Jesus and the Bible

Scriptures: Deut 6:4-9 John 5:30-47


Why is it that only 20% of professing Australian Christians regularly read their Bibles? Clearly, most of the Church does not experience “the word of God (as) living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit…discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.(Heb 4:12 cf. Jer 23:29; Acts 20:32; 1 Thess. 2:13), When Jesus expounded the scriptures after his resurrection his disciples remarked to one another, ““Did not our hearts burn within us…while he opened to us the Scriptures?”” (Luke 24:32)This is something of the power of God speaking through the Bible.

The Chinese government has just banned Bible purchases online, because they rightly grasp it’s a document far more revolutionary than the communist manifesto. The experience of any of us who’ve been on a mission trip to the Third World will testify to the incredible hunger of believers to be taught from the scriptures.

Contrary to well meaning illustrations the Bible is not your maker’s handbook, a manual of morality or God’s “how to” book.

The Bible draws its power solely from its relationship with Jesus. It exists to call, convert and conform us to the life of the one who fulfils all the promises of God through his suffering and glorification.

The scriptures were breathed out by the Spirit of God (2 Tim 3:16) for the sole purpose of imparting to men and women a Jesus-shaped life marked by death to self and rising in the resurrection power (2 Corinthians 4:10; Phil 3:10).

The Bible is attractive, wise, knowledgeable, charming and so on because it communicates these properties of Jesus as Lord. But the Bible itself must not be our focus. When James compares hearing and obeying the word of God to looking at your image in a mirror he had no intention of encouraging us to examine the properties of the mirror (James 1:22-25).

The Bible is of crucial significance to being a servant of God because in an undistorted way it holds up to us the image of Christ.


The Hebrew Bible had 3 main divisions, the Law, Prophets and Psalms. So when Jesus said to his disciples, “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.(Luke 24:44) he testified that the whole Old Testament was written to point to his coming.

The writers of the New Testament also saw their scriptures in this light.

Peter says, vs.10 “the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, vs.11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.(1Pet 1:10- 11).

Jude sees Christ actively at work in the history of Israel, “Now I want to remind you…that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.(Jude 1:5 cf. 1 Cor 10:1-4; Rom 4:23).

That the substance of the entire Bible is its witness to Christ is perfectly clear from his own testimony.


Jesus quotes from 24 books of our Old Testament, and always in a way that indicates he was submissive to its authority.

When tempted in the wilderness by Satan he always replies by quoting scripture with the preface “it is written”, meaning it must be obeyed (Matt 4:4, 7, 10).

Christ was devoted to the scriptures not because they were a source of information about his future but because they revealed and empowered the shape of his life-identity as Son of God.

Therefore in launching his public ministry he read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and said, ““Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”(Luke 4:21).

When his Jewish opponents moved to stone him to death his chief defence was, “Scripture cannot be broken(John 10:35).

On the eve of betrayal and death he strengthened his disciples with the words, “I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’(Luke 22:37; ­cf. John 13:18; 17:12).

It was impossible for the scripture to fail in its witness to the Messiah’s identity. How deeply the fulfilment of scripture is internalised in Jesus’ life is expressed in his dialogue with his enemies in John 5: 30-47.

As the living Truth of God (John 1:14, 17; 14:6; 1 John 5:20) the life of Christ is encompassed in a cloud of witnesses which he lists on his behalf; he “himself” witnesses (5:31; cf. 8:13–14, 18, 54; 18:21), as does John the Baptist (5:33-35), the Father and his works (5:31, 36), the voice and form of the Father (5:37), he says “the scriptures… bear witness about me(5:39), Moses’ writings are about him (5:45-47).

By resisting these weighty witnesses the Jews brought about their fulfilment; as Jesus said, “the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’(John 15:25).

The unlimited sufficiency of the scriptures to bear witness to the shape of his life was pronounced by the resurrected Jesus to his unbelieving disciples, “ “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And…he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself….(Luke 24:25-27, 44).

The story line of divine promise, faithful suffering and glorious fulfilment shapes the Bible, Jesus own life and God’s kingly rule on earth.  The Bible has power and authority because it reveals this order of death and resurrection as the true way of God.

This is why the prophetic ability of the Bible to speak God’s Word to us is most concentrated in its witness to the cross. The Old Testament as a mouth piece of God is perfected in its intimacy with Jesus’ own words when the bearing of the burden of our sin (Rom 8:3; 2 Cor 5:21) Jesus speaks out Psalm 22:1.“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Mark 15:34).

