Please Tell Us, Is Jesus The Messiah?

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John 10:22 – 30

22 It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. 23 He was in the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. 26 But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

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There are twenty one chapters in the Gospel of John.  Our study today is in the middle of chapter ten.  By the law of averages, you might think that we are about half way done telling the story of the life and ministry of Jesus.  But that is not true.  Jesus was about 30 years old when he began his public ministry.  It lasted about 3 1/2  years long.  This festival that Jesus attended would have been about four months before he died.

We will see when we get to the start of chapter 12, that the majority of the second half of this book deals with the final week of Jesus’ life.  Those last ten chapters cover the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, his arrest, trial and crucifixion, his burial and resurrection and his final appearances to the disciples.  Suddenly, a lot happened in a very short time.

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But notice what the people are saying to Jesus in verse 24 of our passage above.  For three years Jesus had gained quite a reputation with all of the miracles he had performed and the incredible teaching and preaching tours he had gone on throughout the provinces of Galilee, Samaria and Judea, and on the far side of the Jordan River.

You would wonder how the people could have asked this question, “If you are the Messiah, then tell us plainly.”  It is kind of like many people today I think that ask the question, “Is there really a God?”  One of my answers is, “Open your eyes and take a look all around you.  The vast beauty of the created Universe, the odds of life happening at all here on earth, and the intricate design of the human body calls out to me that there must be a Grand Designer behind it all.

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Listen then to how Jesus replied to their question: “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name.”  Now you may be thinking similarly to these Jewish people long ago, “What is this proof you are talking about?”  I believe that if we have been listening well to all that has happened and all that Jesus taught in the first ten chapters of John, we would know the answer.

In one of my commentary helps on John, called “The Translators Handbook,” it has this excellent summary that I would like to quote.  It says:

The Festival of Dedication is the last in the series of four important Jewish holy days mentioned in John’s Gospel, beginning in Chapter 5 (the Sabbath, Passover, Shelters, and Dedication). By healing the lame man on the Sabbath day, Jesus indicated his superiority over the Sabbath; by the teaching given in connection with the healing (5.17), he identified himself and his activity with God and with God’s work.

During the Passover Festival Jesus fed the multitude and so revealed that he was the life-giving bread that God had sent down from heaven. And at the Festival of Shelters, Jesus revealed himself as the life-giving water and the light for the world, thus fulfilling the meaning of the water and light ceremonies connected with that festival.

Now, at the Festival of Dedication, Jesus affirms that he is the one whom God has dedicated and sent into the world.

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To those who are really paying attention and are spiritually searching for the Truth, they will find it.  And they will recognize Jesus for who He really is.  And He in turn will recognize them as His people.  This leads us to one very ticklish doctrine that can trip up many people.  In verses 28–29, Jesus states that these people who do believe in Him cannot be snatched out of His hands, nor out of the Father’s hands.

This has led to a doctrinal idea of “eternal salvation”, the idea of “once saved, always saved”.  I really do not want to discuss this doctrinal idea as it has caused more arguments among Christians than it ever ought to have.  I do have one comment that may be helpful, which is based on the text as we have it.

We cannot comment on the will and action of the person who has put his life into the hands of Jesus and the Father, such as, will he/she remain faithful to God or not.  What this passage does say, is that there is no power greater than God Himself which can pull a devoted follower away from God.  My prayer is that all people might come to realize that Jesus is in fact the promised Messiah, and remain in that state of belief.  The promise is that no external force or person can steal that relationship with God away from the believer.  Praise God for that.

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Where Does Jesus Come From?

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John 9:24 – 34

24 The leaders called the man back and said, “Swear by God to tell the truth! We know that Jesus is a sinner.” 25 The man replied, “I don’t know if he is a sinner or not. All I know is that I used to be blind, but now I can see!”

26 “What did he do to you?” the Jewish leaders asked. “How did he heal your eyes?” 27 The man answered, “I have already told you once, and you refused to listen. Why do you want me to tell you again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 The leaders insulted the man and said, “You are his follower! We are followers of Moses. 29 We are sure that God spoke to Moses, but we don’t even know where Jesus comes from.”

30 “How strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where he comes from. 31 We know that God listens only to people who love and obey him. God doesn’t listen to sinners. 32 And this is the first time in history that anyone has ever given sight to someone born blind. 33 Jesus could not do anything unless he came from God.”

34 The leaders told the man, “You have been a sinner since the day you were born! Do you think you can teach us anything?” Then they said, “You can never come back into any of our meeting places!”

