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SG-038: 4-1-3 > John Testifies Again About Jesus

By Daniel John - Last updated: Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SG-038: 4-1-3 > John Testifies Again About Jesus


Welcome to the 38th Act and commentary of The Synoptic Gospel


This will be my last commentary on an Act from The Synoptc Gospel for a while… 


The Synoptic Gospel is a single, complete, unified Gospel account of the life of Jesus Christ, taken directly from the texts of the four Gospels of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John




Please click on the link below to read Today’s Act:  


Act 4-1-3  -  John Testifies Again About Jesus


 Adobe PDF File:   The SYNOPTIC GOSPEL – Section 4, Chapter 1, Act 3


          or, you can read the commentary on the Act first…

                   – there is another link to the .pdf file at the bottom of the post…


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The purpose of this blog is to provide full, deep and meaningfully insightful commenatry on the Gospel Story of the Life of Jesus Christ.  

If you enjoy reading this commentary, and would like to know more about the amazing life and ministry of Jesus Christ, you can purchase a copy of the book!  An electronc ebook version is also available!


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COMMENTARY on Act 4-1-3


This Act is taken entirely from the Gospel of John.  It begins,

After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea,

and there He was spending time with them and baptizing.”


This is an odd statement to our ears, as in the last Act, from the very previous verse of this same Gospel of John, Jesus was attending the Passover, in the Temple in Jerusalem, which is in “the land of Judea”. 

Some have said that the term “the land” of Judea was sometimes used to distinguish the city of Jerusalem from the rest of the province, so that someone from the city was a Jerusalemite, from the capital, and those from other parts of the province were Judeans.

Or, perhaps the reference here is to the fact that the Israelite province of “Judea” was originally composed of the tribal lands of Benjamin and Judah and the distinction was used because Jerusalem was located within Benjamin, and the rest of the territory, particularly to the east, where the Jordan River lay, was properly referred to as Judea.

Perhaps Jesus had briefly left Judea after the Passover of the last Act, perhaps returning to  His home in Galilee in the north, and had now returned.  Be that as it may, Jesus was now in Judea, along with some of His disciples. 

Who these disciples were, or how many there were that accompanied Him, is not recorded, but this group may have included some of those believing souls that we have met so far: Peter, and his brother Andrew, along with Philip and Nathanael.

The text appears to say that Jesus was baptizing, but from the last line of this Act (John 4:2), the text says that “Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were.”  It was common of the time and place to attribute the work of disciples to their master, as though the one who commanded them did the actual physical work himself.  It is kind of like the head or manager of the department or company getting (or taking) all of the credit for a successful accomplishment.  However, it is possible that Jesus may have baptized at least a few souls Himself, although we will examine this more closely toward the end of the post.

Into what were these disciples of Jesus baptizing those souls who were willing?  Clearly this was not the Jewish cleansing ritual for new proselytes, and it was likely very similar to John’s baptism, the one which Jesus Himself had undergone (Matthew 3:16-17; Mark 1:10-11; Luke 2:21-22).

Most likely this baptism was for those Jewish persons who believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and they repented of their past sins under the Jewish Law and were cleansed, and in effect they left the religion of Judaism and became converts who now followed Jesus, their Messiah.  

After this information about Jesus, the focus of the Gospel switches over to talk about John the Baptist, the one who had been sent by God to prepare the way, and to baptize Jesus. 

The next line states,

John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there;

and people were coming and were being baptized

– for John had not yet been thrown into prison.”


So John was still baptizing people, still preparing those with willing, repentant hearts and souls, to accept their Messiah. 

The location of “Aenon near Salim” is a bit uncertain, but it was likely a stretch on the western side of the Jordan River to the north-east of Jerusalem.  This would likely place it near the border between the provinces of Judea and Samaria.  Some have placed Salim in Samaria, just north of the Judean border.

The Greek word “Aenon” means “spring(s)”, “natural fountain”, “deep waters”, or somewhere from which a large quantity of water flowed, in this case, feeding the Jordan River.  

As “there was much water there”  (Greek – many waters) the location may have been along the Jordan River at a place where there was a pool or wide spot, or perhaps this location was along one of its many tributaries, or where the tributary widened out to meet the Jordan River.

While not overly useful as a currently known location, the word “Salim” (saleem) may mean “peace”, as in “Jeru-salem” – the “City of Peace” (Hebrew: abode of peace).

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible suggests that Aenon may have also been known as “Fountain of the Dove”, or of the “Nun” (Arabic).

Where ever this particular place was, a large volume of water was necessary to baptize all of the many people that came and sought baptism from John.  Much water was likely necessary to immerse and “bathe” all of them without contaminating the water, as in a font, pool or fountain.  The flowing water of a river was the perfect spot, and would prevent contamination and the spread of disease. And that would be sanitary, and conform to the Jewish laws and rituals of purity (Exodus 30:18-21), especially of the human body.

That it says, “… for John had not yet been thrown into prison” foreshadows the fact that John would eventually be “thrown into prison” – but not yet – that is another post…  For now John was still performing his ritual of baptism, and telling people about their promised Messiah, except now his message would surely have changed, no longer looking forward to His arrival, as Jesus was now here and had begun to preach and teach the people.

One thing for the Christian to note from these verses is that John was baptizing where there “was much water”, which, combined with the fact that Jesus was also baptizing in the river, would seem to indicate (along with other Scriptures) that baptism should probably be performed by full immersion under the water, when possible.  The outward form of the physical baptism was about cleansing – for both John “the Baptist”, and also by Jesus – cleansing the whole person – inside (the soul / spirit / mind), as well as the outside.

And another note on baptism and the necessary quantity of water:

For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren,

that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea;

and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; …” (1 Corinthians 10:1-2)

Perhaps the Israelites were also once more collectively baptized when 40 years later Joshua finally led them into the “promised land”, as they crossed the Jordan River – this same Jordan River where Jesus and John now baptized – for the very first time (Joshua 1:1-2).

The next line of the Act reads,

Therefore there arose a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew

about purification.”

Yes, John had disciples who followed him and assisted him while learning from him.  Recall that Peter and his brother Andrew, who now followed as disciples of Jesus the Christ, had formerly been disciples of John (John 1:35-40). 

As these disciples of John would have been baptized by John, they therefore knew what John’s baptism was. 

This “discussion” (which may possibly be rendered from the Greek as “questioning” or even “disputing”) was with “a Jew” who possibly would not submit to John’s baptism. 

Whether the inquirer was indeed a single “Jew” or more than one individual is uncertain, as some older Greek manuscripts use the plural of the word – “Jews”.  It is an interesting distinction since both John and his disciples were also Hebrews, or were they now considered something else – were they themselves no longer “Jewish”, and now called by a different name, now that they had been baptized by John into the recognition of their Messiah?

Perhaps this “Jew” had been baptized by Jesus, and now wondered what it was that John and his disciples were doing, or perhaps, he was inquiring as to some difference between the two baptisms.  Perhaps he wondered which form of “purifying” was the most effective, or he was asking why John and his disciples were still baptizing now that the object of their baptism – the Messiah – Jesus, was here and also now baptizing.

John’s baptism was a form of purification, and his ritual of cleansing the people’s repentant hearts to prepare them to meet the Messiah was different from the washings, ablutions and other rituals of purification commanded in the Law of Moses and subsequent legal stipulations (see John 2:6). 

As the Scripture says, “Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance,

telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”

When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:4-5)


John’s baptism was also distinct from the cleansing baptism that would have been performed by the priests in Jerusalem for a Gentile who wished to convert to Judaism.  That ritual also involved water and symbolic washing, and all three – the conversion to Judaism, and both John’s and Jesus’ baptism – were symbolic forms of “purification”, which were all used to prepare the human heart for a transformation, from one mindset to another – and hopefully for the repentant – from evil and self, to mirror forth outward good and virtue as fitting for a relationship with God.

And the baptism of Jesus was also about repentance – cleansing the heart to be clean so that it can accept the clean, pure teachings of Jesus.  As Paul would also later say,

“Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins,

calling on His name.” (Acts 22:16)


So it appears that these disciples of John could not answer this inquiring “Jew”, or they became uncertain themselves, and so they came to John, to seek his clarifying wisdom, perhaps like disputing children seeking a judgment or ruling from a parent.

Perhaps the “discussion” (question or even dispute) with this “Jew” was much as it is today – arguing over forms and minor details – “which church is the right church?” 

The Jewish priests performed the conversion ritual for new converts generally did not fully immerse them in water, while John clearly did, using a river because it was deep enough, and choosing the very place,  “because there was much water there.”

So the discussion between the disciples of John and the “Jew” may have been about one, or more, of the following topics:

  1. questioning John about his baptism compared to the Jewish ritual for new converts
  2. questioning John about his baptism compared to the baptism ritual now overseen by Jesus
  3. asking why John was still baptizing when the Messiah was now here and also baptizing
  4. asking why Jesus, who was previously baptized by John, was now Himself also baptizing

The second possibility assumes that Jesus has changed or modified John’s ritual of baptism, either by adding an element or perhaps taking something away.  Likely the words used were quite different, as John’s looked forward to the Messiah, and Jesus was the Messiah.

Perhaps there was a “discussion” because John’s disciples were jealous that the crowd of those willing to undergo this new form of baptism was now divided into two groups.  As today, we always think that the sect or leader that we follow is the true one from God – and that all of the others – all of them – are therefore false, without even investigating the competing claims, or even asking a single question.  This “Jew” at least had the foresight to ask the disciples of John what was going on.

However, because of the next line, it is more likely that the “discussion” was about the difference between John’s baptism, and that which was being performed by the disciples of Jesus.  If John’s baptism was for acceptance of Jesus, why was Jesus Himself baptizing?  And what then was the value of John’s immersion, when you could have the ritual performed by the one whom John indicated as the very object of his baptism?  Why was John still baptizing, and was there a difference between the baptism ritual that he initiated and the baptism performed by the disciples of Jesus? 

Perhaps this “Jew” had come to tell John that since the Messiah had now come, and had begun baptizing , that John could now stop his baptism.  Or, perhaps this man was arguing for the location of baptism used by Jesus because of the cleanliness, amount, or purity of the water at that location.

And they came to John and said to him,

‘Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified,

behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.’ ”


That John’s disciples called him “Rabbi” is a term of respect that means “teacher” or “master”.

John’s disciples said, “He who was with you beyond (Greek – “other side”) the Jordan, to whom you have testified…” is a veiled reference to Jesus.  Likely they did not witness that spectacular baptism first-hand, and had only heard about it. 

Maybe they thought that that man was just another disciple of John’s, as they were.  Either way, they clearly did not know or care who Jesus was, or else they probably would have used His name.  And it is clear that they did not know that Jesus, at His baptism by John, became their Messiah – “the anointed One” – which is perhaps a failure on the part of John not to make it clear.

This statement also seems to indicate that Jesus Himself was baptizing, when it will later in this same Act clearly say that it was the disciples of Jesus who were baptizing the people. 

That “all are coming to Him” is a beautiful way of saying that all people – everyone – men and women, Jews, and possibly even Gentiles, were “coming” to Jesus, meaning that they sought Him out, and also that they were accepting (believing) in Him, and obviously submitting to be baptized by Him. 

It seems that these disciples of John who heard him “testify” did not recall that John had also said, “I baptize you with water; but He who is coming will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16

Likely more people were coming to be baptized by the disciples of Jesus than John, and this may have been the cause of some concern or jealousy on the part of John’s disciples – “Who was this upstart whose baptism was now popular and drawing “all” “to Him”?”

Perhaps John’s disciples were concerned that this might mean the end of John’s influence and ministry, and along with that – their part in it. 

Perhaps the words of Jesus would be appropriate here, when He was later asked by His own disciple, a man also named John, about a similar situation of divided influence, which culminated with the famous words, “He who is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40) and the corollary, “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30). 

And this is a lesson for all of us – in the end it does not matter much through which channel, or sect of the church, people hear about God and Jesus – the important thing is that they first hear of Jesus, and that they are baptized into His Glorious name.

The fact that these disciples of John asked him about the baptism of Jesus shows that:

  1. They did not know who Jesus is, or believe in Him, or else they would likely have left John and followed Jesus.
  2. They did not understand the meaning and purpose of John’s baptism.
  3. They were jealous or concerned about this “other guy” who was also baptizing the people there in the Jordan River.

These disciples of John may have been concerned about this upstart Jesus, and the apparent fame that He was gaining, meaning to these disciples that their master, John, was being overshadowed, and may eventually be eclipsed.  Fiercely loyal to their master they were concerned, and perhaps not only for John’s ministry, but for their own position as more people sought out Jesus.  Perhaps these disciples recalled that other disciples of John (Peter and Andrew) had already left John to become followers of Jesus (John 1:35-42).

Clearly they thought that John’s baptism was superior to any other, and that the “other guy” (Jesus) was not doing it right, and that John, being the first to baptize, and the one who had baptized Jesus, had a controlling monopoly on baptism, and that with John lay the true path to salvation.

John answered to them and said,

A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.”


In the broadest sense, truly, everything comes from God, and there is nothing that can be received except from God, especially in matters of the Spirit. 

Clearly John is here saying that a man cannot receive any spiritual truth, or knowledge, or direction, unless it comes from God (directly or indirectly), and this is obviously a reference to his calling and mission to baptize the people, and that this would also apply to the man Jesus, who though Divine, also “received” from heaven.  So here John is alluding to the fact that both he and Jesus were given their Divine commissions from heaven – and that this applies to all of us – all of humanity.

In a sense, John is telling his disciples that what was happening with the two baptisms was “God’s Will”.

John himself would know this firsthand as he was “sent” by the God of Heaven.  As the Scripture says,

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John.

He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.

He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.” (John 1:6-8)


As we will read, Jesus will later ask those who confronted Him,

The baptism of John was from what source,

 from heaven or from men?”  (Matthew 21:25; Mark 11:30; Luke 20:4)


It is also apparent that even to receive the testimony of John and Jesus, and to personally believe it is a ‘gift’ (spiritual gift) from the God in Heaven who both blinds the minds of men (Isaiah 44:18; Romans 11:8) and also removes the veil so that we may beleive (2 Corinthians 3:14; Ephesians 2:8).

The next line reads, You yourselves are my witnesses that I said,

 ’I am not the Christ,’

but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’  ”  


Recall that it has already been revealed that, This is the testimony of John,

when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”

And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”

They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”  And he answered, “No.”

Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”

He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness,

      ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”  (John 1:19-23)


As one “sent ahead” of “the Christ” John is confirming that he was given a specific mission to accomplish, which he has fulfilled now that Jesus is Himself is preaching and baptizing the people.  And John is no doubt pleased about this.  John is not jealous of the success of the Messiah, as His success is in fact the very fulfillment of John’s commission.

That these disciples of John were “witnesses” means that they have heard John say all of these things to them, and to the people, many times before – but still they did not seem to understand…

So John is saying that he himself is “not the Christ”, and that he has been sent ahead to prepare some minds and hearts to accept the Messiah.  But now that the Messiah is here, why is John still baptizing?

John then adds, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom;

but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice.

So this joy of mine has been made full.”


Here John is comparing Jesus to a “bridegroom” (groom – husband), and himself to a “friend of the bridegroom” – one who is very happy for his friend.  And of course, as we will learn, the “bride” of the bridegroom Jesus is His church (Revelation 19:17-9, 21:2, 9, 22:17; Ephesians 5:24-32), as Israel was also previously “betrothed” to God (Isaiah 62:5; Ezekiel 16; Hosea 2:18-19).  And to this “bridegroom” (Jesus) all things belong – as he “is above all” (Romans 9:5; Ephesians 1:20-23; Colossians 1:15-18; 1 Corinthians 15:24-27 ).  Jesus is the master (husband) of the earth and all that it contains. 

And this image of marriage is meant to convey the scope of relationship between two individuals, and the love between them, along with trust, faithfulness, kindness, forbearance, forgiveness, and all of the other higher human virtues and spiritual gifts. 

This allusion to Jesus Christ as a “bridegroom” will be revealed to show us the type of patient, loving, faithful and obedient relationship that we are expected to have with God and His Son, as in any marriage, where two souls are joined together in a bond that is meant to last not only until “death do us part”, but for all time and eternity.

In human terms, and for most people, marriage is a test, and an opportunity for spiritual growth.  It represents the merging of two souls into a single entity, each giving up some of themselves – their ego – and each relinquishing part of themselves for their mutual benefit.  As it is said, “Two heads are better than one.”

And here humble John, sent to prepare the people to meet their “husband”, is just pleased to be of assistance to Jesus, and thereby help to fulfill God’s plan of salvation for humanity as the “friend of the bridegroom” (Hebrew: shoshabin – Greek: paranymph).  These figures were common in Jewish weddings, and always present at the marriages of kings, nobles and dignitaries.  These “friends” of the bride and bridegroom performed duties before the wedding, such as securing the venue, and ensuring that the bride was in fact a virgin (Deuteronomy 22:13-21), as well as many other duties and details of the marriage ceremony itself.  They also performed many duties during what was usually a seven day marriage festival, and this care and assistance continued after the newly wed couple began living together.  And, importantly, the “friend of the bridegroom” brought the bride to the groom, and this imagery fits as John brought disciples and followers (the bride) to Jesus, “the bridegroom”.  So John here compares himself to the one standing by to assist his friend, so that the marriage will be possible, and successful.

To be “the friend of the bridegroom” is a very great honor usually reserved from a man’s best or closest friend, or family member, often a brother of the bridegroom – of which John was a family member, likely being the cousin of Jesus (Luke 1:36).  Perhaps John the Baptist is even what we would term today as, the “best man” (see Judges 14:20 – NKJV).

In some ways John the Baptist was the best man at the wedding between the Lord and those willing souls, even as Moses held the same role for the Israelites in the job of “the friend of the bridegroom” assisting with a spiritual marriage between Israel and God.

That this man John terms himself as the “friend of the bridegroom” is a little unexpected as John has previously said that he was, “… not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals.” (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:7; Luke 3:16)  If unworthy John is in the end the “friend of bridegroom”, where does that place the rest of us at that wedding party?

To be the “friend of the bridegroom”, in this case where the “wedding” is being joined in belief and faith to God, may indicate that not only is John such a friend, but so also are all of those who are faithful ministers of the Word of God.  And in this case, Jesus has many friends – the ultimate facebook account!

Jesus will later Himself use this same symbolism of “the bridegroom” and “the friend of the bridegroom” in relation to John the Baptist (Matthew 9:15).  And throughout His ministry Jesus will many times use imagery about marriage and marriage suppers in His teaching parables.

That the “friend of the bridegroom” “stands to hear him” is indicative of a posture of submission and even servitude, as a servant – standing quietly by and listening to hear the needs, orders and requests of the groom – and ready to fulfill them.  And perhaps this is the role required of each of us – that we should stand patiently and listen to the words of Jesus Christ, and be ready to fulfill His demands and requests.  Recall that Jesus will say, My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; …” (John 10:27)  May we all hear His voice and flock to Him, and follow after Him!

To “hear Him (the bridegroom’s voice)” is an allusion to the fact that “the bridegroom”, Jesus Christ, has come and is now present and speaking (preaching) in this world.  This “voice” is to give humanity a new set of instructions and guidance about how we should conduct ourselves, and our relationship to God, to each other, and the world around us.

And John says that he not only “rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice”, but now that He is here, John’s joy “has been made full.”  And this must be the case as John was sent by God to preach to the people that their Messiah was coming – and John would have been looking and waiting to hear that wondrous voice.  Fortunately, the appearance of “the bridegroom” was imminent, or else John would still be preaching about His coming, and his purpose and mission would still as yet be unfulfilled.  One wonders how long he may have had to continue giving his message – but now that Jesus has arrived and been revealed, John’s joy “has been made full” – the wedding was finally going to happen!

