John (Chapters 2-3:1-21)
(That We Might Believe In Jesus)
John tells us that his gospel was written so that “…you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31) Since John traveled everywhere with Jesus as one of His disciple, much of what he writes has to do with the miracles and healings that Jesus performed and the teachings Jesus gave during His ministry.
Chapter two begins with the first miracle that Jesus performed, the one where He turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Mary, his mother had asked Jesus to help out, since the family hosting the wedding party had run out of wine. The act of Jesus creating the fine wine for the ongoing celebration demonstrates His power and glory. When we have Jesus with us today He continues to turn our water into fine wine and our ordinary into the extraordinary.
Next John describes how Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple in Jerusalem. Most of the religious Jews traveled to the temple in Jerusalem during the Passover each year. This was a solemn celebration where worshippers brought sacrifices to God. A noisy marketplace had sprung up in the house of the Lord with animals and birds for sale. As the worshipers arrived at the temple they could buy the animals to use as sacrifices for sin. Tables had conveniently been set up with sellers and money changers loudly haggling over prices and overcharging the faithful coming to worship.
Jesus turned the tables over and scattered the money. He got a whip and drove the sellers with their birds and animals out of the temple. “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” (John 2:16) Jesus was angry. Is this story teaching us that we are not to sell goods or services in our churches, or take advantage of worshippers in order to profit financially? Should we not use Gods’ name for political profit? Are we sure He is on the side of big business? Would Jesus be angry today? Does this mean that a pastor should not “fleece the flock”? Scripture tells us: “…You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24b)
John 3:23-34 says: “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men.” These verses in John tell us that many people were attracted to Jesus because of his miracles. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them. Why not? What does this mean?
Perhaps believing in Jesus mean more than just running after Him for his miracles or for what we can get out of Him? We need to want Him for Himself. Some will follow Christ when times are good but will turn away when they are persecuted for their faith. And Scripture says that we will have persecutions if we follow Him. Following Jesus means that we need to be there through thick and thin --through the persecutions as well as the blessings.
Jesus said,” If you love Me you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) We all fall short of keeping the commandments! But God looks at our hearts. If we want to obey the Lord and if we really try to follow His commandments, I believe that that is what He wants. His Spirit will help us and lead us. Believing in Jesus is more than saying the right words. It’s walking the walk. Jesus will commit Himself to us if we commit ourselves to Him.
We read on in the book of John and come to the story of Nicodemus, a Pharisee, who came to Jesus at night. Some think Nicodemus came under cover of darkness so that none of his friends would see him with Jesus. Because of the healings and miracles that Jesus had performed, Nicodemus knew that Jesus was from God and he wanted to know more. Jesus told him: “…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3b) Nicodemus was troubled by this. “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mothers’ womb and be born?” (John 3:4)
Jesus answered: “…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. …The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5b6,8)
Jesus is telling Nicodemus that it isn’t enough to be born once. We need to be born of the Spirit as well as of the flesh. The law of reproduction is “after its’ kind.” Flesh reproduces flesh and the Spirit reproduces spirit. Flesh is inadequate. We aren’t good enough on our own. We need to be born again by the Spirit of God. Jesus will give us His Spirit if we believe in Him. The Holy Spirit will guide us and teach us and will breathe new spiritual life into us like the wind Jesus spoke of. Scripture often uses wind as a description of the Spirit.
Jesus sat and talked with Nicodemus for awhile. Jesus told him that He was the way to eternal life and that it is important to believe in Him. Jesus said: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
John 3:16 is the most famous verse in the Bible and it was spoken by Jesus. It tells us that Gods’ motivation in giving His Son to save us is love. His love was turned into an act of giving. He gave His very best! He gave His only begotten Son. (So we must also give our best.) God’s deepest desire is to have us restored to Himself. Our salvation wasn’t cheap. It cost Jesus His life. It shouldn’t be cheap for us either. Our salvation costs us repentance from our sins and the giving our selves and our lives to God. Believing in Jesus means more than just an intellectual belief. Believing in Jesus means a personal commitment to try to follow Him. When we believe in Jesus we are baptized with the Spirit and we are born again.
Jesus continued teaching Nicodemus with these words. “For God did not send His Son into the World to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned: but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:17-19G
Jesus makes it clear in these passages that He did not come into the world to condemn the world but to save it. And He didn’t come to condemn you but to save you too. But we have to accept Him and His gift of salvation. He will not force us to take it by following Him. Every lover knows that it is impossible to force the loved one to return that love. Love and commitment must be freely given. And so it is with our love for our Lord. Jesus won’t force us to love Him. We have free will and we must decide to love Him on our own. The importance of believing in Jesus cannot be missed here. Our salvation is so simple. If we believe in (follow and love) Jesus we are not condemned and if we do not believe we are condemned already. Scripture makes it pretty straight forward.
But why do some not believe? These passages in John tell us why. Jesus is light and righteousness and people stay away from that light and righteousness (from Jesus) because they enjoy darkness and sin and prefer to live their own way. They don’t want Him to change them. They have free will and they use it to decide against the Light. But they miss out on so much! Let’s make sure that we don’t love our sinful habits and let them keep us from choosing Jesus. Let’s not let anything keep us from being born again and following Jesus and having eternal life`.