Sunday, October 29, 2023

“Ripe for the Harvest” [Matt's Messages]

“Ripe for the Harvest”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
October 29, 2023 :: John 4:27-42 

Today, we’re all going to go to school to be better farmers.

I’ll bet you didn’t expect to hear that.

I grew up on a farm. Did you know that? We had about seventy acres, and we rented those seventy acres to a full-time farmer. So we didn’t actually farm it ourselves, though we did help get the fields ready by picking out the rocks each Spring.

And I was pretty clueless about how farming worked when I was a kid–not paying attention–so I won’t be teaching you anything from my personal store of knowledge. 

I’m going to be sharing with you what Jesus said about farming in John chapter 4. And the kind of farming Jesus was talking about was reaching people with the good news about Himself. Our evangelistic mission.

Jesus just used farming as an inroads illustration for His disciples to understand what He was trying to teach them about evangelism.

I love that this story landed on this Sunday. It’s a perfect story to consider for a Sunday right at the end of harvest season, right before Winter starts knocking at our doors. Next Sunday will be in November, and we’ll start singing about the harvest coming in. Well, Jesus has a lot to say about the harvest. In fact, our title for today comes right out of verse 35 where Jesus uses the phrase, “Ripe for Harvest.”

And He’s not talking about soybeans or corn. He’s talking about people. So this is also a perfect story to consider for a Sunday when we have a quarterly meal and meeting where we gather together to remind each other about the main thing around here.

We have a saying at Lanse Free Church that we got from others but have made our own, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. And the main thing is the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Just as a farmer will always be focused on the harvest to come, we who are followers of Jesus Christ should keep our eyes on the harvest that He has promised for His kingdom.

But I’m getting ahead of the story. Let’s back up to verse 27 and start there.

This is right where we left off last week. We stopped in the middle of the story of Jesus’ noon-time conversation with a Samaritan woman next to Jacob’s Well in Sychar.  

If you remember, Jesus has been full of surprises. He has plopped down to rest in the heat of the day next to Jacob’s Well while His disciples have gone into town to buy some food. Jesus is fully human and pretty tired and very thirsty.  And when a Samaritan women came up to the well to draw some water, Jesus, surprisingly, struck up a conversation with her. Remember this?

Jews and Samaritans don’t mix. Most Jews would have never even been there much less made friends. Especially across gender lines. A Jewish man is talking to a Samaritan woman?!

And you remember how the conversation went? Jesus asked her for water and then used that request for water to offer her Living Water–the eternal refreshment that comes from believing in Him. Living Water

And we saw how her understanding of Jesus changed over the course of their conversation. Jesus went from being, in her eyes, just a thirsty Jewish guy, to a bold and gentle Jewish guy who was willing to talk to her and to even touch something she had touched, and then to a miraculous prophet. Because Jesus somehow knew all about her life. He knew all about her choices, her spiritual thirst. And He knew all about what had been done to her, too. He knew her shame–she had five broken marriages, and she was currently living in sin with another man.

And Jesus kept on talking to her, pursuing her, loving her even though He knew all about her. And even when she tried to change the subject and talk about worship instead, He still stayed focused on reaching her heart. And then when she brought up the Messiah, He actually revealed to her that He was the Messiah! 

Jesus hasn’t been this straightforward with anyone so far in the whole Gospel of John, but He said to this woman (verse 26), “I who speak to you am he” (Jn. 4:26 NIVO).

That’s where we had to stop last week. And this week (v.27) picks up from that moment. Now we get the rest of the story. Verse 27. 

“Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’”

Jesus’ disciples come back from Weis or Wegmans with some plastic bags in their hands. (Or however it worked in those days). And they are shocked to find their Rabbi, their Teacher talking with a woman. And a Samaritan woman at that!

They are so shocked that they can’t even get the questions they are thinking out of their mouths. “What do you want?” “Why are you talking with her?”

We know the answers. We know that she wanted water. And, even deeper, she wanted what that water pointed to–fully-forgiven, shame-free eternal life.

And we know what Jesus wanted too. He wanted her heart. Jesus wanted her her spiritual thirst to be quenched through faith in Him. That’s why they are talking to each other. Jesus is not sexist or racist. Jesus is not misogynist nor xenophobic. Jesus is on the hunt for her heart.

Or to speak in farmer terms, Jesus wants her to be harvested. In a good way! He wants her to be a part of the crop of the kingdom, the crop for eternal life.

And I think that, here, He gets what He wants. Look at what she does. Verse 28.

“Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward him” (vv.28-30).

I think that her life is changed from this moment on. And you know why I say that? 

Because she left her water jar! The very thing that had brought her out there in the first place. She left it behind. And she went after her neighbors. 

I love how this woman does evangelism, don’t you? 

You can do this. She goes to her neighbors, some of whom probably hate her. Many of whom probably scorn her. Some may have been her friends. It doesn’t matter. She goes back to them and talks to them about Jesus. “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”

Notice that she doesn’t have all of the answers. She doesn’t have everything figured out. She is not a perfect theologian. But she has met Jesus, and she wants others to meet Him, too.

You and I can do this, too. We don’t have to have to have a perfect presentation all prepared or to have answers to every question that someone may ask. We just have to be bold enough to invite our neighbors to “come and see.”

Just like Jesus invited those first disciples to check Him out in chapter 1. This woman invites her neighbors to give Jesus some consideration. 

“Have you ever considered the claims of Christ?” You and I can say that to someone else. That’s not hard. “Have you ever thought about Who Jesus is?” You could say that. “I am a believer in Jesus Christ. What do you think of Him?” Or you and I could invite someone to read the Gospel of John together.

This woman says, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did” which is an exaggeration, but He certainly knew some of the darkest parts of her life. And yet He still cared about her.

“He says that He is the Messiah. Could this be true? He’s a Jew. He has against Him. I wish the Messiah was a Samaritan. But I think He just might be the Messiah. Come and see.”

And they do! John says that they “made their way toward him” (v.30).

Now, keep that in your mind as we read the next part. See those villagers walking back towards Jesus and His disciples as they have this conversation and Jesus begins to take them to Farmer’s School. Verse 31.

“Meanwhile his disciples urged him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’” Remember He’s really tired. He’s been really thirsty. It’s the middle of the day. He’s probably ravenous, too. They have traveled many miles. They want Jesus to eat something, but He’s looking over at the town back where the woman went, and I think He’s got a great big smile on His face.

And then He looks at His disciples, and says, “Oh yeah, this is a great time to take these guys through some Farmer School.” Look at verse 32. “But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about.’ Then his disciples said to each other, ‘Could someone have brought him food?’”

There’s that misunderstanding thing again, right? Jesus, enigmatically, says that He is not really hungry because He has unknown food. And they assume that He’s talking about physical food. Just like Nicodemus thought He meant physical birth and the woman at the well thought He meant fresh well-water. But, of course, He doesn’t. This kind of “food” is something much deeper, much more important, and much more satisfying. Verse 34.

“‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his 

Farmer School lesson number one (of three):


Farming is hard work, and farmers need to keep their strength up so they need to eat some of the best, most nourishing meals that there are out there.

But what Jesus says is the best food for Him is different from what anyone might expect. Jesus says that His food is the food of obedience. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” “That’s what I find the most satisfying.”

