Trading the Assembly Line Back for the Vine (John 15:1–11)

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

—John 15:5

We have traded the vine for the assembly line, the natural for the manufactured, the living for the artificial. This is true of the saints both corporately and individually.

The church in America largely doesn’t abide in the vine; she maintains the assembly line. Pragmatism drives the line. Statistics and numbers are the measurement of success. How many people? How many baptisms? How much money? How many churches planted? How many missionaries sent out? Programs, Advertising, events, the liturgy, style, methodology, and even the teaching are all shaped and developed, not strictly in accord with the Scriptures, but in service to this business-model goal of success.

I’m afraid that a whole lot of the activity of the American church is an attempt to get fruit without abiding in the vine. We can do it more efficiently with the assembly line. The word doesn’t abide in us; His commands are not obeyed. We irrigate with spontaneous baptisms, we cultivate with worldly methodologies, we fertilize by appealing to the flesh, and we grow using artificial lights. But for all this efficiency, I’m afraid it will be shown that we have far more tares than wheat.

Individually we don’t fare any better. We’ve tried to baptize the world’s ideas of success. Jesus comes like a supplement to our diet plan. When it comes to our work, our marriages, our homes, our children, our aspirations and goals—it’s not necessarily that we’re running after inherently evil things, but we’re running after good things as though they were god, all while asking God’s blessing on our idolatry. Rather than tapping our life into the vine, we’re trying to tap the vine into our life. We want to be successful and efficient and productive at a number of things, and we try to graft the vine into them to give them life. Rather than Jesus making us fruitful for the kingdom, we want Jesus to make our kingdoms fruitful.

Ask yourself, which of these triads characterize the life of the church in general in these days and which of these characterize your life: busyness, efficiency, and success or industry (as in good hard work), faithfulness, and fruitfulness? There is nothing intrinsically evil about being busy, being efficient, or being successful, but when these categories dominate our thoughts and drive our behavior, then I believe something is seriously wrong. Kevin DeYoung explains, 

“Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means you are busy, just like everyone else. And like everyone else, your joy, your heart, and your soul are in danger. We need the Word of God to set us free. We need biblical wisdom to set us straight. What we need is the Great Physician to heal our overscheduled souls. If only we could make time for an appointment.”

Saints, perhaps this is that much needed appointment for you. Perhaps you need to repent right now of chasing after a worldly idea of success and by faith abide in the vine right now that you may be truly fruitful. If thoughts of busyness, efficiency, and success dominate your life such that they rob you of life, you are doing it wrong. Set your hearts instead on industry (working heartily unto the Lord), faithfulness, fruitfulness. And set your hearts on them in this way: remember that faithfulness is your lot and fruitfulness is God’s. The admonition of this passage is not “be fruitful,” but “abide.” And the result of such abiding, is joy.

Love and Law (John 14:15–24)

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

—John 14:15

This is a radical statement for at least two reasons: for what it says about love and for what it says about Jesus. First, this is counter to the world’s concept of love. John Piper writes, 

“Jesus shatters many common notions. For example, one notion is that commandments and love don’t mix. You don’t command someone you love. And you don’t tend to love one who commands. Commanding connotes military hierarchy, not relationships of love. We tend to think that commanding restricts winsomeness and willingness both ways. And this is often true.

Paul wrote to his friend Philemon and said, ‘Though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you’ (Philemon 8-9; see also 2 Corinthians 8:8). Paul probably meant his love and Philemon’s love. So it’s true that, for love’s sake, a person in authority may choose not to command.

But Jesus shatters any absolute dissociation of commandments and love. He says, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments…. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father’ (John 14:15, 21). ‘If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love’ (John 15:10). Thinking in terms of commandments and obedience did not stop Jesus from enjoying the love of his Father. And he expects that our thinking of him as one who commands will not jeopardize our love relationship with him either.”

There are many earthly relationships where love, for one with authority, is demonstrated by obedience. Perilously, ours is an age that denies this. Parents fail to see that love commands. Children fail to see that love obeys. Such an idea of love is shocking enough for modern ears, but it is the absoluteness of it here that is most radical. There are no exceptions. If you love, you will keep. With earthly authorities, sometimes love may disobey. But here, there is an understood absoluteness to this rule. There are no exceptions. This brings us to the second reason Jesus’ statement is radical.

Look at what the absoluteness of this statement says about Jesus. You can sense it in the words, “my commandments.” Moses gave commands, but he didn’t speak of “my commandments.” They were the Lord’s. The incarnate Son obeyed His Father’s commands as a man. He gives commands to men as God. There are then no exceptions to this rule. If you love Jesus, you don’t improvise. You don’t demonstrate it by originality. You don’t get creative. You obey. 