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This passage is the third segment of this story about when Jesus healed the man who had been blind since birth.  It is easy to see that this seriously rattled the religious leaders, the Pharisees.  It was their job to not only teach the Laws of God, as they were handed down by Moses.  But it was also their responsibility to guard the people from false teachings which could draw them away from God.

Thus, there was nothing wrong for them to start out by saying, “Swear by God to tell the truth!”  Now this is not the same as cursing or using profanity.  Rather, just as it was with legal cases, a witness was to testify under oath by the highest authority, namely God Himself, that his testimony that he would give was in fact the truth.

No, the problem here is that the Pharisees had already made a decision in their minds about Jesus, and they tried to force the man to agree with their assessment.  The leaders, who were so upset about Jesus breaking their religious ritual of not working on the Sabbath Day, made the conclusion that such a man must be a sinner, guilty of breaking a law of God.

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The man who had been healed though would not give in to this religious prejudice.  Instead, he simply stated what were obvious facts.  Before, he had been blind.  After Jesus touched him, then he could see.  And based on all the religious knowledge he had, the only possible conclusion for him is that Jesus had to have come from God.  That is, Jesus had to have the blessing of God and the authority of God to perform such a miracle.

You know, this story is filled with such irony.  The one who was blind could now see clearly that Jesus was a man of God.  And he challenged these leaders who should have been able to see, but were blind to the truth that was right in front of them.  There was a simple man teaching those who were thought of as the “Teachers” of their society the truth about where Jesus came from.

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As amazing as this story is, with all of its irony, I believe we still have people today who are very much in the dark when it comes to understanding who Jesus really is.  There are many people today that say that Jesus was a good man, and he was a very good teacher.  They consider all the good things Jesus did, and the ethical teachings he taught, but they cannot go further to say that He is “from God”.  Or more importantly, that He is God, the second member of the Trinity.

And yet, if we really look closely at all that Jesus said and did, I believe we cannot hold on to the claim that He was “just a good man, and good teacher”.  In the gospel accounts, Jesus claimed more than once that He would rise from the dead after being crucified on the cross.  (See Mark 8:31; 9:31 and 10:34)  He also made claims of being the Promised Messiah, and that in fact He is God.  (Read carefully John 4:25-26; 5:17-18; and 8:53-59)

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Now if you and I were in a courtroom and heard all the testimony which Jesus gave concerning himself, then we would have to agree with some Christian authors who have said that there are only three choices available to us.  Either Jesus was a lunatic, to believe such grand egocentric ideas that he could rise from the dead and call himself God.  Or he was a liar, who has deceived millions of people over the past two millennium.

Or we have to accept him as Lord, the One who truly has the power to overcome death and is in fact God who has come to live among us.  What we cannot believe is that Jesus was simply a “good man”.  For his claims have to be false, making Him a very bad man.  Or they are true, which makes Him God.  The Pharisees could not see this and accept this.  But the man who once was blind, was now coming to see the truth concerning Jesus and where He came from.  How about you?

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Jesus Can Do Much With Little

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John 6:1 – 13

6 1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

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This event occurred just after the half way point of Jesus’ ministry.  Previously, we saw Jesus was getting into more and more trouble with the Jewish authorities.  But many of the people were still amazed at the miracles He performed and followed after Him to hear Him teach.  This was the height of Jesus’ popularity with the crowds.

Jesus and His disciples had been actively ministering to people and then went across the Sea of Galilee to get a short reprieve.  But the crowds find out where He is going and hurry around the lake to meet them on the other side.

Considering how tired Jesus and the disciples must have been, it is quite amazing that Jesus immediately began to heal the sick and to teach the crowds again about the Kingdom of God.  Once more, Jesus modelled for us true servanthood by giving of Himself, even when He sought out some peace and quiet.  The needs of people always came first for Jesus.

    

As we see the story unfold, the day is nearly over and the people are still there seeking to be blessed by Jesus.  After giving so much of Himself, He decided that He needed to help feed them an evening meal too and miraculously multiplied a small boy’s meal to feed the thousands.  It’s a wonderful story about Jesus’ compassion for the people, and His divine power to multiply the food, but I believe there is much more we can take away from this story.

One of the things that captures my attention is that this is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus.  We know that Jesus performed many miracles in His 3 ½ years of ministry.  John only recounts a few of them in his book, and usually for an important theological reason.  So why would John pick this one, and what makes it so important that it is found in all four Gospels?