Jesus is not saying that He’s never going to eat again. Or even that He’s not going to eat soon. This is a Guy who just asked a woman for a drink of water. He has physical needs that will need to be met.
But Jesus is saying that all of those things take a back seat to doing what God has sent Him to do!

“Eating the best food” means prioritizing the mission.

Put the Kingdom first.
Do the will of God.
Finish the work that He has for you.

That is the best food.

Where are your priorities? Where are mine? Because we are tempted to chase every other thing in life like it is ultimate. Like “that’s the stuff!”

Just like we run after all kinds of other things to quench our spiritual thirst (like we said last week), we are tempted to put anything and everything ahead of sharing Jesus with those around us.

So often, we act like something else is the main thing. But obedience to the Great Commission is the main thing! And the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. 

And it’s not just the main thing. It’s the the most satisfying! Jesus doesn’t just grit His teeth here and fast from food. He says that this is His food! He finds obedience to be satisfying. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

And He did, didn’t He? Jesus was obedient even death, death on the Cross where He said, “It is finished.” And even in that He was finding satisfaction. Obedience was His food.

Have you found that to be true in your life, as well? Sometimes I’m the happiest when I have been able to get past myself and what I consider to be my “needs” and just be obedient in the mission that God has for me. I call it, “Doing the thing.” I’m not just spinning my wheels or playing pastor, but I’m doing the thing that God put me here to do, “Doing the thing.”

And I love it when I see this church “doing the thing.” I loved it that at two events in the community this week, we had our people handing out Scripture and showing up to show the love of Jesus to folks. Keeping the main thing the main thing. That’s the stuff! That’s the best food!

And, amazingly, people will often respond favorably. 

That’s lesson number two of Farmer School:


Look at verse 35. “Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together” (vv.35-36). 

Now, a farmer always knows that he or she has to be good at waiting. Apparently, they had a saying back then and there, “Four month s more and then the harvest.” They probably said it when they did the planting. “I put the seed in and then I have to be patient. Four months more. Four months more.” So the farmer has to see the ripe fields in his or her mind. They are still future.

But Jesus says that because He is now here, the fields are ripe.  Even now, He says. You see that in verse 36? “Even now...even now...” Something big has happened so that the disciples needed to see that the harvest had begun. 

See the ripe fields. Or literally, the “white” fields. A field of grain is ready to be harvested when the heads are white. 

Now think about this, what do Jesus and the disciples see right then? What is in their field of vision? Remember verse 30? The townspeople making their way towards Jesus.

Many commentators have wondered if the townspeople are wearing traditional Samaritan white robes as they flow out of the town and walk towards Jesus. I don’t know, but it sound good!

Either way, Jesus could see the potential harvest to come. And He wanted His disciples to see it, too. “Open your eyes...look at the fields.” With spiritual eyes, with the eyes of faith.

It’s not always going to seem like it, but the harvest has begun. It’s here. It’s coming. People are ripe to come to Christ. I know that it doesn’t always seem like it. I often feel like nobody is interested in coming to Christ. Especially the younger generations. But what they really aren’t interested in is fake Christianity and the lies that they have been shown and sold about what Christianity is and isn’t. Many of them are hungry for the truth and when they found out Who Jesus really is, they will want Him, too.

I’ve read some encouraging reports of spiritual awakening among Generation Z, the young people who are young adults right now. They see the world differently than older generations, but they are hungry  for something, and many of them are going to find that Jesus is the answer to what they are seeking.  We need to assume that and go out and share Jesus with them in boldness and love. And assume that He will save many and not few.

We need to see the ripe fields. Even now. Verse 36.

“Even now the reaper draws his wages [the job is done], even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying 'One sows and another reaps' is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.’”

This is Farmer School Lesson number three (and last):


Sow, reap, and rejoice. 

Nobody reaps if nobody sows. Right? 

You don’t have to be the one who sows to reap. That’s the point that Jesus is making in verse 38. He says that others have done the hard work of sowing and the disciples are now reaping the benefit of their labor.

I think that’s people like John the Baptist and all of the prophets in the Old Testament. They’ve been sowing, planting seeds about the Messiah for a long time.

And now, these disciples get to reap the benefits of their hard work. And that’s okay! In fact, Jesus says, it’s great. The sower and the repear are glad together (v.36). “Glad together.”

But if no one ever sows, then there will be no reaping. So, there’s really a call here to sow.  To plant those seeds. To consider it “your food” to get out there and introduce people to Jesus. To say, “Come and see...could this be the Christ?”

“Could this One be the One you are looking for?” 

Who might you need to talk to this week? Where might you sow seeds of the gospel? You never know where you might reap then! You never know who you might to talk and find out that someone else has been talking to them and the ready to jump into the boat. They are ready to get picked off of the stalk.

Sow, reap...and rejoice!

What a joy it is when people finally come to know Jesus as their Savior. Jesus says there are parties in heaven when one sinner repents. And there are parties here on Earth, too. And nobody begrudges anyone else for their part in it. Sometimes we sow. Sometimes we reap. And whenever there is reaping, we rejoice. Together.

Especially when there are many! When the harvest is huge. And that’s what happened in this story. Look at verse 39.

“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.”

There’s two miracles for you, right there! 

First, that many of these Samaritans BELIEVED because of this woman’s testimony. This woman. This Samaritan woman who had been loaded down with shame. She points them to Jesus and they believe.

And you know what happens when you believe in Jesus, right? You get life in His name (John 20:31).

And here’s the second miracle. These Samaritan townspeople asked this Jewish Rabbi to stay with them for two days! The wall of hostility had been knocked down. Ethnicity and race and culture and gender wars were no longer the factors that kept them apart. Jesus had brought them together. Jesus had sown and now was reaping. And everyone was rejoicing. V.41

“And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.’”

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16 NIVO). And this man, Jesus is the Savior of the world.

These folks came to believe that for themselves. I love that “for ourselves” in verse 42. They aren’t content to let someone else believe for them. They have trusted Jesus for themselves. 

Have you trusted Jesus yourself? Do you believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world?

It’s interesting that they say, “of the world,” right? He’s not just the Savior of Israel. But also the savior for the half-breed Samaritans. And also for the Gentiles. We’ll see that next week, Lord-willing. Gentiles like you and me. Have you trusted Jesus yourself? Do you believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world? And do you know Him as your own savior?

If so, we all rejoice! 
If not, we all invite you to do so now. Check out Jesus and finding out what He did on the Cross and at the Empty Tomb, come to know Him as your own Savior from your own sins and for eternal life. On that day, many believed. “Many more” it says. What a day of rejoicing that must have been.

Let me ask this question for us as we close:

What if Jesus had not bothered? What if Jesus had not bothered to speak to this woman at this well? What if Jesus had allowed her to change the conversation, and He just stopped pursuing her. He just stopped sowing. He just stopped planting. What if He had just gotten a drink and something to eat and been satisfied with that? What if the Farmer never went out to sow? What if obedience was not Jesus’ food? When then?

Let me ask it this way for all of us potential farmers:

What is your food? Not what did you bring to share at the meal today, but what is the most important life priority for you so that you would call it your sustenance and satisfaction? What is your food?

Next question: Can you see the fields? Do you see the potential reaping that could be done here in our area and around the world as we engage in God’s redemptive mission? Can you see the fields of the people around you? Are they white? Are they ripe? The harvest has begun. 

