Seven Sign in John: 6 – A Blind Man Healed

The sixth miracle seems similar to the previous healing miracle we saw in chapter 5 where Jesus healed a paralyzed man for 38 years.  The movements of Jesus are the same: Jesus healed, disappears, and then reappears.

John 9:1-7

And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

Jesus focuses on this man who was blind from birth.    From here, the conversation ensues about the cause.  The disciples’ inquiry Jesus as to whether the man’s blindness is a direct effect of sinning.  However, Jesus doesn’t focus on the cause but rather the purpose. He will continue to describe the purpose through the next two verses.  What we see here is that God permits suffering and difficulties to arise in our life so that the work of God can be clearly seen.  We look at the events in the world and say, why does God permit such things? Why doesn’t God do something?  Yet, only through God’s work, which comes through Christ’s and His Church, can we see things made right.

 The work of God

What are works of God?  Jesus’ answer to this question was “I am the light of the world.”  Of course, we keep asking good questions, “why light?”  Light is essential to physical life as it is essential for many of the same reasons spiritually. Light dispels darkness.  Light enables life to reproduce – photosynthesis.  Light helps to warm.  Light helps us to see and therefore, it guides us as well.

 How does Christ give us light, especially since Jesus uses spittle and dirt to bring the healing?  It just seems amazing that Jesus’ supernatural power was seen through spit, mud and obedience.  Jesus used spit three times in Scripture, one for a deaf man (Mark 7:33) and two for blindness (this passage and Mark 8:23).   Still, what does is this supposed to point us toward?  That is John’s intention in writing, right? I think first this is going back to the creation of man when God formed us out of the dust of the Earth.  God created in the beginning and still has power over his creation.  Secondly, I show that Christ blesses the use of his creation to promote his work.  Namely the church.  We are the clay in God’s hands and we pray that you would use us to deliver Jesus’ light to this dark world.

 Through our witness let us show people God’s love.   Matthew 5:14 says, “ye are the light of the world, A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.”  We should seek to let our life dispel the darkness of times.  To let God’s power be on display in our life.  Our cry is Ephesians 5:14, “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”

Seven Miracles in John: 1 – Water into Wine

John, the beloved disciple, shared his purpose for writing his Gospel account. He wrote, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).  His presentation of the life of Christ is focused on showing the reader the power and purpose of Jesus.  One of the methods he employs to accomplish this task is the inclusion of seven miracles.  The following series of blogs will explore the beauty and meaning behind these miracles.

John 2:1-11

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.  This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

Emptiness is defined as

  • The state of containing nothing
  • Lack of sincerity and contentment
  • Meaningless
  • Futility
  • No value or purpose

We can have an empty soul, home, marriage, or life.  Perhaps one of the most detestable things for a person to have before God is an empty religion.  Scripture teachings that there are some that have a form of godliness, but deny the power” (2 Tim. 3:5-7).  The will of God is that rather we be full. But not just full of everything under the sun.  No, God would rather for us to be filled with him.

Miracle at Cana

You know the story of Jesus at a wedding in Cana.  During the celebration, they run out of wine, and Jesus’s mother asks Jesus to get more wine.  This is where Jesus performs his first miracle as he takes about six water pots, almost 30 gallons each, a total of nearly 120-180 gallons of water, and turns it into wine.

John goes on to say in 2:11, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory.”  Two words in the Greek are translated as our English word miracle.  The first is “dynamis,” which means power or strength.  It sounds familiar to dynamite which we understand as being explosive power.  The second word, “semios” which is the word John uses here, means means a “sign.”

So, what do these seven signs say and in at this moment, this particular sign?  John says to show God’s glory.  We are going to see God’s glory and power.  We are getting a glimpse of God’s purpose in sending Jesus.  This first miracle will demonstrate all of this.

