A Samaritan Woman Meets Her Messiah

Most Jews detoured around Samaria when traveling from Judea to Galilee by crossing the Jordan River twice, but Jesus took the western route through Samaria. The Samaritans were much more lax about their ritual-purification so the Jews considered them “unclean“. The Samaritans had also intermarried more with the heathens around them during their captivities, so many Jews also considered them “half-breeds“. This is NOT to say that the Jews were really any more “racially-pure” than the Samaritans, because they weren’t. Even Jesus had four Gentile women in His ancestry, Tamar, Rahab Ruth and Bathsheba. To make matters worse, there was a running-dispute between the Jews and the Samaritans about where to worship God, Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim. All of this gave rise to the “bad-blood” between them. That was why most Jews refused to go through Samaria for any reason. That background brings us to today’s passage.

4 Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), 3 He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. 4 And He had to pass through Samaria. 5 So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; 6 and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

7 There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11 She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? 12 You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.”

16 He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.”

19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

27 At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why do You speak with her?”. (John 4:1-27
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Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), 3 He left Judea and went away again into Galilee.

Jesus’ authority had already been question in Jerusalem several times during Passover, and since the Pharisees had confronted John the Baptist about his baptisms, they may have confronted Jesus also, so, maybe to escape all the controversy in Judea, He decided to go to Galilee where He could minister more freely.

The first four verses of this passage set the background for the story; John the Baptist has been arrested (3:24; Matt. 4:12; Mark 1:14; Luke 3:20). Opposition was brewing among the Pharisees in Jerusalem because Jesus’ reputation was growing and He was gaining followers and Jesus decided that this was the time to move back to Galilee. It seems that the arrest of John had the affect of freeing Jesus from John’s ministry; John was decreasing, Jesus was increasing. Jesus takes the mountain road that goes through Samaria that He would later send His disciples on (Acts 1:8). When Jesus arrives in Samaria our story begins.

4 And He had to pass through Samaria. 5 So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; 6 and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

The children of Israel had occupied this part of Palestine before their departure into Egypt, and everywhere they went, they dug new wells. This was semi-arid, mountainous terrain far from any natural sources of water, so Jacob had dug a well close to what became Sychar. We see Jesus’ true-humanity on display, because after traveling in that rough countryside, He was tired and thirsty. It was 30 miles from Jerusalem to Sychar as the crow flies, but much farther on foot. It was also about noon when they arrived at Sychar. The plot of ground referred to here is referred to in Gen. 48:22 and is roughly a half mile from Jacob’s well (see also Josh. 24:32). Jacob’s well was certainly a well-known location, famous for the spring of bubbling water that it created access to. Jesus arrived there that day at about noon, tired and thirsty.

7 There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Why did she come to the well at noon, rather than in the cool of the day? There is no definitive-answer given, but it could have been to avoid the not-so-nice looks and comments because, even in that society, she was a social-outcast. Did other Samaritans cross the street to avoid her? How many children tagged-along with her? How many different daddies did they have?

Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) How did she know that Jesus was a Jew? Did His accent or mode of dress give Him away? Was it that He was a stranger, so He had to be a Jew? John doesn’t give us any clues, so to speculate is futile.

Approaching a woman at the well He asked for a drink, and the woman’s response is interesting in that she seems to have assumed a quizzical tone; you are a Jew and yet you ask me for a drink? Jews did not associate with Samaritans; in fact the Jewish teaching of the time said that associating with Samaritans would cause a Jew to be defiled. If that were not enough, Jewish men did not speak to women in public; not even their own wives and here is Jesus boldly walking up to a Samaritan woman and asking for water.

10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11 She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? 12 You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

As was His custom, Jesus went directly to the lesson He was going to teach, ignoring the customs and traditions of men. The ‘gift of God’ and His identity are the real topics they would discuss: Jesus could provide ‘living water’ and if she understood this she would be asking Him for a drink. Taking Him literally, she notes that Jesus has no means by which to draw water and asks him if He is greater than Jacob whose water isn’t so effective.

Yes, Jesus WAS greater than Jacob, WAY greater!

Of course when Jesus mentions water that would quench a thirst for a lifetime, the woman is interested so that she wouldn’t have to draw water anymore which was very hard work. Notice that in v. 14 Jesus refers to a “spring of water welling up” which is a direct reference to the reputation of Jacob’s well. The water that Jesus was talking about here is a metaphor for eternal life that was the ultimate gift of God; accomplished by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Himself.

15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.”Living-water” was the water which was deep underground, flowing, and the purest, however, Jesus’ usage of “living-water” referred to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was offering eternal-life in the the kingdom of God, but she thought He was offering her an unending source of physical-water from deep underground, such as she would get if Jesus somehow installed indoor-plumbing…

16 He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.”

In verses 16-19, an interesting thing happens: In response to Jesus directive to go and get her husband, the woman tells a falsehood with a half-truth. Jesus knows the whole story, to her amazement and this insight on His part is the probable reason for why she is drawing water at high noon instead of in the cool of the morning with all of the other women. Apparently shocked, she perceives that Jesus is a prophet.

She had had five husbands, but we are not told whether they had died or whether they had divorced her. If she had been widowed each time, she was totally-free to remarry each time, but divorce was a different story in that culture. That she had been married five times is almost a side-issue compared to the fact that she was living with a man she wasn’t married to, because according to Old Testament Law, both of them could and should be stoned. Yes, adultery was a capitol-offense. Before we are too hard on her, a single woman had no means of support, and that was even worse if she still had kids at home. Women were wives and mothers – period. There were no “working-women“, and if her kids couldn’t support her, she and her family went hungry. Like it or not, a woman’s only “assets” were her usefulness to her husband. That was why the custom of kinsman-redeemer came into being, which is one of the core-themes in the book of Ruth.

Simply-put, the kinsman-redeemer custom required that if a woman’s husband died before leaving her an heir to support her, his brother or another close-relative was required to marry her and give her a son. Their first-born became the heir of the deceased-husband’s estate, and if the husband didn’t already have an heir, of his estate also. None of this assumed that the kinsman-redeemer was single, because plural-marriage wasn’t forbidden in the Old Testament. Refusal was seriously frowned-on and brought public-disdain. While this custom doesn’t resonate with us today, it does emphasize the importance God places on family and caring for those who cannot care for themselves.

A few more pieces of background information:
1) The firstborn son received a double-portion of his father’s inheritance so he could support his parents when they became unable to support themselves.

2) Daughters didn’t receive an inheritance because they were expected to marry and their husband would support them. They also married young, usually between 12 and 14.

3) Jesus was Mary’s firstborn son but he assigned her care to John, one of His disciples, rather than to one of His brothers.

19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Notice how quickly she changed the subject and goes on to religious matters…after all Jesus must be a prophet. This goes back to one of the age-old disputes between the Jews and the Samaritans. During the time of the divided-kingdom, the Samaritans were not able to go to Jerusalem to worship, so they established their own worship-center. They still weren’t welcome in Jerusalem.

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus pointed her to the fact that worship isn’t about a “location“, as significant as that location might be. He tells her that God isn’t really interested in where a person worships; God cares HOW a person worships. In God’s sight, what is important is that a person worships in ‘spirit and in truth’: The time has come for this epochal change. From the coming of Christ forward the old regulations and traditions are set aside and replaced with reality.

Worship is about God, plain and simple, and we don’t need “special-place” to worship God. God is not restricted to a specific-place, and He is just a delighted in the praises and worship of our small family of believers here as He is from those gathered in the grandest cathedral. He has also promised to be in our midst.

She says that when the Messiah comes he will tell us all about this (not you, a mere prophet). Jesus’ reply reveals to her who He really is, for He is the Messiah. (v. 26)

26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” This is the only time Jesus claimed the Messianic-title before His trial leading up to His crucifixion. The Samaritan woman, whose name is known only to God, met her long-awaited Messiah.