Last question: Are you sowing? Because if nobody sows, nobody reaps. But if we keep sowing–if we keep the main thing the main thing–then we will reap, and together we will rejoice. Because we know that this man Jesus really is the Savior of the world.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

“Living Water” [Matt's Messages]

“Living Water”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
October 22, 2023 :: John 4:1-26

Have you ever been really thirsty?

What’s it feel like? 

Your mouth gets kind of dry. Maybe your throat gets scratchy. I start to get a headache when I’m really thirsty and heading towards dehydration.

It’s something you feel through your whole body, isn’t it? Not just your mouth. It’s your whole body, all of your tissues, calling out for hydration.

Are you feeling thirsty all of a sudden?

Just hearing the word “thirsty” makes me feel thirsty! How about you?

There’s nothing like a tall glass of cool sweet water when you are thirsty. And how it replenishes your whole body.

In John chapter 4, Jesus is thirsty, and He uses the idea of thirst as an inroads illustration for the answer to our spiritual thirst which is what He calls in verse 10, “Living Water.”

Let me show you what I mean. Let’s start in verse 1 to set the stage. Verse 1.

“The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John,  although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.”

If you remember from a couple of weeks ago, Jesus had been, through His disciples, baptizing new believers in Him–so much so that John the Baptist’s disciples had become a little jealous. But John had not. John was just the “friend of the bridegroom.” Jesus was the bridegroom. John wanted to decrease and wanted to see Jesus increase above all.

And that was happening. And the Pharisees, who had been investigating John, now got to investigating Jesus. And Jesus knew it wasn’t yet time to get into a tussle with them right then, so he left the southern part of Israel called Judah (where He had been born about 30 years before) and headed back north towards his home (where He had grown up) in the region called Galilee. Verse 4.

“Now he had to go through Samaria.” 

Stop there for a second. I want to say something about this. John says that Jesus HAD TO GO through Samaria. That doesn’t mean that there was no other way to get to Galilee. In fact, a lot Jews headed from the South to the North took the by-pass. You might want to look on a map, in the back of your Bible for this. A lot of Jews crossed the Jordan when they got to the border of Samaria and traveled north on the East of the Jordan so that they didn’t have to go through the middle area, the in-between region, called Samaria.

If you aren’t aware, there was all of kinds tension between the Samaritans and the Jews. The Jews thought of the Samaritans as half-breed traitors. They were the result of inter-marrying between those who were left in the North after the Assyrian exile in the Old Testament with a bunch of squatter foreigners. And they had developed their own worship system and version of the Bible–mainly just the first five books of the Bible and rejecting the rest.

The Jews did not like the Samaritans and vice-versa. They despised each other. So the Jews often took the by-pass. 

But John says Jesus HAD TO go through Samaria. Why?

Because He had to have this conversation.

Because Jesus was on a mission to seek and to save that which was lost.
Because Jesus was not racist. 
Because Jesus was finding His people.
Because God so loved the world that He sent His One and Only Son on a rescue mission (John 3:16).

Jesus HAD TO go through Samaria because God wanted Him there.

I think we can all learn something from that. God also is directing our steps and putting us in various places to reach people for Him. Even people incredibly different from us. Maybe people we don’t like that much. Maybe people we have even been trained to hate. Who might that be for you? V.4.

“Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.”

Read Genesis 48 and Joshua 24 for the backstory here. John puts this story on the map. There was a well there which Jacob had gifted to Joseph. And there still is a well there which is over 100 feet deep.

And Jesus plops down by the well. And He’s tired.

Do you ever think about Jesus being tired? Jesus is fully human. Like fully. He got tired. He got so tired. One time He was so tired, He fell asleep in a boat and slept through a storm at sea! That’s not because He was super-human. It was because He was fully human!

And these guys have been traveling. And Jesus is just whipped. And He’s thirsty.

You see what time it is? John says it was about the sixth hour. That’s the sixth hour from sunrise, so it’s about noon. Noon in the Middle East, and He’s been traveling. He’s hot and tired. And thirsty.

And He’s right next to a well! It’s really deep, and He could see down it, and He can see the water. He can probably smell the water. But He doesn’t have a bucket.

Jesus, in His humanity, is needy. One day, when He’s hanging on the Cross, He will say, “I am thirsty” (John 19:2). Right now, it’s obvious.

Now, one more thing I want to point out is that often in the Bible people meet other people at wells. It’s a popular meeting place. A place for hospitality to occur. And even a place for a man to find himself a bride (for example: Isaac, Jacob, Moses).

And we’ve just been told in chapter 3 that Jesus is a bridegroom. And if you are reading your Bible carefully, you might guess that the hero may be meeting a potential wife at this next moment. 

And, in sense, He is. But not like that.

But I think it’s supposed to be in our heads. The Bridegroom is on the lookout for His bride. And as we saw last time, WE ARE HIS BRIDE! All His believers are together His Bride. All of His Church is together His Bride. And so, potentially, is this woman who comes walking up to Him. V.7

“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)” (vv.7-8).

Now, you know, Jesus is full of surprises.

For one, that He’s all alone. His disciples have gone into town to pick up supplies.

And Jesus has stayed back all by Himself to rest.

And He doesn’t run away when He sees this woman approach. He isn’t scared to be in her presence. Or have her in His.

But He also doesn’t take advantage of her. I know it’s impossible for us to think of Jesus doing that, but it probably crossed her mind.

There she is at noonday trying to draw some water. A lot of people have pointed out that that’s not the normal time for a woman in that culture to go get water. Normally women went in groups early in the morning or later in the evening when it’s cooler outside. They didn’t go on their own at the hottest time of the day. We don’t know why she did that. Perhaps it was because she didn’t have any friends. (Though we will see next time that her neighbors did listen to her words when she had something to tell them.) Maybe they had just run out of water, and she had to go get it right then. We don’t know. Perhaps she wanted to be alone. 

But she wasn’t alone. Here she comes up to the well, and there’s this guy sitting right by it. And, from the way He’s dressed and His accent, it’s clear that He’s a Jew. Not a Samaritan like she is.

Is He a threat?

He is not. (And, men, let’s be like Jesus in this way, too. Even when we’re tired. Even when we’re thirsty. Even when we’re alone. Let’s be no threat to women.)

But He’s not just non-threatening. He does not retreat from her either. He talks to her like she’s a human being worthy of respect! That’s so surprising that it makes her talk to Him! Verse 9.

“The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” And, John, that’s putting it mildly!

A Samaritan?! Some of the Jews taught that Samaritan women were ceremonially unclean perpetually, all of the time. That meant that a good Jewish man would not even touch something that a Samaritan woman had touched or he would have to consider himself unclean and go through a purification. We can’t wrap our minds around how culturally strange it was that Jesus would talk to her much less that He would ask her to give Him something that He would touch Himself. Like a cup of water from Jacob’s Well.

Now, I want you to see the progression in this woman’s perception of Who Jesus is, as this story unfolds. Both this week and next.

He starts out, in her eyes, as just a tired thirsty man who may be a potential threat. Then she sees that He is a Jewish man. But not just any Jewish man. A Jewish man Who is willing to talk to her and relate to her as a person. Even to make a request and cross the cultural boundary of touching something she had touched.

