“He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God’s providence to lead him aright.” – Blaise Pascal. "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" – George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. We live in a “post-truth” world. According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. Truth will never go away no matter how hard one might wish. Going beyond the MSM idealogical opinion/bias and their low information tabloid reality show news with a distractional superficial focus on entertainment, sensationalism, emotionalism and activist reporting – this blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." – George Orwell “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Soren Kierkegaard
The Beauty of Holiness 1 Chronicles 16:29; 2 Chronicles 20:21
He that sees the beauty of holiness, or true moral good, sees the greatest and most important thing in the world, which is the fullness of all things, without which all the world is empty, indeed, worse than nothing. Unless this is seen, nothing is seen that is worth the seeing; for there is no other true excellency or beauty.
Ritzema, E., & Vince, E. (Eds.). (2013). 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Coverdale’s Reason for Translating the Bible Acts 8:30–31
To say the truth before God, it was neither my labour nor desire to have this work [of translating the Bible into English] put in my hand. Nevertheless it grieved me that other nations should be more plenteously provided for with the scripture in their mother tongue, than we in ours. Therefore, when I was instantly required, though I could not do so well as I would, I thought it yet my duty to do my best.
Ritzema, E. (2013). 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Reformation. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Scammers now daily bombard us with ridiculous offers of vast imaginary wealth—and it is wise to ignore the hucksters of this world who have no intention of making good on their fantastical promises. The God of the Bible is nothing like that.
Salvation is not a reward for the righteous but a gift for the guilty. From one of our live events, Steven Lawson articulates what Jesus Christ has done to redeem His people from their sin and from the just condemnation of a holy God.
Do you have a biblical or theological question? We invite you to ask Ligonier.Read the Transcript
11:2 Father. This corresponds to the Aramaic Abba, the usual word for addressing a father in the family.
name. Names are representative of the person. The petition is that people will reverence God.
kingdom come. Jesus taught often about God’s kingdom, and the prayer asks for it to be established. See theological note “Prayer.”
11:2Father is Patēr in Greek and ’Abba’ in Aramaic (Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15–16; Gal. 4:6–7; see note on Matt. 6:9). Hallowed be your name is a request that God’s name would be honored and treated with reverence. His name includes his reputation and all that is said about him. Your kingdom come has a twofold emphasis: (1) it is first a prayer that God’s rule and reign would continually advance in people’s hearts and lives until the day Jesus returns and brings the kingdom in perfect fullness (see note on Matt. 6:10); (2) thus it also refers to the future consummation of the kingdom already realized in part by Jesus’ coming (Luke 11:20; see Introduction: Key Themes and note on Matt. 6:10).
11:2 Father. Virtually the same prayer was given as a model on two separate occasions by Christ, first in the Sermon on the Mount (see notes on Mt 6:9–13), and then here, in response to a direct question. That accounts for minor variations between the two versions. Your name. God’s name represents all His character and attributes. Cf. Pss 8:1, 9; 9:10; 22:22; 52:9; 115:1.
11:2Father: God is approached confidently as a caring figure. Hallowed: In the context of intimacy with God, there also is respect and recognition of His uniqueness. Hallowed means that God is holy, set apart, unique in His character and attributes. Your kingdom come: The reference here is to God’s program and promise. This is more affirmation than request, highlighting the petitioner’s submission to God’s will and the desire to see God’s work come to pass.
11:2. The Lord responded to the request with instructions that fit the interadvent period—from the church age to the Seventieth Week of Daniel (when the petitions would reach their utmost relevancy). The initial words establish a familial connection with God (“our Father”) and a correlative boundary of holiness and reverence (“in heaven”). The three expressions that follow serve as a prelude to the requests that ensue (vv 3–4) by first establishing the posture of the disciple before God.
The first expresses the desire for universal esteem of the Father’s name, and thus His person.
The second expression conveys a longing for God’s promised kingdom rule to appear—the very kingdom rejected by the nation.
The final facet—“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”—will see ultimate realization in the future kingdom.
11:2 The model prayer which the Lord Jesus gave to them at this time is somewhat different from the so-called Lord’s prayer in Matthew’s Gospel. These differences all have a purpose and meaning. None of them is without significance.
First of all, the Lord taught the disciples to address God as Our Father. This intimate family relationship was unknown to believers in the OT. It simply means that believers are now to speak to God as to a loving heavenly Father. Next, we are taught to pray that God’s name should be hallowed. This expresses the longing of the believer’s heart that He should be reverenced, magnified, and adored. In the petition, “Your kingdom come,” we have a prayer that the day will soon arrive when God will put down the forces of evil and, in the Person of Christ, reign supreme over the earth, where His will shall be done as it is in heaven.
11:2 “And He said to them, ‘When you pray, say’ ” It seems that one’s attitude is more significant than one’s words; however, this particular phraseology implies that the form may be repeated (cf. Matt. 6:9). Luke’s version is much shorter than Matthew’s (cf. Matt. 6:9–13). Jesus probably repeated His teachings on this subject several times and to different groups.
“ ‘Father’ ” The OT introduces the intimate familial metaphor of God as Father: (1) the nation of Israel is often described as YHWH’s “son” (cf. Hos. 11:1; Mal. 3:17); (2) even earlier in Deuteronomy the analogy of God as Father is used (1:31); (3) in Deut. 32:6 Israel is called “his children” and God called “your Father”; (4) this analogy is stated in Ps. 103:13 and developed in Ps. 68:5 (the father of orphans); and (5) it was common in the prophets (cf. Isa. 1:2; 63:8; Israel as son, God as Father, 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 3:4, 19; 31:9).
Jesus spoke Aramaic, which means that many of the places where “Father” appears as the Greek Pater it may reflect the Aramaic Abba (cf. 14:36). This familial term “Daddy” or “papa” reflects Jesus’ intimacy with the Father; His revealing this to His followers also encourages our own intimacy with the Father. The term “Father” was used sparingly in the OT (and not often in rabbinical literature) for YHWH, but Jesus uses it often and pervasively. It is a major revelation of our new relationship with God through Christ. Heaven is a family experience.
“ ‘hallowed be Your name’ ” This is an AORIST PASSIVE IMPERATIVE. “Hallowed” comes from the root “be holy” (see Special Topic: Holy at 1:35) and refers to the character of God (cf. 2 Kgs. 19:22; Ps. 71:22; 78:41; 89:18; Isa. 1:4; 29:23 [used 28 times in Isaiah]). He is separated from evil. This term was used often in the Septuagint (1) of things, Gen. 2:3; Amos 2:12 or (2) or people [i.e. firstborn, Exod. 13:2, 12; Israel, Exod. 19:14; Priests, Exod. 19:22; 29:21; 2 Chr. 26:18; Levites, Neh. 12:47]).
“ ‘Your kingdom come’ ” This AORIST ACTIVE IMPERATIVE refers to the reign of God in human’s hearts now that will one day be consummated over all the earth. This is an eschatological emphasis. The kingdom of God is spoken of in the Synoptic Gospels as past (Luke 13:28), present (Luke 17:21; Matt. 4:17; 12:28), and future (Luke 11:2; Matt. 6:10). See Special Topic: The Kingdom of God at 4:21.
2. Jesus replied by delivering a form of words. His opening, When you pray, say, shows that he intended the prayer to be used just as it stands. In Matthew it is introduced with, ‘Pray then like this’, which makes it a model on which we can base other prayers. Christians have found both approaches helpful. Jesus begins with the simple address, Father. This corresponds to the Aramaic abba, the address of a child to its parent. In prayer the Jews used the form abinu, ‘Our Father’ (found, for example, in the fourth and sixth of the ‘Eighteen Benedictions’), normally adding ‘in heaven’ or the like. This tended to put people at a distance from the great God, whereas Jesus taught his followers to think of God as their Father (that they learnt the lesson is seen in Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).
Hallowed means ‘made holy’, ‘reverenced’. The name in antiquity stood for far more than it does with us. It summed up a person’s whole character, all that was known or revealed about him. The prayer concerns more than the way people take the name of God upon their lips (though this is included). It refers to all that God is and has revealed of himself and asks for a proper attitude in the face of this. It is not likely that the prayer is to be taken in the sense that God should sanctify his name (cf. Ezek. 36:23). Rather people should show reverence for God. It is a prayer that ‘God shall be God, that man shall not whittle God down to a manageable size and shape’ (Melinsky).
Thy kingdom come looks for the bringing in of the kingdom that was the constant subject of Jesus’ teaching. There is a sense in which it is realized here and now, in the hearts and lives of people who subject themselves to God and accept his way for them. But in another sense it will not come until God’s will is perfectly done throughout the world (cf. the addition in Matthew, ‘Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’). It is this for which we pray.
11:2When you pray, say. This suggests a set form of words, but Matthew’s equivalent introduction, “This is how you should pray,” may indicate more a pattern of prayer than a set formula. The fact that the wording of the two versions differs indicates that the formulation was not rigid. In practice, Christian devotion has always found a place both for the verbatim repetition of the Lord’s Prayer (in whichever version) and for its use as a template for more extended prayer.
Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. On “Father,” see “Historical and Cultural Background” above. This first part of the prayer (which closely resembles the Qaddish [see above]) focuses on God, before 11:3–4 addresses our needs. The additional third clause in the Matthean version (“Your will be done” [Matt. 6:10]) does not differ significantly from the coming of God’s kingship—that is, his effective rule over human society. This whole first section is, quite simply, a prayer that God be God, and that he be seen and honored as such on earth.
2 The word “Father” (patēr, GK 4252) expresses the essence of Jesus’ message and the effect of his atoning work on our relationship with God. Through the use of this intimate but respectful term of address, the Son of God expressed his unique relationship to God. It is very probable (so TDNT 1:6) that in every prayer he spoke to God, Jesus used the Aramaic word Abba (“dear Father,” GK 10003 [cf. GK 5]), which would naturally be translated patēr in the Greek text. The notable exception is the prayer of dereliction from the cross (Mk 15:34). Through his atoning death on the cross, the Savior brought about reconciliation with God, making it possible for us to become his spiritual children through the new birth. While we cannot use the term Abba on an equal basis with the Son of God, there is a sense in which both he and we may address God as “dear Father” (Jn 20:17; Ro 8:14–17). (For the originality of the simple term Abba as a form of direct address to God by Jesus, see Joachim Jeremias, The Lord’s Prayer [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1964], 17–21.)
The petitions (vv. 2–4) are usually understood as two kinds—the first two petitions relate to God, the last three to us. The first two do have implications for our daily living, and the three that follow are also centered on God and his kingdom.
“Hallowed be your name” is an ascription of worship basic to all prayer and is found in various forms in the OT (e.g., Ps 111:9) and in ancient Jewish prayers (the Kaddish and the Eighteen Benedictions; see Str-B, 1:406–8). “Hallowed” (hagiasthētō, GK 39) means “let [your name] be regarded as holy.” It is not so much a petition as an act of worship; the speaker, by his words, exalts the holiness of God. God’s people were told in the OT to keep his name holy (Lev 22:32; cf. Ps 79:9; Isa 29:23). God told Israel that because they failed to honor his name, he would do it himself so the nations would know that he was Lord (Eze 36:22–23). Reading this petition in light of Ezekiel 36, the practical implications can also be felt: we pray not simply for God’s name to be exalted but that God would empower us so that our behavior will bring glory to his name. With this petition, this prayer is introduced as one that centers directly on God. The aorist tense suggests that a specific time of fulfillment is in mind. This may be the coming of the kingdom. The next clause, which is about the kingdom, also contains a verb in the aorist tense.
In the Kaddish, the petition for the exaltation and hallowing of God’s name was immediately followed by a request that we might know the rule of God in our lives now. These requests that the glory and reign of God may be realized soon are suitable for the Lord’s Prayer because Jesus came to announce and bring the “kingdom.” Though its consummation is still future, in his ministry the kingdom was inaugurated in power. The form of the prayer in Luke lacks these words in Matthew: “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10).
The Lord’s Response
And He said to them, “When you pray, say:” (2a)
The disciples had not requested that Jesus teach them a prayer to recite, but how to pray. He responded by giving them a prayer that, while it is recited and even sung, is not intended for merely that. Having warned against meaningless repetition in prayer (Matt. 6:7), Jesus would hardly have given His followers a prayer to recite mechanically. Nor is there any record in the New Testament of anyone subsequently reciting this prayer. Far from being merely another ritual prayer, it is a skeleton or framework for all prayer. As such, it is of great practical value, as the Puritan pastor and theologian Thomas Watson noted:
There is a double benefit arising from framing our petitions suitably to this prayer. 1. Hereby error in prayer is prevented. It is not easy to write wrong after this copy; we cannot easily err when we have our pattern before us. 2. Hereby mercies requested are obtained; for the apostle assures us that God will hear us when we pray “according to his will.” 1 John 5:14. And sure we pray according to his will when we pray according to the pattern he has set us. (Body of Divinity [Reprint; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979], 400–401)
This prayer reflects the elements of prayer found in the Old Testament. There was a sense in which God was unapproachable, symbolized by the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple, and the prohibition against touching Mt. Sinai when God appeared (Ex. 19:12). Yet while the people could not enter directly into God’s presence, they were invited to approach Him in prayer.“In my distress” David said, “I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears” (Ps. 18:6). In Psalm 145:18 he added, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” In Psalm 50:15 God invited His people to “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me,” and in 91:15 He promised, “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.”
Prayers in the Old Testament were characterized by several elements. First, they were marked by adoration, love, and praise, as the passion of the heart flowed out from the lips (Pss. 7:17; 22:23, 26; 34:1). Second, they reflected an attitude of gratefulness and thanksgiving for God’s blessings and provision (Pss. 9:1; 30:4; 33:2; 50:14, 23; Isa. 12:1; Dan. 2:23; Jon. 2:9), Third, they recognized God’s holiness (Ps. 22:3), acknowledging His transcendent glory. Fourth, they manifested a heartfelt desire to obey God (Ps. 119:5, 8, 17, 34, 88, 134), which resulted in confession of sin (Ps. 51) when there was disobedience. Fifth, instead of focusing exclusively on the needs of individuals, Old Testament prayers also expressed the needs of the nation as a whole (Ex. 33:13, 16; Deut. 26:15). Sixth, prayer in the Old Testament also involved perseverance, such as that exemplified by Moses, who interceded on behalf of the people for forty days after the incident of the golden calf (Deut. 9:18, 25). Finally, prayers were offered in humility (2 Chron. 7:14; Ezra 8:21; Ps. 10:17). Those same elements are in view in Jesus’ prayer, as He reestablished the divine pattern that had largely been lost in Israel.
This rich, multifaceted template may be approached in several ways. It unfolds the various relationships between the believer and God: Father and child (“Our Father”), Holy One and worshiper (“hallowed be Your name”), Ruler and subject (“Your kingdom come”), Master and servant (“Your will be done”), Savior and sinner (“forgive us our debts”), and Guide and pilgrim (“do not lead us into temptation”). It also defines the proper attitudes for prayer: unselfishness (“our”), intimacy (“Father”), reverence (“hallowed be Your name”), loyalty (“Your kingdom come”), submissiveness (“Your will be done”), dependence (“give us this day our daily bread”), penitence (“forgive us our debts”), humility (“do not lead us into temptation”), and confident, triumphant joy (“Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever”).
Focusing on God’s glory, Jesus ignored non-essential elements such as the posture of prayer. Scripture records people praying in every conceivable position: standing (Gen. 24:12–14; 1 Sam. 1:26), sitting (Judg. 21:2–3; 2 Sam. 7:18; 1 Kings 19:4), kneeling (1 Kings 8:54; Ezra 9:5; Dan. 6:10), bowing (Ex. 34:8–9), lying face down (Ezek. 9:8; Matt. 26:39), with uplifted hands (Ps. 28:2; 1 Tim. 2:8), looking up (John 11:41; 17:1), and looking down (Luke 18:13).
Nor is there any particular location that prayers must be offered, though Jesus did suggest a private place (Matt. 6:6) rather than a pretentious public display. Still, the men of Judah prayed in the midst of battle (2 Chron. 13:14); Elijah prayed in a cave (1 Kings 19:9–10); Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36–44), in the wilderness (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16), on a mountain, (Luke 6:12), and on the cross (Luke 23:33–34); the early church prayed in a house (Acts 1:14, 24; 12:12); Peter prayed on a housetop (Acts 10:9); Paul and Silas prayed in jail (Acts 16:25); Paul prayed on a beach (Acts 21:5) and in the temple (Acts 22:17); Hezekiah prayed in bed (Isa. 38:2); and Jonah prayed in the stomach of a fish (Jon. 2:1–9).
