Mothers and Grandmothers are some the most important people in our lives. They help share our character and beliefs. Sometimes, because of circumstances, the mother’s role is fulfilled by a Grandmother or a step-mother. Godly mothers with Godly fathers provide the best foundation for children in their formative years and as they grow up.
Mothers have a special position appointed by God.
She teaches, ministers, loves, and nurtures the next generation of citizens. And she challenges and cajoles her children to do their best and be the best.
But few people take notice. There will be no news stories proclaiming the virtues of a child being taught what it means to be loved, that an infant was hugged securely, or that the wonders of the classics were introduced to a young mind. No one seems to care that a house was made into a home, or that a mere table with food was transformed into a place of fun.
It isn’t too late to restore the fine art of motherhood to its time-honored position in our society. In spite of the current cultural hostility, lack of support from many husbands, and incredible pressure inside and outside the home, a real mom will continue to affirm the importance of motherhood. (1)
There are children who test the patience of even the strongest believers. Sometimes tough love is needed. You might consider this another prodigal son.
It is said that a young man became very profligate. He almost broke the hearts of his parents. The mother was actually about to die from the strain. Finally, one day he acted so shamefully that his father said to him, “We have done everything in our power for you. You have disgraced the family and are killing your mother. All that we do for you is in vain. I am sorry, but I must ask you to leave our home and never return.” The young man left.
The months and years went by. Finally the boy became so miserable and homesick it seemed he could not stand it. So he wrote his mother this letter: “Dear Mother: I am ashamed of my fearful conduct in the home. I can hardly stand to think I must never see you again. However, I do not know whether or not Father and you can forgive me. But I will be on train No. 2 that passes your home at 10:00 a.m. [Then he gave the day.] Now if you can forgive me and will take me back, I want you to hang a sheet out on the clothesline. I shall look as the train passes and, if I see the sheet, I will know that you will forgive me, and I will get off at the next station, just below the house, and come home.”
Well, what do you think she did? Not only did she hang out one sheet, but every sheet, towel, pillowcase and everything else white that she had. The clothesline, fence, and rosebushes were covered with sheets, towels, etc. Of course he came home, and, oh, such a welcome!
It was forgiveness in abundance. (2)
We can find our schedule is really full and forget the really important things in life. The following is an example.
A man stopped at a flower shop to order some flowers to be wired to his mother who lived two hundred miles away.
As he got out of his car he noticed a young girl sitting on the curb sobbing.
He asked her what was wrong and she replied, “I wanted to buy a red rose for my mother.
But I only have seventy-five cents, and a rose costs two dollars.”
The man smiled and said, “Come on in with me. I’ll buy you a rose.”
He bought the little girl her rose and ordered his own mother’s flowers.
As they were leaving he offered the girl a ride home.
She said, “Yes, please! You can take me to my mother.”
She directed him to a cemetery, where she placed the rose on a freshly dug grave.
The man returned to the flower shop, canceled the wire order, picked up a bouquet and drove the two hundred miles to his mother’s house. (3)
Mothers are ready for us. The Bible has many things to say about Mothers including the following.
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”… (Proverbs 31:25-30) Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
For those who were not Blessed with Godly parents or who otherwise endured rough times, do not despair there is healing available. A rough upbringing can produce fear, anxiety, paranoia, PTSD or worse outcomes. A rough can be used as an excuse or can be overcome, that is a personal choice. Those who suffer, recover, and heal can help others who suffer.
Commemorations to honor mothers and motherhood have been happening for centuries and can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans who paid homage to their mother goddesses. Today, tributes to mothers occur all around the world at different times of the year, but the American version of Mother’s Day was started in May of 1908 by a woman named Anna Jarvis.
Mom needs a hug today.
(1) Dr. James Dobson and Gary Bauer’s book, Children At Risk
(2) William Moses Tidwell, “Pointed Illustrations.”
Mother’s Day is the time for when we show appreciation and love for the mothers in our lives, as a way of thanking them for everything they’ve done for us. Truly, they are gifts from God.
In the Bible, women lived in an age where they were treated like second-class citizens. God, however, appreciated their worth, wisdom and grace when no else did. Several mothers are mentioned in this sacred text, all of whom have been able to teach us important lessons to guide us through life – just like our own mothers!
These are the ten most influential mothers from the Bible (in no particular order):
The mother of Jesus Christ is probably one of the most memorable maternal figures from the Bible. Humble and full of grace, God chose Mary to bear his son and raise him. She had to endure a considerable amount of pain and shame, especially when Jesus was crucified, but never did she doubt him or God’s will for a second.
Truly, Mary is blessed among women and is a shining example of endurance, strength and faith.
Little is known about Jochebed. All we know that she was a Levite woman living in Egypt who managed to hide her newborn son Moses away for three months during the time when male Hebrew babies were being slaughtered per the Pharaoh’s orders. When she could no longer keep him hidden, Jochebed never gave up hope: to save his life, she set her son adrift in the Nile River, and he was eventually found and raised by the Pharoah’s daughter.
Moses became one of God’s greatest prophets, and it’s all thanks to the love, care and not least the smart-thinking shown by his mother.
Rebekah and Eve.
As we saw in the Book of Genesis, Rebekah was a woman of great faith. She married Abraham’s son Isaac and bore him two sons, Esau and Jacob. Despite the women of the time were quite submissive, Rebekah displayed an assertive personality. When the time came for an elderly Isaac to give his blessing to Esau, Rebekah overheard this and took matters into her own hands: she called upon Jacob, the youngest son, to receive the blessing instead.
It must have been a difficult decision to make, but Rebekah chose to go along with it because she wanted what was best for her son, with whom God made a covenant. Likewise, mothers do what they can to ensure that their children are happy and prosperous.
The first woman and the first mother, Eve laid down the first foundations of motherhood. Although she and her partner Adam disobeyed God, was turned away from the Garden of Eden, and had to endure the pain and suffering that came from when her son Cain murdered his brother Abel, Eve is the perfect definition of a mother who might make mistakes or suffer hardships but continues to hold her head up high and take responsibility for her actions.
Elizabeth (left, sitting) and Naomi (right).
Mary’s elderly cousin was a staunch believer in God, although she and her equally-aged husband Zechariah were unable to conceive. Still, Elizabeth maintained her faith. Fortunately, her wish to have a child was granted. The archangel Gabriel told Zechariah to explain Elizabeth would bear a son – suffice to say, his wife was full of joy when she heard the news. When her cousin Mary, Jesus’ mother, came to visit, Elizabeth’s unborn son – who would become known as John the Baptist in his adult years – reacted to the Holy Spirit and leapt in her womb.
If you’re ever feel yourself doubting your parenting capabilities, take a cue from Elizabeth and don’t stop believing in yourself or in God’s plan for you.
In the Book of Ruth, Naomi was a woman of faith whose husband and two sons were deceased – only her two daughter-in-laws, Ruth and Orpah, were left. When she heard that God had blessed the famine-stricken land of her people with food, Naomi convinced her daughter-in-laws to seek new husbands in the land. Orpah chose to return to her people and her faiths, while Ruth refused to leave Naomi’s side.
From her mother-in-law, the younger woman was able to gain a true understanding of faith. For that, the Lord blessed Naomi and her descendants; as for Ruth, she was blessed with a new husband and a son named Obed, whose future grandson David would one day become a great king.
Mothers like Naomi teach us to never stop believing in ourselves even when everyone else have doubts; by doing this, we are capable of achieving almost anything.
Sarah and Hagar.
Undoubtedly, Sarah is one of the most recognisable mothers in the Bible. The wife of Abraham, she was barren and therefore could not conceive. In Genesis, God promised the couple children, although they had to wait 15 years before God renewed this promise, and another 10 before it was actually fulfilled. Naturally, a slightly impatient Sarah doubted that God would deliver on his promise. Despite her doubts, God knew Sarah’s heart to be true and blessed her with a son, Isaac.
Often we – as children and adults – push our mothers’ patience to the limits. But in the end, mothers like Sarah are living testaments that patience is indeed a virtue.
Before Sarah became a mother, her maidservant Hagar was forced to become Abraham’s wife and soon became pregnant with his son, Ishmael. This caused a rift between her and Sarah, who mistreated her to the point that she ran away. Although God instructed her to return to Abraham and Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael were later sent away to the desert, where they believed they would die. But God led them to a well, and for their misery he blessed them by promising Hagar numerous descendants through her son.
If you’re ever feeling despair, just remember your mother is always there to reassure you that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel and will endure the pain with you.
Hannah and Bathsheba.
Hannah might not sound familiar (at first, anyway), but her story is certainly touching. She was married to a man who had another wife, one who cruelly taunted her for being unable to have children. In spite of her mockery, Hannah never gave up praying to God. She even vowed to give her first-born child to God – as a result, she was blessed with a son named Samuel. Once he was old enough, Samuel was presented by his mother to a priest and subsequently spent the rest of his life dedicated to God’s service.
For her selflessness, Hannah was later blessed with five more children. Indeed, mothers like Hannah are brave and selfless due the self-sacrifices they make for their children’s sake, and for that we should be grateful.
The wife of Uriah the Hittite and the object of King David’s affections, Bathsheba is often painted in a negative light due to David’s actions. After David had Uriah killed to get him out of the way, God was displeased and struck their child was struck dead. Nevertheless, Bathsheba remained loyal to David, with whom she would have another child, Solomon. God loved Solomon, who later became Israel’s greatest king. Bathsheba also happens to be one of only five women listed in Jesus Christ’s ancestry – that’s quite the distinguished honour.
From Bathsheba, we learn that mothers are able to triumph over circumstances beyond their control and are able to teach us to do the same.
How much do you thank God for your mother? How much do you pray to God about your mother? We can be so selfish at times. We pray for all these different things, but we forget the people who brought us into this world. In honor of Mother’s Day I want us to change our relationship with our mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers, mother figures, and our wives.
We are to honor and praise the Lord for the women who have been such a blessing to us. Praise the Lord for their sacrifices that they made for us.
Sometimes we have to even go to the Lord and confess of the way we neglected these women in our lives. There is nothing like a mama. Show your mother or the mother figure in your life how you much you care. Happy Mother’s Day!
“Mom I know you’ve loved me as long as I’ve lived but I’ve loved you my whole life.”
“Successful mothers are not the ones who have never struggled. They are the ones who never give up, despite the struggles.”
“A Mother holds her child’s hand for awhile, their heart forever!”
“There is more power in a mother’s hand than in a king’s scepter.” Billy Sunday
“A mother understands what a child does not say.”
This first verse shows that you would never disrespect your mother.
Use this verse to reflect how you treat your mom. Are you loving her? Are you cherishing every moment with her? This is more than just Mother’s Day. One day our moms are not going to be here. How are you honoring her? Are you listening to her? Are you talking back to her?
Do you call her? Do you still rub her feet out of love for her? We live like our parents are going to be here forever. Be thankful for every moment. Make it your goal to spend more time with your mom, dad, grandmother, and grandfather. One day you are going to be saying, “I miss my mom and I wish she was still here.”
1. 1 Timothy 5:2 “Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.”