Isn’t it interesting how much like this woman we are!

27 At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why do You speak with her?” For a man to talk to a woman he wasn’t related to was a huge cultural “NO-NO“, and that Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman was an even-bigger shock, yet Jesus came to Earth for a purpose and He wasn’t going to let cultural-convention get in His way.

Even today, we are constrained by cultural-norms in our social interactions with one another, but they were even stricter then because women were not only second-class-citizens, they were the property of their husband. A man didn’t even speak to his own wife in public, let alone a woman he didn’t even know, but that didn’t stop Jesus from having a conversation with this unnamed woman.

Next time, we will pick up from here with Ministry in Samaria…

Blessings!
Steve

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You Must Be Born Again

Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the ruling council came to Jesus in the night with a question, and although he never actually got around to asking it, Jesus gave him considerably more of an answer than Nicodemus had bargained for. In fact, Jesus in His answer gave what many commentators believe is an example of His early preaching; a wide ranging explanation of how a person can be saved through the New Covenant He would make with Man. He will speak of many things in this conversation, and by the time it concludes He will have set out God’s plan for Mankind

Not all Pharisees rejected Jesus, as we see in this week’s passage. Nicodemus was a Jewish religious-leader who didn’t quite know what to make of Jesus, so he came to Him to have a wee chat. He was not just any “rank-and-file” Pharisee, rather he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the most-powerful religious-body of the day. He recognized that God was with Jesus because of the signs and miracles which He had performed. While other religious leaders were demanding more signs, Nicodemus wanted to know more about Jesus, the Man behind the signs.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. 12 If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:1-21)

Why did Nicodemus come to Jesus at night? Was he afraid of being discovered and losing-face with his fellow religious-leaders? Did he come to Jesus at night because Jesus was too busy during the day? Was he walking in spiritual-darkness, as symbolized by his night-visit to Jesus, hoping to get some spiritual-illumination? Was Nicodemus trying to flatter Jesus with his opening-statement? We may never know, but Jesus changed the subject immediately.

Nicodemus opens the conversation with a statement; saying that “we” know that Jesus is from God for His miracles have confirmed the fact. The use of “we” is interesting, for it implies that as of this early date many, if not all, of the Pharisees had come to the realization that Jesus was the real deal, or, did Nicodemus have a mouse in his pocket?. In His reply, Jesus goes ahead to answer the question Nicodemus is working up to when He tells him that he must be born again.

Nicodemus didn’t understand that Jesus wasn’t there just to teach and perform miracles, even though He did both. He was there to seek and save the lost, people who were spiritually-dead even though they were “religious“, like Nicodemus. Apart from Christ, we aren’t just “spiritually-sick“, we are stone-cold dead. Jesus also knew that His ultimate mission was to die on the cross and rise again on the third day. That salvation was what Jesus called being “born-again“. Nicodemus may have been looking for the kind of Messiah who would establish an earthly-kingdom, and not understanding that His kingdom was NOT of this world. Jesus quickly popped that bubble by saying “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”

Nicodemus, as most people would do, took Jesus’ statement literally; it seems at first to be ridiculous, because he KNEW that a person couldn’t re-enter his mother’s womb and be physically re-born. Even though he was highly-educated in the Old Testament, and a teacher, he didn’t understand that the whole Old Testament pointed forward to Christ. All the rituals, all the sacrifices, while they had meaning, couldn’t cleanse a person from, let alone atone for their sin. Animal-sacrifices covered-over sin, but they didn’t atone for it. To atone for sin required a more-perfect sacrifice, a human-sacrifice, the spotless Lamb of God. Only a human-sacrifice could atone for human’s sin.

Jesus, on the other hand is speaking of an entirely different kind of life, a life that is entirely apart from this physical realm. This birth is of “water and the Spirit” rather than from flesh and blood. Keep in mind that from the OT Jewish point of view, a person is born into God’s Kingdom (earthly Israel) through physical birth. This is a shadow of things to come, for what will become reality through Christ is “rebirth” into the Kingdom of Heaven. This will be accomplished through water at baptism and the Spirit through the Gospel message ( cf. 1 Cor. 4:15 and 1 Peter 1:23 ). This kingdom is not a small and weak little nation that is living under foreign occupation, but a majestic and ultimately powerful kingdom headed by God Himself that will cover the entire globe forever. When we are born physically, we are born spiritually-dead, still-born, and this “rebirth” is not merely “resuscitation“, as Lazarus was not merely “resuscitated” in John 11, but totally-resurrected. God doesn’t do “spiritual-CPR“, as if we are in “spiritual-cardiac-arrest“, He makes us spiritually-alive. Spiritually, without Christ, we are “dead-men-walking“, spiritual “Zombies“.

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Verse 8 illustrates Jesus’ remark in verse 6: When something is born of flesh, you know where it came from, but something born of the Spirit is like something borne by the wind, you don’t know where it came from or where it is going, because our physical senses can’t quite perceive these things. Someone or something born of the Spirit can only be perceived by someone else who is born of the Spirit.

This answer reflects and emphasizes the fact that salvation, seeing the kingdom of God, is completely and solely the work of God. As we can’t be “reborn” physically, we also can’t become “born-again” by our own efforts. Nicodemus was a “good” man, a law-abiding Pharisee, but his own “goodness” could never gain him entrance into God’s kingdom. Only God, through Jesus Christ, was able to do that miraculous work.

9 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. 12 If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

Poor Nicodemus is having trouble following this, and so would we in his place… and so does anyone who is not “of the Spirit” today. Jesus’ main point here is that He has been teaching the people about earthly things, and they haven’t believed… even though He has been telling them about things that He has witnessed. Thus, He has been giving testimony. In the same way, nobody can testify about heaven unless he has been there; Jesus has come from Heaven and is giving testimony of what He has seen, heard and knows for a fact. It’s as though Jesus was telling Nicodemus: “Come on buddy, you’re a teacher of Israel, you’re supposed to understand this stuff. If you didn’t know about it before, you’re supposed to be educated enough to recognize reliable testimony and believe it: stay with me here!”

Jesus, and His mission, were badly-misunderstood by even the most highly-educated Jews, because they disregarded the “suffering-servant” prophesies in favor of the “victorious-Lord” prophesies, not realizing that the “victorious-Lord” prophesies were for the far-distant future. They imagined the Messiah coming on a mighty-steed, leading a conquering-army, rather than on a lowly donkey.

Jesus then turns Nicodemus’ attention to an event during the Jews wilderness-wanderings. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;

The Bronze Serpent

4 Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. 5 The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.”

6 The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. 8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” 9 And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived. (Numbers 21:4-9)

Jesus continues to attempt to communicate with Nicodemus by using an illustration from Israel’s past that he would be familiar with. The Jews had grumbled against God – again, so God sent judgment in the form of poisonous-snakes. Once they repented, God ordered Moses to make a bronze-likeness of the snake and raise it up for all to see. When the serpent was lifted up before them and they gazed upon it in faith, they would live. If not… they would die. In the same way, Jesus will be lifted up before the people (on the cross). Jesus said that this event was a foreshadowing of His crucifixion. Those who look to Him in faith will live.

What symbol do medical-people use today? The Caduceus, which features two entwined snakes around a pole, topped with wings, has been adopted by many in the medical community. Do they see themselves as “saviors“?

This brings us to the best-known and most-loved verse in the Bible, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” If we have any doubt about how much God loves mankind and His creation, this should put any of those doubts to rest. We know, from reading “the rest of the story“, that God will, in due-time, renew and restore ALL of His creation, including us.