Nor did Jesus specify any particular time to pray. Scripture records people praying in the early morning before dawn (Mark 1:35), in the morning after sunrise (Pss. 5:3; 88:13), three times a day (Dan. 6:10 [morning, noon, and evening; Ps. 55:17]), at noon (Acts 10:9), in the afternoon (Acts 3:1), in the evening (1 Kings 18:36), during the night (Pss. 4:4; Luke 6:12), at midnight (Acts 16:25), all day long (Ps. 86:3), and day and night (Neh. 1:6; Luke 2:37; 1 Thess. 3:10; 1 Tim. 5:5); in short, believers are to pray at all times (Luke 18:1; Eph. 6:18), continually (Acts 1:14), and unceasingly (1 Thess. 5:17).
The Lord also did not mandate one particular attitude for prayer. On the one hand, some approached God with an attitude of sadness, grief, even despair. Daniel prayed wearing sackcloth, a manifestation of sorrow (Dan. 9:3); a repentant tax collector beat his breast, a sign of remorse, while praying (Luke 18:13); Hannah “wept bitterly” as she prayed (1 Sam. 1:9–11), as did David (Ps. 39:12); appalled by Israel’s defeat at Ai following Achan’s sin, Joshua and the elders of Israel put dust on their heads and tore their clothes when they sought the Lord in prayer (Josh. 7:6–7); after the devastating catastrophes that hit him “Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped” (Job 1:20); Moses (Deut. 9:18–19), Nehemiah (Neh. 1:4), Anna (Luke 2:37), the leaders of the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1–3), and Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:23) fasted and prayed; Jesus, “in the days of His flesh, … offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety” (Heb. 5:7; cf. Luke 22:44); David exhorted the people, “Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us” (Ps. 62:8).
On the other hand, prayer can be offered with an attitude of joy. Paul wrote to the Philippians that he was “always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all” (Phil. 1:4); 1 Samuel 2:1 records that “Hannah prayed and said, ‘My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord, my mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation’ ”; David declared, “My mouth offers praises with joyful lips” (Ps. 63:5; cf. 71:23; 84:2; 92:4); Psalm 66:1 exhorts, “Shout joyfully to God, all the earth”; in Psalm 95:1–2 the psalmist exhorted, “O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” (cf. 98:4–6; 100:1–2).
The petitions in the first half of this model for prayer focus on God’s glory, those in the second half on man’s need. Yet in reality the entire prayer is God-centered, since He glorifies Himself by providing for man’s needs. Prayer arises from the Word of God (cf. Dan. 9:2–3) and has as its ultimate goal the glory of God. It is not an attempt to change the will of God, still less does it attempt to manipulate Him to gain one’s greedy, selfish desires, as the “Health and Wealth” movement falsely teaches. True prayer puts God in His rightful place of sovereign authority and willingly, joyfully subordinates itself to His purposes. As Thomas Brooks noted, “Such prayers never reach the ear of God, nor delight the heart of God, nor shall ever be lodged in the bosom of God, that are not directed to the glory of God” (Secret Key, 235). Everything in Christ’s model prayer is in reality a rehearsal of what God has affirmed to be true, concerning both His person and His promises. Prayer seeks God’s glory and aligns itself with the promises He has made in Scripture.
All of the petitions affirm the supremacy of God. “Father” acknowledges Him as the source of all blessing; “hallowed be Your name” as sacred; “Your kingdom come” as sovereign; “Your will be done” as superior, “give us each day our daily bread” as supporter; “forgive us our sins” as savior, and “lead us not into temptation” as shelter.
This opening section of chapter 11 focuses on the importance of prayer. Verses 1–4 contain the Lord’s instruction on prayer, verses 5–8 reveal God’s eagerness to hear prayer, verses 9–10 teach the certainty that God will answer prayer, and verses 11–13 express God’s desire to give the best to those who pray. All of those rich truths will be the subject of the next several chapters of this volume.
Jesus’ Pattern for Every Prayer—Part 2: God’s Person
(Luke 11:2b, c)
Father, hallowed be Your name. (11:2b, c)
As it does all aspects of spiritual truth, false religion twists and distorts the true meaning of prayer. Some religions address prayer to false gods, or false misrepresentations of the true God. Others prescribe prayers to be recited ritually as one means of earning salvation. In other religions introspective meditation or the mechanical chanting of mantras—sometimes multiplied by writing them on a prayer wheel—takes the place of prayer. All prayer in false religions is addressed to gods who do not exist, and is therefore useless. It becomes nothing but a form of self-help, focusing on the needs, hopes, and aspirations of the one who prays in a vain hope for some supernatural aid.
Even some who profess to worship the God of the Bible think they can use prayer as a means of selfish gain. The Word Faith movement—known also as Positive Confession, Name It and Claim It, and the Prosperity Gospel—unabashedly proclaims the lying notion that the purpose of prayer is for the release of physical, financial, and material blessings. As the title of a book by one of the movement’s leaders proclaims, following the Word Faith principles will teach you “How to Write Your Own Ticket with God.”
The god of the Word Faith movement is a false god, not the true God, the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth (Matt. 11:25; Luke 10:21; Acts 17:24). This false god, say these deceivers, is bound by the law of faith that governs the spiritual realm, just as the law of gravity does the physical universe. Using the law or principle of faith, people can compel God to respond in whatever way they determine. Further, this false teaching claims that He is dependent on human faith and human words to accomplish His work. “Word-faithers” are, as their teachers with shocking hubris blasphemously assert, “little gods.” That satanically inspired (Gen. 3:5) lie removes any need for genuine, submissive prayer for God to act, since people’s own words supposedly have the power to bring them whatever they selfishly desire. (I critique the Word Faith movement in my book Charismatic Chaos [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992]; see also D. R. McConnell, A Different Gospel [Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1988].)
But the true and living God is not an impersonal force or principle, nor can He be manipulated by egocentric people, especially greedy ones. He is the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6; 2 Cor. 1:3; Eph. 1:3), who has “established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all” (Ps. 103:19; cf. 115:3). Far from being dependent on weak, sinful people, “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Ps. 135:6; cf. Isa. 43:13; 46:10; Dan. 4:35; Eph. 1:11). God rebuked those who would recreate Him in their own image, declaring to them, “You thought that I was just like you” (Ps. 50:21).
The fundamental error in all wrong thinking about prayer is that it is primarily for people to get what they want. In reality, it is the unfathomable privilege of communing with the sovereign God of the universe; of living in constant awareness of the One who is equally and perfectly aware of us. True prayer brings believers into the presence of God to submit to His will and see His glory on display in His answers.
Jesus specifically taught that prayer is to display God’s glory when He promised, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified” (John 14:13). Consistent with that principle, the Lord’s model prayer focuses on God, revealing His paternity (“Father”), priority (“hallowed be Your name”), program (“Your kingdom come”), plan (“Your will be done”), provision (“give us each day our daily bread”), pardon (“forgive us our sins”), and protection (“lead us not into temptation”). The first two truths, which focus on the person of God, are the subject of this chapter. Viewing God both as Father and as sacred preserves the balance between His transcendence and His immanence, between His compassionate love and His majestic glory, and between intimacy with Him and reverence for Him.
God as Father
The first word in Jesus’ prayer marks it as profoundly different from the Jewish prayers of that day. God is seldom referred to as Father in the Old Testament, and then only in a national sense to refer to Israel as a whole (Deut. 32:6; 1 Chron. 29:10; Ps. 68:5; Isa. 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 3:4, 19; 31:9; Mal. 1:6; 2:10), or its king (1 Sam. 8:7). Nowhere in the Old Testament is God addressed as Father in a personal prayer, which would have been considered presumptuous. For Jesus to address God as Father (as He always did except on the cross [Luke 23:34]), and to instruct His followers to do so was revolutionary and shocking.
One of the things that agitated Israel’s apostate religious leaders the most was Christ’s referring to God as His Father (e.g., Matt. 7:21; 10:32–33; 12:50; 16:17; Luke 22:29; John 8:54; 10:29). They correctly understood Jesus’ statement, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working” (John 5:17) to be nothing less than a claim to full deity and absolute equality with God the Father. Because of that claim “the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (v. 18).
But not only did Jesus call God His Father, He also declared Him to be the Father of all those who are in Christ. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said to the disciples, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matt. 6:8; cf. vv. 15, 18). In Mark 11:25 He exhorted, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.” “Stop clinging to Me,” Jesus said to Mary Magdalene after the resurrection, “for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’ ” (John 20:17).
The Greek word translated Father is patēr, but the Aramaic (the language commonly spoken by the Jewish people) term was abba (cf. Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). Abba was an intimate term used by children, and was often one of the first words a young child learned to say. It emphasizes that prayer involves intimacy with God. Believers have the privilege of entering the presence of the Creator and sovereign King of the universe and addressing Him on tender, intimate terms. Addressing God as Father affirms that believers live in God’s eternal family and are partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Though sinners (1 John 1:8), they are nonetheless His beloved and redeemed children, to whom He has granted eternal life (John 3:15, 16, 36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 10:28; 17:2; 1 John 5:11–12).
It should be noted that the possessive phrase “our Father” (Matt. 6:9), referring to true believers, is the deathblow to the false teaching of the universal fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man. God is the father of everyone in the sense that He created them (Acts 17:29), but not in a relational sense. Jesus made that truth clear when He said to the unbelieving Jews, “If God were your Father, you would love Me … You are of your father the devil” (John 8:42, 44). Only those who have received Jesus through saving faith are given “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Paul contrasted the “children of the flesh” with the “children of God” (Rom. 9:8) and the “children of the bondwoman [unbelievers]” with the children of the “free woman [believers]” (Gal. 4:22–31), while the apostle John differentiated between “the children of God and the children of the devil” (1 John 3:10).
The fatherhood of God is the foundation of all prayer. His children are invited to enter His presence and “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let [their] requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). The best people without Christ cannot call God their Father, nor can they expect Him to hear their prayers. But the worst sinners, redeemed through Jesus Christ, become His children. To them Jesus made the staggering promise, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matt. 7:7–8). In the illustration of how fathers treat their children that follows, Jesus made it clear that the promise applies only to God’s children:
Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (vv. 9–11)
The fatherhood of God settles several key issues. First, it settles the matter of fear. The true and living God is a God of love (Deut. 23:5; Mic. 7:18; Zeph. 3:17; John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; Gal. 2:20; 2 Thess. 2:16; Titus 3:4), mercy (Ps. 86:15; 145:8; Luke 1:72; 6:36; Eph. 2:4; James 5:11; 1 Peter 1:3), grace (Ex. 34:6; Pss. 86:15; 103:8; 116:5; 145:8; Jer. 3:12; 1 Peter 5:10), compassion (Deut. 4:31; Neh. 9:19, 27, 28, 31; Pss. 111:4; 112:4; 116:5; Lam. 3:22; Dan. 9:18; Joel 2:13; Jon. 4:2), and kindness (Rom. 2:4; 11:22; Titus 3:4). No such god exists in false religions; those gods are in reality demons impersonating gods (Deut. 32:17), and no demon would manifest such a fatherly, loving, compassionate, tender-hearted attitude. To come to know the true God is to be freed from the slavish fear associated with the worship of false gods; it is to approach the one who will have compassion on them just as a father has on his children (Ps. 103:13).
Second, the fatherhood of God settles the matter of hope. The world lives in hopeless despair, alleviated only by self-deception that will ultimately fail (Job 8:13; 11:20; 27:8; Prov. 11:7; Eph. 2:12; 1 Thess. 4:13). But the hope that is anchored in God will never fail (Prov. 23:18; 24:14; Jer. 29:11; Rom. 5:2; 2 Thess. 2:16), because it is grounded in the believers’ union with Jesus Christ (Col. 1:27), guarded in heaven (Col. 1:5), and granted by the God of hope (Rom. 15:13).
Third, the fatherhood of God settles the matter of loneliness—not the momentary absence of other people’s company, but the cosmic loneliness that results from denying that God exists. Describing that loneliness James W. Sire notes that if God does not exist, “We have been thrown up by an impersonal universe. The moment a self-conscious, self-determining being appears on the scene, that person asks the big question: What is the meaning of all this? What is the purpose of the cosmos? But the person’s own creator—the impersonal forces of bedrock matter—cannot respond” (The Universe Next Door [Downers Grove, Ill. InterVarsity, 1988], 102). But God does exist, is a refuge for His children (Ps. 46:1), and is with them always (Ps. 139:7–12; Matt. 28:20).
Finally, the fatherhood of God settles the matter of resources. “My God,” wrote the apostle Paul, “will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). Since our Father is in heaven, He is above all circumstances and beyond all limitations of time and space. His power is unlimited, His grace measureless, and His treasure house of benedictions boundless. The many blessings God graciously grants His children include instruction (Pss. 25:12; 32:8; 94:12), comfort (Ps. 23:4; 2 Cor. 1:3–4), correction (Heb. 12:6), protection from Satan’s assaults (John 17:15; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 John 5:18), access to Him through prayer (Heb. 4:16), provision for all their needs (Pss. 34:10; 84:11; Phil. 4:19), and an inheritance that includes all the blessings of salvation (Matt. 19:29; 25:34; Eph. 1:11; Col. 1:12; 3:24; Heb. 1:14; 1 Peter 1:4).
God as Sacred
hallowed be Your name. (11:2c)
The reality that Christians have an intimate relationship with their heavenly Father does not mean that they can treat Him with flippant, irreverent lack of respect. “A son honors his father,” God reminded wayward Israel, “… then if I am a father, where is My honor?” (Mal. 1:6). Understanding that God is sacred provides a necessary balance to viewing Him as Father. It guards against abusing the intimacy believers have with Him.
This first petition in the Lord’s model prayer stresses the point made earlier in this chapter that prayer is primarily for God’s glory. Every request must be subordinated to and in harmony with that goal. Selfishness has no place in prayer; God does not exist to fulfill people’s whims, but to glorify Himself. Prayer acknowledges God’s declaration, “I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another” (Isa. 42:8; cf. 48:11). Therefore when believers approach Him they must seek to “ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name” (Ps. 29:2; cf. 66:1–4), desiring to see “the whole earth … filled with His glory” (Ps. 72:19). Like the psalmist they pray, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory” (Ps. 115:1). Even their requests for His help are ultimately for the glory of His name (Pss. 79:9; 106:47).
Hallowed translates a form of the verb hagiazō, which means to set something apart as holy. It is related to the terms doxazō (“glorify”), eulogeō (“bless” or “praise”), and hupsoō (“lift up” or “exalt”). In this context, it means to acknowledge that God’s name deserves to be differentiated from and set above all that is created. God is supremely separate from what He made, exists in a different sphere, and has knowledge and wisdom far beyond our own. To hallow His name is to believe that God is who He has revealed Himself to be on the pages of Scripture (cf. Heb. 11:6) and to live a God-conscious life. It is to set His name apart from everything common, profane, earthly, human, and temporal, just as the Sabbath was to be kept holy by being treated differently than the other six days (Ex. 20:8–11); to hold His matchless name in reverence and awe; to honor God as unique and above everyone else; and to esteem, prize, honor, revere, and adore Him as infinitely holy.
At Meribah in the wilderness, Moses disobeyed God by striking a rock to bring water instead of speaking to it as the Lord had commanded him. For that act of disobedience he was forbidden to enter the promised land “because,” God told him, “you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them” (Num. 20:12). In contrast the Lord Jesus Christ, anticipating the cross with its sin-bearing and separation from the Father, said, “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27). Then, affirming that God’s glory was more important than the suffering He would endure, Jesus prayed, “Father, glorify Your name” (v. 28). He was willing to endure the cross so that God’s holy wrath against sin, His justice, His grace, and His mercy might be put on display.
Living a life that hallows God begins in the heart. Using a form of the word translated hallowed in this passage, Peter exhorted believers to “sanctify Christ as Lord in [their] hearts” (1 Peter 3:15). It involves a constant awareness of God’s presence, a truth that David expressed when he wrote, “I have set the Lord continually before me” (Ps. 16:8). Most significantly, a life that hallows the name of God is inevitably marked by obedience in all aspects of life. As Paul exhorted the Corinthians, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). When believers’ lives conform to God’s will the unbelieving world will “see [their] good works, and glorify [their] Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). They also hallow God’s name by confessing it (Matt. 10:32), trusting it (Ps. 33:21), refusing to profane it (Lev. 18:21; cf. Ex. 20:7), loving it (Ps. 119:132), and honoring it (Ps. 96:8).
