John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.
You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’
He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.
He must increase, but I must decrease.
He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.
And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony.
He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true.
For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.
The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
[John 3:27-36 NKJV]
John The Baptist is the one who heralded Jesus’ appearing to the world, and the apostle John now switches his account from what Jesus said about Himself to what The Baptist concluded, which was that Jesus was ‘The Bridegroom’, that is, ‘He who comes from heaven’.
John is presenting us here with the growing body of testimony that Jesus is ‘The Anointed One’; ‘The Christ’, and that he, Nicodemus and John the Baptist all hold it that Jesus was and is The Messiah, the gateway to everlasting life. His citing of two independent witnesses who state the truth of this assertion, could have been seen as sufficient in law to prove the case for Jesus.
However, this passage is most significant in the life of a believer for the statement — attributed to John the Baptist — that “He must increase, but I must decrease.” This very effectively sums up in few words what happens in every one who truly follows Jesus.
And we can see that in verse 36, we are being offered the promise of everlasting life, and that without Jesus Christ, we shall not see that life. He is the only life that will carry us through, and that life must abide in us.
God’s providences come to you unawares and they produce flurry or faith. If they produce flurry there is no nourishment in God’s Word. The tiniest touch of the wing of God’s providential angel is enough to keep you from concentration on God, and the Bible is of no practical use.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
[John 3:17-21 NKJV]
He who believes in Him is not condemned. This one sentence sums up the case. It stresses that we are not condemned, provided always that we believe in Jesus.
It goes on to say that if I don’t believe — well, I am already condemned ... not by Jesus, but by my unbelief. By refusing Jesus Christ, I am refusing His salvation.
This word is amplifying and delving deeper into the ‘born again’ statements immediately before. We are getting now to the ‘terms and conditions’, the truth of life in the Lord’s presence.
Condemnation is judgement*; so, if I am not condemned, can I say that I am not judged by God? No, I cannot, because I know that God is a God of judgement. What I must see is that judgement is inescapable ...
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? [1 Peter 4:17 NKJV]
Is this then the contradiction it appears to be? What seems to be happening here is that a differentiation is made depending on whether we are exposed to the light or choose to remain in darkness. Judgement happens either way; but if I am judged in the light (by abiding in Jesus Christ) then I am shown mercy in the court of heaven — not because of who I am, but because of who Christ is. This is God’s truth.
Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. [Psalm 85:10-11 NKJV]
Now it seems that Jesus meeting with Nicodemus was Him pointing The Way, which we now see is walking in The Truth. If this analogy holds true, then what follows will reveal that Jesus is indeed who He says He is, and will show us The Life.
* condemnation: κρίσις krisis; decision (subjectively or objectively, for or against); by extension, a tribunal; by implication, justice (especially, divine law): — accusation, condemnation, damnation, judgment.
Never let common sense obtrude and push the Son of God on one side. Common sense is a gift which God gave to human nature; but it is not the gift of His Son; never enthrone common sense.
The Son detects the Father; common sense never yet detected the Father and never will.
Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.
If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
[John 3:11-17 NKJV]
Verse 11 is the third time in John chapter 3, that Jesus uses the expression “most assuredly”*. He speaks to Nicodemus (conqueror; victorious among his people), a member of the Sanhedrin and thus a man of learning and Jesus is ‘assuring’ and reassuring him of the Truth.
The passage quoted above is the more complex exposition resulting from Jesus’ talk of being born again, and contains what is possibly the most quoted verse in the Bible — John 3:16 — For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Jesus is impressing on Nicodemus the incontrovertible veracity of every word He says — and using the expression three times in quick succession— as Jesus does here — is our guarantee that Jesus speaks from the throne of God.
Nicodemus is convinced — and we know this because He appears later in John’s Gospel (7:50, 19:39) as loyal to Jesus. John is building his case to show clearly to all that Jesus is who He says He is, and this piece is clearly aimed at the Jews; showing that a member of the Sanhedrin — the legal hierarchy; a high-ranking judge — finds the evidence for Jesus compelling, and most assuredly the truth. Jesus is new life.
* Most assuredly: translated in the King James Version as “Verily, verily” is an expression used 25 times in the Bible, but only in the book of John. It is from the word Amen, and the Hebrew אָמַן ’âman; a primitive root; properly, to build up or support; to foster as a parent or nurse; figuratively to render (or be) firm or faithful, to trust or believe, to be permanent or quiet; morally to be true or certain; once (Isa. 30:21; interchangeable with 541) to go to the right hand: — hence, assurance, believe, bring up, establish, + fail, be faithful (of long continuance, stedfast, sure, surely, trusty, verified), nurse, (-ing father), (put), trust, turn to the right.
Watch spiritual hardness, if ever you have the tiniest trace of it, haul up everything else till you get back your softness to the Spirit of God.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
[2 Corinthians 4:7-10, NASB]
These words in 2 Corinthians have spoken to us powerfully since we fully came to faith. We are the earthen vessels, each one of us who know Him, and there is such treasure within; the life in the spirit; the life of our Lord, a tiny seed planted and ready to grow to be a mighty oak ...
WHEN LIFE’S WAVES CRASH OVER US
I once heard the testimony of a Christian pastor who almost died in an accident while surfing. He was standing near the shore when he was struck from behind by a powerful wave. He was then struck by another wave, with such force that his neck was broken. As he lay injured in the water, it was only the quick action of others on the shore that saved his life. Many months followed of having his neck supported within a metal frame before he recovered from his nearly fatal experience.