This is shocking to her. “How can you ask me for a drink?” What is going on here? 

But imagine her surprise when He comes back like this? Verse 10.

“Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’” There’s our sermon title for today.

Jesus says that this woman (and we never learn her name which I think helps every woman to see herself in her shoes, that this woman) is really the needy one.

Yes, Jesus needs a drink. But she needs what that drink really stands for. She needs living water.

Now, on the face of it, that phrase can just mean running water. Spring water. Fresh water. Water that flows in such a way that it remains sweet. Water that has air added to it and hasn’t gotten stale, dead, or full of bacteria. 

But, obviously, Jesus means a lot more than that. He says that if she just knew Who He is, she’d be asking Him for living water. 

And it would be the “gift of God.” It would be FREE. That makes me think about our memory verse, right? John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that HE GAVE His One and Only Son...”

“If you only knew the gift of God...He would have given you living water.”

Now, this woman is really intrigued. Perhaps she’s reaching for her purse to make sure she has mace. This guy isn’t acting like anyone else. She’s so surprised at what He’s saying that she has to come back. V.11

“‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?’”

“I don’t get the logistics here. How is this going to work?”

She’s kind of like Nicodemus, right? How can I get back into my mommy’s tummy? How can you give me water without a bucket? What are you talking about?

"Are you greater than our father Jacob?" She assumes that the answer will be, “No.” Right? "We (Jews and Samaritans) are all descendants of Jacob, so he’s greater than we are, right?" 

But Jesus’ answer is, “Yes, I am greater than Jacob.” Look at what He says in verse 13.

“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”

Jesus is talking about something much greater than well water. He’s talking about a thirst that is greater than just physical thirst. He’s talking about spiritual thirst, and the answer for spiritual thirst is living water.

The water that Jesus gives that is unendingly satisfying. “Will never thirst!”


Jesus is offering to this woman eternal life. He’s offering up Himself. 

Living water is a perfect way of describing how faith in Jesus leads to unendingly satisfying life.

How long can a human live without water? Google says about three days. And then you need it again. And then you need it again. 

But Jesus says that if you have Him, then you have inside of yourself what you need to live eternally.

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”

I have two points of application I want to make today, and here’s the first one:


Which is another way of saying put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Believe in Him. Believe that Jesus is Who He says He is. And put all of your faith and trust in Him.

That’s the whole point of this book, right? And it’s the whole point of this series. If you “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of believing you may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:31 NIVO). Eternal life!

Jesus says that this life is not just like a little drink of water, but like a drink of water that becomes a spring inside of you. Like “Spring up, O well!” (Numbers 21:17). The “welling up” in verse 14 is the same word for the guy who couldn’t walk in Acts chapter 3 and then was healed and was walking and leaping and praising God.

That’s what happens inside of you when you become a follower of Jesus. You don’t necessarily feel it all of the time, but that’s your ultimate reality.

In chapter 7, Jesus is going to proclaim, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (Jn. 7:37-38 NIVO). Drink the living water. It’s free! It’s the “gift of God.” 

Have you come to drink the living water, so that you have a spiritual artesian well inside of you? That’s what Jesus was offering her, and what He is offering to you and me and our neighbors today.

Now, the woman is intrigued, but she still does not understand. Perhaps, like Nicodemus, that misunderstanding is somewhat intentional–feigning ignorance so that she doesn’t have to make up her mind right away.

There are a lot of similarities between Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. They couldn’t have been more different culturally. Man and woman. Jew and Samaritan. High position and low position. And Nick was at night, and she was at noon.

But they both needed the same thing. They both needed Jesus. V.15

“The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’ He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ 

[And now He gets personal. Jesus keeps pursuing her. He is undaunted. And she ashamed. V.17.] 

‘I have no husband,’ she replied. 

Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’” (vv.16-18).

Like I said, Jesus is full of surprises. He knows all about this woman’s life. He knows all about her choices. And He knows all about what has been done to her. He points out that she is telling the truth, but she leaves out the whole truth. Yes, she has no husband. But that does not mean that she is unattached. She has had five husbands. And it’s possible that they have all died, but that’s unlikely from the way that it’s talked about here. It’s much more likely that she’s had five divorces. And that right now she’s living with a man who is not her husband.

Notice that this is rightfully seen as sinful. Living together as if you were married if you are not married is wrong. It’s against God’s design, against God’s command, and against God’s holiness. “Living in sin” is sin.

It amazes me that even many professing Christians don’t recognize that these days. So many people who should know better! Living together as if you were married if you are not married is sinful.

And note also that being married means more than just living together as if you are married. To be truly married there must also be a covenant between the husband and the wife, and that life-long covenant should be entered into publicly so that it is recognized by the community. In our culture that also normally involves the government, marriage licenses and so forth.

But this woman does not have that with the man she is currently with. And Jesus knows it. But note, also, that Jesus knows it all...and keeps talking to her! He keeps loving her. 

Jesus knows that she is a woman, a Samaritan, and is living in sin following a string of broken marriages. But that doesn’t cause Him to love her any less. If anything, it causes Him to move towards her with even more compassion, even more love. Truth-telling love.

Jesus is full of surprises.

Now, I’ve always thought that Jesus knows all of this about her and thinks that she has been trying to fill her spiritual thirst with men. Perhaps for sexual pleasure, but more likely for security, significance, and satisfaction.

She’s got to have a man to be happy, and she is ready to ditch them if they don’t please her. She’s a loose woman, as shameful as a happy prostitute. And Jesus loves her anyway.

And that might be the way it was.

But as I’ve come to think more deeply about the culture that she was living in at that time, I have come to realize that it’s much more likely that this woman was used and abused (like so many sex workers are throughout the world). Women in that day and age did not have a lot of rights. They didn’t just get divorced whenever they felt like it. Some men did but few women were able to. Certainly, they couldn’t just do it 5 times!

It’s much more likely that this woman was basically being handed from man to man. She was abandoned. She was the one ditched. And then ditched. And then ditched.  And then ditched. And then ditched once more.

And then this guy doesn’t even feel the necessity of going through the motions to get truly married to get what he wants out of her.

She’s living in sin, yes, and has some responsibility for that, but she’s been sinned against again and again and again and again and again. If there’s a deep spiritual thirst this woman has, it’s not just forgiveness for her guilt but a removal, a washing away, of the shame that others have placed upon her.

Known, loved, and valued no mater what had been done to her.

Ladies, can you relate? By the way, if all of this brings up feelings of shame in you that you don’t know what to do with, come talk to me and Heather about it, or find someone else you trust to begin that healing process, or if you're like me and you need to start by processing it on your own, I can recommend a great book to read, “Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection” by my mentor Ed Welch. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Jesus knows all of that about her, and He still moves toward her. Of course He does! He loves her. He doesn’t want her to remain in her sin and shame, but He loves her just as she is right then and there. He knows all of that and He offers to her this living water.

Drink the living water. Jesus is what you are really thirsty for.

And He has come for you. He had to come this way. It was His mission. He was at this well for this woman that day. And He’s come for you.

Yes, you.

No matter what you’ve done or what has been done to you. Jesus has come for you.

Jesus HAD to go through to Samaria.
And then Jesus HAD to go to the Cross.
Because He was coming for His bride.

Not just one Samaritan woman, but for all of us who will put our faith and trust in Him and drink His living water.