The water pots

So, what does this miracle teach us about Jesus and the purpose of His coming?  This sign shows that we can be filled with the goodness of God.  We who were filled with vile things are now filled with the joy of the Lord.  How does he demonstrate this?  Notice that John includes a key detail about the waterpots, “and there set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews.”   This is an important aspect of information John wants to include for us.  It also makes this miracle a little disgusting.

In the Jewish law that we find in the Old Testament was high on the distinction between clean and unclean.  One of the significant aspects of the law was that uncleanness was unavoidable.  One of the traditions the Jews adopted was ritual washing with water.  Full body, foot washing, hand washing, and washing the face are all references for Jewish washing from uncleanness.  So in reality, the water pots that the people were drinking the wine from were bathtubs or at least wash basins.

Thank the Lord, there is cleansing, but I don’t think that is the single purpose sign in this miracle.  Cleansing or purifying of the water pots is only implied and hopeful.  Who would want to drink from something where you wash your face and feet?  Instead, imagine being a Jew and what these water pots would mean to you. It’s like what we see when we pass by a cross or church.  They would have been reminded of their religion.  Their faith.  And this is what Jesus’ miracle of transforming the water into wine.

You look at the pots, they were full of emptiness.  They were filled with water, but the pots themselves represented to many the emptiness of what their religion had propagated.  The law made nothing perfect (Heb. 7:19).  In those waterpots was about 180 gallons of law, guilt, and filth. But, Jesus turned it into 180 gallons of grace.  The water in Jewish law was a symbol of an external ritual.  The wine represented to the Jewish mind meant joy and blessing.

The law made nothing perfect. The law didn’t fix anything.  It was a temporary covering.  It was something to point us toward the salvation that only Jesus Christ could bring.   The wine represents the blood of Jesus that was shed for us.  Matthew 26:27-29 reads, “And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”  We are forgiven of our sins by the blood of Jesus.  We have moved from an external washing by water to an eternal cleansing and filling by the blood of Jesus.

The sign shows our fellowship with Christ and the ultimate joy of heaven.  Matthew continues, “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (26:29).  We have fellowship with Jesus through the shedding of His blood.  Our relationship with God is restored through the work of Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.

Jesus comes to fill the emptiness that is in our life.

Can you be a room full of people and still be alone? Can you have good health, a full bank account, lots of friends, a busy schedule, a beautiful home, a good job, a great family and still feel empty?  Jesus took the empty law and transformed it into something full of life.  Returning to John’s narrative telling of this miracle, the last verse says that the disciples believed on Jesus. He filled them with faith.  If you have given up, Jesus can fill you faith.

If your life is empty, your faith is empty, Jesus can fill you full.  As the wine was a symbol of joy, Christ can fill your life with joy.  Jesus’ first miracle is a showing that “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (Jn. 15:11).

Waiting

My wife and I are expecting our third child at any moment.  She will be induced in less than a week, but the waiting is almost unbearable.  The anticipation is growing by each passing moment.  In fact, this week during our Sunday evening service, my friends and I were singing a song during worship when I caught my wife standing up abruptly.  She was going to ask someone a question that she needed an immediate answer, but that was not my train of thought.  I thought something major in this last week of her pregnancy happened.  It was funny, to her.

Life is filled with many moments where patience is a requirement.  I don’t need to list any because our mind at the mere mention of the words patience or waiting triggers personal memories of our own experiences.  Scripture is aware of this need as well and offers encouragement.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” -Galatians 6:9

“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” -Matthew 24:13

“For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promice” -Hebrews 10:36

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers tempations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” -James 1:2-4

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience, and experience, hope” -Romans 5:3-4

So, what helps us to gain patience?  I want to share briefly about three sources for patience.

Experience develops our patience

Most believers will direct you to Romans 5:3-4 when it comes to learning patience.  Faith grows through real-life situations, and so does patience.  It is one thing to say that you are a patience person and another thing to demonstrate that quality.  The fiery trial that comes up against us is also what tests our faith and patience.  We learn what we are made of in the difficult areas of life and it is through those situations that we are strengthened.