And one imagines that nothing else could have made John happy – how happy the man that fulfills his God-given purpose and mission in this life.  Truly the greatest joy of any teacher or minister is to help assist people in being wed (joined) to God, in this case, through His Son, Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul will later also speak of Jesus as a “husband”, and the “church” – those willing believers, as His “bride” (“chaste virgin”) (2 Corinthians 11:1-2).  And here Paul also even seems to assume the role of a “friend of the bridegroom”.

So here is the first allusion that Jesus is a husband, full of concern for His bride and wife – the earth and its human inhabitants, and particularly, those who will believe in Him, and follow Him, in submissive obedience.  Truly such a Divine marriage is a fortress for well-being, and the foundation of human society.     

And perhaps for John, his statement was accompanied by a sense of deep satisfaction – “this joy of mine has been made full” – that the Messiah was now beginning to operate in His own right, and that John had fulfilled his appointed mission, and that it would soon all be over.

Speaking still of Jesus, John then adds,

He must increase, but I must decrease.” 


Here with “I must decrease” John is referring to his own ministry and stature – that his ministry of turning the people’s hearts towards the Messiah must necessarily decrease, now that the Messiah Himself is here, and has begun to minister.   And perhaps this is necessary that John “must decrease” to avoid any confusion on the part of the people, as was the case for these “disciples of John” and this “Jew” regarding “purification” – this ritual of baptism being practiced by John, and now also by Jesus. 

Recall that we have read, “There came a man sent from God, whose name was John.

He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.

He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.” (John 1:6-8


John had witnessed, and more, to “the Light” of God that is Jesus, and it seems that perhaps that was all that he was commissioned to do.  Now, his own light would wane and fade, as the morning light of the dawn star is eclipsed and obscured as the sun begins to rise each day.  And truly John was as a mere morning star heralding the all-powerful Light of the sun that is Jesus Christ.

And this is perhaps some sad foreshadowing on John’s part that he “must decrease”.  This seems to indicate that John knew that his ministry was no longer important or necessary, and that it will even soon end, now that Jesus has assumed the helm of teaching and baptizing the people.  And, as we have already read, John is eventually going to be “thrown into prison” (John 3:24). 

However, that Jesus “must increase” clearly indicates that the ministry of the Messiah would expand and spread, as more people hear the message of the ‘good news’ (the Gospel), and believe, and accept Jesus into their hearts.  And as we know, that Light and knowledge of the kingdom of Jesus Christ and His teachings will grow and eventually reach around the entire world from these humble beginnings in Israel. 

However, despite the dangers, and the fact that the object of John’s baptism (the Christ – Messiah) was here, and that he knows that he “must decrease”, John does not give up or let up – but clearly continues his ministry of preaching and baptism, doing all that he can to further spread the good news, for as long as he can – right up until his death.  It would be some time until John was imprisoned, and then finally beheaded.

That John knew all of this further indicates his connection to Divine revelation, and also to his own humanity and humility – John was “sent from God” to perform a task and to fulfil a mission – “to witness that Light”, and that was now soon to end – he had succeeded and overcome the opposition from the Pharisees and leaders of Judaism – John had succeeded – the Messiah was now recognized by many, and was now standing independantly on His own feet. 

Did John say, “I must decrease” with sadness on his face, or in his voice?  No doubt he was smiling!

And this sentiment of John’s, this first minister and preacher of the ‘Gospel’, should be the motto of every minister and follower of Jesus Christ, unlike many charismatic leaders and preachers of the Gospel today – “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John then continues,

He who comes from above is above all,

he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth.

He who comes from heaven is above all.

What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies;

         and no one receives His testimony.”


In his testimony John is saying that Jesus is “from heaven”, unlike himself and the rest of humanity who are “of the earth”, and “from the earth”.  Recall that we are made of “earth” – “dust” or “mud” (Genesis 2:7; Job 10:9, 4:19, 8:19).

Because of this, we are only capable of knowing, understanding and speaking about “the earth”, and earthly things, whereas “He who comes from heaven” “has seen and heard” things of which we who are born of this earth can know nothing about.  And this is the purpose of His coming to the earth in the first place – to tell us of heaven, the kingdom, and of His Father.

And of these heavenly things from above “He testifies”, but unfortunately, “no one receives His testimony” – like the Pharisee Nicodemus (see last post: SG-037). 

Perhaps no one understood His testimony, but is this a true statement?  In the Greek language of the New Testament the word rendered as “testimony” is “witness”, which is very close in meaning. 

Of course, this “no one” is really to be understood as comparatively “very few” – as there were obviously several individuals who heard Jesus and believed His “testimony” /witness – that Jesus was the Messiah, and also the “Son of God”. 

There were now several men who had heard and believed, and who now even assisted Jesus with His ministry, as His disciples,  such Peter and Andrew, and Philip and Nathanael, and presumably others.  As Jesus Himself will say, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14)  But it is clear from the rest of the Gospel stories that even these men did not fully understand or believe much of what He spoke.  And so, depending on what exact “testimony” it is that John is referring to, perhaps truly “no one” has “received” “His testimony”.

Interestingly, Jesus has also already just testified about these heavenly things in His previous conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:11-12) (see previous post) – using almost the exact same words and sequence as John now employs – even saying, “and you do not receive our witness”.  And here, as John is confirming it, this again shows the Divine inspiration of John, because he was correct and corroborated what Jesus has said – revealing things to humanity that it did not know, nor could we be aware of. 

And here “He who comes from above” is “above all”, likely means that He is “above all” ‘in every way’; and this statement can also be taken to mean “before” all – “in the beginning” – before all and everything, in both time, and rank, and precedence.  Recall that “the Word was with God in the beginning“, before anything was made, and that this “Word of God” is in fact the very instrument used by God for the creation (John 1:1-4).

Here John twice alludes to the fact that Jesus, this “bridegroom” whose voice makes him so happy, is from “above” and “heaven” and this he likely does for emphasis.  Note that John says almost the identical thing twice, making the clear parallel that “heaven” is “above”, and that Jesus has come down to the earth from there. 

But who are these “all” that “He who comes from heaven” is “above”?  “Above” can mean first, and higher, and it is clear that Jesus is above:

  1. humans beings
  2. prophets (Hebrews 1:1-2)
  3. angels (Hebrews 1:4)
  4. all things – everything and everyone (Romans 9:5; Ephesians 1:20-23; Colossians 1:15-18; 1 Corinthians 15:24-27)
  5. appointed heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:1-2)
  6. eternal (Hebrews 1:8-12)
  7. image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:1-2)

And what are these “things” that Jesus “has seen and heard” of which He now “testifies”?  Being human we can never while in this flesh know about that invisible spiritual realm, except what has been revealed by One who has been there, who is in fact from there.  And this is the mission and purpose of Jesus being sent into this world – to tell us something about what we cannot ourselves directly know, experience, or even correctly guess at.  But, because we are flesh, Jesus cannot directly tell us about that other (next) world (heaven), except by making crude allusions and comparisons to earthly things that the human mind can understand – and this is what a parable is – using items and images that the human mind is familiar with, and can understand – to represent, or allude to, higher, inner, spiritual realities and truths.

And this is borne out by the next line, which states,

He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this,

that God is true.” 


So, clearly there have been some people who have “received (believed) His testimony.”  Clearly, John the Baptist was one of those who believed, along with (likely) both his own disciples, as well as the men who followed with Jesus, and were now baptizing the people in His name.

But what John is really saying here is that one who believes His “testimony” is also attesting to the fact “that God is true“, and also that the “testimony” of Jesus exists because “God is true” – meaning not only real, but also that it is not false.  And none of this would be possible, except for the obvious fact that “God is true”, and that if you believe in Jesus – as the Divine Son of God, then naturally, you likely also believe in the God who sent Him, although some find ways to twist this within their own minds.

While the word “seal” has several meanings, to “set” ones “seal” to something is analogous to signing it with your signature – it means that you are pledging for the reality and validiy of the thing.  First of all you are agreeing to the truth and substance of the thing – that it is “true” – or at least, that you personally believe it to be true.  You are testifying with your seal (signature) that it is true, and that this testimony is of you, and that you stand behind it. 

In the past, a king, ruler or magistrate would have a “seal”, made perhaps of some hard substance, such as clay, metal or stone.  Using ink, or often wax, you would “seal” or close the opening of the scroll, book or document.  This made it officially from you, and the document could not be read until the “seal” that you placed on it was broken, and the one opening the document would know or witness whose seal it was.  (see Genesis 38:17-18; 1 Kings 21:8; Esther 3:12, 8:8-10, Daniel 6:17…  See also Matthew 27:66).

Of course things that were sealed with a “seal” were “closed” and “secure”.  Note how this term is used in the Book of Daniel – to “seal” a book (Daniel 9:24, 12:4, 9) – meaning that it was closed and unopenable – until in the Book of Revelation the “Lion that is from the tribe of Judah”, and “lamb” (Jesus Christ), comes forth to break the “seal“, as no others were found “worthy” (Revelation 5:1-7).

So, setting ones “seal” is here used to indicate that one affirms, or confirms the statement – “that God is true.” – which really means that God is real, and that what He says is in fact reality, and not false. The word “true” may also have the connotation of “faithful” – in every way, including the promises, and warnings, of God.

And this inner conviction and belief that “God is true” (truth) is the fundamental basis of our belief in God, and our relationship with Jesus Christ.  (see 1 John 5:10-11)

So in summary, to receive the “testimony” of Jesus Christ is the same as believing “that God is true”, and that God’s promises about the Messiah scattered throughout the Old Testament are true, and that they will all be fulfilled.

Clearly, to deny Jesus, and that He was sent from God, is to deny the One who sent Him, although it is possible to know and believe in God without having ever heard of Jesus, but if you do know of Jesus, then you have to acknowledge the God who sent Him into this world for our benefit.

John then says, “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God;

for He gives the Spirit without measure.” 


Now this is an interesting statement and seems obvious enough to not have to be said – that whomever God sends speaks “the words of God” – and this applies not only to Jesus, but also to John (who was sent by God – John 1:6-8), not to mention all of the prophets that God had sent to Israel in the past.  And this must also apply to those whom God commissions and sends to accomplish His Will and to fulfil His purpose today.

And it also goes without saying that he who “speaks the Word of God” is the Word of God.  And even ordinary men can speak the words of God, as given to them by God, through His Holy Word and Spirit, which in this case is embodied and represented by Jesus Christ, who “speaks the words of God” directly to us, and without an intermediary, being at One with the Holy Spirit of God, through which all Divine and omniscient knowledge flows.   

And here “the words of God” is that Divine knowledge of, and from, the kingdom of God – those realms which are beyond the earth of mere human knowledge and understanding.

But the second part of the statement is interesting – “He gives the Spirit without measure”.  How can this be understood? – because the capacity and ability to have or receive the Holy Spirit varies with each person.  Perhaps this indicates that the Spirit is always flowing – being sent or projected – at full force, but the capacity of each receiver is different, and perhaps only Jesus would be able to perceive or receive anything close to the intensity of the full transmission.

 Jesus had (is) a direct line, or was a receiver that is fully attuned to the Holy Spirit of God, which flowed through Him, and from Him.  And this shows the difference and greatness between Jesus and any other prophet or human who came before Him.

To each and all God gives His Holy Spirit in measure, according to the capacity of each of us to receive it, and to each individual according to their different ability – so-called “gifts” of the Spirit (1 Corinthians12:4-14).  And this is the case for a human – witness Elijah and Elisha – Elijah was a prophet of God who had a measure of the spirit, and his protégé Elisha asked for, “a double portion” of that Spirit (2 Kings 2:9), so that it is evident that even a prophet as great as Elijah only had a limited, measureable portion of the Holy Spirit, which could be “doubled”, but such was not the case for Jesus who presumably had “infinity” of that Spirit, and this seems to be impossible for any mere mortal.

Jesus will also allude to this distribution of the measures of the Spirit given to men in two of His parables – the “talents” (Matthew 25:14-30) and the “minas” (Luke 19:11-28).

Next comes another affirmation by John that Jesus is the Son of God:

The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His Hand.”


It seems obvious and unnecessary to say that “The Father loves the Son”, and from the last Act, that “God so loved the world” (John 3:16), after all, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16).  Presumably the only thing that our loving God does not love is “sin” and “evil”, which is transgression against His Will – the commandments given by Him to us for our individual and collective happiness, well being, and common good.

That God “has given all things into His Hand” means that there is nothing which was not committed to the hands (control / discretion) of the Son – all – everything has been placed under His control, and, presumably, as the Word of God, everything to do with not only this earth, but even this entire universe of creation.  

Jesus will Himself  later utter words very similar to this:

All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; …” (Matthew 11:27; Luke 10:22)


However, recall Jesus’ own words, from the last Act, that “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, …”  (John 3:17), so perhaps only “judgment” has been reserved by God, “the Father”, and has not been given “into the hand” of His Son.

And once within “the hand” of Jesus, no one is able to “snatch” it or them from His firm grip.  As Jesus will say, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;

and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish;

and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

“My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all;

and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”  (John 10:27-29)


As with a human son, the son stands to inherit all that the father has, although in this case, the Father, God, will not have to die first.  As with “the prodigal son” (Luke 11:15-32) Jesus has already received His inheritance while the Father still lives.  And recall the father’s last words from this story, Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.” (31).

John continues his discourse there at the side of the Jordan River by stating that,

He who believes in the Son has eternal life;

but he who does not obey the Son will not see life,

but the wrath of God abides on him.”


This statement is so strikingly similar to what Jesus had said to the Pharisee Nicodemus (in the last Act / post) that one wonders how John the Baptist could have known this, and why he worded it so identically to Jesus’ own statement:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,

 that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)


Maybe this is something that Jesus had previously said to John, or perhaps God had inspired this powerful sentiment within John.  And again, “eternal life” can be taken to mean that the one conferred such an honor will not see the eternal death of the “destruction” of their soul.

But here John says, “… he who does not obey the Son will not see life, …” with emphasis on the word “obey”.  To “obey” means to follow, do, or accomplish, that which is asked, requested or commanded.

So it seems that obedience to the Son of God is required to “see life” – and here this is assumed to mean “eternal life”, as we are all physically alive whether we have heard of, or obey, Jesus or not, being first born “alive”, and without knowledge, or the ability to understand or obey.  (see Hebrews 5:9)

But something is not quite right because Jesus has said, in the last Act, “…whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16), which John also says here, but he adds, “but he who does not obey the Son will not see life,”.  So from the words of Jesus it appears that only belief is required to “not perish”, and to “see life”, and to “have eternal life”.  And this seems to be a contradiction with having to “obey” the Son. But is it?

Recall that Jesus asks each of us to “believe” in Him.  And if we hear of Jesus and do not believe in Him then we have not been faithful and obedient to His command. 

But what does this “obey” mean?  Clearly it is to follow the instructions and commandments of Jesus.  And the first of these injunctions is to acknowledge Jesus Christ Himself, and also the Father (God) who sent Him. 

We “obey” Jesus when we believe in Him, as He has asked of us.  However, later we will see that there is a fine line between belief and obedience, when we learn what specifically it is that Jesus requires of each of us.  Belief in Him – who and what He is – is the first step, and to do so is obedience – but at the lowest level.  Once we believe, we must trust and have faith in His words, and we must each try our best to do that which He requires of us – His commandments – which is a higher, or deeper, meaning of “obey”.  And of course, no one will “obey” Him if they do not first “believe”.

For a more detailed definition of what is required to “obey” Jesus, the Son, see Romans 1:5, 2:5-11 – especially verse 8 – and also 11:3-31.

It seems that those human souls who acknowledge and “believe” in Jesus are at that very moment given the “seed” of “faith” which grows into spiritual life in this world, and continues to flower as “eternal life” throughout the (spiritual) worlds and kingdoms of God.

This “eternal life” is the one that is not followed by the death of destruction, which leads to negation – or non-existence.  As stated, presumably God does not want you around forever, presumably to contaminate the heaven of His creation, if you are sinful – unbelieving, rebellious, and disobedient.  If you refuse to acknowledge or believe in Jesus, it would seem that neither He, nor God, want you to be around forever.  Damaged goods – programming error – a worthless soul that can’t produce either fruit nor flower.

As the Scripture says, “…when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire,

dealing out retribution to those who do not know God

and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction,

away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, …” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9)


And, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer.

Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested,

and you will have tribulation for ten days.

Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.” (Revelation 2:10-11)


And for the one who does not “obey” Jesus, not only will they “not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” 

As the unbeliever “will not see life” this is obviously referring to a life other than this existence in a human frame – as we all – believer and unbeliever, already “see” (experience) this “life”.

From the present verb tense, “has eternal life”, means that they already have it.  And likewise, those who “will not see life” do not see it now, and nor will they ever see (have) it – “eternal life”.

And this “wrath of God” seems to be a terrible and unpleasant prospect indeed, but perhaps this is just His displeasure, as “wrath” implies an active and terrible fury or rage.  The Greek word for “wrath” is used many times throughout the writings of the New Testament with several degrees of meaning, usually to denote some form or type of punishment.  This “wrath” is in effect a “death sentence”.

John has already told us (the Sadducees and Pharisees), “You brood of vipers,

 who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7)


Apparently, the disobedient unbelievers are, “… by nature children of wrath, …” (Ephesians 2:3)  And this is later reiterated: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 5:6, and also Colossians 3:5-6)

For some of the Scriptural uses of the word “wrath” see Romans 1:18, 2:5-8, 3:5 -6, 5:9, 13:5; and 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, 2:16, 5:9

Another passage to note is Hebrews 3:7-12: “Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me,

as in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tried Me by testing Me,

and saw My works for forty years.

“Therefore I was angry with this generation, and said,

‘They always go astray in their heart, and they did not know My ways’;

as I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ “

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.”  And see also Hebrews 4:3.


In Romans 4:14 we learn that, “…the Law brings about wrath…” or specifically, disobedience to the stipulations of “the Law” “brings about wrath“ .

And also from Romans 9:22-24 we read, “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,

even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.”


In Greek, the word “abides” can be rendered as “is remaining” or “remains”, all of which conveys a duration of time – and a long time at that. This soul of “wrath” will not be raised to the new life and continue eternally through the worlds of God – and this knowing of God, and being allowed to continue to live on with Him, is the “life” and “eternal life” that such souls who do not “obey” the Son will not see.  Presumably this “wrath of God” will “abide” on such a soul, as their dwelling place and habitation, until the destruction of that wayward, disobedient soul.

Is this “wrath of God” simply to not see “life” or “eternal life” or does it convey something more, like some kind of punishment, as say in “hell” or some other palce or state of torment – or does this all simply mean a lack of “eternal life“.  Clearly then, this “wrath of God” is (eternal) destruction.  Perhaps God’s “wrath” is only directed at wilful sin.

The belief ‘in’ Jesus Christ – that He was sent from God – is the seed of “eternal life”.  It is best not to appear before God in heaven not clothed with the sacrificial blood of the lamb.

The last sentence of the Act reads,

Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John

(although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were),

He left Judea and went away again into Galilee.”


Here the Pharisees are mentioned again as showing an interest in what was occurring with these baptisms of John and Jesus along the edge of the Jordan River. 

The Pharisees were interested in what was going on as they were the teachers and leaders of the Jewish Faith.  Recall that they had previously sent men to investigate and question John about why he was baptizing the people (John 1:19-24). 

The rumors and fame of John and Jesus obviously attracted their attention, and the word of these events spread and reached their ears all the way in Jerusalem.

Clearly the Pharisees were not pleased that so many souls were being baptized, not only into a new system of belief, but thereby also away from Judaism.  As guardians of the Jewish religion they were rightly concerned.  Being ‘skilled’ in interpreting the Torah and the Law they no doubt were looking for some Scriptural basis to denounce and deny both John and Jesus.  No doubt they perceived that they were slowly losing their authority, as day by day more people came to be baptized into this new system of belief.

