Isaiah 9: 6
I just seek help to say a word as to these great titles of the Lord Jesus. They belong to Him undoubtedly. Of that there can be no dispute. One of them – Mighty God – refers clearly to deity. Then on the other hand it says, “unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given”; that is humanity. There is only one person in the whole of God’s universe who is God in His Person and yet truly Man in the place He has taken; one Person, that is our Lord Jesus Christ. These titles are His beyond dispute.
It occurred to me in thinking about it that perhaps the best person that could be enlisted to open this up to us would be the apostle John, because He presents in His gospel the Lord Jesus as the Son of God, which surely involves His deity, albeit displayed in manhood, yet He is God. But, who knew the humanity of Jesus like one who was in His bosom and who leaned at supper on His breast, John 13: 23-25? How closely John, you might say with reverence, felt the very heartbeat of the Lord Jesus.
I wanted to refer to some of the things that John tells us. If we begin at the very beginning of his gospel it says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... All things received being through him, and without him not one thing received being which has received being”, John 1: 1,3. How wonderful a Person He is. There is a spirit of worship which runs through John’s gospel in the way he writes. Then he says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us”, v 14. Is that not wonderful?
God manifest in flesh, O wonder of His universe!
Think of it! A blessed divine Person taking His place in manhood.
Some things are better contemplated than spoken about. I feel how little I can say, how poorly I can speak or any could of such wonders. It is better to contemplate. John says that, “we have contemplated his glory, a glory as of an only-begotten with a father, full of grace and truth”, v 14. No doubt John and the other disciples contemplated the Lord Jesus here in the time He sojourned with them, and they had a unique, privileged place, a fellowship indeed. I do not think that John ceased contemplating, and when the Spirit came, I believe John would be able to look back, along with these other disciples, and go over some of the things that Jesus did and said, and as having the Holy Spirit it would all mean so much more to them. John was characteristically a contemplator.
It has been said that as John wrote these words, “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us”, you can just imagine him laying down his pen, and saying, ‘and he washed my feet’. Does that not touch your heart? What a Person, “his name is called Wonderful”.
When you come to John chapter 4 we find a woman who was sorely in need of a counsellor and she found one in Jesus. Her life had become very tangled; she was a moral wreck. She had many problems, and I think they all found their source in one, that was the quest for satisfaction. She tried so hard. She had had five husbands, and that may have been legitimate, but evidently none of them filled and satisfied her heart. She tried one after another; then she tried something which was not legitimate, and instead of improving the situation it only made it worse because she would have the burden of a guilty conscience as well. She had dabbled in religion too because she speaks about her fathers, “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where one must worship”, v 20. She had tried everything and here she comes at this hour, an hour when no-one else was likely to be around. She had a bad reputation, so she came when nobody else would be there. But, that day she met the Counsellor who had the answer to all her problems. She came and there was Jesus sitting at the well; “being wearied with the way he had come, sat just as he was at the fountain”, v 6. This is the divine Counsellor, the One who has the answer. He positioned Himself in such a way that she could not avoid Him. I do not know if you ever find that; sometimes you try every expedient, but eventually you have to come to it that the Lord has to be your Counsellor. He alone has the answer.