2. Ephesians 6:2-3 “Honor your father and mother” which is the first commandment with a promise “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
3. Ruth 3:5-6 “I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.”
4. Deuteronomy 5:16 “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”
Jesus loved His mother.
I checked out a debate about should adults be responsible for their elderly parent’s care? Can you believe that over 50% of people said no? That is your mom! This is the society that we live in today. No respect for their mother. People have an, “it’s all about me and I don’t want to make sacrifices” mentality. It’s hard for me to believe that the people who said no could be Christian. I read so many selfish reasons and people holding on to anger.
As Jesus was suffering on the cross He was worried about His mom and who was going to take care of her after He was gone. He made plans for her provision. He put one of His disciples in charge of taking care of her. Our Savior taught us to provide and take care of our parents as much as we can. When you serve others you are serving Christ and showing your love for the Father.
5. John 19:26-27 “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”
Moms treasure the little things.
Moms love taking pictures and they cry at little moments. Your mom is the one that cherishes those cute photos of you in those outfits that she picked out for you when you were younger. She cherishes those embarrassing moments and those embarrassing photos that you hate people seeing. Thank the Lord for moms!
6. Luke 2:51 “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.”
There are things that women know that men overlook.
Kids are going to learn a lot from their moms more than their fathers. We go with our moms everywhere. Whether it be to the grocery store, the doctor, etc. We learn not only by things that they say, but things that they don’t say.
Moms are very protective. Try messing with a female lion’s cub and watch what happens. Moms know when friends are bad even when we don’t. Every time my mom said, “don’t hang around that friend he is trouble” she was always right.
We must never forsake our mother’s teachings. Mothers go through a lot. They go through a lot of things that most people don’t know about. Children imitate the strength and the example of a godly mother.
7. Proverbs 31:26-27 “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and loving instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
8. Song of Solomon 8:2 “I would lead you and bring you to my mother’s house she who has taught me. I would give you spiced wine to drink, the nectar of my pomegranates.”
9. Proverbs 1:8-9 “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction, and don’t reject your mother’s teaching, for they will be a garland of grace on your head and a gold chain around your neck.”
10. Proverbs 22:6 “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
You are such a blessing to your mom.
You don’t realize how many hours your mom has prayed for you before and after you were born. Some mothers don’t tell their children I love you as much as they need to, but never underestimate the love that your mom has for you.
11. Genesis 21:1-3 “Then the Lord took note of Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had promised. So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac.”
12. 1 Samuel 1:26-28 “Please, my lord,” she said, “as sure as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this boy, and since the Lord gave me what I asked Him for, I now give the boy to the Lord. For as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.” Then he bowed in worship to the Lord there.”
Women have an important role that will change the whole world if there were more godly women.
Women will find true fulfillment through childbearing. Mothers are given a great responsibility of raising up godly offspring. The godliness of a mother has the greatest impact on a child. This is why we need more godly mothers to change a generation of rebellious kids.
Satan is trying to fight against the ways of the Lord. There is a relationship between a mother and a child that is unlike any other that no man will ever know.
13. 1 Timothy 2:15 “But women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”
14. Proverbs 31:28 “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.”
15. Titus 2:3-5 “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”
These verses show that the same way a mother will take care of her child, God will take care of you. Even if there was a chance where a mother forgot her nursing child God wouldn’t forget you.
16. Isaiah 49:15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.”
17. Isaiah 66:13 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”
Mothers are not perfect.
Just like you have made your mom mad before she has probably made you mad before. We all have fallen short. Thanks be to our Savior Jesus Christ. Just like He has forgiven our sins we are to forgive the sins of others. We are to let go of the past and hold on to love.
Love your mom even though she might not be like the moms you see in movies or like your friend’s mom because no mother is like the ones you see in the movies and mothers differ. Love your mom and be thankful for her.
18. 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins.”
19. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
When your mom’s faith is so great there is a strong chance that your faith in Christ will be great.
As children we notice these things. We see our parents in the Word. We see their prayer life in adversity and we notice these things. A godly household will result in godly kids.
20. 2 Timothy 1:5 “I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.”
You are a great blessing to your mom.
21. Luke 1:46-48 “And Mary said My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, because He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His slave. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.”
A few verses to add to birthday or Mother’s Day cards.
22. Philippians 1:3 “I thank my God every time I remember you.”
23. Proverbs 31:25 “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”
24. Proverbs 23:25 “Let your father and mother have joy, and let her who gave birth to you rejoice.”
Eight mothers in the Bible played key roles in the coming of Jesus Christ. None of them was perfect, yet each showed strong faith in God. God, in turn, rewarded them for their confidence in him.
These mothers lived in an age when women were often treated as second-class citizens, yet God appreciated their true worth, just as he does today. Motherhood is one of life’s highest callings. Learn how these eight mothers in the Bible put their hope in the God of the Impossible, and how he proved that such hope is always well-placed.
Eve was the first woman and the first mother. Without a single role model or mentor, she paved the maternal way to become “Mother of All the Living.” Her name means “living thing,” or “life.”
Since Eve experienced fellowship with God before sin and the fall, she probably knew God more intimately than any other woman after her.
She and her mate Adam lived in Paradise, but they spoiled it by listening to Satan instead of God. Eve suffered terrible grief when her son Cain murdered his brother Abel, yet despite these tragedies, Eve went on to fulfill her part in God’s plan of populating the Earth.
Sarah was one of the most important women in the Bible. She was the wife of Abraham, which made her the mother of the nation of Israel. She shared in Abraham’s journey to the Promised Land and all of the promises God would fulfill there.
Yet Sarah was barren. She conceived through a miracle in spite of her old age. Sarah was a good wife, a loyal helper and a builder with Abraham. Her faith serves as a shining example for every person who has to wait on God to act.
Rebekah was another matriarch of Israel. Like her mother-in-law Sarah, she was barren. When her husband Isaac prayed for her, God opened Rebekah’s womb and she conceived and gave birth to twin sons, Esau and Jacob.
During an age when women were typically submissive, Rebekah was quite assertive. At times Rebekah took matters into her own hands. Sometimes that worked out, but it also resulted in disastrous consequences.
Jochebed, the mother of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, is one of the underappreciated mothers in the Bible, yet she also showed tremendous faith in God. To avoid the mass slaughter of Hebrew boys, she set her baby adrift in the Nile River, hoping someone would find him and raise him. God so worked that her baby was found by Pharaoh’s daughter. Jochebed even became her own son’s nurse, ensuring that Israel’s great leader would grow up under the godly influence of his mother during his most formative years.
God used Moses mightily to free the Hebrew people from their 400-year bondage to slavery and take them to the Promised Land. The writer of Hebrews pays tribute to Jochebed (Hebrews 11:23), showing that her faith allowed her to see the importance of saving her child’s life so that he might, in turn, save his people. Although little is written about Jochebed in the Bible, her story speaks powerfully to mothers of today.
Hannah’s story is one of the most touching in the entire Bible. Like several other mothers in the Bible, she knew what it meant to suffer long years of barrenness.
In Hannah’s case she was cruelly taunted by her husband’s other wife. But Hannah never gave up on God. Finally, her heartfelt prayers were answered. She gave birth to a son, Samuel, then did something entirely selfless to honor her promise to God. God favored Hannah with five more children, bringing great blessing to her life.
Bathsheba was the object of King David‘s lust. David even arranged to have her husband Uriah the Hittite killed to get him out of the way. God was so displeased with David’s actions that he struck dead the baby from that union.
Despite heartbreaking circumstances, Bathsheba remained loyal to David. Their next son, Solomon, was loved by God and grew up to become Israel’s greatest king. From David’s line would come to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World. And Bathsheba would have the distinguished honor of being one of only five women listed in Messiah’s ancestry.
Barren in her old age, Elizabeth was another of the miracle mothers in the Bible. She conceived and gave birth to a son. She and her husband named him John, as an angel had instructed.
Like Hannah before her, Elizabeth dedicated her son to God, and like Hannah’s son, he also became a great prophet, John the Baptist. Elizabeth’s joy was complete when her relative Mary visited her, pregnant with the future Savior of the World.
Turn in our Bibles again to the tenth chapter of John. And this really wonderful, and rich, and precious portion of Scripture in which our Lord identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd who cares for His sheep.
That particular metaphor, that simile, that word picture as it’s called in verse 6 maybe needs a bit of an explanation for us as to context so that you know why it happened here. There’s nothing sort of isolated in the ministry of Jesus. Everything of course had a context, a historical context. I think many people read the Bible as some kind of a spiritual book, as if it were detached from history, and events, and people, and consequences, and sequences. But this is all history. And all that we read in the gospels in terms of doctrine, and theology, and our Lord’s great discourses were, in a moment and an event, a strategic point where this is what spoke to that moment, and what spoke to that crucial hour. That’s essentially true of this.
Our Lord had been, in chapter 8, in a confrontation with the leaders of Israel. And they had rejected Him, and they had declared their hatred of Him, and they were on a course to kill Him. In fact, by the time you get to chapter 10, they’ve tried at least three times to bring about His death. There’s no question what their view of Christ is.
In chapter 8, there was this conflict, this confrontation. And admittedly, He escalated it by telling them the truth. He said to them: “You’re of your father, the devil.” He’s a liar and a murderer, and so you are liars and murders as well. We could say that, for them, the incident in chapter 8 ended on a very severe note. As a result, chapter 8 ends with these words: “Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him. Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.”
So He escapes a stoning; and on the spot, kind of vigilante mob violence execution. On His way out of the temple, He sees a blind man. And by now, He’s absorbed in the crowd. And as He goes out of the gate, He sees a blind man, ’cause that’s what blind men did. They sat at the gate to beg. And that’s where He found this man. The man had been blind from birth and Jesus stops and heals him.
By then, His enemies, the Pharisees, had caught up with Him. They had slowed down the effort to kill Him at the moment, He being absorbed in the crowd and having drawn the crowd’s attention by the miracle. They are, again, deeply distressed by the fact that He is having such popularity and that He has healed this man and drawn such attention to Himself. They had made a law. That law is indicated in chapter 9, verse 22 that if anyone confessed Jesus to be the Messiah, he was to be put out of the synagogue. Well, Jesus healed the blind man, and then the blind man came to faith in Christ.
As the story ends, we know down in verse 38 he said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped Him. So, the man was healed physically, and he was healed spiritually. And as a result of that, he violated their law. He has confessed Him as Messiah, Lord, and Savior. They throw him out of the synagogue, and they are still completely intent on killing Jesus.
Chapter 9, then, features an extension of chapter 8 in the hostility of the religious leaders of Judaism toward Jesus. The healing of the blind man, in a sense, in the big drama of things, is somewhat incidental. Not incidental to the blind man, but the big picture here is that when Jesus does a monumental miracle that has no other explanation, because this is a man congenitally blind, and everybody knows it because he’s a familiar figure there who has been begging a long time, it has no effect on how they feel about Jesus. They make no move in the direction of affirming something other than that He’s satanic. Their hostility has passed the point of any return. They are, in fact, demonstrating themselves to be false leaders who, instead of acknowledging their Messiah, reject their Messiah, and want to execute their Messiah. They are, in a word, the false shepherds of Israel.
