The Bishop: No Repenting of Repentance

“And, out of all the millions who have turned to God and repented, who ever repented of repentance? I answer boldly, Not one. Thousands every year repent of folly and unbelief. Thousands mourn over time misspent. Thousands regret their drunkenness, and gambling, and fornication, and oaths, and idleness; and neglected opportunities. But no one has ever risen up and declared to the world that he repents of repenting and turning toward God. The steps in the narrow way of life are all in one direction. You will never see in the narrow way the step of one who turned back because the narrow way was not good.” —J.C. Ryle, Old Paths

Blabbing and Believing; Entry and Exit (John 11:45–57)

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.

—John 11:45–47

Bethany was a pit stop en route to Jerusalem. Jesus could stop at Lazarus’ grave because He was going to the cross. When Jesus purposes to return, He doesn’t say to the disciples, “Let us go to Lazarus,” or “Let us go to Bethany,” but “Let us go to Judea again” (v. 7). The disciples understand Jesus initially not to be going to a dead man, but to be going to His death. They question, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” (v. 8). Even after Jesus explains that they are returning to Bethany because Lazarus is dead, Thomas says to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (v. 16). That expectation hangs in the air when we are told, “Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off” (v. 17).

Jesus didn’t come simply to raise Lazarus, but to lay His life down. If Jesus were not journeying to the cross, He couldn’t have stopped off at Lazarus’ grave. The future is determining the past. The future light of the risen Son is casting light backwards over the cross onto the grave of Lazarus.

But now will we see that the past also made way for the future that was determining it. The raising of Lazarus prepares the road into Jerusalem and out of it. The raising of Lazarus explains both the triumphal entry and the shameful walk to Golgotha. It tells us why Jesus came into the city as He did and why He left it as He did. The raising of Lazarus made way for the laying down of Jesus’ life. As one looks at the remainder of chapter 11 and beyond into chapter 12, we see both why Jesus was welcomed as a Messiah, and crucified as an insurgent. It is the shouting of “Christ!” that leads to the shouting “Crucify!”

We see this in the two different responses to Jesus in the wake of Lazarus’ wake and wakening, (v. 45). Some believed and some blabbed. Some trusted and some tattled. Now which of these make way from the raising of Lazarus to the laying down of Jesus’ life? Both! And it is actually the believing that does more than the blabbing. It is not the people’s blabbing that terrifies the Jewish leaders, but they’re believing. “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him” (v. 48). When large crowds start to go out to Bethany, not only to see Jesus, but to see Lazarus, we read, “So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus” (12:10–11). At Jesus’ triumphal entry, we hear the Pharisees despairingly telling one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him” (12:19).

This blabbing would ultimately then only lead to more believing. Their plotting to kill Jesus would lead to the world going after Him (v. 52). Our Lord is Sovereign over sinners, for the salvation of sinners. The sins of men against the Savior, are sovereignly used by Him for the salvation of sinners. The raising of Lazarus made way both for the triumphal entry, and thereby, for the shameful walk to Golgotha. The raising of Lazarus thus, made way for the cross, and thereby, it made way for our raising as well.

The Bishop: What Is “Coming to Christ?”

“Coming to Christ is coming to him with the heart by simple faith. Believing on Christ is coming to him, and coming to Christ is believing on him. It is that act of the soul which takes place when a man, feeling his own sins, and despairing of all other hope, commits himself to Christ for salvation, ventures on him, trusts him, and casts himself wholly on him. When a man turns to Christ empty that he may be filled, sick that he may be healed, hungry that he may be satisfied, thirsty that he may be refreshed, needy that he may be enriched, dying that he may have life, lost that he may be saved, guilty that he may be pardoned, sin-defiled that he may be cleansed, confessing that Christ alone can supply his need, —then he comes to Christ. When he uses Christ as the Jews used the city of refuge, as the starving Egyptians used Joseph, as the dying Israelites used the brazen serpent, -then he comes to Christ. It is the empty soul’s venture on a full Saviour. It is the drowning man’s grasp on the hand hand held out to help him. It is the sick man’s reception of a healing medicine. This, and nothing more than this, is coming to Christ.” —J.C. Ryle, Old Paths