    

There are three things that I think are worth mentioning that we can learn important truths from.  First of all, as John tells us here, this event took place near the time that was the special celebration of the Passover.  Why would he point that out?  Well, at the very next Passover, Jesus would offer up His life on the cross, and by that means, offer spiritual life to all who would believe in Him.

Jesus then is to be seen as the Source of Life.  In just a few more verses (starting at verse 25) Jesus will teach one of His greatest lessons, that He is the “Bread of Life”.  By multiplying the bread for the people here, Jesus showed that He can grant sustenance for our physical bodies.  But very quickly, we will learn that He is the One who grants us sustenance for our spiritual lives.

    

The second lesson I see is that Jesus begins to show us that He wants to work through His disciples to minister to the world.  First Jesus challenges His disciples to see how they might find the solution to feed the crowds.  Then, as we read all the accounts of this miracle, we see that Jesus broke the bread and gave it to the disciples, and then they gave the pieces to the people.  Beginning then, and up until now, Jesus wants to work through His people, namely you and me, to bless the world.

And finally, what should be obvious, is that Jesus can do much with little.  The boy’s lunch was so small for such a large crowd.  But it was offered in faith, and Jesus turned it around to make it into a feast for all.  By extension, what do you have, even if you consider it to be to small, to offer to Jesus.  Scripture tells us to offer God our time (moments of each day), our talents (the natural gifts He gave to us), and our treasure (our financial resources) to Him.  He will bless and multiply what we give Him and use it to bless others.  Amen?  Amen!!!

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Christian Compassion vs. Religious Criticism

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John 5:1 – 15

5  1Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals.  2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.  3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 

6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” 8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 

9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” 11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” 12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

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In this story which records for us how Jesus heals a man who had been an invalid for 38 years, we get our first glimpse in John’s Gospel of the tension between Him and the Jewish authorities which ultimately led to His crucifixion.  In this event, we see the compassion that Jesus has for those who suffer.  On the other hand, we see the Jewish leaders lack of concern for the sufferer who had been healed as they criticize Jesus for breaking their religious rules and regulations.

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To more fully understand this story, let me first unpack some of the cultural and religious aspects that are going on here.  The story opens with Jesus leaving the province of Galilee and going up to Jerusalem.  (The city of Jerusalem is situated on the top of a mountain ridge, so almost all biblical writers talk about going “up” to get to Jerusalem.  There were three major Jewish festivals that occurred in a year that caused many thousands of Jews to come to Jerusalem in order to celebrate and worship God.)

We don’t know for sure which festival this was here in chapter five, but in any case, we see Jesus coming to attend, partly I think to fulfill the requirement to come to Jerusalem for this festival, but also I’m sure to continue doing God’s Kingdom work among His people.  What we do know from this text is that many sick and disease stricken people were also there lying beside a pool of water which was near one of the large entry gates into Jerusalem.

(The footnote in some versions, which is considered to be verse four, states that when the water was stirred up for some reason, the people believed that an angel had come down and was causing this and that by going into the water, a person could be healed.)

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So when Jesus entered the city, even though He would have been surrounded by thousands of people, His attention was immediately drawn toward this man who had been paralyzed for so many years.  Jesus went over to him and then asked him, “Do you want to be well?”  Now that might seem like a dumb question to ask a paralyzed man, but really, I think that Jesus was basically asking the man if he wanted Jesus to help him to be healed.

The man misunderstood Jesus, thinking He was offering to help him get down into the water once the water would begin to stir.  But Jesus was going to bypass the use of an intermediary agent and by His own authority He healed the man.  He then basically asked the man to trust His word by standing up (something he hadn’t done by himself in 38 years), picking up his mat and walking away with it.  When compassion and Divine Will come together, amazing and miraculous things happen.

But then religious ritualism reared its ugly head.  When the Jewish leaders saw the man carrying his mat on the Sabbath (the day set apart to only worship God), they accused him of doing work on the Sabbath, which they proclaimed to be forbidden by God in their laws.  (In reality, this was their narrow human interpretation regarding this law which we know to be part of God’s “Ten Commandments”.

The problem is that the Jewish leaders were so zealous to observe religious rituals that they could not see the hand of God working in this man’s life.  They thought that “proper” human behaviour took precedence over the needs of the human soul which needed deliverance from the curse and bondage of extreme physical sickness and disease.

