has its true meaning clouded by a change in English from the old King James use of language. The English words “so loved the world” actually mean in modern English in this way or in this manner God loved the world. We could also say that God loved the world in this manner. How did God love the world? By lifting up his son on the cross as Moses lifted up a serpent.

Awakening to Ministry

Intro

When Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection did He really establish confession to a priest?

Goal

Let’s understand what Jesus said and how it was understood in early church history.

Plan

Let’s look at John 20:19-31 and Jesus’ appearance to the disciples.

John 20:19 Peace in Our Fears

In John 20:19, what did Jesus mean, peace be with you? He said it on Resurrection Sunday and the following Sunday. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines it as "the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is." The apostles began their letters with this greeting. Christians ought to offer peace to friend and foe alike. Many churches offer peace before communion. Jesus came to the disciples in their fears and brought them peace from heaven. They were then sent with the message of peace, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

John 20:23 Sent Proclaiming Heaven’s Forgiveness

Does John 20:23 mean confession to a priest? Early church fathers taught confessing to God for most sins and in public for grievous sins. In the early Church, confession was before all. Western practices are from the 7th to 11th centuries and are not the most ancient interpretation of this passage. In the east, sins are confessed to God and witnessed by a priest. For practical purposes the priest represents the entire community. Verse 23 literally means, “their sins have already been forgiven” i.e. by heaven. This instruction was given to all those assembled. Anyone sent in power of the Holy Spirit is sent with this message of forgiveness.

John 20:23 Faith and Forgiveness

In John 20:23, does Jesus contradict his instructions mandating forgiveness in the Lord’s prayer? The gospel message is a message of forgiveness of sin to those who accept it, but those who refuse forgiveness are not forgiven. Thomas saw Jesus’ wounds, but faith is evidence of things without visible proof (Hebrews 11:1), a mystery. All the disciples doubted, not just Thomas. This is written that we might believe and that believing we might have life through his name. Faith is a gift from God. God entrusts incredible authority to faulty disciples. We accept the message of Jesus, delivered by ordinary faulty people, and will be forgiven when we do.

Early Church Fathers on Confession

Does the church have authority to forgive sins? This is a topic of dispute between Protestants and the two most ancient church communities, Catholic and Orthodox. Though its format has changed, the early church fathers seem to have accepted confession of sin to God in the presence of a priest as normal.
  • Didache ca. 70 AD “Confess your sins in church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience... gather together, break bread, and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure.”
  • Irenaeus of Lyons 180 AD “make a public confession”
  • Origen of Alexandria ca. 244 AD “he does not shrink from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord and ... if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him [James 5:14-15].”
  • Cyprian of Carthage 250 AD “sins are expiated... conscience has been purged in the ceremony and at the hand of the priest... let everyone who has sinned confess his sin while he is still in this world”
  • Athanasius of Alexandria 295–373 AD “he who confesses his sins with a repentant heart obtains their remission from the priest.”
  • Basil the Great 330–379 AD “confess our sins to those to whom the dispensation of God’s mysteries [i.e. the Sacraments] is entrusted [i.e. priests]... in the Gospel ... they confessed their sins to John the Baptist [Matthew 3:6]; but in Acts they confessed to the Apostles [Acts 19:18].”
  • Augustine of Hippo ca. 354–430 AD “...when you hear a man confessing his sins, he has already come to life again; when you hear a man lay bare his conscience in confessing, he has already come forth from the sepulchre; but he is not yet unbound. When is he unbound? By whom is he unbound? “Whatever you loose on earth,” He says, “shall be loosed also in heaven” [Matthew 16:19; 18:18; Jn 20:23]. Rightly is the loosing of sins able to be given by the Church… (Psalms 101:2-3)
  • Ambrose ca. 333–397 AD “for sins to be forgiven ... Christ granted even this to His Apostles, and by His Apostles it has been transmitted to the offices of priest.”
  • Jerome  ca. 347–420 AD “Just as in the Old Testament the priest makes the leper clean or unclean, so in the New Testament the bishop and presbyter [i.e. priest] binds or looses”
  • Theodore Of Mopsuestia ca. 428 AD “It behooves us, therefore, to draw near to the priests in great confidence and to reveal to them our sins”
  • Chrysostom ca. 344–407 AD “Priests ... Whose sins you shall forgive,” He says, “they are forgiven them: whose sins you shall retain, they are retained” [John 20:23].
  • The Letter of Barnabas 74 AD “You shall confess your sins. You shall not go to prayer with an evil conscience.”
  • Ignatius of Antioch 110 AD “For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of penance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. For where there is division and wrath, God does not dwell. To all them that repent, the Lord grants forgiveness, if they turn in penitence to the unity of God, and to communion with the bishop.”
  • Hippolytus 215 AD [The bishop conducting the ordination of the new bishop shall pray:] God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ... pour forth now that power which comes from you, from your Royal Spirit, which you gave to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and which he bestowed upon his holy apostles... and grant this your servant... to have the authority to forgive sins, in accord with your command.

Scriptures on Confession

What does the Bible say about confession?

Confessing Sin

“he shall confess that he has sinned” (Leviticus 5:5). “confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers” (Leviticus 26:40). “make confession to [God]” (Joshua 7:19) “in a great ceremony... confessed that they had sinned against the Lord” (1 Samuel 7:6).  David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:13) “make confession to the Lord God” (Ezra 10:11). “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away” (Psalm 32:3). “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” (Psalm 32:5). “He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)
“confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel” (Daniel 9:20) “baptized ... confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:6) “many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds” (Acts 19:18) “every tongue shall confess to God.” (Romans 14:11) “Confess your trespasses to one another” (James 5:16) “confess our sins” (1 John 1:9)

Confessing Christ

“whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32) “confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus” (Romans 10:9) “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:11) “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims” (Hebrews 11:13) “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God” (1 John 4:2) “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:15)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Confession is an ancient part of a godly life. People confessed their sins publicly, and to God’s representative, and in prayer. Confession is good for the soul. Confession seems to come in two parts. We confess that we are sinners and that the sinless One is our Savior. In other words, after confession of sin comes forgiveness and public confession of faith in Christ.

John 20:28 MY Lord and MY God

At the cross all the disciples abandoned Jesus. He appeared to them and offered his peace. Thomas confessed very personally, “My Lord and my God!” He did not say OUR Lord or even THE Lord, but MY Lord and MY God. This is what is meant when people speak of a personal relationship with God. Jesus went on to give a special blessing to us who would believe even though we have not seen. We see Jesus, not with physical eyes. When we see Jesus with spiritual insight, we also believe like they did. And as Jesus revealed himself to those disciples, so he reveals himself to each of us.

Outro

We confess that we have not faithfully stuck by Jesus but have been fearful like those disciples. Jesus stands among as he stood among them granting us the peace which surpasses all understanding. Ministry begins when we openly confess our sins. Then it awakens as we are able to boldly confess the One who forgives us all our sins.