Or you may see it this way: Jesus said elsewhere that all the law is summed up with two commandments: Love God with all and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37–40). Jesus, earlier in the Upper Room, told the disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (13:34). And now He is telling them to love Him by obeying His commandments. He is telling them to love Him by loving others. He is telling them to love God (Himself) by loving one another.

Commandments then, are not contrary to love; they are essential to all love, even when you want to love another who is not an authority over you or under you. When you want to love others, Jesus defines what love to others looks like. Sinclair Ferguson is spot on when he writes, “love is what the law commands, and the commands are what love fulfills.” You cannot truly love, either man or God, unless you keep the commands of God.

But not only are commandments essential to truly love, love is essential to true obedience to the commandments. Love lies underneath true obedience. Sheer outward obedience is not obedience, no matter how great the outward action is. “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). Jesus commands the heart as well as the hands. Hands without heart are still disobedient hands. Here’s the kind of obedience Jesus is speaking of, “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). Keeping commandments doesn’t mean you love. Love does mean you keep the commandments.

A Troubled Christ Gives Comfort (John 14:1–14)

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”

—John 14:1

The disciples’ hearts were troubled. When Jesus purposed to return to Judea, Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). Now, at this Supper, Jesus has just told them that one of them will betray Him. At this they look at one another, uncertain of whom He spoke. Matthew tell us that “they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, ‘Is it I, Lord?’” (Matthew 26:22). To cap it off, Jesus goes on to tell them that He will be with them only a little while longer and that where he is going, they cannot come (v. 33).

Peter protests, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you. Jesus rebukes Him. Peter will not lay down His life. He will deny Jesus. Three times. Their hearts are troubled. Jesus had called these men to Himself saying “Follow me.” He now tells them they cannot follow Him. Jesus tells them that the feet He has just washed not only will not follow, they will flee (cf. John 16:32; Matthew 26:31).

If you’re paying attention to John’s gospel, then this command should cause a reverent “hmmm?” Or, if you are not in a more reverent and righteous mood, you might even object, “Wait a minute?” As we approach the cross, we have just been told three times that Jesus was troubled. In returning to Judea, they come first to the village of Bethany and to the grave of His beloved friend Lazarus. After encountering Lazarus’ sister Mary, we are read, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (John 11:33). Then in John 12:27 we hear our Lord cry out, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” Finally, Jesus’ statement that one of the disciples would betray Him, was preceded by this narration in John 13:21, “After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’”

Jesus is troubled and He tells His disciples not to be. Why is this not hypocrisy? You know it is not, but why is it not. There are two reasons I can see. First, they are troubled ignorantly; Jesus is troubled knowledgeably. Second, they are troubled for unbelief; Jesus is troubled for belief.

But even so, Jesus here is not admonishing them to be troubled rightly. He is admonishing them not to be troubled at all. How is it that a troubled Jesus can tell them not to be troubled? Here is the glorious gospel answer: It is a troubled Christ who can give comfort. It is because Jesus is troubled that they are not to be troubled. It is because He goes to the cross that they need not face the wrath of God. His trouble is our comfort. His cross is our salvation. We don’t look to the cross as a tragedy. It was conquest. Jesus is holding out to them the comfort of the gospel, for the terror of the cross. It is a troubled Christ who gives comfort. Only a Christ troubled in our place can extend comfort to us.

Believing for Betrayal (John 13:21–38)

“I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.”

“After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.'”

—John 13:19, 21

John tells us once more that Jesus was troubled. Why was Jesus troubled? Throughout His earthly ministry, as John presents it, Jesus has seemed so calm, so in control, despite volatile and tangible hostility and misguided zeal. But beginning with Lazarus, we read of Jesus being troubled. “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (John 11:33).

I think there were other days of trouble in Jesus’ earthly life, but John is wanting to tell us something profound. As the cross nears, the soul of our Lord is increasingly said to be troubled. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour” (John 12:27). There, the anguish of soul Jesus speaks of relates to the cross in general and receiving the cup of wrath from the Father’s hands. But here, in John 13, the trouble of soul is much more focused. Jesus is troubled in soul “after saying these things.” He has just spoken of Judas’ betrayal. Also, He is troubled in His spirit and testifies. He testifies of Judas’ betrayal. What Jesus has said and what He will say speaks as to why He is troubled. He has washed the disciples’ feet, but not all of them are clean. Not all are blessed. Not all are chosen. One will lift his heal against Jesus. One will betray Him. And this troubles our Lord, (v. 21).