I’m sure that this woman did not know what to do with Jesus now. He has gone from being just some thirsty guy who shouldn’t even be talking to her, to someone offering something that sounds too good to be true, to someone who knows all of her story and her baggage.
What would you say next? She tries to change the subject. Verse 19.

“‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. [So let’s talk theology, huh? Anything but what you just brought up.] Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’”

She’s talking about Mount Gerizim. Abraham, Jacob, and Moses all worshiped there at one point. That’s the fathers she’s talking about. They are all in the first five books that both the Jews and the Samaritans agreed upon. But the Jews knew that the LORD set up His capitol and wanted a temple built in Jerusalem.

So there’s a point of contention here. A few hundred years before this, the Samaritans had actually built a temple on Mount Gerizim, and then a few hundred years later the Jews had knocked it down. She wants to know which of them is right. And she wants to talk about anything but her spiritual thirst.

So Jesus stops and leaves her alone.

No, He doesn’t.

He lets her change the topic, but He keeps on driving towards her heart. He says, “You want to talk about worship? That’s what I want to talk about.” Because worship and spiritual thirst are basically the same thing. “You ask, ‘Do we have to worship on Gerizim or in Jerusalem?’ And the answer is neither.” Verse 21.

“Jesus declared, ‘Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.”

No anti-semitism here! [By the way, “woman” here is the same thing that He called His mom back at the wedding in Cana. He’s not being rude. It’s like “Ma’am.”]

A time is coming when it’s not here nor there. It’s actually going to be everywhere. You Samaritans are ignorant because you aren’t reading your whole Bible. And your whole Bible will tell you that the Messiah is coming, and He’s going to be Jew. So of the two, the Jews are more right than the Samaritans.

But the right answer for where to worship is not just Jerusalem. It’s wherever God’s true people gather to worship in spirit and in truth. Verse 23.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come[!] when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth’” (vv.23-24).

There is so much there! Jesus says that the key question to ask about worship is not WHERE. It’s HOW, and even more importantly, it’s WHO. Here’s point number two and last:


That’s the kind that God is seeking. Did you catch that in verse 24? “[True worshipers] are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. He’s hunting for them. He’s on the lookout for these kind of worshipers. The ones who worship in spirit and in truth.

“In spirit” because God is Spirit. He’s not bound by location. He’s not contained or confined to one city. He is in all of the cities and all of the country, and deserves to be worshiped in all of the places. Even in this place. As the true Church, the Bride of Christ, gathers right here together to call on His name.

And “in spirit” because it’s not good enough to just be here in the building, our hearts must be truly engaged. We can’t just go through the motions. We can’t just worship on the outside. We must worship from our hearts, from the inside, in our spirits, by our spirits. Our worship must be spiritual.

And it must be truthful. We have to worship God as He is, not just as we would like Him to be. I think we all want to make God in our image instead of living out His image in us.

But God is how He is, and we must worship Him how He is, in truth. So our worship must be real and must be about Reality.

We shouldn’t worship what is false and what is not God. Which could be a whole lot of things. All of those things we might chase to assuage our spiritual thirst. What are you tempted to drink instead of Jesus? Money? Sex? Security? Fame? Popularity?

Remember what God said in Jeremiah chapter 2? “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jer. 2:13 NIVO).

What are your broken cisterns? Only Jesus is the the real thirst quencher. Only the true Messiah is worthy of that kind of true worship. And this woman knew that. Look at verse 25.

“The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’ [He will sort all of this out.] Then Jesus declared, ‘I who speak to you am he.’”

He just comes out and says it, and invites her to believe in Him. And believe that Jesus is the Messiah (called Christ) and by believing to have life in His name. A spring of living water welling up to eternal life.

Do you know what happens next? Lord-willing, we will study it together next Sunday.

It may surprise you. Jesus is full of surprises.

And because of Him we can be full of living water.


Messages in this Series

01. "That You May Believe" - John 20:30-31
02. "In The Beginning Was the Word" - John 1:1-18
03. "John's Testimony" - John 1:19-34
04. "Come and See" - John 1:35-51
05. "The First of His Miraculous Signs" - John 2:1-11
06. "This Temple" - John 2:12-25
07. "You Must Be Born Again" - John 3:1-15
08. "God So Loved The World" - John 3:16-21

Sunday, October 08, 2023

"Above All" [Matt's Messages]

“Above All”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
October 8, 2023 :: John 3:22-36 

This church is not about us. This church is not about me. And this church is not about you. And this church is not even about reaching the world outside of these walls.

This church–above all–is about Jesus.

I was really excited when I saw that this passage is where we’d be in the Gospel of John on Celebration Sunday 2023.

Because I could immediately see how we could profit from studying its message on the day when we pause to celebrate how wonderfully God has blessed our congregation for the last 131 years.

On your birthday, it’s easy to think that it’s all about you. And while we have most certainly been blessed–above all–this church is not about us. It’s about Jesus above all.

I pulled the title for this message from verse 31 where it appears twice: “The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all.” And, as we shall see, that is our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s study the passage closely and see how this comes out and think about how it applies to us today. 

Let’s start in verse 22 and read through verse 24.

“After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized (This was before John was put in prison.)” (vv.22-24). Stop there for a second.

This story takes place some time after Jesus met with Nick at night. Some time has passed since Nicodemus came to Jesus in the darkness, and Jesus told him that he must be born again. And that he must believe in the lifted-up Son to have eternal life.

Some time has passed, and Jesus has taken his disciples on a team-building retreat into the countryside. And while there, they are also baptizing new disciples in Jesus’ name.

At the very same time, John the Baptist (remember him?) and his disciples are also baptizing. They are west of the Jordan in a very wet place called Aenon near Salim.

I think it’s interesting, and I always point this out in our baptism classes, that it apparently takes a lot of water to baptize the right way (or at least whenever you can get a lot of water, it’s best to use a lot of water). John and his disciples are baptizing in this spot (v.23) “because there was plenty of water.” He was a full immersion kind of guy. No little sprinkling going on here. They don’t call him “John the Baptist” for nothing!

But John’s not the only one baptizing now. Jesus is! Or at least His disciples are baptizing under His authority (see 4:2) now.

And it might seem like a competition. It might seem like a rivalry. In fact, I think John’s disciples very much saw it that way. Look at verse 25.

“An argument developed between some of John's disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing.”

We don’t know what the argument was about. It apparently doesn’t matter. Something to do with the relationship between baptism and ceremonial washings.

What does matter is that apparently Jesus’ name comes up during the theological debate. And John’s disciples seem to be jealous for John’s corner on the market. Verse 26.

“They came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan–the one you testified about–well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.’”

You can just hear how concerned they are for their master. “Teacher, remember that guy you pointed out back in chapter 1? The guy who some of us immediately started to follow after you pointed him out? Well, now he’s baptizing. And it looks like he’s ‘blowing up!’ ‘Everyone is going to him.’”

Now, I love how loyal they are to their leader. They clearly love him, and that can be a really good thing. 

But if they are truly upset, they have truly missed their master’s whole point. “Rabbi! We call you ‘Notorious JTB.’ You are John The Baptist. Is it okay if this Jesus guy baptizes, too?”

Now, let’s look at how John responds to them and learn an incredible lesson in how to think about ourselves. John just nails this. Verse 27.