The woman arrives and sees Him sitting there and I suppose she thought, ‘Well, I have come at this time because I thought nobody else would be around because they all know my history, but this stranger does not know anything about me’. Little did she realise that He knew more about her than anybody else did. I find most interesting the divine skill with which the Lord approaches this woman. I suppose most of us would have said straight away, ’Before we talk about anything else, you have moral matters to look into and that has to be settled first., Later on we might talk about something spiritual, but your moral issues need sorting out first’. No, the Lord does not say that at all; He says, “Give me to drink”, v 7. He touched immediately the matter of satisfaction. She does not respond immediately; she says, “How dost thou, being a Jew, ask to drink of me who am a Samaritan woman? for Jews have no intercourse with Samaritans”, and then, “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep”, v 9, 11. The woman talks about the well; the Spirit of God speaks of it as a “fountain”. There was potential there because it was a fountain of Jacob’s, but she only regarded it as stagnant and could have got no satisfaction from it. You can come to the meetings sometimes and get nothing, and others are drinking at the fountain of living water and you are left out. She says to Him that He has nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Then Jesus speaks to her about living water. That is a very precious thought, that instead of raising the moral issue first He simply talks to her about satisfaction. He says to her that He could give her living water, and she responds that that is just what she wants. Now she is interested. He first of all enlists her interest and her desire for something that would fill and satisfy her heart. He still does not raise the moral question with her directly; He says, “Go, call thy husband”, v 16. What is she going to say? She answered with what you would call a ‘half truth’. She says, “I have not a husband”, v 17, and that was true, but it was not the whole truth. The Lord then says, “Thou hast well said, I have not a husband; for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom now thou hast is not thy husband: this thou hast spoken truly”, v 18. She must have thought, ’He knows all about me; how extraordinary! He is a stranger!’ He knows all about me, and beloved brother and sister, He knows all about you too. He knows all about your sorrows, difficulties and trials, and, if there is anything that needs to be attended to, He knows about that as well, but He has the answer. This is the One whose Name is not only Wonderful, but Counsellor as well. He has the answer. He leads her on so beautifully. We cannot go into all the detail of the chapter, but evidently she realises very soon that this was no ordinary person, and she has the privilege of being one of the very few persons, perhaps only two, to whom the Lord directly disclosed who He was. She says, “I know that Messias is coming who is called Christ; when he comes he will tell us all things. Jesus says to her, I who speak to thee am he”, v 25, 26. What a disclosure! She becomes an evangelist. It is as if she says:
I’ve found a Friend, O such a Friend,
So kind, and true and tender!
So wise a Counsellor and Guide.
He has an answer to my every problem, “is not he the Christ?”, v 29. What a moment to dawn upon a thirsty, hungry soul to know that she had found the Christ and what a blessing it must have been. She found in Him the source of supply and satisfaction. No doubt the living water and the fountain of water that the Lord speaks of would refer to the Holy Spirit, but at this point the Holy Spirit had not yet come. I think she found it in Christ. As the hymn says,
O Christ, He is the fountain,
The deep, sweet well of love!
The streams of earth I’ve tasted
More deep I’ll drink above:
There to an ocean fullness
His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.
I think her heart was filled and she had to go and tell somebody else. She went to the men of the city, what she had to do with them in the past might be very doubtful, but she says, “Come, see a man who told me all things I had ever done: is not he the Christ?”, v 29. She becomes an evangelist.
There are so many things in John’s gospel that we can go over, but we must, for the present, leap on to chapter 18 where we find the Lord Jesus going forward into death majestically. This is the true ark of the covenant going forward to turn back the waters of the Jordan. As we were remarking earlier, in this gospel the Lord does not say, “Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me” (Matt 26: 39); these words were uttered in the gospels where the precious perfection of His manhood showed that He recoiled from the awfulness of having been made sin, but not in John. He is going forward here with a power that death cannot withstand, because the waters of Jordan had flowed down unchallenged. It is interesting that we are told that when they turned back they went right back to the city of Adam. It is a city, but it is more than a co-incidence that it is called Adam, because Adam was where death began. I know he was not the first one to die, but it was on Adam that that sentence was pronounced, “for in the day that thou eatest of it thou shalt certainly die”, Gen 2: 17. He partook of it and did die, and from that point onwards, that river of Jordan went unchallenged; not a man was able to stand before it until Jesus, the great anti-type of the ark of the covenant went in there. It says, “when they that bore the ark were come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water … the waters ... stood and rose up in a heap”, Josh 3: 15, 16. The Psalmist says, “The sea saw it and fled, the Jordan turned back”, Ps 114: 3. The Authorised Version says they were driven back which has its own meaning, but I like the thought of turning back. It was as though this great river flowed on unchallenged, not a man was able to stand before it, until Jesus approached and it stopped, stopped in its tracks, and turned round and went right back to Adam. That I think suggests retrospectively that the power of death is broken, because all those saints of the Old Testament, lying their in their graves, dead in Christ, will be raised when the Lord comes with that assembling shout; “the dead in Christ shall rise first”, 1 Thess 4: 16. What a triumph!
