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Mar 1 / Chuck Smith, Jr.



February 24, 2019 – Mark 7:14-23 John 7:37-39

Intro: It is not easy to follow the thread of John chapter 7

So I will begin with a quick synopsis of what is here:
– in Galilee, Jesus’ brothers told him he should “make an appearance” in Judea
• if he wanted public recognition, he should show himself to the world
◦ apparently they assumed that he wanted a measure of fame
• this was not friendly advice, For not even his brothers believed in him
◦ Jesus answered, it was not his time
kairos — the right moment (appointed time)
– later, Jesus went to Judea, not publicly but in private
– before showing up in the temple, people were already talking about him
– half-way through the feast, Jesus went into temple and began teaching
• as always, the impression he made was uncanny
◦ some in the crowd wanted to know how he knew so much
(not being “lettered”–i.e., not having a formal education)
◦ Jesus’ answer was that the teaching wasn’t his – he had been sent
– verse 19 is where it becomes tricky–Jesus starts talking about Moses

Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?

• their religious life was defined by the law Moses had given them
◦ but seeking to kill Jesus was contrary to the commandments
• the crowd answered, You have a demon! (You’re crazy)
Who is seeking to kill you?
◦ Jesus didn’t answer, but instead, he spoke of circumcision

Here is the point Jesus was making. According to God’s covenant with Abraham, every male baby of his descendants was to circumcised on the eighth day. Even if the eighth day was a Sabbath, the circumcision would still be performed–although non-life threatening medical procedures were forbidden according to the current interpretation of the law. So to keep the commandment regarding circumcision, certain details of the Sabbath law were suspended. Jesus’ logic is simple: If it is justifiable to perform a circumcision on the Sabbath day, it was also justifiable for Jesus to make a man’s whole body well.

• Jesus then challenged them,
Do not judge by appearances but judge with right judgment
– next, John takes us back into the gossip mill – the Christ?
• the problem was they knew where Jesus was from (they thought)
◦ Jesus seems to agree, but that’s not the point
◦ the point is who it was that sent Jesus – they don’t know him
– the Pharisees heard about the crowd’s speculations
• and they sent officers to arrest him
◦ meanwhile, Jesus resumed his teaching
• if before, the issue was where he was from,
◦ now it was where he was going
◦ this left the crowd confused
– now John jumps to the last day of feast

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (Jn. 6:37-39)

• this is the heart of the chapter
• everything else points to this and circles down to it
◦ Jesus, who was sent from God and speaks for God,
◦ has life to give to anyone who comes to him
– the crowd is now clearly divided over Jesus
– while they’re arguing, the officers return to the Pharisees
• when asked why they did not have Jesus in custody, they said,
No one ever spoke like this man!
• John leaves no doubt regarding the Pharisees’ opinions:
◦ people who followed Jesus were being deceived
◦ no other authorities or Pharisees believed in Jesus
◦ the crowd, not educated in the law, was cursed
• Nicodemus tried to defend Jesus, but was quickly shut down

We have been investigating what makes John’s gospel unique

First, he did not have to say what had already been said
Second, there are gaps in the Synoptic gospels
(for example, in the disciples’ understanding)
• a good example is here in v. 39, where John has to explain about the living water
• he wrote years after this event, and with greater insight
John’s gospel is like a spiritual commentary on the other gospels
– he uncovers a deeper level of meaning in Jesus’ teaching

In the Synoptics, Jesus had a lot to say about the heart
Blessed are the pure in heart
• where your treasure is, there your heart will be also
out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks
this people’s heart has grown dull
• love God with all your heart
are your hearts hardened?
– what the Synoptics don’t tell us is what we can do about our hearts
• how can I become a person who is pure in heart?
• how is the heart repaired–or better, “redeemed”?
– John grabs onto something Jesus said in the temple
• it was an invitation to anyone who was thirsty
◦ by now we know this thirst is more than a physical drive
◦ it may be an inner void or emptiness
◦ or a yearning for something more
• Jesus gives the person who comes to him living water
◦ in fact, it will flow from that person’s heart like a river
◦ only, Jesus didn’t say “heart”

The Bible has a variety of visceral words
– this reminds us how difficult it can be to describe our deepest feelings
• the word Jesus used can refer to the entire abdomen
◦ in the gospels, it is especially the stomach and female womb
◦ Luke (the physician?) uses it more than twice as many times as the other gospels
• this inner part of a person would include the heart
◦ but it may also refer to an even deeper place
– in time, John came to realize Jesus was talking about the Spirit
• what comes out of my heart isn’t always so lovely or nice
• but Jesus brings something else to my inner self
◦ the very Spirit of God
◦ and everything he inspires is good, true and beautiful
• Paul expands on this work of the Spirit in greater detail
(especially in Romans ch. 8)

I want to point out something else

In verse 36 the people ask,

What does he mean by saying, “You will seek me and you will not find me?

