Summary: Jesus’ resurrection confirms his authority to give life to those who keep his word.
I was reminded a couple of week’s ago that some Jewish people find the Gospels offensive, even “anti-Semitic.” One writer described John’s gospel as a “polemical pamphlet against Judaism.” I disagree; John does show us the conflict between Jesus and certain Jewish leaders, but not because they are Jewish. The argument is over Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah who offers salvation as a gift of grace rather than a reward of works. That is a large pill for the religious (those who work hard to be good) to swallow.
Today’s text culminates the conflict that has been increasing in intensity since chapter five. It is accurately called a “classic summary of the true grounds of the clash between Jesus and the Jews” (Beilner, quoted in Ridderbos, The Gospel of John, 324). It ends with “mid-eastern mob violence” – they pick up stones to throw at him. This reaction is a premonition of the cross to come. I will be reading in John 8. [Read John 8.48-59. Pray.]
A friend convinced Phil to go deep-sea fishing, something he had never done before. Now that he was in the middle of the ocean, he felt sure this was the dumbest thing he had ever done. Who would have believed that seasickness could be so awful? With every pitch and roll, Phil wondered if he could survive the remaining two hours of the trip. One of the deckhands said to Phil, “Don’t worry, young fella. Nobody ever died of seasickness.”
Phil responded: “Great! You just took away my last hope for relief.”
We may feel there is little worse than death; that is certainly one reason people refuse to discuss the topic until it is too late. And when we do talk about death, we may imagine (like Phil on the fishing boat) that death could only be good if life is really terrible. Yet the Bible has this strange verse in Philippians: “To die is gain.” English Philosopher Francis Bacon said that people naturally fear death as children fear the dark. How, then, can death be a gain?
I appreciate John Bunyan’s description both of the fear and the victory of death in Pilgrim’s Progress. As Christian and Hopeful approach the end of their journey, they are given a view of heaven so magnificent that they fall sick with desire. But they must cross the river.
Here is Bunyan’s description: “The pilgrims then, especially Christian, began to despond in their mind, and looked this way and that, but no way could be found by them by which they might escape the river….
“Then they addressed themselves to the water, and entering, Christian began to sink, and crying out to his good friend Hopeful, he said, ‘I sink in deep waters; the billows go over my head; all his waves go over me….’
“And with that, a great darkness and horror fell upon Christian…. He in great measure lost his senses, so that he could neither remember nor orderly talk of any of those sweet refreshments that he…met with in the way of his pilgrimage. All the words he spoke [showed] that he had horror of mind, and heart-fears that he should die in that river, and never obtain entrance in at the gate. Here also…he was [much troubled by thoughts of sins he had] committed, both since and before he began to be a pilgrim….
“Then said Hopeful, ‘My brother, you have quite forgot the text where it is said of the wicked, “There are no [pangs] in their death… they are not troubled as others; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.” These troubles and distresses that you go through in these waters, are no sign that God hath forsaken you; but are sent to try you, whether you will call to mind that which…you have received of his goodness, and live upon him in your distresses.’
“Then I saw in my dream… Hopeful added these words, ‘Be of good cheer, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole.’ And Christian cried out, ‘Oh, I see him again; and he tells me, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.”’ Then they both took courage…. Thus they got over.” Bunyan then tells their glad into Zion, the new Jerusalem.
In our text this morning, we have a culmination in the conflict between Jesus and the church leadership. It seems to have nothing to do with death and resurrection. In fact, when they call him a Samaritan and demon possessed, I expect Jesus to defend himself. Instead, he focuses on who he is, what he promises, and what is required.
When you play sports, the coach often says, “Keep your eye on the ball.” Jesus does that. Rather than be distracted by complaints and criticism, Jesus speaks about his person, his work, and his gospel.