Knowledge informs our patience

Galatians 5:22-23 reveals that part of God’s gift of our salvation, part of the fruit of the Spirit, is longsuffering or what we better know as patience.  For the Christian, we have the understanding that God is in our corner and is providing grace to endure.  Sound theology has a way of bringing us peace because we know the truth and the truth sets us free (John 8:32).  The ultimate source of truth is God’s Word, the revelation of God to mankind.  Through His Word our faith increases, our patience is encouraged, and our hope is confirmed.

Perspective guides our patience

A final source or at least the culminating of the previous two is perspective.  Once we have experienced life and its hardships, the waiting game takes on a new shape.  With the help of God’s grace and His Word, we can begin to see the long view of our life.  The Proper perspective of what’s valuable in life, our purpose, and our eternal future helps us endure.

SOM: Blessed are the Pure in Heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” – Matthew 5:8

If one thing is clear in the Sermon on the Mount, it is that the Lord is concerned with more than outward cleanliness and show. He has emphasized the spiritual life of His people in comparable ways to the physical.  Poor, hunger and thirst are just a few words that are normally physical descriptions have now been used to describe our inner man.  Now, He points toward heart purity and our future opportunity to see God.  As the writer of Hebrews puts it, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).  With such weighty reward, what does it mean to be “pure in heart?”

This particular idea is not something new but is a rather common expression found even in the Old Testament.  While there is some truth that the “bowels” was also a place where emotions and feelings were believed to arise from, there is plenty of consistency (probably more) that the heart in scripture is still a place of thinking, feeling, and motive, just as it is commonly used today.  This is especially true for the psalms and Jesus.  David in the psalms could write about what it takes for a person to see God upon His holy hill in Psalm 24:4, “He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart.” After confessing his sin with Bathsheba, David requests God to, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10).  There is a definite contrast in the eyes of Jesus toward those who are outwardly cleansed but have dirty, rotten hearts.  One such example is when he looks at the pharisees and says, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (Mt. 23:27).  It is already clear that we, like the pharisees, can be whitewashed tombs that house decay.

To be “pure” includes so many different reference points.  This word could mean to be clean, as with clothes.  It also references produce, such as corn, which has been winnowed or sifted and cleansed of all chaff.  Lastly, it could refer to an army which has been purged of all discontent, cowardly, unwilling, and inefficient soldiers, and is now a force composed solely of first class fighting men.  The basic meaning then of pure becomes something that is unmixed, unadulterated, singled-out.  The “pure in heart” then equals those who have a “singleness of heart,” they’re filled with an honesty which has no hidden motive, no selfish interest, and are true and open in all things.

This is only possible in a heart that is justified and sanctified by God.  It is only possible to approach other people with a pure heart when we have been purified by God.  We cannot see God in this life and in glory unless we have cleansed by His Word.  Remember the phrasing in Hebrews 12:14, that no one can see God without “peace with all men” and “holiness.”  Another phrasing of holiness in some circles is heart purity.  That verse combines the to approach both the vertical (God) and horizontal (Man) relationships with a pure heart.  This begins with God and spreads towards others.  God knows our heart and can cleanse us of our sin and foul intentions.  Then we can approach others with love and sincerity.

SOM: Blessed are the Meek

“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” – Matthew 5:5

Weak and meek are not the same the same thing.  Jesus was anything but weak.  He had power of demons, diseases, and death.  He demonstrated his power over nature by simple use of His voice and when he spoke the people that heard him recognized an authority in it.  Jesus is the Son of God but yet He was meek and here He calls us to have the same attitude.  We are called to live in the power and freedom of grace but not at the cost of another’s own walk with Christ.

It is probably best for us to get a better understanding of what it means to be meek.  The Greek word used here can be translated with other words such as humble, gentle, considerate, and courteous.  Perhaps a better understanding of meekness requires us to take each of those words into mind when we read this verse rather one or another.  Together the word indicates an inward virtue exercised toward others.  For example, when the meek are wronged or abused, they show no resentment and do not threaten or avenge themselves.