– I believe Jesus was intentionally cryptic
• everyone in this chapter had formed opinions about Jesus
◦ beginning with his brothers
◦ then the crowd–who thought they knew him
◦ at the end, the Pharisees–who were certain they knew him
• Jesus said something about himself they could not understand
◦ if they continued listening to him,
◦ they would have to do it with fresh ears, an open mind
– we cannot listen to Jesus the way they did and understand him
• they heard him as if listening to someone who was only human
◦ they listened to him and reacted to his words
◦ but they did not really hear Jesus
• we cannot know Jesus apart from Jesus
(that is to say, apart from an encounter with him, the person)
◦ we cannot know him by studying him (like bacteria in a lab)
◦ this is the reason the officers could not arrest Jesus
there was no one else like him

Jesus invites us to come to him – that’s only way we can know him
– the only way to receive what he has to give
The whole Gospel of John is built around this question

What does he mean?

– John provided his answers to the question of Jesus’ teaching meant,
but I believe he also demonstrated ways we can find answers

  1. The chapter begins and ends with disbelief (vv. 5 & 48)
    ◦ to get at what Jesus means, we have to trust him
    ◦ sent from God, there’s a deeper meaning, and it’s true
  2. Then, there is the clue that that Jesus gave in verse 17

If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority

◦ the person who wants to do God’s will hears authenticity
3. We have to hold lightly what we think we know
◦ they thought they knew where Jesus was from, vv. 41-42
◦ knowing the Synoptic gospels (as John and his readers did),
we already know Jesus was from Beth.
◦ there’s a limit to what knowing can do for us
4. We need to respond to Jesus invitation (cf. Mt. 11:28)
5. We need to take what Jesus offers us
◦ and he offers himself, his Spirit
◦ the Spirit unlocks the meaning within Jesus’ message

William Johnston has written, “I myself believe that within us are locked up torrents and torrents of joy that can be released by meditation–sometimes they will burst through with incredible force, flooding the personality with an extraordinary happiness that comes from, one knows not where.”

Conclusion: Let’s say that today we thirst for God

How can we drink come and drink that living water?
– perhaps our breath can be a way to drink Spirit
• breath is the core of our existence – our “self”
◦ it was when God breathed into matter, matter became a living person
• we know our psychological state affects our breathing
(when stressed or anxious we pant, hyperventilate, hold our breath)
◦ we can use our breath to work the other way around
◦ mindful breathing can calm us, focus our minds, return us to peace
• begin every prayer with a cleansing breath
(and perhaps cross every threshold with a cleansing breath)
• a cleansing breath is one we draw into the abdomen (the belly)
◦ do this in silence and it can open that deeper place in us
◦ our breathing is a very natural way to become aware of the Spirit
• the body is calibrated by rhythm – find the rhythm of your breath
◦ perhaps inhale: “Breath of heaven”
◦ and exhale: “fill my soul”

The best part of breathing is that we do it all the time
(See? You’re breathing right now)
And–we take our breath everywhere we go
So anytime and anywhere
we can awaken our soul to God
and return to the peace of his presence

Feb 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 17, 2019 – Luke 22:14-20 and John 5:35-3-63


True Food and True Drink

Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” John 6:5-9

Intro: This is the only miracle Jesus performed that is reported in all four gospels

In Matthew, Mark, and John this miracle is immediately followed by another–when Jesus walked on water
– Mark adds an intriguing footnote to that event regarding the disciples:

And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened (Mk. 6:51-52)

• he indicates that something was revealed in the miracle of the loaves and fish
◦ but the disciples missed it, and that was because their hearts were hardened
• in other words, their minds were set in mode of thinking
◦ and that meant the miracle could not penetrate their hearts
– this inability to understand is exactly what John addresses in his gospel
• therefore, the miracle of the loaves becomes an opportunity
◦ Jesus uses it for an extended session of interactive teaching
◦ as Jesus taught, the crowd became increasingly frustrated, until

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him (v. 66)

John adds another feature to the story–Jesus “tested” Philip
– after a quick calculation, Philip decided providing food for everyone could not be done
• they did not have the resources
– but Jesus not only tested Philip, he went on to test the crowd
• the whole chapter is one test after another
• Jesus used impossibilities to stretch them into faith

The first indication of a serious problem

Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself (v. 15)