God’s name is much more than merely a title; it refers to all that He is, including His nature, attributes, and character. In response to Moses’ plea, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” (Ex. 33:18) God promised, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you” (v. 19). In fulfillment of that promise God declared some of His attributes to Moses:
Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” (Ex. 34:6–7)
Throughout Scripture God’s name is equated with His person. When David declared that he would “sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High” (Ps. 7:17; cf. 113:1; 135:1; 148:5) he was not referring to a title, but to the person who bears it. Conversely, when the nations are said to “fear the name of the Lord” (Ps. 102:15), it is God’s majestic being that is in view. When the Lord Jesus Christ said to the Father in His high-priestly prayer, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world” (John 17:6), He meant that He had revealed God’s true nature to them. Understanding God’s name is a prerequisite to trusting Him. In Psalm 9:10 David said to God, “Those who know Your name will put their trust in You.”
The names of God revealed in Scripture identify the range of His glorious attributes. Elohim, the plural name of the triune God, describes Him as the Creator (Gen. 1:1); El-elyon (God Most High) as the sovereign ruler of the universe (Gen. 14:22); I AM as the eternally existing one (Ex. 3:13–14; cf. John 8:58); Jehovah-jireh (The Lord Will Provide) as the one who meets the needs of His children (Gen. 22:14); Jehovah-nissi (The Lord is My Banner) as the King under whom His people march (Ex. 17:15); Jehovah-ropheka (The Lord your healer) as the one who cares for their physical needs (Ex. 15:26). He is Jehovah-shalom (The Lord is Peace [Judg. 6:24]); Jehovah-roi (the Lord our Shepherd [Ps. 23:1]); Jehovahtsidkenu (The Lord our Righteousness [Jer. 23:6]); Jehovah-sabaoth (the Lord of Hosts [1 Sam. 1:3]); Jehovah-meqaddeskem (the Lord who sanctifies you [Ex. 31:13]), and, supremely, “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6)—God incarnate who perfectly reveals Him (John 1:18; 14:9).
The Bible also lists many names and titles that unfold the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is called the Amen (Rev. 3:14; cf. 2 Cor. 1:20), the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 22:13), the Advocate (1 John 2:1), the Apostle (Heb. 3:1), the Author and Perfecter of faith (Heb. 12:2), the Beginning (source, origin) of the creation of God (Rev. 3:14), the Branch (Jer. 23:5), the Bread of Life (John 6:35), the Author of salvation (Heb. 2:10), the Cornerstone (Eph. 2:20), the Consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25), the Counselor (Isa. 9:6), the Sunrise from on high (Luke 1:78), the Deliverer (Rom. 11:26), the Door of the sheep (John 10:7), God blessed forever (Rom. 9:5), Eternal Father (Isa. 9:6), the Faithful witness (Rev. 1:5), the First and the Last (Rev. 1:17), the Firstborn (preeminent one) from the dead (Rev. 1:5) and over all creation (Col. 1:15), the Forerunner (Heb. 6:20), the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), the Great High Priest (Heb. 4:14), the Guardian of souls (1 Peter 2:25), the Head of the church (Col. 1:18), the Holy One of God (John 6:69), I AM (John 8:58), Immanuel (Isa. 7:14), the King of Israel (John 1:49; cf. Zech. 9:9), King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Tim. 6:15), the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), the Lamb of God (John 1:29), the Light of the world (John 8:12), the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5), Lord (John 13:13), the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8), the Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5), the Messenger of the covenant (Mal. 3:1), the Messiah (John 1:41), the Mighty God (Isa. 9:6), the Morning Star (Rev. 22:16), the Only Begotten (unique one) from the Father (John 1:14), our Passover (1 Cor. 5:7), the Prince of life (Acts 3:15), the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6), the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25), the Righteous One (Acts 7:52), the Rock (1 Cor. 10:4), the Root and Descendant of David (Rev. 22:16), the Root of Jesse (Isa. 11:10), the Ruler in Israel (Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:6), the Ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev. 1:5), Savior (Luke 2:11; Titus 1:4), Servant (Isa. 42:1), Shiloh (Gen. 49:10), Son of the Blessed One (Mark 14:61), Son of David (Matt. 12:23; 21:9), Son of God (Luke 1:35), Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32), the Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:2), the True God (1 John 5:20), the True Vine (John 15:1), the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6), the Word (John 1:1, 14), the Word of God (Rev. 19:13), and the Word of Life (1 John 1:1).
True prayer begins, therefore, with a proper understanding of God. Emphasizing the importance of the correct thinking about Him from which true, God-honoring prayer flows A. W. Tozer wrote,
We must think worthily of God. It is morally imperative that we purge from our minds all ignoble concepts of the Deity and let Him be the God in our minds that He is in His universe.… That God exists for Himself and man for the glory of God is the emphatic teaching of the Bible. The high honor of God is first in heaven as it must yet be in earth. (The Knowledge of the Holy [New York: Harper & Row, 1961], 42)
Such thinking and praying must begin, as the example of the Lord Jesus Christ in this passage reveals, with recognizing God as our sacred Father.
Jesus’ Pattern for Every Prayer—Part 3: God’s Purpose
Your kingdom come (11:2d)
Ever since the fall the human race has been in rebellion against God. Most people from earliest childhood mistakenly believe that they can set the direction for their lives, determine their own destiny, decide their own future, and chart their own life course. That is especially true in today’s narcissistic, self-exalting, ego-mad culture. The nineteenth-century English poet William Ernest Henley captured the essence of this defiant, man-centered view in his famous poem “Invictus”:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud;
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years Finds,
and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.
Even Israel frequently chose to defy God’s authority and the Old Testament chronicles the nation’s long history of rebellion. “You have been rebellious against the Lord from the day I knew you,” Moses told the people (Deut. 9:24). Later he added, “I know your rebellion and your stubbornness; behold, while I am still alive with you today, you have been rebellious against the Lord; how much more, then, after my death?” (Deut. 31:27). Israel’s subsequent history showed that Moses’ fear was justified. Looking back at the cause of Israel’s exile to Babylon, Nehemiah acknowledged to God that Israel “became disobedient and rebelled against You, and cast Your law behind their backs” (Neh. 9:26). The Psalms frequently lament Israel’s rebellion against God, especially Psalm 78. Verse 8 describes the exodus generation as “a stubborn and rebellious generation”; despite all of God’s provision for them in the wilderness (vv. 11–16) “they still continued to sin against Him, to rebel against the Most High in the desert” (v. 17; cf. vv. 40, 56; 106:7). Psalms 5:10 and 107:11 also describe those who rebelled against God. Isaiah denounced Israel as “a rebellious people, false sons, sons who refuse to listen to the instruction of the Lord (Isa. 30:9; cf. 3:8; 65:2). Israel’s rebellion had devastating consequences. Because “they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them” (Isa. 63:10). Through the prophet Jeremiah, God Himself declared of Israel, “This people has a stubborn and rebellious heart” (Jer. 5:23). He told Ezekiel, “Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day” (Ezek. 2:3; cf. 5:6; 20:13; Hos. 7:13; 8:1). Repeatedly in Ezekiel God referred to Israel as a “rebellious house” (2:5, 6, 8; 3:26, 27; 12:3, 9, 25; 17:12; 24:3). In his passionate intercessory prayer for his people, Daniel also acknowledged that Israel had consistently revolted against God (Dan. 9:5, 9).
Revolt is inherent in the very definition of sin, the essence of which, the apostle John wrote, is “lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Paul paired lawlessness with rebellion (1 Tim. 1:9), and described the future antichrist, the ultimate rebel against God, as the “man of lawlessness” (2 Thess. 2:3).
But to come to Christ savingly is to forsake one’s pretended autonomy from God and acknowledge that He sets the course for our lives. It is to forsake self-centered living and replace selfishness with submission. In salvation the sinner bows the knee to the lordship of Jesus Christ, submitting to Him as King and acknowledging His absolute, sovereign authority (see the discussion below). One day “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and … every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10–11), as God sovereignly determined: “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession’ ” (Ps. 2:7–8).
The two petitions discussed in this chapter, one from Luke’s account and the other from Matthew’s, focus on God’s plan. Both acknowledge that all history is inevitably, inexorably moving toward the reign of Jesus Christ, and each expresses a strong desire for that to be realized. The nineteenth-century English hymn writer Frances Ridley Havergal expressed the cry of the believer’s heart in her hymn, “Thou Art Coming, O My Saviour”:
Oh the joy to see Thee reigning,
Thee, my own beloved Lord!
Every tongue Thy Name confessing,
Worship, honor, glory, blessing,
Brought to Thee with glad accord;
Thee, my Master and my Friend,
Vindicated and enthroned:
Unto earth’s remotest end
Glorified, adored, and owned.
These next two petitions in our Lord’s model prayer introduce God as sovereign, and supreme.
God as Sovereign
Your kingdom come (11:2d)
There have been a multitude of states, empires, and nations throughout human history, but spiritually there are only two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan (cf. Col. 1:13). All the kingdoms of this world are currently part of Satan’s domain of darkness. In the future, however, “The kingdom of the world [will] become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15). Having been “rescued … from the domain of darkness, and transferred … to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13), believers have as their highest goal the advancement of that kingdom. They do not love the kingdom of this world (1 John 2:15), but as Paul wrote they “keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1; cf. Matt. 6:33; Phil. 3:20).
Basileia (kingdom), which can also mean “rule,” or “reign,” refers to a sovereign realm. It is used most frequently in the New Testament to refer to the kingdom of God (called the kingdom of heaven in Matthew’s gospel), as it does here. Combined with the imperative form of the verb erchomai, this petition could be translated, “Your kingdom, let it happen”; “let it actually take place”; or “let it actually come.”To see God’s kingdom triumphant and His rule manifest on earth is the believer’s desire and prayer.
The word Your indicates that the kingdom of which Jesus was speaking is the one ruled by His Father. Earthly powers, such as Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome and, in more modern times, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, and every other nation rise and fall (cf. Acts 14:16). Nations have their moment in the sun, but as their power grows, so does their pride, and sin brings about their fall. “Righteousness exalts a nation,” wrote Solomon, “but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov. 14:34). God sovereignly determines the nations’ extent and duration. Daniel declared to the Babylonian king Belshazzar, “God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it” (Dan. 5:26), while Paul proclaimed to the Greek philosophers in Athens that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).
The sovereign rule of God was the context of all the teaching and preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. At the outset of His ministry “Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ ” (Matt. 4:17). In Luke 4:43 He said, “I must preach the kingdom of God … for I was sent for this purpose” (cf. 8:1). The kingdom of God continued to be the theme of His instruction to the apostles even after His resurrection, when He “appear[ed] to them over a period of forty days and [spoke to them] of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
Jesus spoke of the kingdom in three dimensions. First, He referred to it as existing in the past. In Matthew 8:11 He spoke of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as already being in the kingdom.
Second, Jesus spoke of the kingdom as present. In Luke 17:21 He told the Pharisees, “The kingdom of God is in your midst”; earlier the Lord had commanded the seventy to proclaim to the people, “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (Luke 10:9; cf. v. 11). He replied to the Pharisees’ blasphemous allegation that He cast out demons through the power of Satan by saying to them, “If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt. 12:28). The Jewish people, and their leaders in particular, failed to recognize the presence of the kingdom, since they were not looking for a spiritual kingdom, but rather a political, social, military, and economic one. The kingdom was a reality, but unbelief blinded their eyes so that they could not see it.
But although the kingdom continues to be present today as the living God rules the hearts of the penitent who trust in Him, there is also a future, unique form of it. Jesus told the disciples in the Upper Room, “Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25). At the sheep and goat judgment “the King will say to those on His right [the sheep], ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ ” (Matt. 25:34), but for those who reject Him “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when [they] see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but [they themselves] being thrown out. And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:28–29). This refers to our Lord’s millennial reign on earth (Rev. 20:1–6).
By way of further distinction, two aspects of the kingdom of God may be noted. The universal kingdom encompasses God’s rule over the entire universe. As the Creator, He is sovereign over His creation. Psalm 29:10 says that “the Lord sat as King forever,” while Revelation 15:3 addresses Him as “King of the nations.” Psalm 103:19 adds, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.” In 1 Chronicles 29:11–12 David prayed,
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.
The universal kingdom is eternal, providential, supernatural, and efficacious. Authority over it has been delegated to the Lord Jesus Christ, whom God employed to create (Col. 1:16) and sustain it (Heb. 1:1–3).
But the universal kingdom is not in view here. There is no need to pray for it to advance, since it is eternal, comprehensive, and absolute. This petition asks instead that the redemptive kingdom, the sphere of salvation, the supernatural realm of believing people, advance. It does so in three ways.
First, through salvation; the redemptive kingdom grows one redeemed soul at a time. It is not a visible, earthly structure, nor can it be identified with any nation, denomination, or organization; it is the realm of souls ruled by Christ. The request “Your kingdom come” is first of all a missionary prayer, in which the petitioner submits his or her will, ambitions, plans, goals, and concerns to the life priority of advancing God’s redemptive kingdom by seeing sinners converted. “First of all, then,” Paul instructed Timothy, “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men” (1Tim. 2:1), because God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (v. 4). The prayer of the believing heart is that people would “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17; cf. 3:2). All else is secondary (cf. Matt. 6:33).
Contrary to much popular teaching today, entrance to the kingdom is not easy. Nor should we expect it to be; after all, the price of redemption was the sacrifice of God’s dear Son. Those who would enter His kingdom must force their way in (Luke 16:16)—not through meritorious good works that earn salvation, but through the self-denial that characterizes the truly penitent (Luke 9:23–24). Far from merely uttering a glib prayer and then continuing to live as they choose, those who would enter the kingdom must go through the narrow gate, jettisoning their baggage of good deeds, self-will, and selfish desires, none of which will fit through the turnstile at the entrance to the narrow way (Matt. 7:13–14). In words that are jarringly discordant with today’s man-centered gospel of self-fulfillment and easy believism, Jesus bluntly declared that following Him demands complete self-denial and total surrender to His lordship:
If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)
If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26)
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:27)
So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. (Luke 14:33)
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. (Matt. 7:21)
Why do you call Me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (John 14:15)
He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me. (John 14:21)
If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. (John 14:23)
He who does not love Me does not keep My words. (John 14:24)
You are My friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:14)
In His parables, Jesus likened those who enter the kingdom to a man who finds treasure in a field, or a merchant who finds a priceless pearl, and sells everything he owns to buy it (Matt. 13:44–46). (I discuss the high cost and infinite value of entering the kingdom by following Jesus in Hard to Believe [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2003].)
Second, the redemptive kingdom comes not only through salvation, but also through sanctification. The kingdom progresses when people come in repentance and faith to Christ, and also when those who are His increasingly grow and submit to His lordship. The writer of the familiar hymn “Lead Me to Calvary” expressed the heart cry of every believer in this regard:
King of my life, I crown Thee now,
Thine shall the glory be.
The kingdom advances when its subjects see an increase of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17) in their lives.
Finally, the kingdom will consummate in the second coming of the King to establish His promised earthly millennial kingdom. To pray, “Your kingdom come” reflects a joyful, expectant desire for that glorious event to take place. Paul exclaimed in 1 Corinthians 16:22 “Maranatha,” an Aramaic expression that means, “O Lord, come.” Near the end of the book of Revelation John wrote, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). In their lives as well as their prayers, those who love the Lord Jesus Christ are always “looking for and hastening [eagerly desiring] the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:12). John described the coming of the kingdom in Revelation 20:1–6:
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time. Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
To pray for the coming of the kingdom is to pray for the salvation of sinners, the sanctification of believers, and the second coming in glory of the Savior.
God as Supreme
This concept derives from the petition that follows the request, “Your kingdom come” in Matthew’s account: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Honoring the Father’s person and desiring to see His kingdom advance requires an inseparable concern for His will to be done. The Christian’s desire and prayer is that God’s will, which is always done perfectly and completely in heaven, would be done on earth as well. This petition is the expression of a heart that seeks God’s glory and wants what He wants; it is an expression of worship.
