17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:17–18, NKJV)
Jesus did not commit suicide by laying down His life. He sacrificed His life in obedience to the Father’s command. And by His power, He would come back to life (Jno. 11:25). No one took His life against His will. Jesus did not resist arrest in Gethsemane, although He could (Matt. 26:52-53). He yielded to the unjust trials before the Jewish Sanhedrin, Herod, and the Roman governor. He endured mocking ridicule, humiliation, and scourging’s trauma. Without resistance, He was nailed to a cross and executed condemn sin and to draw sinners to Himself for salvation (Jno. 12:31-33). The good news of His death and resurrection gives tremendous answers to those who contemplate suicide. Jesus gives help to the helpless who face sin’s heartache and loss (Heb. 2:14-18; 4:15-16). He gives peace and joy to the hapless, whose misery seems unbearable (Rom. 5:1-2; Acts 16:25-34). He gives a new birth and living hope to the hopeless (1 Pet. 1:3). If you are in despair to the point of considering suicide, seek help immediately. And, hear the gospel call to come to Jesus Christ for salvation from your sins. Because Jesus died for you, you can live with help, comfort, and hope in Him. In Christ, death is swallowed up in eternal victory (1 Cor. 15:54-58).
47 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (John 6:47–51, NASB95)
Bread is a staple of physical life and stands for the food that sustains life. Jesus takes this common truth and applies it to Himself as the bread of life (Jno. 6:35, 48). He is “the living bread that came down out of heaven” (Jno. 6:51). When we “eat this bread” (His flesh, the offering of His body to give life to the world, v. 51), we will live forever. How do we eat His flesh and drink His blood to have life eternal (Jno. 6:53-56)? Not by cannibalism (Jno. 6:52). Not by the Roman Catholic Church’s Eucharist and transubstantiation (this verse does not discuss the Lord’s Supper). We eat His flesh and drink His blood (figuratively) for eternal life by coming to Jesus and believing in Him as the “bread of life” (Jno. 6:35). By the words of Christ (which “are spirit and are life,” Jno. 6:63), the Father teaches and draws sinners to the Son (Jno. 6:44-45). Faith in Jesus Christ comes from hearing God’s word (Rom. 10:17). The word of Christ says actions produced by faith are necessary to partake of the bread of life for eternal life. In faith one must 1) Confess faith (Rom. 10:9-10), 2) Repent (Acts 2:37-38; 17:30), 3) Be baptized (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:37-38), 4) Be a faithful servant of Jesus (cf. Jno. 4:34; Rom. 12:1-2). Jesus has the “words of eternal life” (Jno. 6:68). Live by His words, and you will live forever (Jno. 6:51).
“Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8, NKJV)
Paul posed this challenging question to Herod Agrippa II during his defense before the king (Acts 26:1-29). It is a question that still drives to the heart of faith or faithlessness of each person (the word translated “incredible” means “without faith”). Either God has the power to raise the dead, or He does not. The God who created life and sustains life has the power to resurrect life from the dead. That was Paul’s premise. Paul was imprisoned and under the threat of death from the Jewish rulers for preaching the resurrection of Jesus (through which God fulfilled His promise to the Jewish fathers, Acts 26:6-7). The evidence of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead includes 1) The empty tomb (Lk. 24:1-3), 2) Eyewitness accounts of resurrection appearances of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:4-8), 3) The bribes and lies of the enemies of Jesus (Matt. 28:11-15), and 4) The Old Testament resurrection prophecies and their fulfillment (Lk. 24:44-48; Acts 2:24-31). It is not faithless to believe God raises the dead. He raised Jesus. One day, He will raise all of us, too (1 Cor. 15:20-23). The faithful will be raised to eternal life, and the faithless will be raised to eternal condemnation (Jno. 5:28-29; Acts 24:15). This is our incentive to believe in Jesus, who is “the resurrection and the life” (Jno. 11:25-27).
3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3–4, NKJV)
It is a sad reality that many people scoff at the truth that a day of judgment is coming. Preferring to fulfill their selfish lusts, they forget that God sees and knows their every thought and action. This wicked person says in his heart, “God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see” (Psa. 10:11). But, God always sees (Heb. 4:13). The fact that judgment has not yet come does not mean it will not. Indeed, Peter charged such scoffers of his day with willfully forgetting God’s judgment of sin with the flood in the days of Noah (2 Pet. 3:5-6). Things have not continued “as they were from the beginning of creation.” Ignoring God and His judgment against sin will not make the day of judgment any less real, any less painful, or any less permanent in the finality of its condemnation of sin. The gospel pleads with us not to thumb our noses at God and His judgment of our sins. Jesus calls us to repentance and conversion to escape eternal death and to enter eternal life (Rom. 6:23). Do not scoff at God and His word; judgment is coming. Reward awaits the righteous, but “ungodly men” will be destroyed on that awesome day (2 Pet. 3:7-13; 2 Thess. 1:9-10).
