If Jesus alone was from above – where did, we come from? The answer may surprise you.
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This review from the LDS, Come Follow Me manuals for Sunday School, Families, and Individuals covers the lesson plan for John 7 through 10.
The manual begins with an overview of today’s lesson: “Although Jesus Christ came to bring ‘peace and good will toward me’ (Luke 2:14), there was a ‘division among the people because of him’ (John 7:43). People who witnessed the same events came to very different conclusions about who Jesus was. Some concluded, ‘He is a good man,’ while others said, ‘He decieveth the people.’ (John 7:12). When He healed a blind man on the Sabbath, some insisted, ‘This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day,’ while others asked, ‘How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?’ (John 9:16). Yet despite all the confusion, those who searched for truth recognized the power in His words, for ‘never man spake like this man’ (John 7:46). When the Jews asked Jesus to ‘tell us plainly’ whether he was the Christ, He revealed a principle that can help us distinguish truth from error. ‘My sheep hear my voice.’ He said, ‘and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27).’”
I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said something like “There are really only three options we are dealing with here: 1. If He claims to be the Son of God and He is not, then He is a liar. 2. Maybe He thought He was the Son of God, but He’s not, then He’s a lunatic. Or, 3. He IS who He said He was, the Son of God.”
Okay, it is the Fall season now, and Jesus will be crucified and resurrected in the spring. He is traveling and teaching in Galilee but will go to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Tabernacles. As John begins in chapter 7, he informs us that many of the Savior’s own close relatives do not believe He is the Messiah until after the resurrection. His brother, James became the leader in Jerusalem and wrote the Book of James. Judas – not Iscariot – changed his name to Jude and wrote the book of Jude.
In Jerusalem, Jesus went into the temple and taught. Verse 15 “And the Jews marveled, saying How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” They were looking for His credentials. He never attended Rabbinical theological school. How does He know so much? Of course, this was Jesus – the Word of God – made flesh. So, if anyone would know what was truly taught in the Law and the Prophets by the mouth of God it would have been Jesus. Verse 16 “Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.” In other words, “my teachings are coming from God, who is in heaven, and that makes everything I say, divinely inspired.”
Then, He adds a passage rich in meaning. Verse 17 “If any man will do his will, he shall know the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” We must ask here – “What is God’s will?” For those who do not know Him His will is singular in nature – to believe, to have faith upon His Son. Back in John 6:29 Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” And in 1 John 3:23 “And this is his commandment, ‘That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.’” So, to “do his will” – God’s will – is to believe and to love. Take note here, that Jesus was working to bring men to God’s doctrine – not a man’s doctrine. The invisible God was not known to us, so His Word became flesh, and dwelled among us, and revealed to us the will, and ways, and words of the invisible God. Jesus is saying, “I’m not here to teach you heavenly things from my flesh, from my humanity – but as I receive them from God.”
Verse 28 “Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not” You know me as the carpenter’s son. But I came not to represent myself or my ideas. Verse 29 “But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me.” You know me as a man, but the one who sent me – God – you don’t know. But I know Him for I am from Him, and He hath sent me. That meant Jesus came from the presence of God. The Jews didn’t believe anyone came from God’s presence. How did they respond to this? Verse 30 “Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.”
One of the most distinguishing characteristics of Jesus as compared to other human beings is His heavenly origin. Because of His origins – that He came from God literally out of God Himself – He is the only human being who could ever claim from birth to literally know Him. No other human being knows God, but Jesus knows God because He came from Him. I would suggest that prior to the incarnation of Christ there was God – Theos – period. There was no Father, no Son. Just God. John tells us in John 1:1 that His Word was with Him from the beginning, but they were and are the Words of God. When His Word was made flesh, and God issued forth a Son, He became the Father – as Jesus, the Word of God – became the Son. So, here in John 7:28-29 Jesus clearly teaches who He is and where His outer person is from and then from whence His inner being originated. And in verse 30 they wanted to kill Him because He was making Himself equal to God.