17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:17-21)

Verses 16-18 are probably the most familiar part of this text of all to Christians; it is the very heart of the Gospel setting out just exactly the whole core of Christian Theology. God has sent His Son into the world to save Mankind from the consequences of rebellion against God. Those who believe Him will have eternal life; those who refuse will perish because they have already condemned themselves by their refusal. God loves all Mankind and genuinely wants them to be saved, but He allows them to exercise their free will on the matter: How will you decide?

John 3:16 also rules-out any form of “Universalism”, as is commonly-expressed in our society. “Good” people don’t automatically go to Heaven, nor do they become “angels”. If they weren’t trusting in Christ-alone for their salvation, Hell just claimed another victim, judged by their own unbelief.

The final verses of this passage use the illustration of “light”. Jesus is the light, the truth that shines in a dark world. The world has done evil, it has rejected the light; it has rejected the truth. Yet, if we do what is good, if we believe the One who was sent by God as the light of the world, we will move into the light and our testimony will light the darkness and the world will see that we are doing God’s work. Again, this is a thumbnail of the Gospel message at work in our lives. In the remainder of this chapter, John has set forth the testimony of John the Baptist about Jesus. It is interesting to note that John (the author) has put these passages together in this way. First, you have the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus in which Jesus sets out the whole Gospel plan to a Pharisee, who presumably will report on it, and second, you have the Baptist’s testimony that Jesus is the Christ and about the Gospel as a third party validation. Jesus’ teaching, followed by a third party validation: John is pulling out all of the persuasive stops in this section!

Jesus came to save, not judge, but as we see here, those who fail to believe in Jesus have been judged already because they have rejected their only hope of salvation. I am sure that we all know people who range from simple-unbelief to outright-antagonism towards the Gospel. I have known people who are Pagans, Atheists, and even Luciferians, and the only way I could show the Gospel to them is by living it and loving them. The are proud of their ungodly-ways. Any attempts to evangelize them would be rebuffed, but they don’t reject love. We live in the light because Jesus has set us free from the darkness of our sin. They live in the darkness, hoping that God, if there is a God, isn’t watching their evil-deeds.

In Christ,

Steve

Out With The Old – In With The New

This is the story of the first miracle of Jesus, which has no parallel in the synoptic Gospels, and it stands quite alone giving insight into the way Jesus and His disciples lived that many Christians love to ignore: Jesus drank wine. (Horrors!) Just for fun, compare this passage with Colossians 2:20 ff.

If this blows your mind, then let me quickly sum up this passage for you: Jesus performed His first miracle at Cana, where, for the first time His glory and authority was revealed, and His disciples came to believe in Him; let’s have a closer look…

As our next scene opens, Jesus and His disciples have been invited to a wedding. Wedding-celebrations lasted up to a week, depending on the resources of the family, and they were a time of feasting and drinking. This was often a community-wide event.

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 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 that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him. 9 When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, 10 and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days. (John 2:1-12)

The scene is set: Jesus, His mother (John never says “Mary”) and the disciples were there. This seems to have been three days after the calling of Phillip. No reason is given for the reason the wine ran out. Some have postulated that the attendance of Jesus and the disciples was the cause, but since John says that they had been invited, this seems unlikely. It would also seem that Mary was well known to the family involved here, since she so quickly took charge of the disaster. When she brings this social catastrophe to Jesus’ attention, His reaction is interesting: literally, “What’s it to me?” Notice that Mary seems to be aware that Jesus can remedy the situation easily; why else would she pass right over His question and tell the servants to do whatever He says? Jesus statement that His time has not yet come has troubled some commentators who haven’t noticed that, in John’s Gospel, John uses this wording to refer to the time of Jesus’ being glorified (by the cross) and not to His performance of miracles, in this case a rather mundane one, if indeed any miracle can ever be called “mundane“.

Running out of wine was serious-business, because either the guests had drank more than anticipated or those responsible for the feast hadn’t planned properly. Either way, there wasn’t a liquor-store in the neighborhood where they could buy more wine. They had a problem…

Mary knew what to do – ask Jesus to take care of their problem, but…

While we might recoil in horror that Jesus called His mother “woman“, but in that culture, it wasn’t disrespectful, demeaning or dishonoring to her. This was the way Jesus normally addressed women.

The next part of His response might also surprise us by its bluntness. “What does that have to do with us?” Jesus and His disciples were guests at this party, so the logistics of the party was not His concern. Jesus was also fully-aware of His mission on earth, and being the “divine-caterer” wasn’t part of the package. Yes, He did feed large crowds on a least two occasions, but that was out of compassion, not obligation. Jesus did NOT perform miracles “on-demand“, and His mother didn’t have any more say in His mission than anyone else. Even though Jesus told His mother that taking care of their host’s wine-problem wasn’t in His “job-description“, I don’t believe that it was a hard-edge rebuke either, as do some Bible-scholars.

“My hour has not yet come.” Whoa! What did Jesus Just say? What is this about His “hour“? As we will see, when Jesus refers to His “hour“, He is speaking of the time of His crucifixion…already… Keeping this party going is a foreshadowing of a much grander party which is to come; the great Marriage Supper of the Lamb, but He will have to die on the cross to make this grander party possible.

Was Mary forcing the issue when she said, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”, or was she expressing full-confidence that Jesus would provide what was needed? I believe that she thought that Jesus would do something, and that what He would do would be good.

The need for the stone water-pots takes us back into the Old Testament, specifically the Ceremonial Law. The Ceremonial Law, which is detailed in Leviticus 12-15, touched virtually ever facet of their daily-lives. The religious-establishment had also added many rules and regulations of their own in addition to God’s laws. They also didn’t have indoor-plumbing or any of the other conveniences that we take for granted, so something as simple as washing one’s hands before eating or after going to the bathroom required water. Some people kept water on hand to take care of their purification needs, as did this family. Others had to go to the public bathhouse or other body of water to bathe, wash their clothes, and take care of other personal-care needs.

The total capacity of these jars would have been in the range of 120 to 180 gallons. It is worthy of note that Jesus used all of the jars and had them filled up completely; nobody could say that Jesus’ power was limited, nor could they claim that He just slipped some kind of magic fairy dust into them: they were full.

It may have taken many trips to the well to fill up those waterpots, but at Jesus’ command, they did. If they averaged twenty-five gallons each, that was one-hundred and fifty gallons of water, which was soon to become wine. That must have been some very good wine, because the headwaiter wondered why they had saved the best wine for last. We don’t know how far along in the feast that this event took place.

While Jesus always performed His miracles for the benefit of others, His primary purposes in performing miracles were to show His glory and to lend credibility to His message, to further-convince His disciples that He was who He said He was, the Messiah.

When the servants drew the “water” from the jars and served it to the master of the banquet, the master confirmed that not only was this wine, but it was the “good stuff”. This wasn’t some cheap “wino’s-wine“; this was “top-shelf-vintage“. It can be hilarious reading commentaries about these verses when the commentator goes on and on about how this was “obviously” not really wine but unfermented grape juice.

We should also see that Jesus was God over all of creation, which meant that He could create something from nothing or turn something into something else, water into wine. He will demonstrate His lordship over creation in many other ways as we progress through John’s gospel and His ministry.

One very important thing to note is that this miracle symbolized the coming of a new kingdom-order. The old ceremonial and sacrificial system was being done away with, symbolized by the water for purification, and Jesus was establishing a new kingdom-order, symbolized by wine, a symbol of the coming Holy Spirit. Jesus came both to fulfill the old law and to nullify it, which He did by His sinless life and atoning-sacrifice on the cross. We are beneficiaries of both His finished work and promised Holy Spirit.