“To this John replied, ‘A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.’”

In other words, “If I have anything good, it was a gift in the first place. If I have a blessing. It was a blessing I didn’t earn. If I have a wonderful position in the world–the forerunner of the Messiah[!?]–I didn’t deserve that in the first place. I just received it. So I don’t need to hold onto it desperately as mine by right.”

The Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor. 4:7 NIVO).

I love how humble John is here. He knows that if he’s had a wonderful ministry and it might be taken away from him, it wasn’t about him anyway, so he’ll be fine.

Our church has had a wonderful history. But if we start to see the churches around us start to grow and we don’t, we should not get resentful or envious. You can only receive what is given you from heaven. Verse 28. 

“You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.'”

Remember that from chapter 1? They wanted to know who John thought he was, and he said that he was “The Voice.” “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord'” (Jn. 1:23 NIVO). He knows that he’s just a voice, and being the voice was just his gift from heaven. He didn’t deserve it or earn it. He’s just the Voice, but Jesus is the Lamb.

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29 NIVO).

John was just here to point his boney finger at Jesus. And the point of the pointing was not the pointer! But the Person he was pointing at! So if his disciples were getting bent out of shape that John was being eclipsed by Jesus, they were missing their master’s whole point.

So John uses a cultural illustration that they would all understand. Look at verse 29.

“The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less” (vv.29-30).

I’ve got two points of application this morning, and here’s number one:


This is a beautiful illustration. It just sings!

Who is the most important woman at a wedding? That’s easy. It’s the bride.

Who is the most important man at a wedding? Should be easy, too. It’s not the officiating pastor.  And it’s definitely not the best man. 

It’s the groom. “The bride belongs to the bridegroom.” That’s how it is, and how it should be.

John says (v.29), “The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice.”

Now, the closest thing we have in our culture to the “friend who attends the bridegroom” is our best-man at an American wedding.

But the “friend who attends the bridegroom” had a much bigger role than most “best-men” do these days. In those days, “The ‘friend’ was a highly honored position who had numerous, important functions at the wedding, including serving as a witness, contributing financially, having a prominent place in the festivities, and providing general oversight and arrangement for the ceremony” (Edward W. Klink III, pg. 219).

He was almost responsible for the whole thing. And he has responsibilities for the bride, too, in terms of making sure that she was ready to be presented to the groom at the wedding. In some of their weddings, this guy was the guy who presented the bride to the groom like how in our weddings often the father-of-the-bride walks her down the aisle?

It would not be hard to imagine a guy in that role that thought he was the most important man at the wedding. And, honestly, it would be a very important role, right?! There is no shame in being the best-man. Unless! Unless the best-man started to think that he was more important than the bridegroom.

If he’s doing his job, he’s waiting to hear the bridegroom say, “I do.” “I take you as my lawfully wedding wife.” He’s doing everything he can to bring these two together on their day. So that the groom says, “I am so happy! I am happy above all men today because we are now married.”

And then, and only then, is the groom’s friend happy. “The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.”

John knows that he is the friend of the bridegroom.

Who is the bridegroom? It’s Jesus.

So who is the bride in this illustration? The bride is the people of God. In the Old Testament, it was Israel. Israel was often pictured as the bride of Yahweh. And in many ways, the story of the Old Testament is a story of a wedding to come where the bride and the bridegroom are united at last. The Messiah is like a bridegroom that has promised to come for His bride.

And now in the New Testament we know that the bride is more than just Israel, Jew and Gentile together in a new thing we call “The Church.” We, all of us who are believers, are a part of the Bride of the Messiah. 

So here’s the picture. John is just so happy that he has brought people to the Messiah. He has gotten the people of God ready and presented them as a bride to their long-awaited groom. And nothing could make him happier. “That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” This is what I’ve come for. This is my whole point!  “He must become greater; I must become less.” My ministry is not about me. It’s about Jesus.

Do you see how we could all learn from that? There is no reason to get jealous for ourselves or for our ministries. If we see other churches or ministries flourish, we should just be glad that the bride is coming to the bridegroom. Because it’s not about us.

We should be content and humble and thankful for any role that we can play. And anytime we do play a role, however big, we shouldn’t get a big head about it. Because we didn’t do anything to earn or deserve in the first place. It was given to us from heaven.

Notice that “becoming less” does not mean that we shrivel up but that we are increasingly blessed by Jesus. He gives us more and more. We receive more and more. We are not impoverished by “becoming less.” We are enriched! We just are not that important.

John the Baptist was truly great. You know how I know that? Jesus said so! He said, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist...” (Matt. 11:11 NIVO).

But part of his greatness was his humility. Recognizing that it was not about him. Even he was not about him. He was about Jesus!

I think there is a good word for us here to not get too attached to our spiritual leaders.

For example, don’t get too attached to me. It’s Pastor Appreciation Month, and I am so grateful for all of your expressions of appreciation. Thank you for the cards and calls and messages. They are very encouraging. Thank you for sending Heather and me to the Pastors and Wives Retreat next weekend, especially in a year when you gave us that incredibly restorative sabbatical. Thank you. We feel very very loved.

But don’t give me any of the love and loyalty that Jesus deserves. When we came back from sabbatical, I came up with this sentence to describe how it felt. I would tell people, “They missed me, but they didn’t need me.” 

And that’s exactly how it should be. You don’t need me. You need Jesus. I’m not the point. I’m just one of the friends of the groom. Pointing you to him. Often pastors can get a “messiah complex” and begin to think that everything is about them. And churches can make that mistake about their pastors, too.

John the Baptist shows us the right way, “He must become greater; I must become less.” How fitting that these are the last words from John the Baptist in this Gospel. “He must become greater; I must become less.”  Not jealous but joyful. Rejoice in Jesus above all.

I don’t have any plans to go anywhere. But if I were to leave this church or to die, would you continue on? I sure hope so. Because this church is not about me. It’s not even about you! This church is about Jesus, above all. And we should be, like John the Baptist, doing our little part to introduce the bride to the bridegroom. We will find our greatest joy when we see the people of God united to the Son of God.

This last Spring, we had two baptisms that I didn’t get to do. Joel Michaels did them with their dads, remember? It was the Sunday right before our sabbatical began. They were the first baptisms in twenty-five years that I have witnessed here at Lanse Free Church instead of doing the dunking myself.

And I was so happy! Jealous in a good way but not in a bad way. Just super happy to see someone taking that step of public identification with Jesus. I’m looking forward to more of that sort of thing.

There may come a day when this church doesn’t exist any more. And that’ll be okay. As long as we are faithful in our day, that’ll be okay. Does anybody know the names of the churches in Sweden where the ten charter members of our congregation came from? Anybody know if they still exist? Maybe some of them do.

The point is that they passed on the faith to the next generation. They were best-men bringing the gospel to this area and birthing this church which has been faithful to the gospel for 131 years.

The point of this church is not to keep existing but as long as it exists to keep pointing beyond ourselves to our Savior. And as people come to a life-changing relationship with Him, we will rejoice, and our joy will be complete. Amen?

Here’s why. Because Jesus is above all. We’ve reached verse 31.

“‘The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth [that’s John the Baptist here] belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all.”

