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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

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Gospel of John Daily notes

John 15:18-25: On persecution.

John 15:18-25: On persecution.

“18 ‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfil what is written in their Law: “They hated me without reason.” NIV

If the last section in John was about love, this next one turns to the theme of hate – the hatred of the world (”the moral order apart from God” D. Guthrie) for Christ, for His Father, and for the church (18, 19, 23, 24). At one level it is an inexplicable hatred because it is ”without reason” (25; see Psalm 25:19; 69:4). Why would ”the world” hate the God who ”so” loves it (John 3:16). It doesn’t make any sense naturally speaking. But we are not ‘naturally speaking’. We live and serve in war time realities (Ephesians 6:10-20).

Here are four observations from the passage:

  1. The persecution of Christians is indissolubly linked to the persecution of Jesus (18, 20, 21). The Lord had previously enunciated the principle found in (20) back in (13:16): ”No servant is greater than his master.” There it related to the need for humility. Here it has to do with how the world will treat them. If Jesus was hated by the world they will be. But some did respond warmly and positively to the teaching of Jesus and we will find this too. The picture is not totally bleak.
  2. Christians are persecuted because they do not belong to the world (19). We belong to another country, a better land, a different commonwealth, a greater kingdom: ”But our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). We have been born from above. We don’t belong in this world. It’s been said that the principle here is that like attracts like but repels opposites. It’s like when birds turn on other birds of a different plumage and want to kill them.
  3. Persecution has its origin in ignorance of God (21). People who truly know God would not hound other lovers of God. They just wouldn’t.
  4. Persecution may be understandable, but it is nevertheless inexcusable (22,24). The preaching and miracles of Jesus left them without excuse. Brilliant light had shone in their darkness. They allowed their day of opportunity to pass them by.

I applaud every sincere attempt to befriend people who are not Christians. Jesus was the Friend of sinners, and I want to follow in His steps. But if we offer that friendship without compromise, we will find that there will be many who do not wish to return it. Don’t be surprised if you are often rejected, ostracised and even hated. Don’t let it be because you are offensive, or unwise in your behaviour. But you must be prepared for it. That’s how things are. That’s how Jesus said it would be.

I heard that a new Christian said to Charles Spurgeon: ”Mr. Spurgeon, now that I am a Christian, how much of the world must I give up?” Spurgeon replied, ”Young man, don’t worry. The world will give you up.”

PRAYER: ”Lord Jesus, in the face of hostility, help me to not be surprised, and fill me with courage to still stand by your Cross.

John 15: 9-17: Enjoying Jesus’ love.

John 15: 9-17: Enjoying Jesus’ love.

“9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.” NIV

At a superficial glance, it may appear that Jesus is saying that we can earn His love by being obedient to Him. However, the message in these verses is not about earning but enjoying. ‘The Message’ makes this clearer I think:

”Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love.”

We cannot earn the love of Jesus by being obedient to His commands; but by such obedience we will enjoy the fullness of His love. Those who walk in disobedience to Him, who trample on their own consciences, will feel a distance in their relationship with Jesus. He still loves them, but they will fail to feel the warm sunshine of His love tanning their souls. We can’t live how we please and enjoy all that Jesus has for us.

A particular command is emphasised here:

”This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends…

…remember the root command: Love one another.”

So many other commands of Jesus are contained in this one. When you boil it all down, the Christian life is about loving God and loving people.

John 15:1-8: The Source of fruitfulness.

John 15:1-8: The Source of fruitfulness.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” NIV

”Do not confound work and fruit. There is much work for Christ that is not the fruit of the heavenly Vine.” Andrew Murray.

The ”fruit” we bear as disciples of Christ is to the ”Father’s glory” and by it our identity is revealed (8). It is God’s ambition for us that we should ”bear much fruit” (5, 8); and let us not forget the vital, yet painful, contribution of the pruning knife in the production of a greater crop (2b). We may not like this truth, but if honest, surely we will say that it feels like we grew the most when times were hardest.

The key to fruit-bearing is to ”remain” in Jesus (4, 5, 6, 7), and for Him to ”remain” in you. Notice the repetition of this word. It is the continuous, living connection with Jesus ”the true vine” (1) that is indispensable.

The ”fruit” produced on the Vine is linked to the nature of the tree. A vine produces grapes – not apples, oranges or pears. And the fruit of a life in Christ will be a Christ-like life.

”…apart from me you can do nothing.” (5b). The deep, inward apprehension of this truth will transform your prayer life. It will fill prayer meetings. Prayerless people and prayerless churches probably just don’t get this. It certainly looks and feels that way. Recognition of our utter helplessness apart from Christ will bring us to our knees and keep us on our knees. There are many things we can do without prayer, and many of them may appear spectacular and impressive. (I guess the Tower of Babel did!) But we cannot glorify God in the production of much and lasting ”fruit”.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please keep my heart in closest contact with you.

John 15:1-8: The cleansing Word.