Now, we begin the 8th chapter of John. Jesus is teaching at the temple again. The scribes and Pharisees are frustrated in their attempts to discredit Jesus and get Him arrested. Here we read of another attempt to trap Him in His words, as these Jewish leaders drag a woman taken in adultery to Jesus, in front of the crowd, and ask what He recommends be done to her. Their hope is that they can get Him to say something in opposition to the Law of Moses concerning punishment for adultery, in order that they can have Him arrested. They claimed that she was caught while she was doing the very act – there was no question as to guilt. Don’t we wonder why these Jewish leaders didn’t also bring the man who was involved with the with woman to the Savior? Perhaps he was one of their own. Such hypocrisy!
They remind Jesus of what the Law of Moses said regarding the matter, and then ask a question. Verse 5 “Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?” Imagine how quiet it was as the crowd hushed in, an attempt to hear the, Master’s response. Imagine how frightened the woman was. Then John gives us some insight into what they were trying to do – trip Jesus up. Verse 6 “This they said, tempting him (trying to lure Him into a trap), that they might have to accuse him (build a legal case against Him). But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.” Don’t you just love the Lord? He was so calm under this tense circumstance. This wasn’t so much about the woman’s culpability as it was about Jesus. These Jewish leaders knew that Jesus hung out with publicans and sinners. They charged that His disciples were unclean because they didn’t wash before eating, etc. They already claimed Jesus was a “glutton” and “a wine-bibber,” and a Sabbath-breaker. Maybe they expected Him to publicly renounce all of their laws of morality – and then they’d have Him trapped. Pretty well thought out strategy. But He was silent. Then He simply stooped down and wrote with His finger on the ground. They might have wondered at first, if he was doodling in the dirt as it were, wondering how to respond?
We do not read that Jesus ever wrote anything anywhere after this event. But Moses who introduced the Nation of Israel to the law received the law written in stone. Exodus 31:18 says “And he (God) gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.” There is no give in such laws written in stone. Thus, the leaders wanted to challenge Jesus – “What say you, Jesus of Nazareth, of this woman who is guilty of breaking the seventh commandment etched in stone by the finger of God – ‘thou shalt not commit adultery’?” And Jesus – God in the flesh – in response takes the finger of God (now in flesh) and writes in the same material as the Law written in stone…only now it is ground to dust. In other words, under the law ALL are permanently guilty, but in Jesus, sin is about as lasting as writing them in sand. They are in Him – quickly erased and swept away. It is thought that perhaps Jesus was writing these men’s names, along with their sins on the ground. He didn’t blurt them out so the crowd could hear them. He lovingly reproved these accusers of their own guilt before God.
Verse 7 “So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, ‘He that is without sin among you let him first cast a stone at her.’” Here Jesus introduces a new way to view the failures of others – to first look in the mirror. He was echoing what He said back in Matthew 7 “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Notice He doesn’t say “he that has never committed the same sin of adultery among you cast the first stone. But “He that is without SIN among you, let Him cast the first stone.” So, while refusing to comment on the legal nature of the matter and fall into their trap, He turns it on each of the men. Ingenious! Verse 8-9 “And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” And when these men left – there was only the woman – alone with Jesus. As with us today, there shouldn’t be anyone with “authority” over us – not a pastor, a priest, or a bishop – to judge our standing with God. Jesus alone is our judge and jury – no other. He was the one who paid for our sins, and He is the only one we confess them to.
So, there she is facing the Lord, and what does He say to her? Verses 10-11 “When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more.” And in wrapping up this story we have a living illustration of mercy triumphing over justice. If we want to help bring the sinner into a full repentant relationship with the Savior – we need to show them the goodness of God living in and through us. Like Christ – be loving and longsuffering and patience to them in the face of their sins. That is what the Lord expects of us.
John 8:18-19 “I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me. Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.” This whole concept was new to the Jews, who did not read the word “Father” assigned to God throughout the entire Old Testament. The major exception is Isaiah 9:6 where the title “Father” is assigned to the Son. So, to the faithful Jews, calling God – Father – was unheard of. To them He was Jehovah, the Lord God. For Jesus to refer to His Father – was totally foreign to their minds. What was the Jews response? They ask Him “where is thy Father?” They were mocking Him. The Latter-day Saint would reply, “if you’ve seen me you’ve seen my dad, cause we look so much alike.” But that is very humanistic. When Jesus says that to know Him – to discern Him – is to know and discern the Father. That is why God was able to send His Son as the one to represent Him. And, those who seek truth – see truth.