Clamping Down on the Resurrection (John 11:17–44)

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

—John 11:23–27

Signs signify. John wrote this gospel, highlighting particular signs so that what was signified thereby would be believed. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so 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 20:30–31). What is signified by this specific sign is that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. By belief, the life that you have is the life that is in Jesus. Believing that Jesus is the Christ means believing that He is the Resurrection and the Life and receiving that life. This sign is for faith in Jesus as the Christ who is the Resurrection and the Life.

“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus tells Martha. D.A. Carson says this is a “masterpiece of planned ambiguity.” This is not a conventional comforting condolence, though it is easily mistaken as such. In a time of grief 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 gives us not only some of the most comforting words for the bereaved, but commanded words to share with those who have lost one in Christ.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage [NASB “comfort”] one another with these words.”

Martha takes Jesus’ words just as such words of comfort. They are not. Jesus is telling her that the future hope is about to be demonstrated in the here and now. Martha again replies with an answer of faith (v. 24). She believes in the resurrection on the last day. Jesus says to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus hasn’t come to simply give her the comfort of truth. He has come to be the truth that comforts. This sign is pointing to the bigger reality of the resurrection on the last day. But, as a sign, that future reality is present. The resurrection that is to be on the last day, is a resurrection in Jesus. The Resurrection is present with Martha.

Here is how present resurrection is with not only Martha, but with anyone who believes in Jesus: “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (vv. 25b–26a). If you believe in Jesus, you live even though you die. If you believe in Jesus, you live such that you never die. Jesus again and again has said that whoever believes in Him has eternal life (3:26; 5:24; 6:47). This is because Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. Those who believe in Christ are in union with Christ. They have died in Christ and they have risen a new creation. When the spiritually dead believe, they have risen with resurrection life.

Saints, you already have this resurrection life. Jesus who is the Resurrection and the Life is present with you. Though you die, you shall life. Those who live in Christ, shall never die. You already possess a life that death cannot touch, for death has already touched it and lost. You possess a life from the other side of death. A life that undid death.

Jesus here directs Martha’s faith away from focusing on an abstract doctrine to focusing on Himself as the embodiment of that doctrine. Doctrine is precious and true, but don’t treat doctrines as truths that float out there, independent of the being and work of Christ. It is as though the wire connections of Martha’s faith are weak. There are gaps. The sparks of faith are jumping, but Jesus is working to clamp Martha’s faith directly onto Him. Believe doctrine, but believe your doctrine in Christ. It is not faith in the doctrine of Christ that saves, but faith in the Christ of that true doctrine that saves.

The Logic of the Lord’s Love (John 11:1–16)

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

—John 11:5–6

Jesus loves Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, so, He stays. Jesus stays. Why? Because He loves them. Jesus staying is given a fourfold emphasis. Note all the time references: “He stayed, two days longerthen, after this,” vv. 6–7. Marvel at the peculiar logic of the Lord’s love. Why does Jesus stay? Because He loves.

“How is this love?” you might object. If so, ask yourself, “What does my objection or puzzlement say I love?” We love our health and wellbeing and ease and comfort and peace. If Jesus loved us, He would work for these things, so we think. It is telling to place Jesus’ motivations for staying alongside those of the disciples (v. 8). Jesus’ motivation puzzles us. The disciples’ make sense. “Oh yeah, they’re seeking to kill Jesus. Perhaps they should stay.” When the first puzzles us, and the second doesn’t, it reveals that our real objection to Jesus’ actions is our selfishness, not Jesus’.