The brand new disciples, who had responded to the testimony of John the Baptist, and then to each other’s witness, saw for the first time, that Jesus was more than a man who had been blessed by God: He had a power that no mere mortal possessed, and they put their faith in Him. This would also be the reason for His future miracles; to confirm His true identity and the authority by which He taught.

One of the cardinal rules of interpretation of the Bible is that you must set aside your pre-suppositions, opinions and traditions and let the text speak for itself. When you are confused or feel that you have come upon a contradiction, there are various things you can do to figure out what the meaning is. Here are two easy ideas: You can usually do a word study and find out what is going on. In addition, a close examination of the complete context will also aid in determining what the text is teaching. After this has been done, if the Bible turns out to support your pre-suppositions, opinions and traditions: Marvelous. But where it doesn’t, your presuppositions, opinions or traditions are wrong. In this case, if you are bound and determined to say that Jesus would never allow the serving of wine, you have two problems to deal with: First, the Greek word used here is “oinos“; which happens to mean “wine”. The Greek word for grape juice is “tnyx“. Why would John, “under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit“, make such a “writing error”? Second, note what the master of the banquet said in verse 10. Does that even remotely indicate that they were dealing with grape juice? Does it sound to you like what he would say if the wine was watered down to less than 50% wine? A better question would be,Was Jesus trying to get everyone drunk?” The text does not tell us that Jesus had everyone’s glass refilled, it tells us that the master of the banquet, the only one we know for sure that was aware of the problem got a sample. We don’t know what the other attendees did after that, or if they even became aware that the wine was gone. We do know why Jesus performed the miracle, however.

Yes dear believers, this is the point, and all of the silly business of trying to explain away the wine only draws our attention away from the majesty of our Lord.

12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.

Jesus had already made Capernaum His “headquarters“, maybe at the home of Peter and Andrew, so that was His next stop. By this time, His entourage already included at least four disciples plus His family, and there was no “Motel-6” or “Days-Inn” to stay in. Other Gospels record Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law at his home in Capernaum.

It appears that Mary was already a widow by this time, with kids still living at home, because there is no mention of Joseph in this scene, and Mary will reappear at other times throughout Jesus’ ministry (Mark 3:31-32). It would have been a serious social faux-pas for Mary to show up at the wedding without Joseph at her side. His sisters may have already been married-off by then, because girls got married much younger than boys in that culture. Whatever the case was, the family was together during the wedding and for a short time afterward.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Steve

Bible Study – Bread Of Life

We come to one of the most difficult to understand of the many discourses Jesus spoke during His earthly ministry. I will try to unpack it as best I can, but like Jesus’s hearers, I am also a mere man. Taken literally, this discourse is gory to the extreme, eating flesh (cannibalism) and drinking blood were repulsive and forbidden by God, however, Jesus was speaking using types and symbols which had many Old Testament parallels and pointed-forward to a soon-to-be New Testament reality.

We must remember that this was the season of Passover, so Jesus used “Passover-symbols” which His audience should have been familiar with, and as He spoke, He was pointing-forward to when He would be the final Passover-Lamb, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world“, whom John the Baptist announced in John 1:29. His audience, however, couldn’t get past the physical to see the spiritual. So, let’s see if we can unpack this passage and understand what Jesus was really saying. We are going to take this passage one little chunk at a time.

Words to the People
26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” 28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” 30 So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” (John 6:26-34)

26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. As you may remember, after the feeding of the five-thousand, the crowd wanted to make Jesus their earthly-king. They just knew that He could solve ALL of their problems, and make sure that they never went hungry. Jesus is acknowledging this; however it wasn’t His true mission.

Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” Jesus never said that eating “real” food was “wrong“, rather He was pointing them to the real reason He was among them, to bring them eternal-life. He is also validating who He is based on His relationship with God the Father.

28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” They had a very “works-centered” religion, which was based on keeping the Law. They believed that they could be right with God by keeping the Law and performing the required-rituals, not realizing that the entire Old Testament pointed-forward to the coming Messiah.

29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” Was that “work” “too-easy” or “out-of-reach“? It should have been simple, but they asked instead for another “sign“. What was it going to take to get their attention?

30 So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” When they were hungry during their wilderness-trek, God provided food for them. When they were thirsty, God provided water for them. Who else was “thirsty“?

When Jesus offered “living-water” to the woman at the well, she thought that He meant “indoor-plumbing“.

32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” First, Jesus corrects their notion that Moses was responsible for feeding them in the wilderness, but they STILL don’t “get-it“. They still want God to feed them – FREE

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:26-40)

The simple take-away from this section is that salvation is from God, and ONLY from God, and ONLY from believing in Jesus Christ. His shed-blood and finished-work are all-sufficient for our salvation, and if we are trusting in Him alone, we need not fear for our eternal-destiny.

Words to the Jews
41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” Jesus was a “localboy” whom they assumed was the son of Joseph and Mary. They knew His “parents“, so there was no way He could have come from Heaven. NOT

43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. Jesus is reiterating that nobody can come to Him unless God opens their “eyes” to see and understand who He is. They were “spiritually-blind” and wrapped up in their own agendas, so no matter what Jesus did, they would never own Him as their Lord and Savior.

46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. Even though they had, and were familiar with the Old Testament, which was God’s revelation about Himself, they were blind to the fact that God had woven His redemptive-plan into the very fabric of it, and it all pointed forward to Jesus Christ. Jesus, as the incarnate God-Man, was the visual-representation of the Father.

47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. Jesus again reiterates that salvation is ONLY of God, and ONLY through faith in Him.

48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. Jesus now compares “physical-bread” to “spiritual-bread“. Physical-bread only sustains physical-life for a short time, and must be eaten regularly. Those who ate the manna in the wilderness all died, including Moses, who was not permitted to enter the Promised Land and died in the wilderness. However, those who partake, through faith, of that spiritual-bread, will live forever. Jesus IS that spiritual-bread.

“and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Jesus was forecasting His crucifixion, when His broken-body and shed-blood would pay the final price of redemption for all who believe in Him.

43-52: Jesus tells them to stop grumbling amongst themselves, always a command we need to keep in mind, for while we grumble we neglect what He is teaching. He goes on to give a memorable passage in which He tells them that those who believe in Him will have eternal life, and that we must eat of Him to have life. We must eat of His flesh which He will give for the life of the world. Physical bread will not give eternal life. The people, who are always stuck on the mere physicality of life, are horrified! Yuk!

52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:41-58)

52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” The Jewish religious-leaders were still stuck on the implications and the horror of physically-eating Jesus’s flesh and blood. They should have known the Old Testament prophesies concerning the coming Messiah, but they were blind to the fact that the Messiah was in their midst.

53-59: Since the people are determined to be stuck on the physical, Jesus gives them physical. He talks about eating His flesh and drinking His blood as though He were going to offer Himself to a bunch of cannibals. Of course the traditional Sunday school lesson will teach here that Jesus was only speaking of Communion: Laughable! Again, we only see physical things. Jesus was talking about what Communion represents; the reality of Communion. Communion has little to do with its physical aspects; it is all about redemption and what sustains a new life. When we eat of the bread and drink from the cup are we nourishing our bodies? Hardly…

We do this in remembrance of what He did for us; this is important. We go through an act that symbolizes taking Jesus into ourselves to sustain our lives spiritually. When you eat a meal, that food enters your body, and in due course provides energy and nourishment to your body; the elements that make up the food become one with your body on a molecular level. Thus in a sense the food becomes a part of you. When we take the Spirit within us (the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) the Spirit becomes a part of who and what we are spiritually, and grows within us when we allow it. This gives us eternal life. This gives us fellowship with God, which was God’s purpose for creating Man in the first place; and completes the cycle of redeeming and reclaiming Mankind for God.

