Point of Reference
by Fred Price
Repetition is routinely used to teach facts or reinforce ideas; whether in the classroom, on a ball field, at home or in church. In fact, Jesus is shown, exclusively in John’s Gospel, emphasizing certain principles with the preceding phrase, “Verily, verily, I say unto you...” (KJ), “Truly, truly...” (in the NASB) or “I tell you the truth...” (in the NIV)
And while I believe, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching...” 2 Timothy 3:16; I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t some particular importance to the teachings Christ predicated with, “Verily, verily...” John recording this phrase 24times in a gospel focusing largely on the “theology” of Christ’s teachings. Personally, I wonder if these references were picked up on by John during the many times scripture depicts Jesus and his disciples off by themselves; praying, discussing, being taught in depth what the masses had just heard more casually. ( Mark 4:10,11) Jesus encouraging them to focus and pay attention with something like, ‘Ok guys, listen up; this is important! Verily, verily, I tell you the truth.’
Typically, the first “Verily, verily” found in John deals with salvation. “Verily, verily, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born again (or) of water and the Spirit.” John 3:3& 5 In discussing this principle with Nicodemus, Jesus then lamented that, “I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.” John 3:11 Explaining
further that, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
While recruiting his disciples, Jesus exhibited some of the other-worldly aspects of his existence and purpose. Nathanael, having been told by Philip of his discovery of the, “...one Moses (and the Prophets) wrote about in the law,...” and then introduced to Jesus, was awe-struck by His apparent “prophetic” vision. Causing Jesus to exclaim, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that. Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:43-51
Later, as a consequence of a number of miracles and the bold statements that accompanied them, the authorities began discussing how to do away with Jesus, because they believed He was breaking the Sabbath – and worse yet – claiming to be God’s son. (“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”) In answer to their challenge of his, “...making himself equal with God.”, he further asserted that, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself, he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because what the Father does the Son does also.” (Even to the raising of the dead and judging the heart’s intent. John 5:27) So much so that, “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned... (For) Truly, truly, I say unto you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and...live.” John 5:16-25
As a result of his mastery over his accusers, crowds of followers began almost chasing him about the countryside; many for personal, sometimes selfish reasons, others out of curiosity and some in genuine belief. He bluntly told them, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs (and truly believe) but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” In trying to correct that mind-set, Jesus admonished them to, “...not work (or strive solely) for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life,...” In other words, stop demanding an explanation of the unexplainable and quit expecting the “world” to supply all your needs; look to heaven for true sustenance and salvation. “...which the Son of Man will give you.” But what “work” is practical and of value to our souls? “...believe in the one (God) has sent.” And in believing, “obey.” John 6:25-29 (See also John 14:15 & 15:10)
Still they persisted in demanding that the sustenance they craved for their lives be delivered on their terms. His response? “Verily, verily, I say unto you,... the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven (as did the manna in Moses’ time) and gives life to the world.” Their immediate reply being, “...from now on give us this bread.” To which he declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:30-35 Which only caused them to grumble more. Jesus reiterating that, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,... (For) Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. (As) No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God... Truly, truly, I say unto you, he who believes in me (and partakes of the essence of my being) has everlasting life.” And again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:41-53
The “deeper”, spiritual point (verse 63) being that Jesus’ words are not merely to be sampled and tested for compatibility; they are to be consumed, made a part of our very substance – dictating who we are and what we do. Because, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.” John 6:54-57
Even Jesus’ disciples had a hard time with some of these allegorical teachings. ( John 6:60) However, the “experts” of the Law who hounded him across the country-side, trying to involve him in controversy enough to brand him a rebel and a threat to the nation, should have known better. Their own scripture – our Old Testament – uses this same type of descriptive language in reference to God and his word numerous times. (For example Psalm 34:8 “Taste, and see that the Lord is good;...” Is. 55:1-3 “Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,...” Ezekiel 3:1-3, “...eat this scroll, then go speak to the house of Israel.”)
Peter, and others, continuing this pattern in the New Testament when exhorting us to, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:2,3 (See also Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:1,2 & Hebrews 5:12-14) Jesus assuring all believers throughout all time that, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6
Check back next week for more on the Verily, verily’s of John’s gospel.
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Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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