Jesus was “baptizing more disciples than John”.  Perhaps He had chosen a better location there in the Jordan River, or more likely His fame had grown.  Either way, it was His disciples, and not Jesus Himself, who were baptizing the people.  Paul will later also say, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel, …” (1 Corinthians 1:17)

As John himself performed the rite of baptism, Jesus, the object of that baptism, did not baptize the willing Himself, but had trained His disciples to do so.  Perhaps He could not baptize people “into” “Himself”.  Perhaps He did not want people to glory and exalt themselves above others if they were personally baptized by Him – again, read that Paul faced this exact same dilemma: 1 Corinthians 1:11-17

Perhaps Jesus could not be both the Son of God and also dispense the Holy Spirit, given (conferred) at baptism, while in human flesh.

And a last possibility is that Jesus, knowing that the time for His own ministry was short, empowered His disciples to baptize, so that they could spread out – each empowered with the knowledge, the formula, and the skills, so that many more could be brought to the Lord than through the efforts of a single man, and continue into the future, long after He had left the earth.  Whereas, when John was no longer around, would his disciples continue to baptize, and would they even know how to do it themselves? 

Also, by having His disciples do the baptisms, while standing in the water, Jesus was free to preach and talk to individuals on the shore.  It is respect that the leader / master / teacher (Rabbi) is free from the labor – that is what servants, and disciples, are for.  One man in one location could only baptize so many people in a day, but a herd of disciples scattered all over the country could do much more – and this was necessary to baptize the potential thousands or millions of willing souls.  And this was likely the case as Jesus sent out at least seventy disciples to preach and baptize at once (Luke 10:1-20), and then later His twelve chosen apostles (Matthew 10:5 – 11:1; Mark 3:14-19; Luke 6:13-16).

That Jesus withdrew, and “left Judea”, the land of His birth, and headed north to His home province of Galilee may be because of this unwanted attention from the Pharisees, because Jesus may have feared that His own life, like that of John, would have been in danger, had He remained there in Judea.  Recall that Jesus Himself will later say to His own disciples, “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; …” (Matthew 10:23)  And this is not cowardice, but rather tactful preservation to ensure the contiued spread of the Gospel.

Or perhaps Jesus left the region because He did not want there to be any further confusion between Himself and John, and to diffuse the situation and confusion between their two baptisms. 

Or maybe now that Jesus had planted some seeds in Judea He was now off to plant more, and to baptize, among His Galilean countrymen, leaving John to work the south while He preached and spread the “good news” in the north.  After all, it did not really make sense for the two men to work the same crowd.

In the end, John has given another remarkable and insightful testimony about Jesus Christ, and told us once more of his own part of this amazing Gospel story.


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Please click on the link below to read Today’s Act:


Act 4-1-3  -  John Testifies Again About Jesus


 Adobe PDF File:   The SYNOPTIC GOSPEL – Section 4, Chapter 1, Act 3




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Until next time,


May we all receive the testimony of the bridegroom Jesus,

and set our seals that God is true!


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SG-037: 4-1-2 > A Pharisee Named Nicodemus

By Daniel John - Last updated: Saturday, December 11, 2010

SG-037:  4-1-2  >  A Pharisee Named Nicodemus


Welcome to the 37th Act and commentary of  The Synoptic Gospel!   


The Synoptic Gospel is a single, complete, unified Gospel account of the life of Jesus Christ, taken directly from the texts of the four Gospels of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John




Please click on the link below to read Today’s Act:  


Act 4-1-2  -  A Pharisee Named Nicodemus


 Adobe PDF File:   The SYNOPTIC GOSPEL – Section 4, Chapter 1, Act 2


          or, you can read the commentary on the Act first…

                   – there is another link to the .pdf file at the bottom of the post…


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The purpose of this blog is to provide full, deep and meaningfully insightful commenatry on the Gospel Story of the Life of Jesus Christ.  

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COMMENTARY on Act 4-1-2


This Act is taken entirely from the Gospel of John (2:23 -3:21)

Due to the complexity of the subject matter and the allegorical, metaphorical and metaphysical statements made by Jesus, this is by far the most complex and detailed blog I have yet had to compile.  I apologize in advance for its length…


 Today’s Act begins by stating that,

“… when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast,

 many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing.

From the last Act Jesus is still in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, which lasted for eight days.

Apparently Jesus was doing signs (miracles) in public, likely in and around the Temple. The number and nature of these “signs which He was doing” is not recorded, but they could have been the wisdom of His words, as well as a few miracles.  And recall from the last post that Jesus “made a scourge of cords” and overturned the tables of the money changers, and drove those who sold the sacrificial animals out of the Temple, along with their livestock.

Perhaps Jesus had healed a few people of their physical and spiritual afflictions, which He would continue to do throughout His ministry.  Very likely Jesus used the opportunity of so many thousands of people crowded into the city and the Temple complex to preach and teach, and many heard His profound and stirring words.

From these first public acts of His ministry many people were believing “in His name” and this really means that they believed in His words.  The Greek root word for “believe” is the same root word as “trust”, so therefore they believed (had faith / trusted) Him. 

His name” likely refers to the fact that the people acknowledged that Jesus was a great personage, or perhaps a teacher who was sent from God.  Likely many considered Him to be at least a prophet, but it is likely that at least a few souls believed that He was the long promised Messiah of the Jewish nation – and that the name of this figure was “Jesus”.  But for most, this was only a mere mental acknowledgement – their inner mind and spirits not yet transformed by this fact.

It had been a few hundred years since the last prophet (Malachi) had been in Israel, and the people were hoping and looking for God’s guidance.  As such, many were likely eager to witness a man clothed with the Spirit and the power of Almighty God.  Many were ready to believe.

No doubt some in the crowds who observed the “signs which He was doing” had the Messianic expectation that Jesus was a reformer, perhaps even a radical one, the one that they had been waiting for to overthrow the Roman government, and return control of the kingdom to Israel.

The next verse records that, “Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them,

for He knew all men,

and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man,

for He Himself knew what was in man.”


As mentioned, the Greek word used here for “entrusting” is the same root word for “believe”, so perhaps this could be rendered as, “Jesus, on His part, was not believing in them…”  but this is clearer as, “He did not commit Himself to them”, and the similarity can be seen between believing in someone (or a thing), and “committing” or “entrusting” oneself to them (or that thing).

It is unclear in what way Jesus would have “entrusted” Himself to the people, except perhaps to fully reveal Who He is, perhaps as the Messiah, or as the Son of God, and maybe even as the King of the Israel; the King of the Jews.  Likely Jesus knew that it was too early to make such grand revelations to these people at that time.  

It is interesting that “He knew all men”.  Does this mean a general term for all of humanity, or does this also indicate that Jesus really individually knew each and every, individual human being?  Clearly it is possible, and perhaps even likely, that Jesus, as the Son of God, and Word of God (John 1:1-4), infused with the power of the Holy Spirit, knew the heart and soul of each individual human being – their likes, and dislikes, their weaknesses and strengths, their wants, needs and desires, and of course, their belief and faith, or lack of faith, in God – Jesus “knew” all of this about each human being – even as He “knew” the heart and thoughts of Nathanael (John 1:45-47).  Assuredly, Jesus knows each and every individual person in a way that we do not know our own selves, and this is easy for the omniscient One who created and weighs men’s hearts.

Hebrews 4:12-13 says, “The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow,

and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

And there is no creature hidden from His sight,

but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”    –   See also Jeremiah 17:9-10.

While knowing “what is in man” may be referring to the spirit that is in man, that spirit that was “breathed” into man by God when he became “a living being” (Genesis 2:7), it is more likely that this is a reference to the human (carnal / animal) nature that also resides within each of us – that nature which is towards the ‘self’, desire, lust, passion, conflict and oppression, which is contrary to the nature of the Spirit of God, which is “love” (1 John 4:8, 16).

Perhaps as the Word of God that created all things He therefore “knew” all men.  Either way, that Jesus did not “entrust Himself to them” is not a good thing for humanity – meaning that He knew that no man there was worthy of His trust.

Apparently one of the people who heard Jesus in the Temple, or who heard of Him, was a Pharisee, “a ruler of the Jews”, and a teacher of the Law, who was named “Nicodemus”.  “Nicodemus” is a Greek name, and it means “conqueror (victor) of the people”.

A Pharisee is a ‘separatist’, scholarly sect and school of thought within Judaism that follows a strict observance to the letter of the Jewish Law, taking the authority for their interpretation from Moses and the Torah.  The Pharisees were generally well received and popular with the Jewish people. 

Throughout His ministry Jesus would have many encounters, and disagreements, with various members of this sect, due to their strict observance of the outward letter of the Law, while not seeing or observing the inner meaning, Spirit and lesson that prompted God (through Moses) to give these regulations to the people in the first place.  We will see more of what Jesus says to the Pharisees in many future posts.

As “a ruler of the Jews” Nicodemus was likely a member of the Sanhedrin, a Jewish counsel of leaders, wise men, priests, Levites, and elders of the people.  Other sources say that Nicodemus was exceedingly wealthy.

Apparently Nicodemus was convicted within His inner heart, and he desired to meet and speak with Jesus, one-on-one. 

Nicodemus, “… came to Jesus by night and said to Him,

‘Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher,

for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him.’ ”

It is noteworthy that Nicodemus, a Pharisee and teacher of the Law, would address Jesus as “Rabbi”, which also means “teacher”, and is a sign of respect.  Clearly this man knew that Jesus had something worth teaching.  And addressing Jesus as “Rabbi” also indicates that Nicodemus, though a Pharisee and teacher of the Law himself, had come to learn, and was willing to be taught.  And this is the striking testimony of Nicodemus about Jesus – that “God is with Him”.

However, Nicodemus is incorrect when he says, “… no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him.” 

Satan apparently also has the power to works signs, miracles and wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:8-10; Revelation 13:11-14); and there are others who can do the same, with or without Satan’s help, I don’t know, such as the sorcerers of the Egyptian Pharaoh in the time of Moses (Exodus 7:8-12).


This man Nicodemus is mentioned at two other points in the Gospel of John;

 - in defense of Jesus having a fair trial (John 7:50-52),

 - and Nicodemus would later be there after the death of Jesus, to contribute to His embalming before burial in the tomb, “bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight.” (John 19:39)  This costly offering lends credibility to the fact the Nicodemus was likely wealthy, and also that he may have been not merely an ardent admirer of Jesus, but perhaps even a ‘secret’ disciple.

So this man Nicodemus, although never giving up his position as a Pharisee and leader of the Jews, believed in Jesus, from this very first encounter, right up until the death of Our Lord. 

That he “came to Jesus by night” likely means that Nicodemus came secretly – without anyone, and particularly his Pharisee and Sanhedrin brethren, knowing that he sought out Jesus – this man who had caused such a commotion and disturbance in the Temple a few days before.  Likely Nicodemus knew that he would be disgraced, or worse, that he would lose his position and power as a leader of the people, and possibly also his wealth; if anyone knew that he ‘believed’ (had faith / trusted) in Jesus.   

It is also possible that Nicodemus “came to Jesus by night” because he was simply too busy or otherwise occupied during the day, and/or perhaps he knew that during the day Jesus Himself was too busy with His public discourse to talk privately with a single individual.

Either way, Nicodemus knew, or found out, where Jesus was staying and he sought a private audience with Him.  Perhaps Jesus was staying in the city with a friend, or perhaps He was camped out in the nearby Garden of Gethsemane, or on a mountain, or in some other nearby garden or quiet place under the stars.

Nicodemus, himself a teacher of the Jewish system and Law, acknowledged that Jesus was teaching the people (“Rabbi”), and this is part of the ministry of every prophet of God.  First the people must be taught and educated so that they might know to change (mend / fix) their ways.  God sends prophets to reform, and for change, and this must always begin with education – to teach the people what God requires of them, and also where they have fallen short, or transgressed against that Law (erred – sinned).  

After this open testimony of Nicodemus, Jesus, who knows the hearts of all men, apparently “entrusted” Himself to this man, and He decides to teach him. 

While Jesus was apparently willing to talk with Nicodemus, He saw that the mind (heart) of this man was not yet tuned to the true message and meaning of God.  While Nicodemus saw and acknowledged the powerful words and miracles of Jesus, he was still not quite seeing the inner meaning of those words, and he was unable to recognize the Spirit that spoke them.

Jesus meets us where we are, and the words of His message to each of us are geared to our own inner, spiritual needs.  Like a skilled physician Jesus, knowing our hearts, diagnoses our condition (or spiritual weakness / sickness / errors), and tells us what we most need to hear.

As ever, in deep, cryptic, double language, Jesus says to Nicodemus,

Truly, truly, I say to you,

unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”


Jesus many times will use the expression, “Truly, truly” (Greek – Amen amen) which is also rendered as “most assuredly”, or “verily, verily”.  And this expression is meant to signify that Jesus is testifying – that He is telling the truth, and that whatever He says after these words is important, and should require our full focus and attention to listen (and try and understand) what it is that He says.

So Jesus gives a clue about “the kingdom of God” and how to “see” it.  “God is Spirit” (John 4:24), and the things (kingdom) of God are spiritually discerned.  To change our heart away from our natural human nature, (“born in sin” (Galatians 4:8-9)), and to refocus and become “spiritual” is a transformation apparently so great, that Jesus here compares it to a new birth, and to walk in a new way – with spiritual ‘eyes’ (and ears) now open.  And from Jesus’ statement, this necessity of being born again applies to all human beings.

There are several ways to interpret this statement of Jesus about “the kingdom of God”.  Again, Jesus is forced to use physical images and realities that the human mind can understand in order to allude to higher, ‘invisible’, spiritual truths.  Obviously though, the real “kingdom of God” to which Jesus is referring is a spiritual realm, and another term could be used here – the kingdom of “heaven”.  Jesus alludes to both “the kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven”, and to our ears they sound interchangeable. 

Of course “the kingdom of God” to which Jesus was referring is also here on the earth, again, as with everything on the earth – it is a representation or a shadow of that eternal spirit-filled reality.  If you are surrounded amongst other people who have also been “reborn” and are walking in the Spirit, then that is, as compared to the rest of the world, the “kingdom of God” – a sacred and holy group and city, known also as “the church”.  However, without the transformation of being “born again”, you will not “see” it – either here on the earth, nor in the spiritual kingdoms and realms of God beyond.  If fact, it seems that you must be born again here on the earth, in order to “see” that heavenly “kingdom of God”.

The person must desire this transformation and then God, through the Holy Spirit, can enter that human being, and begin to work on, and with, that soul.

What may be really happening in this rebirth is that our spiritual eyes (perception) become open and more fully functioning, now able to discern the movement, needs and desires of the Spirit and God. 

If you can have a change in the way that you look at and perceive this world (this reality) – “be born again” – then you can perceive this “kingdom of God”, meaning that a new set or type of “eyes” are required to discern and “see” that spiritual kingdom.

The Greek word “again”, as used several times in the Gospel of John, can also mean “from above” (John 3:31, 19:11), so, essentially what Jesus is saying is that you must “be born again” – be born “from above” – which is clearly an allusion to the realms of the spirit, of heaven, and of God.

As humans our first birth is into the flesh of this world, and our second birth, or rebirth (born again) is into the world and reality (kingdom) of the Spirit, to “walk in the newness of that life” (Romans 6:4-7), without which we are “dead in our trespasses” (Ephesians 2:4-6  ) – our transgressions against God and His commands meaning that we are not worthy of life, the carnal human mind being at enmity against (“hostile towards“) God (Romans 8:6-8). 

Our first birth into this world was not by our choice – we were unconscious and unaware, and as far as we are aware – we did not choose it.  This second birth of which Jesus speaks is by our conscious choice and effort.  This time, we are fully aware, and must in fact choose to undergo it, and to walk in and with that Spirit.  And as such we can also choose to refuse o undergo this gift of eternal life in “the kingdom of God” that is offered to us by Jesus.  Our second birth is nothing to be feared, and is signified by the inner transformation of our mind and spirit.

Should we choose to be reborn we become children (sons and daughters) of God (Matthew 5:9; Luke 20:34-36; John 1:12-13; Acts 17:29; Romans 8:14-22; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 3:26; Philippians 2:14-16; 1 John 3:1-2, 10), and this is in fact a meaning of the word “resurrection” – as in, resurrected from the penalty of death, and raised to the newness of life, to walk in the Spirit, humbly and obediently with our God in His kingdom.

A parallel can also be seen in our first birth being under a Law with its penalties, as represented by Judaism, and being born again, or resurrected to a new life, a new spiritual system, as represented by the teachings offered by Jesus – Christianity.  Resurrected from the tabernacle, now to enter the church.

Nicodemus at least shows enough humility to ask for a clarification from Jesus, and he does not presume that he either knows what Jesus is talking about, nor does he say to Him, “You’re nuts!”  However, naturally enough, Nicodemus takes this amazing statement of Jesus at its lowest, face value – the outward physical meaning. 

Nicodemus asks, “How can a man be born when he is old?”, and adds that he, “cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb”.  And for an old man like Nicodemus, most likely his mother is no longer even on the earth among the living.

Also, even if one were to “be born again when he is old” that person would still have their former (lustful, disobedient, sinful) nature, and would be unchanged, except to do it all over again in a younger body.

Nicodemus may be questioning the fact that he himself should need to be “born again”, thinking that, if anyone, he himself was surely already in that “kingdom of God”, based on the fact that he was a Jew – one of God’s chosen people – (“Abraham is our father!” (Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8; John 8:39, 53)) and that this accident of birth was enough to garner God’s favor, and to be admitted into that “kingdom”. 

If being born a chosen Jew was not enough, Nicodemus may certainly have thought that he would personally “see the kingdom of God” as he was a Pharisee, a teacher of the Law of God, and a powerful member of the Sanhedrin that regulated and oversaw Jewish life and activity.   And yet, as Jesus will make clear, he, and the majority of the Jews, particularly the Pharisees, were all far from the mark – and that is likely why Jesus chose to say all of this about being “born again” to him.

Again, Jesus begins His answer with, “Truly, truly, I say to you…”

He continues, “ unless one is born of water and the Spirit

 he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 


So, from this Nicodemus would realize that he is not already in that kingdom, and that he will likely not automatically see “the kingdom of God” when he died.

From our creation human beings are flesh – “dust” (Genesis 2:7, 3:19), animated by a breath – an emanation of the Spirit of God (Genesis 2:7; Zechariah 12:1).  And yet, even with a piece of God’s Spirit within us, we are encased in animalistic flesh – this dust formed from exploding stars.  And apparently, that is quite different from the spiritual nature of God (Genesis 6:3). 

Apparently, that original animating spirit from God ‘died’ when man (Adam) first sinned (Genesis 2:16-17), and we then not only no longer freely communed with God, but we actually hid from Him (Genesis 3:8), which of course, is a form of (spiritual) death – a loss of relationship with God.  All humans descended from Adam and Eve have inherited this doubting, disobedient nature, and we all desire to taste of the forbidden fruit(s) of this earthly life, and most of us have listened to the promptings of our animal natures and even Satan, thus necessitating the need for each of us to be “born” “again”. 

But really, this rebirth is about first becoming aware of our distance from God, and our sins before Him, and from that acknowledgement should come a repentant desire to now walk in the “newness” of a spirit-filled life, according to the Will and commands of God.

Unlike our first birth, this second birth of which Jesus speaks is more of a willful, self-imposed, metamorphosis and transformation and not a physical rebirth – kind of like a caterpillar that transforms and becomes a beautiful and free butterfly, now soaring high above the earth, and led by the spirit of the wind. 

It seems that by our human (animal) nature the needs and desires of our flesh overrides, or suppresses, the inner nature and the power of the God-breathed spirit that is within us.  What is needed is constant effort to fine tune our spiritual perceptions, and to walk soberly, and exercising control over the flesh, and not always be bending to our needs, desires, sensuality and lusts.

Perhaps this Pharisee Nicodemus should have known about this rebirth of which Jesus was speaking, as such a transformative process would be similar to anyone who would convert to Judaism.  As a convert they would even have undergone a form of ritualistic cleansing baptism with water.