It’s not bad to be from the earth. Or to speak as one from the earth. But it’s nothing compared to being from heaven! Jesus is superior to everyone and everything. “The one who comes from above is above all.”

Do we act like that is true? So often we let so many other things (including our own selves) take that top spot. We know that Jesus is above all.

Is Jesus above all right now for you?

What’s right here, above all, for you? 

I’m not asking if church is right here for you. Because it shouldn’t be. Jesus should be. 

Now for some of you, for you to have Jesus where He belongs, you’re going to need to move church up the list in your priorities. Because the church exists for us to help each other to put Jesus where He belongs. We exist to help each other grow in a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ through worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service. We don’t put Jesus above all on our own. We help each other to do it. That’s why we are here. But we don’t put the church above all. That’s where Jesus belongs. 

That’s where He is! And our lives should show it.  What’s right here, above all, for you? What needs to be de-throned so that Jesus is seen to be where He rightfully is. “The one who comes from heaven is above all.”
But so many do not recognize it. Look at verse 32.

“He [Jesus] testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. [Like John 1:11, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” In general He is rejected by humanity. But (v.33)] The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. [God is not a liar! V.34] For the one whom God has sent [Jesus] speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.”

Now we’re getting into the deep things of God! Now we’re seeing what Jesus is above all. God the Father has given the God the Son God the Spirit without limit. We don’t can’t even begin to imagine what that means! Jesus didn’t just have the Spirit given to him “to some extent.”

Like one of the Old Testament prophets. Or like John the Baptist himself. When John saw that Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove and resting on Him. Remember that from John’s Testimony in chapter 1? He saw the Spirit rest on Him. And there is no limit to that gift. No measuring out the Spirit. But pouring out the full Spirit of God on the Son of God. In fact, verse 35:

“The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.”

He’s got the whole world in His hands! He’s entrusted the whole thing to Him. Of course He’s above all! The Father loves Him. The Father cherishes Him. The Father adores Him.

When He poured out His Spirit on Him without limit, He said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17 NIVO). The Son is supreme in the Father’s affection.  Of course He’s above all! The Father loves Him above all.

And so, above all, we should believe in Him. Verse 36.

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.’”

Number two and last:


Because faith in Jesus leads to life. That’s the whole point of this book, right? It’s written so “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name”  (Jn. 20:31-21:1 NIVO). Here it is again: "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life...”

Has! Don’t miss that present tense. If you believe in the Son right here and right now, you have eternal life right here and right now. For all who believe! Believing in Jesus is where the life is.

But rejecting Jesus means death. Look again. “...but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.” That’s the “perishing” that we talked about last week in John 3:16.

God’s wrath is His holy anger over against sin and evil. And that wrath “remains.” It does not fade away. It is permanent and unending which is almost unthinkable which is why we must heed this warning.

Don’t miss the warnings of the Gospel of John. The invitations to faith are so wonderful; we must take them up. But it’s either/or, not both/and. Ultimately, there are only two roads with two vastly different destinations. At the end of the road of faith in Jesus, there is eternal life. But at the end of the road of rejecting Jesus, there is nothing left but God’s holy wrath. The choices are stark but clear.

I hope that everyone here believes in the Son. I hope that everyone here has heard what the Son has done for us. He has become one of us and then died for us, in our place for our sins, on the Cross. But He did not stay dead. He came back to life to give us life, and life forever more. Believe in Jesus above all.

If you have never trusted in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, then we invite you to do so right here and right now. And if you do, then you will have eternal life right here and right now.

Family, we need to get this message out to the world. This is too important to keep to ourselves.

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.”

We’ve got to tell people about Jesus above all. That’s got to stay our main thing. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Amen? 

Because this church is not the main thing. You and I are not main thing. Even reaching the world out there is not the main thing. Jesus is the main thing. This church is not about us. 

It’s about Jesus, above all.


Messages in this Series

01. "That You May Believe" - John 20:30-31
02. "In The Beginning Was the Word" - John 1:1-18
03. "John's Testimony" - John 1:19-34
04. "Come and See" - John 1:35-51
05. "The First of His Miraculous Signs" - John 2:1-11
06. "This Temple" - John 2:12-25
07. "You Must Be Born Again" - John 3:1-15

Sunday, October 01, 2023

“God So Loved the World” [Matt's Messages]

“God So Loved the World”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
October 1, 2023 :: John 3:16-21 

“For God so loved the world...”

Those might be the most famous and beloved words to open a verse of the Bible.

“For God so loved the world...”

John 3:16 is so famous and beloved for good reason. It is a beautiful encapsulation of the entire message of the gospel in just a few perfectly chosen words.

What an wonderful summary of the good news, of the best news in the whole wide world!

Pastor Kerry talked about it a little bit last week. I listened to his message online.

How many times have we heard this quoted or quoted it ourselves or seen it held up on a poster or a banner at a sporting event?

“For God so loved the world...”

Every word in this verse is vibrant and vital and crucial for understanding the most important message in the whole wide world.

It starts with the word “for.” So it’s connected to what came right before it. We studied that last time.

Remember, Nicodemus came at nighttime. He came in the darkness.

This leading Pharisee came to see Jesus at night and tried to butter Him up, but Jesus was not fooled by his flattery or impressed with his religiosity, and He straight-up told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.”

No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. It’s not our good works or our rule-following that gives us entrance into the kingdom. It is the new birth. “You must be born from above.” “You must be born once more.” “You must be born again.” Remember that?

Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus was saying, and that disappointed Jesus even more because He thought this was biblical theology 101. Nicodemus should have known all about the new birth and taught it to Israel.

But instead, all he could he say was, “How can this be?”

And Jesus told him how it could be possible. He said (vv.14&15). “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man [Jesus] must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
Jesus predicted His own crucifixion three years in advance. Jesus was going to be like the snake on the pole in the wilderness in the story of Numbers 21. If the people looked up in faith at the snake on the pole, they would be rescued and healed from the venomous snake-bites. So likewise Jesus was going to be lifted up, and if people looked to Him in faith they would be rescued and healed and saved and given eternal life.

FOR (v.16) “For God so loved the world...”

That’s the connection. I think the Apostle John is making sure that we all understand what Jesus was saying to Nicodemus. It’s possible that verses 16 through 21 are more of the words of Jesus to Nicodemus. It might be printed in red in your Bibles. That’s possible.  But I think it’s more likely that John takes over here and explains the story that he’s been telling. Either way it’s God’s Word. And it’s about a God Who loves.

“For God so loved the world...” Here’s the reason why Jesus had to go to the Cross. Here’s the reason why the Son of Man had to be lifted up.

It’s because of the great love of God for the world.

Now we’ve heard these words so many times we just might miss just how amazing these words are.

Just start with the word “God.” God is the supreme being that made the world, that made you and me. God is all powerful, all knowing, all present, all sovereign, all worthy of all worship, all holy. And John 3:16 says that that holy, holy, holy God...LOVES! He isn’t just neutral. He’s isn’t just calm, and cool, and collected. He isn’t just all powerful, all knowing, all present, all sovereign, all worthy of all worship. He is also love! And He is loving. God loves. 

And this is even more amazing...God loves the world. That’s mind-boggling. Not just because the world is so big. But because the world is so bad. This word “world” (Greek: “kosmos”) is almost always used by the Apostle John to describe something bad, something evil. Sinful human beings connected together to oppose God!