Shepherding was obviously a metaphor in the ancient world that people understood in an agrarian society. It was very common in the Old Testament as we read in Psalm 80. God was called the shepherd of Israel. Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd,” and other places. They all understood that because the land of Israel was full of sheep and shepherds. Shepherds spoke of care and feeding and protection. These were men who appointed themselves shepherds of Israel, but they were false shepherds. Truth is: they were wolves in sheep’s clothing.
So, in chapter 9, after the healing of this man, they surface again with the same hatred and the same hostility. The chapter closes, chapter 9 does, with Jesus pronouncing a judgment on them because of their blindness, because they are willfully blind to the truth. The conversation, specifically with them, ends with these words: “Your sin remains.” You are anything but righteous. You are in your sin.
Now, He said that back earlier when He said to them, “You will die in your sin, and where I go, you will never come.” Here He says, a couple of chapters later, “You remain in your sin.” Your sin remains. So, here are the blind leaders of Israel, the blind leaders of the blind; here are the false shepherds of Israel.
As we come into chapter 10, He is still talking to them, still talking to them. They’re still there. The blind man is still there. The disciples are there. The crowd of Jews is there by the location where the healing took place. And the Pharisees, scribes, are still there. Jesus then launches into a description of how a good shepherd conducts his life. That description is what we looked at last week, verses 1 to 10. It is, according to verse 6, a figure of speech, an analogy, a metaphor. And we looked at some of the details about that last week that help us to understand shepherding. A shepherd has his own sheep. He has his own sheep. He knows his own sheep. He not only has the right to lead and feed his own sheep, but he has the responsibility to lead and feed his own sheep.
At night, you’ll remember, the sheep would come into the village fold and every shepherd would bring his sheep, and they would all be in the same fold. And then in the morning, the shepherd would come and call out his own sheep and call them by name. He knows his sheep. He calls them by name. The sheep know their master’s voice, and they follow him. The sheep will not follow a stranger. We also learned that while they’re in the fold at night, thieves and robbers may try to climb over the wall and fleece the sheep or even slaughter the sheep. And so, there has to be a guard set at the door to protect the sheep, ’cause there are always thieves and robbers. The shepherd is committed to protecting them at night in the fold, and then in the morning coming and leading them out and, by name, one by one, to green pastures and still waters. The shepherd is even the door, because they have to pass by him to be identified as his own.
Beautiful picture of animal husbandry, but that’s not its intent. That’s the figure. The reality comes clear when you look at the language in verse 9. “I am the door; if anyone comes through Me, he will be saved.” Oh, I see what we’re talking about. This is a picture of the salvation provided by the true shepherd. The salvation. These are all pictures of salvation doctrine. The divine Shepherd has His own sheep. They’ve been given to Him by the Father. They’ve been chosen before the foundation of the world. He knows them all by name. He has the right to call them. He calls them by name. They know His voice. They follow Him. They will not follow a stranger. That’s salvation. The elect are in the fold of the world. But the time comes to call them out, and the voice of the Shepherd calls, and they hear that voice, and they follow that voice. This is irresistible grace; this is the effectual call, the divine call to salvation.
They will not follow a stranger. They will not follow a voice that’s unfamiliar. Yes, there are thieves and robbers, false teachers who try to climb into the fold and fleece and destroy the sheep – can come to destroy and kill – but the Shepherd provides protection for them from the false teachers. The Shepherd leads them, goes before them, and they follow Him. He takes them in a safe way to green pastures, meaning spiritual blessing; still waters, meaning spiritual blessings throughout time and all into eternity. It’s a lesson on salvation. That’s the figure.
Contrary to the false shepherds who are the strangers, who are the thieves, who are the robbers, and who we will see in verses 11 to 21 are the hired hands. The true Shepherd cares for His sheep. So, this picture, everybody would affirm. They would all say that’s exactly what a shepherd does. He has his own sheep, he has the responsibility to care for those sheep, he puts them in a safe place, he calls them out of the fold, he calls them by name, he names them, they know his voice, they follow him, they don’t follow a stranger, they have to be protected from the danger of thieves and robbers, they are led out by the shepherd to places where they can eat and drink. That’s a good shepherd. That’s a picture of salvation.
Who is the shepherd? Jesus is starting to give us a pretty good idea when in verse 9, as we saw last week, He says, “I am the door.” Shepherds were the door. At night, the sheep would go in, and the shepherd would drop his rod and stop every sheep, every sheep, every sheep. Check them over for any kind of wound or any kind of problem, and then lift the staff and let them go in. In the morning, he’d call them all by name, and they had to pass by him into his care. The shepherd was the door. Jesus is saying this shepherd, this faithful shepherd, this is how shepherding should be done. This is how I do it. I am the door. That gives a pretty good hint.
We know He’s speaking metaphorically because it is a figure of speech, and because in the same verse, He says He’s talking about salvation. But then in verse 11, He says specifically, “I am the Good Shepherd.” That Good Shepherd that I just described? That Good Shepherd that I just identified by the way He behaves Himself and conducts His life with the sheep? “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand” – or a hireling – “and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
“A division occurred again among the Jews because of these words. Many of them were saying, ‘He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?’ Others were saying, ‘These are not the sayings of one demon-possessed. A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?’”
So here, in verses 11 to 21, our Lord explains how He fulfills the identity of the Good Shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd. He is the One prophesied, as we saw last week in Ezekiel 34, the Good Shepherd that God Himself would send. And as I told you last time and I reiterate again, He launches into this particular figure of speech because the religious leaders of Israel were known as the shepherds of Israel, but they were false shepherds. And so, He distinguishes the false leaders from Himself. He is the True Shepherd of the sheep. They were blind. That’s how the conversation with them ended in chapter 9, verses 39 to 41. They were spiritually blind to the truth of God. They couldn’t lead anybody anywhere because they couldn’t see where they were going themselves. They are false leaders. They are, in fact, strangers, not shepherds. They are hirelings, hired hands who do what they do for money and have no concern for the sheep. They are thieves, they are robbers who want to fleece and kill.
Jesus was talking about them, in contrast to Himself. Did they understand it? No. Verse 6. They didn’t understand what those things were which He had been saying to them, which is proof of what He said in verses 39 to 41 in chapter 9. “You are blind. You do not understand.” He said that earlier. “Whatever I say, you don’t understand.” He actually went so far as to say, “Because I tell you the truth, you don’t understand, because you are of your father the devil, who is a liar.” If I lied, you would get it, but when I tell the truth, you don’t.
So this very paroimia, or simile, metaphor, is designed as an illustration not only of the Good Shepherd, but an illustration of the blindness of the false shepherds, because they didn’t even understand it at all. The false leaders, thieves, robbers, strangers, hired hands have nothing in mind but protecting themselves. They are not about to risk their lives for the sheep, as we read. They want the money, and if need be, they will become thieves and robbers to get it. They are strangers, not shepherds. The true shepherd, however, is described here as one who loves and cares for and nourishes, and lives for and dies for the sheep. And that, of course, is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ.
So let’s look then at these verses 11 through 21, and we’ll just kind of work our way through. This is the, by the way, the fourth “I am” in the gospel of John. There are a whole series of “I am’s” that our Lord gives, and “I am” is the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew, the ego eimi in Greek, the “I am,” meaning the name of God; so they are claims to deity as well in the context of each one. I am the way, the truth, and the life. I am the resurrection and the life. I am the door. I am the Good Shepherd. All affirmations of His deity bound up in the “I am” statement of it.
But here, He is the Good Shepherd. Let’s look at that a little bit. “I am the good shepherd.” Then He repeats it immediately, “the good shepherd,” again. Now, this is an important construction for us to understand. The emphasis here is this: “I am the shepherd, the good one.” Very important order there. “I am the shepherd, the good one.” As if to say, “in contrast to all the bad ones.” I am the shepherd, the good one. But there’s two words in Greek for “good.” One is agathos, from which you get the word, “agatha,” or the name “Agatha.” Agathos, old name. Agathos means sort of morally good. Good, and sort of confined to moral goodness. It’s a wonderful word, a magnificent word, familiar in the New Testament.
But the other word is kalos, the opposite of kakos, which is “to be bad.” Kalos is to be good not only in the sense of moral quality, but it’s a more encompassing word. It means to be beautiful, to be magnificent, to be winsome, to be attractive, to be lovely, to be excellent on all levels, not just in that which is unseen in terms of character, but in all aspects. I am the shepherd, the excellent one. I am the shepherd, be it the lovely one, the beautiful one, as contrasted to the ugly ones, the dangerous ones.
He is not just another shepherd. He is the shepherd, the good one, the one who is preeminently excellent. He’s above all shepherds. The good one.
Now, the Jews had an idea about who was the best shepherd. For them, historically, it was David. It was David. David the shepherd boy who cared for his father’s flocks and defeated Goliath, and became the king of Israel. David was their great shepherd, historically.
But you do remember in chapter 5, Jesus claimed to be greater than Moses, and in chapter 8, He claimed to be greater than Abraham – “before Abraham was I am.” And here, He is shepherd far greater than any other shepherd including David, including David.
He is the shepherd who is the good one, the premier one. That is quite a claim to make, to say You are better than Moses, better than Abraham, better than David, and to say You are God? No wonder He had to back it up with miracles, right?
He was telling those Jews that He was God, because they knew Psalm 23, “the Lord is my shepherd.” They knew Psalm 80, the “Shepherd of Israel.” They knew what Isaiah the prophet said about God shepherding His people. He is saying: “I am the shepherd, the good one.” Again, another claim to deity.
Now, His true goodness as a shepherd is seen in three ways here in this passage. I’m not going to tell you anything you don’t know, but I am going to tell you what’s here. You can be grateful you do know this, because looking at this again is so rich and wonderful for us. This shepherd, this shepherd, the good one is marked by three particular ministries to His sheep. One, He dies for them; two, He loves them; three, He unites them. He dies for them, He loves them, He unites them.
Back to verse 11. The shepherd, the good one, “lays down His life for the sheep.” Shepherds were absolutely responsible for sheep. It was serious business. It was a man’s man’s job, and it was really kind of a lowly and humble job as well, because it was unskilled and it was high risk, and it was messy and dirty. But a shepherd was absolutely responsible for the sheep. If anything happened to the shepherd, he had to produce proof that it was not his fault due to dereliction of duty or rustling the sheep away for his own keeping, or letting a friend take one, or whatever.
Amos the prophet speaks about the shepherd rescuing two legs, or a piece of an ear out of the lion’s mouth (Amos 3:12). They were in battle with beasts. There were wolves, there were mountain lions, there were even bears. David tells Saul how when he was keeping his father’s sheep, back in 1 Samuel 17, David fought off a lion, and he fought off a bear. By the way, that’s what made David such a heroic shepherd.
In Isaiah 31, Isaiah speaks of the crowd of shepherds being called out. When a lion attacked, they called the shepherds to go fight the lion. The law laid it down, Exodus 22:13, “If the sheep be torn in pieces, then let him bring a piece for a witness.” If you don’t have a sheep, if you lost a sheep, you have to account for that sheep to the ultimate owner. You have to bring a piece to prove that it was an animal.