The crowd could not see Jesus for who he was
– they saw him, instead, for what they wanted him to be (bread delivery)
• he withdrew – they could not have him that way
• the next day they chased him down
◦ perplexed – they wondered how he got to Capernaum without a boat (vv. 22-24)

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” (v. 25)

– Jesus did no give a direct answer
• instead of telling them when he got there, he told them why they came

Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves (v. 26)

◦ what did he mean? At first they followed him because they had seen the signs! (v. 2)
◦ but that wasn’t why they came this time
(if they had come because of signs, they would have been there for him. Remember? The signs point to Jesus!)
• what they god from the sign was a free lunch
◦ that was the kind of king the wanted
◦ a king who promised them “a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage”

Jesus tried to turn them in a different direction

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal (v. 27)

read more…

Feb 14 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 10, 2019 – Mark 2:1-12; John 5:2-13

You Do Not Have the Love of the Father

Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up you bed, and walk.’ ” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk?’ ” John 5:9-12

Intro: Last week a friend asked why we read passages from two gospels each week

We are tracking comparisons and contrasts between John and Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke)
– John wrote long after the Synoptics had been in circulation
• he was at a different stage of spiritual insight than when he walked with Jesus
• so what he provides is like a spiritual commentary on the other gospels
◦ he provides missing pieces in their understanding and fills in some of the blanks
– today’s reading have to do with two men miraculously healed
• they did not suffer from the same condition, but both were incapacitated
◦ and in both situations Jesus was attacked for healing them
• but unlike Mark’s gospel, John used the healing as an opportunity
◦ John provides a deeper insight into Jesus’ heart and mind

We’ll begin by looking at comparisons and contrasts

Both men were disabled and helpless

  • Mark’s story took place in a home in Capernaum
    John’s story took place at a a pool in Jerusalem
    both men were disabled, helpless
    one a “paralytic” and the other an “invalid”
  • in Mark, the paralytic was carried by four men to Jesus
    in John, the invalid had no one to put him into the pool
  • Before healing them, Jesus said something to both men
    in Mark, Jesus told the paralytic, your sins are forgiven
    in John, Jesus asked the invalid, Do you want to be healed? 
  • in both cases Jesus addressed an issue that may have interfered with their health
  • Jesus also said something about “sin” to both men
    in Mark, Jesus told the paralytic that his sins were forgiven
    in John, Jesus told the invalid, Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you
    (there are worse things than being physically crippled)
    (he was healed for a reason, and it wasn’t so he could go on in sin)
  • Jesus healed both men
    in fact, he used the exact same Greek words, Get up, pick up your bed
    ◦ then, to the paralytic, Jesus said go home 
    to the invalid, Jesus said, walk 
  • both miracles stirred up controversy
    in Mark, those present felt he was out of line for forgiving sins
    in John, Jesus not only healed on the Sabbath, but told the invalid to carry his bed on the Sabbath
  • in both stories, Jesus presented a defense to his accusers
    and in his defense, he appealed to the authority of the Son of Man
    in Mark, Jesus demonstrated his authority to forgive sins
    in John, Jesus said that the Father gave him authority to exercise judgment (v. 27)

It is at this point that the stories diverge in different directions
– in Mark, everyone was amazed and glorified God
• then Mark moves on to the next story
– in John, Jesus’ lengthy defense goes on for the remainder of the chapter

What insight does John supply that’s not in the Synoptics?

Two points I think are important
– the first is simple and easy to grasp
• but I want to spend more time with the second point

First, John is explicit in letting us know there’s a message in the miracles
– that is why he refers to Jesus’ miracles as “signs”
• in the Synoptics, miracles rarely serve as a sign (only this one and the resurrection)
• in other miracles, a message may be implied, but never drawn out
◦ in fact, more often Jesus told people not to tell about the miracle they witnessed
– John carefully selected the miracles he reports
• and like this one, he uses them to tell us more about Jesus
• also, as we go along in John’s gospel, the signs build in intensity
◦ the reaction against Jesus also builds in intensity with each sign,
◦ until finally with the raising of Lazarus, Jesus’ enemies decide to kill him
– the ultimate sign in John is Jesus’ own resurrection
• that there’s a message in miracles is the theme of John’s 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 (Jn. 2:30-31)

The second important point:
John gives us a closer look into Jesus’ mind and heart

read more…

Feb 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 3, 2019 – Matthew 15:1-9 and John 4:16-26

Eyes that See, Ears that Hear

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the filed that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well It was about the sixth hour.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”
 John 1:1-7