Psalm 37 provides the background for this verse because it seems Jesus was quoting it, “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (37:11).  If you would take the time to read this entire Psalm by David you would be sure to quickly realize the calm assurance he gives as we lean on God’s power, wisdom and timing in dealing with those that would take advantage of us.  Earlier in this study we seen how the first set of beatitudes we vertical, meaning they focused on our relationship with God as citizens’ of the heavenly kingdom.  This verse seems to emphasis the fact that while we may have power and authority to avenge ourselves and deal with our enemies, we still don’t.  Rather than taking vengeance into our own hands we allow God to be God.  We rely on God dealing with our enemies, natural and supernatural.

We are tempted to take full advantage of all our rights in order to take care of ourself but the meek choose not to.  Why?  It is because we are not of this worldly system. Notice the blessing of the meek, “for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).  This world is not our home.  We are only passing through it on our way to the promised land.  The blessing though is like Abraham, who was promised a certain land but is also told that everywhere he sees and steps will also be part of his blessing from God.  The same is with the meek child of God.  We do not use the systems of the world to better ourselves because we are of Heaven and not of Earth.  But one day we shall inherit the earth when it is made new.

When shall that be?  In the context of Psalm 37 we notice that it the time frame is when the wicked have been dealt justice by God.  At the return of the Lord we will find ourselves the recipients of the message, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:23).  When evil and the ones that perpetuate evil are removed then shall all things be made new and the righteously meek will inherit the earth.

So, the big question for us is whether we are willing to live meek in a cutthroat world?  Where people are constantly looking to take advantage of others and various systems in order to constantly get ahead we are cautioned against such actions that show us to be more earthly minded than heavenly.  During our times of devotion we must look not only towards pride, desires to have revenge, and to take advantage of others but also to examine our actions to see if we have behaved in such a way that is contrary to being meek.

Sermon on the Mount: Introduction – The Sermon of the King

I could fill a book with countless lessons and quotes given by my father.  Many were quite interesting.  If you asked me to narrow it down to primary teachings on life, I would still have quite a handful.  That seems to be exactly what Jesus did in his famous sermon on the mount.  It would seem at first glance that Jesus is giving a summary sermon in the early days of his earthly ministry.  Indeed, it does seem to put all the teachings (at least in principle) in a concise format.  In whatever way you look at it, The Sermon on the Mount is a very important section of Matthew’s gospel and the Holy Scriptures.

Matthew’s gospel was written by Jesus’s disciple of the same name.  Matthew was a Jewish tax collector that Jesus had called out.  It is really an interesting calling in itself.  Matthew was one of the dreaded tax collectors known for taking advantage of his fellow Jews when collecting taxes.  When Jesus called him to follow, Matthew was sitting in the tax booth doing his job.  In other words, Matthew was in the middle of his sinful behavior of thievery when Jesus called him away from it and to follow him.  We should be thankful that the Lord calls us away from our sin even when we are deep in it.

This particular account that Matthew gives about Jesus was written sometime between A.D. 55-65.  So, it is about 20-30 years after the resurrection of Christ that Matthew writes, give or take a few years.  He primarily writes to Jewish Christians and therefore pulls more Old Testament references into his Scripture than the other gospel writers.  In this we find the primary perspective he has of Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah.  He begins by showing how Jesus fulfilled the lineage requirements to David and continues to fill all the other prophecies concerning the Messiah, the one that would “save his people from their sins” (1:21).

The first four chapters narrate to us what has taken place in the thirty years.  The first two chapters are concerned with his birth and care as a child.  Chapters three and four will then share what took place shortly before this sermon.  This is important because it begins to lay a foundation as to the shape and intent of the sermon.  As the Holy Spirit moves on Matthew to write this Gospel with Jesus as the messiah we must also gain an insight as to messiah is.  The word Messiah itself means, “anointed one.”  In the Old Testament, there were only three types of anointed vocations, the prophet, the priest, and the king.  The problem is that no one seemed to embody all three at the same time.  Maybe, prophet-priest or prophet-king but never all three together (Saul tried and got in trouble).