To the shepherd, it was the most natural thing then to risk his life. It’s what shepherds did. It’s what they did. You could just take them to the grass and leave them there, I suppose, but why did the shepherd stay? Why those long, long, long hours of staying there? Because he had to be a protector.
There’s an old book called the The Land of the Book, and the author of that historical look at Israel said, “I have listened with intense interest to their graphic descriptions of downright and desperate fights with savage beasts. And when the thief and the robber come, the faithful shepherd has often to put his life in his hand to defend his flock. I have known more than one case where he had literally to lay it down in the contest.” Well, I mean, if you’re fighting a wild beast, you could lose. So, there was risk and you couldn’t just all of a sudden stop the risk. It could come to death.
He goes on to say: “A poor fellow last spring, between Tiberius and Tabor, instead of fleeing, actually fought three Bedouin robbers until he was hacked to pieces with their khanjars, and died among the sheep he was defending.” It happened. But that’s what a shepherd did. Talk about a man’s man, talk about a tough job – low paying, low skill.
A shepherd who was doing what he should never hesitated to risk, perhaps even lay down his life. And it was voluntary, ’cause he didn’t have to engage in that. That’s why Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd, the shepherd who’s the good one lays down his life.” He lays down his life. Go down to verse 18. “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and to take it again.”
Freely, voluntarily, Jesus gave up His life for the sheep. Some would say, “Well, that’s no big thing. He’s God, so He had a body, and He gave up the body and, you know, big deal.” It’s more than that. It’s strange that the commentators would even say something like that. There was a lot more than that, and it’s bound up in the word “life.” He lays down His life. It’s not the word bios or zoe. Those are the two words for “life” in Greek. Bios, biological life; zoe, that gets transliterated “zoology,” the study of life.
It was neither of those sort of scientific words. It’s the word psuche, which is the word for “soul,” which speaks of the whole person. Not the outside, but the inside. The psuche is the inside. He gave up His soul, His whole person. He didn’t just feel the pain of the nails in His body, and the pain of the thorns in His body, and the pain of the scourging in His body. His whole soul was tortured with sin-bearing anguish, suffering.
In Matthew 20:28, Jesus said, “The Son of man gives His soul a ransom for many.” It translates “life,” but it’s psuche again. He gives His soul, His whole person, and He felt it in every part of His being.
Why did He do that? Why did He voluntarily lay down His soul? He says, “for the sheep,” huper, “on behalf of, for the benefit of.” That’s exactly what it says in 2 Corinthians 5:21 where Paul explains: “He who knew no sin became sin for us” – “for us,” “for us,” “for us.” Huper appears in a lot of passages that speak about the substitutionary atonement of Christ, that He took our place, that He died for us. An actual atonement, folks. He laid down His soul for the sheep. That’s pretty narrow. For the sheep. It was an actual atonement, a complete atonement for the sheep whom He knew, and who, when called, would know Him.
He did it for the benefit of the sheep. From a natural standpoint, if this happened to the shepherd, that’s the end of the sheep. If something’s coming after the sheep and kills the shepherd, the sheep are going to be vulnerable. They’re liable to be killed, they’re liable to be scattered. Whether it’s an animal or a robber or a thief, the death of the shepherd could really spell the end of the sheep.
But this shepherd? No. Because He laid down His life, verse 18 says He had the power to do what? “Take it up again.” And on the third day, He came out of the grave and re-gathered His scattered sheep. Were they scattered? Yeah, they were. Smite the shepherd and what? The sheep are scattered. Zechariah promised, and they were. But He came back from the grave and re-gathered them, and He said this: “All that the Father gives to me will come to Me, and I have lost none of them.”
So the death of the shepherd usually meant the death of the shepherd in some cases, but not in this case. Why did He die? Isaiah 53:8, “For the transgression of My people.” Matthew 1:21, “You shall call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins,” His sheep. It’s an actual atonement. It’s not a potential one that you can sort of turn into a real one by believing. He actually paid in full the penalty for His sheep, whom He knew, and throughout human history is calling to Himself. Very unlike a hired hand, verse 12. “He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.”
The true shepherd, or the owner – and sometimes they were the same – he cares about the sheep. It’s not a job for him. It’s his very life. He has developed relationships with those sheep. They’re known to him. They’re loved by him. That’s not true of hired hands. I like the old translation, “hirelings,” “hirelings.” A characteristic of a hireling, according to Zechariah 11:6, is that he makes no attempt to gather the scattered sheep. The world has always been full of hirelings; this is another word for the leaders of Israel: strangers, thieves, robbers, now hired hands, hirelings. I suppose it’s better to be a hireling who runs than a thief or a robber.
But the end is the same. The end is the same. The sheep become victims of any of these. The world has always been full of this, and the flock of God is always attacked, and the world is always attacked by these false leaders who fleece and destroy the sheep, and who flee when real trouble comes.
And who is the wolf? The wolf is anything that attacks the sheep, anything. Anything satanic, anything satanically orchestrated through the world, anything, anything that comes against the sheep. There are many false pastors, false teachers, as there have been throughout history. They may say, “Lord, Lord, we did this, we did that,” and He’s going to say, “You depart from me. I never knew you.” There are perverse men, Acts 20, who rise up within the church and lead people astray, as well as wolves from the outside.
But Jesus is the one who will risk His life and give it up for His sheep. A hireling is a mercenary. No impulse other than personal gain, and a coward in a crisis. And when the crisis comes, whether it’s an attack on the outside or an attack on the inside, the hireling is going to protect himself. He’s out.
There is outside danger. Outside danger, attack from the wolves. There is also the wolves dressed like sheep. Jesus said in Matthew 7, “There is inside danger, the false teachers, who instead of protecting the flock, flee when the danger comes.” But the True Shepherd, He gives His life for the sheep, and then He takes it back again and gathers them as they have been scattered.
So, the church’s first essential really in leadership is Christ-like shepherding, where you even put your life on the line, even risk your life for the sheep. You risk your life to be the one through whom God in Christ can call them out, protect them. When the danger comes, you don’t run. When the danger comes, you stand up.
I was talking to one of the missionaries at the conference yesterday, and he was saying, “Where are the people who will stand up and speak the truth to protect the people of God? Where are they?” So hard to find any. We’re all under-shepherds, 1 Peter 5, under the Great Shepherd, the Good Shepherd. We all have to be willing to risk our lives for the sheep.
So, the first characteristic, then, of the shepherd’s relationship to the sheep is: he gives his life. Secondly, he loves his sheep. This is, of course, what’s behind the giving of his life. Verse 14: “I am the shepherd, the good one, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” This explains why He lays down His life voluntarily for the sheep, because He knows them.
You say, well, where do you get love? There’s no love there. It’s all know, four times, the verb ginosko, “to know.” Well, let me show you something, just a little bit of a hint. “My Father knows Me,” verse 15. “My Father knows Me.” Verse 17, “the Father loves Me.” That’s the interpretive key. The word “know” here has the idea of a loving relationship. This goes all the way back to Genesis 4:1 where Adam knew his wife and she had a child. Cain knew his wife, and she had a child. Adam knows Eve again and another child, Seth. God actually says in Amos, “Israel only have I known.” It doesn’t mean the Jews are the only people He’s acquainted with. What is it talking about? It says about Joseph that he was so disturbed because Mary was pregnant and he had never known her. What is that talking about? That’s a euphemism for intimacy.
It’s not about information. It’s not about information. It’s about love, and four times, that word “know” here, it implies this intimate relationship, this intimate, sweet, loving fellowship. This sort of consummated relationship.
In the 14th chapter of John, and verse 21, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me, and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and disclose Myself to him.” So there, the language is love, rather than knowing. Verse 23: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him. We will come to Him and make our abode with Him.” So when you see the word “know” in this context, it’s the idea of loving, intimate relationship.
He loves His sheep. He knows them more than knowing their name, more than knowing who they are. He has an intimate relationship with them. He knows them intimately. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Depart from Me, I never” – What? – “I never knew you, but I know who you are.” It’s not about information. I know who you are. I don’t have any intimate relationship with you, any love relationship. He wanted to give His life for His sheep because He knew them, He loved them.
John 3:16. “God so loved the world that He” – What? – “gave His only begotten Son.” That’s why the Father gave the Son; that’s why the Son gave His life. He loves His sheep. He loves His sheep. This too is in stark contrast to the false shepherds who have no love for the sheep, no affection for the sheep that they claim to shepherd. He loves His own.
That love leads to a third aspect of the relationship. He unites the sheep. First with Himself, and then with each other. Verse 16. “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”
Now, what did I tell you about the fold in verse 1 last week? I told you the fold in verse 1 is Israel, right? The shepherd comes to the fold, calls out his sheep. The Lord is the shepherd; He comes to Israel, to the Jew first, and then He calls out His sheep by name, and they follow Him. But, He also has sheep which are not of the fold of Israel. I have to bring them also.
Who are they? Non-Jews. Anybody outside Israel. The Gentiles, the nations. This is stunning. This is unacceptable to the Jews. This is more fuel for their animosity because they resent Gentiles. They believe Gentiles are permanently outside salvation, the covenant, and the promises of God. And yet, in Isaiah 42, a messianic chapter, a messianic prophecy, we read verse 6: “I am the Lord. I have called You in righteousness.” This is God speaking to the Messiah. “I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You. I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations to open blind eyes and bring prisoners from the dungeon, and those who dwell in darkness from the prison.” There’s a messianic promise that the Messiah would take salvation to the nations. Another one of those is in 49 of Isaiah, verse 6. “Is it too small a thing that You should be My Servant” – the Messiah – “to raise up the tribes of Jacob to restore the preserved ones of Israel? I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” What about that?
He’s shocking them by saying, “Look, I have sheep not in your fold.” It’s why there’s a Great Commission. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Go make disciples of all nations.
And He will bring them all together as one flock with one shepherd, and that’s why Paul in Galatians 3 says, “In Christ, there’s neither Jew nor Greek,” Jew or Gentile. That’s why in Ephesians 2, Paul says, “The middle wall of partition is torn down, and we’re all one in Christ.” Jew, Gentile.
In chapter 11, verse 49, Caiaphas in making his inadvertent prophecy; he was high priest. He said to the people who were conspiring to kill Jesus, he said, “You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, that the whole nation not perish. Now, he did not say this on his own initiative. But being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one, the children of God who are scattered abroad.” That was always His intent. He unites His sheep. He brings them together. To Himself, to each other.
So that is the relation of the Good Shepherd to the sheep. He gives His life because He loves them, and He brings them into intimate unity with Himself, and with one another. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit, one with Him, and one with all others in the one body of Christ.
Secondly, and just briefly, the relationship of the Good Shepherd to the Father is in verses 17 and 18. “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” Let me give you a simple understanding of that. The Father gave a command. The command to Jesus was: “Lay Your life down and take it up. You have the authority to do that. I am commanding You to do it.”
It was a command, but “no one has taken it from Me. I lay it down on My own initiative.” That’s why the Father loves Me, because of My obedience. This is pretty profound. Yes, the Father chose Jesus to be the Lamb, the acceptable sacrifice. Yes, the Father is the One who killed the Son by the predetermined counsel and foreknowledge of God. He was the sacrifice.