Surely this religious “conversion” is an obvious type of rebirth, from sinful paganism (Gentile), to a newness of spirit and life – a new focus, and new perceptions and thoughts, that lead to new actions and decisions; ones that align us with that Spirit of God, which is that “kingdom of God”.  This transformative renewal of the human spirit must begin with a new birth – a new beginning, after we first bury “the old man of sin” (  ).

The “water” that Jesus mentions as accompanying the “spirit” of this rebirth is possibly an allusion to the transformative power of the liquid that can break down bonds and substances, and can transform one thing into another, or combine them. 

Water”, though essential to our form of physical life, is also often understood as representing the removal of dirt, and the cleansing baptism as dispensed by the Jews in their ritual for a new proselyte and convert to Judaism.  And of course, water was also used by John the Baptist in his new form of baptism “for repentance” (Matthew 3:11). 

Jesus Himself underwent this transformative ritual of John’s water baptism, and at that moment the Holy Spirit of God was seen to descend and light upon Him (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10-11; Luke 3:21-22) (see previous post SG-030).  This same water would continue to be used in baptism for those who wished to follow Jesus Christ and become Christians – and this form of water baptism is several times sanctioned, and even demanded, by Jesus Himself (Mark 16:16).  And recall that it was prophesied by John the Baptist that Jesus would baptize the people “with the Holy Spirit and fire.”  (Matthew 3:11)

“Water” is the outward physical catalyst and symbol for the inner transformation which was spiritual.  Water is compared to the ‘Word of God’ (Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5), which flows from Him, and rains down upon the earth.  Water is also compared by Jesus to the “Holy Spirit of God” (John 7:38-39).  Interestingly, the Holy Spirit is also represented by fire (Acts 2:2-4), and also by the wind (see below…).

Jesus then adds, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,

and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ ”


A strikingly similar statement is made in 1 Corinthians 15:48-50.

And this is tricky statement.  It seems obvious that flesh is flesh – devoid of the spirit, and that spirit is spirit – without the flesh, and yet here we are, and even Jesus – spirits, or spirit beings, encased, or imprisoned, in the flesh (dust) of this world.

What Jesus may be alluding to is that you cannot get spirit from flesh, without the transformation of a spiritual awakening, or rebirth.  And also, that once “born again” as, or in, the spirit, you are spirit, and no longer flesh – or at least, no longer obedient to the needs, desires and lusts of the flesh – “free” from it, in a way.  See Romans 8:5-9.

Everything reproduces “after its kind” (Genesis 1:24-25), and in humans it can be seen that an amoral and godless person will raise their children without the love of, and obedience to God; and that a righteous, God-fearing, spiritual person will try and teach and inculcate in their young children belief in, and obedience to, God.  

Witness the first human, Adam, and the description of his first son, Cain, who slew his own brother, Able (Genesis 4:8), and so it continues to this day…  “That which is flesh is flesh

From Galatians 5:19-21:  “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are:

immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these,

of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you,

that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”


And immediately before that Galatians reads: 

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” (Galatians 5:15-18)

 For similar statements, see also Ephesians 2:3 and 1 John 2:16.

This spiritual rebirth is conditional upon our willingness to abandon our former lives of ignorance and sin, and to try and walk humbly with our God.

So this rebirth takes a human out from under the death sentence of the letter of “the Law”, and begins each of our walks in the newness of a life now lived in the spirit – so that not only is there no longer a penalty for the transgression of the commands and commandments of the Law, but, by truly walking “in the spirit”, we are unlikely to transgress the Law in the first place.  And nothing but a rebirth of being “born again” in the spirit can change the essential nature of a man – from a sinner to a saint.

And of course, in a larger sense, what Jesus says here to Nicodemus about an individual’s rebirth from flesh to spirit, He is also implying for the entire Jewish nation – of which He is their King (John 1:42) – that they – the entire Jewish nation and system – must be “born again”, or else remain self-imposed under the letters and death penalty of the Jewish Law.  And note that there are still Jewish people – because they refuse to be “born again” – today.

Jesus continues by stating to Nicodemus:

The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going;

so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.


 “Spirit”, breath, air and “wind” are all derived from the same Greek root word pneuma.  Many times in Scripture the “Spirit”, and the Holy Spirit, are compared to the “wind”: Ecclesiastes 11:5.

This statement of Jesus is understood that the “wind” is invisible and undetectable, except for its effect and influence on the things that it interacts with, and this is the case for “the spirit”, that pattern or frequency of energy that is beyond the range of the human senses, and to date, any human device or technology.  What “the Spirit” is, and where it comes from, is beyond human comprehension, and it can appear to operate randomly, much like the operation of the invisible “wind”. 

And of course, the wind can be a powerful, unrelenting and unstoppable force, but it can also be channeled, harnessed, and used in service to humanity – as in a sailing ship, or a wind mill.  There are many types and degrees of the intensity of the wind, from stillness, to a gentle, stirring breeze, to a typhoon, or destructive hurricane or tornado.

As there is a spirit within humans, it is undetectable and identifiable, and yet it animates the physical body, and influences our actions.  But some of the influences of the spirit, and the Holy Spirit of God, are readily observable by those humans who have embraced it.  You can tell the inner type and nature of the spirit that animates each human being by their external words, deeds and actions. 

Jesus is also saying that such people who are “born of the Spirit” come and go, and those without that spirit do not know where they are going – likely a reference here to “heaven”, or “the kingdom of God”.  And as they “do not know” where the spirit is going, they themselves are likely not going to that same place.

Nicodemus replied simply, “How can these things be?” 

Obviously he was not understanding what Jesus was talking about.  Often we humans will outright reject something if it does not make sense to our understanding.  Usually there is a way that a thing is true, even if we do not know all of the facts and details – especially when it comes from God.  “God is Spirit” (John 4:24), and the operation of the Spirit is undetectable by our senses, and therefore beyond our comprehension and understanding – like the wind, although the wind can be somewhat understood, and some of its movement predicted – as Jesus has said – by the effect that it has on things.  And this is one of the reasons that we must have faith in what God, and Jesus, says to us.  That we do not understand the mechanics of how a thing works does negate the fact that it works.

Jesus said to him,

Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?

Here Jesus rebukes or chides Nicodemus for his clear lack of understanding.  And this is a pointed question to Nicodemus, perhaps one that gets to the real heart of both man and religion.

Nicodemus was a Pharisee, and a teacher of the Law.  The heart of the matter for Jesus was that this man, and the Pharisees, were very carefully scrutinizing and using the letter of Law, observing all that Moses had written, and more, and over the millennia had gone beyond what Moses had written with their interpretations and additional restrictions, thinking that pleasing God and salvation lay in overly strict, unbending, observance. 

What the Pharisees were not cognizant of was that all of the requirements and letters of the Law were for the guidance and reformation of human actions, as dictated by their spirits.  Those words, commands and demands of the Law, like computer code, program, or re-program, the human mind, and this resulted in a change in the spirit – both of the individual, and collectively for the whole society.  And that was the intention of God in separating, guiding and teaching the Jewish nation – the reformation of the human spirit, which then had its effect on the flesh, and through that, on the entire society, and perhaps, eventually, the world beyond.

And this idea of rebirth and renewal is not a new concept.  Nicodemus must have read Ezekiel 11:19-20: 

And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them.

And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,

 that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them.

Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.”


And further, For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land.

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;

and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”  (Ezekiel 36:24-27)


Jesus would many times call the Pharisees “blind” and “fools” for their strict and unwavering observance of the letters of the Law – the outward, physical meaning of God’s words, even when they were contrary to compassion and mercy, such as pulling a distressed and injured animal out of a hole on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:11-12).  For Jesus’ full list the Pharisees errors and crimes, see Matthew 23:1-36.

Jesus will later say, I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,

that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent

and have revealed them to infants.”  (Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21)


Jesus then says to Nicodemus, (“Truly, truly),

“… we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen,

and you do not accept our testimony.

If I told you earthly things and you do not believe,

how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”


Note the use of the ‘royal’ “we” – here Jesus is speaking for Himself and God, as the Divine Spirit; the Word of God – as He was before His incarnation into the flesh of this world. 

Here Jesus is testifying and bearing witness that He is from “heaven”, and that He knows of that which He speaks, even as, “He Himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:25)  And by this is also implied that we humans, and Nicodemus, do not know anything about “heavenly things”, except whatever God has chosen to reveal.

Jesus then says, “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven:

the Son of Man.”


Now Jesus is not talking about “the kingdom of heaven”, which could be interpreted as wherever God’s people (those reborn in the spirit) are, but of actual “heaven” itself, which we must assume is that invisible spiritual dimension. 

Jesus is saying that He Himself came down (“descended”) from there, and this we assume as His mother, Mary, was “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit at His conception (Luke 1:25), and therefore His soul or spirit is from there.

Does this statement also mean that “no one” – no human soul or spirit, has ever ascended into “heaven”?  Does this mean that the spirits of deceased humans are somewhere else – some other ‘heaven’, place or some purgatory?  Where then did Enoch (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5), and Elisha (2 Kings 2:1, 11) go?  Was Abraham not there in heaven, with Jacob and Issac? (Matthew 8:11; Luke 13:28).  See also Luke 16:22-26. 

This statement of Jesus may indicate that He is from a higher, or the highest, heaven – one beyond where the souls of humanity dwell.  See 1 Corinthians 15:44-48.

Without getting into detail about the meanings and cosmology of “heaven”, the word ‘heaven’ as used in the Scriptures of the Bible can indicate several different things, places, or dimensions:

1. the air and sky (atmospehere) above the earth

2. several levels (layers; dimensions) of the invisible worlds of the spirit, including:

  1. midheaven” (Revelation 8:13, 14:6, 19:17)
  2. the “third Heaven”  (2 Corinthians 12:2)
  3. and the “highest Heaven” (Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27+; Psalm 68:33). 


So what Jesus may be saying is that no human who has died gone to “heaven” has returned to the earth – except Jesus who has uniquely had the opposite experience.  He was from heaven, and then came down to the earth, to return to heaven again (John 3:13, 31, 6:38; Acts 1:9-11, Philippians 2:5-8 +…).  Therefore, Jesus only is qualified to speak of these heavenly things, as He is the only one who has come from there.

Jesus here uses the term “the Son of Man” as a title for Himself, which obviously indicates birth into this world through a human.  The term is used many times by God to address humans (“son of man”), as the prophets Daniel (8:17), and Ezekiel (2:1, 3:17, 25…); see also Psalm 8:4, 80:17; Isaiah 51:12 +, Jeremiah 48:18… +.  And applied in these cases the term seems to indicate a good, or righteous, human being. 

But a specific being with the title “Son of Man” was also seen in one of Daniel’s visions (Daniel 7:13), and the same being is (possibly) also described in Revelation 14:14.  Some believe that the “Son of Man” mentioned in these passages is a reference to the Messiah.

As if all that Jesus has said so far is not deep and cryptically abstruse enough, He then says to this man Nicodemus,

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,

even so the Son of Man must be lifted up;

so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.


Yes, Moses put a “serpent” (a snake) atop a “standard” (a pole).  In the Book of Numbers an incident is recorded after Moses had led the Israelites across the Red Sea.  The entire passage is reprinted here for easy reference:

Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey.

The people spoke against God and Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.’

The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.

So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.”

And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.     (Numbers 21:4-9)


It is assumed that a “fiery” serpent is one that is poisonous, and this may be the species of local snake known as the Asp, and particularly the “Egyptian Asp”. 

The image of the serpent used here is appropriate, as sin – transgression against the Law of God – causes death (spiritual death – loss of relationship) and is fiery, and poisonous, like the bite of a serpent – even like “the serpent of old who is called the Devil and Satan” (Revelation 12:9) who inspired or caused the sin in the first place. 

Sin, like the venom of a snake, spreads throughout the entire body, and leads to “fiery” pain and torment, and ultimately, even to death.  And this imagery is apt as a description of its effects both on the physical body, and also on the human soul.

Note that Moses made the serpent out of “bronze”.  Bronze (or brass) is a shiny copper alloy which does not rust.  This material was fashioned for many of the metal fittings and artifacts used in the original Tent of the Meeting, Tabernacle, and later in Solomon’s Temple (the ‘sea’, the ‘bulls’, and the pillars, etc.), and being malleable, bronze has always been used for statues and images.  Moses lived at the end of the historical period of technology known as, “the bronze age”. 

All of this is mentioned to appreciate that in the Book of Revelation a description of Jesus is given:

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me.  

And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands;

and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash.

His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow;

and His eyes were like a flame of fire.

His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace,

and His voice was like the sound of many waters.”  (Revelation 1:12-15…)  See also Revelation 2:18.


Now Jesus used this analogy of the serpentlifted up”, but at first glance it does not quite fit, except when we recall that Jesus Christ was “made to be sin for us” (humanity) (2 Corinthians 5:21).  As a serpent – but without the fiery sting of sin that results in ‘death’.

What Jesus is saying is that “whoever” sees Him (hears of Him – Jesus) and believes in Him, will have “eternal life”, meaning that they will live forever and not die the death of the torment and destruction of their souls.  However, what Moses put atop the standard was a “serpent” which was, and is, a symbol not of God, but of Satan (meaning adversary), the Devil (Genesis 3:1; Revelation 12:9).

The term rendered “lifted up” can also be rendered “put up high” in the Greek, and from this it can be seen that Jesus may also have been alluding to the fact that He Himself would be not only raised up above the ground, as at His crucifixion, but also that He would eventually be “lifted up” to sit at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69; Acts 2:33, 5:31, 7:55-56; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3, 8:1, 10:12, 12:2; 1 Peter 3:21-22 +).

Eternal life” is an interesting statement and prospect.  “Eternal” means forever, without duration, ceasing, or end.  It seems to indicate that one would live forever, and not die, and this term indicates not only the duration, but also the quality of that life.  But this is only a reference to the spirit that is in humanity, and not an indication that a human can live forever in these flesh bodies down here on the earth.

But the irony is that if this statement is taken at its outward physical meaning, one must first die in the flesh of this body, in order to then enter into that “eternal life”, which is presumed to be that of the spirit.  And all that can be speculated about this is that it is an allusion to a life and existence in a realm or dimension that is somehow separated or distinct from this physical world of flesh or matter.

And, of course, Jesus will later say, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth,

will draw all men to Myself.”  (John 12:32)  See also John 8:28.  Here He is in effect saying that He can, and will, “draw all men” “if” (when) He is “lifted up from the earth”.

In the past, when one is victorious and has conquered a foe, their head was often cut off and put on top of a spear, a lance, or a pole, and paraded around so that all could see that indeed, their enemy was now dead and no more.  So this “lifting up” was a symbol of victory, and this is what Moses did – he showed that the enemy of the people, these “fiery serpents” had been conquered – in that God had checked the plague of death, and that all would be healed if the would simply choose to look at the effigy of the bronze serpent atop the pole.

As the bronze serpent of Moses healed people of their physical illnesses and disease, acknowledging Jesus Christ now heals people, everyone, of their inner sinful sickness, ailments and diseases.   As Moses saved the people from physical pain and death, Jesus will save the people from the spiritual “eternal” death.  And yet, despite how easy God has made this salvation through Jesus, many, many people will not believe, and others will refuse to look up at Him, and others will simply prefer to perish, as did those who would not look up at the snake of Moses.

And, as Moses lifted up that serpent, Jesus now sits atop the pole of that religion raised by Moses, and like the serpent of Moses, Jesus takes upon Himself (represents) the sins of the people, and humanity.  In the case of Moses looking at the serpent – the cause of their pain, suffering and death, was enough to save them.  Now Jesus uses the same metaphor, but changes the symbols, so that looking at Jesus is enough to end ones sin, pain, suffering, and ultimately, will preserve one from that death conferred by “the Law”.

Interestingly, the symbol of a serpent wrapped around a pole, for the healing of the people, was later adopted as a symbol representing health, healing, medicine and doctors.

It is also noteworthy that the people did not have to do anything to be healed and saved from death but to look at the serpent and believe, and this may also be what Jesus is alluding to – simply look (acknowledge) Him and believe (trust – have faith), and we too will be healed of the sentence of death that follows us.  At least, acknowledging Jesus is the first step in that transformative process of walking with God (see Isaiah 45:22).

And the point of this entire statement may be found in 1 Corinthians 10:9:

Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did,

and were destroyed by the serpents.”


Interestingly, it was God who sent the serpents, and it was God who also provided the cure, and this is the same pattern of providing a Law, the disobedience to which confers death, and also the cure, in the form of belief in Jesus Christ, which is the same simplicity of faith which the Israelites were to exercise in looking up at the bronze serpent perched atop the pole (standard) of Moses.

Clearly, for those us who know the end of the Gospel story, Jesus is also alluding to His own death – where He was nailed to the crucifix (cross) and then that cross was raised to a standing position so that the feet and body of Jesus were suspended above the ground (“raised up”).  In fact, if the standard of Moses had a cross bar, it would look very much like a standard Roman crucifix.

The point of this entire statement of Jesus, regardless of the symbolism used to say it, is that, “… whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.”  But what is this “eternal life”?

A possible clue is later given by Jesus Himself.  The text says, “Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.”

But Jesus said to him,

Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.”    (Matthew 8:21-22; Luke 9:59-60) 


While you can easily miss the significance of this short statement if you are not looking carefully, these words of Jesus Christ can really only be taken to mean one thing.  Here the statement could be rendered as, “Allow the spiritually dead to bury the physically dead.”

This sentiment is confirmed in 1 Timothy 5:6: “But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.”  (see also Hebrews 11:4)

And also 1 Peter 4:6: “For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.”

Another clue is from Ephesians 2:1-2: And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,

in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”  (See also Ephesians 2:5)


And Revelation 3:1-2 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this:

 ’I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.

‘Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die;

for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.”


And also Revelation 14:13: “And I heard a voice from heaven, saying,

“Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’ ”

“Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”


Colossians 2:13 adds: “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him,

having forgiven us all our transgressions, …”   (see also Colossians 3:5)


And also Ephesians 5:14: “For this reason it says, ‘Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ ”

So death and sleep seem to be compared a state of not knowing or acknowledging God or Jesus, and also with a life not lived in the spirit – a life lived in a state of disbelief, disobedience, and sin. 

So, all of these Scriptures seem to indicate that life and death pertain not only to the physical body, but more importantly to the mind and spirit of man.  Life is to know God and obey His commands, and the “dead” are those people who will not acknowledge or believe in God, and thereby make the attempt and effort to overcome their personal transgressions and sin.

Yes, this is a big clue for us all.  If a human being does not believe in God (or Jesus) then they are considered, as far as God (and Jesus) is concerned, as dead – for the purpose of this earthly life is to seek, and to find, and to know God, and to walk humbly with Him.  See Matthew 7:7-8; Luke 11:9-10.

So this “eternal life” may possibly be understood as an existence with God forever, because when God is pleased and happy with you, He wants you around – forever.  And the corollary is true – if you do things that displease Him, He does not want you around – anymore.

Next, Jesus makes one of the most profound, beautiful, and oft-quoted statements of the entire Bible as the reason that “the Son of Man must be lifted up” – He says,

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,

that whoever believes in Him shall not perish,

but have eternal life.”


It is touching that “God so loved the world”, after all, “God is love” (1 John 4:8); and that in order to save us from ourselves (our sinful flesh natures), God cared enough to send “His only begotten Son

This word “Son” is likely spoken here for our understanding, to denote a relationship that we can understand – God being greater, or coming before the Son, and being the creator (Father) of that Son – the One who spoke “The Word”.