Words to the Disciples
59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” (John 6:59-65)

Even some of His disciples had trouble “digesting” what Jesus just said, because they were still stumbling over “eating” and “drinking” Christ himself. Then He told them “You ain’t seen nothing yet“, because those who stuck-around were going to be eye-witnesses of His ascension into Heaven.

Peter’s Confession of Faith
66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” 71 Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him. (John 6:66-71)

Upon hearing all of this, the people following Jesus largely abandoned Him. Of course we now know that this is typical of people who cannot allow themselves to discern spiritual truth. People will often follow Jesus for a time, but when they realize that this involves more than a “get out of jail free” card, and that it will result in growing far beyond the merely physical they bail. Jesus spoke one more great line here, one that we should commit to memory: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” This is truly something we must always keep in mind, for they are the key to unlocking the things of God.

Conclusion
It is important to note that Jesus in this discourse used typology in His treatment of manna and bread. The manna is the type; Jesus is the antitype or the reality that the type represents. God gave provision to the Israelites in the Wilderness with the manna; it sustained them. However this was not God’s ultimate purpose. His ultimate purpose was to redeem Mankind to Himself through Christ, thus the manna as sustenance was the type of Jesus the Redeemer and sustenance unto eternal life. A related type would be the Communion elements: they are not what redeemed us; they are the representation of the body and blood of Christ: Christ is the redeemer. Of course, the Old Testament in particular is full of typology. Moses as the leader and redeemer of the people was a type of Christ; the Promised Land is a type of Heaven, and so on…

I gratefully acknowledge the contributions from Dr. Don Merritt, my beloved friend and mentor, who offered his Reflections on John, without which, I would STILL be stuck.

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – More Miracles

As we continue our studies in John’s Gospel, we come to two of the best-known events in the life of Christ, when He fed over five-thousand people, and when He walked on water.

Five Thousand Fed
6 After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2 A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” 6 This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. 12 When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” (John 6:1-14)

As this scene opens, Jesus, after His confrontation with the Jewish leaders over having healed a man on the Sabbath, goes back home to Galilee. John the Baptist had also been beheaded (Matthew 14:1-12), so it was time for Jesus and His disciples to get away for a while, however their get-away was short-lived. It is also interesting to note that Jesus was in Galilee, rather than in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration.

I have often wondered how so many people had time to follow Jesus around like they did. Some scholars have estimated that there were between fifteen and twenty THOUSAND people in that crowd because only the men were counted. That is a LOT of people. What did those people do for a living? Why had only one person packed a “sack-lunch“?

This story reminds me of another “food-multiplication” miracle in 1 Kings 17:8-16. God, through the prophet Elijah, had proclaimed a drought in Israel due to their wicked ways, and Elijah was on the run from evil king Ahab. God told Elijah to go live with a poor widow in Zarephath, and even though she was getting ready to make the last bit of bread she had flour and oil for when he met her, Elijah told her to make a small piece of bread for him also and they would all eat. As long as the drought and famine lasted and Elijah stayed with her, her flour and oil never ran out.

8 Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, “Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.” 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.” 12 But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.” 13 Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. 14 For thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.’” 15 So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah. (1 Kings 17:8-16) God can use our “smallest” gifts for His purposes, because He is the Master of “resource-multiplication“.

5 Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” 6 This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. Whether it was late in the day or just meal-time, Jesus thought of the crowd’s physical-need to food. His question to Philip was more “tongue-in-cheek” than a real question, because there was no place in that wilderness where they could get food. There were no fast-food restaurants they could get take-out from, nor was there a commercial bakery they could get bread from. Jesus was really setting the scene for another miracle.

Notice Philip’s gut-reaction response, 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” A denarius was the typical day-wage for a common-laborer, which might have been equivalent to earning about $80 a day. Two hundred denarii would equate to $16,000, so even if that much food had been available, the disciples certainly weren’t carrying that much cash, and they couldn’t expect the crowd to pool their resources.

8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” Jesus’s disciple’s faith still wasn’t “there” yet, because even though they had seen Jesus perform many miracles, they couldn’t imagine Him feeding SO many people with SO little food. Jesus could have fed them by creating what they needed, but that little offering would soon get multiplied beyond their wildest imagination.

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus was going to feed them “dinner in the park“. As I mentioned earlier, the total-number of people may have been closer to twenty-thousand.

11 Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. How often do we pause to give thanks to God for our daily-bread? Jesus gave thanks, and the feast began. This wasn’t a “meager” meal either. The people were encouraged to eat all they wanted. Nobody was going to go home hungry.

12 When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. Nothing was wasted. There were even some left-overs.

14 Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” The “Prophet“? Jesus was way more than a prophet. He was the incarnate Son of God, God in human-flesh. Even though these people were looking for the long-promised Messiah, they didn’t recognize Him when He came. As we will see momentarily, they were looking for a “conquering-king“, one who would make their lives easier.

Jesus Walks on the Water
15 So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.

Who WOULDN’T want a king who could solve all their problems, including making sure that they never went hungry? There was just one minor problem. Becoming their earthly-king wasn’t part of Christ’s mission on earth, so He slipped-away for some quiet-time.

16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. 19 Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. 20 But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

22 The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. 23 There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus. 25 When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?” (John 6:16-25)

Sudden-squalls on the Sea of Galilee are common and they can be quite severe. The Sea of Galilee is in a valley which is bordered on two sides by mountains, so when the winds come whistling through that valley, they can whip the water into a frenzy. While Jesus was alone on the mountain, His disciples started crossing over towards Capernaum, and even though their trip was probably only about five or six miles, they were rowing both against the current and against the wind. By the time Jesus made His early-morning stroll across the lake, they were cold, wet and tired. Matthew recorded some interesting details which John omitted, so lets take a peak at this story from Matthew’s perspective.

22 Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. 23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. 24 But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

34 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick; 36 and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured. (Matthew 14:22-36)

After the great feed, Jesus sent His disciples on to their next stop while He sent the crowd away. He frequently slipped away for time with His Father because He needed to be refreshed too. Sometimes we feel that what we are doing is “too-important” or “too-urgent” for us to take a break, but we really need to follow our Lord’s example. That is why I take frequent “mental-health” days at the Cove so I don’t get too stressed-out.

Jesus didn’t take His stroll until early-morning, and by then, the boat was nowhere to be seen. As Lord of all creation, He walked on water as easily as we walk on land, except that His disciples weren’t expecting Him. Ghost, well, only ghosts can appear to be walking on water…NOT. Yes, His disciples WERE afraid, and for good reason, but not for long. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Was Peter displaying careless-bravado, or did he really believe that he could walk on water with Jesus? Maybe a bit of both, but…29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. Peter was walking on water, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, but when he came back to the reality of how bad the storm really was, he sank like a rock and cried out for help. “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Walking on water” could be compared to our faith-journey because both seem unnatural to us. Many “storms” have rocked my world, and keeping my eyes on Jesus hasn’t always been easy. “Walking on water” could also be compared to starting a new ministry, because unless a person is “prepared” for it, it doesn’t come naturally either. Yes, Jesus stands ready to “steady” us or even “rescue” us…if we are willing to ask Him for help, but asking Him for help takes faith.

As if feeding a crowd with only a “sack-lunch” wasn’t enough evidence for who Jesus is, 32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

34 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick; 36 and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured.(M) No matter where Jesus went, the news that He was in town spread like wildfire. Someone always wanted something from Jesus, whether it was healing or they wanted to be fed – again, and they went to great lengths to get to Him.

22 The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. 23 There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus. 25 When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”(J) What would WE do to get to Jesus?

The NEXT time Jesus “comes to town“, it will be with power and great glory, and EVERYONE will know about it, but not everyone will be happy. Are YOU ready for His triumphal-return?