Intro: Last Sunday, several people thanked me for asking Jake to speak

What I noticed afterward, was not what I learned, but what I felt
– a fresh awareness of how present God is to us
• two specific moments stand out when Jake explained:
◦ “it’s not about leaving our physical world or our bodies, but the veil is lifted”
◦ “the Psalms teach us how to talk to our nephesh [soul]”
• I believe this is the effect the gospels were meant to have on us
◦ they were meant to make us more aware of the life of the spirit
◦ both God’s Spirit and our spirit in him
– in the Synoptic gospels, Jesus awakens us to spirit using miracles and parables
• in John, Jesus awakes us with signs and dialogues
◦ for instance, Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus in ch. 3
◦ and now here, with the Samaritan woman
• Jesus leads people out of their rational-literal mind-set to a spiritual awakening
◦ to a new perception and receptivity

To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. . . .This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. . . . But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear (Mt. 13:13 and 16)

◦ the same process is at work here with the Samaritan woman and his living water

(and then also with his disciples regarding food) Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (Jn. 4:31-33)

John chapter 4 moves around to a lot of places

The story is bordered, beginning and end, by “Judea and Galilee” (vv. 3 & 54)
– also mentioned are Samaria and Sychar, Jerusalem and Gerazim, Cana and Capernaum
• one intriguing place-reference that has been long debated

After two days he departed for Galilee. (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.” (Jn. 4:43-44)

◦ the problem is that there’s no context for this quote
◦ the only places mentioned in context are Samaria, Judea and Galilee
• Samaria could not possibly qualify as his “hometown”
◦ Galilee is eliminated too, because in the next verse we read,

So when he came to Galilee, the Galiileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast” (v. 45)

• some scholars conclude, John must mean Jesus’ hometown was Judea
◦ but there is no good reason to think his hometown would be Judea or in Judea
– John had let us know early on that Jesus was from Nazareth (1:45-46)
• but Jesus had not quoted this hometown proverb anywhere in John’s gospel
◦ but Mark had quoted it (6:4), and Matthew and Luke as well (Mt. 13:57; Lk. 4:24)
◦ and in all three, Jesus quoted the proverb when he was in Nazareth
• so the debate over what John meant dissolves when we realize that his readers knew the Synoptic gospels
◦ and this is one of the reasons John’s gospel is so different from other three
(he did not see the need to repeat them)
◦ John places the quote here to explain why Jesus, when going from Samaria to Capernaum, he avoided Nazareth

Anyway, this chapter mentions a lot of different places,
– but when we come to the heart of the chapter,
• Jesus erases the importance of space
◦ places become irrelevant when people discover the life of the Spirit

I am going to pick and choose sentences from the dialogue to discuss

I would love to walk you through the entire conversation,
– but I need to stick with my thesis
• and that is, that John has written a spiritual commentary on the Synoptic gospels

Two facts are highlighted in this conversation:

read more…

Jan 28 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 27, 2019 – Guest Speaker

We were privileged to have Jacob Caldwell as our guest speaker this morning. In conversations with Jacob I have been impressed by the extent of his research, the depth of his thought, and the sincerity of his devotion to Jesus Christ. A physiotherapist by profession, Jacob has probed the relation between Christian spirituality and the human body. Listening to him share what he has learned throws a new light on an ancient truth and makes more real the fact that our bodies really are the temple of the Spirit of God.
chuck smith, jr.

Living by the Flesh

What does it mean to ‘live according to the flesh’?
● You probably think it’s the body.
It’s needs, desires, functions–all the wrong things we can do with it
● Jesus and Paul seemingly agree.
The following sound as if they envisioned two universes
(this is the conclusion drawn by many Evangelical Christians, including Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality, pp. 60 -70)
One universe is superior, transcendent and good, while the other is inferior, material and intrinsically bad
The human body naturally belongs to the material universe

“My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36 KJV).
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17 KJV).
“If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29 NASB).
“… if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee” (Matthew 5:30 KJV).
“… flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 15:50 NASB).
“… for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom 8:12-13 NASB).
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts” (Rom 6:12 NASB).

● We have this image of the good spirit above and the evil body below.
However, this is the ancient Manichean heresy
And it was soundly rejected by the earliest Christian theologians

● “For God so loved the world…” — the cosmos–that is, the whole of creation
The goal of Christian spirituality is not to escape the body into pure spirit

“It is a resurrection, not from the body, but of the body. The new creation is not a fresh start, but the old made new” (Robinson, The Body, pp. 82-3).

