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“Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shown you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped from their hand, and went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode. And many resorted to him, and said, John performed no miracle: but all things that John spoke of this man were true. And many believed on him there.” John 10:31-42

Many times, the truth’s worst persecutors come from within the outward, visible church — from those who should accept and embrace the truth but do not because it calls into question the validity of established beliefs and traditions.

It happened to Jesus because He claimed to be the Messiah and the Son of God — a claim His teaching and many mighty miracles verified. But the truth He revealed challenged the religious beliefs and traditions of His day — that one could be acceptable to God by living according to traditions and a strict interpretation of God’s law passed down by the rabbis and elders revered in Jesus’ day. Instead of studying the Scriptures and accepting the truth, they rejected the truth and sought to kill Jesus.

Does this still happen today? Let a minister or church member challenge established church dogma or tradition with the clear words of Scripture and see what happens! It almost always results in a rejection of the truth in order to preserve long-held doctrines and traditions, even when such are clearly contrary to the Bible’s teaching. Instead of honest examination and comparison of church dogma and traditions with the Bible, it almost always ends in expulsions, ex-communications, and character assassinations.

Notice where Jesus went — beyond the Jordan where John was baptizing early in his ministry (cf. John 1:28). Jesus and His doctrine were not accepted in Jerusalem, the center and headquarters (so to speak) of Jewish worship in Jesus’ day. His claims and teaching were rejected and condemned by the “seminaries” and mainline “churches” of His day, so Jesus crossed over to the east side of the Jordan.

And what happened there? The seed of truth planted by John the Baptist took root. John had testified of Jesus that He was the Son of God and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He said Jesus was before him, greater than him, and that he wasn’t even worthy to stoop down and unloose Jesus’ sandals. He called upon all his hearers to repent of their sinful ways and believe in Jesus, the promised Messiah and Savior of the world (cf. Mark 1:4-8; Matt. 3:1-12; Luke 3:1-20; John 1:14-36). And when those who had heard the preaching of John now heard the preaching of Jesus and witnessed His miracles, many believed in Him there.

So also today. It is not always the religious rulers and church officials who come to know and trust in Jesus — many times, they reject Him and the truth He proclaims and hold to their own religious traditions and teachings — but it is those who humbly hear God’s Word and see in Jesus the fulfillment of all that God has promised who are brought to believe.

Jesus is the Seed of the woman in Genesis 3, the Seed of Abraham in Genesis 12, the substitute sacrifice of Genesis 22, the virgin-born Immanuel of Isaiah 7, the Mighty God of Isaiah 9, the sin-bearing Servant of Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, the only-begotten Son of God in Psalms 2 and 110, the one who provides plenteous redemption in Psalm 130, the only-begotten Son of God and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world in John 1.

The true Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible, may challenge your beliefs and traditions. He might even be rejected by your church or religious leaders in favor of another idea of Jesus imagined in men’s hearts. However, it is only the true Jesus revealed to us in the Bible who gives life. He is God the Son in human flesh. He is the one who fulfilled all that God said of Him in the ancient prophesies and promises of Scripture. He paid the penalty for your sins when He suffered and died on the cross as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of all. He rose again and will be your Judge on the Last Day. Those who trust in Him have pardon, peace, and the promise of the eternal joys of heaven. Those who reject him have no forgiveness, no peace, and will be condemned to the eternal torments of hell. (Cf. John 3:16-18,36; 1 John 5:11-12.)

Look at what God’s prophets (including John the Baptist) say of Jesus in God’s Word. Look at Jesus’ teaching and works. Look at the teaching of Jesus’ apostles recorded for us in the Bible. Place your faith, your hope, your confidence in Jesus, the Son of God and Your Savior!

O gracious and merciful God, grant that I not let my own views and traditions keep me from believing Your Word and placing my faith in Jesus, Your Son, and my Savior. In His name, I pray. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised 1833 Webster Version of the Bible.]

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“The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread which came down from heaven.’ And they said, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus therefore answered and said to them, ‘Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.’” John 6:41-46

How could Jesus be the life-giving Son of God, come down from heaven to give spiritual and eternal life to sinners? Jesus’ Jewish hearers stumbled over this question because they knew Mary and Joseph, His parents.

Of course, they didn’t know or grasp that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary (cf. Mat. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38) and was not, therefore, the biological son of Joseph, but the Son of God and the Son of Mary. He was and is true God and true man.

The Gospel of John also expresses this truth in the first chapter, when it says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him, nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-5,14).

