John 1 and the Fight Against Churchblindness!
Just call today's Bible study the Febreeze Study cause it's so fresh!!! Please tell me someone laughed at that! The Other Guys?...
Today, I'm discussing John 1:19-35, Febreeze, and Bible prophecy.
I shared this ad because people in the ad are living with this huge obvious thing that should be overwhelming to them but they have lived with it for a while and are used to it so much so that they don’t even notice it anymore. The ad says they have gone NOSEBLIND.
Just like the noseblind people in the ad, a similar thing has happened in most of American culture when it comes to the story of Jesus. We are so used to Christian-y things that we have gone “Churchblind” to them. We read the book of John with a yawn and skim over things like Jesus is God and he created the entire world and wants a relationship with us… ”OK, but how does that affect me today; I have a job interview?!”
If you really think about that, it’s laughable. If I said, “Oprah wants to come over for coffee this afternoon.” You wouldn’t be so aloof. Even if you hate Oprah you’d still be freaking out about the opportunity to have lunch with someone so powerful and famous. Yet you can read about the eternal creator and ruler of all things wanting to include you in his family and it doesn’t even cause a ping on your interest radar.
This is so true for me, that I read the verses below (John 1:16-18) and thought. “I just want to skip over them and get on to the good stuff. After all that booooring stuff about John the Baptist.”!! I have gone through the book of John several times with individuals and I always skim this chapter because it just seems dry…
I pray that as you read this, you will have the ability to take a fresh look at it without all of the baggage of a churchblind culture that doesn’t live like we really believe it.
16-18 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
These verses talk about receiving new grace that is not based on following the law but knowing Jesus who is God. Truly understanding this could change our lives forever and everything we know about church and religion. If we lived by these verses, we would do away with legalism, judgmentalism, and hypocrisy…maybe they are worth more than a skim!
Before you think that I’m beating up American culture too much, I believe that John’s audience had similar churchblind issues. John was writing to Jews to prove to them that Jesus was the Messiah they had been anticipating for centuries. He repeatedly shares prophecies from the Old Testament and common titles of the Messiah and points out that Jesus fulfilled those prophecies and was the essence of the title. Just like us and the job interview scenario above, the Jews were acting like, “Yeah, he fulfills prophecies that we have been quoting for 100’s of years. Sure, he was born in the right place, had the right ancestors, taught us amazing truths, but we still have this problem with Rome…so I’m going to wait for something else.” (I picture Jesus facepalming!)
In the scientific age that we live in, talking about prophecies is kind of embarrassing. It’s like one of those parts of Christianity that we'd rather not talk about. It feels a little like I’m confessing to believing in palm readers or snake handling or something. When I hear someone mention prophecy, I tend to think of a homeless guy walking around yelling at people, “The world is going to end! (and can you give me $5 for lunch?)!” Or well-intentioned people hounding me about having to agree with them about which rapture movie is correct.
So, before we go any further in our study of John. Let’s just take a second to deal with our churchblindness around actual prophecies so that we can be a little less weirded out and a little more wowed by them…
When I taught teenagers about Bible prophecy, I used to always start the class by selecting someone to give a piece of candy to, by having students guess a number between 1 and 50. One student would guess the correct number. Everyone would be surprised and say that student was lucky. I would repeat the activity and the same student would guess the right number again. At that point, all talk of luck was out the window. She was clearly cheating somehow. I would dismiss the idea that I had given her the numbers and convince the students that it was just a coincidence. After all, with 20 students, someone is bound to guess the right number. Then I’d convince them to try a third time. The same girl would get the exact right number again. This time there was no way that anyone in the room would be convinced that I hadn’t given her the numbers in advance. Because everyone knew that it was impossible for something like that to just happen. It had to have been planned…
Then, I’d share the following verse with them and ask them who it was written about and what book of the Bible it was found in.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Every single student has always recognized that these verses are clearly about Jesus and therefore, guessed that the verses are found in the New Testament.
They are always freaked out to realize that the above verses are actually prophesies about Jesus, found in the Old Testament book of Isaiah chapter 53, which was written centuries earlier.
My favorite student reaction by far went something like this:
Student: “NO Way!!! That is spot on! How can that be! That’s impossible!”
Me: Laughing, “Well…uhmmm, see, He’s God. He exists outside of time so he can do a lot of cool stuff…”
As mind blowing as that is, Jesus actully fulfilled over 300 OT prophecies (depending on how you group them and who you ask!)
Here is a great source from Jews for Jesus. I tend to trust their scholarship of Hebrew culture, since they are Jews and all. Top 40 Messianic Prophecies
Our minds ought to immediately be awestruck by the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. It’s so much more intense than my student guessing three numbers correctly, but we automatically start rationalizing away our awe. Jesus was born in the correct town, in the correct family line, the slaughter of the children in Bethlehem was prophesied, the escape to Egypt (the fact that Mary and Joseph knew to run away…), the type of death Jesus would endure, what his purpose was…All of these things and more were predicted long before Jesus was born.
I believe this is part of what John was trying to remind his readers (in verses 1:19-35) when he brings up a prophecy that the Jews would have been very familiar with. John mentions Isaiah 40. The original readers of John’s book would have all been familiar with John the Baptist because he was a respected hero who had spoken out against a Roman leader.
So basically, this section says: “John the Baptist, that you respect so much, he told you guys what was up! Remember how he said he was fulfilling the prophecy from Isaiah, and that Jesus was the Lamb of God? Then declared that he was unworthy to do the servants work of untying Jesus’ sandals…? Yeah, well he was telling you guys that Jesus is the Messiah you were waiting for”.
The Jews were sincerely trying to follow God. They were longing for a Messiah that would rescue them and build them into a great nation. They prayed and were faithful, but many of them messed him altogether. They saw the miracles. They knew all of the prophecies. They even had John the Baptist as a forerunner, saying “here he is! The Messiah!” and some still missed him.
Why? What kept them from seeing Jesus as their Messiah?
What keeps me from being awestruck by his story? Why do I want to skim through and just get to the stories that I already like? Why is a moment of silence trying to hear from God such an ordeal?
This probably isn’t going to be my main focus as I write about the rest of John, because as cool as I think the prophecy stuff is, I think the way Jesus treated people and the things he taught are exponentially, way cooler! I think that we grossly misrepresent him in our comfortable consumeristic, Americanized version of Christianity. I’m right there in the middle of the “we” that’s doing the misrepresenting and I want to do better. Hopefully we'll learn together as we continue this study.
Thanks for reading!
I hope you get something out of my messy attempts to explore how amazing God is!
I’d love to hear from you!
Contact me: Cindy@rumandcolaforthesoul.com
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