During His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ perfectly carried out the Father’s will. In Gethsemane, anticipating his forthcoming sin-bearing and separation from the Father, He cried out, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39). In Mark 3:35 He said, “Whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.” The Lord told His disciples, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34), while in John 6:38 He said to the crowd, “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
Ultimately, all things will resolve in accordance with God’s eternal purpose, which was established before the world began. Paul expressed that truth when he told the Ephesians that God “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). But most of what happens in this evil, fallen, sin-cursed world is contrary to God’s purpose. A proper understanding of the will of God reveals why that tragic reality is perfectly consistent with His absolute sovereignty. Theologians distinguish between three aspects of God’s will, as R. C. Sproul helpfully notes:
When we speak about God’s will we do so in at least three different ways. The broader concept is known as God’s decretive, sovereign, or hidden will. By this, theologians refer to the will of God by which He sovereignly ordains everything that comes to pass. Because God is sovereign and His will can never be frustrated, we can be sure that nothing happens over which He is not in control.…
Though God’s sovereign will is often hidden from us until after it comes to pass, there is one aspect of His will that is plain to us—His preceptive will. Here God reveals His will through His holy law.… This aspect of God’s will is revealed in His Word as well as in our conscience, by which God has written His moral law upon our heart.… We have the power or ability to thwart the preceptive will of God, though never the right to do so.…
The third way the Bible speaks of the will of God is with respect to God’s will of disposition. This will describes God’s attitude. It defines what is pleasing to Him. For example, God takes no delight in the death of the wicked, yet he most surely wills or decrees the death of the wicked. God’s ultimate delight is in His own holiness and righteousness. When He judges the world, He delights in the vindication of His own righteousness and justice, yet He is not gleeful in a vindictive sense toward those who receive His judgment. God is pleased when we find our pleasure in obedience. He is sorely displeased when we are disobedient. (Essential Truths of the Christian Faith [Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale, 1992], 67–68. Italics in original.)
The petition for His will to be done especially considers that third feature, His will of disposition. Their heavenly preoccupation (cf. Col. 3:1–2) motivates Christians to pray that God’s will be carried out by obedience so that He may be honored by the testimony of the faithful.
There are several wrong views of God’s will that must be avoided. First, some manifest an attitude of bitter resentment. They acknowledge that what God wills is inevitably going to come to pass whether they like it or not. Therefore, they reason, it is useless to resist. Such people take a fatalistic, deterministic view of God’s will, and are angry at Him because of it. The medieval Persian poet Omar Khayyam expressed this view in his poem “The Rubaiyat”:
But helpless Pieces of the Game He plays
Upon this Chequer-board of Nights and Days;
Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.
The Ball no question makes of Ayes and Noes,
But Here or There as strikes the Player goes;
And He that toss’d you down into the Field,
He knows about it all—He knows—HE knows!
Others pray with a sort of passive resignation. They are not angry with God, but their prayers reflect a sort of gray acceptance; a weary, tired, listless resignation that whatever is going to happen will happen. Such people pray very little and with no assurance that their prayers will have any impact. They go through the motions because it is their duty, but they lack the passionate heart that cries out to God and believes He will answer.
Even the early church fell prey to this attitude. When Peter was imprisoned by Herod, who had just executed the apostle James, John’s brother, the believers gathered to pray to God on his behalf (Acts 12:5). An angel miraculously released Peter from prison and he came to the house where they were praying. When a servant girl who had answered his knock at the gate excitedly told them that Peter was outside, they scoffed and “said to her, ‘You are out of your mind!’ But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, ‘It is his angel’ ” (v. 15). Despite their fervency, they really had not expected God to answer their prayers; hence their reluctance to accept that He had.
A third wrong attitude in prayer might be termed theological reservation. Some Christians take such an extreme view of God’s sovereignty that it paralyzes their prayers. Since God will inevitably carry out His will, they reason, there is really nothing to pray for. This view overlooks the explicit teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, who told “a parable to show that at all times [people] ought to pray and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1). That parable spoke of an unjust judge, who finally gave legal protection to a desperate widow because she kept hounding him (vv. 2–5). Driving home his point “the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly’ ” (vv. 6–8). This view also ignores the reality that “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16)—a truth borne out by the numerous answers to prayer recorded in Scripture (see the examples listed in chapter 1 of this volume). Failure to pray is disobedience to the explicit commands of the Bible (e.g., Rom. 12:12; Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17).
Nothing will destroy passion and effectiveness in prayer more than bitter anger, a defeatist attitude, or aberrant theology. In contrast to those wrong attitudes about prayer, true prayer manifests an attitude of rebellion. It rebels with holy indignation against everything that is contrary to God’s will. Jesus Himself rebelled against the terrible consequences of sin, which would result in His being made sin on behalf of the redeemed (2 Cor. 5:21) when He prayed in Gethsemane. In response, God strengthened Him to carry out His divine plan and purpose. Peter, James, and John, however, failed to heed the Lord’s command to them, “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). As a result, when their time of trial and temptation came, they were defeated. Matthew 26:56 records that “all the disciples left Him and fled,” while Peter even denied that he knew Him (vv. 58–75). They forgot the example of their Lord who, as noted in chapter 1 of this volume, prayed before all the great events of His life.
To pray for God’s will to be done is to refuse to be resigned to the sinful status quo. It is to wake up and stop sleeping, fainting, or losing heart. It is to recognize that there is a cosmic war going on between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, and to refuse to strike a truce with the forces of evil. True prayer focuses on God. It acknowledges His sovereign right to refuse any request that is not in keeping with His perfect will, as was the case with Paul (2 Cor. 12:7–10). In every circumstance the believer’s prayer is to be that God’s name be honored by His kingdom being advanced, and that by His will being done.
A few nights ago, I had to comfort our cat, Raven, during a thunderstorm. She’s not usually affected by the weather, but something had her scared. So I held her and talked to her. I made a blanket tent for her to sleep under and sat with her until she felt brave enough to burrow under the blankets.
Once she was calmer and safely tucked under her tent, I went to bed. But before I fell asleep, I thought about her need for comfort and how we’re not much different in this respect.
Aren’t there times we all need to feel safe and to be reminded that we’re going to be okay?
Maybe it’s not a thunderstorm, but a situation that makes life feel out of control.
A relationship that’s falling apart.
Sadness and grief.
Or so many other possibilities.
Sometimes God will change what’s going on around us, but often He will provide comfort for what’s going on inside of us instead.
“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” Corinthians1:4 NLT
Because He comforts us first, we are able to comfort others.
We may not be able to change someone’s circumstances, but we can be there just to sit and let her know she’s not alone.
I couldn’t stop the thunderstorm, but I could comfort Raven when she was afraid.
I couldn’t stop my mom’s cancer last year, but I could sit with her in her pain so she didn’t feel alone.
So many things we can’t control, but we can be there.
Even when we can’t understand the situation or the pain, just being present can often be enough. It validates another person’s emotions. It says, “You don’t have to walk through this alone.”
And perhaps, as God works through us, it even shines some light into the dark places in our lives.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”Philippians 4:4-5
I drove up the last stretch of the winding road to the cabin. The last few months, filled with unwanted surprises and worries, had worn me down. I needed a getaway to regain my balance. But the change in scenery did not help as much as I expected, and the stress and frustrations returned. Despite knowing God is ultimately in charge and that he knows what is best for us, we still find ourselves frustrated and disappointed when our well-intended plans do not go our way. Are we willing to forego our plans for his, remaining open and trusting in the Lord’s ways to fulfill our hopes and dreams? In Philippians, the apostle Paul speaks of rejoicing in the Lord always. He does not suggest we delight in the tragic events in our lives. Instead, we are called to rejoice in Jesus, who reigns over all the earth, who accompanies us in life’s joys, successes, challenges, and disappointments.
Times of struggle are the times to exercise our faith. God recognizes we may not always understand the reason for the painful circumstances in our lives. But we do know God never promised us an easy life in this fallen world. He promised us a good life in his Son, Jesus Christ, from whom our joy arises. Jesus died for us and rose on the third day. In light of this truth of Christ, who is himself the “resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), let us rejoice through faith, thanking and praising him for his gift of salvation — and his loving and caring presence in our lives.
Lord, thank you for your friendship and the gift of salvation through your death and resurrection. Jesus, help me to rest and rejoice in you always, especially during times of disappointment and hardship. Amen.
Ask the Holy Spirit to assure you of his presence with you in your difficulties. As you face challenges, ask the Lord to be your joy and peace.
Truth in Scripture, Not Cunning Words Psalm 119:160; John 17:17
It is Truth which we must look for in Holy Writ, not cunning of words. All Scripture ought to be read in the spirit in which it was written. We must rather seek for what is profitable in Scripture, than for what ministers to subtlety in discourse.
THOMAS À KEMPIS
Ritzema, E. (Ed.). (2012). 300 Quotations for Preachers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Enduring Pain for Christ’s Sake Song of Songs 8:6; Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; Romans 12:12; 2 Corinthians 6:4; 2 Timothy 3:11
Those that deny themselves for Christ’s sake can well endure the pains of nature in virtue of the strength they receive in their souls. The love of God, that is stronger than death, is able not only to repress sinful desires, but also to assuage those feelings of pain that arise from sense and nature.
HUGH OF ST. VICTOR
Ritzema, E., & Brant, R. (Eds.). (2013). 300 quotations for preachers from the Medieval church. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
There are many discoveries packed into chapter two! Nebuchadnezzar learns that he is not as powerful as he thinks he is. His sorcerers discover that their charade is over and they’ve been found out. Daniel discovers the Lord’s gifts to him are reliable and a reason for him to offer humble praise to the LORD. And God’s people learn that the unfolding of human history is known by God and foreordained by Him for His good pleasure!
The complaint of the sorcerers of Babylon is quite understandable, isn’t it? “How can we tell you something about things you’re not sharing with us? Surely no one can know what you saw in your dream, Nebuchadnezzar.”
The conclusion that the sorcerers were blind to – but a truth which has been revealed to you in the pages of Scripture – is that it is the LORD Who reveals His will and it is the LORD Who directs the affairs of human history. As the Apostle Paul explained to the Corinthians, “‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’ — these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.”
Do you understand what a gift it is to receive God’s Word of Life? As Daniel perceived, it is the greatest gift to hear the voice of the LORD in His revealing Word and to know that our Shepherd King is coming to judge the living and the dead.
Suggestions for prayer
Pray that the LORD will bring you joy as you serve Him and follow His commands. Pray that the blind will see and the spiritually deaf will have their ears opened to hear the will of the Lord for our salvation.
Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman is the pastor of the Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church and he is the husband of Rosanna and father of Elliott. Prior to being ordained in the Associated Presbyterian Church, he was the pastor of Adoration United Reformed Church in Ontario. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional.
China planning major Atlantic military base to approach US with warships and submarines – here’s what else The top general over U.S. troops in Africa warned that China plans to establish a new military base on Africa’s western coast capable of hosting submarines and aircraft carriers. The move would expand China’s access to the Atlantic Ocean and provide a base to rearm its naval forces in a potential conflict with the U.S. In an interview with the Associated Press published Thursday, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) commanding Gen. Stephen Townsend said China has already approached countries along nearly the entire west African coastline, as far north as Mauritania and as far south as Namibia, to pitch the major naval base idea. “They’re looking for a place where they can rearm and repair warships.
Why Macron is banking on the Conference on the Future of Europe At the crux of the matter is essentially a political schism between European federalists who want to infuse more of a democratic legitimacy in how the bloc is run, and some EU member states who believe that their own authority could be diluted by fostering greater involvement from those on the furthest-reaches of the policy-making process: i.e., the citizens themselves. Macron wants to be seen as leading the charge for more citizen participation in policy. Germany’s federal elections in September will signal the end of Chancellor Merkel’s 16-year tenure, leaving in their wake a vacuum for European leadership that will need to be filled by someone. The bloc will require a new ‘Lady of Europe.’ Perhaps Macron could indeed be that Lady.
Rickards: The Sky Is Falling What do you think is America’s most serious geopolitical challenge – China, Russia, Iran, maybe North Korea? None of the above, apparently. According to President Biden’s Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, climate change needs to be “at the center” of countries’ national security and foreign policy. Well, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will be doing her best to make sure the crusade against climate change gets plenty of funding. Yellen has called for a “whole-of-economy” approach to fighting climate change — which essentially means massive subsidies to finance so-called green energies and discourage fossil fuel production.
Gasoline Futures Soar After Colonial Gives No Timetable For Hacked Pipeline Restart Just in case the US didn’t already have a “transitory hyperinflation” problem, gasoline futures soared more than 4% – and are likely to jump much more – late on Sunday after the Colonial Pipeline announced that while some smaller lateral lines between terminals and delivery points are now operational, its mainlines (Lines 1, 2, 3 and 4) remain offline since late Friday after the company suffered a crippling cyberattack that affected its key IT systems.
We are seeing EU’s real (nasty) face – they’re manning the lifeboats in Brussels The EU’s behaviour is not unexpected given the unfolding crisis within the bloc and brought the potential for serious political earthquakes in the crucial Franco-German alliance into sharp relief. The row threatened to escalate with naval gunboats on the scene amid threats of France cutting off electricity to the British Crown Dependency – something even the Nazis didn’t do.
Gaza terrorists fire rockets at Ashkelon Terrorists operating out of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip launched multiple missiles at southern Israel Sunday evening. The rockets were fired towards the coastal city of Ashkelon, as well as towns in the western Negev, in the Gaza frontier. Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense network was activated during the attacks.
Top US fuel pipeline operator pushes to recover from cyberattack Colonial Pipeline, top US fuel pipeline operator, continued work on Sunday to recover from a ransomware cyberattack that forced it to shut down on Friday and sparked worries of a spike in retail gasoline prices. The incident is one of the most disruptive digital ransom operations ever reported and has prompted calls from American lawmakers to tighten up protection for critical US energy infrastructure against hackers.
IDF chief sends 3 additional battalions to Judea and Samaria in wake of escalation In the wake of the ongoing disturbances by Palestinian rioters in Jerusalem and the increased tension with Hamas, the Israel Defense Forces will increase its troop presence in Judea and Samaria. Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said the buildup will comprise three battalions, on top of the four that had already been sent in recent days to the area, which has seen an uptick in violence as of late, including in the form of a deadly drive-by shooting and a failed attempt to kill soldiers in a checkpoint.
New reports map out Hezbollah’s missile arsenal, expose new military sites Reported Israeli strikes once again lit up Syria’s night sky early on Wednesday, with Israeli missiles slamming into multiple targets in northwest Syria’s Latakia region, according to Syrian state media. The reports are the latest reminder of an ongoing shadow war raging between Israel and the Iranian-Shi’ite axis, in which the Iranians and Hezbollah attempt to smuggle and deploy advanced weapons to threaten Israel with and Israel sets out to disrupt this activity.
Iran airs video of exploding US Capitol A video clip depicting the dome of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., exploding after scenes of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps troops marching on parade and the launch of a missile was shown on Iranian state television on Sunday prior to the speech of its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Nazis and Democrats share the stain of hatred — Part 2: Democrat Hate The title of a Canada Free Press post on September 18, 2018 read: “When it ends, where will all the [Democrat Party] hate go?” We now know the answer to that question. The hatred went into a four-year campaign to destroy the President of the United States, his supporters, and his plans for America. The campaign culminated in a fixed election enabling the ‘victory’ of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
‘Apostasy’: Gay ‘pride’ flag to fly over Toronto Catholic schools The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) voted last night to declare June “Pride Month” and to fly the homosexual rainbow “Pride” flag at all schools within the board for the entire month of June in defiance of Catholic moral teaching that warns against the spiritual dangers of homosexual behavior and in defiance of the local Archbishop’s directives on the matter.
Belgium warned its euthanasia law is ‘spiraling out of control’ Several countries criticized Belgium for its 2002 euthanasia law at a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council this week, urging it to protect people with disabilities and the elderly, noting that registered euthanasia deaths had experienced a hundredfold increase in that country.
California Rolls Out Scannable Vaccine Card Wristbands A new wearable device indicating vaccination status is being rolled out in California. Thousands of units of the wristband, called the ImmunaBand, have already been sold in San Diego the since it was introduced a few weeks ago.
THE FOUNDATION “If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions.” —James Madison (1792)
On Newswatch AM May 10th: higher prices hitting consumers and businesses – but will it be temporary?; gas prices also heading up after cyberattack on major fuel pipeline; Canadian pastor Artur Pawloski arrested for allegedly holding a church …
(Tyler O’Neil – PJ Media) The myth of the “moderate” Joe Biden stubbornly refuses to die — partially because the Democrats and the legacy media are working overtime to keep it breathing. From day one, Biden has aimed to erase his predecessor’s legacy, rejected Republican efforts to pass clean bills on COVID-19 and infrastructure, and inflamed the culture war on abortion, transgenderism, and race. He even called Georgia’s new election integrity bill “Jim Crow on steroids.”
