Studies in John's Gospel -- Part 7
Iron Curtains to the Kingdom
By: A.J. Higgins, M.D.
Passage: John 5
By nature, birds build nests, beavers build dams, and mankind builds walls. The figurative "Iron Curtain" and the, once very literal, Berlin Wall demonstrated that when men feel threatened, they resort to walls: barriers to wall in, and fences to keep out. We have learned well the lesson of that aged Vermont poet that "good fences make good neighbors."
Men seek protection behind walls to shield their vulnerability and keep the enemy away. The great walls of ancient Babylon, the walls of Jerusalem, the still standing great wall of China all testify to man’s natural instinct to wall himself away from others.
Tragically men employ the same logic in the spiritual realm. The wall is built using the bricks of presupposition and the mortar of time. Course is built upon course. The wall rises. The defense is established. Vulnerability is concealed. In place of conscience and heart, we have a brick edifice without a door or window to enter.
In John five, we observe the Lord Jesus Christ surveying these spiritual bastions and defining them, for that was the necessary first step before they could be bridged and the blessing of eternal life in Christ triumph in the human heart. Is it surprisingly the first barrier He attacked was
The Ruse of Religion? John 5:39
The Lord Jesus was speaking to men who made a practice of searching the Scriptures. They thought they had the knowledge of God yet failed to recognize God incarnate before them. They never learned that the testimony of all the Scripture was to a coming Messiah Who would save sinners from the penalty and power of their sins.
Pulpit and platform today are filled by men who read their Bibles and see only social causes, humanism, and calls for moral justice. Somehow they have lost sight of the fact that ever since Eden’s garden echoed with the sound of the gavel ringing out God’s sentence, God has been working for the spiritual reclamation of Adam’s sons’; his release from the tyranny of sin. For a man may be sincerely religious, yet wrong.
The Misuse of Free Will John 5:40
Theologians, moralists and philosophers have debated for centuries why God created a creature, man, who could sin. Suffice it to say that God chose to create a being with free will. Man as created by God did not have to sin. He chose to sin. Abuse of free will brought Adam under judgment. God has in grace made salvation possible by Christ’s shed blood upon Calvary. Man is now given the choice to choose life or death.
The words of the Lord Jesus reveal that each man continues to reenact the drama of Eden in his own life: "Ye will not come to Me that ye might have life." Men have taken God’s noblest gift to mankind, free will, and used it to decide against God.
The Abuse of Honor John 5:44
The Lord Jesus spoke of the honor that God confers upon men: forgiveness of sins, eternal life. Men manage to evade God’s honor by barricading themselves behind the barrier of honor they receive from each other. Another has called pride, "the great sin," the father of all other vices. It is that evil we detest in others, yet to which we ourselves are so blind.
Christ spoke to men who were so busy building the wall of pride that they refused to humble themselves to think their sin would keep them from heaven (John 8:21). They were too proud to think that their religion was not good enough to get them to heaven (John 8:30-39); too proud to think that they needed a savior.
The tragic reality of pride is that is not only "the great sin," but it is the blinding sin. Pride engages a man in disdainful unbelief of what transcends his own experimental knowledge. If God’s Word comes in conflict with his own thoughts; then God must be wrong. Another course is laid on the bricks of his wall.
Men build barriers. God is the great builder of bridges. He has spanned the great chasm between Himself and man when in the words of Peter, "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God." (I Peter 3:18). We must, however, come out from our defensive positions and expose ourselves to the light of God’s Word. God in His love desires to reveal to us our need, our total vulnerability, and then to meet that need in the work of His Son upon Calvary. "When were yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6).
Have you stepped onto the bridge or are you behind your barrier?