John 15:1-8: The cleansing Word.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” NIV

”You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (3).

”Cleansing her by the washing with water through the word…” (Ephesians 5:26).

I had a very dear friend; a Scotsman called John, who came back to solid faith in Jesus during the time I was living in Morecambe, and helping to plant a church in Lancaster. John had spent years in ‘the wilderness.’ So he was now playing catch up. He became a keen Christian and avidly read the Bible. It was exciting to spend time with John and converse with him. We spent hours together talking about the things of God. He lived in the Scriptures, and was profoundly drawn to Paul’s letter to the ‘Romans’. But by now his memory was not what it had been, although he was still  physically strong and active. He bemoaned the fact that he wasn’t retaining much of what he read. ”But, I suppose,” he said to me, ”it’s like water going through a sieve. It cleanses as it goes.”

Jesus’ Word is a cleansing Word.

It is also a clarifying Word (7). 

How do you know what to pray? How can you know that your prayers will be answered? The Bible itself will clarify things for you. In Timothy Keller’s excellent book on prayer, he emphasises the great tradition going back to the reformers, that encourages prayer to arise from meditation on Scripture. Pray the Bible. Take what you are reading and reflecting upon, and turn it into prayer.

The ‘rails’ for prayer are laid down in God’s Word. It is up to us to travel on them.

PRAYER: Lord, I don’t want to get ‘derailed’!

John 14:25-30: Inheritance.

John 14:25-30: Inheritance.

“25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me,”NIV

Someone observed that during His life and ministry Jesus experienced numerous and severe traumas, yet inwardly He was a ”sea of glass.”

It is interesting that Jesus leaves with His disciples His own peace (27). The peace He promises is the peace He Himself possessed (and possesses.)

Do you think you come anywhere close to experiencing Christ’s peace on the often turbulent high seas of your life? Probably at times you do. But maybe not all the time?

Imagine being left a fortune in a will, and yet continuing to live in poverty. Many Christians seem to do this. Jesus has left us a rich legacy. It includes His peace among other numerous blessings. He has died willingly so that we may become His beneficiaries. But we seem content to live well below the level of our privileges.

Are you living in the fullness of all that is yours? Know for sure that you can. Whatever the Father has planned for you to have, and the Son has made possible by His death on the cross, the Holy Spirit will make real in your daily experience. But you and I have to co-operate with Him in this. For the second time in a few verses, Jesus says, ” Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (27b). The disciples were facing circumstances where their natural instinct would be to fear, but Jesus called them to resist anxiety. We are to co-operate with God in the working out of His purposes in our lives. Don’t permit the thundering hooves of fear to leave their footprints on your heart.

”Too many resemble the stone-breaker who came into a vast estate, but was content to live in the lodge. When an old friend came to congratulate him, and see over the property, he said: ”There! It is all in those parchments; but I have never been to see for myself what there is.” ” F.B. Meyer.

PRAYER: Lord, forgive me for where and when I play at Christianity. Help me to be resolute in seeking you, and to go after everything I can have because of Jesus.

John 13:31-38: The power of love.

John 13:31-38: The power of love.

“31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself,and will glorify him at once.33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” NIV

When Judas ”went out” (30), Jesus knew it was time for Him to die (31, 32). He knew that this treacherous ‘follower’ would trigger the events leading to His arrest and sufferings.

When Judas ”went out…it was night” (30). But it was the time for Jesus to shine with supreme glory. This is what we see in the Cross – the glory of God.

In the light of His soon departure, Jesus spoke so tenderly, kindly and gently to His beloved disciples (33). ”My children…” Let’s be careful how we handle precious people. Who can say what pain lies behind each carefully constructed facade? Probably everyone carries some wounds. In fact, cross out the ‘probably’. Hurt and tears are universal realities. May God help us to be gentle.

How did Jesus want His disciples to conduct themselves after His leaving (34, 35)? He wanted them to be a loving community. Don’t miss the importance of these words.

See the evangelistic power of love. People are hungry for true love, and the more perfectly it is expressed (even in an imperfect world) the more people will be drawn to it. It is known that in the pagan world in which Christianity took root, there were those who were saying, ‘See how these Christians love one another.’ What a testimony.

But we are far from perfect. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves (36-38). We mean well, but we often find that our fine-sounding words and good intentions go up in flames when we’re in the furnace. The Lord is never taken by surprise. He knows what is in us; what we are really made of. We are not yet ‘finished articles’, so humility is called for.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I ask that our church community will be a powerful and vivid advert for life in the Kingdom of God.

John 13:18-30 Ask Jesus

John 13:18-30 Ask Jesus

“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture:‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spiritand testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas,the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.” NIV

This passage ends in a dramatic fashion with the short sentence: ”And it was night” (30). It was night in more ways than one. It was a time of deep darkness as  the diabolically inspired Judas (27a) went out to do his worst. But Jesus is in total control. That is the feel; the tone of this section. Judas may go out to betray Jesus, but he goes out at the Lord’s command (27b).