The Lord comes forward here in power. It is an unstoppable force that is going forward, and man in his puny attempts to take the Lord comes with lanterns, sticks and swords and so on, these flickering lights to try to open up the darkness of man’s unbelief. But the Lord Jesus has the initiative; He does not wait on them to come and take Him. He says, “Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus the Nazaraean. Jesus says to them, I am he. … they went away backward and fell to the ground”, John 18: 4, 5, 6. This was the mighty God. Who could stand in the presence of such a One? But, not only that, it says, “if therefore ye seek me, let these go away”, v 8. The will of God required that He should go into death; so He allowed Himself to be taken. The scripture says, “And gave his strength into captivity”, Ps 78: 61. He allowed Himself to be taken, but He says, “Whom seek ye?”. How precious! Even when facing so much Himself He was thinking of His own. He says, “If therefore ye seek me, let these go away”.
So wise a Counsellor and Guide,
So mighty a Defender!
If you have the Lord Jesus as your Counsellor and your Guide, and your Defender, you are safe. Men may do their worst, but you are safe.
We go on now to chapter 21. The Lord has been into death here and come out of it, and these disciples in this chapter are bewildered, unsure what to do; so some of them get together and go on this fishing expedition which was not blessed of God. It is not just that they had a poor catch. It says, “that night took nothing” (John 21: 3), but “early morn already breaking, Jesus stood on the shore”, v 4. That is a very wonderful stance. It takes my mind to the great angel we read of in Revelation, which is undoubtedly an allusion to the Lord Jesus Himself, who “set his right foot on the sea, and the left upon the earth”, Rev 10: 2. How great a Person He is, Lord of the earth and the sea! “Jesus stood on the shore”. What does He say to them? “Children”, v 5. You might say that these are fully grown, hard fishermen, but He says, “Children”; what a Father He is! He had looked after these disciples in the time that He sojourned with them. They knew Him as a father; He was a house father; He cared for them in every way: they were His children. And how this must have resonated with them as the truth began to dawn on them, “It is the Lord”, v 7. There was one who knew that at least; John knew that it was the Lord with His children. He says, “Children, have ye anything to eat?”. They do not disguise the situation; they say, “No”. They were absolutely without resource. He takes them in hand. He says, “Cast the net at the right side of the ship and ye will find”, v 6. Peter had experience already when the Lord told him to go and get one fish and he would find the coin in it. He knew that this One who had one foot on the sea as well as in the land was Master of the seas as well as the earth; He could command the fish. So we have “great fishes, a hundred and fifty-three”, v 11. What a wonderful result! When you submit yourself to the Lord, to His authority, how great the results are. Not only that, He says, “Come and dine”, v 12. That was not the fishes that they had taken; that was what He Himself provided. He had command of the land and the sea, fish out of the sea, a fire with coals out of the land. How great He is! This is our mighty Defender, but He is also the “Father of eternity” - or “Father of the age”. Such a great One is interested in you and me in the tiniest details of our lives.
We all know that chapter 21 has been described as an appendix to John’s gospel; the gospel finishes properly with chapter 20. Here the disciples are not bewildered. The Lord has just come out of death and conveyed this wonderful message to Mary, “go to my brethren and say to them, I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God. Mary of Magdala comes bringing word to the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had said these things to her. When therefore it was evening on that day, which was the first day of the week, and the doors shut where the disciples were, through fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and says to them, Peace be to you”, John 20: 17-21. This is none other than the Prince of Peace – I know it is a millennial title, but everything that will come out into glorious display ere long is enjoyed in the assembly now.
If you love the Lord Jesus you come to an apprehension of how great He is, how wonderful He is, how wise a Counsellor and Guide, how mighty a God He is, how mighty a Defender, Father of eternity, but then He is the Prince of Peace. When we break bread we announce His death, until He come. That is the day of display that we are anticipating; as in assembly, we can welcome in the glorious Prince of Peace, the One who dominates everything, “Peace be to you”. Then He sends them out again saying, “Peace”, v 26. How wonderful! What a Person He is! May our hearts be freshly filled with Him. I trust that what has been said leads to that end that, Christ is more glorious to us. May the Lord bless the word.
28th March 2009