Monday, October 16, 2017

Fourth Sign

In this case, the sign and the message are separated by a couple of days. Jesus and his disciples are out in the country, away from any villages. And they are being followed by a large crowd of people.

Jesus says, “The people are hungry. We need to feed them.” The disciples say, “We don’t have enough food. We don’t have enough money to buy enough food. And the only food we do have is this little boy’s lunch.”

So, Jesus borrows the little boy’s lunch, and feeds 15-20,000 people with it. Then, the disciples clean up afterward, and collect 20 times as much food in leftovers, as they started with.

The crowd starts thinking: “If we mad Jesus King, we wouldn’t have to work anymore.” Jesus, knowing his mission (which was not being king), sneaks away into the mountains, and eventually, takes a boat across a nearby lake.

The crowd wanders around looking for him, and, eventually, crosses the same lake. When they find Jesus, he begins his teaching.

He questions their motives. They did not understand the signs, their meaning, nor their significance. They are only looking for him, because their bellies are full.

They were short-sighted. Meeting their basic needs was important; but they were only focused on meeting their basic needs. They were not focused on their relationship with the Father.

God sent the Promised One to give people a way to re-connect, and re-establish a relationship with him. Jesus used a metaphor, comparing bread and allegiance with him. Coming to Jesus, giving allegiance to him, and choosing to follow him, results in receiving life from the God-head. He gives life, when we give allegiance, by satisfying the requirements of the Law, redeeming the person from Satan’s kingdom, and moving the person into God’s family.

He also gives life, when we follow him by providing necessary spiritual fuel. We have fellowship with the Father, who pours his love and grace into our hearts. (People need love.) We are joined to his family. (People need community.) And he enables us to live our purposes. (People need purpose. And, he uniquely made each person to fill a niche in the universe.)

Knowing Jesus is like eating bread, that provide nutrients no other food provides. Without this bread, we will eventually starve. With this bread, we live, but more, we thrive.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Third Sign (2)

Scripture says that when receiving testimony about something, either an accusation, or a defense, we should not accept the testimony as true without verification of, at least, two others.

Jesus has proclaimed that he has a unique position, and relationship with the Father. And the Jews, listening to him, are thinking: “Who is this guy? And where does he come off talking like this?”

So, Jesus reviews with these Jews, who were trying to obey the Scriptures, testimony that confirms what he is saying.

The first to testify was John the Baptist. The leaders sent men to listen to John. And they asked John if he was the Promised One. And John said no. John said he came to prepare for the Promised One.

The second to testify was the Father himself. He testified by giving Jesus the authority to teach the way he did, and to perform miracles the way he did.

When people saw the blind see, the lame walk, and the dead rise, the only conclusion they could come to was that God sent Jesus, God gave favor to Jesus. And God does not favor those who rebel against him. The implication was: to heal on the Sabbath was not rebellion against God, and his Word.

And the Jewish leaders were not ready to accept that. So, since, they did not accept the one God had sent, the Promised One, in reality, they were the ones in rebellion again God.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Third Sign

With the third sign, things begin to change. Jesus finds a man, lying next to a pool with reputed healing properties. Jesus asks the man if he wants to be healed. The man says yes, but when the conditions in the pool are right for healing, he is unable to get in.

So, Jesus tells the man, that he will be healed, if he gets up, grabs the mat he is laying on, and goes home. The man believes Jesus, and does just that. And he is healed.

But there is one small problem. It is the Sabbath.

One of God’s commands is to remember the Sabbath, by separating it from the other days by not working. The Pharisees were big on following the Law as strictly, as completely, and as closely, as possible. So, for this Law, they spent a lot of time defining what work was. Was cooking to feed yourself work? Was feeding your animals work? How far could a person walk before it became work?

And carrying a mat on the Sabbath was work. And they had words with the man. And he told them that Jesus (the man who healed him) told him to carry the mat. So, now they wanted to have words with Jesus. And Jesus gave them a fairly extensive response.