I’ve remembered the above, as I’ve thought about the way that life’s events can come upon us just like those waves, with such force that we too can feel that we are struggling to hold on. At the end of last year, Gemma and I experienced the painful loss of our little dog Sid who had been such a precious part of our lives for eleven of his fifteen years. That loss came upon us without warning one day, and, like a wave crashing upon us, left us both breathless with its suddenness.
Then, at the beginning of this year, like the second wave which struck that Christian leader, I experienced a far more profound loss, the death of my Dad after a long-drawn-out illness. Coming so close together, both those losses left my heart broken and torn. I still experience times when waves of grief and sorrow come washing over me. Yet, like that Christian leader lifted from the shallows by his rescuers, I too have felt the loving hands of Jesus holding and carrying me through the tears and pain of those times.
Our verses for today’s Seed remind us that we are not exempt from the crushing power of life’s waves and storms, but they also remind us that we are not at their mercy. We have a rescuer who is there to save us from death. We are reminded by the Apostle Paul that the presence of Jesus Himself, living in us by His Holy Spirit, is the treasure in our fragile lives that is often revealed most powerfully in our times of suffering.
Someone reading this Seed today may feel that they have been struck down and knocked off their feet too many times by life’s waves of pain or difficulty. If that’s you, I pray that you will know the arms of Jesus lifting you up and placing your feet afresh on the solid ground of His love and faithfulness. His promise is true for you. Even though you may have been struck down, you will not be destroyed.
Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You that, when days seem dark and sorrow’s paths I tread, You, my Saviour, still are with me, and by Your hand I’m safely led. Amen.
Today's Writer : Dean Gardner
Dean Gardner worked part time in the Ellel Grange Ministry Office for four and a half years until October 2018 and is now part of the Associate teaching and ministry team. He now lives in Norfolk with his wife Gemma. In 1988 he experienced God’s amazing grace at a carol service and began a journey of restoration and healing with Jesus. He longs to continue that journey allowing God’s truth to change his own life but also to share that truth with others that they too might know Jesus for themselves.
You will always know whether you believe in God personally by your impertinent insistence on being an amateur providence for someone else.
Q. Do all mosaics, paintings, icons, etc. depict Jesus with a sad and miserable face? Because in my book He is always smiling. Happiness is The Lord.
In that day a man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel.
He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands; he will not respect what his fingers have made, nor the wooden images nor the incense altars.
In that day his strong cities will be as a forsaken bough and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the children of Israel; and there will be desolation.
[Isaiah 17:7-9 NKJV]
There are two aspects to the question. Firstly, do any man-made images of Jesus portray Him smiling, and secondly, does The Lord embody happiness?
Images of Jesus — particularly ‘old masters’, icons and mosaics — are highly unlikely to show Jesus smiling; it would have been considered disrespectful, even blasphemous to do so. Icons were intended as objects of devotion in churches and come into a specific category of their own.
It was the sculpted or ‘graven’ images which caused a problem — usually because they would be promoting false gods; the works themselves become the object of faith and substitutes for faith in God.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
Here any likeness of any thing is mentioned, which pretty much seems to ban image-making altogether. However, I would suggest that this prohibition was related to ‘religious’ works, although there is a case to be made that anything which distracts attention from the relationship with God — any object which invites contemplation — should be put aside. This appears to be what Isaiah is saying in our lead verses. A man ... will not look to the work of his hands.
There are paintings of Jesus smiling, but they seem to be exclusively of recent origin. I found an image online described as “Laughing Wine Jesus”, showing a man clutching a beaker, his head back as if he has just heard a hugely funny remark — more of a ‘my mate Jesus, down the pub’ than anything else.
Ultimately, most of these representations are only Jesus because the artist says so. They add nothing to faith, or to spiritual belief; these pictures are of man and man’s ideas about Jesus, not about who He is — the Son of Almighty God. Even Rembrandt — undoubtedly one of the greatest artists of all time — painted portraits of a man. They are not Jesus.
And this is the point. Jesus Christ appears to each of us individually in a uniquely personal way. Any image of Him at all is bound to fail.
The icons and paintings in churches were designed largely for an illiterate people who would hear the priest and be able to look at the paintings around them and have reminders of their Jesus, and be impressed by the splendour and magnificence of His house and the glory of God.
As for happiness? Jesus is happiness, but more than that; He is joy and peace (both inextricably linked in my view). The New King James Version (NKJV) uses the word ‘happiness’ only once — in Deuteronomy 24:5 — which in the King James Version (KJV) is translated as ‘cheer up’.*
We should distinguish between ‘happiness’ and ‘joy’. Jesus Christ brings joy in the knowing of Him, which will survive and thrive whether we are suffering or filled with happiness. Happiness is emotional and can come and go. Joy — as The Bible has it — is eternal.
* According to Strong’s, the word is śâmaḥ; a primitive root; probably to brighten up, i.e. (figuratively) be (causatively, make) blithe or gleesome: — cheer up, be (make) glad, (have, make) joy(-ful), be (make) merry, (cause to, make to) rejoice.
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart.” It is this state of mind and heart which is absolutely free to do the duty that lies nearest without any flutter.