John 8:23 “And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.” If there had been a pre-existence, Jesus would have said “I am from above, and you are too! You are literal spirit children of Heavenly Father as well, we are spirit siblings – I am you’re elder spirit brother. We all come form the same place, we all have the same spiritual DNA.” Instead, He is saying they are not even from above. He is establishing His credentials. Neither those Jews, nor we, had a pre-existence but were created at birth. He is the ONLY one who is from above.
Verse 30-32 “As he spake these words, many believed on him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Free from what? Free from the law of sin, and death and ignorance (Romans 6:22; Romans 8:2; James 1:25).
Verse 42 “Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.” God becomes our Father when we receive His Son. John 1:12-13 “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. Where were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” We have to be born again to become a son and daughter of God.
The stage is set – John’s gospel was to plainly show the divinity of Jesus Christ. The conversation had led to one of the greatest quotes during Jesus’ earthly life. Verse 58 “Jesus said unto them, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am’.” What is the meaning of this line “Before Abraham lived, I lived”? That referenced what God said of Himself in Exodus 3:14 which is the most holy name for God found in the Old Testament – I AM. Jesus’ is saying that, as eternal God, I am without beginning or end, uncreated, from the beginning – from everlasting to everlasting – God. On this all Christians can agree. Others listening or watching this, may not. If they don’t then they don’t understand the truth of the Word. And how did the Jews responsd to His incomprehensible claim? Verse 59 “Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them and so passed by.” Because the Jews finally understood clearly who Jesus is claiming to be – equal to God – they are angry with Him. But He miraculously escapes them.
Beginning in John chapter 9 verse 1, we read “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from birth.” People in those days believed the false notion that physical illness or defect in general was caused by sin. Verse 2 “And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” It seems the blind man was completely unaware of Jesus. Of course, this is a picture of spiritual blindness – the result of sin and having the light obscured from the realization of their need for the Messiah – and waiting for the light and salvation of the world to be made known to them. In general, this man is a picture of all human beings – we are all born blinded by our fallen nature and needing a Redeemer. Now, this passage in Mormonism is frequently used to defend their teaching of a pre-mortal existence. As an LDS missionary, I would use this verse to defend the idea of a pre-existence. I would say, “How else would this man – who was born blind – sin unless it was in the pre-mortal life?” In fact, the manual makes a comment “It is also interesting to note that the disciples’ question in John 9:2 revealed that they believed in the premortal existence, a doctrine that was lost to Christianity during the Great Apostasy but restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith (see D&C 93:29; Moses 4:14; Abraham 3:22-26).” I find it interesting that not only is the doctrine of pre-existence not found anywhere in the Old or New Testaments, but neither is it mentioned in the Book of Mormon. That’s because – as we have taught in a previous lesson – only Jesus, the Son of God, came from above – from the presence of the Father. Jesus Himself declared it. Mormonism is the only religion that believes in a pre-earth life. It all came from the evolved theology in the mind of Joseph Smith.
In the face of the question, “who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Verse 3 “Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” Jesus dispels any question related to blame. Then, verse 4 and 5 “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Again, this healing is but a physical picture of the spiritual light He shines into the blind hearts of all people. We have to take note in this situation, that Jesus never asks the man born blind if he believes before taking action. Jesus was the one who chose him to heal. Verse 6 “When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.” Jesus then instructs the man to wash in the pool of Siloam, which he did. And at that moment he could see. This is symbolic of us washing our spiritual eyes in the living water from Christ.
This was a BIG miracle since it was firmly established, by the proof of years and years, that this man was certainly blind – from birth. But the neighbors questioned, if this was the same guy. He assured them he was. He said a man named Jesus healed him. But he didn’t know where Jesus went. Next, the neighbors brought him to the Pharisees of the Sanhedrim. Probably because this healing took place on the Sabbath. When questioned by them, he recounted the whole experience. The Pharisees reacted by saying this man Jesus was not of God. How could He do miracles if He was violating the Sabbath? The miracle must have been done through trickery or from an evil source. The healed blind man was asked in his opinion who was this Jesus? And the man, not aware of the Lord and His divinity plainly tells them, He is a prophet – meaning He is from God. Now, the man has gone too far by saying Jesus was a prophet – from God. So, the Jews called in the man’s parents and wanted verification from them that their son had been born blind. They confirmed that fact but said they didn’t know how or by whom he received his sight. They really didn’t want anything to do with this matter for fear that the religious leaders would excommunicate them for mentioning the Christ. They rather differed to their son to answer all the questions.
