[Previous post:How Much We Need Need (part 2)]
The way of this world is crooked, yet finds hope in Christ to put on the incorruptible and immortal. Jesus' offer of eternal life to all those who trust in Him for it, is not divorced from His earthly ministry. Nor is it divorced from the Father's ministry. Even the Gospel written for the purpose of evangelism (the Gospel of John; 20:31) does not neglect to testify of the power and presence of God, come, through signs. The kingdom come is a historical event just as is the cross. No matter the Gospel, the reality is that the promise of God manifesting and working in our midst - God's glory - has come face to face with us through Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6). The gift is available; for all to "receive" (Gal 3:14). It is clear; "revealed" (Gal 3:23, Gal 3:1, John 3:16). It is now; when "the fullness of the time had come" (Gal 4:4). Anyone who comes to the Father may drink Jesus, which is the indwelling of the Spirit (John 7:37-39). He wants us correspondingly to choose to remain in Christ and so also in the Father.
Lift up Your Face: The Woman at the Well's Assurance to Us
God-fearing Jews and Gentiles sought to be in Him, and when He came, they received Him with joy. In our case example, the woman at the well goes off to share the source of living water with the men of her city. While she is gone, Jesus teaches His disciples what they are missing since they were absent. He says in John 4:35,
Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!This is an insider's track, the strategy driving the exchange with the woman at the well. The disciples had been laboring to purchase food which perishes. Meanwhile she can see the Way. The harvest is white when the revelation of Jesus is proclaimed. When in the town she does not communicate with the language of living water, though she points to the same source. She is testifying to the town, the Way. Not so centrally the Truth (1 Cor. 15:1-4), not so centrally the Life (John 11:25-26). The whole town would be very familiar with Jacob's well. She was confident this familiar object would illuminate the relational understanding of their need of God, and show how to receive the Spirit. She reaps. She receives wages. She was excited to share in the everlasting work of the Kingdom with Jesus her Savior. Now she is part of the Jerusalem that is born above, the Jerusalem of prophesy. Gal. 4:24-25, 28
For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar--for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children--but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. ... Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of the promise.
Housing the source of living water, New Jerusalem is clad in precious gems which stand the fiery test of judgment (1 Cor 3:12). These materials are the sort which the Jerusalem of the bondwoman never got around to acquiring for themselves though given ample opportunity. They distanced themselves from God, they convinced few that their God was true, and were exiled. God hid his face from them for a time, because they believed they did not need God. Then in Isaiah chapters 40-66, God tells them He has not written a certificate of divorce. He will bring the remnant back by His Servant, the Kinsman-Redeemer, who will acquire everything Himself out of faithfulness to Jacob, out of His mercy and grace and strength. He will convince the watching world. The precious gems (reward/wages) are explained in Isaiah to be children, or the nations. Jerusalem will not be barren of disciples any longer. He will see to it personally. Isaiah 49:18,
Lift up your eyes, look around and see; all these gather together and come to you. "As I live," says the LORD, "You shall surely clothe yourselves with them all as an ornament, and bind them on you as a bride does."This strength to convince people of our God confirms the Spirit having come, and certainly stood in contrast to the accomplishment of the Pharisees, who "travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, [they] make him twice as much a son of hell as [them]selves" (Matt 23:15).
Massive conversion to the faith is not the only "sign" that assures God's promise to Abraham has been made clear, available, and right now. I used the word "sign." It is a sign, and I use the word in a way a little less narrowly than a typical free grace person might.
Signs: Tangible Proof of The Power and The Presence of God
Elijah is a lesson that though God does amazing signs for one, God was still quietly at work in the lives of 7,000. Though He had spoken His presence through impressive fire on the altar, He also was not in the wind, earthquake or fire, but a still small voice. When doubting Thomas greeted the resurrected Jesus, Jesus said "blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29). Jesus also said it was a wicked and adulterous generation that seeks after signs when they are plenty already to be believed (Matt 16:4), but, having mercy on us He acknowledged, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe” (John 4:48). And so He uses signs; eight in John - eight miracles upon major prophecies of Christ's identity and accomplishment.
It is interesting that in God's opinion eight signs in the Gospel of John prove enough about Jesus that people may believe to everlasting life. But there are a multitude of other "signs" in John's Gospel. An example is John 6:2 which is not counted as one of the eight signs,
Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.All eight are not requisites for faith. When only one of John's eight signs in his Gospel had been performed in chapter 2, Nicodemus comes to Jesus in chapter 3 to learn how to become a citizen of redeemed Jerusalem because of a number of unidentified signs (plural, 3:2). What about all the other amazing happenings (signs) encompassing Christ? For instance John the Baptist was Jesus' cousin, yet John said he did not know who the Savior was till the alighting of the Spirit. What is he trying to do to us? John can't mean he doesn't know the cousin he recognized in utero! He means, he was looking for the signs, and they came from Isaiah (42:1). Scripture enmeshed with circumstances was his assurance. We can easily expound the work and identity of Christ when we look for the many signs of what His coming and Kingdom will be like. Are custom-fitted applications of God's Kingdom in our lives, an interference to the doctrine of 'faith-alone'? The woman at the well asked what some have considered 'deflecting questions' out of her pursuit of God's true place of worship. Both she and John the Baptist's belief in Jesus came in circumstantial need for God.
How Many Signs Do We Need?
