Believe that Jesus is the Christ
Series: The Gospel of John
This week Pastor Mark encourages us to Believe that Jesus is the Christ because:
- His works bear witness
- He is one with the Father
- The Prophets bear witness
There once was a young college student who was searching for meaning and truth. Though raised in a religious home, he had wandered from his childhood faith after going away to college. But after a couple of years of living for himself, life seemed empty, devoid of meaning. He was deeply confused about who he was, and about the big questions of life.
Slowly, though, God started to get ahold of his heart. He began reading the Bible, the prophetic word, and began to be impressed with the testimony about Jesus. Not only that, but there was a young campus minister named Danny who reached out to this student and began sharing the gospel with him. And slowly this student came to be convinced that Jesus was God. But there was one more person in the mix, the student’s boss, someone named Rick. Now, Rick was a Christian, but he never had an opportunity to share about Jesus on the job. In fact, the only obvious sign that Rick was a Christian was a calendar with Bible verses on the wall from Rick’s church. But this student watched Rick. He noticed how he was always kind, always patient, and very fair. He never swore and never lost his temper.
And slowly over time God used all three of these things: The word of the prophetic witness in the Bible, the truth about who Jesus was from Danny the evangelist, and the simple good works of Rick, to bring this student to faith in Christ.
Well, maybe you guessed it, but I was that student. And as I was reflecting on our passage for this week, it occurred to me that God used multiple ways to bring me to Christ, three in fact, and also that we basically see these same three factors at work in our passage today. God is like that, he will give us his truth from multiple angles so that we can get it.
This morning we’re continuing in our study of the Gospel of John. And today marks the end of a major section of the Gospel – the end of Jesus’s public ministry. If you’ve been around here ever since March, you know that we’ve been working our way through these middle chapters of the Gospel. And it seems like every week there’s another argument between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders. And this week is another one. But, that arguing basically ends today. Today’s passage marks the end of it, for the most part. It’s almost like this is the ‘last chance’ for the religious leaders to get it, to believe in Jesus and follow him.
Now as you know, one thing we do each week is to propose a “big idea” that ties the passage together. We do this so that hopefully, if you remember one thing from the sermon, the thing that you’ll remember is the main point of what the passage is all about. And today the big idea is drawn from verse 24-25: “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe…” Notice that the last verse, v. 42, also says And many believed in him there. And so, this might not sound terribly original, but I’m doing my best to follow the text – the big idea of this passage is, “Believe that Jesus is the Christ.” And you might say “isn’t that sort of the big idea every week?” And where John is concerned the answer is probably “Yes,” but what’s different each weak are the reasons. And this unique passage gives us 3 unique reasons why we can believe this; WHY we can believe that Jesus is the Christ.
First, his works bear witness. Second, he is one with the father. Third, the Prophets bear witness. And there’s so much in here that I’m going to try and go almost verse-by-verse so we can get all the richness out of this text that’s there. But there are natural breaks. First, his works bear witness.
His works bear witness (vv. 22-29)
So, let’s notice how the passage begins: At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. (v. 22-23) Now, the feast of dedication is what is now known as Hanukkah. It was celebrated in December and it commemorated when the Jerusalem temple was recaptured from a pagan king in 164 BC and rededicated to Yahweh. And this pagan king, Antiochus Epiphanes IV, had defiled the temple, and so the Jews had to re-dedicate it to God. It was also associated with a mighty work of God, where a one day supply of sacred oil lasted 8 nights. So, the context is, this is a holiday that celebrates that the temple is sanctified, and God demonstrates this with a mighty work.
And then it says So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (v. 24). Interestingly, up to this point, Jesus has never actually come right out and said publicly that he is the Christ – the Jewish Messiah. He does that because he’s being wise: he knows that would immediately ping the radar of the Roman authorities and get him into trouble before the right time – before his hour has come. But notice what Jesus says: Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.(vv. 25-26).
Do you see what he’s saying? “I DID tell you.” But how? “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me.” The works! In other words, Jesus’s actions tell us who Jesus is. What actions in particular? Well, Jesus gave sight to the blind in ch. 9; he healed a man paralyzed for 38 years in ch. 5. He also fed over 5000 people. And only the Messiah could do these things.