Why didn’t Jesus’ hearers believe in Him? Jesus tells us: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (v. 44). Unless God reveals the truth taught in His Word, no one can come to Jesus and trust in Him as the Messiah and Savior from sin and eternal punishment.

John also teaches this truth in the first chapter of his Gospel: “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:10-13).

Jesus cited the Old Testament Scriptures (Isaiah 54:13) when He said: “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (John 6:45). Only those taught by God from His Word recognize Jesus as the Son of God in human flesh and place their trust in Him as their Savior. Those who neglect God’s Word or reject it cannot and do not come to Jesus in faith. It is as St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).

And the only way to see the Father is to see and trust in Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Therefore, Jesus’ hearers who rejected Him and stumbled over Him in unbelief did not see or know the Father whom they claimed to worship and serve. Nor do those today who do not look to Jesus in faith as God the Son and their Messiah and Savior see or know God the Father, even if they claim to worship and serve Him! (Cf. John 14:6-11.)

And what does Jesus promise to those who come to Him in faith, trusting that He is the eternal Son of God in human flesh and that He has fulfilled all righteousness for us and made full atonement for our sins and the sins of all by His innocent sufferings and death on the cross? Jesus says, “I will raise him up at the last day” (v. 44). Those who come to Jesus and trust in Jesus for pardon and forgiveness partake of the true Bread from Heaven, and Jesus nourishes their souls and keeps them in the true and saving faith unto life everlasting.

May God grant you to know Jesus and come to Him!

O dearest Jesus, Son of God and Son of man, grant that we hear Your Word and come to You in faith for pardon, forgiveness, and the everlasting joys of heaven. We ask this for the sake of Your redeeming sacrifice for us on the cross. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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“Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, ‘How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone 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.’ Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.” John 10:22-31 (Read John 10:22-39)

Is Jesus the long-promised Messiah and Savior? That’s what the Jews demanded of Jesus to tell them, but it did no good because the people did not believe Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah, nor did they believe in Him because of the many mighty miracles he performed — works which no one could do unless God were with him and working through him. The Jews recognized what Jesus was claiming but did not believe. Instead, they sought to kill Him.

The situation is no different today. The Bible records Jesus’ words and claims for all to read and hear. It contains record after record of His miracles — even the account of His resurrection from the dead, which was witnessed by more than 500 people at once (1 Cor. 15:3-8). Jesus clearly claimed to be the very Son of God, who came into this world as a man to redeem us and give all who trust in Him pardon and everlasting life. Jesus’ miracles — healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf, making the lame whole, casting out demons, feeding thousands, calming the sea, turning water into wine, and even raising the dead on multiple occasions — clearly testify to the truth of His claims to be the only-begotten Son of God and the Messiah and Savior of the world. But so many do not believe and place their faith in Him for life and salvation!

Why? Jesus answered that question when He said, “You do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” While this is hard for us to grasp, it is only those chosen by God to follow Jesus as their Good Shepherd and trust in Him who hear and believe Jesus’ words.

Jesus explained this on another occasion in John 6:37 and 44: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. … No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” What does this mean? In the words of John 1:10-13: “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Jesus tells us that we cannot, by our own reason or choosing, come to Jesus and trust in Him as God’s Son and our Savior. We would all reject Him and fail to believe. Apart from God’s gracious choosing and drawing, no one can come to know Jesus for who He is or trust in Him and His cross for forgiveness and life. The Bible and Jesus’ words and teachings would remain a closed book to us. We would be unable to understand what they are really saying and rightly apply them to our lives.

But God, in His grace and mercy, has chosen those who believe and called them to come to Jesus and trust in Him for forgiveness and eternal life. By God’s gracious choosing and drawing, those who believe have come to Jesus and recognize Him for who He is, trusting in Him and His cross for eternal life.

And, as Jesus said of those who come to Him and believe, “They shall never perish; neither shall anyone 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.’

Not only is it by the grace and mercy of God that believers hear God’s Word and come to trust in Jesus; it is by the grace and mercy of God that He, through His Word, keeps and preserves them in that faith unto everlasting life.

The Bible tells us in Philippians 1:6: “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

O gracious heavenly Father, through Your Word, draw me to Jesus and grant me faith to trust in Him for the forgiveness of all my sins and for life eternal. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Copyright © 1982 Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved.]