Perhaps this is the only “Son” of God that has been sent into this world.  Is it likely that God, who has made billions of worlds, in billions of galaxies, and billions of humans on this single world, somehow has only ever generated a single “Son”?  The clue is in the word “only begotten”, and this can be taken to mean the only one “begotten” in this world – the only one born into flesh on this world through a woman.  Recall that even Adam was called the “son of God” (Luke 3:38), and so all humans have this potential to become the sons, daughters and children of God, should they choose to try and walk humbly with Him (Romans 8:14-30; Acts 17:24-29; Philippians 2:14-16; 1 John 3:1-2).

And here “the world” that “God so loved” is not the planet earth itself, as the universe is populated by trillions of such spinning rocks, but God loves the people, the human beings – the “awake” and “alive” spiritual beings on this world, the ones with the little piece of His Spirit breathed within them – who are His children.  See Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10.

And it is noted here that God so loved the whole (entire) world – all of the people on it – and not just the favored nation and peoples of Israel.  And this is the first clue that this Gospel of the good news of Jesus Christ would be told and offered to the Gentile nations, and all the peoples of the earth, as Jesus is the Savior of the whole world – a universal salvation.  And all we have to do is to look upon, and believe in God, and Him whom He sent – Jesus Christ. 

Here again, this statement, “believe in Him” is equivalent to: have faith in Him – in who and what He is (or claims to be), as well as in the things that He says.  It can also mean to trust Him, as well as the Father (God) who sent Him.

And this would seem to be a display of great love indeed, for God to send someone He loves so much down here to the earth, to teach us His ways, knowing that the Son whom He sent would be ignored, and abused, and would finally die badly for our sakes, to atone for humanity’s sins, so that, as Jesus says, we “shall not perish” – meaning, that our souls are not destoryed, or that we otherwise cease to exist. 

In fact, if you look at it, by God sending His Son to save humanity, at the cost of the Son – God loves us on this little world very much indeed.  And the symbolism of God sending “His only-begotten Son” is also meant to show the supreme sacrifice for our sakes – like a parent sacrificing their “only begotten son”.  Recall that this great sacrifice was demanded by God of Abraham (Genesis 22:1-14) – which sacrifice Abraham was willing to perform.

And it may have been surprising even to Nicodemus that God so loved “the world” – and not just the Jewish people, and those who were descended physically from Abraham, from whom the promises of faith and obedience are derived.

It seems that perhaps God is saying – “Ok, you clearly do not believe in Me enough to do what I ask of you – especially you My chosen people (the Jews) – to be good and to not sin.  Rather than destroy this world, and all of you sinners, as I did with the flood (Genesis 6:11-17; Matthew 24:38-39; Luke 17:27; 2 Peter 2:4-5, 3:5-6 +), I will spare from death and the punishment (torment / destruction) of hell, anyone who will acknowledge and believe in My Son, because this believe is the first step in a relationship with Me.” 

Here from this statement of Jesus is the implication therefore that, whoever does not “believe in Him” will “perish” (Greek: be destroyed), while those who do will “have ‘eternal’ (Greek: life everlasting) life.” 

And what is the duration of God’s great love for us? – eternal, and ever-lasting!  And our response to this great love of God that generated our creation, and our salvation – should it not be that we love God in return?

Adding up the statements made by Jesus so far, it seems clear that to “see the kingdom of God” is the same as being conferred, “eternal life”.

Jesus continues with His discourse to Nicodemus:

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world,

but that the world might be saved through Him.”


So God sent “the Son into the world”, and perhaps the Son coming into this world was not the Son’s idea, but that He was, of course, eternally obedient to His Father’s wishes.

This idea of not judging the world seems strange, because of course, Jesus must judge, perhaps not the world, but at least the Jews, Pharisees, and others, to know that they had fallen short of the mark (sin).  Judgment is after all a requirement of being a King – of which Jesus is.  And clearly the religious system of Israel and Judaism was judged and found wanting. 

Many times throughout His ministry Jesus will judge the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and other groups and individuals.  Jesus judged Judas Iscariot (John 6:70), as Jesus judged each man that He chose to become His apostle – and this must go hand-in-hand with being able to “know” “what is in man.”  For an example of Jesus judging see Matthew 11:20-24.  And Jesus will be seated to judge the nations at the end of the age (Revelation 12:5, 19:13-15). 

But these are individuals and groups, and not “the world” as a whole, in its entirety.  Clearly God has judged the world, and found it wanting, and sent His Son into it for our salvation.

And, of course, it is God (the Father) who judges, as He did in the time of Noah (Genesis 6:5-7), and continually through the growth of the Israelite nation, enslaving them into captivity by the nations who were their enemies several times; and God has judged again now to know that the system of Mosaic Law had not turned the hearts of the people and inclined them (most of them) to Him. 

Perhaps the first time that Jesus visited the earth He came to save those who were willing to be saved, and when He comes the second time, it will be to judge and destroy those who refuse to obey (Revelation 16:5-7, 19:11).

Jesus then continues this thought with, He who believes in Him is not judged;

he who does not believe has been judged already,

because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”


Jesus has used the title “Son of Man” for Himself, and He now uses the term “Son of God”.  This shows that both terms apply to Jesus, but they are not equivalent, or inter-changeable.  The first is referring to His humanity, and the second, to His Divinity.

Again, “…believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God”  means to have faith in the Son of God, who and what He is, His mission, and to trust Him (have faith) – to be assured and convinced that He knows what is best for us, and that we can be truly and supremely happy and fulfilled in no other way.

He who does not believe has been judged alreadymeans that such people who do not believe do not have a relationship with God, and they are “judged” as ‘dead’, even while they draw breath in this world.  This death being a lack, or loss, of relationship with God, which is the natural state and nature of all men – especially those who never look up, and who for whatever reason never seek to know God, and to build a relationship with Him.

The explanation is given as:  This is the judgment,

that the Light has come into the world,

and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 

For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light,

for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”


This is the same “Light” that the writer of this Gospel of John has previously mentioned, where the life of the Word of Godwas the Light of men.” (John 1:9

It seems that “the Light” is a Divine Spirit, a presence, or an emanation from God, or it may represent the Holy Spirit, or the Word of God, or even God Himself. 

Light is also used to mean ‘knowledge’, and sometimes even ‘truth’, and all of these certainly apply to a description of God.

And “light” is good, as opposed to the “darkness” and “evil” which is its opposite. 

But something to note here, since the term “light” is being used, is that in a sense there is no such thing as “darkness” – it is simply the lack or absence of light.  There is no force or “thing” called “darkness” which can be manipulated in any way. 

Either way, those who practice bad things and evil deeds do prefer to commit their crimes in darkness – in private, without prying eyes.  That is the best assurance to commit a crime and not get punished.

This description of “light” and its effects on men conjures images of cockroaches, who scurry happily along the ground in utter darkness, and who run and scatter from even the smallest and thinnest beams of light.

It is always easier and more ‘comfortable’ to commit a crime in the dark (secretly) when (you think) no one is watching you!  That way other people, and you own conscience, does not get in the way, and make you pause and reflect.  Fear of being ‘seen’ and exposed is a powerful deterrent.  You can’t be punished until (unless) you are caught!  However, what they do not realize, or choose not to acknowledge, is that God knows and sees everything, and everyone.

And “darkness” when applied in a spiritual sense, can also represent ignorance and/or unbelief, willingly or unwillingly, so that evil hearts do not convict them that their actions are wrong – and worse, that they will be judged and found wanting before the law-giving God of the universe. 

It is easier for some to ignore the obvious “light”, and to pretend that there is no God, than to live in fear and worry that they will be judged and “perish”.  But the conscience of each person is different – some sensitive, and others not.

Some passages from the Book of Job describe the light and its effects on the hearts of man: 

“Others have been with those who rebel against the light; they do not want to know its ways nor abide in its paths.

“The murderer arises at dawn; he kills the poor and the needy, and at night he is as a thief.

“The eye of the adulterer waits for the twilight, saying, ‘No eye will see me.’  And he disguises his face.

“In the dark they dig into houses, they shut themselves up by day; they do not know the light.

“For the morning is the same to him as thick darkness, for he is familiar with the terrors of thick darkness.”  (Job 24:13-17)


And, They say to God, ‘Depart from us!  We do not even desire the knowledge of Your ways. 

Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him, and what would we gain if we entreat Him?’ ”  (Job 21:14-15)


The Book of Ephesians also sheds further “light” on this subject:

“Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;

for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.

But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.

For this reason it says, ‘Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.’ ”  (Ephesians 5:11-14)


 “Darkness”, as opposed to “the light”, can also mean confusion, such as a twisted doctrine, like a veil, or a cloud of error, such as the perceptions and teachings of the Pharisees – whereby that “the light” was obfuscated, reduced, or obliterated, so that the Spirit and the truth could not be clearly seen or discerned.

Of course, some of these “dark” (darkened – unenlightened) humans will actually fight against God, and against those who are sent to represent Him, as with Jesus, and the prophets of old.  It seems that most humans hate to be told that they are wrong, and to be convicted or corrected of their wrong-doing.  We hate realizing and knowing that we must change, and amend our ways, and either not continue with our cherished and desired sins, or to make an effort to follow and serve God.   And it is easy to not follow God if you do not believe in God.  Perhaps in these cases, ignorance is bliss…  And this, for many, is a willful, even self-imposed prison of “darkness”.  And what do we say of this Pharisee, Nicodemus, to whom Jesus was telling all of these deep things, this man who, “came to Jesus by night”?

And again, note that, “the light has come into the world” – “the light” was sent into the whole, entire world (of humanity), and not just to the Jewish nation, although it was born and began there.  And this statement also means that therefore the light – the knowledge of God – was not present until that point in time, or at least, the light available until that time was either reduced, or had grown to be very dim.

And we need “the Light” to see where we are going…  to show us the way to Jesus, God, salvation, and the “kingdom of God” and of heaven, of which Jesus speaks – to find that “narrow path” (Matthew 7:13-14). 

And, as is reported by many who have died and been revived – there is a light into which we must go… so go my friends – “Go into that light!”

As a last thought on the topic of “light”, let us remember that according to some, Satan, the Devil, was created a perfect being, a “light-bearer” in the Heaven of God, and some have even named him ‘Lucifer’ (Latin prefix: lux – light), until he sinned through the disobedience of price, and his nature was changed, and his ‘light’ taken away, and he became the agent of spreading darkness, obfuscating the light so that we humans cannot see the way, and either fall off that narrow path that leads to salvation, or cannot find the beginning of the footpath, so that we cannot walk with God, or doubt Him.

The last lines of this Act state:  “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light,

so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”


People who love truth and justice do not have a problem coming to “the light” of God – in fact many are driven to seek that “light”, as that also is a part of being human, though it is suppressed in some and almost completely absent in others.  Whether our light is bright or dim, all humans have the capacity to recognize, appreciate, and enjoy that light, and even to reflect it, so that others may be also become enlightened.

This can be taken to mean that if you are good, or know God and have a relationship with Him and Jesus, you have no fear and nothing to hide.  You are pleased that men can see your character, your deeds and your actions – that all people may know that these things were done for the sake of (“wrought in”) God, or in service or worship of Him.  Perhaps such deeds are even done according to the Will of God, or through His Divine love, assistance and power.  Jesus, and the good, conscientious person, always seeks to do the things that are pleasing to God.  Either way, those walking in the light are in fact testifying to the light, and that it is from God.

True that there are many really good, kind, loving, compassionate and caring humans who still, for whatever reason, do not believe in God, but generally, if you are fair-minded, it is not a source of fear to believe in God.


So now Jesus has spent the first Passover of His public ministry cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem, and preaching to the people, while performing many signs and a few miracles.  And in His private discourse with Nicodemus He has revealed some truths about the kingdom of God and eternal life.  But these are hard statements for Nicodemus, or anyone, to understand at first, but with the words and utterances that Jesus will state during His ministry, hopefully the path will become more clear.


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Please click on the link below to read Today’s Act:  


Act 4-1-2  -  A Pharisee Named Nicodemus


 Adobe PDF File:   The SYNOPTIC GOSPEL – Section 4, Chapter 1, Act 2




Click here for more information about the book, The Synoptic Gospel, or to order your copy

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Coming next time


Act 4-1-3   -  John Testifies Again About Jesus


Look for it on  Sunday, January 16th / 2011 


Until then,


May we all believe the testimony of Jesus, and choose to walk in that Light!


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SG-036: 4-1-1 > Jesus Cleanses the Temple

By Daniel John - Last updated: Tuesday, November 23, 2010

SG-036:  4-1-1  >  Jesus Cleanses the Temple


Welcome to the 36th Act and commentary of  The Synoptic Gospel!   

This Act begins a new Section and Chapter

Today’s Act begins Section IV – From the First to the Second Passover,

and a new Chapter – The First Passover.


The Synoptic Gospel is a single, complete, unified Gospel account of the life of Jesus Christ, taken directly from the texts of the four Gospels of the New Testament; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John




Please click on the link below to read Today’s Act:  


Act 4-1-1  -  Jesus Cleanses the Temple


 Adobe PDF File:   The SYNOPTIC GOSPEL – Section 4, Chapter 1, Act 1


          or, you can read the commentary on the Act first…

                   – there is another link to the .pdf file at the bottom of the post…


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The purpose of this blog is to provide full, deep and meaningfully insightful commenatry on the Gospel Story of the Life of Jesus Christ.  

If you enjoy reading this commentary, please consider supporting this ministry by purchasing a copy of the book!


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COMMENTARY on Act 4-1-1


This Act is taken entirely from the Gospel of John (2:13-22) and it begins by stating that,

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” 

Many scholars have broken down the ministry of Jesus Christ into periods of a year, not counted from one January 1st to the next, but from one Jewish Passover to the next Passover. 

During the ministry of Jesus three Passovers are mentioned (this one, John 5:1 and John 11:55).  The three annual Passover feasts mentioned fit well with the prophesied ministry of the Messiah (Jesus) as lasting for a period of three and a half years (Daniel 9:27)

These Passover time divisions are used in The Synoptic Gospel to divide all of the events during the ministry of Jesus into Sections, which are further divided into Chapters and Acts, based on time and location.

Here the writer of the Gospel of John says, “the Passover of the Jews” – and this may be because the Gospel of John was written to the Gentiles – those who were not Jews, and who might not know what the “Passover” is.

The Passover was an annual event, instituted by God for the Israelites when they were captives in the land of Egypt.  Through time the Passover was one of the three major feasts and festivals that a Jewish male was required to attend each year in Jerusalem (Exodus 12:14, 23:12-14; Deuteronomy 16:1-6).  For more information about the Jewish Passover please see the first part of previous post SG-0232-4-1 > Jesus Visits the Temple at Age 12.

This is the second Passover that Jesus is recorded in the Gospels as attending in Jerusalem, the first being the one just mentioned, when He was a boy of 12 years old (Luke 2:42).

Jesus, born as the King of Israel under the Jewish Law, likely went to Jerusalem to keep the command and satisfy the Law regarding the Passover, with His friends and family, every year since He was a child, except for the few years that He spent in Egypt hiding from his early nemesis, the Roman king, Herod, when He was a baby (Matthew 2:13-21). 

There is no time given between this Passover that Jesus was attending, and the last recorded incident from the last Act, also taken from the Gospel of John, when Jesus made wine at the wedding in Cana.  For the purposes of The Synoptic Gospel, it has been several months since then, and it is now the spring of the following year.  The annual Passover was held according to a lunar calendar that had it happen each year in March or April, at the full moon.

At some point while Jesus was in Jerusalem He visited the Temple, that seat and center of Jewish religious life and worship.  And perhaps this is at least a partial fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy given a few hundred years before:

“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me.

And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple;

 and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.”  (Malachi 3:1)


The text then states that, “He found in the Temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.”

According to Jewish custom, as mentioned, sins were atoned for by the blood of an animal (Exodus 29; Leviticus 4 …).  In order to get the blood, the animal had to first be slaughtered by the priests.  The type and quantity of animal required was dictated by the type of sin, and ones personal wealth, or lack thereof.  Oxen (cattle) and sheep were the animals prescribed in the Law, and doves for those whose could not afford them.

Some people were farmers or herdsmen who kept livestock, and they could bring their own animal, the one “without spot or blemish” (Exodus 12:5, 29:1; Numbers 19:2 …), to the Temple for the priests to slaughter and sacrifice.  However, if one was not a farmer, and did not keep livestock, then you would first have to purchase the animal, and that is what these men were doing in the courts and confines of the Temple – they were selling the animals that were required to be sacrificed to atone for their sins.

Also used in the Temple was a system of coins, ‘shekels’, that were paid to the priests for this service and the upkeep of the Temple complex.  The required offering was a “half a shekel” (Exodus 30:12-13).

A shekel is a small coin used as the national currency of Israel.  Since the shekel was not widely used as legal tender except in Israel, and particularly around Jerusalem, people had to trade currency (usually Roman) for these shekels, especially if the people had traveled a great distance to attend the Passover, and other feasts, at Jerusalem.  And that is part of what these “money changers” were doing there within the Temple complex where Jesus found them.

Jesus was apparently quite upset when He saw all of this, and,

He made a scourge of cords,

and drove them all out of the Temple,

with the sheep and the oxen; …


A “scourge” (Latin: flay and skin) was a long implement that was typically made from several, or many, thongs (strips) of leather, cord, or rope, that were attached to a handle.

A scourge is close in type and meaning to a ‘flail’ and it was an implement of punishment, used like a weapon to whip people, inflicting great pain while cutting the skin, and even removing chunks of it. 

Although scourges were used by the ancient Jews (1 Kings 12:11) it was also a popular form of punishment throughout the Roman Empire, of which Israel was now a province.  There are variations on the ‘scourge’, including the infamous, ‘Cat-o-nine-tails’.

Where Jesus got the “cords” (Greek: ropes) to make the “scourge” is not recorded, but He may have used discarded scraps of leather and rope lying on the ground that had been used to leash and lead the animals.  This was likely easy for Jesus, as His human father Joseph was a carpenter.  So, as these cords that were originally used to lead and bring the animals into the Temple complex, Jesus now turned their use to sending the animals, and their owners, out of the Temple.

It is likely that these merchants and money changers had set up shop in an outer court of the Temple, known as, the ‘Court of the Gentiles’.  This was the only place that a non-Jewish person could come and pray.  But that would be difficult with the tumult of animals and men buying and selling.  Not exactly conducive to dignified prayer and worship.

The dignity of that massively impressive institution of the Temple would be reduced with dozens of haggling merchants lining the walls of the courtyards, the sight and smell of animal feces, and the sound of animals awaiting their death.  How well can you solemnly focus on worshipping God if His house is just like a busy market in the center of town, full of people haggling over prices, amid feces, straw, and the bleating of sheep, cattle and continually cooing doves.

Despite that fact that Jesus was clearly gripped with righteous anger, which is perhaps a little unexpected to see from Jesus, such is the vengeance of God when punishing.  But, the premeditated action of taking the time and effort to make the “scourge of cords” indicates that Jesus was perhaps not acting rashly in anger, but that He had actually taken the time to carefully plan His actions.  Perhaps He had been planning this first public action of His ministry for a long, long time.  And this was the first very public act of His ministry – clearly chosen and designed to send a message – which is perhaps, “better not to mix business with the religion and worship of God.” 

After chasing out those who sold the animals, Jesus then,

“… poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; …

Jesus threw the money of the currency exchangers on the ground, and presumably He left it there.

Of course, then as today, there was a profit to be made in currency exchange.  And with it came the temptation to be dishonest and to make an ill-gotten profit.  And this dishonesty is not a good thing to be taking place right within the confines of the Temple.

Presumably also, in a small way, what people lost in the monetary value of the exchange, either for money or animals, was money that they could not contribute to the Temple treasury as tithes and offerings.

The buying and selling and exchange of physical goods and merchandise denotes a worldly focus on the care of this physical life, instead of the spiritual focus and meditative, reflective mindset required to approach and to worship God – and this right at the very heart and center of God’s people and religion (Judaism).