How is this love? Jesus said this illness was not for death, but for the glory of God (v. v. 4). The most loving thing God can do for us is to make much of Himself. The most loving thing God can do to us is to lead us not to a shallow puddle of joy, but to the infinite ocean of delight. The most loving thing God can do for us is shatter our mirrors and move us to look out the window. The most loving thing God can do for us is not to make much of us, but much of Himself. It is more loving for God to display His glory to and through us than to spare us from all suffering. This is for the glory of God, and so, because He loves them, He waits. John Piper writes, 

“Oh, how many people today—even Christians—would murmur at Jesus for callously letting Lazarus die and putting him and Mary and Martha and others through the pain and misery of those days. And if people today saw that this was motivated by Jesus’ desire to magnify the glory of God, how many would call this harsh or unloving! What this shows is how far above the glory of God most people value pain-free lives. For most people, love is whatever puts human value and human well-being at the center. So Jesus’ behavior is unintelligible to them.

But let us not tell Jesus what love is. Let us not instruct Him how He should love us and make us central. Let us learn from Jesus what love is and what our true well-being is. Love is doing whatever you need to do to help people see and savor the glory of God in Christ forever and ever. Love keeps God central. Because the soul was made for God.”

Oh the peculiar and glorious logic of the Lord’s love. Oh how He loved Job and Jacob and Joseph. Oh how He loved David and Daniel. Oh how He loved Martha and Mary. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9).

Understanding this kind of love puts this kind of steel in one’s spine, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).

When the peculiar providence of God works suffering into your life, remember the logic of the Lord’s love. This is for glory.

The Bishop: The Lever Which Turns the World Upside Down

“The cross is the strength of a minister. I for one would not be without it for all the world. I should feel like a soldier without arms, like an artist without his pencil, like a pilot without his compass, like a labourer without his tools. Let others, if they will, preach the law and morality; let others hold forth the terrors of hell, and the joys of heaven; let others drench their congregations with teachings about the sacraments and the church; give me the cross of Christ! This is the only lever which has ever turned the world upside down hitherto, and made men forsake their sins. And if this will not, nothing will. A man may begin preaching with a perfect knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew; but he will do little or no good among his hearers unless he knows something of the cross. Never was there a minister who did much for the conversion of souls who did not dwell much on Christ crucified. Luther, Rutherford, Whitefield, M’Cheyne, were all most eminently preachers of the cross. This is the preaching that the Holy Ghost delights to bless. He loves to honour those who honour the cross.” —J.C. Ryle, Old Paths

Closing Arguments (John 10:22–42)

24 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.” 25 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.

—John 10:14–25

“Who is Jesus?” is a unique question. When asked, you may think it is Jesus who is on trial and that you are acting as judge. In reality, we all sit in the dock already condemned. The question is not an opportunity for judgment, but an offer of pardon. If we answer sinfully, we bring even greater condemnation on ourselves. Sinner, you sit in the dock today. The Holy Judge of heaven, by His living word asks you, “Who is Jesus?” Pardon unto life eternal or condemnation to an eternal hell are certain based on your answer to this singular question.

This episode begins to close the end of the first half of John, known as “the book of signs” which runs from chapters 1–11. In this “book” we find seven signs. These signs, John expressly tells us, are central to the purpose of this gospel. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so 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 20:30–31).

Beginning with chapter 5 we came to a distinct subsection of the book of signs called “the festival cycle.” With this text that cycle comes to a close. Throughout this cycle “witness-testimony-judgment” language have been so constant that they have created a legal atmosphere, a courtroom ambiance over all of Jesus’ interactions with the Jews. In John’s narrative, this is the last interaction Jesus will have with “the Jews” —meaning, the leaders. These are the closing arguments.

The next chapter serves as a transition between the two halves, with the seventh sign, the resurrection of Lazarus. This is the final sign in John, save for the sign of signs—the death and resurrection of our Lord, which is the sole focus of the second half of John. In Chapter 12, Jesus will interact with the crowds some, ultimately pronouncing the same judgment on them as he does on the leaders in chapter 9, leaving them to their blindness.  In chapters 13–17 Jesus interacts intimately with the disciples before His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. So again, this is the last interaction of Jesus with “the Jews.”