Blessings!
Steve

Bible Study – Samaritan Woman Meets Her Messiah

Most Jews detoured around Samaria when traveling from Judea to Galilee by crossing the Jordan River twice, but Jesus took the western route through Samaria. The Samaritans were much more lax about their ritual-purification so the Jews considered them “unclean“. The Samaritans had also intermarried more with the heathens around them during their captivities, so many Jews also considered them “half-breeds“. This is NOT to say that the Jews were really any more “racially-pure” than the Samaritans, because they weren’t. Even Jesus had two Gentile women in His ancestry, Rahab and Ruth. To make matters worse, there was a running-dispute between the Jews and the Samaritans about where to worship God, Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim. All of this gave rise to the “bad-blood” between them. That was why most Jews refused to go through Samaria for any reason. That background brings us to today’s passage.

4 Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), 3 He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. 4 And He had to pass through Samaria. 5 So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; 6 and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

7 There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11 She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? 12 You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” 16 He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” 19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

27 At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why do You speak with her?”. (John 4:1-27

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Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), 3 He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. 

Jesus’ authority had already been question in Jerusalem several times during Passover, so maybe He was tired of all the controversy in Judea and He decided to go to Galilee where He could minister more freely.

4 And He had to pass through Samaria. 5 So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; 6 and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

The children of Israel had occupied this part of Palestine before their departure into Egypt, and everywhere they went, they dug new wells. This was semi-arid, mountainous terrain far from any natural sources of water, so Jacob had dug a well close to what became Sychar. We see Jesus’ true-humanity, because after traveling in that rough countryside, He was tired and thirsty. It was 30 miles from Jerusalem to Sychar as the crow flies, but much farther on foot. It was also about noon when they arrived at Sychar.

7 There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Why did she come to the well at noon, rather than in the cool of the day? There is no definitive-answer given, but it could have been to avoid the not-so-nice looks and comments because, even in that society, she was a social-outcast. How many children tagged-along with her?

Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) How did she know that Jesus was a Jew? Did His accent or mode of dress give Him away? Was it that He was a stranger, so He had to be a Jew? John doesn’t give us any clues, so to speculate is futile.

10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11 She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? 12 You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Yes, Jesus WAS greater than Jacob, WAY greater!

15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.”Living-water” was the water which was deep underground, flowing, and the purest\, however, Jesus’ usage of “living-water” referred to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was offering eternal-life in the the kingdom of God, but she thought He was offering her an unending source of physical-water from deep underground.

16 He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.”

She had had five husbands, but we are not told whether they had died or whether they had divorced her. If she had been widowed each time, she was totally-free to remarry each time, but divorce was a different story in that culture. That she had been married five times is almost a side-issue compared to the fact that she was living with a man she wasn’t married to, because according to Old Testament Law, both of them could and should be stoned. Yes, adultery was a capitol-offense. Before we are too hard on her, a single woman had no means of support, and that was even worse if she still had kids at home. Women were wives and mothers – period. There were no “working-women“, and if her kids couldn’t support her, she and her family went hungry. Like it or not, a woman’s only “assets” we her usefulness to her husband. That was why the custom of kinsman-redeemer came into being. That is one of the core-themes in the book of Ruth.

Simply-put, the kinsman-redeemer custom required that if a woman’s husband died before leaving her an heir to support her, his brother or another close-relative was required to marry her and give her a son. Their first-born became the heir of the deceased-husband’s estate, and if the husband didn’t already have an heir, of his estate also. None of this assumed that the kinsman-redeemer was single, because plural-marriage wasn’t forbidden in the Old Testament. Refusal was seriously frowned-on and brought public-disdain. While this custom doesn’t resonate with us today, it does emphasize the importance God places on family and caring for those who cannot care for themselves.

A few more pieces of background information:
1) The firstborn son received a double-portion of his father’s inheritance so he could support his parents when they became unable to support themselves.

2) Daughters didn’t receive an inheritance because they were expected to marry and their husband would support them. They also married young, usually between 12 and 14.

3) Jesus was Mary’s firstborn son but he assigned her care to John, one of His disciples, rather than to one of His brothers.

19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Notice how quickly she changed the subject… This goes back to one of the age-old disputes between the Jews and the Samaritans. During the time of the divided-kingdom, the Samaritans were not able to go to Jerusalem to worship, so they established their own worship-center. They still weren’t welcome in Jerusalem.

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus pointed her to the fact that worship isn’t about a “location“, as significant as that location might be. Worship is about God, plain and simple, and we don’t need “special-place” to worship God. God is not restricted to a specific-place, and He is just a delighted in the praises and worship of our small family of believers here as He is from those gathered in the grandest cathedral. He has also promised to be in our midst.

26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” This is the only time Jesus claimed the Messianic-title before His trial leading up to His crucifixion. The Samaritan woman, whose name is known only to God, met her long-awaited Messiah.

27 At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why do You speak with her?” For a man to talk to a woman he wasn’t related to was a huge cultural “NO-NO“, and that Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman was an even-bigger shock, yet Jesus came to Earth for a purpose and He wasn’t going to let cultural-convention get in His way.

Even today, we are constrained by cultural-norms in our social interactions with one another, but they were even stricter then because women were not only second-class-citizens, they were the property of their husband.

Next time, we will pick up from here with Ministry in Samaria…

Blessings!
Steve

Bible Study – Wedding In Cana

As our next scene opens, Jesus and His disciples have been invited to a wedding. Wedding-celebrations lasted up to a week, depending on the resources of the family, and they were a time of feasting and drinking.

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 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 that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him. 9 When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, 10 and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days. (John 2:1-12)

Running out of wine was serious-business, because either the guests had drank more than anticipated or those responsible for the feast hadn’t planned properly. Either way, there wasn’t a liquor-store in the neighborhood where they could buy more wine. They had a problem…

Mary knew what to do – ask Jesus to take care of their problem, but…

While we might recoil in horror that Jesus called His mother “woman“, in that culture, it wasn’t disrespectful, demeaning or dishonoring to His mother. Women didn’t have the status they have today. They were raised to be wives and mothers – period.

The next part of His response might also surprise us by its bluntness. “What does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus and His disciples were guests at this party, so the logistics of the party was not His concern. Jesus was also fully-aware of His mission on earth, and being the “divine-caterer” wasn’t part of the package. Yes, He did feed large crowds on a least two occasions, but that was out of compassion, not obligation. Jesus did NOT perform miracles “on-demand“, and His mother didn’t have any more say in His mission than anyone else. Even though Jesus told His mother that taking care of their host’s wine-problem wasn’t in His “job-description“, I don’t believe that it was a hard-edge rebuke either, as do some Bible-scholars.

Was Mary forcing the issue when she said, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”, or was she expressing full-confidence that Jesus would provide what was needed? I believe that she thought that Jesus would do something, and that what He would do would be good.

The need for the stone water-pots takes us back into the Old Testament, specifically the Ceremonial Law. The Ceremonial Law, which is detailed in Leviticus 12-15, touched virtually ever facet of their daily-lives. Something as simple AND normal as a woman’s monthly-period, or a couple having sex, made them ceremonially-unclean, which required that they go through a purification-ritual before they could enter any place of worship. They also didn’t have indoor-plumbing or any of the other conveniences that we take for granted. Some people kept water on hand to take care of their purification needs, as did this family. Others had to go to the public bathhouse or other body of water to bathe and wash their clothes.

We need to pause a moment and understand the difference between something which made a person ceremonially-unclean and something which was sinful. They were not the same, even though some things which made a person ceremonially-unclean required offering a sacrifice in addition to the purification-ritual. Even though the Law of Moses required certain sacrifices when a couple had a baby, that didn’t make conceiving and having a baby “sinful“. Some ancient church leaders used the ceremonial law to “prove” that sex was “sinful” but “tolerable” if a couple was try to conceive.