Yet, somehow, Democrats and the legacy media continue to twist the limits of deception by branding this firebrand a “moderate.” This weekend, a White House staffer confessed that this is a key part of Biden’s strategy.
“[A]t his hundred-day mark, Biden is the most liberal president we’ve had — and the public thinks he’s a moderate,” an unnamed White House staffer told New York Magazine. “That’s a winning strategy to me. They’re willing to accept that you’re gonna write this piece as long as they know that swing voters in Colorado aren’t gonna read it.” View article →
Let’s begin with some good news: you didn’t get hit by falling rocket debris yesterday.
Remnants of a Chinese rocket landed in the Indian Ocean on Sunday. Most of its components were destroyed upon entering the atmosphere. Parts that survived reentry crashed into the ocean west of the Maldives, a small island chain south of India.
However, we don’t need threats from space to endanger life on earth.
Six people were killed yesterday morning during a birthday party in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The suspected shooter, believed to be a boyfriend of one of the victims, is dead as well. One of America’s largest pipelines was shut down late Friday after being hit by a cyberattack and is still offline this morning.
Last Saturday afternoon, three bystanders were shot in New York City’s Times Square when a man arguing with other people fired wildly into the crowd. One of the victims was a four-year-old girl who was toy shopping with her family and was hit in the left leg.
Speaking of children: the Walt Disney Company has unveiled the Rainbow Disney Collection. Designed to honor the annual Pride Month in June that celebrates the LGBTQ community and movement, the catalog of apparel and toys features T-shirts, Mickey Mouse ears, mugs, and even baby apparel, all adorned with rainbows.
This is just one way Disney seeks to introduce children to LGBTQ ideology. The 2020 Disney-Pixar animated film Onward had a minor character who was a lesbian; Pixar’s short film Out featured a gay lead character; and the Disney Channel cartoon series The Owl House featured a bisexual main character.
In 2018, Cartoon Network featured a same-sex wedding proposal on the animated series Steven Universe. The network is working to create comic strips asserting that there are multiple gender identities. Earlier this year, the Nickelodeon series Blue’s Clues and You! unveiled a song teaching children the alphabet while promoting LGBTQ advocacy.
“The stronger the emphasis, the fewer the Christians”
If you’re like me, you read such news and feel frustrated that the church is not doing more to impact the culture. If we are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13–14), why is our salt and light not doing more to season and enlighten our culture? Why, in fact, are churches and Christian institutions sometimes the problem more than the solution?
In an article published yesterday, David French makes a vital distinction between Christendom and Christianity. As he explains, “Christianity is the faith, Christians are believers in the faith, and Christendom is the collective culture and institutions (universities, ministries) of the faith.”
French cites the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, who saw the Christian institutions of his day as hurting rather than helping the faith. Kierkegaard issued the compelling warning that imitating Jesus “is really the point from which the human race shrinks. The main difficulty lies here; here is where it is really decided whether or not one is willing to accept Christianity.”
He then explained the problem: “If there is emphasis on this point, the stronger the emphasis, the fewer the Christians. If there is a scaling down at this point (so that Christianity becomes, intellectually, a doctrine), more people enter into Christianity. If it is abolished completely . . . Christianity spreads to such a degree that Christendom and the world are almost indistinguishable, or all become Christians; Christianity has completely conquered—that is, it is abolished!”
In other words, we can make the imitation of Jesus into doctrines about Jesus and then build institutions to proclaim these doctrines. But we should remember James’s warning: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19).
Doctrines and institutions that do not lead people to know and imitate Jesus personally will never change the culture. That’s because the culture changes when people change. And people are changed not by our words but by God’s Spirit.
People tempted by LGBTQ attraction and ideology are liberated not by protesting against Disney (though we should clearly stand against unbiblical morality) but by the transformation Jesus brings to a life yielded fully to him (2 Corinthians 5:17). For people being tempted by other forms of immorality in our broken culture, the answer is the same: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).
The earliest image of Jesus
A two-thousand-year-old marble head of Emperor Augustus has been discovered in a town in Italy. It was originally part of a statue towering at least six feet seven inches. I have seen many such statues of Augustus in museums, each depicting the emperor in power and glory.
Now contrast these statues with the earliest image of the Savior born in Bethlehem when Augustus ruled from Rome (Luke 2:1–7). It was made in mockery of the Christian faith and depicted a donkey-headed Christ on his cross. Other early images made by Christians show Jesus as a shepherd and a healer. Not until the fourth century do we find images of him ruling in authority.
This is not because his earliest followers knew Jesus to be anything less than King of kings and Lord of lords (cf. Revelation 19:16). Rather, their depictions call us to serve our King by serving others. The more we love Jesus, the more we will love those he loves. And he loves everyone.
The Holy Spirit uses changed people to change the world. The apostles could impact the Sanhedrin by their preaching because their lives had been impacted by its truth (Acts 4:13). Paul could call multitudes to Jesus because he had been transformed by Jesus (cf. Acts 22:1–21).
Churches and institutions can call our culture to imitate Jesus to the degree that those who comprise these churches and institutions imitate Jesus.
The “visible absence” and “invisible presence” of God
If you and I will meet with our risen Lord each day in worship, submitting to his Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and asking him to manifest the character of our Lord in our lives (Galatians 5:22–23), he will answer our prayer. If, like Jesus, we will seek to serve rather than to be served (Mark 10:45), our Lord will use us to draw others to himself.
In Telling the Truth, Frederick Buechner speaks of the “visible absence” and the “invisible presence” of God in the world. I would add a third category: the “visible presence” of God in the world through the people of God in the world.
Conservative Southern Baptists face challenge from radical feminism in pew and pulpit.
Beth Moore trolls Al Mohler on Twitter.
Southern Baptist pastor declares church needs men and women leaders.
The crisis of American Evangelicalism is playing out in the Southern Baptist Convention. Social Justice advocacy by the Woke totalitarians is bringing with it renewed demands that justice requires women preachers. This is more than egalitarian theology at work. This is feminism. This is the belief that corruption and sin in the church would be eliminated if women were allowed to preach.
And the pastor who hosted Beth Moore at Lake Pointe Church in Texas, made a startling assertion—the church needs women leaders.
Josh Howerton tweeted, “Full disclosure: I am a convictional complementarian. Just like in a family, I believe courageous, gentle, Jesus-y men should be the primary leaders of a church. I just don’t believe they should be the *only* leaders of a church.”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-1&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfX0%3D&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1391590264129589251&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwordpress.com%2Fread%2Ffeeds%2F4509432%2Fposts%2F3332132433&sessionId=c0de75a6de482c10107bc64ec7dcf68858edd2f3&theme=light&widgetsVersion=82e1070%3A1619632193066&width=550px
Read his entire thread. It says a great deal about how many people claim to be complementarian but are functionally egalitarian—or worse.
Notice how Howerton justifies platforming of women as preachers.
Howerton said, “In the words of a friend, when I stand before Jesus I’d rather risk an ‘oops’ for allowing women to preach the gospel in a male-elder church than risking an ‘oops’ for silencing 50% of the Christian population.”
The assumption in today’s milieu is that men are somehow more sinful and, thereby, less virtuous than women. It holds women possess some sort of experience that makes them superior.
What is the source of this virtue?
They have been oppressed by the patriarchy.
You can see this in the rhetoric about abuse. Women’s voices are elevated as victims of abuse—however, men who are the most likely to suffer sexual abuse at the hands of ministers (according to research on the Catholic abuse problem.) Yet, these voices—male voices—are not welcomed. These men are ignored. These voices are silenced.
For example, Mike Stone, the former chairman of the SBC Executive Committee and a candidate for SBC President in 2021, was abused as a child.
Yet, this does not stop feminist agitation. They demand more.
They were “disappointed” that Stone was on the SBC committee elected in 2019 to deal with abuse investigations and a female abuse victim was not included.
At root of all this are the forces of standpoint epistemology; it claims that men cannot understand nor speak for women’s experiences. Implicit in this is the feminist and Woke attack on the patriarchy.
And the rhetoric against patriarchy, or put another way biblically based hierarchy, is everywhere.
Conclusion: This is political. Theology is only a justification.
Ultimately, this is a political game. A ploy to remake American Evangelical churches into something more palatable to secular elites. The endgame is a synthesis of real Christianity with secular values. For example:
Thesis: Only men can preach.
Antithesis: Women can preach.
Synthesis: Women can preach sometimes.
This is what will happen if the wrong person is elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention. There will be a dialogue. There will be a consensus (a favorite word of SBC Elites) creating renewed unity (another favorite word of the SBC Elites.)
It is already present in the modification of complementarian views to allow women to preach or teach under the authority of a male pastor. This is feminism through the back door—by calling it something else.
For example, a snarky tweet from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) president Adam Greenway attacking Rod Martin over the issue of women preaching. Greenway tweeted, “Southern Baptists will truly live up to our moniker as Great Commission Baptists when the outrage expressed toward the men of our tribe who never ‘preach’ the Gospel (cf. Romans 10:14-17) exceeds the outrage expressed toward the women of our tribe who actually do.”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-2&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfX0%3D&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1379613985411117058&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwordpress.com%2Fread%2Ffeeds%2F4509432%2Fposts%2F3332132433&sessionId=c0de75a6de482c10107bc64ec7dcf68858edd2f3&theme=light&widgetsVersion=82e1070%3A1619632193066&width=550px
Of course, Greenway waffled on the issue and followed the weekend trend of rebuking women preaching by quoting historic Southern Baptist B.H. Carroll. Odd how political these guys are.
Remind me again, who was Adam Greenway’s mentor?
Oh, that’s right Al Mohler. The guy who also gave us Russell Moore and Daniel Akin.
Just check out this map of Mohler’s legacy in the Southern Baptist Convention. You might want to remember that when getting ready to vote in Nashville.
“In the month of April alone, six states—Arizona, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and West Virginia—became so-called gun sanctuaries. But the specifics of the bills range widely, from political grandstanding, to having the potential to trigger a nasty constitutional showdown. At least seven more states, including Texas, have meanwhile introduced legislation proposing Second Amendment sanctuary protections. Four states—Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, and Wyoming—passed gun protection laws during the Obama administration.”
(Lee Williams – Canada Free Press) There are few stories the mainstream media enjoys more than “trend” stories. Whether it’s plant-based fake meat, live-streamed workouts, celebrity podcasts or Tic-Toc and other new apps, the media revels in reporting the latest trends that are sweeping the country – at least most of the time.
However, if the trend involves guns or the Constitution – especially the Second Amendment – don’t look for stories anytime soon, even if it’s a viral national trend.
The mainstream media has missed one of the biggest trend stories ever – the massive surge in Second Amendment Sanctuaries at the state, county and local level. View article →
The Gradual Revelation of the Trinity Matthew 28:19; Romans 8:16; 1 Corinthians 3:16
The Old Testament proclaimed the Father openly, and the Son more obscurely. The New manifested the Son, and suggested the deity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit Himself dwells among us, and supplies us with a clearer demonstration of Himself. For it was not safe, when the Godhead of the Father was not yet acknowledged, plainly to proclaim the Son; nor when that of the Son was not yet received to burden us further (if I may use so bold an expression) with the Holy Ghost; lest perhaps people might, like men loaded with food beyond their strength, or presenting eyes as yet too weak to bear it to the sun’s light, risk the loss even of that which was within the reach of their powers.
GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS
Ritzema, E. (2013). 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Early Church. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
The Secret to Success Ecclesiastes 2:24; Colossians 3:23–24; James 5:16
Here is the great secret of success. Work with all your might; but trust not in the least in your work. Pray with all your might for the blessing of God; but work, at the same time, with all diligence, with all patience, with all perseverance. Pray then, and work. Work and pray. And still again pray, and then work. And so on all the days of your life. The result will surely be abundant blessing.
Ritzema, E., & Vince, E. (Eds.). (2013). 300 quotations for preachers from the Modern church. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
8:12 Jesus as the light of the world (see note at 6:35, 48) develops further the affirmation in the prologue that Jesus was “the light of men” and that “that light shines in the darkness” (1:4–5). On this basis, Jesus exhorted his hearers to put their trust in the light while they had him with them, so they might become “children of light” (12:35–36). Jesus’s concluding testimony is that he came into the world as light so that no one who believes in him should remain in darkness (12:46). Yet, according to the Evangelist, the verdict is this: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil (3:19–21).
8:12 At the Court of the Women in the temple, a golden lampstand was lighted during the Feast of the Tabernacles. Again Jesus utilizes a convenient symbol for Himself that is rooted in the O.T. imagery of the wanderings in the wilderness. In ch. 6 it was the manna, and in ch. 7 it was the water associated with God’s provision from the rock (cf. Num. 20:8–11). Now, the lighting of the giant lamps reminded the nation of the pillar of fire which guided them at night (cf. Ex. 13:21; Num. 9:15–23). In contrast to the moral darkness of the nation and the world in general, Jesus describes His function as the Light (cf. 1:4, 9), the very revelation and truth of God, and the solution to the evil in mankind and the world. This is the second great “I am” declaration in John’s Gospel.
8:12 I am the light of the world. In Jesus’ time, candles were used as part of the celebration of the Feast of Booths. During this feast, the rock that provided water in the wilderness and the pillar of fire that provided light and guidance were remembered (Ex. 13:21). The rock pointed to Jesus (1 Cor. 10:4), and He also is the light to which the pillar of fire as a type pointed. Since God is light (1 John 1:5), Jesus’ words amount to a claim of deity. Again, “I am” points back to Ex. 3:14 (6:35 note).
8:12I am the light of the world This is the second metaphorical “I am” statement used by Jesus. See 6:35 and note (compare 1:4 and note).
darkness The antagonism between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders is cast as a battle between light and darkness (see 1:5; 3:19–21).
8:12I am. See note on 6:35. Jesus is the light of the world (see note on 1:4–5; also 3:19–21; 12:35–36, 46). Jesus fulfills OT promises of the coming of the “light” of salvation and the “light” of God (e.g., Ex. 25:37; Lev. 24:2; Ps. 27:1; Isa. 9:2; 42:6; 49:6; John 9:5; Acts 13:47; 26:18, 23; Eph. 5:8–14; 1 John 1:5–7).
8:12 I am the Light of the world. This is the second “I am” statement (see 6:35). John has already used the “light” metaphor for Jesus (1:4). Jesus’ metaphor here is steeped in OT allusions (Ex 13:21, 22; 14:19–25; Pss 27:1; 119:105; Pr 6:23; Eze 1:4, 13, 26–28; Hab 3:3, 4). The phrase highlights Jesus’ role as Messiah and Son of God (Ps 27:1; Mal 4:2). The OT indicates that the coming age of Messiah would be a time when the Lord would be a light for His people (Is 60:19–22; cf. Rev 21:23, 24) as well as for the whole earth (Is 42:6; 49:6). Zechariah 14:5b–8 has an emphasis on God as the light of the world who gives living waters to His people. This latter passage probably formed the liturgical readings for the Feast of Tabernacles. For further significance of Jesus as the “light,” see notes on 1:4, 5; 1Jn 1:5.he who follows Me. The word “follows” conveys the idea of someone who gives himself completely to the person followed. No half-hearted followers exist in Jesus’ mind (cf. Mt 8:18–22; 10:38, 39). A veiled reference exists here to the Jews, following the pillar of cloud and fire that led them during the Exodus (Ex 13:21).
8:12I am the light of the world: As the sun is the physical light of the world, so Jesus is the spiritual light of the world. As the light of the world, Jesus exposes sin (vv. 1–11) and gives sight (9:1–7).
8:12. It is not known whether the woman caught in adultery left at this time or stayed to hear Jesus teach. However, His teaching here clearly is a natural outgrowth of His dealing with her.
This verse concerns discipleship (“He who follows Me”), not receiving eternal life (conditioned on believing in Jesus). Those who follow Christ (i.e., His disciples) “shall not walk in darkness” in their experience. Rather they will “have the light of life,” meaning they will walk in the light that Jesus gives His followers (cf. 1 John 1:5–10).
8:12 The scene now shifts to the treasury of the temple (see v. 20). A multitude was still following Him. He turned to them and made one of the many grand statements as to His Messiahship. He said, “I am the light of the world.” Naturally speaking, the world is in the darkness of sin, ignorance, and aimlessness. The light of the world is Jesus. Apart from Him, there is no deliverance from the blackness of sin. Apart from Him, there is no guidance along the way of life, no knowledge as to the real meaning of life and the issues of eternity. Jesus promised that anyone following Him would not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.