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We must all remember that God’s compassion extends itself to mankind in order to bring honour to Him and freedom to us to willingly return our love and submission back to Him.  Rules will never save a person from sin and bondage.  If that was true back then, it is still true for us today.  Let us now be careful not to impose religious ritualism on fellow believers in hopes to make them more “acceptable” to God.  God already accepts us just as we are, if we have turned to Him in faith.

Faith to Believe The Impossible

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John 4:46 – 54

46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.

 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering.

 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. 54  This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

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Over the past month, we have been looking at the encounter that Jesus had with the Samaritan woman living in Sychar in the Province of Samaria.  Actually, we should say it the other way around, the Samaritan woman had an encounter with Jesus when she went to get water at the well.  And what an amazing, incredible encounter it was.  This woman went from social outcast to the town evangelist and from a woman of shame to a woman of faith.

As we conclude our thoughts on this event, I think that Jesus must have been very refreshed from this encounter with the woman and the people of that town.  He and his disciples had come there tired, hungry and thirsty.  But after ministering there for those few days and seeing so many people come to a faith in Him, I really believe that Jesus probably left there with a lighter feeling and an encouraged heart himself.

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But then Jesus moved on, and so must we in our study of the Gospel of John.  Jesus returned back to the town of Cana in the northern province of Galilee.  Recall in chapter 2 how Jesus had demonstrated his divine power by turning water into wine at a wedding.  That was a miracle.  Or as John writes, it was “the first of his signs”.

Before we go on, let’s make sure that we are clear about something very important.  When Jesus turned the water into wine, this was not some “parlour trick”, it was not “magic”, nor was it meant it any way to be a performance whereby people would recognize Jesus as the “Miracle Man”.  No, there was a very important reason for when, why and how Jesus did miracles.

As amazing and wonderful as miracles are, like the blind being able to see and the lame being able to walk again, miracles were never meant to be the focus of attention.  Rather, miracles were to point to the One who was able to do the miraculous.  That is why John calls them “signs”.  The miracles were to point people to Jesus, and to open their eyes and their hearts to believe in the Doer of the miracles.

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Knowing this will help us to see why Jesus seems so frustrated and irritated when this official greets him at Cana and asks for Jesus’ help to heal his very sick child.  As a parent myself who has seen a son suffer from leukemia, I can really identify with the father’s one great request, “Lord, please heal my son!”  But it is not our pleading and begging that will get the attention of Jesus and the answer we want.  It is faith in Him as the Great Physician.

Notice what happens next.  The official is desperate to have Jesus come to his house to take a look at his son.  Perhaps he thought that if Jesus could just see how much suffering the child was going through, then maybe He might heal the boy out of compassion.  But what does Jesus do?  He tells the father to go, and that the boy will live.

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Now here comes the critical moment in this story.  The father could have kept begging Jesus to come, maybe even taking his arm and trying to pull him along with him.  But no, this is the true moment of decision.  Does the man have enough faith to take Jesus at his word?  Can he actually believe the impossible, that simply by speaking a word, Jesus has the ability to heal his son?

And you know the rest of the story.  The man does have faith.  He goes home to find his son well.  And it is made quite clear that the healing happened at exactly the time that Jesus spoke.  Or should I say, it happened at exactly the time that the man demonstrated his faith by accepting Jesus’ word that the boy would live.

What we have here is a story that teaches us what true faith is all about.  Hebrews 11:1 says it so well, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Without any real tangible evidence in front of him, this man believed the impossible, and believed in the One to whom he was speaking.  And this miracle, this “sign” led not only this man, but his whole household into a faith relationship with Jesus.  Now that is a miracle.

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Miraculous Signs & Belief

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Sceptics & Thrill Seekers

John 2:18 – 25

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

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Earlier in Chapter 2 of John, we read about Jesus’ first miracle at Cana, when He turned the water into wine.  Up to that point, Jesus had been choosing and collecting disciples around Him, men who would follow Him where He went, listen to His teachings, and witness the miracles He did.  It was all done in a relatively quiet manner, with hardly anyone noticing Jesus or what He was doing.

All of this changed rather dramatically when Jesus came to Jerusalem to participate in the annual Jewish Passover celebration.  (Read the article, “What Is Wrong With This Picture”.)  Jesus burst onto the scene in a very public way when He drove out all the people from the Temple area who were selling animals for sacrifice and turned over the tables of the money changers.