The religious rulers were in a predicament. A miracle had occurred at the hands of man who they either saw as a sinner, or knew He was the Messiah but sought to destroy Him anyway. So, they told the healed blind man once again that the Healer was a sinner. And what does the healed man say? Verse 25 “He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” But the lawyers kept pushing the man about how he was healed. Then comes a great verse to show how emboldened he had become in such a short time from being a blind beggar to now putting this counsel in their place. Verse 27 “I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? Will ye also be his disciples?” Having been healed this man, after all that he has been through in his life – he was fearless. Well, his response was not received too well. Angered, the Pharisees reviled him. How dare he teach THEM! It says in verse 34 “And they cast him out.” This means not only did they remove him from their presence – from the synagogue – it meant excommunication – to silence him. There are many today, who publicly confess that Jesus is enough – and they are dragged into a church disciplinary courts. And like the man, many today lose their community of friends and family because they chose Jesus. Strong parallels here in Scripture. The people who are blind in this story are the people who think they can see.
The man had been cast out. He had sought the light, was blessed and refused to turn on the source that healed him. And yet he remained unaware of who the healer really was. But look what happens next – another act of unsolicited grace. Just as we are cast out of religion – God finds us. Verse 35 “Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” Jesus was offering the free gift of eternal life – if the man was ready to accept it. “Do you believe on the Son of God?” Verse 36 “He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?” Remember, the man had not yet even laid eyes on Jesus at this point. Verse 37 “And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.” Verse 38 “And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.” This man could not only see with his physical eyes – God incarnate – who he worshipped, but he perceived and understood with his spiritual eyes who the Son of God is. As a result, he was born of the Spirit – born again. And, my favorite statement, “One thing I know – I was blind – now I see”
Next in John chapter 10, the Master uses the imagery of a shepherd leading his sheep to illustrate that He is the Good Shepherd, and other unauthorized shepherds try to sneak in and lead the sheep astray. In the days of Jesus, it was a common practice for several shepherds to keep their sheep overnight in the same enclosure, so that only one guard would have to be on duty through the night. The next morning, each shepherd would come to the enclosure, identify himself to the guard, and the literally call his own sheep to come out of the herd to him, often calling each of his sheep by its own name. His sheep recognized his voice and came out of the herd and followed him throughout the day as he led them to pasture and water. Jesus explains in verse 7 “I am the door of the sheep.” He is the gatekeeper. We remember that when Christ died on the cross the temple veil was torn from top to the bottom signifying that no longer was God accessible through other men – high priests – but was open to all mankind in and through faith on His Son. He is the portal, the entry, the way, the door. John 14:6 “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Jesus says the same thing in John 10:9 by saying, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” With Him there is safety in and out of the sheepfold. Verse 14-15 “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” And He did that for us on the cross.
At last, we come to a very familiar verse to the Latter-day Saints. John 10:16 “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” I can’t tell you how many times on my LDS mission, I quoted that scripture in reference to the Book of Mormon. As missionaries, we taught that Jesus was speaking of the Nephites on the American continent. We would turn to 3 Nephi 15:21 and read the same words that are in John 10:16. Supposedly, Jesus while visiting the Nephites following his resurrection also said in 3 Nephi 16:1 that there were other sheep which were not of those in America OR Jerusalem, but as it says in 3 Nephi 17:4, those other – OTHER sheep – Jesus was referring to were the Lost Ten Tribes.
Of course, this is laughable – being that when Jesus says, in John 10:16 “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:” He was speaking specifically of the Jews or Nation of Israel as “this fold” and the “other sheep” were those non-Jews or gentiles – whom Jesus did NOT come for initially. So, the “other sheep” told about in the Book of Mormon would be impossible, since the Nephites themselves, were supposed to be descendants of Hebrew Jews – not gentiles.
With that we will conclude our review of John chapters 7 through 10.
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