This is what we’ve heard so far from John about “the world.” In the Prologue. Chapter 1, verse 9: [The Word, the Son of God] “was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (Jn. 1:10-11 NIVO).

The world said to God, “No thank you!”
The world said to God, “We don’t want you.”
The world said to God, “Go away. Get lost. I wish you were dead.”

And that’s the world that God so loved?!

This verse is not so amazing because we were so lovable. So cute and cuddly. So desirable. So deserving. So lovable.

This verse is so amazing because we were so unlovable. And yet God so loved the world.

And that word “so!” The Greek word is “houtos.” It’s used to emphasize the manner in which something is done. The degree or the way something is accomplished.

The Christian Standard Bible says, “For God loved the world in this way...” This is how He did His loving. And this is the intensity with which He loved the world. V.16 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son...”

I’ve got three points this morning, and none of them will probably surprise you, but I hope we feel how amazing they are once again. Here’s number one.

God so loved the world:


That is astonishing love.

How great must your love be to give up your son? I have three sons and a daughter, and I don’t want to give any of them up. For anyone. But God just had the One. 

And just think about how great He was, how precious to God!

Jesus was (and is) God’s “monogenays.” “Only begotten Son.” “One and Only Son.” “Unbelievably Unique Son.”

Remember that word “monogenays” from the Prologue in chapter 1? Let’s review.

Chapter 1, verse 1. Say it with me one more time: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God [with-ness], and the Word was God [was-ness]” (Jn. 1:1 NIVO). That’s how close they are, the Father and Son. With and was.

Now chapter 1, verse 14:

That eternal Word, “...became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the [monogenays] One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14 NIVO). From the Father.

Then chapter 1, verse 18:

“No one has ever seen God, but God [monogenays] the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known” (Jn. 1:18 NIVO).

That is the Son that God (v.16), “gave!”

He gave Him. We’re going to see in a second that He sent Him. But He didn’t just send Him as messenger. 

He gave Him as a gift.
He gave Him as a sacrifice.
He gave Him to be lifted up on a pole like a snake.
He gave Him up to die.

That’s what we’re going remember at this table in just a few minutes.

Jesus wasn’t just a great teacher, as wise as His teaching was.
Jesus wasn’t just a great miracle-worker, as wonderful as His miracles were.
Jesus wasn’t just a great example, as perfect as His example was.

Jesus was the Lamb of God, sacrificed to take away the sins of the world.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son...”

Notice, again, that He did this for the world, not just for Israel. He didn’t just give His Son for the biological children of Abraham, like Nicodemus. But He did it for all who will believe.

That’s point number two this morning. Point number two.

God so loved the world:


There are two “that’s” in verse 16. God so loved the world THAT He gave. And that giving had a purpose and a result. V.16 

“...that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

What a promise! God’s gift is so great that if we believe in Jesus, we will not have eternal death but eternal life. If we look to Jesus, like the snake lifted up on the pole, then we will not perish, we will not be eternally destroyed, but we will have eternal life. Life that starts now and goes on forever in and with God.

The ultimate blessing.
The ultimate good.
The kingdom of God.
And the God of the kingdom.

All ours, all yours and mine, not because of anything we do, Nicodemus, but because of what God the Father has done in giving God the Son for us.

And that’s for anyone. “Whoever.” The Old King James, “Whosoever.” We don’t use that word anymore. “Whosoever.” You, me, anyone. 

“...whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Do you believe in Him? That’s what it all comes down to. And that’s why Jesus came down in the first place. Verse 17.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Jesus was sent on a rescue mission. 

This time. Next time He comes, He will carry out the judgment that the world deserves. But when He came that first time, He was coming to save the world that had hated Him.

And our part, as those in the world needing to be saved, is simply to believe. V.18.

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned...”

We should be! We have earned condemnation. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death (see Romans 3:23 and 6:23). But “whoever believes in Him is not condemned” (v.18). “There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).


See that crucial word in verse 18? 

“...but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.”

Don’t miss the warning that is in these verses. Don’t miss the perishing in verse 16!

If you do not believe in the God’s "monogenays.” God’s “only begotten.” God’s “One and Only.” God’s “Unbelievably unique and precious Son,” then you stand condemned already. You are already headed towards eternal death, eternal destruction, eternal perishing. 

Verse 36 will teach us, “whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him” (Jn. 3:36 NIVO).

Hear this warning. If you do not believe in God’s One and Only Son, you are headed right into the wrath of God, another name for which is Hell.

Jesus divides all humanity into two groups. And ultimately we are either in one or the other.

It’s not both/and. It is either/or.

It’s either unbeliever or believer.
It’s either perishing or eternal life.
It’s either condemned or not condemned.

But we don’t have to be condemned!

God so loved the world that we could have eternal life if we believe in His One and Only Son. It’s that simple.

In verse 19 through 21, John says it another way. He contrasts the two groups as light and darkness. Verse 19.

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

He said something like this back in the Prologue in chapter 1, didn’t he?

“In [the Eternal Word] was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it [or overcome it, beat it]” (Jn. 1:4-6 NIVO). Humans loved the darkness instead of the light because they had bought into the darkness. “Their deeds were evil.”

Remember, Nicodemus came at night. He came with the darkness swirled all around him. But Jesus is the Light, and He invites us to come into the light. V.20

“Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (vv.20-21).

Point number three and last.

God so loved the world:


Doesn’t that sound good?!

I know it’s a little scary. It’s scary to be exposed. That’s what scares the world. The world is scared to be seen and known for how evil and shameful they are. That’s what verse 20 says. They “will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

Nicodemus was afraid that his deeds would be be seen for what they really were. The Pharisees wanted to be seen as religious and holy in their own right. In their pride, they wanted people to be impressed by their religiosity and their rule following. But they didn’t want the real light to shine on them.

Did you ever have your room inspected and you hoped that they did the inspection at nighttime and didn’t turn on the lights? Don’t look too closely under the bed! Don’t turn on the lights!

Verse 21 again, “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Don’t be afraid to come into the light or to walk in the light. 

Yeah, we know that we are a mess! You and I are a hot mess. But we know that Jesus has died for our mess. So we don’t have to pretend. We don’t have to be self-righteous. Because we have Jesus’ righteousness. And then whenever we do what is right and what is good, then God gets the glory!

“So that it may be seen plainly that what [we have] done has been done through God.”

Or “in the sight of God” or “carried out in God.” The old King James says, “wrought by God.” If we do good, if we love others, if we love God, if we obey, we know Who really did it ultimately. It’s the work of God. Because God so loved the world!

Don’t be afraid of the light.
Don’t be afraid to leave the darkness and come into the light and to walk in the light.
Don’t be afraid to own your sin and confess your sin.

Because Jesus died for your sins, and He gives you His righteousness. He came to save, not to condemn. To give eternal life, not eternal death. To all who believe in Him.

Because God so loved the world.


Messages in this Series

01. "That You May Believe" - John 20:30-31
02. "In The Beginning Was the Word" - John 1:1-18
03. "John's Testimony" - John 1:19-34
04. "Come and See" - John 1:35-51
05. "The First of His Miraculous Signs" - John 2:1-11
06. "This Temple" - John 2:12-25
07. "You Must Be Born Again" - John 3:1-15