This undoubtedly enraged the Jewish authorities (whom John often simply called “The Jews”).  These leaders, who most likely consisted of the Sadducees, the priests and the Levites, controlled just about every aspect of religious life and regulations for the people, along with the Pharisees (the religious leaders of the Jewish synagogues) and the Scribes (those who were the experts in the Mosaic and Rabbinic laws.)

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When Jesus cleared everyone out of the Temple area, it must have been quite a shock at first for these religious leaders.  Such as act could only have been done by a madman, or by ….. well, someone who had divine authority to do such a bold and brazen act in the Temple of God.  But that didn’t make sense to them, for Jesus was not a crazy lunatic on the one hand, but on the other hand, there had been no evidence beforehand of God granting His divine authority to this man.

So instead of arresting Jesus for HIs actions of property damage and personal assault, “The Jews” come to Jesus and ask Him to perform a sign, some miraculous deed, to give some evidence that He was in fact a man whom God had approved to do such an action.  For the religious leaders, this question made perfect sense; if God had in fact sent Jesus with authority to cleanse the Temple, then He must also possess God’s divine power to do a miracle.

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Fundamentally though, there is a serious problem with the request of the leaders.  In their “holier-than-thou” attitude back then, they had already reasoned in their hearts that if someone was not a member of their established religious order, then there is no way that that person could be a man sent from God and so it would be highly doubtful that he could perform any miracle.

These leaders were sceptics from the beginning.  In asking their question for Jesus to show them a sign, they had already made the conclusion that Jesus was not from God.  And when Jesus gave them a spiritual answer, their minds were stuck upon the physical realm only.  How sad that these religious leaders were so spiritually blind.

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On the opposite side of the spectrum, there were some people in Jerusalem at that time that were ready to accept Jesus and put their faith in Him that He was a “miracle worker”.  It may seem strange at first that Jesus does not appear to be happy about this.  It would seem from the text that Jesus knew that His miracles were simply interesting attractions for them.

Could it be that these people, like many people today, were those who simply followed the latest fad or fashion of the day?  There were in fact many so called prophets and “messiahs” before Jesus who came along and claimed divine power and authority, and even performed some miraculous looking deeds.  But when they failed to perform further miracles, or been arrested, or just faded away, so too did the crowds disperse and stop following them.

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So what can we take away from today’s lesson?  We see that God worked through Jesus in miraculous ways and this was an obstacle for those steeped in religious ritual to truly believe in Him, and it was a problem for those who were just seeking the next spiritually exciting event to follow after.  In both cases, neither the sceptics nor the thrill seekers were prepared to establish a personal relationship with Jesus.  They both looked for the amazing “signs” of Jesus, instead of looking at Jesus.

Now we have to ask ourselves, are we much different from these two kinds of people?  Do we get so caught up in our religious rituals that we fail to nurture our relationship with Jesus and the Father?  Do we get “spiritually bored” at times in our Christian walk and we look for the speakers and events that are more exciting?  Either of these extremes can be harmful to our spiritual well being.

Jesus Is Always In Control

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Jesus’ First Miracle in Cana

John 2:1 – 12

2 1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.

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9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

This event in the life of Jesus is well known by both Christians and some non-Christians.  If a general survey were to be done, and people were asked, “What was the first miracle that Jesus performed?” many people would say, “Wasn’t that when Jesus turned water into wine?”  And they would be right.  But I’m not sure that many people catch the importance of what happened that day.

On that day in question, it may appear that Jesus is just caught up in the middle of the story, and then when his hand is forced, Jesus performed a great “parlour trick” as some might say, and the party went on.  But as I look at all of the participants in this story, it seems to me that while many of them think they are in control of the situation, in fact, it is only Jesus who is truly in control.  Let me explain.

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First of all, you have the bridegroom, and this ought to be his day.  After all, he is the one who just got married and he would have been the one to invite all the guests.  It would appear that Jesus’ mother was an invited guest.  But did the bridegroom invite Jesus and his disciples?  Or was that arranged by his mother, who was probably a close friend of the family.  Jesus seems somehow to be “tacked on” to the guest list.

Then you have the Master of the Feast, whose job it was to make sure that everything went smoothly at the banquet feast after the wedding.  Everything was going so well, until the water which had been turned into excellent wine showed up.  He became upset with the bridegroom for apparently hiding the best wine until the end instead of offering it first to his guests.

And then there is Jesus’ mother.  We have to wonder a bit about her motives in all this.  Scripture says that from the day Jesus was born, Mary treasured in her heart all the prophetic messages that had been spoken about her son.  She knew that Jesus was meant for greatness.  But was it right for her to push Jesus forward at the wedding to show his hand of power in front of all her friends?