It is when life’s circumstances appear to threaten the fulfilment of God’s promise to save the world that there is a perfect unity between the written words of scripture, the eternal Word made flesh in Christ, and the lost state of fallen humanity (Heb 2:10; 5:8).

This is a perfection which will be completed for us in the resurrection and glorification of Jesus and made manifest in the gospel witness of the New Testament (cf. Heb 11:40). To suggest that there’s any deformity in the Bible implies imperfection in the life of Christ.

Our problem with the Bible isn’t that its outdated or complex, its that it calls for our obedience to Christ in the gospel (Rom 10:16; 2 Thess 1:8 cf. Mark 14:36; Phil 2:8; Heb 5:8-9). It is far easier for us to search for and listen to witnesses other than Jesus (2 Tim 4:3-5).


Sin always seeks false witness to justify itself. In his dialogue with his religious opponents in John 5 Christ said, “you do not have…(the Father’s)…word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent(John 5:38 cf. v.43).

Then said, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?(John 5:44).

Human beings prefer the witness of other sinful human beings because their testimony is always more in conformity to our pride than the message of God’s death and resurrection in Jesus.

The Bible is avoided today because being intimate with Jesus involves strength through suffering (2 Cor 12:10).

The proper use of scripture is made clear through Jesus own words.


“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples… If you abide in me, and my words abide in you…. you will abide in my love’(John 8:31; 15:7, 10).

This abiding is much greater than an individualistic thing; as we heard last week about what it means to belong to the people of God; “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…(Col 3:16).

We abide in Christ and become more intensely united to him as we receive his Word into our hearts by faith (Eph 3:17).

The truth of the Bible supernaturally shines through our lives as Christ lives out his life through us (Rev 1:1-2 cf. v.9). The naturally supernatural state of Christians is to be powerfully bonded to the scriptures because we are called to conform to that of which they so clearly, Jesus!

Where then is the great challenge?

When we look at the life of Christ all becomes clear.

Only in becoming the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14), only in becoming weak and subject to temptation like us (Heb 4:15), did Jesus need the Word of God written to become “complete, equipped for every good work(2 Tim 3:17)

Christians receive revelation from the Bible and are empowered by it to do God’s will only as in ignorance, weakness we struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil and seek the triumphant life of Christ. Receiving the victorious humanity of the Son of God is what moved all the authors of the Bible to speak as witnesses and it is what will move us too (cf. 2 Pet 1:21).

This is the essential mystery and stumbling block of what we Christians call our holy scriptures (Rom 1:2). Unlike Jews for whom the notion of a suffering Word is a scandal, unlike Muslims who believe the Koran is eternal with Allah, unlike Mormons who believe their book was written on golden plates, the power of the testimony of the Bible to convert men and women is directly related to the weakness and suffering humanity of God’s own Son and his servants. 


The Bible has a central place in the life of the Church because it is the primary medium through which the Spirit communicates the heart, soul, mind and strength of Jesus.

The falling away from reading and obeying scripture is a tragedy because it means a falling away from conformity to the life of Christ.

This sets up a vicious cycle.

The neglect of scripture is a serious sign that we have become confused over Christ’s identity and the more we leave off reading and hearing the Lord through the Bible the deeper this confusion becomes. In the book of Amos God threatens to send a terrible judgement on the land, “a famine…of the hearing of the words of the LORD(Amos 8:11).

This possibility, which is presently an actuality in Australia, should strike our hearts with godly fear.

But it is a fear with a remedy in Christ himself.

Since Jesus bore the terror of not being able to hear God speak to him on the cross (Mark 15:34) but was then raised from the dead by his Father we know God wants to speak to us and will do so again and again through the Bible; as we come to him with our struggles, temptations, tribulation, distress and persecution (Rom 8:35 cf. Rev).

If we see the Bible in this way, as the indispensible means to share in the life of Jesus, we will not fail to abide in Christ and in so abiding hear him speaking again and again effectively equipping us to serve him in this world(2 Tim 3:16)..