So today’s reading affirms that ‘Jesus Christ is Lord.’

It also encourages us to:

Ask Jesus (22-26): become someone who enquires of the Lord, as David did in his best moments. Pursue this relationship with a real, living Lord Jesus who speaks. Where you do not know; where there are mysteries, you can ask Him. He’s not obliged to give you an answer, but He may well choose to do so. Even here, where He answered Peter, it seems the disciples still didn’t fully understand. But that, I feel, is a reflection on their dullness yet again. We see a Jesus who responds with words to our words. ”You do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:2b). Ask Jesus.

Here is something else for us to grasp:

Jesus knows (18, 19). He knows the Scriptures better than we do (18) and can give sparkling insight into them. He knows the future much better than we do (19, 21, 26, 27b). Someone said we should be very interested in the future because we will spend the rest of our lives there! Well, some people try to peer into the future in dark, unbiblical ways that are outlawed in Scripture. We should stay well away from that kind of thing. But in the Bible the Lord has revealed what He wants us to know about the future. There are prophecies yet to be fulfilled. And if Jesus wants to prepare you for anything in your personal future, He has ways to do that.

PRAYER: Yet again Lord Jesus I must confess to you my slowness to pray and to ask for all that I can have from you. Lord please fight against all the enemy’s stratagems to keep me off my knees, and help me to do all I can to resist him.

John 13:6-11: Dirty feet.

John 13:6-11: Dirty feet.

“6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.” NIV

You have to smile at Peter, don’t you? I know that in smiling at him we are regularly smiling at ourselves, but I have to admit he makes me smile. You see the contours of a real, larger than life character appearing on the page. The Biblical portrait of Peter bursts out in vivid, flawed realism.

Initially, Peter was resistant to having his feet washed by Jesus (6, 8a). It didn’t seem fitting and proper to let the Master be the slave in these circumstances. He wasn’t having that.

Jesus’ words of reply (7) to Peter’s initial shocked question (6) apply to many circumstances in life. I remember someone sending a bereavement card to my family after my mum died in her early 50’s. It made reference to this verse. Life throws up many mysteries.

After Jesus had corrected Peter’s faulty thinking (8b), typically the disciple was enthusiastically ‘all or nothing ‘ in his response; wanting to do the right thing: ”Then…not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” (9). But  in the East in those days, a person might bathe in the morning. When they arrived at a home where they were visiting they wouldn’t need a bath. It’s just that their feet would have got dusty and dirty on those hot, dry roads (10a). Jesus reminded Peter about this.

When someone becomes a Christian they ‘have a bath’, you might say. They are thoroughly washed and cleansed by Jesus. But on this Christian ‘walk’ our ‘feet’ get dirty. They need regular washing. We must learn to ‘keep short accounts’ with God (1 John 1;6-10). We are truly grateful for the once-for-all bath, but we will keep offering our ‘feet’ to Jesus for His cleansing work: ”…what we need day by day is the regular washing of those parts of ourselves, our personalities and bodies, which get dusty and dirty. When Peter objects to Jesus washing him, this reflects his objection (in Mark 8.32 and elsewhere) to Jesus going to the cross. Neither he nor the others have yet understood what it is that Jesus has to do, and why.” (Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone’,pp.45, 46.)

John 13:1-5; 12a: The drama of salvation.

John 13:1-5; 12a: The drama of salvation.

“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.” NIV

Many years ago, I read in a book by the leading evangelical Anglican rector, John Stott, that there is a strong parallel with Philippians 2:5-11 at this point in John 13. Jesus ”got up from the meal”, just as He got up from His heavenly throne. He ”took off his outer clothing”, just as He divested Himself of His heavenly glory. Then He ”wrapped a towel round his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped round him.” This reminds us how Jesus, the second Person of the Godhead, ”emptied himself”; He made himself of ”no reputation”. He took ”the very nature of a servant” and ”humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” He did all this to wash our souls, to cleanse us from sin. ”This is our God, the servant King.” This is what God is like, and ‘He calls us now to follow him; to bring our lives as a daily offering, of service to the                        servant King’ (12-17).

So the drama of salvation is beautifully painted in this breathtaking scene, including His exaltation to the highest place (12/ Philippians 2:9-11).

If we cannot marvel at these truths, I wonder if anything will ever cause us to wonder. But we must go beyond standing and staring at the glory. This has to make a difference in our daily lives and relationships (12-17). We are called by Jesus to emulate Jesus, and we need to believe that anything He asks of us He will also enable. Such a life may seem beyond you. In fact, if you feel that, you probably do have some understanding of what the Master is requiring. But you also need to be sure that He will equip you to follow in His steps.

Whatever the truth you are being shown, it is in the doing of it that you will find the blessing (17).

”So let us learn how to serve, and in our lives enthrone him; each other’s needs to prefer, for it is Christ we’re serving.’ Graham Kendrick.

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