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In spite of all the people who were trying to take charge that day, Jesus remained calm.  I believe He knew all along what He would do.  His words to His mother may appear strange, “My hour has not yet come,” when He turns right around and performed the miracle.  I think this was a chastisement to His mother to remind her that Jesus’ ministry was to be of His own choosing, as directed by God.

Now notice the other two participant groups mentioned in the story.  When the servants offered the water turned into wine to the Master of the Feast, they knew full well that they had put water in the large jugs.  They had just witnessed about 150 gallons of water miraculously turn into wine.  When they went home later, don’t you think that they would have shared this story with others?

And Jesus’ disciples were there too.  They may not have been with Jesus very long by this point, perhaps only a few weeks or months.  But they knew enough about Jesus that when He performed His miracle, they were ready to put their full trust and belief in Him that He was the promised Messiah sent by God (even if they didn’t understand all the implications of that yet.)

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So who was really in control on that day?  It wasn’t the bridegroom, the Master of the Feast, or Jesus’ mother.  Jesus was in control of everything that was happening.  And He was laying the foundation in the lives of ordinary people (the banquet servants and His disciples) to demonstrate that his powerful actions more than matched His powerful words, such as, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.”  (See Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:15)

And so I ask those who are reading this article: Are you still trying to be “in control” of all of your life?  Consider Jesus, who is the true and loving Master, and let Him be in control of your life and see what amazing things He just might have planned for you that you never would have dreamed of.

Introducing The Gospel of John

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The Gospel According to John

In the last article, I mentioned that because it was the start of a new year, I would start on some new ideas for what I want to do with my article series this year.  Tuesdays will be the day that I share interesting and exciting stories from the mission field written by my colleagues within Pioneer Bible Translators.  Now I want to tell you my idea for the Thursday articles.

I realized last month that I will be doing a lot of preparation to do the consultant check on the Gospel of John for two completely different language groups in Papua New Guinea.  So then I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be neat to do a number of articles on the Gospel of John?”  So far, I have worked on both translating and checking the translations of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke).  Now is my opportunity to study more deeply the Fourth Gospel.

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Most people agree that the Synoptic Gospels are easier to read and to translate.  There is so much more narrative material in these books which gives us more action and fewer extended  passages of deep and difficult theology to try to unravel in the translation.  But that does not mean that there are not difficult sections to understand and translate in the Synoptic Gospels.

Certainly the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew chs 5 – 7 is full of complexities.  And the many parables throughout all the gospels contain every day words on the surface, but also carry some deep spiritual truths below the surface form which must be handled very carefully.

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Let’s take a quick tour then of the Gospel of John to see what spiritual treasures we will encounter as we go through this book:

The Prologue

Chapter 1 gives us not so much a historical setting as a theological setting for this man, Jesus.  We know from the other Gospels that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of a Jewish mother who was able to become pregnant through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit of God.  That tells us that Jesus was no ordinary child.  He in fact was God who came down from Heaven and took on the form of a man.  John’s Gospel will give us more insight into the divine nature of Jesus even from his opening words of his prologue.

The Book of Signs

Chapters 2 – 12 cover the entire ministry of Jesus up until the last week before his death.  We see Jesus traveling extensively, starting with his baptism by John east of the Jordan River, and then moving back and forth between the province of Galilee in the north to the city of Jerusalem in the south.

Everywhere Jesus went though, he astounded the people by his insightful and authoritative teachings and amazed them by his miraculous deeds.  Jesus demonstrated that he was from God by exercising supernatural power over nature (turning water into wine and multiplying bread) and over any sickness or disease (healing a crippled man and also a man who had been blind since birth).  Jesus even had power over death itself as he was able to bring Lazarus back to life after being dead for four days.

The Book of Glory

Chapters 13 – 20 have been called “The Book of Glory”.  They reveal the true depth of Jesus’ love for his disciples, and let us hear his heartfelt prayer to God on their behalf.  Then Jesus demonstrated his magnificent love and his power by being crucified on a cross, followed by his resurrection from death.  There is no way that you can read these chapters and not get caught up in the deep emotions (“pathos”) of those few days in Jerusalem.