But this is not fatalism. This is not something about which Jesus had no choice. I laid My life down. No one takes it from Me, including God. Jesus is telling us this was a perfect act of willing obedience. These are mysteries. He couldn’t sin. He had no capacity to sin. And yet, there’s a real struggle. Because in the garden, He says, “Father, if it’s possible” – Do what? Stop this. – “take this cup from me; nevertheless not My will, let Yours be done.” He voluntarily did what the Father commanded Him to do, and that’s how He demonstrated His love to the Father, and that’s why the Father loves Him. “The Father loves Me because I laid my life down that I may take it again.” That’s what the Father wanted Him to do; that was critical to the plan of salvation, to gather the redeemed into eternal glory.
He did it voluntarily. This was not fatalistic. This wasn’t something He had no choice about. He couldn’t make a wrong choice, but He voluntarily made the right choice. “I had a command given to Me. I voluntarily, willfully obeyed that command and thus secured the Father’s love.” “If you love Me,” Jesus said – Do what? – “keep My commandments.” That’s how you affirm your love.
There’s so much of this in the section we’re coming to in John 14 and 15, I won’t go into it now. But, His relationship to the Father was one of love and obedience, love and obedience. Two sides of the same thing. So that’s a model for us. “Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” The Father eternally loves the Son, of course. The Son eternally loves the Father. But in some unique way in the incarnation, the Son voluntarily, willfully, obeyed the command of the Father to give up His life out of love for the Father, and in so doing, sustained the Father’s love forever. Love and obedience.
There’s a final relationship here, the relationship of the Good Shepherd to the world, the relationship of the Good Shepherd to the world. What is it? Well, it’s in verses 19 to 21. “A division occurred again among the Jews because of these words.” And by the way, if you go back to chapter 7, verse 43, back to chapter 9, I think it’s verse 16, there are divisions. Jesus divided the crowd. The divisions, though, are not between necessarily believers and non-believers. There are divisions among non-believers and that’s what you have here. A division occurred among the Jews because of what Jesus had said. Many of them, many of them, maybe the majority of them, were saying, “He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?” That would’ve been the mantra, of course, of the leaders. And the people would’ve bought into it. You know, He does what He does by the power of Beelzebub, Satan, as we read in Matthew 12.
So, at one pole in the division were the people who said Jesus is a maniac, He’s a madman, He’s a demon-possessed lunatic. We have people like that, people who don’t mind cursing Jesus, saying blasphemous things about Him. But then there were the others, verse 21, saying, “These are not the sayings of one demon-possessed.” I mean, that’s pretty rational, isn’t it? That’s pretty rational. A demon can’t open the eyes of the blind, can he? Demon-possessed people don’t talk like that. They’re not coherent, and they don’t do that. They don’t do those miracles. So whatever counterfeit things demons do, they don’t look like this.
So these are the more rational people. I guess you could say the first are the irrational blasphemers, the second are the more rational people. They both end up in the same hell forever, ’cause it really doesn’t matter whether you curse Jesus, or whether you think you need to treat Him more reasonably. That kind of hesitation gets you nothing. You either confess Jesus as Lord or die in your sins and occupy the same hell with the extreme blasphemers.
So we meet the Good Shepherd. In relation to His sheep, He gives His life for His sheep, He loves His sheep, He unites His sheep. His relation to the Father, He loves and obeys the Father. His relation to the world, He’s rejected either by those who blaspheme Him in a kind of irrational way, or by those who rationally tolerate Him. But for us, we’ll place ourselves among the disciples there that day, and we’ll say with Him: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, won’t we?
And we’ll say this for our benediction, Hebrews 13:20, “Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” We declare Him to be the Great Shepherd of the sheep who came out of the grave. He is our Shepherd. Let’s pray.
Father, we thank You again for loving us, giving Your life for us, uniting us, loving and obeying the Father, and so willfully being the sacrifice for our sins. Rising to raise us in justification and glory. We would be literally overwhelmed if we could even grasp what You have prepared for us in the future. But we acknowledge the thrill of even what You bestow upon us now. Fill us with gratitude and with blessing as we continue to serve You. We pray in the name of Christ. Amen.
The Bible is the authority, the only authority, the only book that God wrote. It contains 66 books – 39 books in the Old Testament, which is the revelation of God before Christ; 27 books in the New Testament, the revelation of God since the coming of Christ, together makes up the 66 books of the Bible.
In the Bible, God speaks. It is His Word. When we come together, we don’t come together to hear men speak, we come to hear God speak. The responsibility then of the pastor and the preacher is to take the message from God and bring it to the people. I’ve always seen myself, not as a chef, but as a waiter. My responsibility is not to create the meal, but try to get it to the table without messing it up. And that is the responsibility which I try to discharge, as we all do whenever we open Scripture.
So as we come to the 15th chapter of John, like anywhere else in the Bible, we are listening to God. The writer is the apostle John. But the writer is also God, the Holy Spirit who inspired every word that John wrote. Because of this, the Bible is without error, it is accurate, and it is authoritative. When the Bible speaks, God speaks. And when God speaks, we listen, because God says to us what we must know.
The Bible should dominate every life and all of human society, for in it is contained all necessary truth for life in time and eternity. And when a nation or a person rejects the Bible, they have rejected God, and the consequences are dire, dire. Those who listen to God through His Word are given life and blessing, now and forever.
And so we come to the 15th chapter of John. Just to set the stage a little bit, starting in chapter 13 and running through chapter 16, we find ourselves on Thursday night of Passion Week, the last week of our Lord’s ministry. Thursday night was an important night. He gathered with the 12 disciples to celebrate the Passover on that Thursday night when the Galilean Jews would celebrate it.
They met together in a kind of secret place that we call upper room, and our Lord spent that night telling them many wonderful things, giving them many, many promises. As that night moved on, our Lord exposed Judas as the traitor, and dismissed him. And Judas left to go meet the leaders of Israel to arrange for the arrest and subsequent crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. By the time we come to chapter 15, Judas is gone, and only the 11 are left, and they are true disciples.
But as we come to chapter 15, they’re no longer in the upper room. It is deep into the dark of night. But chapter 14 ends with Jesus saying this: “Get up; let us go from here.” Apparently at that time, they left the upper room, Jesus and the 11, and they began their walk through Jerusalem, headed out the east side of the city to a garden where our Lord would pray in prayer so agonizing that He sweat as it were great drops of blood. And while He was praying, they would fall asleep. And into that garden later would come Judas, and the Roman soldiers, and the Jewish leaders to arrest Him. And there, Judas would kiss him; the betrayal would take place; and the next day, He would be crucified.
As they leave the upper room and walk through the darkness of Jerusalem, our Lord continues to speak to them, and what He says to them is recorded in chapters 15 and 16. Of all these things that He says, nothing is more definitive than the first eight verses of chapter 15. Our Lord here give not really a parable – although I guess in the broadest sense could be considered a parable because it is an illustration. It’s really a word picture, a metaphor, a simile.
Listen to what He says, I’m going to read verses 1-8: “I am the true vine and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”
Now it should be pretty obvious from that final sentence what the point of this analogy is. This is about a vine and branches and fruit-bearing that proves someone to be a true disciple. This then is about the nature of genuine salvation. This is about the nature of genuine salvation. This is a concern to our Lord, a concern to all the Bible writers, and a concern to all faithful Christians, and has been through history. How does one know that one is a true disciple? How does one know that one is genuinely headed to heaven? How does one know that he or she will escape hell? How do we know?
Nothing is more important than this. Nothing is more important than salvation. Nothing is more important than eternal life. Nothing is more important than heaven. How do you know? In this word picture, we have everything we need to know.
But before we look at the nature of salvation, just a reminder: there is also, in the verses that I read you, statements that point to the nature of Christ. Before we get to the nature of salvation, the essential reality of salvation, we have to acknowledge the nature of Christ, the essential reality of Christ.
The divine nature of the Lord Jesus Christ is here declared in verse 1: “I am the true vine,” He says. And in verse 5 again: “I am the vine.” How is this a claim to deity? Because of the verb “I am.”
Back in Exodus, chapter 3, when Moses came before God in the wilderness and asked His name, God said, “My name is I Am That I Am.” The tetragrammaton: the eternally existent one; the one of everlasting being; the always is, and always was, and always will be one. Theologians call it the aseity of God, the eternal being of God. He is the I Am.
Throughout His preaching, teaching, healing, discipling ministry, Jesus continually declared that He is God, He is God. He said things like, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”
In a context of discussion about the Sabbath, He reminds them that, “The Sabbath doesn’t apply to God because God is at work all the time; and the Sabbath doesn’t really apply to Me either because I, like God, am at work all the time.” They were infuriated that He would make such a claim. That was in chapter 5 of John’s gospel.
Later in chapter 8 Jesus said, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing. It is My Father who glorifies Me of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ And therefore if God, who is your God, glorifies Me as God, you ought to also glorify Me.” And again they were offended at such perceived blasphemy.
In chapter 10, He even said it more concisely: “I and the Father are one, one in nature and essence.” In that same chapter, chapter 10 and verse 38, He said, “Though you do not believe Me, believe the works that you may know that the Father is in Me and I in the Father.”
All through His life and ministry, He claimed that He is God. Every time Jesus said, “My Father,” which He said many, many times – every time He said, “My Father,” He was underscoring that He had the same nature as God. And His Jewish audience did not miss the claim. They were not at all confused.
In fact, in chapter 5, verse 18, this is what we read: “For this cause, therefore, the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but was also calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” They understood that that is exactly what He was doing, exactly. And one of the ways that He did that was by taking to Himself the name of God “I Am” and applying it to Himself.
There’s a series of those claims throughout the gospel of John. He says, “I am the Bread of Life. I am the Living Bread that came down from heaven. I am the Light of the World. I am the Door, I am the Shepherd, the Good Shepherd. I am the Resurrection and the Life. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” And then He makes the stunning, inescapable claim, chapter 8, verse 58, “Before Abraham was born, I am eternally existing.”
Jesus is none other than the great I Am, the eternal God in human flesh. Is that important to believe? Listen to this, John 8:24, “Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.”
Can I say that another way? If you don’t believe in the deity of the Lord Jesus, you’ll go to hell, that simple. No matter how religious you are, how moral you are, how well your intensions might measure up with the best of humanity: if you do not believe that Jesus is God, you will go to hell. If you believe He is a created being of any kind, no matter how noble or how elevated, you will go to hell. You will die in your sins, which means you will die without forgiveness. The penalty is eternal punishment.
The Jews understood exactly what He was saying. It’s a shocking, shocking, devastating assault on Jewish theology. Their theology had deviated from Scripture, the Old Testament. But it was a well-developed system. And Jesus attacked that theology. He attacked their understanding of God, He attacked their understanding of the law, He attacked their understanding of righteousness, He attacked their perspective on works and faith and grace, He attacked all of the elements of their theology. And then if that isn’t bad enough, that caused them to hate Him. Then He claims to be God, which they see is the ultimate blasphemy, and that becomes the reason they want Him dead.
So here He is on the final night with His disciples, and He reveals another powerful declaration of His divine nature and says, “I am the true vine, I am the vine.” Having looked at that, I want to take you to the most important part of the passage, and that is the nature of salvation, the nature of salvation. I don’t think this is clearly understood by many people, but there’s no excuse, given these simple words.