He affirms his Sonship. That is, he affirms his relationship, connection, and fellowship, with the Father. Because of the living reality of the relationship, and their heart agreement, Jesus and the Father ac t together. Jesus acts in agreement with what the Father wants, and what the Father initiates.

All of God’s children have the same type of relationship with the Father. But Jesus has a unique relationship.

First, God has appointed Jesus as judge. God the Father is creator of all, and judge of all. Absolute authority is in his hands. And he has given that authority to judge to Jesus. Because Jesus lives in perfect agreement with the Father, his judgement is as just, and fair, as the Father’s.

Second, the Father has granted Jesus the power of salvation. If we accept the message God gives through Jesus, and trust God, we will never be condemned ,,, even though we deserve to be. Jesus has authority to give life to the dead.

Jesus announces his mission: to restore mankind by bringing people into God’s family, by creating new life in them – life that agrees with the Father and the Son – and by producing lifestyles that agree with that new life.

This was God’s plan from the beginning. But mankind chose, and continues to choose, to move away from the life that God designed. Even those in God’s family.

I sincerely believe that God’s children want to, and intend to, honor God. But often they mix human wisdom with God’s wisdom. The mix a human solution with God’s solution. The result is a caricature of Jesus, instead of a true picture of Jesus. It is this caricature that blurs God’s image, and hinders his purposes in  the world today. And returning to a true expression of God’s heart is not easy. We all hold fast to our particular understanding of what God wants, what is best, and what is the priority.

The Father continues to restore a correct perspective, a correct understanding, so that our lifestyles can represent him more truly. In part, this is what revivals are about. God’s family regains a quantum leap of restoration: in understanding God’s nature, in understanding God’s purpose, in understanding the role of God’s family, and motivation and passion to fulfill that role.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Second Sign

The second sign is similar to the first. It is an expression of God’s power that validates Jesus as Messiah, but there is not much teaching.

A man comes to Jesus, because his son is sick, and near death. He pleads with Jesus to come, and heal his son.

Jesus observes that the man won’t believe unless he sees a miracle. What is Jesus getting at? Expectations of his mission? The nature of faith? Mankind’s tendency toward empiricism – I won’t believe it unless I see it, hear it, taste it, smell it, or feel it?

The man is getting desperate, so he persists. And Jesus assures the man that his son will live. Scripture says the man believes Jesus. He expected that his son would recover, and live. So, he returns home.

But on his way, servant from his home find him, and tell him that his son’s fever broke suddenly, the day before. So, the man asks when. He found out it happened at the same time he was talking to Jesus. So, not only did Jesus re-assure the man, he healed the son. No fanfare. No hoopla. No glitz. Quietly, and almost in secret.

There seems to be an expectation, that when God acts, there will be fireworks, strobe lights, glitter balls, with “Pomp and Circumstance” playing in the background.

Jesus said, “My Father is always working.” If these expectations were correct, there would be fireworks 24x7, including Sundays and holidays. Instead, we miss the majority – the vast majority – of what God is doing.

There are many who follow Jesus today, who expect some sort of experience. I am not putting down experiences, or those who have them. But the Father is not bound by any agreement to necessarily provide one.

This sign shows that God has authority, and power, to complete his purposes outside of our expectations. Experience. No experience. Or a different experience.

But we do need to believe Jesus, and expect the Father to be always working.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Wedding and A Sign (2)

The gospel of John, the fourth biography of Jesus in the bible, is organized differently than the others. The others are fairly typical biographies, chronological descriptions of a person’s life. John, on the other hand, is organized around a series of signs, accompanied by a series of teachings.

We looked at the first sign at the wedding at Cana. It was different from other signs Jesus performed. And we asked, given that a sign is performed to demonstrate the validity of who the person is, and the truth of his claim, why did John include this, as the first? And I wonder, all the signs and teachings coordinated? That is, the sign and the teaching joined together purposefully, to point at each other. I don’t have a definitive answer to the second question. Maybe later.