But all of the book of John up to this point was not written just so that we would have an emotional response.  Certainly we do feel awe when we read about the amazing miracles he performed.  And we feel despair when Jesus died but then we rejoice when he rose to live again.  No, this book was written for a much more important reason.  John himself states in chapter 20 verse 31 the purpose for recording the life of Jesus.  He wrote:

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The Epilogue

Many scholars think that John finished writing his book at the end of chapter 20, and then later added chapter 21.  We will never know that for sure.  Most likely, there was some later concern among the early believers with regards to Peter who had denied his faith in Christ before the crucifixion, but afterwards was reinstated as an apostle and leader of the church by Jesus himself.

This gives us a very rough outline of John’s gospel.  I do hope that this is helpful to those who read this.  Now what I would like to do is to go back and start at the beginning and work through the book slowly, one passage or section at a time.  My desire is to try to have a balance between what the text is saying (interpretation) and how its truths can still impact us in our lives today (application).

Please be praying along with me that I will be able to write very good, meaningful and helpful articles.  I invite everyone who reads these to feel free to respond and interact with me as we go through the book.  May God bless you as we go on this journey together.

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[If you find these articles to be an encouragement to you, may I suggest that you subscribe to this site on the right hand side to get these sent directly to your email Inbox.  God bless.]

God Is Healing Me!

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By Faith, One Step at a Time!

Last month I had an incredible experience. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that God is real and alive and He answers the prayers of His people. In Scripture, God is clearly seen as the God of miracles. Scripture also says that He never changes. Based on that truth, and on the testimony of thousands upon thousands of believers today, I believe that God is still the God of miracles today. Let me share my story:

I will not forget the wonderful night in April when we gathered to celebrate communion as a body of believers. It was a beautiful experience of fellowship and worship. More importantly, I will not forget the call to healing at the end of the service. And I knew that God was tugging at my heart and working within me. I felt an electric spark go through me that night, and my heart yearned for Jesus. I was one of many who went forward that evening asking God to do a miracle within me.

During the time of standing at the front, I had tears running down my face as I worshipped Jesus with song from my lips, and my heart and mind were praying to and praising Him. At the end of the service I had a deep need to go to the Senior Pastor. My heart was alive with hope and faith, while at the same time I wept over my years of pain and illness.

When I was able to get to the pastor, I had to hold on to him and weep from the depths of my soul. I don’t know why I wept so. He asked what was wrong that I wept the cry of a person who is mourning over someone who has died. I told him my story briefly, how that I have barely been able to walk for three years. The pastor asked if I believed that Jesus has healed me and I said yes, I do believe.

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Now let me give a little more background here. It has been since May of 2008 that I have not been able to walk, at least not more than 40 feet without some form of assistance. On good days, and for short distances of less than 50 feet, I would use my walking poles.  (When people asked, I would say, “I am an athlete in slow motion!!)  For intermediate distances, I would use my arm support crutches, and for long distance I would use my walker.

In 2009, I met with a godly couple who know how to lead a person in deep listening prayer. Just like most people, I wanted to know from God if there was a reason I had suddenly been hit with this muscle disease.  So I asked God at that time if there was any sin in my life that might have led to this happening to me. And I know I met with God in that prayer moment.

God gave me a deep sense of peace back then, and during the prayer time I was given a form of a vision, of Jesus kneeling in the Garden of Gethsemane. I heard (or understood) God to say, “Just as I asked my Son to carry this pain for a purpose, so too I am asking you to carry this pain for a season. And through this you will bring me honour and glory.”

I have believed for these past two years that God gave me that message. And it has been a great comfort to me to know that through my weakness, His strength is made known. In many ways, I have seen more people blessed in these past few years, as they saw me continue the ministry of Bible translation across the world despite my disability and pain, than I have seen in all the years of my service to God before this point.

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I think that what happened on the communion night is that I bared my soul before God as I praised Him, but I also asked Him to release me of this burden and allow me to walk again. My mind wants to tell me that nothing has changed since then, but my heart believes that healing is coming from the Lord. Not all at once, but in small degrees I am going to “walk” in faith that the healing is coming.

From a medical point of view, my disease (Mitochondrial Myopathy) can be simplified this way. Basically my body is producing bad mitochondria (the energy production part within all our cells) which results in fatigue and pain. And by faith (as simplistic as it may sound), I am believing that God is going to replace all my bad mitochondria with good ones. And when that happens, then I will be able to walk and jump and run once more.

So now you know where I am at, and what happened that night. It is painfully obvious that I am not fully healed yet, but by faith, I am stepping out to walk more, one step at a time. Please keep me in your prayers that the process of healing will not be stopped or slowed down by circumstances or doubt. I claim the promise in Isaiah 40:31,

They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings of eagles. They will run and not get weary, they will walk and not be faint.