Jesus said "If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true" (John 5:31). He reaps what the Father sowed. Some people might want to argue that "God is with Him" so that the world would believe in Him for everlasting life. But Jesus' oft repeated contention is for all to know the Father. His ministry was to glorify the Father, not Himself. This is why John is concerned that "the words of the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled" throughout the length of the book. If Jesus' "Emmanuel" ministry was to convince the whole world to become followers of the Father, that therefore proves Jesus is the Father's (suffering!) Servant. If Jesus' ministry is failing to convince the lost person to believe the Most High God, has He saved anyone?
John employs eight signs for one goal: to "know Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (20:31). But the passages in John of each sign employs itself for the manifesting of His glory, and, for believing. Believing what? Remember, believing in Jesus and believing in the promise to Abraham are, paradoxically, distinct and yet One. What is an acceptable handle on the nuance between the two covenants (I can barely describe it in a post, truly!)
In the same way that the truth is distinct and yet also One, let me ask if believing in Jesus for eternal life, and believing in Jesus, are at odds with one another? No! Jesus has life in Himself like the Father. Might we skip over the Father and receive the gift from Jesus separately? Not likely! Jesus' shared His heart for the Father. To believe in the Son is to believe in the Father, and to believe in the Father is to believe in the Son as well.
The Way You Know, You Know: Variegated Signs
In the free grace INDepth note on the signs of Jesus in the Gospel of John of my Bible, it says, "... each miracle was a concrete demonstration of Jesus' divinity and messiahship" . This is true, and John 20:31 tells us the signs are meant so that we might believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing we might have eternal life. And that is excellent. But God's Word can be believed point-blank, in passive persuasion. Man is less willing to believe Him at His Word, and so God gave more; demonstration and power and the nearness of God. "Signs," "semeion" means a distinguishing mark or an indication. It means a portent, a miracle... bringing attention to the Trinity.
Signs prove the gospel of Jesus Christ is variegated in our approach to Christ and Christ's approach to us. Jesus' disciples believed in Him with a single sign that He turned water into wine. These Jews were aware of their own performance in the covenant having degraded since the exemplary faith-lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. "We have become like those of old, over whom You never ruled, those who were never called by Your name" (Is. 63:19). That Jesus had created the best wine at the end of the covenant, spoke scriptural, relational truth. Without Jesus there, it was just another wedding, just another day. But significance came to the wedding when Jesus made their need for God obvious according to the scriptures. They were not inhibited from believing Jesus because there was not yet a cross and resurrection or no audible promise of everlasting life. And they could also believe that the Servant would die according to other scriptures, because that is where the recollection of revelation leads them to conviction. This explains how Mary anointed Jesus before His death, when none of the apostles got that Jesus was going to the cross. She had spent a lot of time watching "the signs of the sky," sitting at His feet.
Nicodemus knows by sheer volume and kind of signs. He knew Jesus was a teacher come from God, for no one can do the signs that He did unless God is with Him. And if God is with Him, then the Kingdom has indeed come. Jesus did so many signs that the people wondered if their doctrinal Christ would be any more prolific than this man Jesus? John 7:31,
And many of the people believed in Him, and said, 'When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?'
Other "signs" in the Gospel of John are:
- physical healings (Jn 6:2, Is 38:16)
- the blind see (Jn 9, Is 35:5-6)
- infants and children will not die young (Jn 4:50, Is 65:20)
- the Father anoints Jesus (Jn 6:27, Is 61:1)
- liberty to the captives (the Son makes you free Jn 8:36, Is 61:1)
- the acceptable year of the Lord (the woman in adultery Jn 8:10, Is 61:2)
- opening the prison of those who are bound ("loose" the bound Lazaraus Jn 11:44, Is 61:1)
- comfort for the mourning (the Comforter comes when Jesus goes away, Jn 16:6, Is 61:2)
- joy replaces mourning (Jn 15:11, Is 61:3)
- the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Jn 14:27, Is 61:3)
- the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified (Jn 15:7-8, Is 61:3)
Entrance Sign: Those Who Are Making Straight the Way Are Grabbed by Those Seeking the Way
The Father and Son talk to each other about their motive in the gospel. The Father states His plan to gather true Israel, which includes God-fearers among the Gentiles. Where are God's "7,000 quiet God-fearing" unbelievers in our day? When we witness the gospel converting Gentiles we gain assurance that we know God and God knows us. Is. 49:5-6
And now the LORD says, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel is gathered back to Him (for I shall be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and My God shall be My strength), indeed He says, 'It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.'The Gospel of John calls God-seeking Gentiles "children of God" in Caiaphas' prophecy, 11:51
Now this he did not say on his own authority, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.By this scriptural "sign" from John we know that Jesus is the Servant, and the Father is faithful to His promises.
Those coming into His Kingdom find the Way to anticipate redemption from human depravity and a fallen world. God's glory-with-us, is part of the New Covenant Way in which He plans to win the world through the church. We read salvation into our circumstances right off the pages of scripture, and we realize we "know" Jesus now. This is the mystery where we begin a relationship by faith with Him.
That Which Matters to Us Matters to Him -
Will We Respond the Same
From the scriptures, straight to the needs of our lives - only God-fearers see the Way to believe in Him. Both the gift and the supply of the Spirit is for anyone who asks the Father (Luke 11:13) and believes in His Son, Savior of the world. And, through Him we also have a firm hope for godly living.... the subject of the next post. Matt 22:1-14
And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”’ But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
“For many are called, but few are chosen.”
How Much We Need Need (part 1)
How Much We Need Need (introduction)
 Thomas Nelson Inc., 1997. NKJV Study Bible, pg. 1781.