Theme Old Testament New Testament
ELECTION Gen 12:1- 2 Eph 1:4
Deut 7:7 -8 1 Peter 1:20
COVENANT Gen 15:17 Matt 26:26- 28
Ex 19:5 -6 Heb 12:24; 13:20
2 Sam 7:14  
Isa 42:6  
Isa 49:8  
Jer 31:31 -34  
DESCENDANTS Gen 12:2 Matt 1:1
Gen 13:16 Acts 3:25 -26
Gen 15:5 Gal 3:16
Gen 16:10 Heb 2:10
Gen 18:18 Rev 5:9 -10
LAND Gen 12:7 Heb 11:16
Gen 13:14 – 15 Rev 21:1- 5
Gen 15:18- 21  
Gen 17: 8 Luke 9:31
EXODUS Ex 12:1 – 15:27 1 Cor 5:7
Ps 78:1-72 Col 1:13
Isa 40:3- 4  
Jer 16:14- 15  
ISRAEL/SONSHIP Ex 4:22 -23 Matt 2:15
Isa 43:6 Mark 1:1
Hos 11:1 John 1:18
  Luke 3:22 -38
LAW Ex 20:1-26 Matt 5:17 -18
Lev Rom 10:4
Deut 5:1-33  
Ps 1:1-6  
Ps 19:1-14  
SABBATH Gen 2:2 Mk 2:28
Ex 20:8 -11 Rev 1:10
Deut 5:12 -15  
TEMPLE Ex 25:1 – 31:38 John 1:14
1 Ki 5:1 – 8:66 John 2:19 -21
SACRIFICE Gen 4:2- 4 John 1:29
Ex 12:1-51; Ex 29:1 -30:38 Rom 8:3
Lev 16:1-34 1 Cor 5:7
1 Sam 5:22 Heb 9:1 – 10:39
Ps 50:5 Rev 5:6- 10
PROPHET Gen 20:7 Luke 4:16 -21, 24
Deut 18:15 – 19 Luke 13:33
Amos 3:7 John 4:19
Amos 7:14 -15 Acts 3:22 -23
PRIEST Lev 1:7- 17 Mark 10:45
Lev 13:1 – 14:57 John 10:11
Num 1:47 -54 Rom 8:34
  Heb 2:17
  Heb 3:1
  Heb 4:14 – 15
  Heb 7:1-28
KING 1 Sam 8:4- 18 John 1:49
2 Sam 7:14 -16 Mark 15:32
Ps 89:1-52; 132:1-18 Acts 2:29- 33
Isa 9:6 -7 Acts 13:23, 32 -34
Ezek 34:20 – 24 1 Cor 15:24 -28
  Rev 19:16
KINGDOM OF GOD Ps 22:28 Mark 1:15
Ps 24:1-10 Acts 14:22
Dan 2:44 Acts 28:31
Dan 4:3 Rom 14:17
Dan 7:13 – 14 Col 1:13
SON OF DAVID 2 Sam 7:14 Matt 1:17 -20
  Matt 20:29 -31
  Luke 1:30 -33
  Rom 1:3
SON OF MAN Ezek 2:1 Mark 7:38
Dan 7:13- 14 Mark 8:31
  Mark 13:26 -27
  Mark 14:62
  Acts 7:56
ANOINTED ONE (MESSIAH) Ps 2:2 Matt 16:16
Isa 61:1 Mark 1:1
Dan 9:26 -27 Acts 10:38
SHEPHERD Ps 23:1 John 10:11
Isa 40:11 1 Pet 2:25
Ezek 34:23 1 Pet 5:4
  Heb 13:20
WISDOM 1 Ki 3:6- 9 Luke 2:46- 52
1 Ki 4:20 – 34 Luke 11:31
Isa 9:6; 11:2 1 Cor 1:20 – 2:16
  Col 2:2- 3
KNOWLEDGE Prov 1:7 1 Cor 2:16
Isa 11:2 Col 2:2- 3
CAPTIVITY/EXILE Gen 15:13 John 1:14
Jer 1:15 -16 Rom 8:3
Jer 20:4 -6 2 Cor 8:9
Micah 4:10  
RESTORATION Isa 1:26 Matt 19:28
Isa 49:6 Acts 3:21
Jer 30:18  
Ezek 36:35  
Amos 9:14

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 8th April, 2018 | Alive@5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: This is a single sermon which is recorded in two parts because of a slight technical problem.

8th April. 2018 part 1 |     

8th April. 2018 part 2 |     

Related Link: Nil


Scripture Reading: Num 13:25-14:4, Ps 78:9-22, Heb 3:12-4:2 & Mark 6:1-6



In the Gospels, Jesus is said to be amazed only twice; at the great faith of a Roman centurion who believed he could heal his sick servant at a distance and at the unbelief in his hometown synagogue of Nazareth (Matt 8:10, Mark 6:6).

Given this reversal of natural expectations we shouldn’t be surprised that mass conversions are taking place amongst religious groups long opposed to the gospel e.g. Muslims, Hindus, but almost nowhere in the established churches of the Western world.