“Help Me See Jesus!”

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Read Mark 8:22-26

Right in the very center of the Gospel of Mark, we encounter perhaps the most unique episode recorded of the life and ministry of Jesus.  At first, this miracle story may appear to look similar to many other miracles that Jesus performed.  We see Jesus entering into the town of Bethsaida.  The people bring to Jesus someone who needs healing, specifically a man who is blind.  Jesus heals him and tells him not to go into town (probably like other miracle stories, Jesus does not want to draw attention to himself yet).

But this miracle event is uniquely different in two ways.  First of all, this story is only recorded for us in Mark’s gospel, and not in the other three.  That in itself should cause us to wonder what was Mark’s motivation for choosing to include this event of Jesus’ life.  And secondly, this is the only miracle that Jesus performed in two steps.  He touched the man’s eyes once and he could see things dimly.  So Jesus touches his eyes a second time and then he is healed completely.  Hmmm….what is going on here.

It should never be supposed that Jesus was unable to heal the man, or perhaps He was just having a bad day.  No, we know that part of Jesus’ mandate while on earth was to help the blind to see, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the lepers to be cleansed and the Good News to be preached (Matthew 11:4-6).  There is no question that in this story it was Jesus’ intention from the beginning to heal the blind man.

So then perhaps we should turn our attention on to the blind man himself.  Perhaps he did not have enough faith to be healed.  In many instances, Jesus asked the person beforehand if they believed that Jesus was able to heal them.  And yet, in this miracle story, the question of whether the man had faith or not is never brought up.  There has to be another reason for this two-step miracle.

Looking around within this story, there do not seem to be any other clues to help us figure this out.  So then we should follow an important principle in the study of Scripture.  After you have first looked within the text to discover the meaning, then the next important principle is to look within the surrounding context to see if that helps you out.  And lo and behold, we do discover something very important.

After the section detailing the death of John the Baptist, there are five major miracle stories, either of someone being healed, or of the multitudes being fed.  Then we get the dialog between Jesus and his disciples in the boat discussing “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod.”  We now know today Jesus was talking figuratively and saying they should watch out with regards to the teachings of the Pharisees and Herod.  The disciples though were a little dense and didn’t get this, and so we hear Jesus finish this section by saying, “Do you still not understand!”

Then if we look immediately after the story of the blind man being healed, we see the crucial question of Jesus being asked, “Who do people say that I am?”  And it was apparent that many did not know who He was, since some said John the Baptist come back, some said Elijah, and some said a prophet.  But when he made it personal and asked Peter, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responded, “You are the Christ!” which meant that Peter recognized that Jesus was the man whom God had appointed to save His people Israel and for whom they had waited for thousands of years.

It would appear that the persons, other than Jesus, who are in focus in these chapters of Mark are really the disciples.  They lived with Jesus, listened to Jesus, and watched all the miracles that Jesus performed, but in the end, they still did not really understand who Jesus was.  Because even after Peter’s great declaration of Jesus being the Christ, when Jesus said that He came to suffer and die, Peter was the one who rebuked Jesus.  And Jesus in turn had to rebuke Peter.

To think that the disciples could be so close to Jesus but not really see him at all is the very point of the two-step miracle.  I can just imagine that when Jesus first touched the man’s eyes and asked him if he saw anything, that Jesus looked over at the disciples while he said this.  And when the man said he saw things dimly, I can see Jesus still looking at the disciples and shaking his head.

Then Jesus touches the man’s eyes a second time and he is able to see everything clearly.  This man needed a second touch from Jesus, but the real lesson was for the disciples.  They needed to see more clearly who Jesus was.  And Peter was pretty close when he said Jesus was the Christ.  But he thought that meant He was coming as the conquering hero who would free them from the domination of the Romans.  Peter had boxed up Jesus with his preconceived ideas.

So here’s my question for all of us today whoever might be reading this story.  Do you have faith in Jesus and understand well who He is, that He is Lord and we are called to serve Him, but you need a healing touch like this man did?  Then you can say like him, “Help me SEE, Jesus.”

Or are you like the disciples who thought they knew who Jesus was, but were trying to box Him up to be someone who would do what they wanted, thus asking Him to serve them?  I would suggest that you may need to say this in a prayerful way, “Help me see JESUS.”

Remember, it’s all about Him, it’s not about us!  May God bless you in the same measure that you bless and worship Him.