John records no trial before the Sanhedrin like the synoptics do. We will see Jesus brought before the high priest, but quickly the baton is passed to Pilate. John, instead of highlighting that later private trial, has this earlier and extensive “public trial,” and He brings it to bear on us. In John’s narrative, these are the closing arguments. And the testimony is brought to bear on you. Who is Jesus?

They think they are putting Jesus on trial. But it is Jesus who is the judge. It is they who sit in the dock as condemned. Pardon is set before them. But they are blind. And believe their places are switched. Sinner, “Who is Jesus?” I ask you this not because I’m interested in who you say that Jesus is as though you were some authority. I ask you out of concern for your soul.

Pardon is set before you with this question. Scripture is telling you the answer. Who is Jesus? He is the Bread of life. Eat and Live. He is the Light of the world. Turn to Him, be delivered from darkness and walk in the light of life. He is the Door. Enter by Him and find salvation and life. He is the Good Shepherd, He laid down His life for the sheep. He is one with the Father. The life He gives to His sheep is absolutely secure. He is one with the Father and the Father is one with Him.

These men demand that Jesus plainly tell them if He is the Christ (v. 24) . He has been telling them so much more. He has been telling them that the Christ is God. He is not a man making himself God (v. 33). He is God who has made Himself man.

Sinner, this might be your last interaction with Jesus. Do not harden your hearts, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and receive secure and certain eternal life in the Son of God.

The Bishop: The Old Way the Only Way

“This is the old way by which alone the children of Adam, who have been justified from the beginning of the world, have found I their peace. From Abel downwards, no man or woman has ever had one drop of mercy excepting through Christ. To him every altar that was raised before the time of Moses was intended to point. To him every sacrifice and ordinance of the Jewish law was meant to direct the children of Israel. Of him all the prophets testified. In a word, if you lose sight of justification by Christ, a large part of the Old Testament Scripture will become an unmeaning tangled maze.” —J.C. Ryle, Old Paths

The Door because the Shepherd (John 10:1–21)

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

—John 10:7, 11

Jesus as the door gives life to the sheep. Jesus as the good shepherd lays down for the sheep. Jesus not only gives life; He lays down His life. Jesus can give life to the sheep, because He laid down His life and took it up again.

Those who enter by Jesus are “saved,” (v. 9). This is a rare use of “salvation” language in John. John predominately uses the language of “life” and “eternal life” instead. The parallel between the two can be seen in John 3:16–17.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Having entered, the sheep then go out to find pasture (v. 9). Through Jesus, the door, the sheep find both protection (entering the sheepfold) and provision (going out to pasture). Jesus as the door gives life to the sheep. Through the Door there is provision and protection. Through the Door there is life.

Jesus can be the Door because He is the Shepherd. The Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. Carefully read the verses following His declaration “I am the good shepherd.” Five times Jesus speaks of laying down His life. He both lays it down and He takes it up again. The Shepherd is able to give life to His sheep, because He laid down His life as a lamb. But a merely dead lamb cannot by itself give life. Jesus took His life back up, that He might give life to those whose death He bore. The Lamb who was slain is the Shepherd who lives. He dies their death. He rises with resurrection life to give.

Jesus is the Door of the sheep because He is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the Sheep. He can give life to because He laid down His life for.

The Bishop: A Compass without a Needle

“Let every reader of this paper mark what I say. You may know a good deal about the Bible. You may know the outlines of the histories it contains, and the dates of the events described, just as a man knows the history of England. You may know the names of the men and women mentioned in it, just as a man knows Casar, Alexander the Great, or Napoleon. You may know the several precepts of the Bible, and admire them, just as a man admires Plato, Aristotle, or Seneca. But if you have not yet found out that Christ crucified is the foundation of the whole volume, you have read your Bible hitherto to very little profit. Your religion is a heaven without a sun, an arch without a key-stone, a compass without a needle, a clock without spring or weights, a lamp without oil. It will not comfort you. It will not deliver your soul from hell.” —J.C. Ryle, Old Paths