To follow Jesus means to believe on Him. Many people have the mistaken idea that they can live as Jesus lived without ever being born again. To follow Jesus means to come to Him in repentance, to trust Him as Lord and Savior, and then to commit one’s whole life to Him. Those who do this have guidance in life and clear and bright hope beyond the grave.
8:12. This discourse continues Jesus’ public teaching in the city of Jerusalem in the temple area. How fitting that during the Feast of Tabernacles, when the large lamps were burning, Jesus … said, I am the Light of the world (cf. 1:4, 9; 12:35, 46). The world is in darkness, a symbol of evil, sin, and ignorance (Isa. 9:2; Matt. 4:16; 27:45; John 3:19). “Light” in the Bible is a symbol of God and His holiness (Acts 9:3; 1 John 1:5). Jesus is “the Light,” not merely a light or another light among many lights. He is the only Light, “the true Light” (John 1:9), for the whole world. When Jesus said, Whoever follows Me, He meant whoever believes and obeys Him (cf. 10:4–5, 27; 12:26; 21:19–20, 22). Jesus was speaking of salvation.
Coming to Christ for salvation results in a different kind of life. A believer will never walk in darkness, that is, he will not live in it (cf. 12:46; 1 John 1:6–7). He does not remain in the realm of evil and ignorance (John 12:46) for he has Christ as his Light and salvation (cf. Ps. 36:9).
8:12. Jesus again spoke to them refers to the Pharisees (8:3, 7). During the Feast of Booths, large menorahs lit up the temple complex, commemorating the fire that guided the Israelites during the wilderness wanderings (Nm 9:15–23) and anticipating the Messiah who would bring light to nations. After seven days of dramatic illumination in the temple, Jesus declared, I am the Light of the world (1:4–5, 9; cf. “Jesus’ Seven ‘I Am’ Claims” at 6:35). If one believes in Christ and then follows Him (cf. 8:31), he or she will not walk in the darkness (1Jn 1:5–10).
8:12. Here we find the second of seven “I Am” passages in John’s Gospel. Like water (ch. 4) and bread (ch. 6), light is necessary for life. And the Lord wasted no time in explaining that spiritual light comes to those who willingly follow him. Since light is one of John’s major themes, several assumptions arise from this verse. One is that the world needs light, something John has already told us in chapter 1. There are conditions for seeing and knowing the light—following Jesus. Finally, walking in the light can be permanent. The light of life can change a person so that he or she need never again walk in darkness.
Chapters five, six and seven of John’s Gospel have picked up three major Old Testament wilderness reminders of how God dealt with his people: the comparison between manna and the bread of life in chapter 6; the comparison between water in the desert and the water of the Holy Spirit in chapter 7; and here in chapter 8 a comparison with the pillar of fire which led the people through the wilderness and Jesus, the light of the world.
The Feast of Tabernacles was also known as the Feast of Lights because of the many ceremonies that involved various kinds of lighting. From the earliest verses of the first chapter in this Gospel, John has been fascinated with the link between light and life. Here, however, we do not have a statement about everyone participating in the light, but the exclusion of all who do not follow the true light.
Some interpreters have suggested that Jesus may have drawn his illustration from the great candlestick (Menorah) which cast its light over the room in which he was teaching. Everyone there knew the Menorah would be extinguished after the feast. But Jesus indicated that his light would remain forever.
8:12 “Then Jesus again spoke to them” “The multitude” is not mentioned in this chapter. Apparently the Feast of the Tabernacles is over and Jesus remained in the Temple area trying to reason and witness to the Jewish leaders.
However, as Jesus used the water ceremony of the feast to reveal Himself, in this section He uses the lighting ceremony of the feast to reveal Himself.
There has been some debate as to exactly what this refers: (1) the ancient fear of darkness; (2) a title for God in the OT (cf. Ps. 27:1; Isa. 62:4; 1 John 1:5); (3) the background of the Feast of the Tabernacles, lighting of the candelabra in the Court of the Women; (4) an allusion to the Shekinah cloud of glory in the wilderness wandering period that symbolized the presence of God; or (5) the Messianic titles in the OT (cf. Isa. 42:6, 49:6; Luke 2:32).
The Rabbis also used “light” as a title for the Messiah. The lighting of the huge lamps in the Court of the Women during the Feast of Tabernacle is the obvious setting for Jesus’ statement. The Messianic implications of light and the special references in 1:4, 8 coincide with the ceremony in the Temple for Jesus to continue to reveal His true origin.
This is one of the seven “I am” statements in John (followed by a predicate)
1. I am the Bread of life (6:35, 41, 46, 51)
2. I am the Light of the world (8:12; 9:5; cf. 1:4, 9; 12:46)
3. I am the door of the sheepfold 910:7,90
4. I am the good shepherd 910:11,140
5. I am the resurrection, and the life 911:250
6. I am the way, the truth, and the life 914:60
7. I am the true vine 915:1,50
These unique statements, found only in John, point toward the person of Jesus. John focuses on these personal aspects of salvation. We must trust Him!
8:12. Again, therefore, Jesus spoke to them saying, I am the light of the world.
According to many this is the continuation of 7:37–52. It must be granted that such a connection is, indeed, possible. One might reason as follows: he who according to 7:37, 38 represents himself as being living water for the thirsty one, reveals himself here (in 8:12) as light for those who sit in darkness. So rich and glorious is he that not a single name can describe him, and not a single metaphor can do justice to his greatness. He is life, light, bread, water, etc.
Others, however, see a very close connection between the story of the adulteress (7:53–8:11) and the present paragraph (8:12 ff.). They reason that Jesus, by dispelling the moral darkness which reigned in the heart of this woman (if, indeed, it was dispelled!), gave an illustration of his work as the light of the world. We do not have sufficient information to make a definite choice between these alternatives. The decision would depend on the authenticity of 7:53–8:11, which has been discussed.
Jesus is again addressing the people in the temple. To them he says, “I am the light of the world.” This is the second of the seven great “I Am’s.” For the entire list see Vol. 1, p. 37. This second “I Am” is similar in grammatical structure to the first (see our explanation of 6:35). Hence, also in this case subject and predicate (the latter preceded by the article) are interchangeable. Jesus is the light of the world; the light of the world is Jesus. He himself in person is that light. He—no one else beside him—is that light, for it is only in and through him that God’s glorious attributes shine forth most brilliantly in the midst of the world.
The meaning of Christ as light has been set forth in connection with 1:4 and 1:9. That Jesus represents himself (here in 8:12) as the light of the world indicates that in the midst of sin-laden mankind, exposed to the judgment and in need of salvation, mankind in all its phases (both Jew and Gentile, young and old, male and female, rich and poor, free and slave), he stands forth as the source of men’s illumination regarding spiritual matters and of the everlasting salvation of God’s children. To all who come within hearing he proclaims the Gospel of deliverance from sin and never-ending peace. On the concept world (κόσμος) see the explanation of 1:10.
Jesus is the light of the world; i.e., to the ignorant he proclaims wisdom; to the impure, holiness; to those in sadness, gladness. Moreover, to those who by sovereign grace are drawn (6:44) to the light and follow its guidance he not only proclaims but actually imparts these blessings.
But not all follow where the light leads. There is a separation, a parting of the ways, an absolute antithesis, as is clear from the words, “He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” Some follow the light; many do not. Many are called; few are chosen.
To follow the light, Christ, means to trust and obey him. It means to believe in him and out of gratitude to keep his commandments. Man must follow where the light leads: he is not permitted to map out his own course through the desert of this life. In the wilderness the forefathers had followed the pillar of light. The symbolism of the feast of Tabernacles (now in progress or just ended) reminded the audience of this light which the ancestors had enjoyed as a guide. Those who had followed it and had not rebelled against its guidance had reached Canaan. The others had died in the desert. So it is here: the true followers not only will not walk in the darkness of moral and spiritual ignorance, of impurity, and of gloom, but will reach the land of light. Nay more: they will have the light! The Antitype is ever richer than the type. Physical light—for example, that of the pillar of light in the desert or that of the candelabra in the Court of the Women—imparts outward illumination. This light, Jesus Christ as the object of our faith, becomes our inner possession: we have him, and this abidingly; cf. 4:14. He is, moreover, the light of life (τὸ φῶς τῆς ζωῆς). In harmony with what was said in connection with 1:4b we regard this as a genitive of apposition: the light is itself the life, when the latter is made manifest.
12.When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world.’ This is the second of seven ‘I am’ sayings with predicates in the Gospel of John (6:35, 48, 51; 8:12; 10:7, 9; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5). His claim to be the light of the world was made against the background of another Jewish practice at the Festival of Tabernacles: the great candle-lighting ceremonies which took place each night, except on an intervening Sabbath. These ceremonies are described in the Mishnah (m. Sukk. 5:2–3):
At the close of the first Festival-day of the Feast they went down to the Court of the Women where they had made a great amendment. There were golden candlesticks there with four golden bowls on the top of them and four ladders to each candlestick, and four youths of the priestly stock and in their hands jars of oil holding a hundred and twenty logs which they poured into all the bowls. They made wicks from the worn out drawers and girdles of the priests and with them they set the candlesticks alight, and there was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that did not reflect the light of the Beth ha-She’ubah.
Jesus’ claim to be the light of the world contains more than allusions to the great illuminations of the Festival of Tabernacles. It fulfils Old Testament prophecies, especially those of Isaiah, which speak of the Servant of the Lord (Isa. 42:6; 49:6), and indeed the Lord himself (Isa. 51:4), as a light to the nations.
Jesus added: Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. The metaphor is one of walking with and without the light of the sun. When unpacked it speaks of those who follow Christ by accepting his teaching and who walk no longer in the darkness of ignorance and under the power of the evil one (cf. 1 John 5:19). As the apostle Paul said, ‘he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves’ (Col. 1:13). As life in the darkness culminates in death, life in the light of Jesus Christ culminates in eternal life; it is the light of life.
In the prologue, the evangelist says of the Logos: ‘In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind’ (1:4), and in 1:14 he identifies Jesus as the Logos. To come to Jesus means to come to the one in whom is found the life of God. He is the light of men, the light of life. He is the ‘true light’ coming into the world that ‘gives light to everyone’ (1:9; cf. Matt. 4:16; Luke 2:32). John (the Baptist) bore witness to the light and encouraged people to believe in him (1:9; cf. 5:35). Jesus himself declared: ‘I am the light of the world’ (8:12a; 9:5), and promised that those who believe in him ‘will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (8:12b; 12:46). He urged people to believe in the light while he was with them and they had opportunity to do so (12:35–36).
The Light of the World
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Of all the hundreds of times I have landed onto a runway in an airplane, perhaps the most memorable was a nighttime landing at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi, Kenya. I could not help but notice the difference between landing in Nairobi versus an American city. As an airplane approaches an American airport by night, it is bathed by the light of a million sparks below. But as we descended closer and closer to the ground in Nairobi, I stared out my window into pitch black, seeing the ground only as we descended through the last few feet.
As our plane landed in the darkness, my mind traveled to the hundreds of Christian missionaries who had come to “the dark continent” with the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The same thing had happened centuries before to my European ancestors, when the light of the gospel came to the darkness of northern Europe—and before that when the gospel light came to Greece and Rome from ancient Jerusalem. Light is one of the great biblical images of salvation. Isaiah wrote, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Isa. 9:2). Light depicts the coming of God with saving life: “The Lord is my light and my salvation,” sang David (Ps. 27:1).
It was with this in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ declared, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). Jesus came to a whole world in darkness. John uses the imagery of light to describe Jesus sixteen times in this Gospel, light being a fitting symbol for the coming of God among men. Thus, Jesus is the only remedy for the darkness in the world. It is only through faith in him that a darkened world may see and receive the light of God.
A Light for the World in Darkness
If we want to understand the nature of the light and salvation that Jesus brings, we need first to understand the character of the darkness. What was the darkness in which Jesus found the world?
According to the Bible, darkness is the realm of ignorance and folly. Psalm 82:5 explains that the ignorant “have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness.” The prophet Micah spoke of an age in which the prophets would be silent: “It shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without divination” (Mic. 3:6). To say that the world is dark is therefore to say that it is lost in ignorance, superstition, and folly. Is this not the constant state of the world wherever Christ is unknown or the gospel is lost? Is this not the way it is now in the once-enlightened West: people made by God with high intellects and blessed with choice educations grope about in a darkness of the greatest ignorance and folly, making decisions and enacting policies contrary to wisdom or even common sense.
Darkness is also the realm of evil and fear. Children fear the dark because in the darkness danger lurks. Proverbs warns against those “who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness” (Prov. 2:13); “The way of the wicked is like deep darkness” (4:19). Jesus said, “This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19). Is this not precisely the case in lands where the light of Jesus has not yet shined, or where his light has been rejected? The world into which Jesus came was and is darkened by evil.
This being the case, darkness also speaks to bondage, misery, and death. Isaiah characterized the world as “distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish” (Isa. 8:22). He said, “Justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom” (59:9). Darkness is a biblical description of the Israelites’ time in their bondage in Egypt; Paul said that mankind suffers presently in the slave-chains of Satan. He speaks of “the cosmic powers over this present darkness” (Eph. 6:12). The darkness of the world involves a bondage in sin and misery that culminates in death. The psalmist laments: “He has made me sit in darkness like those long dead” (Ps. 143:3).
Finally, the world in darkness sits under God’s judgment and is consigned to God’s wrath. Zephaniah spoke of “a day of wrath …, a day of darkness and gloom” (Zeph. 1:15). Jesus foretold the judgment of sinners in the day of the Lord: “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 22:13). Hannah prayed, “The wicked shall be cut off in darkness” (1 Sam. 2:9).
This is the darkness into which Jesus came as a light. Darkness consists of a lack of knowledge: ignorance, folly, and superstition; it has a moral dimension: evil and fear; it is experiential: bondage, misery and death; and it is judicial: judgment and wrath. What is true of the dark world is also true of every life apart from the shining of the light of Jesus’ gospel.
Any sober and honest history of the world will show this principle to be true. But just as those who spend time in the dark acquire night vision, we have become nocturnal creatures—we have come to think that ignorance, evil, misery, and condemnation are not so bad. But the Bible gives us day vision and shows us that ours is a dark planet in need of light.
The world was not created dark; it was made dark by sin. Because of sin, mankind came under the judgment of God; since God is holy, sinful man was cast out from the light of his presence. This is the true story told in the early chapters of Genesis. Cast from the garden because of sin, man immediately fell into spiritual ignorance. Cain tried to approach God in the folly of his own counsel. When he was rejected, he turned to violence, slaying his brother Abel. God cursed his sin with misery and gloom, pronouncing, “You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth” (Gen. 4:12). So it has been ever since. The first song ever recorded by mankind was about violence; Lamech sang, “I have killed a man for wounding me” (4:23).
The world that God made good, and the human race created in glory as his image-bearer, fell into darkness by sin. The world cannot escape the chains of this dark bondage, so in his great mercy God promised to send a Savior to free us from ignorance, evil, death, and judgment. John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah the priest, spoke in these terms when he prophesied the coming of Jesus: “Because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:78–79). Therefore when Jesus Christ called aloud in the midst of the city of Jerusalem—at the temple where that hope for saving light was deposited—he declared himself that Savior who frees us from our sin: “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).
To a world that is ignorant of God Jesus reveals the truth of heaven. To a world suffering the misery of evil Jesus offers a cleansing renewal and peace. To those condemned in judgment for their sins Jesus shed his own blood for forgiveness. Into a spiritually dark and dying world he shines the light of eternal life.
The True Light
John 8:12 presents the second of this Gospel’s famous “I am” sayings, which one writer describes as a “Pocket Guide to Understanding Jesus.” Earlier, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (6:35). He later adds, “I am the door” (10:9); “I am the good shepherd” (10:11); “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25); “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6); and “I am the vine” (15:5). All these sayings present Jesus as our Savior, by his person and work.
We need to remember that his expression “I am” is an implicit claim to deity. Jesus’ emphatic way of saying “I am” (Greek ego eimi) recalls the reader to the great scene at the burning bush, when God revealed his name to Moses: “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you’ ” (Ex. 3:14). Jesus now declares himself as the great “I am,” the divine light that shines into our darkness for salvation.
Jesus did not identify himself merely as a light, but as the light. This means that he alone is the true light shining in the world. John earlier said, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9).