Jesus’s mighty works, testified about in the Bible, bear witness that he is the Messiah. And the reason John includes these stories is that they actually happened, and he wants us to believe in Jesus because of them.
Now, we need to say a couple of things about this. First, how do we know? How do we know he really did these things & they didn’t just make it up? Well, if you’re really inclined to be a skeptic there’s probably nothing I could say to really prove it to you, but I can say a couple of things.
New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham has pointed out that in the ancient world, the best historical works were written by eyewitnesses. If a book was published that wasn’t written by an eyewitness, people wouldn’t pay as much attention to it. And you really have no examples of someone in this period claiming to be an eyewitness to history who’s just making it up. Interestingly, in John chapter 21, we find out that it is someone called “the disciple whom Jesus loved” – and a little sleuthing reveals that it’s John, one of the twelve apostles – who wrote this Gospel. In other words, the Gospel of John is written by an eyewitness.
With that, it’s important to remember that even though stories like this seem incredible to us, for most of the world today they’re not so much. Another NT scholar, Craig Keener, in his magisterial scholarly work on miracles, has amassed an exhaustive array of evidence supporting modern-day miracles around the world. Interestingly, these include healing the blind, the physically disabled, and raising the dead – just like we find in John. And unless we’re inclined to dismiss the mountain of evidence from the majority world, we’re forced to admit that it seems that stories like this, even if rare and unusual, aren’t as incredible as we’re inclined to believe.
So Jesus is saying – “believe the works. They testify about me.” And these leads us to a point of application: As followers of Christ who want to share Jesus with others, our works matter. Now, we spend a lot of time around here trying to encourage one another to open up our mouths and speak to others about Jesus. But our text here today teaches us something else really important, and so I want to touch on it here: what we do in the name of Christ matters. If you’re a follower of Christ, and people know it, they’ll be watching you. Remember my old boss Rick? Rick actually never knew what God was doing in my life at that time. He had no clue. But I was watching him, and his gentle way of living the Christian life bore witness to Jesus. His kindness, his joy, his fairness, his speech – they all bore witness to Jesus.
So, most of the time around here – we’re telling you, open your mouths! But here, today – the text is pointing that way – I want to give the “other side” of that: what you do matters, and your works will bear witness. Are you a student? Well, are you doing your work honestly when everyone else is cheating? Are you choosing not to join in when someone is starting to be bullied? If you’re on the job, can you be the one to NOT join in and complain about the workload or make wisecracks about your boss with everyone else? Can you have an eye out for those who might be going through something, and give them a word of encouragement, or offer a prayer?
This doesn’t mean we need to be sinlessly perfect in order to bear a credible witness to Jesus. But it does mean that our works matter, that others are watching, and we can bear witness to Jesus sometimes without even opening our mouths.
But let’s go on in the text, because there’s a couple more important details under this first point. Notice what Jesus says starting at v. 26:
26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (vv. 26-29).
Did you notice the reason Jesus gives that they don’t believe? Notice what it doesn’t say: It doesn’t say they don’t believe because they haven’t weighed the evidence, or even because of their sin. It says they don’t believe because they are not among Jesus’s sheep. Being part of Jesus’s “sheep” comes first; belief comes second. And so just a word of encouragement here to those of you who have been following Jesus for years: the Father’s got you. Pastor Matt mentioned this last week but let’s pick up on it here: Jesus’s sheep hear his voice. If you’ve made the decision to follow him, it’s because he’s called you. And he who began this work will complete it. No one will snatch you out of his hand. Are you greater than God? I didn’t think so. He will hold you fast.
So that’s our first point: we can believe that Jesus is the Christ because his works bear witness. Then, in a shift, Jesus says something really provocative, in v. 30: 30 I and the Father are one.” This brings us to our second point, the 2nd reason we can believe he is the Messiah: He is one with the Father.
He is one with the Father. (vv. 30-39)
There’s a lot packed into this. Through and through, the Bible confirms there is one God. But the Bible teaches that this one God exists eternally in three “persons”: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus here is identifying himself with the Father. In other words, Jesus is God.
The Jews know full well Jesus is claiming to be God. No doubt about it. Look at how they respond: The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God. (vv. 31-33).
And then, in response to this, Jesus says something kind of hard to understand at first.