● We’re been missing something: the Incarnation
Sarx is Greek for flesh: sarcophagus (a lime-filled coffin, literally a “flesh-eater”)
sarx is dead meat, a body without spirit — a corpse
Soma is Greek for body: life, flesh with spirit, flesh fused to spirit

“. . . the body without the spirit is dead . . . (James 2:26)

Sarx will pass away, but soma is for God
Even more amazing, is that God is for the soma! (1 Cor. 6:13)

“While sarx stands for man … in his distance from God, soma stands for man … as made for God” (Robinson, The Body, p. 31).

● It’s not that we’ll leave these bodies and this physical world, but that the veil will be lifted.
We come to a realization of spirit as another dimension of the same reality
● The Kingdom of God is seeing the spiritual in the physical: the fusion of spirit and matter.

Why are we heretics?

Our culture has been shaped greatly by two theological and philosophical influences; that of St. Augustine and Rene Descartes:

“More than anyone else, Augustine shaped Western theology … throughout the Middle Ages his authority stood second only to that of Scripture. Historians have with some justice described the Reformation as a struggle between two sides of Augustine: Protestantism began with his doctrine of grace, and the Roman Catholic response grew out of his doctrine of the church. Descartes began modern philosophy with a series of arguments paraphrased from Augustine, and much of Freud reads like an extended commentary on Augustine’s Confessions. For better or worse, today’s thinking about God, or human personalities, or history, or sex still owes him a great deal” (Placher, History of Christian Theology, p. 108).

Augustine was a Manichaen before he converted to Christianity
(he was also influenced by Plato, whom he held in high regard)

● Descartes’ famous philosophical starting point: “I think therefore I am”: this is the Manichean heresy stated succinctly
● But more than the influence our culture is the fact that the Kingdom of God is terrifying:

“We have utterly separated spirit and sense [experience]; but [the cosmos] is both, with a double allurement so strong that we fear it. So we are Manichees at heart; for the Manichaean heresy is but the conscious, deliberate statement of a fear, and the assertion that it is wisdom and truth. The fear is latent in all men, and the facts of life seem to justify it. Spirit and flesh are manageable if we separate them, but fused together they sweep us away. So we are always trying to separate them, and to conceive of the universe itself as not one but two, the one all and the other nothing, the one real, the other unreal, the one pure and cold and the other warm and foul. And, whether we are devout or sceptical, we are afraid of the reality in which matter and spirit are fused” (Clutton-Brock, “Spiritual Experience,” in Streeter, The Spirit, p. 288-9).

● If we really entered the Kingdom of God, we would have to live accordingly and that’s overwhelming.
So we push God’s kingdom into the future or an alternate reality
That allows us to still be religious without the terrifying encounter with spirit

What are we going to do?

read more…

Jan 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 20, 2019 – Mark 3:1-6; John 3:1-13


We Cannot Do God’s Part

The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against [Jesus], how to destroy him. Mark 3:6
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night . . . . John 3:1-2

Intro: Do you remember learning to ride a bicycle?

There is no way to learn without getting on a bike and trying
– that’s because our brains have to adapt to a new experience, that of balancing while on a bike
• new connections have to made between brain cells
◦ these connections have to be integrated in different areas of the brain
• balancing on a bike cannot be learned in a class or from a book or instructor
◦ to ask, “Please tell me how to do this” is a waste of time
◦ you have to keep trying until your body learns it–until it feels balance
• once you learn, your body never forgets
– this is how I see the story of Nicodemus
• he wants Jesus to teach him how to ride a bike
◦ but he wants to learn while sitting in a room alone with Jesus
• the Lord tells him, “Just get on the bike, Nick!”
◦ but Nicodemus keeps saying, “Yes, Jesus, but then how do I ride it?”
◦ this illustrates a central problem the Pharisees had with Jesus

In Mark chapter 3, we find two misconceptions of Jesus

Both misconceptions are degrading
– Jesus’ family thought he had lost his mind
– the scribes claimed Jesus was empowered by a demon
• his family misunderstood his devotion to others (Mk. 3:20-21)
• the scribes misunderstood who he was (Mk. 3:22)

We have seen that John’s gospel is like a spiritual commentary on the Synoptics
– John fills in the blanks that the Synoptics leave
• these mostly have to do with misunderstandings of Jesus and his teaching
• today, John will take us to the core of the Pharisees’ misunderstanding of Jesus

The Pharisees play a central role in the Synoptic gospels

They were Jesus’ primary antagonists in Matthew, Mark and Luke
– in Jesus’ time, there were several different categories of religious groups:
• the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes (not mentioned in scripture)
◦ people who served institutional religion included scribes, priests, and legal experts
• Pharisees were the “Fundamentalists,” and not that far from Jesus theologically
(the Sadducees were the “Liberals”–naturalists who did not believe in resurrection, angels or spirits; Acts 23:8)
– in the Synoptic gospels, the Pharisees are mostly “stock characters”
• rarely do we encounter a Pharisee with a distinct personality
◦ no Pharisee is ever named in Matthew, Mark or Luke
◦ most references to them are plural
(there is no use of the singular, “Pharisee” in Mark’s gospel)