This “anti-body” dogma grew out of a blending of Gnosticism (spirit=good, body=evil) and Asceticism (all pleasure is evil), two ancient Greek philosophies. Some early church leaders denied that Jesus had a real, human body, something the Apostle John went to great lengths to refute in all of his writings. Even though we don’t see much hard-core Gnosticism today, it is still present in a lesser but more insidious form, such as denying that our physical-bodies are part of God’s image in us. I have run into this latter form of Gnosticism among some members of my own church.

It may have taken many trips to the well to fill up those waterpots, but at Jesus’s command, they did. If they averaged twenty-five gallons each, that was one-hundred and fifty gallons of water, which was soon to become wine. That must have been some very good wine, because the headwaiter wondered why they had saved the best wine for last. We don’t know how far along in the feast that this event took place.

While Jesus always performed His miracles for the benefit of others, His primary purposes in performing miracles were to show His glory and to lend credibility to His message, to further-convince His disciples that He was who He said He was, the Messiah.

It appears that Mary was already a widow by this time with several kids still living at home because there is no mention of Joseph in this scene, and Mary will reappear several more times throughout Jesus’s ministry. His sisters may have already been married-off by then, because girls got married much younger than boys in that culture. Whatever the case was, the family was together during the wedding and for a short time afterwards.

Jesus had already made Capernaum His “headquarters“, maybe at the home of Peter and Andrew, so that was His next stop. By this time, His entourage already included at least four disciples plus His family, and there was no “Motel-6” or “Days-Inn” to stay in. Other Gospels record Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law at his home in Capernaum.

One very important thing to note is that this miracle symbolized a new kingdom-order. The old ceremonial and sacrificial system was being done away with, symbolized by the water for purification, and Jesus was establishing a new kingdom-order, symbolized by wine, a symbol of the coming Holy Spirit. Jesus came both to fulfill the old law and to nullify it, which He did by His sinless life and atoning-sacrifice on the cross. We are beneficiaries of both His finished work and promised Holy Spirit.

We should also see that Jesus was God over all of creation, which meant that He could create something from nothing or turn something into something else, water into wine. He will demonstrate His lordship over creation in many other ways as we progress through John’s gospel and His ministry.

In Christ,
Steve

Getting Out Of The “Boat”…

If you are going to walk on water, you have to get out of the “boat”.

Who doesn’t like boats? There is a special thrill skimming across the water at a high rate of speed, particularly when you are only inches above the water. Yes, I have piloted a jet-ski across the water at highway-speeds before and it was quite the thrill. There is something about accelerating from zero to 60 miles per hour so quickly you can barely hold on. But, this isn’t about enjoying skimming across the water in a boat. It is about getting out of your “boat“.

The “boat“, in this case, is your comfort-zone. Our comfort-zone is defined by that set of people, places and activities where we are comfortable, confident and capable. If we are in any situation where any one of the “3-C’s” is breached, we are uneasy and want to escape back to our comfort-zone. Once in a while, we can be cajoled into dipping a toe in the water, but really stepping out of the “boat” is a real stretch.

I DON’T walk on water. I DON’T talk to angels. I DON’T leap tall buildings with a single bound“. I am NOT faster than a speeding-bullet“. I am NOT stronger than a locomotive“, and I DON’T fly through the air with the greatest of ease“. In other words, I am NOT Superman, and my “boat” is pretty small. If my “boat” was much smaller, I couldn’t even get out of the cabin. Over the last few months, I have added a small extension to the deck so I can look down at the water, but I made sure that the railing was plenty stout so I won’t fall overboard. Yes, I know. You aren’t impressed, and neither is God.

The problem is that if we don’t get out of the “boat“, there is no way that we will ever walk on water. God is looking for water-walkers, not “boat-lubbers“.

What keeps us in the “boat”?
If you are like me, you can remember plenty of times when you “stepped-out” and sank like a rock. I float like a rock. We are afraid we are going to sink – again, so what is keeping us in the “boat” is that not-so-little four-letter word…F-E-A-R. We are afraid, based on past experinces, that the water won’t hold our weight. Isn’t it amazing that great ocean-liners, aircraft carriers and freighters float just fine, but we sink like a rock, even though we are a tiny-fraction of the size of one of those great vessels. That is because we aren’t designed to walk on water…ON OUR OWN.

We CAN walk on water…
We CAN walk on water, but not on our own or by ourselves. What if Someone else stepped out of the “boat” with you? What if that Someone can walk on water like He is walking on a super-highway? We have Someone who HAS walked on water, our Lord Jesus Christ. He can walk on water because He created it. Our problem is that we are not Him nor do we posses His authority, or do we?

Only one other person has ever walked on water, Peter, and we will never know if he could have walked with Jesus all the way to the shore if he hadn’t gotten scared. What we do know is that, immediately after Peter’s water-walking escapade, Jesus and Peter got in the boat. Peter was back to “safety” in more ways than one. That boat WAS Peter’s comfort-zone, in more ways than one. Peter went back to that “boat“, literally, after the resurrection. Jesus had to call for Peter to get off the “boat” again so that he could get a new commission to a new job. Peter was going to do a different kind of “fishing“. Peter hadn’t walked on water in his own ability. He had help.

Taking a walk…
When I was at the Christian Naturist Festival, I was asked to check out the prospects of starting a ministry at Cypress Cove. There is only one “minor” problem. I would rather go into a burning building to fight the fire than be responsible for starting a ministry. I used to be a firefighter, so I was trained to fight fires. I was also a fire instructor, so I have trained other people to fight fires also. Firefighters use proper protective equipment, AND, they DON’T go in alone. When it comes to starting a ministry, just put feathers on me. Now if I had someone else to help me…

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

If that passage doesn’t shoot huge holes in our FEAR, nothing will. When firefighters arrive at the scene of a fire, the fire-ground Commander teams them up and gives them their assignments, however, the Commander stays out in the “safe-zone” so that he or she can observe what is going on, plan future assignments and direct the action. When our Lord said “GO“, He gave us our assignments, but unlike the fire-ground Commander, He has promised to BE our partner, to go into the thick of the action. Our fireground partner might get hurt or tired, but our Lord never tires of being in the thick of it. We may need some “re-hab“, but our Lord is always raring to go. Firefighters can’t go in until they are given their orders, but we, as Christians, have standing-orders to “GO“. Who would you feel safer going in with, another rookie like yourself, or the One with ALL the bugles? The One with ALL the bugles has been around. He has EARNED all those bugles, so He is the One I want going in with me. If He wants to bring another rookie along, the more the merrier.

Getting out of the “boat”…
Why have I used an example from the Fire Service for “getting out of the “boat“”? A rookie firefighter has the right to be afraid when he or she faces a fire, because even if they have some training, they don’t have the experience to confidently do their job. Two rookies are never teamed up without an experienced firefighter going with them. Part of their fear is allayed by who is going in with them…someone with experience. They get off their apparatus, gear up and go in because they are NOT going alone.

When God gives us an assignment, He doesn’t send us in alone. He has promised to be with us every step of the way. Does that mean that we won’t have a few heebie-jeebies when we first begin? If we didn’t have a few heebie-jeebies when we first begin, we wouldn’t be human. God is not calling us to be anything more or anything less than human. He created us, and He understands our heebie-jeebies.

My “boat” is still pretty small, but I hear some drilling going on. God is installing a new boarding-ladder and swim-platform. He wants me to “get out of the “boat”‘ and start walking…walking on water, with Him by my side. Yes, I still have a few heebie-jeebies…

Are YOU ready to “get out of the “boat”” and start walking on water? Our Lord has promised you help and companionship for the journey. Maybe you will come walk with us…

In Christ,
Steve

Storms…

35 That day when evening came, He said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!” (Mark 4:35-41)

Small boats and big water…
Even though some of Jesus’s disciples were experienced fishermen and good sailors, this storm was “over the top“. They had experienced many storms on the Sea of Galilee, but they thought this one would be their last.