4 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4–5, NKJV)
Jeremiah was unique before his birth. (The unborn baby is new human life, not merely a blob of tissue connected to a woman.) The Bible repeatedly upholds the dignity of life as from God, formed and sustained by Him. In Eden, sin interrupted life and brought death. God’s plan to redeem sinners (us) from death would involve the death of His Son. But, His power of life over death would resurrect Jesus (Rom. 1:4). God chose Jeremiah before He formed Him. He set him in place as a prophet of God’s redemptive purposes. He would speak God’s word to a Judah, a sinful nation on the verge of destruction for her sins (Jer. 1:6-10). Judgment was coming, but divine mercy and redemption would also come (Jer. 21:1-10; 23:1-8). After God’s judgment against Judah (the seventy-year Babylonian exile), God would restore a remnant to the land (which occurred under Cyrus, King of Persia, Jer. 29:10-14; 25:11-12; Ezra 1:1-4). God would send “David” (Messiah) to be their King, vastly different from the kings who rebelled against God (Jer. 22). He would be “a Branch of righteousness” who would “reign and prosper” God’s people with salvation and safety (Jer. 23:1-8; 30:8-9). Messiah indeed came, but they killed Him. Yet, Jeremiah’s prophecy came true – Jesus now reigns over His kingdom at God’s right hand – “The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jer. 23:5-6; Acts 2:30-36; Heb. 1:8-9). Believe and obey the King and share in the salvation Jeremiah anticipated (1 Pet. 1:10-12; Acts 2:36-41).
13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13–14, NKJV)
Evoking the wonders of the unknown, poet Robert Frost wrote of two divergent roads in a yellow wood. Taking “the one less traveled by” men, he sighed, made “all the difference” (The Road Not Taken). Yes, many are the roads of life. Like Frost’s traveler, their ends are often obscured from sight. Jesus used the metaphor of roads and paths long before Frost. More importantly, He told us exactly where they lead. Jesus depicted two gates and pathways with very different outcomes. Each of us choose one or the other. One has a wide, inviting gate that gives way to a spacious pathway. This road is smooth and unencumbered. Many choose it, for it is easy. But, it leads to the horrible destination of damnable destruction. The other path has a narrow access point with obstacles nearby. Travelers entering this gate traverse a confined corridor paved with difficulty, turmoil, and trouble. Few accept the challenge of walking this path, but when they do, it rewards them with life. Only after traveling his chosen path could Frost look back from experience and assess the path he chose. Thankfully, we need not experience sin to know it leads to eternal demise. Choosing the narrow gate and straitened way of discipleship will lead you to eternal life (Rom. 6:22). Follow Jesus. He makes “all the difference” (Jno. 14:6).
9 That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us. (Ecclesiastes 1:9–10, NKJV)
Solomon wants us to view life on earth from an eternal vantage point. There is nothing new under the sun. What will be has already happened somewhere to someone. Sure, technologies advance, discoveries are made. But, the essence of life itself, its course, its parameters, its purposes – these have remained constant since the beginning of the creation (to coin a phrase from Jesus, Mark 10:6). Solomon saw the never-ending cycles of life in the circuit of the sun, the courses of the wind, and the evaporative equilibrium of the rivers and seas (Eccl. 1:3-7). Even our endless desires testify to the ultimate futility of life under the sun, since “the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing” (Eccl. 1:8). Ultimately, a life lived without fearing God and obeying His commandments fails to fulfill its fundamental purpose (Eccl. 12:13). The cycles of the earth and of life on this planet will continue for us until death comes (Eccl. 12:1-8). After that comes judgment and eternity (Heb. 9:27). “For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Eccl. 12:14). Are you ready?
3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:3–4, NKJV)
The sisters of Lazarus, the beloved friend of Jesus, sent Him word that their brother was seriously ill (Jno. 11:1-2). John’s narrative goes on to tell of Lazarus’ death, and that Jesus raised him from the dead (Jno. 11:17-44). Jesus knew the outcome of the sickness would not be death, it would be to the glory of the Father and the Son. Although Lazarus died physically, his resurrection affirmed Christ’s power over death (Jno. 11:25). Jesus also has power over the spiritual death caused by sin (“whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die,” Jno. 11:26). When sickness comes to us or to our loved ones, may we have the faith to see and use the opportunity it gives us to trust in God and to give Him glory. May we follow the example of Paul, whose physical ailment became an occasion for him to more fully trust the grace and power of the Lord (2 Cor. 12:8-10). Physical death awaits us all (Heb. 9:27). But, by living and believing in Christ we have spiritual life now, and eternal life beyond the grave (Jno. 5:28-29).
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36, ESV)
Yesterday we learned from this verse that whosoever believes in the Son “has eternal life” precisely because one obeys the Son. One who “does not obey the Son” is under God’s wrath instead of life. There is one more thing worth our consideration here. Many who believe one is saved “by faith alone” also believe in the impossibility of apostasy (“once saved, always saved”). However, if it is true that once the believer has eternal life he will always have life and never lose it – even if he becomes disobedient – then it necessarily follows the disobedient unbeliever can never escape the wrath of God that “remains on him.” To believe “once saved, always saved,” one must (according to this view of John 3:36) also believe “once lost, always lost.” (We are aware Calvinistic theology accepts these conclusions.) However, the gospel does not. It is for all (Mk. 16:15). God desires the salvation of every sinner (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Freewill enables us to choose to hear, believe, and obey the gospel to be saved (Acts 2:21-22, 37-41; 17:30). It also allows us to choose to sin and fall from grace (Gal. 5:4; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). Security in Christ is sure when we obey in faith: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:10-11).