The Pharisees first appeared between the time of Ezra and Christ
– to them, Israel’s only hope was absolute adherence to the law of Moses
• like our constitutional law, the Mosaic law required interpretation and application
• in some instances, they followed it down to minute details

Hebrew biblical scholar and professor, David Flusser observed, “… by Jesus’ time [the Pharisees] had become recognized as the teachers of the masses, consciously identifying themselves with popular faith.”

– in some respects, they embodied “Religion, Inc.”
• their main short-coming according to Jesus was hypocrisy
• in Matthew 23, Jesus pronounced several “woes” on the Pharisees
◦  for example:

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of God in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in (Mt. 23:13-14)

The Pharisees had reduced religion to rules
– people use rules to manage righteousness
• with their rules, they felt they had religion all buttoned up
• there may be many rules, some that are harsh or even unpleasant
◦ but religious people often like strict rules
◦ they feel they are making sacrifices for God’s sake (and are therefore better than others)
– in reality, rule-keeping is no more difficult than doing our chores
• wash dishes, take out trash, do yard work
◦ we just do these things
◦ we don’t need good attitude while doing them, and our motive is irrelevant
◦ rules are not sensitive to how we feel about others
• keeping all the rules, can make people feel good about themselves

Jesus did not criticize Pharisees for their rule-keeping

read more…

Jan 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 13, 2019 – Mark 2:13-22 and John 2:1-11


Weddings and Wines

[Jesus] went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow Me.” And he rose and followed him. Mark 2:13-14
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” John 2:1-3

Intro: Last week I suggested that John’s gospel is like a spiritual commentary on the Synoptics
(Matthew, Mark and Luke)

Much of Jesus’ teaching remained a mystery for his disciples
– during the time they were with him, they did not understand him
• but after his resurrection, it all began to come together
◦ what the Scriptures said about Jesus and what he taught them (Lk. 24:44-45)
◦ and it all came pretty quickly (cf. Acts 2:16-21, 25-28, 34-35, etc.)
• John wrote in two time-frames:
◦ first, within the period of Jesus’ ministry
◦ and then years later, when he had eyes to see and ears to hear (Mk. 8:17-21)

With that in mind, what revelations will we receive from John today?

Matthew’s response to Jesus’ invitation is unique and beautiful

Matthew, who was also called Levi, was an outcast
– he was rejected by the religious community, and disliked by everyone else
• the only people who would associate with him were other tax collectors and sinners
• it was unheard of that a person in his position,
◦ would be accepted into the discipline of a godly teacher like Jesus
– after joining Jesus, Matthew’s first impulse was to introduce his friends to him
• so he hosted a dinner for people like himself
• this disturbed religious folk, and they asked,
“Why would Jesus attend a party with lowlifes and sinners?”
◦ the Lord’s answer was,

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick

◦ then he explained what he meant by that statement

I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Mk. 2:17)

Mark then swings from feasting to fasting
– why were Jesus’ disciples not fasting like the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees?
• Jesus answered with an example of people at a wedding
◦ fasting is an expression of grief, and appropriate at a funeral
◦ but a wedding is a joyful event
• this was not the time for Jesus’ disciples to be sad
◦ in this analogy, Jesus is the bridegroom who brings joy to the party
– there were other times Jesus used an analogy of a bridegroom or wedding feast:

  • a king prepared wedding feast for his son (Mt. 22:1-14)
  • ten virgins were waiting for the bridegroom to arrive (Mt. 25:1-13)
  • Jesus’ followers were to be prepared, like servants waiting their master’s arrival from wedding (Lk. 12:36)
    ◦ “bridegroom” has reference to the specific context of a wedding
    ◦ rite-of-passage that celebrates the union of two lives

Jesus made two other statements regarding why his disciples did not fast

No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the from the old, and a worse tear is made.
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins But new wine is for fresh wineskins 
(Mk. 2:21-22)

• notice that earlier Jesus had explained what he meant by Those who are well do not need a physician . . .
◦ but he did not explain what he meant by the new patch or the new wine
• these statements would not be news to those present
◦ they would think, “Of course you would sew a new patch on old clothes. Everyone knows that!”
◦ it would be like one of us saying, “Look both ways before you cross the street”
◦ like many of Jesus’ parables, the meaning would not be immediately clear
(sort of like a riddle)

