In the book of John, the apostle tells us that there were many miracles that Jesus performed that weren’t recorded in the Bible. But John did record a good number of miracles in his Gospel, and he tells us why in chapter 20:
“…these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31 NIV).
Today we’ll be studying John chapter 5. There we’ll see that the whole Bible from, start to finish, points to the Christ so that sinners may repent and believe in the One who gives forgiveness and eternal life.
I had always wondered what was really at the earth’s core. And now I new.
I was in my father’s basement workshop sifting through boxes of old treasures. In the shadows of the apple box I was pawing through I found a bunch of ragged, dog-eared paper back novels. Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
In school they said the earth’s core was a molten, liquid iron and nickel ball under extreme pressures. But Edgar Rice Burroughs revealed that the earth’s core was actually hollow. It held the prehistoric and dinosaur filled world called Pellucidar and could be accessed by airship through a polar opening at the top of the earth. Or, at least that’s the imaginative explanation Burroughs writes in “Tarzan at the Earth’s Core”, circa 1929.
Things that are hidden from our sight make us curious. We want to know what it’s like in the secretive deeps of the earth. We want to know what thoughts lie hidden in the minds of the people around us. Sometimes we even search into ourselves, seeking to find who we really are when all the masks and cosmetic layers are stripped away.
Today, in our reading from John’s Gospel, Jesus peels back the layers of mystery and reveals the core of the matter in a number of areas. He shows us what lies at the center of Bible teaching. He reveals the Pharisee’s deepest desire. He gives us a peek at what inhabits the innermost place of the Christian’s heart.
Holy Spirit, You inhabit all places in a way we can believe, but cannot fully understand. The farthest reaches of our galaxy, You know. The innermost rooms of our hearts, You know. Reach now into those rooms. Unlock them. Let your Word penetrate to the depths of our person, and pour in eternal life. Increase our trust in Jesus our Great Savior-King. Amen.
To the legalistic Jews Jesus said…
John 5:39-47 (NIV)
39You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
41“I do not accept praise from men, 42but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?
45“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”
“The Core of the Bible – Christ”
The Jewish people were incredibly careful with the Old Testament of the Bible. They didn’t even touch it when they read it. They kept their place in the Hebrew scroll with a long pointer stick made of silver called a “Yad”.
When they made new scrolls of the Bible they would count words and letters to ensure that they had not left anything out or added anything in their copying. Scribes could tell you which word and which letter was at the very center of each book.
It was completely fitting that they were this careful. This was God’s own message. The Bible was and is the way in which God communicates to mankind.
Jesus said that the Jews diligently studied the Scriptures. That was good.
Jesus said they believe that the Scriptures could give them eternal life. That was true.
What they missed was that the Scriptures all relate to the Christ. The whole Old Testament pointed God’s people to believe that Christ was coming. The whole New Testament would later reveal the details of how God’s eternal Son became human, died in the sinner’s place and was brought back to life, so that all who trust in Him might also live forever.
Sadly, many of the Jews who lived during the ministry of Jesus had lost sight of the Savior in the Old Testament Scrolls. When He finally began to preach and teach, they didn’t recognize Him. Even though He was born of the virgin, born in Bethlehem, preached in Galilee, was preceded by the Elijah-like John the Baptist – all things that the Old Testament had predicted.
The Core of the Old Testament Bible, is Christ. But they missed Him. If you cut the Christ out of the Bible, you don’t have much left. Sure you can learn a lot of things from a Christ-less Bible. The Proverbs are full of wisdom. The history gives us a reliable record of the ancient world. The many stories have life lessons to convey. But if you have a Savior-less Bible, than all that it amounts to is a book of laws and lessons that are only good for this life - if they’re any good at all.
Paul said it like this,
“19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Corinthians 15:19 NIV).
Thankfully God’s Word is not Christ-less, and is not only beneficial as a book of life lessons. The Bible is Christocentric. Pointing us to our Savior at every turn.
Remember this principle when you read the Bible for yourself: All Scripture relates to Christ. When you’ve identified the main teaching that God is expressing in a section, then also ask, “Now, how does this truth relate to Jesus and my salvation?” That way you will not lose sight of the point of all that is written in the Bible.
“The Inmost Desire of the Pharisee – Human Approval.”
Jesus taught that the core of the Bible was the message of eternal life through the Christ. But He also revealed what was the innermost desire of the unbelieving Jews. Verse 41…
41“I do not accept praise from men, 42but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? (John 5:41-44 NIV).
These Pharisees desired human approval more than God’s approval. Their true religion was self-worship. More than anything else, they wanted their peers to give them praise. Oh, you’re so learned, Rabbi! You follow the worship Laws so closely. You are truly a follower of Moses, and of God!