The drama that unfolds in this analogy is simple: there is a vine, there is a vinedresser, and there are two kinds of branches – branches that bear fruit and pruned to bear more fruit; branches that don’t bear fruit, cut off, dried, burned – that simple. As you well know, our Lord could say profound things in the most simple ways; and that’s exactly what you have here.
We know that the first two characters, Jesus said, “I am the vine – ” verse 1, and He said “ – My Father is the farmer, the vinedresser. So we know the vine is Christ, and the farmer who planted the vine and cares for the vine is the Father. But the question here is, “Who are the branches? Who are the branches?”
There are branches attached to Him. They’re all attached. All the branches are attached. But the ones that don’t bear fruit are cut off, dried, and burned. So who are they? Let me remind you of the context. This all begins back in chapter 13 in the upper room, and it’s pretty clear that there are two types of disciples in that upper room.
Jesus is there, verse 1, very aware that His hour of death is coming. And it says, “He loved His own who were in the world, and He loved them to the max. He loved His own who were in the world, and He loved them to the max, to the eternal limits of His capacity to love.” However, there was somebody else there, verse 2. One of those disciples attached to Jesus, Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, it says in verse 2, “The Devil had already put it into his heart to betray Him.”
I don’t really think there’s a lot of mystery about the two branches. What did Jesus have in His mind that night? They had just left the upper room. The drama that took place there over Judas, the exposure of Judas, the disciples, when Jesus said, “One of you will betray Me,” they said, “Is it I? Is it I? Is it I?” which is to say they had no idea it was Judas.
There was nothing manifestly obvious in the life and character and behavior of Judas that would have distinguished him as a false disciple. He was visibly attached, and for all intents and purposes, looked like everybody else, did what everybody else did. But, clearly, there were two kinds of people in that room that night. There were those who bore fruit and there was that one who did not. There were those who remained abiding in, remaining in, attached to the vine; and there was that one who’s cut off.
I’ve had some discussions with people around the world about this passage, and folks have said to me, “Well, this is proof that you can be in Christ, you can be attached to Christ, and you can lose your salvation.” The Bible does not teach that, and the words of our Lord Jesus, in the gospel of John, are very explicit: “My sheep hear My voice – ” using another metaphor “ – and I know them and they follow Me. And I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one. Together, we hold those who belong to our flock.”
In John 6, Jesus said, “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me and I’ll lose none of them.” This is not talking about believers, fruit-bearing branches that all of a sudden are cut off and thrown into hell. This is talking about people who are attached, but there’s no life because there’s no fruit.
Judas had that very night just a few hours before walked away from Jesus terminally, finally. He is what the Bible would call an apostate, an ultimate defector. He had been for three years close, so close that people didn’t even know there was no life. Judas now was on his way to the leaders of Israel to set up the deal to arrest Jesus to get his 30 pieces of silver, and to go from there to hang himself, and catapult into hell.
This is the reality of that night, and this has to be what’s behind our Lord’s thinking and speaking here. He needs to explain to these men Judas. Wouldn’t it seem natural to you that in this intimate talk with the beloved 11 that are still with Him, that they’re all still trying to process Judas. He was high profile. He was the one who carried the money, trusted. They were trying to figure out just, “How did it happen? Who is he? How does he fit? What’s going on?” and our Lord gives us an explanation.
He says, “There are branches that have an outward appearance of attachment, but bear no fruit. They’re taken away and they’re burned.” And He has to be thinking of Judas. Judas, who was in close connection to Him, has left on his way to eternal hell. And, in fact, the Bible says he went to his own place. It says it would have been better for him if he’d never been born, Mark 14.
So our Lord helps us to understand the elements of the parable. He is the vine, the Father is the vinedresser; the branches that bear fruit are the true disciples; the branch that bears no fruit, cut off and burned, is a false disciple. That’s the way we understand His words.
There are, in the kingdom of God, possessors of life and professors: “Not everyone that says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into My kingdom,” Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. There are people who build a religious house, but they built it on sand, and rather do not build it on rock. So Jesus really has gathered all the figures in the final night’s drama and formed them into a strong analogy full of meaning.
As we look at this metaphor, many truths unfold for us to consider, and we have to take time to deal with them to some degree. But I think you can now see what the simple understanding is – and we’ll fill that in. Let’s start with the vine, the first character in this picture. The vine, Christ Himself: “I am the true vine,” verse 1, verse 5, “I am the vine.”
He chose to see Himself as a vine, to present himself as a vine. He had earlier, in chapter 10, presented Himself as a shepherd with a flock. He had earlier presented Himself as light. He had earlier presented Himself as, through the Holy Spirit, water. So He drew from familiar analogies.
And you might say, “Well, He referred to Himself as a vine because a vine is lowly, and a vine is in the earth and in lowliness. The vine, if it weren’t propped up by some kind of wires or something, would just run along the ground, and this speaks of His lowliness.” It’s a good metaphor to speak of His lowliness.
Somebody else might say it’s a good metaphor because it speaks of union, it speaks of the closeness and communion of those who are Christ’s with Him, the very same life flowing through the vine, flowing through the branches. Others might say it’s a good symbol, it’s a good word picture because it talks about fruit-bearing, fruitfulness, the result of being in Christ is manifest. Others would say it illustrates dependence, as our Lord said, “Without Me, you can do nothing.” It illustrates that kind of dependence.
All the life comes from the vine. It emphasizes belonging. If you are connected, you belong. And I think all of that is true. But there’s another, much more important reason why He says, “I am the true vine,” and that is because there was a defective vine.
There was a corrupted vine. There was a degenerate vine. There was a fruitless vine. There was an empty vine. Who? Israel, Israel. That’s right. The covenant people of God, the Jewish people.
Israel is God’s vine in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 5, Israel as presented as a vine. God says, “I planted My vine, My vineyard in a very fertile hill,” Isaiah 5. And that chapter, verses 1-7, goes on to talk about everything God did to give them all that was necessary for them to bring forth grapes. They produced beushim, sour berries, inedible, useless. Israel was the vine. And that metaphor carried through the history of Israel during the Maccabean period between the Old and the New Testament.
The Maccabeans minted coins, and on the coin was a vine illustrating Israel. And on the very temple, Herod’s massive temple, there was a great vine that literally had been carved and overlaid with gold, speaking of Israel as God’s vine. God’s life flows through the nation. That was a symbol of Israel. There’s much in the Old Testament. Psalm 80 – sometime you can read Psalm 80 in its fullness – but Psalm 80 tells us the tragedy of Israel’s defection as a vine.
Just listen to a few of the words from Psalm 80: “God removed a vine from Egypt, bringing Israel out of bondage in Egypt. Drove out the nation’s, planted the vine – ” like Isaiah 5 “ – cleared the ground before it, took deep root, filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shadow. The cedars of God with it’s bows, it was sending out its branches. It shoots to the river.” Then this: “Why have You broken down its hedges, so that all who pass that way pick its fruit? A bore from the forest eats it away. And whatever moves in the field feeds on it.”
God planted Israel and then turned on Israel in judgment. Psalm 80 then says, “O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech you. Look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine, even the shoot which Your right hand has planted. It is burned with fire. It is cut down.” Yeah, that’s Israel, that’s Israel. Ezekiel said it is an empty vine, no fruit. Isaiah says it produces sort of toxic, useless, inedible results.
Israel had been the stock of blessing. Israel had been planted by God. His life would come through Israel to all who attached to Israel. But Israel was unfaithful, idolatrous, immoral, and God brought judgment. That’s what the Old Testament lays out for us.
The disciples, like all the other Jews, thought, “Hmm, I’m Jewish. I’m connected to God.” Israel, the people of God, the Jewish people, are the source of divine blessing: “I am a Jew; I was born a Jew. I’m the seed of Abraham; I’m connected to God.” Not so.
Our Lord comes along and says, “If you want to be connected to God, you have to be connected, not to Israel, but to me. I am the true vine, althinos. I am the true vine. I am the perfect vine. Through Me, the life of God flows.”
Paul understood that. He said Israel has all the privileges in the book of Romans. They have a form of godliness, but they have no life. They don’t know God. They’re alienated from God. He’s the true vine.
Just to give you a comparison, in the 8th chapter of Hebrews, the writer of Hebrews says, “Jesus is the true tabernacle.” He’s the true tabernacle. He is the true vine. He is the true tabernacle. He is the true temple. It is through Him that the life of God flows.
Colossians 2:7 says, “We are rooted and built up in Him.” These disciples know Israel is going to be destroyed. They know the temple’s going to be destroyed. He already told them that just hours before this. They know it’s all coming crashing down. It’s over. He pronounced judgment on them, not one stone upon another. The fury of God is going to be unleashed.
It’s important that we understand that the stock of blessing is not Israel. “Not all Israel is Israel,” said Paul. Christ is the true vine just as He said in John 1, He is the true light. And in John 6, the true bread. He is the true vine.
Anybody who’s going to know the life of God has to connect to Him, and has to connect to Him genuinely as God, as the I Am. All other vines are false vines. Israel is a degenerate, dead vine. Christ is the true and living vine.
Isaiah says Israel, as a vine, has run wild. Jeremiah says Israel has become a degenerate plant, a strange vine. It’s as if Jesus was saying to those men, “You think that because you belong to the nation Israel, you are secure in your connection to God. Not so. You think that just because you’re a Jew and a member of the chosen race, you are connected to the blessing of God? Not so. I am the vine and life flows only through Me. I am the way, the truth, the life.” So He is the vine.
Now the second character in this picture is the vinedresser, verse 1: “My Father is the vinedresser.” That’s the farmer, the person who cares for the vine. Christ pictures Himself as having been planted by God, and that’s true. The Father was behind everything that Jesus did.
The Father sent the Son into the world, right? That’s what Scripture says. The Father laid out the plan. Jesus said, “I only do the will of My Father. I only do what the Father tells me to do, shows me to do, commands me to do. I only do what pleases the Father.”
The Father cared for Him. The Father provided a virgin so that He could be virgin-born. The Father provided everything for Him. The Father provided the Holy Spirit to empower Him through His ministry. The Father provided everything He ever needed. So it was the Father caring for the Son, and it is the Son who is the One who possesses true, divine life.
Now verse 2 then introduces the branches, the branches. And there are two kinds of branches. “They all appear in Me, every branch in Me.” They all are attached, just like there were lots of people attached to Israel in the past. But not all Israel is Israel, and not everyone who is a Jew is really connected to blessing. They were attached, they were connected, but there were branches that – it says at the beginning of verse 2 – that do not bear fruit. And He takes those away, the Father does – the Father is the judge. And then there were branches that bear fruit, and He pruned those so that they would bear more fruit.
The Father is at work and He’s doing two things, two very divine works. He is judging false branches – cutting them off, drying them out, and sending them to hell; and he is pruning true fruit-bearing branches. This is the Father’s work.
Now let’s look at these branches and just consider what this is saying. The vine is flourishing, growing luxuriantly, but some serious steps are taken by the vinedresser, the farmer. First of all, when He sees a branch that has no fruit, He takes it away, He takes it away. Down in verse 6, He throws it away, it dries up. Those branches are gathered, cast into the fire, and burned. That is drastic judgment by God on false believers, false believers. No fruit.