This reality is illustrated by the scene in which Jesus made this claim. The Jews had just wrapped up their religious festival, the Feast of Tabernacles, in which they had exulted in their religious traditions. One of the great events was the festival of lights that took place on the first night of the feast, and perhaps on subsequent nights as well. Four great candelabras, each with four golden bowls filled with oil, were lit in the temple court. The bright light from these sixteen bowls illuminated the whole temple.
After the feast, those lights had gone out. Perhaps the lampstands were still present in the temple courts, the bowls having been taken away. Where the lamps had hung, Jesus now presented himself as “the light of the world.” He fulfilled what the ritual had symbolized: Jesus is the light: he alone provided the reality for which the people rejoiced in the feast. Yet even on such an occasion, the people had rejected him and their leaders sought his life.
This makes the point that religious traditions and practices contain saving truth only as they point to Jesus Christ. Old Testament Jewish faith was a true religion, but Judaism became false when its leaders rejected Jesus. Jesus said, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46). Without his true light, the lights of their feast were false lights and would soon go out.
This is not merely true for Judaism. What the Jews looked forward to, the Christian church looks back upon. But we will light our candles in vain unless we stay true to Jesus himself and the salvation he offers by his death on the cross. Like the Jews of old, this requires us to humble ourselves as guilty sinners who trust only in Jesus to deliver us from darkness. We might enjoy the fun of singing, the humor of the preacher’s personality, or the encouragement of lifestyle training, but unless we follow Jesus in true faith, the light will soon grow dark.
How much more true this is of pagan religions and philosophical humanism. The ancient Greeks had Plato and Aristotle, and they cast a sort of light. But their lights masked the great spiritual darkness of that ancient world, and in time they went out. Western humanism has enjoyed its so-called Enlightenment, with the truths of the Bible replaced by the false lights of evolution, progress, and tolerance. The result has been a bloody history of war, misery, and moral collapse. Lamech of old made his song about murder; today’s gangsta rap exults in the pleasures of gunfire and rape.
The only true light that this world has ever seen is the light of Jesus. The only true path of peace is the one shadowed by his cross. The only true way for God’s blessing is his way of discipleship. “In him was life,” John said, “and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).
What, then, is the light that you need? Is it the false light of consumerism, psychology, or carnal, mystic spirituality? Or is it Jesus Christ? And what is the light that the world needs to see shining from the church? Is it the neon light of Hollywood glitter so that we can at least enjoy the darkness? Is it the dim light of self-help teaching to help us manage our own dark lives? No, the only true light, the only true Savior, is Jesus Christ. “I am the light of the world,” he insists. Let us follow him; let us proclaim his light of forgiveness from sin and new life for salvation to a dark and dying world. As Jesus is the Light of the World, let us be the lamps that shine his light to others.
A Light to Follow
When we studied Jesus’ great invitation of John 7:37—“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink”—we noted that the water-pouring ceremony in the Feast of Tabernacles had a connection to events in the exodus—specifically, God’s providing water from the rock. There is a similar connection with the festival of lights and Jesus’ claim to be the “light of the world.” The light celebration recalled the pillar of fire that had guided and protected Israel during the people’s passage through the desert. Exodus 13:21 tells us, “The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.”
We see, then, why Jesus continued by saying, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). This shows that while Jesus is the one true Light of the World, we benefit from his coming only if we believe on and follow him. We follow Jesus as the Israelites followed the cloud of fire. They trusted it to lead them and found protection under its shadow. As we follow Jesus, he relieves us of ignorance and folly by teaching us his Word. He protects us from the searing rays of God’s wrath, having paid the penalty of our sins on the cross. As he leads, we follow out from misery and fear and even from the curse of death. As the cloud of fire led the tribes of Israel through the barren, scorched desert and into the Promised Land, Jesus leads us in our passage through this wicked world and into the glories of heaven.
What, then, does it mean to follow Jesus? It means to trust in him and live as his disciple. When the cloud moved, the Israelites moved; when the cloud settled, they made camp. Likewise, we follow Jesus to his cross, dying there to our sin. “If anyone would come after me,” Jesus taught, “let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
If we consider the uses of the Greek word for follow (akolutheo), we can better understand what Jesus means. It is used of a soldier following his commander into battle; the Christian thus fights against evil in the armor of God and with the sword of God’s Word. It is used of a servant or slave who attends upon his master. William Barclay writes, “Always the slave is ready to spring to the master’s service, and to carry out the tasks the master gives him to do.” It is used of one who accepts a wise counselor’s judgment. William Hendriksen writes that a Christian “must follow where the light leads: he is not permitted to map out his own course through the desert of this life.”3 It is used of rendering obedience to the laws of the state; the Christian follows Christ by keeping his commands. And it is used of one who follows the line of his teacher’s reasoning. The follower of Christ is one who has gained understanding of his teaching and takes it into his heart. With all these in mind, J. C. Ryle summarizes: “To follow Christ is to commit ourselves wholly and entirely to Him as our only leader and Saviour, and to submit ourselves to Him in every matter both of doctrine and practice.”
Does it seem like a radical commitment to follow Jesus? It is! Too many professing believers have come to him without this commitment, and never actually follow him. But there is no other kind of saving Christianity. To have Jesus as Savior is to follow him as Lord. Paul wrote to believers, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19–20). The salvation that Jesus offers is free; we receive simply by the open hands of faith. But following Jesus is nonetheless costly. James Montgomery Boice states, “The path that Jesus walked is the path to crucifixion. It leads to glory, but before that it leads to the cross. Such a path can be walked only by the one who has died to self and who has deliberately taken up the cross of Christ to follow Him.”
Out of Darkness, into Light
So why take up such costly discipleship? To escape the darkness! This is the great promise that Jesus attaches to his call: “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness.” Isn’t that what we have seen in the Gospel of John? As Nicodemus turned his allegiance to Jesus, he was led out from the dark hypocrisy of the Pharisees. When the woman at the well believed, Jesus delivered her from the scandal and shame of her former lifestyle. This is what he offered to those hearing him in Jerusalem and what he offers us today: an escape from the guilt of our sin, from the corruption of our evil natures, and from darkness of the lives we have led.
Therefore, I need to ask: Are you walking in darkness? As a pastor, I am often dismayed to see so many Christians still walking in the ways of this dark world: accepting the world’s values, serving the world’s priorities, dreaming the world’s dreams, and obeying the world’s requirements. If you are a young person, are you willing to stand out by your discipleship to Jesus? Or are you itching to take part in the sinful social practices so pervasive among the youth today? Are you drawn to the music, movies, and video games that celebrate sensuality and violence? Are you dabbling in sexual sin, alcohol, or drugs? If you are, this shows only that you are not following Jesus. He said, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness.” This is what we must aim for in the raising of our children in the church: that they can walk through a dark world without walking in sin—and this comes only through a personal discipleship with Jesus.
Adults, do your lifestyle choices, ambitions, priorities with time and money, and habits reflect the standards of the dark world or the light of Christ’s kingdom? Are you caught up in materialism, egotism, or sensualism—things that belong to the darkness of this world? If you are, it can be only because you are not following Jesus. The same may be said of ministers and churches that mimic the ways of this dark world. Let us all repent in ways large and small; let us take up our cross, follow Jesus, and leave the darkness behind.
I mentioned my thoughts as our plane descended through the pitch darkness onto the runway in Nairobi, reflecting on how the light of Christ has come to shine in Africa. During that visit to Kenya, I had the privilege of witnessing that light shining brightly, as I participated in an unspeakably moving ceremony to dedicate a new children’s cottage at a Christian orphan village in the town of Mwiki. This Christian village provides a loving home to 160 little boys and girls abandoned by desperate parents or orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. I sat together with American missionaries who had come to love, teach, and raise these children alongside their African Christian partners. We sang as one of the African “mamas” led us in praise of God’s faithfulness and love, and we prayed with thanks for the godly home they were dedicating and the beautiful children entrusted by God to their care. The world had cast these children into darkness, abandoning them to misery and death, but by the mercy of God they would instead grow up in the love of Christ to follow in the light as his disciples.
Not everyone is called to Africa as a missionary, although I envied those I left behind. That was just a snapshot of the light that comes when Christians devote themselves to follow Jesus. Never think that you will lose out by turning from the dark pattern of this world to follow the Savior in serious and sacrificial discipleship. Those who receive the light of Christ, who take their sins, along with their former lives and priorities, to his cross, and who then follow after him will never lose out in this life or the next. Jesus promises that they “will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Jesus offers us now a life of love, grace, and power for godliness, and in the age to come eternal life. He said, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:24).
I Am, They Will
Finally, let us never think that it is our following that saves us. We are never saved by our works but only by Jesus Christ. It is because Jesus first says, “I am,” that he afterward promises, “They will.” If we give our “amen” to his “I am” and follow him, he will give his “amen” to our “they will.”
Jesus proclaimed, “I am the light of the world.” He calls us to believe in him, receiving the light of his free gift of salvation. And then, starting wherever we are right now, we simply begin to follow him as he reveals himself through his Word. And as he leads us out of darkness into light, we will hear him say to us, “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). For when the light of Jesus has shined in our hearts so that we follow him in trusting obedience, his light will shine through us to illuminate the dark world with his love.
8:12 Surprisingly, the Pharisees will now proceed to do almost what Nicodemus recommended! Whether they choose to or not, they will now “hear” from Jesus and to some degree “learn what he is doing.” As the narrative continues, we are told, “So again Jesus spoke to them” (8:12). “To them” can only mean “to the Pharisees,” for the Pharisees are identified as those who answered (v. 13). “Again” implies that he had spoken to them before—probably not directly but by what he said to the officers representing them, when they came to arrest him (7:32–34). “No man ever spoke like that” was the reaction then (7:46), and the reader will echo those sentiments about what he adds now: “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The pronouncement evokes for the reader the description of Jesus as “the Word” in the Gospel’s preamble, “In him was life, and that life was the light of humans” (1:4), with the further explanation that “The light was the true [Light] that illumines every human being who comes into the world” (1:9). Now “the Word” speaks with his own voice, telling “the world” (represented by the Pharisees) what the readers of the Gospel already know, that he is the world’s “Light” whether so recognized or not. Earlier, he had pronounced a negative verdict on “the world” and on “human beings” in general, who “loved the dark and not the Light, because their works were evil” (3:19), but now he offers hope. The form of the pronouncement—with “I am” and a predicate, followed by an invitation and/or promise—recalls 6:35 (“I am the Bread of life. The person who comes to me will never go hungry, and the person who believes in me will never ever thirst”), and 6:51 (“I am the living Bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eat of this bread, he will live forever”). As we have seen, Jesus’ invitation and promise in 7:37 (“If anyone thirst,” and “Whoever believes in me”) looked as if it should have been preceded, or was once preceded, by just such an “I am” declaration.
What does it mean for Jesus to be “the Light of the world”? The world has no light of its own, but rather “the Light has come into the world” from without (3:19), from God, who is Light and the Giver of light (see 1 Jn 1:5). The natural point of comparison is the sun, yet Jesus never explicitly mentions the sun in connection with the metaphor of light. In another Gospel, when he told his disciples, “You are the light of the world,” he compared them to stationary light sources other than the sun: “a city set on a hill” (Mt 5:14), or a lamp “on the lampstand” (5:15). Here, by contrast, he himself is “the Light of the world” (in keeping with 1:4, 5, 7, 9, 10; 3:19–21), but not a fixed or stationary light source like a lampstand or a city, or even like the sun. Rather, he is on the move, for his implied invitation is to “follow,” and his promise is to “not walk in darkness” (my italics). He had told the Pharisees before (through their messengers) that they could not follow him (“where I am you cannot come,” 7:34), but now he promises that those who do “follow” him will “not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” The promise goes right over the heads of the Pharisees, for just like the earlier promise of “living water” (7:38), it is not for them but for those who believe (see 7:39), and specifically for the readers of the Gospel. “The Light of the world” is a moving light, for as Jesus has said, “Yet a short time I am with you, and I go to the One who sent me” (7:33). He returns to this thought each time he returns to the subject of light: “when I am in the world, I am the Light of the world” (9:5); “Yet a short time the Light is among you; walk while you have the Light, so that the darkness will not overtake you.… While you have the Light, believe in the Light, that you might become sons of light” (12:35, 36, my italics; see also 11:9–10). Jesus is “the Light of the world” in that he offers salvation to those who believe and are ready to join him on his journey back to “the One who sent him.” The metaphorical expression, “the Light of the world,” is functionally equivalent to what the Samaritans acknowledged him to be three chapters earlier (“the Savior of the world,” 4:42), or to what John called him even before that (“the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” 1:29). The metaphor of light contributes to the imagery the notion of a journey soon to begin, and the assurance of knowing where the journey leads (see 12:35, where anyone who “walks in that darkness does not know where he is going”; also 1 Jn 2:11). The “light of life” (v. 12b) is light for that journey, light that gives eternal life and salvation to those who follow “the Light of the world.”
12 The discussion of chapter 7 is resumed. John does not say when this happened, but he does indicate the situation, namely “near the place where the offerings were put” (v.20). Jesus’ opening words, “I am the light of the world,” are very impressive. “I am” is emphatic. It is the very style of deity that we have seen employed before in this Gospel (see on 6:35). There has been a good deal of speculation about the origin of the expression “the light of the world” (cf. 9:5; 12:46 for the repetition of the thought in slightly different wording). Many draw attention to the ceremonies with lights at the Feast of Tabernacles and suggest that Jesus was consciously fulfilling the symbolism suggested by them. There is nothing unlikely in this, especially if the words were uttered reasonably close to the time of the Feast. The feasts were very important to the Jews, who delighted in their observance and rejoiced in their symbolism. And it was important to the Christians that the Christ fulfilled all the spiritual truths to which the feasts pointed. Now the brilliant candelabra were lit only at the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles; there is dispute as to the number of nights on which the illumination took place, but none as to the fact that at the close of the feast it did not. In the absence of the lights Jesus’ claim to the Light would stand out the more impressively. In favor of this view is also the fact that the candelabra were lit in the Court of the Women, the most frequented part of the Temple, and the very place in which Jesus delivered his address.
Yet, just as the reference to the water in chapter 7 seems to point us back to the rock in the wilderness rather than to the pouring of water from the golden pitcher, so the light may refer us to the pillar of fire in the wilderness. We have noted the reference to the manna in chapter 6, so that in three successive chapters the wilderness imagery seems consistently used to illustrate aspects of Jesus’ Person and work. It must always be borne in mind that light is a common theme in both Old and New Testaments, so that it is not necessary for us to find the source of Jesus’ saying in any nonbiblical context.5 Elsewhere we read that God is light (1 John 1:5), and Jesus himself said that his followers are “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14; the expression is identical with that used here). Paul can also speak of Christians as “stars in the universe” (Phil. 2:15). It is, of course, plain that such terms must be applied to believers in a sense different from that in which they are applied to Christ. He is the fundamental source of the world’s illumination. They, having kindled their torches at his bright flame, show to the world something of his light.
Bultmann sees the emphasis not in the fact that Jesus is distinguished from other claimants to give light, but from that human certainty that it already has the light, (p. 343). Light is not a natural human possession. It comes only from Christ. And it is not a separable entity that may be possessed in itself. It is not an objective revelation that people may receive and hug to themselves. Jesus is the light. To have the light is to have Jesus. There is no light apart from a right relationship to him.
This is the supreme example of John’s interest in light, which we have seen from the Prologue on (see on 1:4). In the opening verses of the Gospel he associated both life and light with the Logos. Now the whole world draws its light from him, and light and life are again connected. This saying does not mean that all people indiscriminately receive the light. Light does not belong to the human race as such. Only those who follow Jesus are delivered from darkness and enjoy the light; the implication is that the whole world, of itself, is in darkness. We should not overlook the present participle, which implies following Jesus continually. Jesus is speaking of wholehearted discipleship, not of casual adherence (cf. 1:37 and note). The follower of Jesus “will never walk in darkness.” This may refer to the darkness of the world or the darkness of Satan. Perhaps we are not meant to distinguish sharply between them, for believers are delivered from both. Far from being confined to darkness they will have “the light of life.” “The light of the world” does not give only a fleeting glimpse of light; the whole of life is illuminated. “Will have” points to something that continues. The coming of the light means a permanent transformation. For “life” see on 1:4; 3:15. Marsh makes the important point that “light, in a sense, bears witness to itself, though every other object in the world requires light in order to bear witness to itself. Light always illuminates, is never illuminated.” (p. 351). Light is unique.