John’s story of wedding in Cana is a classic

What I mean is:
– it used to be that every every teenager and alcoholic knew Jesus turned water into wine
– but that is not the point of John’s story

The wedding reception would have been literally ruined had they run out of wine
– John says, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine”
• John never mentions Mary by name
◦ even at that serious moment when she stood near Jesus’ cross

read more…

Jan 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 7, 2019 – Mark 1:1-13 and John 1:1-13


A Gospel Tapestry

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:1 
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

Intro: Something surprising happened a couple years ago

While reading in the Gospel of John, chapter 2,
– I began exploring the thought that the same theme appears early in Mark’s gospel
• it occurs in a different context–
◦ in Mark it’s used in an illustration, whereas John tells it as an event
◦ it was like looking at the same diamond in a different setting
• I was curious as to how far I could follow this thread
◦ did the entire Gospel of John match themes in the other three gospels?
– I did not research it at that time
• but I happened to come across a similar thought in a book by John Pennington
(I will list two or three references at the end of these notes)
• last year I went through John, looking closely a how it connected with Matthew, Mark and Luke
◦ it has been an exciting adventure that at times has left me in awe

My intention is to walk you through John, showing you what I found
– I may have bitten off more than I can chew
• so if it bogs down or is too much for you or me,
◦ I’ll throw in the towel and change lanes
• but if it works for us and we hang with it,
◦ we will have a better understanding of gospels
◦ and a richer experience of Jesus

John has been a challenge from the third century to the present

It is so different from the other three gospels

By the way, Matthew, Mark and Luke are referred to as the “Synoptic” Gospels. Synoptic means “to take the same point of view.”  It is their shared point of view that has resulted in so many shared stories from the life and ministry of Jesus. So when I use the term Synoptics, I am referring to the first three gospels in the New Testament.

– John does not report the same miracles as the Synoptics
• and he introduces other, sometimes dramatic, miracles they left out
◦ for instance, the raising of Lazarus
◦ John does not include Jesus’ parables, exorcisms, Transfiguration, or the Last Supper
• how to explain this?

In the eighteenth century, John was an embarrassment for intellectuals
– they argued that it was not historically accurate
• that some of the places John mentions were fictional
• John was left out of significant critical New Testament works
– but archaeological excavations up to the present have vindicated John
• sites have been explored that confirm his accuracy
• this includes both the topography and culture of first century Israel
◦ John proves to a historically reliable document

But this still leaves us with the question, Why is it so different from the Synoptics?

read more…

Dec 25 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 23, 2018 – Luke 2:6-7

Mary’s Christmas Podcast

Mary’s Christmas

While they were there, the days were completed for [Mary] to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the in. Luke 2:6-7

Intro: Once again I ask myself, how will I approach this familiar story?

It won’t hurt if we start right here and now, in our own world
– soon we’ll visit Mary and Joseph
• but we’re 2000 years and a world away from them
• why do we even bother with a story so old and distant?
◦ it is because we know this story was written for us
– and that raises another question – Why did Luke tell the story of Jesus?
• I’m convinced it was because he wanted us to know Jesus
◦ and Luke knew this story is for everyone
◦ it is just as the angel told the shepherds,

. . . behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people (v. 10)

• it’s not that we’re going to find the meaning of our lives in the story
◦ but we will discover that our lives have a meaning
◦ and the key to living that meaning is in the manger

Those of us who shop on online have become spoiled

In the past, when I ordered used books by phone or snail mail
– I was told it would take six to eight weeks for book to arrive
• when I first started buying books from Amazon, they arrived in two to three weeks
◦ now I can request next day delivery!
• there’s no reason for me to delay gratification or be patient
◦ I’m spoiled
– but some things we cannot rush – like a pregnancy
• Luke tells us, while in Bethlehem Mary’s package finally arrived
◦ what he actually says, the days were completed for her to give birth
◦ Mary’s pregnancy reached full term
• and the days were completed for God’s promise to be fulfilled
◦ God’s promise that Gabriel delivered to Mary
◦ and his wider promise to Eve (Gen. 3:15), to Moses (Deut. 18:15 & 18), and the prophets

I say this as a reminder of the bigger picture
– Christmas cards that depict the Bethlehem scene often have a warm glow
• it indicates not only the love of a family, but the sacredness of the moment
• Luke, however, does not create a literary glow in his story
◦ at least not at this point — he just gives information
◦ there was no infusion of glory around the manger
– so we remind ourselves that a miracle is unfolding
• there is only this small, fragile human life;
◦ a baby that cries and nurses at his mother’s breast
• yet within his tiny chest there beats the heart of God

read more…

Dec 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 16, 2018 – Luke 1:30-38