You say, “Does every Christian have fruit?” Yes, every Christian has fruit. That’s how you know you’re a Christian. What is fruit? Righteous attitudes, righteous longings, righteous desires, righteous affections, righteous virtues, righteous behaviors. That is the manifestation of life; and where the life of God exists, the fruit must be there.
That’s why Ephesians 2:10 says that we have been saved by grace through faith, unto good works, which God has before ordained that you should walk in them. It can’t not be that way, because where there is the life of God and the soul of man, it becomes evident. That’s what it says at the end of verse 8. When you bear much fruit, you prove to be a true disciple. James said, “Faith without works is – ” what “ – is dead,” it’s useless claim. The only way you know faith is real, salvation is real, is by the evidence.
Matthew 7, Jesus said, “You’ll know them by their fruit,” and that’s repeated a number of times in the gospels. Paul in Romans 6 says, “You were slaves to sin, and now in Christ you become slaves of righteousness.” We’re known by our fruit. We’re known by the manifest evidence of transformation.
That’s the only way you can tell a person’s a Christian – not by remembering an event, not by remembering a prayer, not by some wishing and hoping. The way you know someone has been transformed and regenerated and born again is because the fruit of righteousness is manifest in that life. It’s not perfection, but it’s a dominating direction. There are people who attach to Christ and are fruitless.
Look, the whole nation of Israel is seen in chapter 11 of Romans as a branch attached to God. But they were cut off because of unbelief and sin, and a new branch, the church, was grafted in. They had an attachment to God, but it was fruitless. There are many people who are attached to Christianity, attached to the church, attached some way to Christ. But time and truth go hand-in-hand. Given enough time, the truth will come out. And ultimately either in this life or the next – for sure in the next – the Father will send them to the fire. This is a concern all through the gospel of John. In fact, in chapter 6, many of His disciples walked no more with him. Remember that? It’s a call to true discipleship.
There are Judas branches in every age superficially attached. But let’s look at the possessing branches in verse 2. Every branch that bears fruit, evidencing the life God, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. So the Father does hard work. He completely whacks off the entire branch that is fruitless so that it doesn’t suck the energy out of the vine uselessly. They’re gathered and burned.
But He comes back at the fruitful branches and He prunes them. He purges them. It’s actually a verb kathair that means to make clean. But it was used in agriculture for pruning. It could mean removing waste matter after winnowing grain. It could mean cleaning weeds out of the soil before planting grain. But it also can mean anything that cleans the plant to make it more productive.
Philo, the Jewish theologian at the time of the early New Testament said this: “As superfluous shoots grow on plants, which are a great injury to the genuine shoots in which the vinedresser cleanses, and he uses kathair this same word, and prunes because he knows it’s necessary. So God whacks off some branches completely, false believers who spend eternity in hell. But for the rest of us, God goes to work on us with a knife, with a knife.
In ancient times, I’ve read that sometimes there was a pinching process. It even started with the hand between the first finger and the thumb to literally pinch the end of a growing shoot that could cause it to die. There was sort of a removal of kind of a dead end of a branch. And then there was the thinning of all the sucker pieces coming off that branch. Lots of ways to do that, but all had the same purpose in mind, and that was so that the branch would be more productive. That’s the work of the Father for what He does. The Father comes into our lives with a knife to cut away sin and was us superfluous.
In Hebrews 12:1 it says, “Laying aside the weight – ” right “ – the weight and the sin.” We all have sin in our lives; it ought to be cut off. But we also have stuff that doesn’t necessarily get categorized it’s sin. It’s just unnecessary, wasted, superfluous. Sucker branches.
The Father comes along in our lives with a knife – it’s painful – and He cuts. He cuts sin. He cuts useless, wasteful behavior, preoccupation with things don’t matter. How does He do that? He might do it through sickness. He might do it through hardship. He might do it through the loss of a job or loss of a friend, loss of a loved one, loss of material goods. He might do it through the loss of reputation, slander.
He might do it through failure, something you worked really had to pull off. And He might do it through persecution from people outside, and people you know and even love. He might do it through grief. He might do it through disappointment.
It might be extremely painful emotionally. It mist be extremely painful physically. God orders trouble. This is God providentially using the knife. God orders trouble.
The best thing that can happen to us to prune us is trouble. Second Corinthians 12: “When I am weak – ” the Bible, Paul says “ – then I am – ” what “ – strong.” I would rather be content with afflictions, difficulties, weakness, trials, because in my weakness God’s strength is perfected. James 1: “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, because the testing of your faith produces patience, and patience has a perfecting work.” Peter put it this way: “After you’ve suffered awhile, the Lord makes you perfect.” That’s the knife.
You want to welcome that because you want to be more fruitful. You can chafe in self-pity and wallow around in disappointment complaining, brooding, full of anxiety when things don’t go the way you think they ought to go. Or you can look heavenward and so, “God, thank You. Thank you for working on me to bear more fruit. More fruit.”
You could say, “Why me, God? Why me? Why did this happen to me? How could it ever be?” Or you can say, “Thank You. Thank You, Lord. Thank You. I embrace this like the apostle Paul. I embraced this like James: ‘Count it all joy.’ I embrace this, because this pruning means God intends for me to bear much fruit.”
Another way to look at that is in the language of the writer of Hebrews in chapter 12. Listen to what he says: “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline, nor faint when you are reproved by Him, for those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He received. It is for discipline that you endure. God deals with you as with sons, for what son is there whom his father doesn’t discipline.
“But if you’re without discipline of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them. Shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them. But He disciplines us for our good so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful. Yet, to those who have been trained by it, afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” More fruit, more righteousness is the product of divine discipline – trials, tribulation, trouble. The believer is to expect this to be fruitful.
And I want to add something here. The vinedresser has a knife. What precisely is that knife? Verse 3 answers that: “You’re already clean because of the word which I’ve spoken to you.”
You’ve already been saved, and you were saved through the Word, right? Faith comes by hearing the Word. You were saved by believing the Word. It was the Word that did its work in you, begotten again by the Word of Truth, Scripture says, and you will be pruned by the Word.
In the final analysis, it’s not the afflictions themselves that are the knife, it’s the Word of God that is the knife. Now let me explain that. It is not the affliction itself that is the knife, it is the Word of God that is the knife.
Now we should understand the Word of God is a knife from Hebrews 4:12, “The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” It’s a two-edged knife and it cuts every direction, the Word does, the truth of God.
So here’s the idea. The Father is the discipliner. The Father is the one who in His providence, brings about the trials, the troubles, that cause us concern. The Word becomes, however, the actual cutting instrument, because when the trial comes and we react wrongly, the Word convicts us. The Word cuts into our disrespect for God’s purposes. The Word cuts into our hostility. The Word cuts into our anger. The Word cuts into our questioning, and it indicts us. Trials are the handle of the knife. The blade is the Word of God. The Father brings the trial, and the blade is the Word of God. The Word is the knife.
Listen to how Spurgeon explained this: “It is the Word that prunes the Christian. It is the truth that purges him. The Scripture made living and powerful by the Holy Spirit eventually and effectively cleanses the Christian.”
He says, “Affliction is the handle of the knife. Affliction is the grindstone that sharpens the knife. But the knife is the Word. Affliction is the dresser.” He says, “Affliction is the dresser that removes our soft garments and lays bare the diseased flesh, so that the knife may get at it.” Affliction makes us ready for the knife, to feel the Word of God.
The true pruner is God. Affliction is the handle and the occasion. But the pruning, the Scripture is the knife that cuts. Why? So that we would bear more fruit. The more you know the Word, the more you love the Word, the better you react to trials, right? The more you allow the knife to do its work.
You know, we should be praising God all the time here because, as a church, we are so submissive to the Word of God. We know it so well, that when we get into these issues of life that surround us, whatever they may be – these disappointments, these elements of suffering and trial that are so much a part of life – we know the Word of God. And we not only know it, we trust it. We not only trust it, we love it. We not only love it, we want it to do its work, and so we submit to the knife.
And I believe that that is why this church is so fruitful. That is why the fruit from this church circles the globe. You bear much fruit because you have suffered and let the Word do its work, bringing conviction, cutting away the sin and the things that don’t matter. That’s how it is in the kingdom, that a lot of people attach to Christ. Some will be cut off and burned, some bear fruit; and those that bear fruit, the Father works on to bear more fruit, much fruit. That’s the kingdom.
We’re thankful, aren’t we, that we know that we are fruit-bearing branches. If you don’t know that, you’re in a very dangerous situation. Take warning from this passage. Come truthfully to Christ, genuinely to Him.
Father, we are again this morning so blessed together, so thankful. We ask now that You would confirm to our hearts the truth, and set it loose in every life to accomplish Your purpose. We pray in Christ name. Amen.
“I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word.” Psalm 119:15-16 (NLT)
We read the Bible because we know how valuable it is to our entire lives. It is water to our spirit. And since our spirit is eternal, it supersedes and shapes our natural being as well — body, mind, emotions, and will. We read God’s Word because it gives us energy, clears the mind, directs our path, draws us to God, abates our worries and satisfies our soul!
1. Read the Bible for Guidance.
If God can direct the universe, then He can direct our lives through the Bible. Reading the Owner’s Manual to Life (the Bible) is the only way to live life at its best design.
“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NLT)
2. Read the Bible for Sustenance.
We are both physical and spiritual beings, so we need natural food and supernatural food to stay strong and healthy. Also, during difficult seasons in life, we may need a lot of spiritual nourishment. Reading the Bible provides that necessary nourishment.
“People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 (NLT)
3. Read the Bible because it’s Alive.
The Bible is not only a physical book, it is a supernatural Source of Good. It is God’s Living Water (His Presence) moving through our lives (John 7:38) as we read it. Read the Bible and God’s energy pours into our lives.
“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Hebrews 4:12 (NLT)
4. Read the Bible for Blessing.
Reading the Bible promotes wellness in our lives as we allow it to shape our beliefs, thoughts and actions. We may not feel the results of its nourishment at first, but our daily reading will eventually become evident.
“God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says …” Revelation 1:3 (NLT)
5. Read the Bible to Purify.
Reading the Bible is to the spirit like water is to the body, it purifies! Reading the Bible gets rid of all the spiritual toxins (doubt, worry, fear, etc.) and replaces them with pure liquid Jesus and all that good found in Him! Reading the Bible refreshes and revives us!
“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.” Psalm 119:9 (NKJV)
6. Read the Bible for Correction and Equipping.
We can live in victory because the Bible is cutting out all that is not of God and replacing it with things that actually help us overcome. Letting God correct us by reading the Bible leaves room for Him to equip us. Reading the Bible gives us everything we need each day to be victorious!
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)
7. Read the Bible for more Jesus.
The Bible says Jesus is the Word spoken to create and redeem all of us. Jesus is the Person of God and His presence flows in the Bible. When we read the Bible, we drink the very presence of Jesus and all that good contained in Him.