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? (vv. 34-36)
What’s this all about? Here’s what: Jesus is making reference to Psalm 82. Now, interestingly, Psalm 82 is a psalm of judgment against unjust leaders:
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked?
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
But then, a little further down, it says this:
I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you.
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”
This OT Psalm is comparing these unjust rulers to ‘gods.’ And it says you may be god-like, but you’re going to die just like everyone. So Jesus is saying, “Hey, if the OT could use the word ‘gods’ of human leaders, why is it such a big deal that I would claim to be God?”
Now even though that strikes us as sort of clever, there’s a deeper point behind it: Jesus is comparing himself to the God of the psalm who is declaring judgment on unjust leaders.
Notice one other thing though, let’s look at Jesus’s words again. Notice how he refers to himself: Do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? (v. 36)
Do you see that word ‘consecrated’? It’s the same word that would have been used to describe the re-dedication of the temple at Hanukkah. Jesus is saying, “Hey, you’re celebrating the consecration of the temple, which God ratified through a mighty act. But I’m the TRUE temple, and my mighty acts bear witness about me.”
What do we do with this? Here’s what: We have to choose who Jesus is. I mentioned this a few weeks ago when I preached so forgive the repetition, but Jesus forces a choice about who he is. As CS Lewis said a long time ago, . Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God.
C. S. Lewis
And if you’re saying “Well I’m a Christian, I already believe he’s God, how can I apply this to my life?” Let me make a couple of suggestions.
First, obey him. A natural response to acknowledging Jesus as Lord is to obey him. Is there anything you’re doing now that you know is wrong, that you know is not bearing witness to Jesus, that you know does not reflect his power and authority as the true God of the universe? Let the fact that Jesus is one with the Father drive you to repentance. He will welcome you with open arms; you’re one of his sheep and he loves you.
Second, adore him. One of my favorite little verses in the Bible is Mark 7:37: And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Jesus has done all things well! In fact, in our passage, he says
“But if I do [the works of my father], even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (vv. 38).
Jesus does the works of the Father. He creates life; he brings healing; he restores; he opens blind eyes. Adore him today!
So, our passage today is calling us to believe that Jesus is the Christ. First, because his works bear witness about him. Second, because his works reveal that he is one with the Father. But there’s a third reason, and it’s this:
The Prophets bear witness. (vv. 40-42)
Where am I getting this from? Let’s read vv. 40-42.
He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there. John 10:39-42
Now “John” here is John the Baptist. And after our scene, Jesus withdraws to where John was first baptizing. And notice what happens here: many people come to Jesus, and they believe in him, but notice the reason: “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” In other words, John’s words came true in Jesus.
Now, John the Baptist, we don’t usually think of him this way, but John the Baptist essentially is the last Old Covenant prophet. Jesus said that among those born of woman there’s no one greater than him. He’s right up there with Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, all the rest. And these people believe because John’s WORDS came true in Jesus.
In other words, these people are not believing b/c of Jesus’s works; they’re not believing b/c of Jesus’s words about being one with the Father; they are believing b/c they believe John – everything John said came true about him.
This immediately makes me think of the way that the whole Bible points to Jesus. By some counts, there are over 300 direct prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament. But beyond these specific prophecies, there are probably hundreds and hundreds of ways that the entire OT points to him.
He is the seed of the woman who crushes the serpent’s head. He is the greater Noah who saves humanity through the flood of death. He’s the greater Abraham: Abraham left his land and was willing to sacrifice his son. Jesus left heaven and sacrificed himself. He’s the greater Moses: Moses led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. But he wasn’t able to enter the Promised Land because of sin. Jesus led us out of slavery to Sin. And he has entered heaven ahead of us to prepare a place for us. He’s the greater David: David slew Goliath, and ruled Israel with many imperfections. Jesus defeated death, sin, and Satan on the cross, and rules over us as a perfect king forever.
I could go on and on and on. Every page of the Bible points to Jesus as the hope of the world. If you’re on the fence about Jesus, read the Bible and see how it all points to him. If you’re a follower of him but struggling to believe that his ways are good for you, turn to His word again and marvel at how it all points to him.
In this passage as in many others in this Gospel, John is calling us to believe that Jesus is the Christ. Why? Three good reasons: His works bear witness. He is one with the Father. The Prophets bear witness.
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. John 12:32.