But is there a link between the first teaching and the first sign? And, if so, what is it?

The sign, of course, was changing water to wine. But there was no obvious teaching, unless we include the short discussion between Jesus, his mother, and the servants.

As we observed, the groom’s family was about to experience a social catastrophe. And when Mary informed Jesus, he seemed to indicate that his purpose in the world was beyond what anyone conceived it to be. Then, he exercised God’s power in an act of creation, in loving service, and to protect people from shame and disgrace.

The first sign becomes a picture of Christ’s mission in the world.

He acts to create a new family of restored people. People transformed to live as they were designed. People transformed to be the best examples of mankind.

He acts in love. Indeed, the core fact of the universe, and all time, becomes an act of love, which radically overturns how the universe functions.

And he acts to re-connect the Father with his children. Any person who gives his allegiance to Jesus, no matter what he has done, or how low he has fallen, can be restored to the Father, can face his without shame, expecting to be received freely, warmly, and wholeheartedly.

Jesus came for all of this!

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Wedding and Signs

In Jesus’ time, a Jewish wedding was a big deal. The groom and his family would prepare a place for the new family. The would plan and prepare for the wedding celebration for a year, or more sometimes. They would gather, and store, food and wine for scores of guests, for a 3 or 4 day party. It was a disaster to run short of something.

Imagine someone has a year to plan and prepare for something, and it gets messed up. People could say that this particular someone was “inept” on so many levels. Or one could call them something less polite than “inept.” It was more than a logistical miscalculation. It was a social failure. It was almost impossible to live down the shame.

So, Jesus goes to a wedding. His mother is also invited, so there is a good change this is a family wedding. And the run out of wine.

Mary learns about the problem. And she tells Jesus. Scripture doesn’t seem to indicate if she intended him to solve the problem, or if she was merely expressing familial concern. And his response to her seems to be a reproof at first. Is he saying that even his mother doesn’t understand his mission in the world?

But she does tell the servant to follow his instructions. And he does give them instructions that solve the problem. He has them fill containers with water, and the water turns to wine. Moreover, the wine he provides is better that the best of what was provided.

Scripture calls this his first sign. By sign, Scripture means an attesting miracle. A miracle that demonstrates the validity of who Jesus is. From one perspective, all miracles point to Jesus, as God’s messiah, as the Promised One, as Savior and Lord.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, the Jewish leaders consistently ask Jesus for a sign. And, in reality, he gave them a sign, several signs in  fact. But they did not accept his signs, not because they weren’t miraculous, but because they did not agree with their pre-conceptions of God’s intentions, and Jesus’ mission.

The Jews seemed to be hung up on their part in God’s plan. They recognized being God’s people, and the transmitters of God’s standards. They did not get that God was determined to restore all people to relationship, and fellowship with him. He would restore all people to live according to their original design, and to create a family from all peoples. And they didn’t get how the Father was going to accomplish his purposes.

Was this Jesus’ first sign, because it was a signal to pay attention? Something special is here. Something unexpected is here. Or was it a signal that God was beginning to establish that new family (weddings are the beginning of new families) that he had promised?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Forgiveness

It is the belief of Christians, that when Jesus died on the Cross, he satisfied God’s requirements for the wrongs of every person. The Father covered each person – past, present, and future – and each person’s sin – past, present, and future – with the blood of Christ.

Scripture says that when a person comes to the Christ, his\her sins are nailed to the Cross. His\her entire record. And God already knows our entire record.

The instruction for confession and repentance is not a substitute for the Old Testament sacrificial system.

If one is cognizant of sin, by all means, agree with God that you have done something wrong, and decide with God to live differently. Maybe even how to live differently.

But the guilt of sin, and the power of sin, have been handled by the Cross and the Holy Spirit. God’s primary concern is fellowship, and transformation. Rather, are we walking in relationship with him? Are we living as we were designed?