Not long after 9-11, a friend of mine and I were patrolling in the Port of Tampa when a heavy thunderstorm blew in. We retreated to the Coast Guard Station to wait it out. After we tied our boat up to their dock and disembarked, the Station Officer of the Day met us. There had been an explosion at a power plant or sub-station in New York, but very little was known about what actually happened or whether it was an act of terrorism. He wanted us to check two power plants, one in the Port area, and one south of Tampa, and a ship which was docked at another Port south of Tampa for “suspicious activity“. After consulting the nautical chart, we agreed to take the mission. We were in a fourteen-feet, aluminum fishing-boat… Some would have said that we were crazy, maybe even out of our minds.

Even though the Gulf of Mexico is much larger than the Sea of Galilee, a storm can turn it from quiet waters to BIG WATER very quickly. We aren’t told how long it took Jesus and His disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee, but it took us eight hours to accomplish our mission. Yes, at times it WAS a scary ride. We didn’t find anything “suspicious” at any of our check-points.

Storms…
We all go through storms in life, whether they are physical storms or the storms of life. We can all remember some of the great storms, Hurricane Katrina, Super-storm Sandy, and even Hurricane Charlie, which cut a path of destruction diagonally across Florida. There have been super-tornadoes that cut mile-wide paths of utter-destruction for tens of miles. Storms are scary, and their devastation is real.

My wife and I rode out the tail-end of Hurricane Charlie in Daytona Beach, Florida. If there was a “peacefulplace” in that storm, we were in it. As the hurricane approached from the south, we were on the north side of our hotel, sheltered from the storm. We watched as debris pelted the vehicles in the motel parking-lot, which was right in front of us. A piece of roofing landed on the new Mustang which was parked beside our vehicle. It made a huge dent in the roof, before slithering down the side of and Mustang and coming to rest under our vehicle. We watched as the storm tore huge pieces of roofing off of the motel just north of us. We also watched as a transformer exploded into a ball of fire. When we woke up the next morning, devastation was everywhere, but there wasn’t a mark on our vehicle. We, and our vehicle, had been in an oasis, a place of calm during the storm. Coincidental?

We rode out three more hurricanes over the course of the next few weeks. She was at her work, and I was at my volunteer Fire Station. Even though they were bee-hives of activity, they were oasis, places of calm during the storms. We pooled our food, and the parents of one of our Officers made sure that we had good meals to eat. Sleeping-arrangements weren’t very comfortable, but we made do with what we had. Even though we didn’t have running water, we had six-thousand gallons of water in our tanker. Yes, devastation was all around us, but we were safe, and none of our fire apparatus got damaged.

Storms of life…
The storms of life can be even more devastating. Things can be replaced, homes repaired or rebuilt, but losing a loved-one is permanent. A lost spouse, parent, sibling or child can never be replaced. After my first wife committed suicide in 1997, I thought that I could “replace” her with another wife, that the “replacement” would take away the pain of my loss, but I was wrong. I did remarry, and remarry, and remarry, but none of them ever took the place of my beloved. Connie had, and still has a special place in my heart, a place that is all her own. I finally wrote my “farewell” letter to her about three years ago, but there will always be that part of me that belongs to her alone.

Health-problems is another kind of “storm” that many of us deal with. I have several ongoing health-problems, but they are manageable most of the time. Some days are worse than others, but I can still get vertical, put one foot in front of the other and take nourishment, so I am blessed. My brother has been in and out of the hospital MANY times in the last three years, and we almost lost him three years ago.

There are no “perfect” relationships because there are no perfect people. Some of us are more “broken” than others, so when we enter into a relationship, we bring our “brokenness” with us. If we expected that our new spouse was going to “fix” what was “broken” in us, we quickly found out that that wasn’t going to happen. Only God can “fix” what is “broken” in us.

Who is this?
Even though His disciples had spent quite a bit of time with Him, His disciples really didn’t understand who Jesus is. Many years later, John the Apostle finally unraveled the answers to that question for us .

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 14)

Jesus is the eternal “Word“, the Lord and creator of all there is. He had spoken the cosmos into existence, scattered billions of galaxies across the heavens, and when He said “Let there be light“, the nuclear fires of a gazillion stars lit as one, so calming the Sea of Galilee was “child’s-play” to Him. He had also knelt in the dust, taken a handfull of it, and lovingly fashioned the first man, before breathing His own breathe of life into the man. That is as “personal” as it gets.

Peace, be still!
We desperately want and need peace, but there is only one person who can breathe peace into us, Jesus Christ. He can place us in a place of peace in the midst of a violent storm. He can cause peace to surround us and ours such that, even though everything around us is destroyed, we suffer no harm or loss. God doesn’t “wave-off” our storms, any more than I could have “waved-off” those four hurricanes or the people of New Orleans could have “waved-off” Hurricane Katrina, but He can give us peace and the strength to go THROUGH our storms.

The storms of life ARE going to assail us, and there is no escaping them, but we can know peace in the midst of our storms. Do you have His peace?

Peace, be still!
Steve

Mystery Of Mysteries

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 14)

The Mystery of Mysteries to me is not how Jesus, God, took on human flesh, but how Jesus perfectly combined both His humanity and His divinity into one person. I don’t have a problem understanding how Jesus became human, because I already have a good grasp on human reproduction, so it is no stretch for me to understand how God could have created one perfect human sperm, perhaps even emulating Joseph’s sperm so that Jesus looked like “one of the boys“.

We are born into space and time, so living in space and time is “normal” for us, but God isn’t constrained by space and time. God, in Jesus Christ, became constrained by space and time. He could not be in more than one place at a time, and yet there are instances in the Gospels when Jesus seemed to “dematerialize” and “reappear” somewhere else. This was most evident in the days following His resurrection, when He “materialized” on at least two occasions into locked upper-rooms, and when He “disappeared” from the dinner-table after breaking bread with the two disciples in Emmaus. Was His resurrection-body “different” than His pre-crucifixion human-body? He ate food in front of His disciples when He “appeared” to them in that locked, upper-room to prove that He wasn’t just a spirit, that He was real.

There were times when Jesus had “super-human” knowledge, and other times when He professed ignorance. He “saw” Nathaniel before he was introduced to Jesus, but asked where Lazarus was buried. He knew exactly what was going to happen to Him during His trial and crucifixion. He told His disciples that only the Father knows when He will return in triumph, and yet He said “I and the Father are one“. Were there limits to what He knew, or limits to what He was allowed to tell them?

Jesus turned water into wine, asked the Samaritan woman for a drink and then offered her “living water“, which was clearly spiritual in nature. He walked on water, calmed a storm with His command, and then said “I thirst” on the cross.

“35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” 36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”” (Mark 4:35-41)

“Who can this be…?” so beautifully-illustrates this Mystery of Mysteries, because even though His disciples had been with Him for quite some time and had witnessed other miracles, this one blew their minds. Maybe everything else that He had done seemed trivial by comparison to Jesus calming the storm with a command. We see both His true humanity (asleep on a pillow) contrasted with His lordship over all of creation. One of those salty fishermen, John, who was probably trying to help hold the boat together in the storm, penned the marvelous words that I opened this with.

Prophets, hundreds of years before the Incarnation, said that Jesus would be called “Emmanuel“, which means “God with us“, and yet His favorite title was “Son of Man“. I sense that the more we get to know about Jesus, the deeper this Mystery of Mysteries will get.

Will you join me in exploring this Mystery of Mysteries?

In Christ,
Steve