According to your word – Podcast

According to Your Word

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”
And the angel departed from her.
 Luke 1:30-38

Intro: Recently there have been a lot of things weighing on my heart

I was feeling it yesterday when I sat down to read my Bible
– you know the story of the two sisters, Martha the hostess and Mary the contemplative

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but only one thing is necessary . . . (Lk. 10:41-42)

• immediately it was obvious that I needed to hear this
◦ I quickly wrote out a short list of things troubling me
◦ there were twenty-one items on my list
• it got me wondering, was Martha supposed to turn off her anxiety,
◦ just because Jesus explained it to her?
◦ was she to leave the bread in the oven, hang up her apron, and go sit next to Mary?
– at any rate, I heard Jesus talking to me
• I know how to shut off anxiety by replacing it with trust
• so after doing that, my worry dissolved
◦ and the rest of my day flowed smoothly
◦ the Scriptures worked in me exactly as Paul described:

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Ro. 15:4)

Mary, the mother of Jesus, has something to tell us about how to hear God’s word

First, I want to point out some interesting features of this story

What I mean, is the way Luke puts it together
– for example, Mary asks a question that divides Gabriel’s message in two
• the first part in verses 30-33, he tells her what was going to happen
• the second part in verses 34-37, he tells her how it will happen
– both messages began with what would happen to her – “YOU”
• then he explained what the child would become – “HE”
• finally, Gabriel tagged something extra to end of messages
◦ he informed Mary of Elizabeth’s pregnancy
◦ this was to emphasize a specific point to reassure Mary

For nothing will be impossible with God

Another detail we hardly notice is Luke’s use of polysyndeton
– that is, the way Luke repeatedly uses the word “and”

Here is what I mean:
Verses 30-33, you have found favor with God
AND behold, you will conceive
AND bear a son
AND you shall name Him Jesus
He will be great
AND be called the Son of the Most High
AND the Lord God will give him . . .
AND He will reign . . .
AND His kingdom will have no end 
Verses 35-37, The angel answered
AND said to her, “The Holy Spirit . . .”
AND the power of the Most High . . .
AND for that reason . . .
AND behold, even your relative . . .
AND she who was called barren . . .

– the effect of all these “and’s” is to rush us from one statement to the next
• in this way, Luke creates a feeling of excitement or urgency
• we feel the bigness of what Gabriel is telling Mary

Two more details that I think are intriguing
– two times, Gabriel says “Behold”
• this is a visual cue – it tells Mary (and us) to pay attention
◦ both times it has to do with conception (Mary’s and then Elizabeth’s)
• “behold” or “Look at this,” because both instances required a miracle
– the last detail has to do with paternity
• Jesus would be called the Son of the Most High

Abraham did not have a book on systematic theology to study. What he knew about God, he learned from his encounters with him. Each encounter brought a new revelation, and with each revelation Abraham discovered a new way to refer to God. So God became to him El Shaddai (God Almighty), Yahweh Olam (the LORD eternal), and Yahweh Jireh (the LORD provides). One of the first designations he learned for God was Eylon, Eylon (the doubling of the word “high” intensifies it so that it is translated “Most High”). This he learned from a priest who arrived from Salem to bless him after a military victory. Notice that Most High implies polytheism; i.e., if there are many gods, Yahweh is the God Most High. Abraham instantly latched onto this revelation of his God being the greatest of all gods, and he used this term in turning down the rewards offered him by the king of Sodom (Gen. 14:17-24).
From then on, the Old Testament frequently makes use of the term Most High God in contexts that have specific reference to Gentile (this is not always the case, but in more times than not). It was a way for the people of Israel to refer to their God in places that had their own gods (Num. 24:16; Deut. 32:8; many times in the Psalms and Book of Daniel).
In the New Testament, this term appears only two times outside of Luke’s writings; once when it a demon in pagan territory that uses it (Mk. 5:7) and once when it is used in a reference to Abraham’s story (Heb. 7:1). Luke’s use of it parallels that of the Old Testament, where reference to Gentiles or all the nations is implied.

• Gabriel also refers to Jesus’ “father David” and as “the Son of God”
◦ significantly, there is no mention of Joseph
◦ Luke is very careful about that, qualifying Joseph’s relation to Jesus in his genealogy

When He began his ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph (Lk. 3:23)

Everything in Gabriel’s message points to the special nature and greatness of Jesus

Mary has the last word in this conversation

And it’s a very important word – it is her consent to God’s purpose

read more…