Further to this corruption is the fact that the Temple priests, the administrators of God’s religion, particularly the high priest, would have been the ones that allowed the animal merchants and money exchangers into the Temple complex in the first place.  These priests would have been charging them rent to set up their tables in the courtyards, which is further corruption and distraction from the service of God in His temple. 

At some point Jesus said, “to those who were selling the doves,”

Take these things away; and stop making My Father’s house a place of business.


Note the similarity to Jesus’ statement about His “Father’s house” with the one that He made when we last have a record of Him in the Temple, back more than 20 years ago, when He was just 12 years old, also while attending a Passover celebration (Luke 2:29see SG-0232-4-1).

And this was the justification for His actions.  Jesus was rightly upset that the Temple, the seat and center of Jewish Holy life and worship, His “Father’s house” was tarnished with commerce, and likely dishonest commerce at that.  Apparently, God and money should not be mixed in this way.  One should not make a profit from serving God, or the Temple.  Worship should be pure, and not mixed with the corrupt business of changing money, which, if in fact it was corrupt or dishonest, could be considered a violation of the seventh Commandment – “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15; Deuteronomy 5:19) – right there inside the Holy courts of the House of God (see Amos 8:4-6).  And Jesus would later say of them, “… you have made it a robber’s den …”  (Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:45).

That Jesus called the Temple, “My Father’s house” is understood as, first, that Jesus was the Son of God, and as such, God was His “Father”.  That the Temple was the seat of religion and worship made it God’s “house” – the place where the Spirit of God dwelt, was housed, or appeared, particularly in that sacred place beyond the veil, the second, inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, where the high priest ventured just once a year, on the Day of Atonement.

Jesus began by cleansing the Temple of those elements which were not conducive to religion and worship, and that were even contrary to it, sort of like the removal of outward dirt and inner sin that John had instituted with His baptism.  First a thorough cleansing, and then a new, fresh, clean foundation can be laid.

Evidently Jesus was accompanied by some of His disciples, although no names are given, but the next line is recorded as,

His disciples remembered that it was written,

‘Zeal for Your house will consume me.’ ”  

Zeal” is an intense or enthusiastic eagerness, desire, ardor or fervor to do, or accomplish, something.

This Scripture is taken from Psalm 69:9, and attributed to King David, who was a type of Christ (Messiah), and King of Israel, who had zeal to build that “house” of God (the Temple) in the first place. 

As the first David had “zeal” to have a house built to God, the second David, Jesus, now cleansed it after its centuries of languishing in spiritual corruption.

The Jews in the Temple, presumably including the priests, scribes and Pharisees, were indignant at these disruptive actions of Jesus, and said to Him,

What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?


It is interesting that the Jews asked for a “sign”.  As the Scripture says, “…Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom …”  (1 Corinthians 1:22)

A “sign”, or miracle, is a clear indication of authority, or the will of God, often given by prophets as proof that they were commissioned by God, and that their mission was Divinely ordained.  

Jesus will later be asked this same question by the Jews, again in this same Temple, during the last week of His life (Matthew 21:23-25; Mark 11:27-30; Luke 20:1-3).  This event also happened on the day after Jesus again ‘cleansed’ the Temple a second time, by once more driving out the animal merchants and overturning the tables of the money changers (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:11-17; Luke 19:45-46).

It seems that the Jews were not so angry at the actions of Jesus in the Temple, as they were asking if He had the authority to do these things in the first place.  Perhaps they were asking Him this assuming that no one could have given such authority – or perhaps they thought that these actions might have in fact been sanctioned by the Roman government in Jerusalem, or perhaps from some radical faction within Judaism. 

However, in asking for “a sign” it seems that they knew or at least suspected that Jesus was Himself a Jew, and not from the Roman authorities.  Either way, by the fact that Jesus was merely questioned by these Jews in the Temple, and not punished or killed, indicates that they may have assumed that He was at least a prophet, and that He therefore was commissioned and sent to do this act of destructive cleansing by God.  And if so, He should have been able to prove proof of His mission, in the form of a clear “sign”.

Either way, Jesus capitulates to their request, and answered them, cryptically, of course.  He said,

Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.


Now this sounds like a simple statement, and the Jews took it at the basic face value – the physical level.  They said to Him,

It took forty-six years to build this temple,

and you will raise it up in three days?” 

This was the ‘second’ temple, rebuilt after David’s original temple was destroyed by the Persians.  This temple was known as “Herod’s Temple”, construction of which began just 16 years before the birth of Jesus, and it was still being outfitted and decorated to that day.  As Jesus was more than 30 years old, the temple had been by that time, some 46 years in construction.  It would continue to be embellished until the time of its destruction by the Roman general Titus , some 40 years from now.

The answer to this statement of Jesus is then given in the next line as,

But He was speaking of the temple of His body.”


Yes, the human body is the temple (vessel or vehicle) for the spirit of God (Genesis 2;7; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:18-19; 2 Corinthians 6:16).  Without some type of body a spirit cannot interact directly with this physical world – a ‘disembodied’ or ‘wandering’ spirit.  A ‘body’ of some type is apparently necessary to interact in this physical world, and that place where the spirit dwells is called a body, or temple.

Taking the body analogy further, the body is where the Spirit of God, through Jesus, dwells (Ephesians 1:22-23, 3:4-7, 4:4-7 …) and this is contrasted with the bricks, mortar and paint of that physical temple, in which the Holy Spirit of God dwelt, or appeared, between the wings of the cherubim that were on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:18-22; Leviticus 16:2).  This physical temple in Jerusalem was itself only representative of the true Temple where God ‘dwells’ – the one in heaven (Revelation 21:22). 

And the temple can also be considered the body of Jesus Christ that housed the Holy Spirit of God. 

The images of the human body and the spirit are used and contrasted by Jesus many times in His teaching parables (see Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4-5).  See other related Scriptures: Romans 7:4, 8:10-14; 1 Corinthians 6:13…

Jesus might also be intimating that the physical Temple in Jerusalem is of no value, compared to the temple of the human body in which the Spirit of God abides.  Stone temples will be built and destroyed, and the Spirit itself lives on in another temple, another body.

So here Jesus is providing the Jews who questioned Him with proof that:

  1. He was the Son of God
  2. that this honored Temple in Jerusalem was His “Father’s house” 

If you read between the lines of His brief statement, Jesus is also saying that it would be the Jews, perhaps even the very ones who were now questioning Him, who would “destroy this temple” of His physical body, by having Jesus condemned to die by the Roman authorities in just three years time, and again, right here in the temple in Jerusalem. 

And in His statement Jesus is also giving a clue to His death and subsequent resurrection from the dead, three days later.  Jesus may in effect be saying, “Destroy My body and in three days (after that) I will raise it up to life again.”  After all, God did create the universe and the world in just six days (Genesis 1:31-32)… 

However, using the principle of a day is equal to a year in the sight of God (Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:4-6 )  Jesus could also be alluding to the fact that the temple of His body would be destroyed in three years from this time, which turned out to be the case.  Jesus may also be saying that He would consent to be killed (“destroy this temple”) by men.

Either way, it is clear that Jesus knew that He would die, and that He would be gloriously resurrected to life again, three days later. 

There are many other possible meanings to this statement by Jesus, depending on the meaning of the words “destroy”, “temple”, “day” and “raise it up”. 

Jesus also indicates that He Himself would (“I will”) raise it up, such power being given to Him by Almighty God (John 10:17-18).

Although nothing is recorded about the reaction of the Jews to Jesus’ statement, it is likely that they did not understand His testimony, and they did nothing about it.  It seems that neither the priests, nor the vendors or the money-changers called the Temple guards, or the Roman authorities, and presumably Jesus was simply asked to leave the Temple, which He apparently did.

The last line verse of this Act states that after His resurrection (more than three years from now) His disciples remembered that Jesus had said these words,

and that they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.” 


This again seems to indicate that Jesus was accompanied at this Passover by at least some His disciples, although His mother, Mary, and other members of His family are not mentioned.

Clearly this was the first public intended act of Jesus during His ministry.  In the last Act, Jesus performed a miracle, and turned water into wine at a wedding.  That miracle He did not plan, and He only did it at the request of His mother, telling her, “My hour has not yet come.”  Perhaps this, the first public Passover of His ministry as the Messiah (Christ) was His “hour”, although He did not do a miracle here in the Temple at this time.

Jesus cared more about God’s Holy House and Temple than He did about His own Temple – that of His physical human body – the proof being that such care and concern for the reformation of the Jewish religious system ultimately resulted in His own death.

Clearly then, this Passover was to be the time when Jesus revealed Himself to Jerusalem, as the Son of God, who had to be in His “Father’s house”.  And this seems to be a fitting start to His public ministry – to be noticed in the Temple of God in Jerusalem, and to cleanse it, as the first step in making a reformation and a new start. 

Again this cleansing or purging is similar to the transformation of baptism, a cleansing and renewal of the outer body – the temple – which signified a renewal or reawakening of the inner spirit.  First clean the vessel, and then you can put something new, clean and fresh into it.

And it was Passover, the start of the public ministry of Jesus, and also a start or beginning, like that which originally signaled the birth of the Jewish nation, as they fled in the Exodus from their long slavery in a land of spiritual blindness and corruption (pagan) – Egypt.  It was time for cleansing – time for a new start.  Hopefully the “angel of death” would “pass-over” some of these Jewish people and leaders, who had turned the glorious Temple of God into “a place of business”.    

As Jesus began His public ministry with this act of cleansing the Temple at Passover it seems that He was intent on ‘reforming’ Judaism, and this would be the beginning of many run-ins with the corrupt and blind Jewish people, priests, leaders and authorities. 

Jesus will cleanse the Temple again (a second time) at the end of His ministry (Matthew 21:12; Mark 11:11-16; Luke 19:45), and at that time the Jews would have their way, and finally succeed in silencing Him, but only by pronouncing upon Him the sentence of death, and destory His temple.


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Please click on the link below to read Today’s Act:  


Act 4-1-1  -  Jesus Cleanses the Temple


 Adobe PDF File:   The SYNOPTIC GOSPEL – Section 4, Chapter 1, Act 1




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Coming next time

Act 4-1-2   -  A Pharisee Named Nicodemus


Look for it on  Sunday, December 4th / 10


Until then,


May we never be found defiling the Holy Temple of God!


May we also willingly sacrifice our life and body in the service of God!


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SG-035: 3-3-3 > Turning Water into Wine at a Wedding

By Daniel John - Last updated: Sunday, November 7, 2010

SG-035:  3-3-3  >  Turning Water into Wine at a Wedding


Welcome to the 35th Act of  The Synoptic Gospel!   


The Synoptic Gospel is a single, complete Gospel account of the life of Jesus Christ, taken directly from the texts of the four Gospels of the New Testament; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John




Please click on the link below to read Today’s Act:  


Act 3-3-3  -  Turning Water into Wine at a Wedding


 Adobe PDF File:   The SYNOPTIC GOSPEL – Section 3, Chapter 3, Act 3


          or, you can read the commentary on the Act first…

                   – there is another link to the .pdf file at the bottom of the post…


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If you enjoy reading this commentary, please support this ministry by purchasing a copy of the book!

The purpose of this blog is to provide full, deep and meaningfully insightful commenatry on the Gospel Story of the Life of Jesus Christ.  


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COMMENTARY on Act 3-3-3


This is another Act taken entirely from the Gospel of John (2:1-12).

The narrative begins,

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee.

Based on the timing, there are at least two possible ways to interpret this statement.  One is that this was only the third day since Jesus had returned from His forty days of testing by Satan in the desert (SG-032); the other is that it took Jesus and those who accompanied Him three days to travel north to Cana in Galilee.  Most likely Jesus set off immediately after the last Act, that same day, as it was recorded,

“The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, …”  (John 1:46) 

Having set off it took three days for Him to travel north to His home province.

Again, John was baptizing along a stretch of the Jordan River in Judea, and the city of the wedding, Cana, is in the northern province of Galilee – a distance of some 60 to 70 miles, which can be walked in 3 days. 

The town is designated as, “Cana of Galilee”, to distinguish it from another nearby town(s) named ‘Cana’.  Cana is located not far from Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus.

Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but Nathanael, the disciple whom Jesus just met in the last Act, was also from Cana (John 21:2).

Jesus was there at the wedding with “His disciples”, who were likely the men that Jesus had just met in Judea; namely, Peter, Andrew, Philip, and Nathanael, and perhaps some others that He met on His journey north to His home, who believed in Him and followed Him.  His mother Mary was also in attendance. 

This wedding might have been the reason that Jesus, at the end of the last Act, “… purposed to go into Galilee.” Perhaps Jesus had to attend this marriage as He was the eldest son of the family.

While the text does not say who was being joined in wedded matrimony at this marriage, they were obviously good friends, or relatives, of Mary and Jesus. 

I personally suspect that this wedding may perhaps in fact be for one of Mary’s other children, as she now had five sons – Jesus is the eldest – and at least two daughters.  In Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3, the four brothers of Jesus are named.  It is also possible that Jesus was related to both the bride and the groom (bridegroom).

As Jesus was now about 30 or 31, the youngest of His siblings would have been at least 20 years old, and all six of His siblings (or more) were at the age when they would marry.

The verse says that, “… both Jesus and His disciples were invited …”  That these disciples were invited to the wedding as guests of Jesus, and other clues, indicates that this was a large wedding.

The “disciples” who attended with Jesus were either there just accompanying Jesus, or they also knew the couple that were being married.  This could be the case as least these disciples – Andrew, Peter, Philip – were all from the nearby Bethsaida, a city also located on the northern shore of the nearby Sea of Galilee, and, as mentioned, Nathanael was from the village of Cana itself.  People tended to know each other, then as now, in a small town.   

At this wedding, as at many, at some point during the festivities, “the wine ran out”, as often these marriage feasts could last for several days, or even as long as a week.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, obviously concerned about this, says to her son,

They have no wine.” 

One might think that perhaps Mary was passing judgment on the hosts of the wedding who ran out of wine, or maybe saying – “Slow down in your drinking and nurse that glass, because they are out of wine.”  But, if Mary and her husband Joseph were the parents of either the groom, or especially the bride, they would therefore be at least partly responsible for the libations and other costs and comforts associated with this particular wedding.  Either way, to run out of wine at a wedding was a major disgrace and social faux pas.  It sets a bad tone for the joyous beginning of a marriage.

It is apparent from the reaction of Jesus that He knew that she was asking Him to do something about the current wine-less situation.

“Jesus said to her, Woman, what does that have to do with us? 

My hour has not yet come.”

Now this is a loaded statement.  First of all, He called His mother, “Woman”, which to our modern ears sounds like a harsh thing to say to one’s own mother, and perhaps Jesus was piqued with annoyance that they had run out of wine in the first place, and that He was now being asked to do something about it.  

However, Jesus used this same term, “Woman”, when He commissioned Mary to the care of His apostle John, when He was hanging on the cross (John 19:26); compare also Matthew 15:28; John 4:21.  So perhaps this was just the way that an eldest son, in his thirties, spoke to his mother.

As the ‘father’ of Jesus, Joseph, is never mentioned again in the Gospel record, some have speculated that he was probably by this time deceased.  If this were the case, perhaps Jesus, as eldest son, was now head of the household, and this is how He addressed His mother.

By Jesus asking what does that have to do with us? might indicate that the people hosting, and/or being joined at this wedding, were not in fact members of His own immediate family.  Some see this expression to Mary as a reproof, or a sign of indignation, or even contempt (Matthew 8:29).  Whether Jesus was piqued and in fact rebuked His mother or not, He did as she requested.

The fact that Mary made this request of her son indicates that Mary knew that Jesus had the power to perform miracles – that is why she told Him that, “They have no wine”, and clearly expected Him to do something about it. 

No doubt, Mary recalled the words of the angel Gabriel to her before Jesus was born (Luke 1:27-38 – Post SG-005), and perhaps she had seen Him do amazing things and little acts of compassion when He was a child, and as He grew and tested His growing powers over the past 30 years. 

The other line of thought is that Jesus only acquired His powers to work miracles when He was baptized as the Messiah, and,

“… the Holy Spirit of God, in bodily form like a dove, descend(ed)

and light upon Him.”  (Matthew 3:16-17; Mark 1:10-11; Luke 3:21-22) 

However, it does seem more likely that Jesus had these remarkable powers from the time that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary.

There is a lot of meaning in His statement, “My hour has not yet come.”  It clearly indicates that Jesus knew who He Is, and that He has a mission, or something very important to do, or accomplish, at that “hour” (or time). 

While it is possible that He was referring to some future point in time when He planned to reveal His powers, and ability to perform miracles, He may have simply been stating something like – “They still have a little wine left – it is not yet time for Me to make more.”  Either way, it seems that by this odd statement to His mother, that He knew that Mary was at least partly aware of His powers, and that He had a destiny, with a specific “hour”.

A ‘miracle’ is a remarkable event for which there is no known explanation, according to physical human senses or observable natural law.  A ‘miracle’ is certainly unusual and mysterious. Some have quipped that, “a miracle is an event in which God chooses to remain anonymous.”  Miracles, or other such occurrences, are performed by, or through, the power or agency of the Holy Spirit of God.  

Either way, as with all of the prophets of God before, Jesus had this power of the Holy Spirit to perform amazing feats that defy human ability, comprehension, explanation, and understanding.

There appears to be a gap in the narrative, and no doubt at this point Mary either reminded Jesus that the people attending were His family or relatives, or that the wedding itself was really important to her, or perhaps for whatever reason she pleaded with Him to do something to help; or maybe she just gave Jesus the ‘look’ – that withering look that mothers sometimes give, the one that makes their children instantly repent, and do their bidding…

Either way, Jesus apparently consented, whether by word or by look, to help with the wine, as the next verse reads,

His mother said to the servants,

‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’ ” 

And this is truly the best advice to all of us, and perhaps one of several most important Golden Rules to be gleaned from the Bible, and the Gospels – to do whatever God, or Jesus, asks us to do – to do it quickly, don’t delay – and with a smile on your face!

The text does not say whether these “servants” were servants of the household, or if they were help hired to serve at the wedding.  Presumably there were many of them, depending on the number of guests who attended the wedding.

And this statement by Mary may also be a clue that she was related to either the bride or the groom at this wedding, as she commanded servants who were presumably not her own, and they obeyed her.

So Jesus told the servants to fill, “six stone waterpots” that were sitting there, “with water”, which they did, “to the brim.”

Interestingly, these were six special waterpots, as they were used “for the Jewish custom of purification.”  They were very large, “containing some twenty or thirty gallons each.”

The Jewish custom of purification was observed for almost every occurrence in daily Jewish life, including before they ate (Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:3). 

The ritual washing of the face, hands and body is known as ‘ablutions’, and these would be required before, and often after, any religious endeavor, and at several other times during the day.  Other pots, utensils, and related items and vessels were also ritually cleansed before and/or after each use, according to Jewish custom (Matthew 23:25; Mark 7:3-4; Luke 11:39).

It is interesting that Jesus used, or was allowed to use, these ritual waterpots of Jewish purification to make wine, which would likely ruin their future use for ritual purification.  Perhaps this is why Mary gave the injunction, “Whatever He says to you, do it”, as no doubt the servants would have balked at using these particular waterpots to make intoxicating wine.  

Did the empty waterpots of ritual Jewish purification mean that there was no water left that could ‘purify’ the impure, corrupted (by then) religion of the Jews?  As Moses split the rock to provide that initial water that watered and saved the Jews (Exodus 17:6), Jesus fills those empty waterpots of Jewish purification with something better – something worth more than the mere ritual cleansing and removal of dirt from the outer body. 

The mundane, ordinary, water of the earth was turned into the wine of renewal and heaven, even as Jesus turns ordinary human hearts into believers. 

And is this not similar to the water that John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets, used to cleanse sinners, turning them into believers in the Messiah, and thereby transforming their hearts, minds and spirits. 

Using the foundation of Judaism – ceremonial purity, and sinless cleanliness – Jesus transformed the water of life into the wine of joy, of gladness, and of the spirit of Christianity – a wine (or spirit) of the highest quality.