See and marvel at our Lord’s tender humanity. As God, He, with the Father, eternally willed this betrayal. And yet, as a man, this betrayal stings. It is no strain to see David’s pain as anticipating that of our Lord. “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9). We don’t need to take liberal poetic license to see how that song is fulfilled here. Jesus’ sorrows included those of betrayal by a close friend.

In His divine nature, our Lord, is impassible. His joy is indestructible. He isn’t moody. He isn’t moved by outside forces. He moves all. He does all that He pleases. All that He pleases, He does. The incarnate Son reveals something of this to us when He tells the disciples that He was glad that Lazarus was dead and not merely sleeping, (John 11:14–15). Our God doesn’t wring His hands. He has never pulled His hair. He has never sought treatment for anxiety. Because He needs no comfort, He is the comforter, the God of all comfort.

But our Lord Jesus, remaining what He was (God), became what He was not (man)—one person with two natures. In His divine nature, Jesus remains impassible. In His human nature, He was “troubled in his spirit.” He was troubled in spirit, and without sin. He is troubled because one of these disciples, one of these men who He has spent years with, teaching, laughing, praying, rebuking, eating, sharing, and communing—one of these will betray him. One of the twelve. One of those whose feet He has washed. Judas is His close friend. And his betrayal troubles Him.

There are tares among the wheat. There will be apostasy. There will be betrayal. It will be unexpected. It will come from those we trust. It is not for us to figure out ahead of time. It will sting. It will trouble our souls. It will confuse and befuddle. Take comfort. Our Lord knew such pain. He knew the betrayal would come and still it stung. He divinely ordained it, and yet, in His humanity, it troubled Him. But don’t forget that your God works all things together for good. The betrayal of His close friend was for the redemption of His true friends for whom He laid down His life.

Served We Serve (John 13:1–20)

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”

—John 13:3–5

The opening scene of the Book of Glory is one of the most humble in the life of our Lord. John is divided into two parts. The first half is known as “The Book of Signs.” Seven signs drive the narrative forward and are central to the express purpose of the fourth 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).

Chapters 11 and 12 have prepared you for what lies ahead in the second half of John where the cross of Christ is chiefly in view. Why have theologians referred to this portion of John, where our Lord hangs cursed and shamed on the tree, as “The Book of Glory?” Because the one who journeys to the cross is the Resurrection and the Life (11:25). Because this is the hour of His glorification (12:23). Because by the cross the Christ will conquer (12:31–33).

And so it is fitting that the opening episode of the Book of Glory would be one of striking humility. The washing of the disciples’ feet is not simply an overflow of Jesus’ love (13:1). It is no mere demonstration that Jesus loves them. It is an illustration of the love of Christ that will love them to the end. This act is a kind of sign of the sign of signs—the death and resurrection of our Lord. Our Lord’s taking on the form of a servant at the feast doesn’t shock when you realized how low He has already stooped in the incarnation. When one has already knelt so low, what is it to then reach the hand just a little lower?

“[He] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:17–18).

Jesus’ action at the feast perfectly illustrates what it means for Jesus to empty Himself. He didn’t become less in His being when He took of the towel. He humbled Himself. Likewise, when Jesus took on human flesh, He didn’t empty Himself of His divinity, but His dignity. All of Jesus’ earthly days He wore the towel of a servant in the wearing of His flesh. And now, that towel of flesh is soon to be rent so that sinners might be made clean.

After cleansing them, Jesus resumed His place. Having resumed His place, He again acts as their Rabbi and Lord, instructing and commanding them. Jesus’ actions here anticipate His ascent into glory, from whence He will send the purchased Spirit to redeem the elect children of God and guide them into all truth (12:16; 13:7; 14:26; 16:13).

In all of this, the service of Jesus is something utterly unique; something that cannot be replicated. And yet, because it is unique, it may be emulated. If the death of Jesus is simply an example, it is a horrid one. It is not loving to say to someone, “I love you so much I could die for you!” and to then kill yourself without meaning or purpose to prove your love. The love of Christ is not like that. And it is because it is not like that, in a unique sense, that it is exemplary for us in another. Because Jesus served us, we may serve others. We cannot serve so that sins are washed away, but we may serve to tell them of such a service. We cannot give our lives to make an atonement, but we may give our lives to tell of the atonement that was made.

Without penal substitution, Christus exemplar is meaningless. Both are true. One is paramount. Because Christ has served, we may serve. The cross of Christ that informs our service, empowers our service, and shapes our service is the message of our service. We are not to serve simply for the sake of serving. We are to serve for the sake of Christ. We are to serve because we have been served by Christ. We are to serve telling others of His service.

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.

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.

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 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.