“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.” John 1:1-3 (NLT)
8. Read the Bible for Healing.
The well-spring of Jesus’s healing power is found in the Bible. Once we fully believe God and His promises found in His Word, our faith WILL activate Jesus’s power in our spiritual, physical, relational, emotional and mental lives! We just need to read the Bible to get that power!
“He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.” 1 Peter 2:24 (NLT)
9. Read the Bible because it’s our Offensive Weapon.
God protects us, and He does give us one tool to fight back and to overcome, the Bible! Reading the Bible every day will make us better at wielding our Swords and fighting the good fight of faith. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 We can only have victory each day by reading the Bible.
“Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:17 (NLT)
10. Read the Bible because it’s Freedom.
If we feel oppressed by thoughts or limited by our own attitudes, the Bible is Truth. And once we know the truth about who we are in Christ by reading the Bible, we will live in the freedom God has given us as His children and co-heirs with Christ. Romans 8:17 Read the Bible and walk in complete freedom!
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32 (NLT)
11. Read the Bible because it’s Eternal.
Every promise the Bible gives us, as we read it each day, stays with us forever! Everything in this world will fade except those things rooted to Christ. Read the Bible and discover what’s eternal, so we can apply eternity to our daily lives on earth!
“Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.” Matthew 24:35 (NLT)
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
Wherever you’re at right now, the sun may be shining and life is good, making the reality of withstanding anything evil seem remote. Yet from the moment Eve plucked the fruit in the Garden, sin entered, and each day came under the sway of the evil one. It’s for this reason that Paul exhorts Christians to be geared up and battle ready.
Our adversary, Satan, will do his best to disarm you because he knows that a wobbly, defenseless Christian cannot stand. If we are to stand in opposition to his schemes, it’s essential that we make daily use of the most sophisticated armament available – the armor of God. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4)
It is incumbent upon each of us to be intimately acquainted with each piece of armor and keep it securely fastened. Puritan saint William Gurnall put it this way, “The armor… is to be worn night and day; we must walk, work, and sleep in them, or else we are not true soldiers of Christ.” With your armor firmly in place, you will be able to stand in obedience. Truth will triumph. You will not wobble or waver.
Today, if you are in the midst of personal trials, stand. In grief and sorrow, stand. In temptation, stand. In the chaos of our times, stand. Believer, in the evil day, stand!
Some of the few people that Jesus met before His crucifixion were a leper and a redeemed woman. While many sought to take His life, He found solace with a leper and a previously sinful woman. As Jesus, ‘was reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head’ (Mark 14:3). The woman was Mary ‘(called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out’ (Luke 7:2), thanks to Jesus. Mary was among ‘some of the women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases’ (v2), and so whenever Jesus would go with His disciples, the women would also follow and even ‘were helping support them out of their means’ (v3). And so when Jesus was in Simon the Leper’s house with His disciples, Mary was also there.
When those present saw what Mary was doing, they strongly rebuked her, ‘Why this waste of perfume? It could be sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor’ (Mark 14: 4-5). Jesus responds by saying, ‘Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me . . . You will not always have me. She has done what she could’ (v6,7,8). Jesus recognizes her willing effort and actually ties it to a heavenly mandate. ‘She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial’ (v8). In doing what she could, Jesus does even greater for her, more than she could ever do for herself. He says, ‘I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her’ (v9). A simple act was not unnoticed before Jesus, and He in turn offered her a lasting continuity for her name.
Simon the Leper also did what he could for Jesus. According to the Jewish regulations, a ‘person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, uncover his head, put a covering upon his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’. As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the Camp’ (Leviticus 13:45-46). As a leper, Simon could not freely mingle with others and hear Jesus speak in the Synagogue or among crowds. However, he did what he could. He opened his house for Jesus. Jesus seeing his open heart for Him even reclines at his table, signalling that He made Himself comfortable. As a result, Simon, labelled a leper, enjoyed God’s one-on-one communion and companionship, even in his degraded state.
Another man who had the privilege of communing with Jesus was Zacchaeus. When the Tax Collector wanted to catch a glimpse of Jesus, he climbed a tree. Upon seeing him, Jesus tells him to, ‘come down immediately. I must stay at your house today’ (Luke 19:5). Although Jesus was only ‘passing through’ (v1) Jericho, He stayed a night because of one simple occurrence. In desiring ‘to see who Jesus was’ (v3), Zacchaeus did what he could and climbed a tree to see Him. Although he was ‘a chief tax collector and was wealthy’ (v2), his position or wealth did not bring him closer to Christ. Instead, in his struggle of ‘being a short man’ (v3), he climbed a tree to see Jesus. At that time, he cared less about his reputation. By doing what he could, Jesus says to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house’ (v9). A simple act led to salvation, because when Jesus sees our willing hearts, He goes before us.
Are you making excuses out of your deficiencies? Are your possessions, conditions, or attributes keeping you from seeing Jesus? While our deficiencies seem to be magnified before our eyes that they become a stumbling block to clearly seeing Jesus, He cares less about them, and does not even consider or take them into account. Paul writes, ‘Brethren, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weakthings of the world to shame the strong. He chose lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him’ (1 Corinthians 1:26).
When we, out of our weakness and deficiencies, take a step of faith towards God and for His cause, the impact touches His heart, causing an explosion of all His graces towards us. He then magnifies our impact, to shadow our weaknesses and deficiencies. He takes countless more steps to direct us further, and give us a lasting blessing. When four lepers took steps of faith to go to the enemy camp of the Arameans to look for food during a time of famine, ‘the Lord caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, ‘Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!’ So they got up and fled’ (2 Kings 6:6-7). Little did they know that it was God who magnified dainty footsteps of four lepers who only did what they could. The lepers did not only find food, but found ‘gold, silver, and clothes’ (v8), and more than that, liberated the City from siege. In the same way, when we do what we can, and take a step of faith, God does ‘exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us’ (Ephesians 3:20), because ‘his strength is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).
‘Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their abundance; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything- all she had to live on’’ ~ Mark 12:43-44
When Notre Dame Cathedral burned in 2019, it was symbolic of a greater European -wide collapse of religious faith which had already taken place. That great cathedral, like most of the others in Europe, had long since passed from being a vibrant community of active worshipers, to an architectural show piece attracting millions of tourists, taking millions of photographs.
The process which has brought about the death of Judeo-Christian culture in Europe is now being replicated in America. If America wants to know its grim future, it only has to consult the facts of present day European society.
From the earliest days of American history, religion played an outsized role. Even during the 1700’s when it was intellectually fashionable for some of our leaders like Thomas Jefferson to scoff at supernaturalism and prefer deism to theism, they still held tightly to the moral and spiritual truths expressed in the Holy Bible. They could do without belief in miracles in general but not the necessary miracle of a creator God who established an unchanging moral order. French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville, who had visited America in the 1800’s, took particular note of America’s highly religious national character as compared to European society. He knew the horrors which French society was plunged into as a result of extreme, anti-religious, sentiment. The history of the world is littered with failed revolutions that promised to remake their societies, in a better image. The American Revolution is among the few which have actually succeeded.
The bad news is that we are now no longer on the same path. We have opted for the European model.
The last sixty years of American history reveal that we have been on a new path. It is a path that leads away from freedom and individual responsibility. It is a path that mistakes vice for freedom and socialism for progress and because Europe began this journey before us, we can now see our future, In their present
If we begin with a comparison of religious practice, the surveys of American society show a number between 37% and 22% for Americans who attend weekly services.
The average of these numbers which is below 30% is the lowest in modern American history but if you are a person of faith in Europe, you would be celebrating this as the sign of a “Great Religious “revival. The average church attendance for the countries of Northern Europe is 4%. There are only three countries in Europe where more than 10% of young people attend religious services on a weekly basis.
What must be understood are the characteristics of this new post-Judeo-Christian Europe? What does the sociological data tell us is happening there? Sociologists, psychologists and historians, all agree on one point, the family unit is the basis of all societies. The present European family is in a state of crisis. As much as we lament America’s high divorce rate of 53%, Europe’s is higher, in some countries reaching 60% but worse than the high divorce rates are the high out of wedlock birth rates and the huge increase in single parent families. The, “Max Planck Society” published the following in 2016,
“The significance of marriage slowly started to decline as early as 1970, a process linked to the advance of secularization in many countries… By 1990, the share of unmarried births had already increased fourfold… In many parts of Northern and Western Europe, there are already more births out of wedlock than births within marriage.”
Needless to say the same process is taking place in America .The difference is America’s religious attendance was much higher than Europe’s when the process started. We are moving in the same direction as Europe but at a slower pace.
The fact that European societies are still relatively prosperous and orderly in spite of these demographic changes is only a testament to what historian Will Durant called , “… living in the after- glow of one’s faith”. No society will collapse immediately, but already these changes are showing themselves in a variety of dark statistics.
The crisis in the European family is rapidly becoming a mental health crisis.
The most recent large scale study of Europe, covering 514 million people found that mental illness had increased to 38%.
Based upon World Health Organization statistics, Europeans commit more suicide than the people of any other region of the world. Russia has the highest rate, followed by other Eastern European nations all of which were until recent years ruled by Communist governments which viewed religion as taboo. Following these Eastern European nations the most secular parts of Western and Northern Europe have the next highest rates of suicide. The more traditional and culturally conservative parts of Europe have the lowest rates of suicide. Lagging behind Europe, America is making great strides to catch-up. The CDC reported in 2018 that America now has the highest rate of suicide in 50 years.
In Europe this is not just a problem of highly depressed people wanting to end their lives. There is a concerted effort on the part of medical professionals to assist others in doing so. Belgium now carries the label of the, “world’s euthanasia capital” and even allows suicide by lethal injection for children.
Following the same guiding principle of utility, Europe is now number four on the list of continents which carry-out the most abortions. The fact that the primary victim of an abortion is an unborn child without a voice makes the problem easier to ignore. Much harder to ignore is the explosion in Human Trafficking taking place in Europe.
The Department of Homeland Security has described the problem of Human Trafficking, as a “… modern day form of slavery… among the world’s fastest growing criminal industries.” BusinessLine, reported in 2019 that, “… children now account for 30 per cent of those being trafficked… Trafficking for sexual exploitation is the most prevalent form in European countries…”
Three of the top ten areas for sex tourism are located in Europe and all the others are located in poor less developed regions of the world. In America the same thing is happening. Feminists, pro-homosexual rights advocates, cultural celebrities, are using terms like, “Pan sexual”, “gender fluidity” and “One Love” to begin the major re-education of American society. Harvard professor Sarah Richardson a supporter of this task has described the necessary change in this way,
“Young people will lead us in directions that we have never imagined… more and more young people are transcending gender norms… a more sophisticated view of gender seems to be everywhere we look…. Is expanding our ideas of identify and love.”
Well the Europeans have both imagined and are realizing this “Brave New World” and the “New Morality” looks a lot like the “Old Immorality”. The imagined utopian welfare state of Europe is now being realized for what it is, a dystopian society where the soul of mankind dies and selfish appetites reign. In America we are faithfully re-tracing the European steps which include: The death of faith, the death of the family, and the de-humanization of mankind.
William D. Howard is a freelance writer who has been published in both secular and religious formats. He had a long career as an educator and has traveled in over 40 countries.