“When the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine,” he, not knowing where the wine had come from – “called the bridegroom, and said to him,

‘Every man serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine;

but you have kept the good (Greek: “fine”) wine until now.’

Get them drunk on the good stuff, and then they will not notice that the wine is of a lesser (cheaper; inferior) quality. 

The “headwaiter” could also be read as “master / governor / director” of the “wedding / feast / dining room” – likely the one who organized and commanded the staff of servants and attendants.

Good wine” was a description of the quality, character and taste of the wine, and not an indication of its relative strength of alcohol content.  The miracle is that wine takes weeks or months to ferment, and “good” (fine) wine, even longer – and Jesus made this instantly.

Wine”, and “good wine”, was easy for Jesus to make, and He will use wine many times in His teaching parables, and He will even use wine to represent His own ‘blood’, which He uses as a symbol for the new covenant between His followers, and God (Matthew 26:27-29; Mark 14:23-25; Luke 22:17-18).

It is interesting to note that Jesus did not just produce wine in the six empty waterpots, but actually asked that they first be filled with water – and there must be some significance to this – as Jesus could likely as easily have ‘multiplied’ the drops that remained in the empty wine vessels, as He will later do with the ‘loaves and the fishes’ when He fed the multitude of 5,000 people (Matthew 14:15-21; Mark 6:35-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:4-14), and later the 4,000 (Matthew 15:32-38; Mark 8:1-9).

Likely this is related to the changing of one thing into another, as Jesus changed the Jews, and us, into followers.  Or perhaps Jesus wanted the assistance of the servants, so that humanity might be seen to participate in the miracle – “Do what you can, and I will do the rest!”

Nothing is said about the form or how Jesus performed this transformation or transmutation of water into fine wine.  It is not recorded whether He prayed, or prostrated before God, or called on the name of the Lord.  Presumably, as with His many other miracles, He simply willed it, without any outward word, form or ceremony, and it was accomplished.

Moses in an early miracle before Pharaoh of Egypt turned some water from the Nile into blood (Exodus 4:9), and this turning of water (of the Nile) into blood was also the first of the ten great plagues which God then wrought on the land of Egypt through Moses (Exodus 7:19-22).  So, as Moses turned water into blood, representing life, Jesus now turns water into wine, representing the ‘blood’ of Jesus – which, as wine (a ‘spirit’) represented the Spirit.

Another note is the prophecy in Genesis 49:9-12, of Jacob’s son, Judah.  Note the fulfillments of this in the life of Jesus, who was descended from King David, “the lion of the tribe of Judah”:

“Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him up?

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

“He ties his foal to the vine, and his donkey’s colt* to the choice vine;

He washes his garments in wine, and his robes in the blood of grapes.

“His eyes are dull from wine, and his teeth white from milk.”

* compare Matthew 21:7; Mark 11:7; Luke 19:35; John 12:14

Another connection between water and wine is from the Book of Isaiah, 55:1:

“Ho!  Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;

and you who have no money come, buy and eat.

“Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost*.”

Of course here, the “waters” mentioned are likely refer to cleansing, and even to baptism.

 * – “without cost” – compare Revelation 22:17

As the water represented the covenant and religious system as brought through Moses, the wine represents a new covenantal system of approach to God.  The new covenant was made from (in, or out of) the old purification waterpots of Judaism.  And, the new wine (covenant) was truly better than the ‘old’.

This incident might be interpreted as saying that Jesus was Himself the “good wine”, served now that these guests, the Jews, were drunk and oblivious to the state of corruption of their religious system, and the empty waterpots with which they could not be made pure again.

John records here in his Gospel that,

This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee,

and manifested His glory,

and His disciples believed in Him.” 

Essentially, this is the first recorded, public miracle of Jesus.  From here the four Gospel records will recount hundreds of the miracles performed by Jesus Christ as He begins His public ministry as the Messiah, and Savior of the world.

Here in John this first “sign” (miracle) “manifested” (displayed; showed) the “glory” of Jesus.  “Glory” can be properly described as an attribute of divinity and God.

This may seem to be a direct fulfillment of a prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-2, note the word “glorious”:

“But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt,

but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light;

those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.”

It is interesting that, “His disciples believed in Him.”  Did they not “believe in Him” before this?  They obviously believed in Him when they first met Him, and they each gave a testimony to that effect at that time (see last 2 posts), and of course they followed Him now as His disciples.  Perhaps now they REALLY believed in Him, and that this miracle confirmed or strengthened their belief.

But surely Jesus is Whom He claimed to be without the need of performing miracles.  Surely the essence of God is His teachings and commands given to guide humanity – and not a show or display of force or miracles.  Truly it is greater to believe in God without having seen a miracle, or an overt display of His Awesome Power. 

The fact that Jesus performed this first miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding may be taken to indicate that He confirmed and supported the institution of marriage; and also joyful celebration; and even wine (the consumption of alcohol).

As God is always called to witness and bless a marriage, truly God attended and blessed this one!  A marriage or wedding is symbolic of not only joining two humans together, but also represents the faithful, patient, relationship between God and His followers; and also between Jesus and His church (Revelation 19:6-9, 22:17).

As this first miracle was performed at a wedding, the final and greatest miracle of Jesus Christ will be when He weds His bride – the church.

The last verse states that Jesus then went to the nearby town of Capernaum, located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, with His mother, brothers and disciples, “and they stayed there a few days.

As Jesus began His ministry of miracles with wine at a wedding – the source of merriment, joy, happiness and mirth – one wonders, “What will He do next?”


*  *  *




Please click on the link below to read Today’s Act:  


Act 3-3-3  -  Turning Water into Wine at a Wedding


 Adobe PDF File:   The SYNOPTIC GOSPEL – Section 3, Chapter 3, Act 3




Click here for more information about the book, The Synoptic Gospel, or to order your copy

An electronic version (eBook – Adobe PDF) is also available!  (Now just $4.95!)


*  *  *  *  *  *


Coming next time


A new Section begins! 


Section IV



Act 4-1-1   -  Jesus Cleanses the Temple


Look for it on  Sunday, November 21st / 10


Until then,


May God and Jesus continue to bless and sanctify all of our marriages!


*  *  *  *  *  *


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New Lower Prices!

By Daniel John - Last updated: Saturday, October 30, 2010

Just in time for Christmas gift-giving…

the price of The Synoptic Gospel has been reduced to just $14.95 per copy for the paperback,

and is now only $4.95 for the electronic ebook version - yes, that’s less than $5!  


The Synoptic Gospel is the ultimate, true Christmas gift, as it is actually about Jesus Christ!  How many other gifts that we give to each other are actually about Jesus on His own birthday?!

The real reason for compiling this book was to help children (like my 10 year old niece) to be able to quickly read about the life of Jesus, and to easily understand the events that happened during His amazing life and ministry!


Everyone should read this amazing book!   Please help spread the Word!


To learn more about The Synoptic Gospel,

or to purchase your copy, please click here.


We now ship to more than 70 countries around the world!


May we all praise Jesus, and Glorify God!



SG-034: 3-3-2 > Jesus Calls Philip & Nathanael

By Daniel John - Last updated: Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SG-034:  3-3-2  >  Jesus Calls Philip & Nathanael


Welcome to the 34th Act of The Synoptic Gospel!   


The Synoptic Gospel is a single, complete Gospel account of the life of Jesus Christ, taken directly from the texts of the four Gospels of the New Testament; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John




Please click on the link below to read Today’s Act:  


Act 3-3-2  -  Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael


 Adobe PDF File:   The SYNOPTIC GOSPEL – Section 3, Chapter 3, Act 2


          or, you can read the commentary on the Act first…

                   – there is another link to the .pdf file at the bottom of the post…




In time for Christmas, the price of The Synoptic Gospel has been lowered!


If you enjoy reading this commentary, you can support this ministry by purchasing a copy of the book, or any of the books by Daniel John.

The ministry of this blog is to provide deep, full, and meaningfully insightful commenatry on the Gospels.  


Be among the few who will be the owners of a rare paperback copy of the very first edition of; The Synoptic Gospel – the world’s first truly unified Gospel story.


This unique book is a fantastic, and even, thoughtful gift, to give to someone at Christmas! 

As most Christmas gifts don’t have anything to do with Jesus or God, this year, why not give the gift that is all about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

And a copy for yourself, so that you will also always have the unified nativity story of the Son of God, the real reason for the Holiday Season




COMMENTARY on Act 3-3-2


This is another Act taken entirely from the Gospel of John.

The Act begins, “The next day He (Jesus) purposed to go into Galilee.”

Jesus was from Nazareth, a city in the northern territory of Galilee.  Right now He is in the southern province of Judea, where John is baptizing in the Jordan River.  So it seems that now that Jesus has been baptized (anointed) at His coronation as the Messiah, and the King of Israel, He is now thinking about returning home.

At this point Jesus meets (“found”) Philip, of whom it says,

“… was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.” 

Bethsaida is a fishing village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Andrew and Peter are the two disciples of John the Baptist whom Jesus met yesterday.  It seems that there were many people who came down to Judea from Galilee to listen to the preaching of John, and to undergo his rite of baptism, and these men possibly traveled together from the north in a group.  Truly they were eager seekers after God’s plan, as they suspended their occupations as fishermen and made the long journey south to Judea to hear the preaching of John the Baptist.

It is interesting that so far, these men that have sought and found Jesus were all from the same region as the home of Jesus.  Was Jesus seeking followers from His home province?  As we will see later, when Jesus does call His twelve apostles, eleven of them, with the exception of Judas Iscariot, the one who will betray him, were all from Galilee.

Whether Jesus merely met or ran into Philip, or whether He actually sought to find him is not specified.

When Jesus “found” Philip He said to him, “Follow Me.” 

This simple two word sentence of “Follow Me” could have several profound implications.  The first is the obvious, simple, physical request – that this man Philip would get up and follow, or walk with, Jesus. 

The other meaning could be spiritual – as in, “Follow Me, and learn from Me, and become My disciple” – Be like Me

It could also mean, “obey me, be obedient to My commandments and do as I request.”  Perhaps Jesus, a teacher of enigmatic parables, intended both levels of meaning.

Looking with penetrating eyes it can be seen to be the whole purpose of humanity on this earth – to “follow” God, by following His Messiah – His representative on earth – Jesus Christ.  And this is certainly the message of Christianity – to follow Jesus.

Either way, while Andrew and Peter sought, found and followed Jesus, this is the first instance recorded where Jesus calls an individual and asks them to follow Him.

Evidently Philip did Follow Jesus, as Philip is recorded as being one of the twelve apostles (Greek – one who is sent forth; a messenger) whom Jesus will later personally appoint and send forth into the world. (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16)

Philip’s response to this first request of Jesus is not recorded, but he believed Jesus, as the next line states that Philip found his acquaintance Nathanael and told him,

“We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote

– Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 

The “Him” to Whom he is referring is of course, God’s promised Messiah, and King of Israel, sitting on the throne of David.

There was likely some conversation between Jesus and Philip, as Philip had learned or determined the name of His father.

The name of your father was all important at that time, and served as a kind of last name, as we would use them today for personal and family identification; son of Adam, son of Noah, son of Abraham, and so on…  And this is also borne out by the two patriarchal genealogical records that have been provided so far in the Gospels (Matthew and Luke).

So Philip knew who the father of Jesus was.  Likely Jesus did not say, “I Am Jesus, son of Joseph” but when Philip learned where Jesus was from he probably asked Him, “Who is your father?”  Note that Jesus did not say, “God.”

It is clear that Philip believed in Who Jesus is and acknowledged that He was indeed the One spoken of in the Law and the Scriptures – by Moses and the prophets.

Philip’s friend Nathanael was leery of the hometown of Jesus, and asked, perhaps jokingly,

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” 

Perhaps Nazareth was very small, or it had a bad or unsavory reputation for some reason, as an American might joke today, “Can anything good come out of New Jersey?” < insert your local region here…  No offense is meant to anyone, anywhere.

Whether Nathanael was joking or being serious, either way, his statement was made in prejudicial ignorance.  One should perhaps be wary, but always check the story and the facts.  How many people have been prevented from investigating God or religion because of an internal, unfounded prejudice.  “Oh, because of this single thing that looks to my eyes to be wrong, the whole thing is not worth investigating and can be dismissed so that I don’t have to think about it anymore – it is not of God.”

It should have been clear to Nathanael that God often uses those who are the weakest, the poorest and most humble.  The location of a person’s birth has no meaning to God when that person is needed to fulfill God’s purpose or plan.

Rather than getting into a long explanation of who, or what, Jesus is, Philip simply tells his friend,

Come and see.” 

So Philip and Nathanael head off to see Jesus.

As they were approaching, Jesus said of Nathanael,

Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!

It is clear that Jesus knew who a ‘true’ Israelite was, as He was, after all, the King of Israel, and of the Jews.  While many were born as Jews or Israelites, Jesus saw something in Nathanael that was apparently an essential requirement of a ‘true’ Israelite, at least, as far as God intended the ‘true’ Israelite to be – having Personally created and instructed the young nation. 

Nathanael was an ‘Israelite’ not only by the circumstance of his birth, but apparently also by his inner spirit and character, and presumably his actions.  And this quality of a lack of deceit (guile) must also be a requirement of any person who wishes to follow and grow in relationship with God.  

Deceit” is related to the words ‘deceive’ and ‘deception’ and it means willful, intentional guile, or purposeful dishonesty, or even fraud, but with the intent to confuse or trick, usually for some type of gain. 

In a way, deceit, being willfully intentional, is a very bad form of dishonesty, and therefore a sin, related to all the physical crimes, such as theft and bearing false witness against your neighbor (8th & 9th Commandments – Exodus 20:15, 16; Deuteronomy 5:19, 20).  Presumably, without the inner quality of “deceit” it is difficult or impossible to commit these sorts of crimes, or sins.

What Jesus was likely also saying was that Nathanael was honest or meek, or at least, that he would not intentionally trick or beguile another person for gain.  Clearly as a human being Nathanael had sin before God, as we all do, but willful, intentional ‘deceit’ was apparently not one of his short-comings. 

Indeed” here means truly, or certainly (for certain); for sure. 

Nathanael, obviously surprised by Jesus’ statement about him, asks the obvious question, “How do You know me?”

Jesus here says that He “saw” Nathanael back before his friend Philip found and called him, when he was apparently sitting “under the fig tree.”  

The expression, “sitting under the fig tree” has been used as a rabbinical expression for meditation, prayer, and communion with God, and is used by God in Scripture as a symbol of a future, peaceful state for humanity (Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10).

Perhaps Nathanael was praying there “under the fig tree”, asking for God’s favor or guidance – perhaps he was requesting that God would reveal to him His Messiah. 

The “fig tree” is used in Scripture to represent the fig leaves that Adam and Eve sewed together to hide their new-found nakedness before God (Genesis 3:7), and also for the land Israel itself (Deuteronomy 8:8; 1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10).  Jesus will later use the symbol of the fig tree many times in His own teaching parables (Matthew 21:19; Mark 11:13-14; Luke 21:29).

There are several implications of this statement of Jesus about Nathanael, the obvious being that Jesus has powers of insight into events and people that are not within His field of vision at the time.  Perhaps Jesus was ‘watching’ what Philip would do next, now that he had found the Messiah; and also that He had heard the inner request of Nathanael. 

Either way, this event shows that God hears prayers, and Jesus as God, can hear the inner hearts, minds, thoughts and prayers of men, and all people. 

It is not recorded what Nathanael exactly was doing “under the fig tree”, however, it is assumed in this post that he was likely praying, meditating or otherwise communing with God.

This quiet, private communion with God “under the fig tree” is later contrasted by Jesus with the Pharisees in His statement,

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, … for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.” 

(Matthew 23:14; Mark 12:40) 

Jesus also said,

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men.

Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret,

and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you(Matthew 6:5-6)


Perhaps this was what Jesus referred to when He said that there was no guile in Nathanael – that he prayed a short, humble prayer in private, unlike the Pharisees and others who tried to look pious and God-fearing in their long robes as they stood on the street corners in the marketplace, with their long, public prayers, which is a form of deception.

Nathanael then obviously stunned and/or impressed with this revelation of Jesus about himself, then unabashedly gives Jesus a truly befitting testimony –

“Rabbi, You are the Son of God;

You are the King of Israel.”

Here Nathanael captures the essence of this Divine Spirit and being named Jesus in human flesh.  Jesus was:

  1. a teacher / educator (rabbi)
  2. a Divine Being (the Son of God)
  3. a King (the King of Israel)

I bet that Nathanael regrets his joke about, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” now.

Jesus accepts Nathanael’s testimony about Himself, as He does not deny it, or correct him, and He then asks,

Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe?

Jesus is asking if Nathanael believes because He “saw him without seeing him.  A proof of insight, second-sight, Divine knowledge, or a miracle, which is easy for God Who sees and knows all things (Hebrews 4:13). 

Jesus might be asking Nathanael, “Do you now believe because of that, because you did not believe the testimony of John the Baptist, and scoffed at the words of your friend Philip?”

Without waiting for his answer Jesus adds,

You will see greater things than these.  -  which is a promise for more amazing occurrences (miracles) to come.

And Jesus said to him,

Truly, truly I say to you,

You will see the heavens opened

and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

Truly, few humans have been promised such a great honor!

Note that Jesus here refers to Himself not as the “Son of God”, which Nathanael already identified Him as, but as the “Son of Man”, which would seem to be a lesser title.

Perhaps Jesus was being humble, or He was pointing out to Nathanael that although He was a rabbi, the Son of God, and the King of Israel, He was also, in His position and capacity as a mortal human being, the “Son of Man” and perhaps this is what Jesus was trying to remind Nathanael, who acknowledged His Divinity, of.

The ‘son of man’ is an honored title that is used in the Bible to identify a human being, and usually refers to very good, upright or devout men.  As bad, wild or “pagan” (non-Jewish) men are as beasts (Exodus 23:28-29; Deuteronomy 7:22; Ecclesiastes 3:18; Isaiah 56:8-9), and decent people are considered ‘men’, then the really good, God-fearing and devout ones can be called a ‘son of man’.  Here the term ‘son of man’ likely refers to that ideal human, the one who follows and obeys the dictates, desires and demands of his Creator.  Perhaps such a person is the human being as God intended when He created our kind through Adam and Eve.

The term “Son of Man” is how Jesus referred to Himself, a title of outward humility when He also had the seemingly greater title of “Son of God”.  Jesus seldom referred to Himself as the ‘Son of God’, although He accepted the title when others applied it to Him, and He admitted it when confronted about His identity by the Jewish High Priest Caiaphas (Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:70).

While many see that the term “Son of Man” can represent any man, or human, born of a woman, the term really denotes that perfect or ideal man.  God many times addressed the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel, as “son of man”.

From the Book of Daniel the term has a Messianic meaning (Daniel 7:13), and perhaps Jesus chose to be identified by this title within the Roman world because it did not engender the military and political imagery of the other titles, “Son of God” (to the Jews), and “King of Israel” (to the Romans).

To “see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” could be a cryptic way of Jesus saying that Nathanael will see Who Jesus really is, confirming that He is the Divine Son of God.  Perhaps Nathanael will ‘see’ these things not so much with his physical eyes, but with his inner, spiritual eyes – “let those who have eyes to see…” and, “while you were under the tree, I saw you.”

The “heavens” can here refer to a veil, or something hidden, as obscured by a cloud, which prevents true or accurate sight, or insight of what is ‘above’ or beyond. 

By the heavens being “opened” could mean that Nathanael will see Who Jesus really was, and that all, or what was previous hidden or obscured about Him and His ministry, will be revealed.   

As for the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man, this may refer to the Divinity of The Spirit that Is Jesus the Christ (Messiah), showing that the angels of Heaven serve, assist or support Him, even in His present position/condition as the Son of Man

This may also be a cryptic way of Jesus saying that Nathanael would see the mighty acts and miracles of Jesus, whether performed by the Spirit or by “angels” – the unseen agents (messengers) of the acts.