Familiarity with the Jesus message usually seems to breed unbelief.

Whilst doubt is a state of mind where a person with a divided heart (Ps 86:11) wants to believe but struggles to trust God (cf. Mark 9:24), unbelief is stubborn resistance to believing.  Unbelief is a conviction that God won’t keep his word.

The magnitude of the unbelief that confronted Jesus in Nazareth is extraordinary. This was the town where he grew up, played as a child, walked the streets, attended weddings, worshipped with the community and built some of their houses and furniture. If “familiarity breeds contempt” how have we become immunised against the profound reality of Jesus in our midst (cf. Rev 3:14 ff.)?


1. A lack of expectation that the Lord will speak to us through scripture and in prayer; this is reflected in the huge decline in these devotions across the Australian Church.

2.  A lack of expectation that the Lord can convert anyone, even people close to us; this is reflected in the malaise of evangelism in the Anglican Church.

3. Low anticipation that the Lord will dramatically change our own lives when we come to church; hence the irregular attendance patterns across all brands of Christianity.

Unbelief is a powerful problem amongst us that urgently needs to be addressed.   Inexplicable


Our story in Mark 6 follows on a list of healings performed by Jesus so by the time he arrives in Nazareth everyone knew his teaching was extraordinary and his miracles astounding; “many who heard him were astonished, saying,Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?(Mark 6:2). Then follows a turn of events that illustrate the baffling evil of the human heart.  The conversation rapidly descends from what the Nazarene’s don’t understand to what they clearly comprehend; “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?And they took offense at him.(Mark 6:3).

Jesus is just too ordinary; we know this guy’s occupation, his mum, his brothers and sisters are with us; the tone turns dismissive, contemptuous and hostile.

Jesus’ status as an itinerant preacher and miracle worker doesn’t fit in with the man they are familiar with, so they exclude him from their village fellowship and worship. (In Luke’s version of this story they even try to kill him (Luke 4:28-30).)

These harsh judges of Jesus were decent religious people who lived good lives, worked hard and took care of their families. But when it came to Jesus they were “know alls” closed to heavenly revelation about the identity of their fellow Nazarene. Familiarity had bred a dreadful contempt for the Saviour of the world.

These Nazarene’s were country folk who couldn’t imagine someone with the status of a prophet could be raised up by God from amongst them and manifest himself in such ordinary circumstances. Perhaps they knew the opinion of the famous teachers of the day quoted in John, “Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”” (7:52). They were scandalised by Jesus’ apparently everyday appearance and origins. This is the offense that will come to its completion at the cross (1 Cor 1:23).

In the progressive rejection of Jesus in Nazareth we are witnessing, to quote Hebrews, a “hardening of the heart by the deceitfulness of sin(3:13). The harshness of their verdict upon the blameless Son of God was the consummation of a long history of rebellious Israel refusing to believe in the word of the Lord (Num 13:25-14:4; Ps 78:9-22; Ps 95:8; Heb 3:8, 12, 15, 19; Heb 4:7)

Like their fellow Jews under Roman rule they were desperately seeking a Messianic deliverer, but when he was sent in the form of their own lowly flesh and blood they couldn’t conceive Jesus was this Saviour (John 1:11).

In the synagogue of Nazareth, and finally on the cross, the Jews could not believe that this ordinary looking man was “the Lord of glory(Mark 15:32; 1 Cor 2:8). Their hearts were closed against the Word of God (Acts 28:27). Now Jesus has something to say, and what he says should strike fear into the hearts of all easy going believers.

“A prophet is not without honour, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”(6:4). Hometown, relatives, family –  all those naturally close to Jesus dishonour him. In refusing to accept Jesus’ status as a prophet God’s covenant community in Nazareth showed itself ashamed of her Lord (cf. Mark 12:4).

Therefore upon this proud, prejudiced, disrespectful congregation fell this Old Testament warning, “those who honour me I will honour, and those who despise me shall be despised(1 Sam 2:30 cf. Mal 1:6). Because they dishonoured Jesus “he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.(Mark 6:5)

Surely these orthodox Jewish worshippers who knew Jesus in the flesh had a heart of unbelief deeper than that of Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus; if the mighty works of God progressively hardened his heart (Ex 7:13, 14 etc.); any dazzling display of the supernatural by Jesus in Nazareth would have aggravated the crowd’s stubbornness and intensified their guilt.