The worship laws that they followed were given by God, but they followed them not to glorify Him, but to glorify themselves. Jesus called them, “Whitewashed Tombs” beautiful on the outside, but dead inside.
Christians, we need to watch out for same trap that caught the Pharisees. When we are with our peers. Our family. Our fellow Christians. We can easily let our desire for their approval overshadow our desire to do what our God wants us to do. We can pat each other on the back and say, “Yep, that’s the right thing to do” when it is not. We can depend on our peers to validate our ways and words instead of truly seeking out God’s will in a matter.
Too far down that road and we’ll find ourselves where the Pharisees were: too busy seeking the approval of each other to pay attention to what truly pleases God.
Don’t think it can happen to you? It happened to Peter. Peter who had denied Jesus and had been reinstated after the resurrection. He had been sent out by the resurrected Jesus Himself to tend the flock of God’s people. Peter was considered a “pillar” in the Christian church at Jerusalem.
But when he travelled to Antioch to spend some time there, he began to withdraw from the Gentile Christians who there as if they were less Christian than the Jewish born followers of Jesus. Peter began to bow to his own culture instead of bowing to the God who had forgiven him through Christ’s cross.
The apostle Paul corrected Peter sharply in front of everyone, teaching us an important lesson. We all desire the approval of others, whether we admit it or not, but above all, followers of Christ must seek the Father’s approval.
The Christians seeks to do what the Father approves of. Christians seeks to speak what the Father would smile at. Christians even seeks to please the Father with the very thoughts of their mind. And above all, the Christian seeks the Father’s approval by taking refuge under Christ. With every sin we curl up under the forgiving wing of Jesus our Savior, knowing that He loves us and forgives us. And we know that with His forgiveness comes the Holy Spirit who will help us to revolutionize our hearts. The Holy Spirit who will teach us how to turn from each sin and live the Christian life under Christ’s all covering umbrella of forgiveness.
“The Heart of God’s Followers – Christ”
Jesus once said,
“21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Mathew 7:21 NIV).
In the Lutheran Church we recognize that we cannot read the hearts of individuals. To determine whether a person is a follower of Christ we must look to what they say, and also to how they live. Confession and practice.
But though we are limited to such things, God is not. He recognizes the confession which is a lie. He views the deeds which are hidden. He reads the innermost heart, and judges according to that.
The Jews whom Jesus was talking to claimed that they were followers of Moses. But they were not. They may have followed many of the worship laws that Moses had written down. They may have confessed to be disciples of Moses with great pride. But when it came down to it, Moses was a Christian before the word Christian existed. He trusted that God would keep His promises, most importantly the promise to send the Christ. The Jews who rejected Christ, were not followers Christ, and therefore could not be followers of Moses.
Jesus says that Moses wrote about Him. You probably remember that it was Moses who wrote the first five books of the Bible at the Holy Spirit’s prompting.
In Genesis 3 we hear the first promise of the Savior (Genesis 3:15). In Genesis 22 we hear of the ram that was sacrificed in Isaac’s place on the mountain where Abraham’s faith was tested. A picture of Christ sacrificed in the sinner’s place (Genesis 22).
In Exodus we learn of the Passover Lambs whose blood protected the families of Israel from the angel of death. A picture of our salvation through Christ’s blood (Exodus 12).
In Deuteronomy Moses writes about Christ, calling Him a prophet who must be listened too.
“17The LORD said to me: “What they say is good. 18I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. 19If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account” (Deuteronomy 18:17-19 NIV)
The book of Acts tells us that this prophet that Moses spoke of what Jesus (Acts 3:22, 7:37). You can’t claim to follow the true God without confessing that you believe that Jesus is the Son of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Confessing our faith is important, but faith is not merely words spoken. It is a heart convinced. A heart with Christ at it’s core.
The earth’s core is roughly 4,000 miles straight down from us right now. Man has never drilled deeper than 7.5 miles. With only scant scientific data scientists are only able to make educated guess as to what is truly at the core of the earth.
Thank God that His Word is not so mysterious. Christ is at the core of the Bible. Eternal life surrounding Him. And that’s what we find at the core of the Christian heart. Christ. Comforting our guilty consciences with the truth that by His blood we are forgiven. Changing us from within as we look to His Word, and truly believe it. I invite you to pray with me.
Jesus, we believe. You are the Christ. You have made us clean in the Father’s sight. You alone deserve the glory. This we believe, but in our sinners hearts we sometimes doubt You. Pour out Your Holy Spirit on us through the Holy Scriptures. Testify to our innermost hearts. Drive out our unbelief, and live in us always. Amen.