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“Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say to you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye ate of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the food which perisheth, but for that food which endureth to everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give to you: for him hath God the Father sealed.” John 6:26-27 (Read John 6:1-27)

After Jesus fed the multitudes with five barley loaves and two small fish, the people sought Him. Not finding Him where He had fed them, they crossed over the Sea of Galilee and came to Capernaum, where they found Him and questioned Him as to how He had come there since He did not leave in the boat with His disciples.

Jesus cut right to the heart of the issue when He pointed out to the people, “Verily, verily, I say to you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye ate of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the food which perisheth, but for that food which endureth to everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give to you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”

As Jesus told them, they sought Him out and came to Him, not because they recognized from His miracles — and now believed — that He was the Messiah, God’s Son who had come into this world to redeem them from sin and death, but because they ate of the loaves and were filled.

Jesus told them not to labor for temporal food that perishes but for spiritual food that nourishes the soul and endures unto everlasting life. Rather than seeking Jesus because He miraculously fed the crowds, Jesus told them they should be coming to Him for spiritual food — for the forgiveness of their sins and for the blessing of eternal life, which He came to provide them by offering up Himself as a sacrifice to God for the sins of the world.

Jesus’ words still ring true today. Why do people call on pastors and churches? Why do you come to the church of Jesus? Is it to hear the Word of God and learn of the salvation Jesus won for all by His innocent sufferings and death? Is it to repent of selfish and sinful ways and look to the crucified and risen Christ for pardon, forgiveness, and life eternal?

Ask any pastor, and he will tell you why his church phone lines ring and why people seek him out. Is it that they might learn the truth of God’s Word and hear of Jesus and what He accomplished for us when He died on the cross and rose again? Is it for spiritual food to nourish their starving souls? No, it is almost always for earthly food, money to pay the bills or free clothing.

Should churches aid those with such temporal needs? Certainly — according to the measure in which God enables them to do so. Our Lord Jesus healed the sick and fed the multitudes even though He desired that people come to Him for their spiritual needs — for mercy and forgiveness, for eternal life!

But churches should also speak the words of Jesus to those who come seeking only earthly food and temporal goods. They should urge those who come to seek the food that will nourish their starving souls and give them eternal life.

Churches should speak the warning words of Jesus: “Labour not for the food which perisheth, but for that food which endureth to everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give to you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”

Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for providing me with food, clothing, and all my earthly needs. But, above all, thank You for providing for me in my greatest need by Your death on the cross for my sins and Your glorious resurrection. Move me to look to You in faith for pardon, forgiveness, and everlasting life in Your eternal kingdom. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Webster Version of the Bible, a Bible version in the King James tradition.]

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Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” John 10:11-16

What do these words of our Lord Jesus say to us today?

To pastors, it is a stern warning to shepherd God’s sheep with God’s Word. It is a warning not to abuse or neglect God’s flock but to preach and teach the whole truth revealed in the Bible and to faithfully apply God’s Word to recover the straying, to admonish the indifferent, to comfort and bind up the weak and injured, and to gather the lambs to their Savior. Those who don’t fulfill their duties will be held responsible for their failures to shepherd God’s sheep, but those who do the work entrusted to them will receive a reward (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1-2; Ezek. 34; Isa. 40:10-11; Jer. 23:1-4).

Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:2-4: “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

St. Paul exhorted the pastors in Ephesus (Acts 20:28): “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

To the sheep, it is a reminder that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, continues to watch over our souls. He feeds and nourishes us with His Word, which reveals to us our sinfulness but also comforts us with the good news of forgiveness and life through faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross.

And, indeed, He gave His life for the sheep! Isaiah 53:6 tells us: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Jesus gave His life for us to redeem us from sin and condemnation; and with His Word, He admonishes us when we go astray, comforts us when we repent and look to Him for pardon and peace, and encourages and comforts us when we are weighed down with guilt and overwhelmed by the troubles of this life.

His Word tells us in 1 John 1:7 — 2:2: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

When His called ministers are faithfully doing their duty, God commands us in Hebrews 13:17: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”

And, of course, the ultimate goal is that we, God’s sheep, dwell with the Lord Jesus forever. The goal is that which is expressed in Psalm 23:6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” (cf. Ps. 23:1-6).

And we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever when, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through God’s Word, we are preserved in the true and saving faith and trust in Christ and His cross alone for pardon and for life everlasting!

“Savior, like a shepherd, lead us; much we need Your tender care. In Your pleasant pastures feed us, for our use your fold prepare. Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, You have bought us; we are Yours. Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, You have bought us; we are Yours.” Amen. (Lutheran Service Book, Hymn No. 711, Verse 1.)

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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