If the scarcity of the God’s mighty acts of power in Nazareth 2000 years ago was an act divine judgement it must be the same amongst the churches of Perth today. But there are exceptions. I can think of three groups who are seeing the mighty hand of God in Australia today; outback Indigenous communities, Iranian refugees and drug addicts.

Like the revival that broke out through Jesus’ conversation with an immoral woman amongst the despised Samaritans (John 4), none of these folk take up a lofty place and look down on the lowly country carpenter from a tiny town crucified in weakness on a cruel cross (cf. John 1:46).

The simple trust of these broken communities means they are honoured by the Father with wonderful works of power (cf. 2 Cor 10:5). Coming to the end of our story in Nazareth we are confronted with a provocative testimony to Jesus’ personal state of mind.

And he marvelled because of their unbelief.(Mark 6:6). Jesus was astonished, shocked, and stunned that his own people would reject his witness. If only they had the humble faith to see Jesus as the almighty Lord-in-flesh they could have been saved. But their image of God didn’t fit with the true image of God who stood before them (Col 1:15).

Nothing has changed.

Most Australians are apathetic about God, which means they think that God, if he exists, is apathetic about them. Where people exhibit a spiritual hardness it’s because deep down they believe that God’s heart towards them is hard (Matt 25:24-25). Can we conceive that Jesus is astonished at our unbelief? Or are our hearts so hardened to the tender reality of the humanity of the Son of God as to deny this could be?

Can we hear Jesus saying to us, as he did to his disciples who because of their unbelief could not heal a sick boy, ““O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?””.

The story goes on to record the plea of the boy’s father whose faith had been shattered by the powerless of the disciples, ““I believe””, he cried out to Jesus; “help my unbelief!”(Mark 9:19, 24).

Why are we not hearing such a desperate cry across the churches in our city today?  

Are we are too Anglican to call out to Jesus like this, too proper, too self-controlled, too deaf to the one who cried out so loudly for us on the cross (Mark 15:34). Too unbelieving to think our cries will make any real difference!


Who are the people most likely to deny their unbelief….the most unbelieving.

In praying about this incredibly stubborn spiritual problem, from which we all suffer, I have come up with an “index of unbelief”.

If unbelief expresses itself in the dishonouring of Jesus then signs of unbelief are present in every action where we appear ashamed of the Lord.

Our unbelief manifests itself whenever we hold back from helping people hear about, meet and grow to be like Jesus.

These outward signs are pretty obvious, but our Bible readings for today point to an even more profound level of unbelief, one residing in the deepest interior of the human heart, the place where both belief and unbelief originate (Rom 10:9; Heb 3:12).

The most profound sign of unbelief, one which I encounter again and again in ministry to people from across the Body of Christ, is an inability to enter the rest of God (Heb 3:12-4:2).

God’s rest not some passive state whereby we wait for a mysterious outpouring of the Spirit.

It is the opposite of a spiritual activism which seeks to make things happen (something from which I suffered terribly as a young preacher). The true rest of God in Christ is entered by faith and is an unforced expectation/assurance that God is going to act in the presence and power of his kingdom to reveal the honour of his Son amongst us (cf. Heb 11:1).


If those in Jesus’ home town who knew him in the flesh couldn’t see God in him, and if his first disciples could not believe that God would have his Son crucified in order to raise from the dead, what hope is there for us in our unbelief (Luke 24:25-26)?

Unbelief is a power, a power so deep and invasive that only God’s mercy in Christ can overcome it.

It’s not hard for us to believe that God works miracles in other times and places and through other people; but we have little to no expectation he can do these things here and now through us.

We can believe that “someone else somewhere else” can evangelise, pray for the sick and see them recover, cast out demons in Jesus’ name, intercede with great authority, sacrificially give of finance, time etc. (James 5:16; cf. “Mark 16:17-18”) but we can’t see ourselves doing these things.

The way forward out of such a spiritually stuck condition does NOT involve a focus on our own locality and wretched state of unbelief (Rom 7:24). Such self-initiated self-examination is never helpful. 

The healing that our hardened hearts need can only come from heaven, we must ask our Father to send us his Spirit to stir us up to plead for the honouring of the name of Jesus (Luke 11:13; John 16:14).

As there are signs of unbelief and divine judgement, so there are signs of the favour of God upon a people.

Any congregation which makes it their first priority, however great the cost, to uplift and honour the name of Jesus will see mighty acts of power so that many lost and broken men and women come to marvel at the revelation of Almighty God made flesh (Heb 2:9). 

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 15th. April, 2018 @ St Marks

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 15th. April, 2018 |   

Related Link: Nil