12 On the basis that the section on the woman caught in adultery (7:53–8:11) is not part of the Johannine corpus, it would appear that the audience to whom Jesus speaks in v. 12 are the Pharisees. (The NIV’s “the people” is an arbitrary interpretation of the Greek autois, “them”; NASB, “to them”.) That the very next verse speaks of the Pharisees supports this connection. In fact, it is interesting that while the crowd (ochlos, GK 4063) is mentioned eight times in ch. 7, the designation does not occur again until 11:42 (NIV, “people”). In ch. 8 Jesus deals exclusively with his Jewish adversaries.
Apparently the Feast of Tabernacles is over and the crowds have returned to their homes. This observation has significance for the context of Jesus’ famous revelatory declaration, “I am the light of the world.” It is customary to point out that during the festival four huge lamps in the court of the women were lit and illuminated the entire temple precincts. It was a time of enthusiastic celebration, with men dancing all night, holding torches and singing (m. Sukkah 5:1–4). The celebration of light reminded the worshipers of Israel’s wilderness journey, when they were led at night by a pillar of fire (Ex 13:21; Ne 9:12). Supposedly it was during this time of celebration that Jesus declared himself to be the “light of the world.” However, if the festival were already past, this particular background would no longer be an option.
So what is the conceptual background of Jesus’ declaration? The OT is rich in its many uses of “light” as a metaphor for spiritual illumination and life. “The Lord is my light and my salvation,” sang the psalmist (Ps 27:1). “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Ps 119:105). The prophet Isaiah promised Israel that in the coming age the Lord himself would be their “everlasting light” (Isa 60:19; cf. Rev 22:5). While in the OT, light and darkness are not portrayed as set over against one another as principles of good and evil (as they are in John), this dualism is prevalent in the Dead Sea Scrolls, in which the Essenes (“the sons of light”) are guided by a good spirit (“the prince of lights”) but opposed by an evil spirit (“the angel of darkness” [1QS 3.20–21]).
In Greek thought, darkness was often associated with ignorance and death, while light symbolized life and happiness. It would appear from the universal recognition of light as a metaphor for what is good (in contrast with darkness, which stands for evil) that Jesus’ claim to be “the light of the world” would not require a specific contextual background in order to be understood. It may well be that something as simple as the rising of the sun as he spoke gave rise to this the second of his great “I am” statements. In any case, Jesus goes on to promise that those who follow him need never “walk in darkness.” As the Israelites were led unerringly throughout the night by the pillar of fire, so also can the NT believer escape the darkness of this evil world by following the person and teachings of Jesus Christ. To follow him means to obey him. Christians need walk no longer in the darkness of sin. The light, which is life in Christ, will guide them to the Promised Land.
“I Am the Light of the World”
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
It is not an accident that the claim of the Lord Jesus Christ to be the light of the world occurs immediately after the story of the woman taken in adultery, the story that introduces the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel.
The story of the woman taken in adultery may not have been in the original text of John’s Gospel, that is, in the first copy of the book as John wrote it. But whether it was there initially or not, few can doubt that the place where it finally was put was well chosen; for it follows well on the failure of an original plan by the rulers of Israel to arrest Jesus, and leads naturally into Christ’s statement about being the light of the world. The story of the woman and her accusers is a greater revelation of the dark nature of sin than anything yet recorded in John’s Gospel, and in it the purity and brightness of Jesus shine through abundantly.
It is appropriate to turn from the story itself to hear the Lord say, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (8:12).
Jesus already has been described as light in John’s Gospel. In the opening chapter John wrote, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (v. 4). He spoke of the light six times in that context. In chapter 3 there is a similar reference. John said, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (v. 19). This verse and those immediately following refer to light five times in reference to Jesus. In each of these cases the image is in John’s words only, however. So we read these verses and, if we have not read further, we find ourselves asking, “But why does John refer to Jesus in this way? Where did he get this image? How did he develop this idea?” It is only when we get to our present text that we discover the answer. John refers to Jesus as the light because Jesus referred to himself as the light. Indeed, John obviously remembered this and so developed the images even further in this Gospel and in 1 John.
Jesus’ claim to be the world’s light is the second of the seven great “I am” sayings that are a unique feature of this book. The others are: “I am the bread of life” (6:35), “I am the gate” (10:7, 9), “I am the good shepherd” (10:11, 14), “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25), “I am the way and the truth and the life” (14:6), and “I am the true vine” (15:1, 5).
The Cloud in the Desert
If we are to understand the full import of what Jesus was claiming when he claimed to be the light of the world, we must understand this verse in terms of that to which Jesus was undoubtedly referring. This is particularly important because it is not what we would most naturally think. We read this verse—“I am the light of the world”—and we think of the sun. Indeed, we are encouraged to do that by uses of this image elsewhere, as in Malachi where the coming Messiah is spoken of as the “sun of righteousness … with healing in its wings.” This is not a bad thing to do. There is even much to be learned from it. But it is not the image Jesus is using in John 8:12.
To understand what Jesus had in mind as he spoke to the people we must remember that these words were spoken shortly after the Feast of Tabernacles in the courtyard of the temple area (v. 20) where the ceremonies that were a part of that feast were conducted.
We already have noted one of these ceremonies. On each morning of the eight-day feast the priests of Israel joined in a procession to the pool of Siloam from which they drew water in golden pitchers. Then, returning to the temple area, they poured this water upon the altar of sacrifice. As they did this the people, many of whom accompanied the priests, sang and chanted. One verse used was Isaiah 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Another was Psalm 114:7–8: “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water.” The use of Psalm 114 shows that the ceremony was conceived primarily as a remembrance of God’s provision of water for the people of Israel during the years of their wilderness wandering, though it also pointed forward to the spiritual water that men would draw from God in the day of God’s future visitation. It was probably at the high point of this ceremony that Jesus broke into the festivities by crying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37–38).
The second ceremony was similar. On the first night of the feast, and probably on succeeding nights also, after the sun had set, two great lamps were lighted in the courts of the temple. These were said to have cast their light over every quarter of the city. The lamps were meant to recall the pillar of cloud and fire that had accompanied the people in their wanderings in the desert. This was the cloud that had appeared on the day when the people left Egypt and had stood between the Israelites and the pursuing armies of the Egyptians the night before the crossing of the Red Sea. It kept the Jewish people from being attacked. Later it guided the people through the wilderness. It also spread out over them to give shade by day and light and warmth by night. I believe that it was in clear reference to the ceremony of lighting the lamps and naturally, therefore, also to the miraculous cloud itself that Jesus referred when he claimed to be this world’s light.
This conclusion is supported by the fact that if it is so, then we have a striking succession of three great wilderness images in chapters 6; 7, and 8 of John’s Gospel. In 6, Jesus is the new manna sent down from heaven. In 7, he is the water miraculously provided from the rock. In 8, he is the cloud. We therefore turn to the cloud itself and to its functions in order to determine the full meaning of this second of the “I am” sayings in John’s Gospel.
Why was the cloud important? The most obvious way in which the cloud was important was that it symbolized God’s presence with the people. This would be obvious from the fact that the cloud gave off light. For in an age that did not know an abundance of artificial light, light would always suggest God’s presence. Besides, the cloud was so huge and so striking that this in itself would suggest a theophany.
We see this in the texts that refer to this unique phenomenon. For instance, the first reference to the cloud in the Old Testament clearly identifies the presence of the Lord with it. “By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night” (Exod. 13:21–22). Other passages tell us that God spoke from the cloud and that he sometimes broke forth from it in judgment upon the sins of the people. In one striking passage the cloud is even addressed as God, for God is said to have raised himself up when the cloud rose and to have descended when the cloud descended. “Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, ‘Rise up, O Lord! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.’ Whenever it came to rest, he said, ‘Return, O LORD, to the countless thousands of Israel’ ” (Num. 10:35–36). At no time in their wandering were the people of Israel able to forget that the presence of God went with them and overshadowed them in all they did.
Apply this now to the claim of the Lord Jesus Christ. Long years before, the cloud of God’s glory had departed from Israel. It once had filled the Holy of Holies of the temple before which Christ was standing. Now the innermost shrine was empty, and even the lamps that commemorated the departed cloud had gone out. In this context and against this background Jesus cried, “I am the light of the world. I am the cloud. I am God with you.” Here was God once again with his people.
Have you found God in Jesus? Is Jesus, God with you? There is no other place in which you may find him. Come to him if you have never done so, and learn to say with John and the believers of all ages: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Second, the cloud was important in that it was the primary means by which God protected the people. Without it the people would have perished many years before they entered Canaan, either from their human enemies like Pharoah and his armies or from the natural dangers of the desert.
We must remember at this point that when the people of Israel left Egypt there were probably about two million of them. The Bible says that there were 600,000 men, but, of course, wives and children need to be added to that number. This vast company of people was being led out into a desert region that, as anyone who has ever been there can tell you, is one of the most inhospitable regions on earth. In the daytime the temperature can easily reach 140 or 150 degrees, and at night it can fall below freezing. To survive in such a region the vast host of Israel needed water and a shelter from the sun. The rock, which Moses was instructed to smite with his rod, provided water. Shelter was provided by the cloud, which spread out over the camp of the people to give them protection. Without this special and miraculous provision the people would have died.
We sing about God’s protection of the people in one of our hymns, a hymn that many who sing it probably do not understand.
Round each habitation hov’ring,
See the cloud and fire appear
For a glory and a cov’ring,
Showing that the Lord is near!
Thus, deriving from their banner
Light by night and shade by day,
Safe they feed upon the manna
Which he gives them when they pray.
In the same way the Lord Jesus Christ is a protector for all who come to him and follow him.
The Moving of the Cloud
Third, the cloud was important because it was the primary means by which God guided the people while they were in the desert. There were few, if any, landmarks in the desert, and the people would not have recognized landmarks even if they had seen them. Besides, the heat of the desert produces mirages, distorts distances, and makes most terrains indistinguishable. How were the people to find their way? How were they to avoid wandering into hostile territory or around in circles? The answer God gave was the cloud. When the cloud moved they were to move; indeed, they had to move, for if they had remained where they were they would soon have died from the heat of the desert by day or from the cold at night. When the cloud remained in one place, they remained.
One long passage in Numbers makes this particularly clear. “Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses” (Num. 9:17–23).
We can easily see how this applies to Christ’s statement. For when he claimed to be the light of the world in clear reference to the cloud of Israel’s wandering, he was claiming not only that he was God with his people, or that he was the one who would protect them, but also that he is the one who gives guidance. Thus, when Jesus moves before us we are to move. When he abides in one place we, too, are to remain there.
Moreover, we are to avoid two errors. The first error is to be overly hasty in following him; that is, to follow so closely upon the moving of the cloud that we mistake its moving and find ourselves going in another direction. If we tend to make this mistake, we must remember that there was to be a clear space between the guiding ark over which the cloud rose and the people—about “two thousand cubits” (three-fifths of a mile)—that there be no mistakes about the road. Alexander Maclaren, who writes on this theme, observes, “It is neither reverent nor wise to be treading on the heels of our Guide in our eager confidence that we know where He wants us to go.”
On the other hand, we are not to be slow either. For, as Maclaren states, we are not to “let the warmth by the camp-fire, or the pleasantness of the shady place where [our] tent is pitched, keep [us] there when the cloud lifts.” The only place of true blessing is under the shadow of God’s presence.
Will You Follow?
To summarize: When the Lord Jesus Christ claimed to be the light of the world he was claiming to be these three things for his people—God with them, the source of protection, and the One who guides. These are great claims. But we must not overlook the fact that they are only for those who follow him. He said, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” To follow Christ is almost synonymous with believing in Christ; for in another, parallel passage Jesus uses the same image in declaring, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (John 12:46). Faith in Christ is following Christ, or at least leads to following Christ. And following Christ is possible only for those who have faith in him.
Do you have faith in Christ? Are you following him? You should; for if you are, you have Christ’s promise that you will no longer be walking in darkness but will possess the light of life. The last phrase is another way of saying that you will possess Christ himself, who thereafter will become all things to you. The Bible says that he is made unto us “righteousness, holiness, and redemption,” and that it is a joy to follow him (1 Cor. 1:30).
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (8:12)
As noted in the previous chapter of this volume, the word again appears to link this passage with 7:37–52, rather than 7:53–8:11, likely not in the original. More important, this is the second of seven “I am” statements in John’s gospel that reveal different facets of Christ’s nature as God and His work as Savior (cf. the discussion of 6:35 in chapter 20 of this volume). John had already used the metaphor of light to describe Jesus (1:4, 8–9; cf. Rev. 21:23), and it was one rich in Old Testament allusions (cf. Ex. 13:21–22; 14:19–20; Neh. 9:12, 19; Pss. 27:1; 36:9; 43:3; 44:3; 104:2; 119:105, 130; Prov. 6:23; Isa. 60:19–20; Ezek. 1:4, 13, 26–28; Mic. 7:8; Hab. 3:3–4; Zech. 14:5b–7).
By claiming to be the Light of the world Jesus was clearly claiming to be God (cf. Ps. 27:1; Isa. 60:19; 1 John 1:5) and to be Israel’s Messiah, sent by God as the “light to the nations” (Isa. 42:6; cf. 49:6; Mal. 4:2).
Jesus Christ alone brings the light of salvation to a sin-cursed world. To the darkness of falsehood He is the light of truth; to the darkness of ignorance He is the light of wisdom; to the darkness of sin He is the light of holiness; to the darkness of sorrow He is the light of joy; and to the darkness of death He is the light of life.
The analogy of light, as with Jesus’ earlier use of the metaphor of living water (7:37–39), was particularly relevant to the Feast of Tabernacles. The daily water-pouring ceremony had its nightly counterpart in a lamp-lighting ceremony. In the very Court of the Women where Jesus was speaking, four huge candelabra were lit, pushing light up into the night sky like a searchlight. So brilliant was their light that one ancient Jewish source declared, “There was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that did not reflect [their] light” (cited in F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983], 206 n. 1). They served as a reminder of the pillar of fire by which God had guided Israel in the wilderness (Ex. 13:21–22). The people—even the most dignified leaders—danced exuberantly around the candelabra through the night, holding blazing torches in their hands and singing songs of praise. It was against the backdrop of that ceremony that Jesus made the stunning announcement that He is the true Light of the world.
But unlike the temporary and stationary candelabra, Jesus is a light that never goes out and a light to be followed. Just as Israel followed the pillar of fire in the wilderness (Ex. 40:36–38), so Jesus called men to follow Him (John 1:43; 10:4, 27; 12:26; 21:19, 22; Matt. 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 10:38; 16:24; 19:21). The one who follows Him, Jesus promised, will not walk in the darkness of sin, the world, and Satan, but will have the Light that produces spiritual life (cf. 1:4; Pss. 27:1; 36:9; Isa. 49:6; Acts 13:47; 2 Cor. 4:4–6; Eph. 5:14; 1 John 1:7). Having been illumined by Jesus, believers reflect His light in the dark world (Matt. 5:14; Eph. 5:8; Phil. 2:15; 1 Thess. 5:5); “They, having kindled their torches at His bright flame, show to the world something of His light” (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979], 438).
Akoloutheō (follows) is sometimes used in a general sense to speak of the crowds who followed Jesus (e.g., 6:2; Matt. 4:25; 8:1; 12:15; Mark 2:15; 3:7; Luke 7:9; 9:11). But it can also refer, more specifically, to following Him as a true disciple (e.g., 1:43; 10:4, 27; 12:26; Matt. 4:20, 22; 9:9; 10:38; 16:24; 19:27; Mark 9:38). In that context, it has the connotation of complete submission to Jesus as Lord. God does not accept a half-hearted following of Christ—of receiving Him as Savior, but not following Him as Lord. The person who comes to Jesus comes to Him on His terms, or he does not come at all—a truth Jesus illustrated in Matthew 8:18–22:
Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 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.”
An even more striking illustration of that principle is found in Jesus’ dialogue with the rich young ruler:
A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother.’ ” And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” (Luke 18:18–27)
In a shocking contradiction of contemporary evangelistic principles, Jesus actually turned away an eager prospect. But the Lord was not interested in making salvation artificially easy for people, but genuine. He wanted their absolute allegiance, obedience, and submission. In Luke 9:23–24 He said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” (For a discussion of the biblical view of the lordship of Christ, see John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, rev. ed. [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994], and The Gospel According to the Apostles [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1993.)
Following Christ is not burdensome, as walking in the light illustrates. It is far easier than stumbling around in the dark (cf. Jer. 13:16).
 Wellum, S. J. (2017). Incarnation and Christology. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1682). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Jn 8:12). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.