This statement by Jesus could also be a reference to the patriarch Jacob and his dream of the ladder on which the angels of God ascended and descended from the earth to heaven (Genesis 28:12).  Perhaps this was the very part of the Scripture that Nathanael was reading or contemplating when he was sitting “under the fig tree”.  Perhaps Jesus is here alluding to the fact that He Himself is that ladder, “set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven” (Genesis 28:12).

Although Jesus tells Nathanael that he will ‘see’ the heavens opened and all of these amazing things, Nathanael was not in the end one of the twelve ‘apostles’ whom Jesus later chose and commissioned (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16), unless Nathanael is listed under another name, or by his last, or family name…  Philip however is counted among the apostles. 

It is noted that from the Gospel of John Jesus is not recorded as directly calling Nathanael, as He did Philip, with some of the mightiest and most important words ever uttered, “Follow Me”.  It was in fact Philip who “found Nathanael” and told him about Jesus. 

However, in the end, clearly Nathanael could only have seen the amazing things that Jesus said that he would see if Nathanael, in even some small way, were to “follow” Jesus.

Regardless, Nathanael likely did see all of these things, and the many mighty acts and miracles of Jesus Christ, and he is mentioned again as being present on one of the occasions when Jesus manifested Himself to His disciples after His resurrection (John 21:2), and from this it is clear that Nathanael was a disciple of Jesus from this first encounter, right through His ministry, and even to the very end.

So there are now several men who have each found, or come to, Jesus, each in a different way.  And these are but a few of the ways in which a person can come to hear of, find, and believe in, Jesus Christ:

  1. Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist, believed the testimony of John and found the Messiah that he preached. 
  2. Andrew’s brother, Peter, believed the testimony of his brother.
  3. Philip was directly called by Jesus.  

It is noteworthy that these men are all also humble fishermen, and not the learned nor religious leaders, such as the rabbis, priests, scribes, Pharisees, etc. of Judaism.

So far, between these spiritually questing men, many of the names and titles of Jesus have been revealed, or affirmed. 

  1. John the Baptist testified that Jesus was the Lamb of God (who takes away the sin of the world), the Son of God, and, “the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”  
  2. Andrew testified that Jesus is the Messiah (the Christ).
  3. Phillip affirmed that Jesus is the One whom Moses prophesied in the Law, and of whom the prophets (of the Old Testament) wrote.
  4. Nathanael testified that Jesus is a rabbi, the Son of God, and the King of Israel.
  5. Jesus identified Himself the ‘Son of Man’.

 What will be revealed next?


*  *  *  *  *




Please click on the link below to read Today’s Act:  


Act 3-3-2  -  Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael


 Adobe PDF File:   The SYNOPTIC GOSPEL – Section 3, Chapter 3, Act 2




Click here for more information about the book, The Synoptic Gospel, or to order your copy! 

An electronic version (eBook – Adobe PDF) is also available!  (Now just $4.95!)




Coming next time


3-3-3   -  Turning Water into Wine at a Wedding


Look for it on  Sunday, November 14th / 10


Until then,


May we realize that we are all called by Jesus, and like Philip, we are all asked to Follow Him,

and that as beleivers, we see, and will see, that which Nathanael saw!


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Halloween Horrors!

By Daniel John - Last updated: Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hello!  Today, I wanted to post something a little bit different…

Inspired by Halloween, I wanted to share an excerpt from a chapter of a science-fiction novel that I have been working on,  2056:  The Age of Omiri.  It will be available next year, hopefully in the summer of 2011.

This excerpt is from a chapter entitled,

Halloween Horrors!“ 

Because the contents of this post are from a fiction novel, any views or opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of myself, or anyone else, although some God-loving, Christian parents may find the contents of interest. 

Also, please remember that the following is only a few lines from a single chapter, which is itself part of a larger work about extra-terrestrials, the future of the earth, religion, global governance, and the alien connection that is finally fully revealed in the year 2056.  

Having disclaimed all of that, I hope you enjoy reading this first ever appearance on the web of some of my writing that is not the usual commentary of this blog about the book,

The Synoptic Gospel - The Story of the Life of Jesus


With encouraging feedback perhaps I may post other chapters from 2056, such as the one about “Christmas“…


- Daniel John


Until then,


May God continue to safeguard our young ones,

as they run about excitedly in the dark of that night!



P.S.  the character that you are about to meet, Diane, has been abducted by aliens several times…   ; )


* * * * * * * * *


Halloween Horrors!


Des Moines, Iowa

October 31st, 2016 – 8:50 pm


The doorbell was ringing again.  If the doorbell ran on batteries they would definitely have been dead by now. 

Diane Caruthers grunted slightly as she once again got herself up from the couch.

Wasn’t this supposed to be over by now?, she thought as she glanced at the clock in the hall.  It was one of those old fashioned-looking grandfather clocks, but it was a modern antique. 

8:50 – It’s getting too late for this.  But, I still have treats, and I guess I did leave the front light on.

It was Halloween night and the kids were still showing up at the door, although her own children had not gone out trick-or-treating.  … 

< gap in text as Diane is going to answer the door >

Ding-dong’ went the doorbell again. 

“Coming!” muttered Diane as she came to within a few feet of the front door.  She had gotten a lot of exercise tonight and had missed most of her programs on TV. 

Diane did not really mind Halloween, but since she had grown up, and had reached the age where she could no longer go out trick-or-treating herself, she had begun to wonder about it, and over the years had grown to actually resent the holiday.

As a Christian she had always been troubled by the basic premise of Halloween.  While it was fun to dress up and pretend to be something that you were not, it was disturbing to see small children dressed as every kind of imaginable horror – little ghosts, and witches, and devils, and monsters, and worse.  Why would reasonable parents ever allow their precious and innocent children to dress up like every conceivable nightmare that haunted the minds of men?  How was this acceptable in a moral and modern society?  Never mind the actual ‘pagan’ origins of the holiday…

Once, when she was a young girl of five, Diane had dressed up as a witch.  Diane still recalled being really scared after her mother had put on the green and black makeup, and she had then seen herself in the mirror for the first time.  Talk about a freak-out session! 

Her mother had thought that she was being silly, but had relented and taken her ever present Kleenex tissue, (where did mothers hide those things?) and had removed most of the green makeup from her daughter’s little face.  Why had her decent, God-fearing mother dressed her as a witch in the first place?

Another thing that troubled Diane even more about the holiday was the whole premise of trick-or-treating.  This was truly a bizarre and unChristian custom. 

First, you teach your child to beg.  You tell them to actually go up to the doors of complete strangers, and beg for candy.  This was the exact opposite of the wise old sayings, ‘Don’t talk to strangers’ and ‘Don’t take candy from strangers’.  No wonder the stereotype of the evil child abductor always lured their young victims into the back of the van with candy.

Now, the fact that the holiday was constructed around the acquisition of candy was the third thing that bothered Diane.  You send your little children, dressed as monsters, to the doors of complete strangers, and then tell them to knock on the door and ask for candy.  Candy, of all things!  Candy, which made children hyper and bouncing off the walls, and then tummies upset, and the end result was rotted teeth.  Most parents would not give even a single piece of raw candy to their kids even once in a week, never mind huge pillow cases and whole bags full of the stuff on a single night. 

Diane remembered being sick more than once, and also racing around the neighborhood as fast as she could so that she actually had to come home and get another bag to hold all of her loot!  Talk about greed and gluttony!

Now, as if those three things of monsters and strangers and candy weren’t bad enough, individually or combined, the last part really bothered Diane.

The custom of this ‘witches night’ was that if your sweet little angels did not get what they wanted from the stranger, the ‘treat’, they could then do the ‘trick’.  And this usually amounted to acts of sheer and unalloyed vandalism.  To throw eggs at a stranger’s house, or toilet paper their trees, or the ubiquitous flaming bags of pooh, which sometimes even led serious fires and resulted in injuries and arson…  And all of this because some kindly old lady had run out of candy, or was not home, or gave out those little tootsie rolls or apples that everybody hated, or had had enough for one night and would not open the door anymore.  It was just bizarre and unthinkable!

Dressing your little children like a horror show, and teaching them to beg candy from strangers, and then giving them permission to commit acts of vandalism that they would never likely even think of committing in the daytime, just because they did not get what they wanted!  And all encouraged by normally responsible parents, who then had to deal with the fallout of upset stomachs, and too much sugar for the next several weeks, never mind the eventual dental bills. 

Diane did not know much, but she felt certain in her heart that Jesus would never have gone trick-or-treating.  Surely it was as anti-Christian a holiday as the Devil himself could have devised. 

Oh well, thought Diane, as she finally reached for the door knob, just as the bell was about to be rung for the third time, here we go again…

As she twisted the knob with her left hand, she reached for the bowl of treats with her right.  She was serving little bags of salted popcorn sprinkled with a delicious blend of Parmesan and Romano cheese again this year.  At least they were not the hated Tootsie rolls, and were not pure sugar, and the popcorn was at least somewhat good for growing little bodies.

She opened the door pulling it inward toward herself with her head turned to retrieve the bowl of snacks. 

“Trick or treat!” came the familiar and now monotonous refrain from the chorus of voices.  These were the voices of older youths, still out roaming the streets to catch the last few houses with lights still on.

When she had turned her head and looked at the children that were standing on the steps in front of her door her heart instantly froze, and she was firmly gripped by a severe and paralyzing terror. 

Standing on the steps were four youths, perhaps twelve or thirteen years of age, three of them dressed like extraterrestrial aliens from another world. 

< end of excerpt >


 … to be continued…?

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Scripture reference correction on Page 39

By Daniel John - Last updated: Friday, October 15, 2010

The Scripture reference that is noted at the bottom of page 39 of The Synoptic Gospel  (Act 3-3-2) reads:  John 1:46-51

The reference should read:  John 1:43-51.

The error does not effect the readability of the text, and will be corrected in the second edition.


The effort is always to make The Synoptic Gospel as accurate as possible.


As always, sincerest thanks to those who spot these things, and point them out!  :)


May God continue to guide us to understand His Holy Word!


                                                                                                 -  Daniel John

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SG-033: 3-3-1 > Jesus Meets Peter & Andrew

By Daniel John - Last updated: Friday, October 15, 2010

SG-033:  3-3-1  >  Jesus Meets Peter & Andrew


Welcome to the 33rd Act of The Synoptic Gospel!   


The Synoptic Gospel is a single, complete Gospel account of the life of Jesus Christ, taken directly from the texts of the four Gospels of the New Testament; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John




Please click on the link below to read Today’s Act:  


Act 3-3-1  -  Jesus Meets Peter and Andrew


 Adobe PDF File:   The SYNOPTIC GOSPEL – Section 3, Chapter 3, Act 1


          or, you can read the commentary on the Act first…

                   – there is another link to the .pdf file at the bottom of the post…




COMMENTARY on Act 3-3-1


This is a straightforward Act, the text taken entirely from the Gospel of John (1:35-42).  It begins a new Chapter within this Section, entitled:  Jesus Begins His Ministry.

After His baptism (anointing, coronation) and testing by Satan in the desert, Jesus is now ready to begin His ministry, which, as with all prophets, will involve teaching the people about God. 

While still in the vicinity of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing, Jesus was walking.  John saw Jesus when he was standing with two of his disciples.  Yes, John had many followers who had heard him preach and believed, and some would follow and assist John with his ministry to spread the message of repentance, and about the coming (now here) Messiah.

When John saw Jesus he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 


Remember that John had previously said this, just a few lines ago (in the Gospel of John) and added,

“… who takes away the sin of the world!”  (John 1:29)


If you want to see more about the meaning of “the Lamb of God” please see previous post SG-030.

The two disciples of John, who heard him speak, turned and followed Jesus, presumably as He was walking past. 

It is interesting to note that John allowed these two disciples of his to leave and follow Jesus.  It can be seen from this that John was serving God and the Messiah, and it is likely that John had trained his disciples to know that the purpose of his ministry of baptism was only to prepare the hearts and minds of the people to meet their Messiah.  And in this way it can be seen that John helped the ministry of the Lord by providing the first of the disciples and followers of Jesus, who would later be accorded the great honor of being two of the Lord’s twelve apostles.

At some point Jesus realizes that these two men are following Him, and He turns and asks them, What do you seek? 

It is interesting that Jesus asked, “What” did they seek, and not “Whom”. 

They said to Him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), …”

A ‘Rabbi’ is a title that refers to a religious ‘teacher’ – one who teaches the Law and the meaning, or an interpretation, of the Scriptures, specifically the Pentateuch (Torah) – the first five books of the Old Testament, the Hebrew covenant. 

The root of the Hebrew word ‘rabbi’ means great, or revered.  Rabbis tried to collect, codify and make sense of the oral and written laws and traditions of Judaism, and then would teach their interpretation to the people, hence they were referred to as “teacher”.

Evidently Jesus was a Rabbi, or at least He considered Himself one, as He did not deny it or correct the two men.  The title “Rabbi” is also applied to Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.

The two following Jesus said to Him, “Rabbi, where are You staying?” 


Now this sounds like a strange question, standing in front of the Son of God, your King and Messiah.  These two men do not answer Jesus’ question, and instead ask Him, “Where are you staying?” 

Presumably there was some conversation in between, or these two men knew Who Jesus was, or at least they believed that He was a teacher.  Perhaps this was customary, to go to the home of a rabbi, and to sit at his feet and learn from him.

He (Jesus) said to them, Come and you will see.”


“So they came and saw where He was staying;

and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.”


So Jesus had a place where He was staying, although no description of it is given in the Gospels.  Perhaps Jesus was staying with someone as their guest while He was in Judea.  Remember that Jesus was from the northern territory of Galilee (Nazareth) and John is only mentioned as baptizing in Judea, where also he is from.

So remarkable was this meeting between Jesus and these two disciples of John the Baptist that the writer of the Gospel of John, noted and recorded the exact time that they first encountered Jesus.  For this and other reasons many feel that one of these two disciples of John who first encounter Jesus was John, the future apostle of the Lord, and many feel, the writer of the Gospel of John.

While one of the two was named ‘Andrew’, who is recorded as being the brother of a man named Simon Peter, the name of the second disciple is not recorded.

On a personal note, I doubt that this second disciple of John the Baptist who met Jesus that day was the apostle John.  And the reasoning is this:

1.  There is only one apostle of the Lord recorded as being named John, and that is John ‘Zebedee’, the brother of James (Matthew 10:2-4; Luke 6:13-16).

2.  Right now Jesus is in Judea with John the Baptist, presumably still near the Jordan River, close to the village of Bethany.  (the opening lines from the next Act (3-3-2) are John 1:43, which state – “The next day He proposed to go into Galilee…”)  Jesus will not meet James and John Zebedee until He returns to Galilee and finds them fishing on the Sea of Galilee, which will not take place for a few months (compare: Matthew 4:21-22; Mark 1:14-20; Luke 5:10-11). It is most likely that Jesus did not meet James and John until the following summer (27 CE), in about 6 to 8 months.   

3.  The name ‘Zebedee’ is only mentioned once in the Gospel of John itself, and then only in the very last chapter (John 21:2).

Back to the topic…  The time of this meeting between Jesus and the two disciples of John is recorded as having taken place at “the tenth hour”, which was likely about 4 pm, according to Jewish reckoning, and not 10 am, Roman style.  So the day was mostly over, (and it was likely late summer or early autumn) and that is why it is recorded that “they stayed with Him that day.”

These two disciples of John’s stayed with Jesus that day, presumably asking Him questions and listening to His answers and wisdom.  Imagine if that were you – sitting and listening to the wisdom of Jesus!

The Act then says that Andrew went and found his brother, Simon, and said to him,

We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ)


Just a quick note as to why John has now recorded the translation of two Hebrew words – ‘Rabbi’ and ‘Messiah’:  John wrote his Gospel in Greek for the Hellenistic and Greek peoples, and not a Jewish audience, who already knew what these words meant.

It seems that Andrew was convinced through his conversation with Jesus that He was in fact the Messiah, as indeed his ‘Rabbi’ (teacher) – John the Baptist – had said.  It can be seen that Andrew first of all believed in the preaching of John, and that he now also believed that Jesus was the One whom John was preaching about – and that Jesus was the Messiah that they were all seeking.  This shows the spiritual insight, vision and wisdom of Andrew.

Next Andrew brought his brother Simon (Peter) to meet Jesus.  Likely they, and many of their friends, had been seeking after God, searching for the promised Messiah, and therefore had heard about John and the cleansing that he was performing on the people, by immersing them in the water of the Jordan River of Judea, to prepare them to meet their Messiah.  It can be imagined how excited Andrew was to find and tell his brother that their long search was over!  And John the Baptist had been right in his preaching!

Little is recorded about Simon Peter’s first encounter with Jesus, except that,

Jesus looked at him and said,

You are Simon the son of John;

you shall be called Cephas (which is translated Peter)”


Just to confuse things more – this is a fourth possible John in the mix – John the Baptist, John the apostle, John the writer of the Gospel of John (if not the same apostle), and now, John, the father of Simon and Andrew.  Clearly John was a popular name for Jewish boys. 

How did Jesus know the name of Simon Peter?  How did He know the name of his father? 

Apparently Jesus, Who can see in to the hearts and minds of men, saw something of greatness in Simon Peter, and gave him a name, or was it a title…  Another example of the insight that Jesus possessed into the hearts, minds and intents of men includes knowing that there was no deceit in Nathaniel (John 1:47), and that Judas was betraying Him (John 13:26-27), and dozens of other examples of the penetrating insight of Jesus – both information about them – like their names, and also into their characters, and circumstances – as in their illnesses.  Truly Jesus could see with the penetrating ‘eyes’ of God.

The name Simon has a Hebrew root of ‘to hear’, or ‘listen’.  The name Cephas is related to the Hebrew word for ‘rock’, ‘a piece of rock’ or a stone.  The name Peter is the Greek translation of rock, as in Petras, or petrified.  So, the name ‘Simon Peter’ can be interpreted as “rock who hears”, or “listening rock”.

A name confers or refers to the meaning or purpose of a thing.  Here Jesus assigns this man a name and perhaps this is like the first man Adam, who was given the honor of observing the animals of the world, and assigning each of them a name (Genesis 2:19-20).  And here Jesus, the second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:21-22), the beginning of a new creation, does the same by naming (or renaming) people by their essential, inner purpose or qualities.

From the outside this seems like a strange name to give to Peter, to call a guy a ‘rock’, as the name conjures images of solid, or reliable, stability, or even or coldness, unfeeling, stupidity and inflexibility.  However, it is known that this same Cephas would later deny Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:55-62; John 18:17-27).  And yet, God sees into the hearts of men, and Jesus saw something of solid value in the character or spirit of Peter.  A future event gives us a clue:

“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’

And Jesus said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father Who is in heaven.

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”  (Matthew 16:16-19)

It seems that Peter had spiritual insight, and he knew who Jesus was.  And Peter would later strengthen and become a leader in the early church, after the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord. 

Jesus, perhaps knowing all of this, used this Peter as the rock on which He would build His church.  And truly Peter was one of the leaders in that nascent early church in Jerusalem, and on his many missionary journeys.

In the end, a couple of wise men found Jesus, and believed in Him, and will follow Him.  Who will Jesus meet next?


* * * * *




Please click on the link below to read Today’s Act:  


Act 3-3-1  -  Jesus Meets Peter and Andrew


 Adobe PDF File:   The SYNOPTIC GOSPEL – Section 3, Chapter 3, Act 1




Click here for more information about the book, The Synoptic Gospel, or to order your copy! 

An electronic version (eBook – Adobe PDF) is also available!




Coming next time


3-3-2   -  Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael


      Look for it on  Sunday, October 31st / 10


Until then,


May we all seek, recognize, and eagerly follow Jesus!


* * * * * * *


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