Only one person in the Old Testament seemed to embody all three (at least priest-king) and that was Melchizedek in the book of Genesis.  He was the King of Salem and thanks to the book of Hebrews we know that Jesus was after the order Melchizedek rather than the priests of Israel, making him able to be prophet-priest-king in one person.  Prophet in that he reveals to us the Word of God, priest in that he takes our sins away, and king because he is Lord of all.

Matthew is going to hit all three of these in mind but the overarching one is the Lordship of Jesus.  Still, before the sermon he wants to show Jesus’ being anointed as the messiah.  The anointing being the public inauguration of Jesus.  Of course, there is no oil shown in this but there is a baptism in chapter three.  During the course of the baptism he is recognized by John and baptized and God the Father announces from Heaven the Jesus as His son and the Holy Spirit in the likeness of a dove landing on him.  The baptism of John symbolizes the anointing recognized by man and the Holy Spirit as a dove is the anointing recognized in heaven that Jesus is the Messiah King.

Chapter four will record Satan’s reaction and attempt to thwart the newly inaugurated messiah, only to be put out by the very words of the Jesus.  Jesus will then go around preaching and calling his disciples to follow him.  As the crowds begin to gather, he goes up in a mountain and begins to speak.  The next three chapters are a record of what Jesus shared.  With the inauguration of Jesus as the Messiah King, we begin to understand the importance of this opening sermon.  It is Jesus’ inauguration speech not only of his rule but the beginning of the new kingdom that he is going to rule over.  In the sermon he will describe what the citizens of His kingdom are like.  Is Jesus your King?  Hear what he has to say in the Sermon on the Mount, the inauguration speech of the newly appointed and eternal King of our salvation.

Bible Study: Psalm 131

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child. Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever.”

I remember hearing a sermon on four pictures about a fence post.  In two of the pictures the post represented grace. The third represented standards and the fourth represented man’s advancement.  The first of the two was a turtle on top of post and the caption said, “Somebody had to help him up there.”  That’s the grace that lifts us up.  The second of the two was a picture of a boat in a stormy tied to a post on the shore with a simple caption, “The anchor holds.”  That is also a picture of grace that keeps us through life’s trials.  The third picture was a broken fence post and fence that was in a sheep field with the caption that said, “When the fence is broken the sheep will get out.”  The last picture though feels the heart of Psalm 131.  It was a picture of a well-dressed man with his nose in the air standing on top of the fence post.  The caption read, “A step in any direction will lead to a great fall.”

Proverbs 16:18 reads, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”  David had quickly ascended from a shepherd boy to the king of Israel.  There wasn’t a any political ladders to climb.  God anointed him to the position and he went.  Overwhelming?  Yes!  Trained?  No!  This psalm is a reflection of David in this sudden whirlwind of events that lead him to the throne.  Did he become prideful that he was now king?  No, instead, he was humbled.  This psalm is not David’s resume.  He didn’t list his credentials and make the people sing about them.  David rather focused on his humble beginnings and the lack of study in kingly matters.  He was a quiet child and teenager that didn’t try to act arrogant.  Now he was king and he didn’t want his attitude to change so in humble admission of his lack he wanted Israel to know they should trust in the Lord more than him.

What we find in our own discipleship (going up the mountain towards God with Christ), that we lack the ability in ourselves.  The spiritual formation of the believer is the work of God in us as one commentator put it, “The disciplined life was not a natural endowment” (Paschall, 1972).  We can plant and water but it is God that gives the increase.  When we begin to think highly of our own achievements we become prideful and after that there will be a fall.  We must continually humble ourselves before God and seek to lift Him up as our only source of strength.

References

Paschall, F. H., & Hobbs, H. H. (Eds.). (1972). The teacher’s Bible commentary. Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers.