We live in a world full of uncertainty.
We worry if we’ll be able to have kids. Then, if we do, we feel anxious about how we’re doing raising them. We wonder if our personal finances will stretch enough to afford a house or our kids’ college or our retirement. A sudden change in our health or job situation leaves us questioning what the future holds. Our lives are crowded with things that make us feel insecure. As a result, we have a hard time knowing what to put our trust in.
But wouldn’t it be great if there was something we could count on? Or better yet, someone we knew we could trust?
Join us as we explore the seven signs Jesus performs in the Gospel of John. These miraculous signs provide living proof that he is the Son of God who has come to establish his unshakeable kingdom.
We are starting a new series on the verses of John where he described the “signs” performed by Jesus. The first miracle performed by Jesus was at a small wedding in an unimportant place with average people surrounding him. Why would Jesus work a miracle in such a place? Join us for today’s sermon and learn more.
Craig: Well, welcome to Mission Hills and Happy New Year. It’s early in 2020 so I feel like this is probably a safe time to go ahead and ask this question. How many of you set some New Year’s resolutions? Okay. How many of you are still keeping them all right? Yeah, I want you to feel good about yourself. That’s great. That’s awesome. I’ve set a few. I know that the statistics are not good. At the end of January, only 25% of people are still keeping their resolutions. But I figure that means that if you at least set one, you’ve got a one in four chance of making some significant change in your life. And so if you set 4, then I think you’ve got 100% chance of making some significant changes. So I set four and I want to share one of them with you. I’m gonna share my kind of my big resolution for the year. But to do that, I need to set it up just a little bit.
And so I wanna start by celebrating. God did some amazing things in and through Mission Hills last year. But hands down, my favorite one is we tallied it all up, we looked at student ministries and kids’ ministries and counseling ministries and things that happened in a weekend experience, and we realized that last year through the ministry of Mission Hills, we saw more than 500 people say yes to a relationship with Jesus. How awesome is that? Five hundred is a big number, right? And I’m part of…I have a strategic team here. And so we began to pray a late last year about, you know, what should our goal for this next year be? You know, what can we kind of do to organize ourselves as a church and move forward and be inviting God into things?
And when we saw that 500 number and we said, you know, what if we dream crazy big and what if this next year, we started praying and trying to move the church towards the goal of seeing 1,000 people say yes to Jesus? I was pretty excited about that. And I went to the elders with that proposal and the elders, their job is to discern, direct, and protect the future of the church. And they started talking about it and praying about it. And one of the elders, his name was John, he said, “Yeah, I’m just not sure that’s the right number.” And I was like, “I know it’s, I mean, we’re talking about doubling.” He goes, “No, no, no, no, no.” He said, “You know, we had this big vision to reach every lost person in the Front Range, right? That’s our long-term vision.” And he said, “One of our strategies for that is to unleash an army of missional followers of Jesus.”
“Well, we’ve got literally thousands of people who called Mission Hill, thousands of people who come in on a weekly basis, thousands of people that are regularly part of our worship services.” He said, “We wanna unleash them to be on mission with Jesus. We’ve said that. So what if we do that this year? What if we work really hard to unleash the people of God to be on the mission of God in the world?” And he said, “If we do that, then I don’t think 1,000 is enough. I think we need to make it 2,020 in 2020.” And the other elders went, “Yes.” And I went, “Oh no.” That is our goal though. We are moving towards seeing 2,020 people say yes to Jesus through the ministry of Mission Hills in 2020 and so that sets the stage.
Yeah. You can applaud that, it’s gonna be awesome. It also sets the stage for my number one resolution, which is I’m gonna get better at prayer. I am because there’s a couple of reasons for that. Number one, there’s no way that’s gonna happen apart from a movement of God like we’ve never seen here. Okay. And that only happens through prayer per such a critical part of that. And the other reason that I’ve made getting better at prayer one of my resolutions is honestly, I’m not great at it. I know, right? Like, a pastor is not supposed to say that, right? Pastors are supposed to be the best at prayer. And I know a couple of pastors who are the best at prayer, but honestly, I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret, the rest of us are not. In fact, most pastors, when the guard comes down and we’re really honest with each other, almost every pastor I know feels some guilt that we’re not better with prayer.
And it’s interesting. I don’t think the reason that we sometimes struggle with prayer is because, you know, like we don’t think it matters. We do. We think prayer absolutely matters. And it’s not, you know, that we’re so arrogant that we think we can do it without God. It’s not that. I think that the number one reason that most pastors struggle with prayer, maybe the same reason that almost everybody struggles with prayer, and that is we overthink it a little bit. I think pastors, in particular, are prone to overthinking and here’s how overthinking gets in my way when it comes to prayer. So, you know, when I sit down to pray and I wanna pray some of the ways I was taught, and one of the ways I was taught was when you start praying, you should always praise God first, right? Sort of reminds you who he is and who you’re praying to and get centered on God.
And so, you know, praise God’s, so like, “Yeah, God, I praise you. You’re so good and I praise you, God, that you’re so powerful. I praise you that you’re all-knowing. I mean you’re so all-knowing, you know everything that I need before I need it. And you know everything that I’m about to say even before I say it. So what are we doing here again? Anybody else ever have that question when it comes to prayer? I think a lot of people do and it can really kind of get in our way. And so what I wanna do today is I wanna share a story from the life of Jesus that maybe more than any other story has changed the way that I think about prayer. In fact, it’s changed it so much that one of my strategies for getting better at prayer this year…we always need a strategy.
The problem is that a resolution without a strategy is just a wish, okay? And I don’t want my desire to get better at prayer to just be a wish and so I have a strategy. And one of my strategies is I’ve set a reminder on my calendar every Monday morning at the start of every week, first thing in the morning, my reminders says, “Go back and read this story.” That’s how powerful and practical I think it is and how much it changes the way that I think about prayer in a very significant way. And so, I’d love to have you join me. We’re gonna be in John chapter 2 and what we’re doing today is we’re launching a new series, it’s called “Living Proof.” And what we’re gonna do in this series is we’re gonna walk verse by verse through seven stories that John tells about seven miracles that Jesus performed.
Now, John doesn’t call them miracles. He calls them signs because what he believes is that these things that Jesus did aren’t just announcements that he’s powerful, but they’re announcements of who he is, that they’re signposts that point to who Jesus is. Now, obviously Jesus did a lot more than seven signs. And in fact, John recognizes that at the end of his Gospel in John 20:30, John writes this, he says, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples.” He performed a lot more, which are not recorded in this book, which means that he’s been picky, right? It means that he’s hand selected. He’s carefully selected, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, these seven miracles. He did a lot more, but he selected these particular seven miracles specifically because they’re signs and because they point to who Jesus is in a very significant way, maybe more than any of his other miracles.
Have any of you ever driven up kind of north around the North Dakota area? If you’re going from the east…first time I did it, I was coming from the east and like a thousand miles before I got there, I started seeing signs for this one place. Some of you know exactly what it is, it’s Wall Drug. I’d never heard of Wall Drug, but I started seeing little signs and picket signs and big billboard signs and there were so many of them that I was…I’ll be honest, the standard was really high. And when I finally pulled into this place I was like, “I’m here. Am I here? Is this it, really?” But that’s kind of what John is doing in his Gospel. He’s actually organized the main part of his Gospel around these seven signs. Because unlike Wall Drug, he says if you understand these signs and their significance, they’re gonna give you a picture of Jesus that’s more vivid. It’s more powerful than anything you’ve ever seen.
In fact, he goes on he says this, “But these are written, these seven that I’ve chosen are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name.” So John’s organized the main part of his Gospel around these seven signs because he says when you understand these signs, and when you understand their significance, it’s going to allow you to believe in Jesus in a profound way, and it’s gonna allow you through that belief to experience life the way God always intended it. Life is impossible apart from belief and faith in Jesus Christ. He says, “I’m gonna give you these seven signs.”
And he starts in John chapter 1 with the first of Jesus’ public miracles, and this is how it goes. “On the third day, a wedding took place at Cana of Galilee.” Now Jesus’s mother was there and Jesus and his disciples had been invited to the wedding also. So Jesus begins his big important work…it was kind of a small and unimportant place. It’s interesting. He begins his big important work in a place called Cana of Galilee and here’s how small and insignificant Cana was. We don’t even know where it is. We have no idea where the town was. In fact, if it weren’t for this story, we may not know that Cana ever existed because nobody else talks about it. It was a very small town in the middle of kind of an unimportant province in the Nation of Israel.
Archeologists have a couple of different theories about where it might’ve been, but nobody’s bothered to get up an expedition to go and see if it was there because they don’t expect to find anything of significance there. It just wasn’t an important place. So it’s very, very interesting that Jesus chose to begin his big, important work in this small, unimportant place. And honestly, in the lives of, if I can be honest with you, small, unimportant people. Well, we don’t even know who this couple was. John’s the only one who writes about him and even he doesn’t name them because it’s like, it wouldn’t mean anything to you. They’re not people you would have heard about, they’re not people of any significance, they’re not people of any notoriety. They’re just kind of a generic small town couple having a generic small town wedding in a generic small town. And yet this is where Jesus chooses to begin his big, important work, which is very, very interesting.
And I think that’s actually important because here’s the thing, sometimes we fall into this trap of believing that God only does his big, important work in big, important places or in big, important people. And this is not true. It’s just not true. That Jesus spent most of his time with people that the world would have considered insignificant. And he did some of his greatest works in the lives of people in the places that the world would have said, why are you doing it there? That place doesn’t matter, but it does matter to Jesus. And maybe you’re here today and you’re thinking, I need God to move in my life. I need God to do something. I need a sign. But maybe there’s a little voice in the back of your head going, but I’m probably not gonna get one because he’s got bigger fish to fry. He’s got more important people to pay attention to. He’s got more important places to work than in my life. And the danger of that kind of thinking is that if we think that way about God, then we may never invite God in.
And it’s so interesting. If you ask the question, the more important question, the most important question, why did Jesus begin his ministry here? Why did he begin his public signs in this small and unimportant place at the wedding of the small and unimportant couple? Why did he do it? And the answer is, as John tells us, he was invited, right? It’s what he says, Jesus’s disciples went because they’d been invited. I have no idea what that was like. I mean my guess is that the couple invited him, but they didn’t really think he was gonna come, right? But they’re like, it would be cool if he did, wouldn’t it? I mean he wasn’t really a huge deal yet, but he had some disciples so he’s getting a certain amount of fame around him. So I imagine the couple was like, well, you know, we kind of know his mom and so we kind of have an in. Do we do it? Okay, let’s send him a save the date.
But my guess is when he showed up, they’re like, dude, he’s here. Here’s the thing, like we shouldn’t be surprised when Jesus shows up to where we’ve been invited, but we flip it around, we also shouldn’t be surprised when Jesus doesn’t show up where he hasn’t been invited. Listen to me, Church, do not be surprised if Jesus doesn’t show up where he hasn’t been invited. This business of invitation is actually really important. In fact, you might underline that word invited. We’re gonna come back to it a couple of different times today because I think it’s actually very central to the story that John is telling. Listen, if you think that God’s not interested enough in you to do a work in you, then you may never get up the courage to invite him in and that’s a disaster because we shouldn’t be surprised when Jesus doesn’t show up where he hasn’t been invited.
But here he was invited. So Jesus’s disciples had also been invited to the wedding, and now verse three says, “When the wine was gone, Jesus’s mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.'” Now, here’s what you got to understand. This is a big deal, okay? Running out of wine was a really big deal. Running out of anything at a party where you’re hosting people was a really big deal. That was especially true in the ancient world because hospitality was valued in a way that you and I can’t really completely imagine or understand today, but we can get a little bit of a glimpse of it. I threw a party before Christmas for the executive team here at Mission Hills with spouses and my kids, I can get about 11 of us. And my wife and I decided we were gonna cook prime rib and so she went to the store and she bought prime rib.
And she came back with the biggest piece of beef that I’ve ever personally beheld. I mean, it was a large section of a cow, actually, and I remember kind of looking at it and I said to her, “How much do you expect them to eat?” And she goes, “I don’t know, but I didn’t wanna run out.” Like how weird would that be if you’re like throwing a big party and you, like, ran out of the main dish? I’m like, yeah, okay. It’s all good, plus leftovers, right? It’s all good. I mean I get that. I understand how embarrassing, how dishonoring to your guests it would be if you ran out. And that’s in the modern world where we don’t value hospitality the way they did. In their realm, in their culture, in their world, to run out of something like wine, it was dishonoring to your guests in a way you and I can’t even begin to imagine. This is a big deal and maybe, honestly, even a bigger deal because the fact is that the only reason, they would have run out of wine is because they ran out of money, which means that this exposed their poverty.
So it wasn’t just dishonoring to their guests, but it was humiliating for the hosts as well. And I think that’s ultimately…that’s why Mary decided to get involved in this. I don’t think she was like, “Hey, I didn’t get enough wine. Jesus.” Right? I don’t think that was her plan. Now here’s the thing, I don’t care about the wine, but like when I’m at a wedding, I do watch those pieces of the wedding cake that had the flowers on them, right? Because I love me some good frosting. And like if I were going to Jesus for this, I’d be like, “Hey, they ran out of frosting pieces. They ran out of the flower ones and that will all be about me, okay? I would not be concerned about the host or anything. It was just all me. I didn’t get enough frosting yet, okay?
That’s not Mary’s concern. I think there’s a compassion here. She’s concerned about what this means to these friends of hers. So she goes home and she says, “They had no more wine.” Now, understand Jesus knew they didn’t have any more wine. Okay. I don’t think this was a shock. It’s not like she came and said, “Hey, they had no more wine,” Jesus went, “What?” No. I mean, first off, you know, he’s at the party, so I mean he’s probably noticed that. But secondly, earlier in the Gospel of John, we’ve already seen that Jesus has supernatural knowledge. He has access to information he shouldn’t have as a human being because he’s not exactly just a human being. He’s the Son of God and he’s demonstrated that. And so Jesus isn’t like needing to be informed of the fact that…and what we need to understand is that Mary is not telling him this to inform him. She’s telling this to invite him to get involved, right? That’s what’s going on here. The implication is they have no more wine, sooo, would you do something about it?
And maybe more than anything else, that’s the reason that I need to read this story every week this next year if I’m gonna get better at prayer because here’s what we need to understand is that we don’t pray to inform God. We pray to invite God to be involved. Do you hear me, Church? I’ve said that I struggle sometimes. I overthink it. I’m like, “Well, God, you already know what I’m about to say. You already know what I need. You know, what’s the point?” The point is the invitation. The point is the invitation. We don’t pray to inform God. We pray to invite God to be involved. That’s what’s happening here. And that’s what prayer should always be.
She says, “Hey, they’re out of wine,” with the implication, would you do something about it? And if you know Jesus at all, you kind of expect him to go, “I’ll get right on it, Mom.” Instead, he says this, he says, “Woman, why do you involve me? My hour’s not yet come.” Which like sounds crazy insulting, right? Can you imagine saying to your mom, “Woman,” like that would not be okay, right? But here’s the thing, that’s true in English, but it wasn’t true in the ancient world. What Jesus says here is in no way disrespectful. But it is an interesting thing. He says, the NIV translates it, “Why do you involve me?” Which is actually the perfect way to capture the thought. The literal Greek is, “What is this to you and me?” That’s what he literally says, “What is this to you and me?” In other words, “What’s the big deal, Mom? This doesn’t really affect me. It doesn’t really affect you. This isn’t mission-critical.” He says, “My hour hasn’t yet come. I’m not really ready to go public with who I am. So, you know, the plan really wouldn’t be to do anything here. Why are you trying to involve me?”
And it sounds like Jesus is reluctant, doesn’t it? Here’s what we need to understand. What happens here isn’t to demonstrate that Jesus is reluctant, it’s to demonstrate the power of invitation. Let me say that again because it’s really important we understand. What’s happening here isn’t intended to demonstrate that Jesus is reluctant. It’s intended to demonstrate the power of invitation. What Jesus basically says is, “Mom, if you hadn’t invited me to be involved in this, I wouldn’t do anything about this. This really wouldn’t have been part of the plan except you made it part of the plan by inviting me to get involved.”
And so his mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” It’s clear that she understands that he’s not saying no, he’s not dragging his feet. He’s just demonstrating the power of invitation. And I think about this story and it makes me wonder something because you know, it wasn’t just his mother that was there. His brothers were there too, including a man named James, who at first thought Jesus was crazy, but he eventually came to believe that Jesus was, in fact, the Son of God. After the resurrection, James became a follower of Jesus. He became a leader in the early Church, and he went on to write one of the books of the Bible. And in fact, in that book that wrote, it’s the book of James chapter 4, verse 2, he says, an interesting thing, he says this, he says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.”
James understood the power of invitation. And I actually wonder if when James wrote that, he wasn’t actually thinking about what he saw at this wedding. When Jesus looked at his mom and said, “What’s the big deal here? This really wasn’t part of the plan. This isn’t really mission-critical. I’m not really ready to go full-on public yet, but all right, since you invited me, I’ll get involved.” So James writes, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” That’s the power of invitation.
And so Mary looks at the servants and she says, “Do whatever he tells you.” And I love that. The keyword there is whatever because she doesn’t really know what Jesus is gonna do and she hasn’t specified, has she? She hasn’t said, “Hey Jesus, they’re out of wine. So here’s what you need to do.” She just invited him to be involved, but there’s no limitation on it. And that’s important, I think. Because here’s the thing I’ve come to understand about prayer is that we often put limitations on our invitations, right? We invite God to be involved, sure. But we go, here’s how you need to do it, right? So we go, “Hey God, I really…you know, my marriage, boy, my marriage needs you. Would you get involved in fix him? It’d be great.” And maybe God’s going, “Yeah, I’m not sure that’s where we need to start.” We go, “God, my finances needs you. I need you to be involved. Please come into my finances. I’m inviting you into my finances. Here’s what I need you to do, get me a raise.” And God may be going, “Maybe we need to change the way you spend first.”
See, we put these limitations on our invitations. And what I’ve come to understand is that the more our invitations include limitations, the less inviting they actually are, the less we’re actually extending a real invitation when we’re putting on these limitations. Let me think about this. Somebody invites you to a party and they say, “Hey, would you come to my party? I’d love to have you there.” And you’re like, “I appreciate the invitation. I would love to come.” And then they go, “Okay, but you should know that it’s a costume party.” Ooh. “It’s a superhero costume party. It’s a DC superhero costume. It’s none of that Marvel business.” Okay, wow, I don’t know about this. “Oh, and you should come with the outfit on, but you need to come with a trench coat so nobody can see the outfit because at a certain point in the party, we’re gonna have a big reveal. It’s gonna be awesome.” You’re like, “No, it’s not.” And I don’t really even wanna come because you put all these limitations that your invitation doesn’t really feel very inviting because it sounds like you’ve got an agenda, honestly. You just kinda need players for your little drama. And that’s what I mean. I mean, the more limitations we put on our invitations, the less inviting they actually are. And I think it works that way with God.
And we say, “God, I want you to be involved, but here’s what it should look like.” Maybe the less inviting that actually feels to the Lord. Mary doesn’t do that. She says, “Do whatever he tells you. No limitation. Just do it.” And nearby…it says, “Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from 20 to 30 gallons.” Now, the jars he’s talking about, they’re pretty big pieces of pottery, right? And they were used, not for full-on bathing, but as you came in, you know, you would wash the dust of the road off of your arms and your hands and they would sit in there, which meant that the jars were basically full of dirty water. And even if you poured all the water out, I mean that dirt would still be part of that kind of slimy stuff around the filling and they’re not…they’re kind of gross is what I’m trying to say.
And I love the fact that just like, “We’re gonna use those,” because that’s Jesus, right? See, Jesus didn’t spend all his time hanging out with the people who are perfect and pure. Not that there are any such people, but there are people who think that that’s what they are, right? Those aren’t the people Jesus hung out with. He hung out with the people that everybody else said they’re filthy, they’re dirty, they’re beneath God, they’re so sinful. Surely God cannot care about or have anything to do with those people. But Jesus has this sort of long history of taking what’s dirty and making something delightful out of it. He looks at these dirty jars and goes, “We’re gonna do something delightful there.” I love that.
And maybe you’re here today, and it’s early in the year, maybe you’re here because you’re trying to follow a new resolution. There’s a part of you that says, “I know I need God,” but maybe you’re here and you’re uncomfortable because there’s a part of you that’s thinking, I’m just not sure God wants anything to do with me because I’ve messed up a lot. My life’s…and it’s not kind of a mess, it’s a mess. I’ve done a lot of wrong. I’ve committed a lot of sin. I’m pretty dirty, honestly. Maybe I don’t even fit in with his crowd or maybe honestly, maybe you’re watching online because you don’t think you fit in with this crowd because you’re too dirty. You’re not.
Listen to me. There’s no life so dirty that Jesus can’t make something delightful out of it. Do you hear me, Church? If you feel in that way, you’re in really good company. A lot of us feel that way, but how we feel about it’s irrelevant because the truth of the matter is that Jesus doesn’t care, and there is no life so dirty that Jesus can’t make something delightful out of it. So he looks around, he sees these dirty jars and he says, “There we go.” Verse seven says, “Jesus said to the servants, fill the jars with water so that they fill them to the brim.” In other words, they added water in so that it was all the way to the very top. And then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” And they did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.
By the way, that is like the most low-key announcement of a miracle I’ve ever seen, right? Like it’s almost a letdown. I mean like, I don’t know like what he should’ve said, but like I feel like there should be some appropriately spiritual word. It’s not abracadabra obviously, but something like, you know, “ta-da” maybe or “lo behold” or something biblical, right? But there’s none of that. He’s just like take it and they’re like, “Oh the water had been turned into wine.” Like, what? See Jesus is still kind of keeping it low key. He’s not really ready to go full-on public yet.
Now he, meaning the master of the banquet, he did not realize where it had come from though the servants who had drawn the water knew. I love that. The only important person really at the wedding because the master of the banquet was a big, important person. The only really big, important person at the wedding didn’t even know what had happened, happened under his nose. But he says, “The servants knew.” I love that. I love it because that’s God. That’s a sign of who Jesus is. He’s not interested in people that the world considers significant. He is interested but not more interested.
The world’s designation of significant is not his designation. You’re significant because you’re his child. You’re his son, his daughter. You’re made in his image. He loves you deeply. And Jesus came to rescue because of his profound passion for you. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks about you. God thinks the world of you. He says, “The servants knew.”
I think of Isaiah 57. It says this, Isaiah 57:15, “For this is what the high and the exalted One, what God says. He who lives forever, whose name is holy, I live in a high and a holy place.” And you’re like, of course you do. He says, “But also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the contrite.” Listen to me, what we see over and over again in the life of Jesus is that our status in life doesn’t determine our access to God. Our status in life does not determine our access to God. We all have free and clear access to the Almighty. He says, “The master of this ceremony, the master of the banquet, the important person in the room had no idea what had happened, but the servants did.”
They tasted the wine and it says this, “And then he called the bridegroom aside and he said, ‘Hey, everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink,'” which is a pretty good strategy, right? Don’t give them the good stuff when they’re able to discern the intricacies and the subtleties of a good wine. No, give them the good stuff early. But once they’ve had too much to drink and they can’t appreciate it, then you give them the cheap stuff. But you flipped that around. “You saved the best until now,” he says. And what Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory and his disciples believed in him. It’s so interesting.
I mean, John says, “This is a big deal. This is the first of the signs.” The first of only seven that he’s really gonna focus on, the first of seven he’s gonna build his portrait of Jesus around. He says, “This is the big deal,” but it’s such an interesting place to have started the public ministry of Jesus, this small, unimportant wedding in a small, unimportant place. And it sort of begs that we ask the question like, why this miracle, why this sign? And we’ve already seen some of it, but let’s summarize because I think it’s important, we understand why this is the way that he kicked the whole thing off. The first one is this, is that this miracle points to this undeniable fact, and it’s gonna make a few of you uncomfortable, but it’s important that we recognize that this is truth about Jesus. Jesus loves a good party because he’s all about joy. He does, and I realize that might make some of us uncomfortable.
But the reality is that Jesus appears, I’ve studied the gospels and it seems that Jesus went to every party he was invited to. Even when the host of the party and Jesus didn’t see eye to eye, even when they kind of butted heads, he still went because Jesus loves a good party, which isn’t a surprise because he’s all about joy and we lose track of that sometimes in the Christian life, don’t we? Sometimes we get this idea and through us, the world gets this idea that to really follow Jesus seriously, you have to be a fairly grim person. It’s a little bit of a dour kind of an attitude that’s required of the saints, right? We take our sin very seriously and we’re very concerned about this and that and…We need to take our sin seriously, but Jesus has forgiven it, right?
I mean, Jesus came to live the perfect life so he didn’t have any sin so that he could go to the cross in our place to pay for our sin and he rose from the dead to prove that he’d done it so that when we receive his gift of forgiveness by faith, we are in fact forgiven. Our sin is no longer an issue. It’s not between us and God. And yeah, we need to cooperate with God’s work in our lives. We need to move with the Holy Spirit towards lives of greater and greater holiness, but we need to not necessarily be so grim about our sin and we need to be a whole lot more joyful about our forgiveness. And sometimes we lose sight of that in the Christian world.
But Jesus was all about joy. He was all about joy. At one point, some of the religious leaders came to Jesus, said, “Hey, you know, your friend, John the Baptist, well, his disciples, his followers, they’re fasting and they’re mourning and they’re pretty grim. And your disciples, well, they kind of party a lot,” is basically what they said. They said, “They’re not doing that. They seem to be really happy. You need to kind of fix that. You need to like tone that down.” And Jesus said, “That’s not gonna happen.” He actually said, he said, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? How can they mourn while the bridegroom’s with them? No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Joy is the order of the day where I am.”
Later in the Gospel of John, he said, “The thief comes to steal and to kill and destroy, to take life. I came that they may have life and have it to the full.” Why this miracle? Because Jesus is all about a good party because he’s all about joy. Second reason I think this miracle is Jesus is new wine that needs new wineskins. There’s a strong association in the Bible between joy and wine. Wine is often a symbol of joy and Jesus is all about joy. So, it’s not surprising that Jesus should talk about himself as new wine. In fact, he said this, this is in the Gospel of Matthew. He said, “No one pours new wine into old wineskins.” And he’s already established that he’s the new wine. He says, “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins and both the wine, and the wineskins will be ruined.” No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.
Because the thing about new wine is that it’s still kind of expanding. And if you put it into a wineskin that’s already expanded when you put the new wine in, it doesn’t have any more room to expand and so it cracks, and it splits and the wine spills out. He goes, “That’s no good. We don’t wanna lose any wine, especially you don’t want to lose any of me.” So, what he says is like, I’m new wine, but I came, and I’ll come into you. But you need to understand that for me to be able to be in you, I’m gonna have to make you new. And it’s not the old way of doing it. It’s not the old system. It’s not the old check off the boxes, the dos and don’ts, follow the rules and regulations and hope that you’ll please God enough for him to love you. No, no, no, no, no. You can’t do that. Your sin’s too profound and every sin separates from God in a way that we can’t fix.
But he said, “But I can fix it. I’ll die for it. I’ll pay for all of it.” And so you don’t have to earn God’s favor. He already loves you. “You just have to accept my gift of forgiveness and allow me to come in and begin to change you from the inside out.” And it’s not a coincidence that his first public miracle was the creation of new wine. It’s because Jesus is new wine. And he’s willing to make us into the new wineskins that can contain him in his joy.
But there’s a third reason I think, and this one might be the most important reason why this was the first miracle. And I say this because there’s a certain tension in the story, and on the one hand we have this very clear statement that this miracle is a big deal. This the first of seven signs that John talks about that point to who Jesus is that reveal who he is so we can believe in him and have the life that he offers. So clearly this sign is a big deal. What does he say at the end here? He says, “It’s the first of the signs and his disciples having seen them believed in him.” So clearly, this is a big deal. That’s one side of it. The other side of it though is that it almost sounds like he wasn’t planning on doing it, right? “Why do you involve me, woman? My time hasn’t come. This isn’t really mission-critical.” So, it’s a big deal, but it almost sounds like he didn’t wanna do it.
Why are we given that tension? And the answer is because we’re intended to understand the importance of invitation. It became part of the plan because he was invited to get involved. And I ask you to underline that word invited back at the beginning because I really do believe that it’s central to the purpose of the story and it’s central to why we’re given this story first. Because listen to me, God’s involvement often depends on an invitation. You hear me, friends? It’s not that God has to have an invitation, okay? It’s not that God requires an invitation before he can do anything. God, he’s King of kings, he’s Lord of lords. He can do anything anytime, anywhere to anyone, but he often waits for an invitation because he’s all about relationship.
God’s involvement often depends on invitation. So I’m gonna ask you a couple of questions. First one is just this, what areas of my life most need God’s involvement? I think it’s important that we identify those areas where we need God to be involved because it’s only when we recognize where we need him that we are prone to invite him and sometimes we’re kind of late to the party on that one, right? We get pretty far down the road of ways we need God’s involvement before we say, “Oh God, would you get in here?” So let’s reverse that here at the beginning of 2020. Let’s take some time to reflect. Maybe already God has spoken to you about something or maybe something will be given to you over the next few hours, but can you ask that question? You know, where do I most need God’s involvement and where do I recognize the need for God’s involvement before things have really gotten desperate?
The second question is this, how am I inviting him to be involved? He doesn’t need your invitation, but he often waits for it. God’s involvement often depends on our invitation. So how are you inviting him? Now, let me just suggest real quick three very simple but important ways that we extend that invitation. One we’ve already talked about, it’s prayer. We don’t pray to inform God. We pray to invite God to be involved. Prayer is one of the most important ways that we invite God’s involvement, but it’s not the only way.
A second way is obedience that when we choose to obey what God has already told us, we’re actually sort of…we’re kind of cleaning house and we’re sort of making room and going, “Hey God, I made a place for you.” You know, when we invite God to do things in our lives but we aren’t already obedient to the things that we know he’s told us to do, there’s a little bit of a hypocrisy to it, right? “God, I really need you to get involved here and do this thing for me. Although, yeah, I know you told me I’m supposed to do this thing and I will eventually but, you know, first if you could…” Obedience, and maybe some of you are listening to this and honestly that’s a hard thing to hear because there’s something that immediately came to mind. There’s something in your life that you know shouldn’t be there and maybe you need to push into this obedience business because obedience is a kind of invitation.
Third way that we invite God is worship. Bible tells us that he inhabits the praises of his people. When we worship, we are extending an invitation for God. Certainly, we do that when we gather together publicly. I’m gonna get in trouble for saying this, but I’m gonna. Beginning of the year, the gyms are always full, so are the churches. I’ve seen the curve of attendance. It drops off pretty quick after that. But my guess is that a lot of you are here today because you know that you need God to be involved in your life. And by being here, you’re extending that invitation. The consistency which we gather together for worship as part of that and our willingness to engage in worship as part of that. And not just when we gather together, but even throughout the week that those moments of worship where we praise God for who he is, that is a profound invitation. He inhabits the praise of his people, which means that our praises are an invitation for his inhabitation. So how are you inviting God to be involved and how will you invite God to be involved this year?
The third question I think we just need to reflect on is this, am I putting a limitation on my invitation? Because that may be the missing ingredient for some of us. We’re like, “Yeah, God, I really need to be involved in this and this is what it needs to look like.” Maybe God’s got a better, better, better plan, but you’re not inviting him to do his thing. You’re inviting him to do your thing. You’re inviting him to meet your expectation and the more limitations we put in our invitations, the less inviting they actually are. So am I putting a limitation on my invitation? It’s important to reflect on.
Would you pray with me? Let’s invite God in right now at the beginning of this New Year. God, we do invite you in. We’re here today because we recognize our need for you. We know we can’t inform you with anything that you don’t already know, but we also understand from your Word that you value relationship. And so your involvement in our lives often depends upon our invitation to be involved. And so, Lord we’re inviting you right now. Some of us have some very specific things that we are aware of and we’re inviting you to be involved in those, not even putting any limitations on them. We’re just asking for your presence because we know that you’re good and you’re wise and you know better than we and so, Lord, we just beg you to come to be involved in each of those things. We ask for your forgiveness for the ways that we have lived life as though somehow, we could do it on our own and it could be what you intended it to be without your presence. Ask for your forgiveness.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you join me right now? Would you begin praying for the people around you, the people who are watching online who need to make a decision today about starting that relationship with Jesus? Because some of you are listening right now and you’ve never invited him into your life at all. It’s not a matter of inviting him into your marriage or your finances or your career or whatever those things are that you might be struggling with because he’s not in your life. Because once again, his involvement often depends on an invitation, but he’s taken the first steps. He loves you so much. As we said, he sent his Son, Jesus, he lived the perfect life. He died on the cross to pay for your sin, to remove every barrier between you and God, every wrong you’ve ever done. There’s no life so dirty he can’t make something delightful out of it. No life so filthy with sin that he cannot clean it up and make something profoundly beautiful, and he wants to do that. That’s why he sent Jesus. He died for your sin. Three days later, he rose from the dead. Those are facts of history.
And Jesus has given you an invitation. He said, “I’m standing at the door, I’m knocking. You just need to open the door and invite me in.” And if you’ve never done that, maybe today’s the day. And here’s how you do it. You can do it right here, right now. There’s no reason to wait. You’re just gonna have a conversation with God. You’re gonna extend a very simple invitation. Wherever you are, you’re just gonna say this to him and say, God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for coming and dying for me. I believe you rose from the dead and I understand that you’re offering me new life, forgiveness in a relationship with God, so I’m opening the door. I’m inviting you in. Jesus, come into my life. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen. We’ve had some people make that decision already here in this first week into the New Year. I’m sure we did just this moment. Can we welcome them into the family of God? It’s awesome.
HOW DO MIRACLES HAPPEN?
Guest speaker Geoff Surratt describes miracles as something so extraordinary that they can only be attributed to God. His sermon plots the attributes of miracles and what elements are the basis for them occurring, using the example of a man trying to save his son’s life by seeking Jesus’ help and pointing to how miracles always bring glory to God.
Danny: Good morning. Greetings to those who are watching it online as well. Hey, it is a great privilege we have this morning to hear from Geoff Surratt. Geoff is an old friend of this church. He is well-respected around the country and around the world and he’s worked with a lot of pastors and a lot of churches over the last 40 years and has done an amazing job of it. And he’s gonna teach us this morning. Would you please make Geoff feel welcome this morning?
Geoff: Thank you. It is so much fun to be here. I was with you on a Sunday back in the summer. It’s great to be back. Love Mission Hills, love Pastor Craig. We’re good friends. We get together all the time regularly to pray together and talk about church and talk about kids and sometimes cry together and laugh together. And love kind of vicariously walking the journey with you through Pastor Craig. And then, of course, before that pastor Mike was a good friend. And just love being here with you guys this Sunday.
Love that my…as Danny mentioned, my wife and I, we live over in Parker. We’ve been back in Colorado for about eight years. I grew up here until I was about 12 years old and moved away and then couldn’t stay away from the Broncos any longer. So, I came back a few years ago and love being here today. Love the series that we are in. If you weren’t here last week, Pastor Craig kicked off the series, Living Proof, and we’re looking at the Book of John and we’re just picking out some things throughout the Book of John. In fact, seven different signs, seven different miracles in the book.
Now, I love the Book of John, the fourth Gospel listed in our New Testament and it’s actually, as many of you know, the last Gospel that was written, the last story about Jesus’ life. In fact, by the time John writes this, he’s a very old man, maybe as old as 90 years old, and he has the perspective of time. Matthew, Mark and Luke have already written their books. They are in circulation. Those in the Church, Christians have read those Gospels. And so John isn’t trying to give a complete biography of Jesus, but he’s trying to convey who Jesus is and what that means to us.
And so he selects seven miracles that Jesus did throughout his life and he writes about those. Last weekend, Pastor Craig kicked it off with the miracle that is in John chapter two where Jesus goes to a wedding and then at wedding, he turns water into wine. How many of you tried that at home this week? It’s really not a home winery instructable. It’s more about, as Pastor Craig said, how we invite Jesus into our everyday life. Something everyday like a wedding or what’s going on? How do we bring Jesus into that?
This week we’re gonna look at a second sign. It’s gonna be in John chapter four. If you have a Bible, you can open up to that. Don’t worry if you don’t, we’re gonna have some verses on the screen. And we’re gonna look at a miraculous healing that Jesus did for an official son that comes from Capernaum. But we’ll get into that in a minute because I wanna talk a little bit about miracles. We’re gonna talk about how miracles happen today, but as we do, I wanna look at three questions about miracles. I wanna look at what is a miracle. Do miracles still happen? And if they do, how do they work?
So let’s talk about what is a miracle. Let me give you some examples and you guys kind of vote and decide whether or not you think these would qualify as miracles. Okay. First one, if the Rockies win the World Series this year, is that a miracle? Right? Yeah. Because you know the bullpen, right? That would take a miracle. How about this one, if you win the lottery, would that be a miracle? It’d be more of a miracle if I win the lottery because I don’t play the lottery. So that would be pretty amazing.
Let me give you one from my childhood. So I grew up, as I said, here in Colorado, and I was a typical, a 10-year-old boy. In other words, all fun, all ideas, no logic whatsoever, okay? And one day I remember we were riding as a family, riding in the car and there was my mom and dad and my older sister and my older brother and myself. And somehow, I had gotten a seat by the door. And some of you might say, “Were you wearing a seatbelt?” That’s hilarious. That is so funny. This was back in the ’60s. We didn’t even know there were seatbelts. My dad used to tuck them in the seats so they wouldn’t bother us while we rode. And since they were lap belts, we were probably better off without them.
But anyway, I was right in the seat, 10 years old, bored, we’re driving out in I70 and somehow pops into my head, “I think I can run as fast as this car.” Now, logic isn’t playing, fun is though. “That’d be fun if I could run as fast as this car.” Now, I never had an idea that I didn’t wanna try out as soon as I could, so I decided I’d try it right then. So I opened the back door, child locks, again ha, ha, ha… So I opened the back door of the car while we’re driving 70 miles an hour down the freeway, and I put my foot out to start running beside the car. I don’t know how many of you have tried this, but it’s not a good idea. When your foot hits the pavement at 70 miles an hour, you lose control of your foot. And so my foot starts doing this next to the car and immediately, even as a little guy, I’m thinking, “Bad idea, bad idea, bad idea,” but I’m kind of stuck. I don’t know what to do.
Now, my father being an incredible driver in the ’60s he was able to reach into the backseat, grab me, pull me back into the car, shut the door of the car, beat me. I’m not saying you should beat your children. Some of them may be needed, but no. Beats me, never takes his eyes off the road. Never slows down. Is that a miracle? I don’t know. We’ll get back to that.
So, I looked up a definition of miracles, a definition for miracles from the Oxford dictionary is this. “It’s an extraordinary and welcome event that it’s not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency.” I’ve kind of a simpler definition of a miracle. Here’s a definition I use. A miracle is something that’s so extraordinary that it can only be explained by God. Let me give that to you again, something so extraordinary, extraordinary, out of the ordinary that it can only be explained by God. So that’s a definition, working definition of miracles.
So, do miracles still happen? There’s different theological camps. Some say that, you know, at the end of the New Testament that was the end of miracles. No, I’m not here to argue that. I just wanna give you my opinion and my experience and you can kind of work from that. My opinion is miracles still happen. Let me give you a couple of things that kind of convinced me that miracles still happen. One is just the experience of being in nature. Years ago, my wife and I lived in Charleston, South Carolina. We lived right on the East Coast. And there’s a waterway that runs up and down the East Coast called the Intracoastal. And off of the Intracoastal, our little tidal creeks and we had a little fishing boat.
I remember one day being out on one of those little tidal creeks just off of the Intracostal and the sun was beginning to go down. It was a beautiful day. Cloudless skies, the rays of the sun are sparkling across the water. And as I sit there, I can see the water is smooth, there’s no wind and I see bait fish just breaking the surface of the water. In that area of the country, there are oysters, they grow in large hills that are called oyster rakes and if you’re out there in the evening, you can hear them. They actually make a snapping noise and so the oysters are snapping. The bait fish are hitting the water, the egrets flying overhead are swooping down and catching fish. And just a few yards from my boat out on the Intracoastal, I see a school of dolphins swim past on the water.
And I remember sitting there in awe of the miracle of God. Even this morning, as I drove over at 7:00 from Parker heading west toward the mountains and the sun was just coming up and I saw the mountains turning from pink to purple. And I just thought, “This is extraordinary. It’s a miracle.” So from nature, I think that miracles happen. From the change lives that I see, I think are miraculous. Seeing people go from a life being lost to being found.
I remember I pastored for several years in Houston or outside of Houston in rural Texas, a little town called Huffman. It was tiny little town, two gas stations and a post office was all that was really there, and our little church. And one day a lady walks in, a young lady walks in and she’s obviously not from that area of the country. She’s not dressed like us. She doesn’t talk like us. And afterwards, we get to know her and meet her. Her name is Kathy. And Kathy is just relocated with two of her daughters from Los Angeles. And as we get to know Kathy’s story, her life had been messed up. It had been drugs and it had been alcohol. It had been parties. Her kids were starting to go off the rails and she’d finally told her husband, “I’m done. I’m not doing it anymore. You can stay. I’m leaving.”
And she came to Huffman, Texas because she said in every way, it was the furthest from Los Angeles that she could go. And we saw Kathy continue to come to our church and to learn about Christ and we saw beginning of life change and eventually her husband, Bernie, followed her out there. And Bernie was an alcoholic. He had been addicted to drugs and alcohol for many, many years. And we saw Jesus began to work in Bernie’s life as well.
In fact, on a Christmas Sunday, a year after Bernie and Kathy moved out, I had Bernie come up in front of our little congregation and I said, “Bernie, tell us what you were doing a year ago on Christmas day.” He said, “A year ago, my wife had moved out here. She had left me. I was standing on a corner in Burbank, California, and I was trying to buy cocaine.” And I said, “Bernie, what’s happened since then?” Bernie said, “I came to know Jesus. I haven’t had a drink of alcohol. I haven’t had any drugs since that day.” We saw Bernie and Kathy continue to grow in their faith. We saw their daughters come to know Jesus. When their daughters grew up, one of them married a pastor, one of them married a missionary.
We saw complete transformation of Bernie and Kathy from people who were so lost in partying and alcohol and drugs and hopeless and helpless in this world to people who loved their kids and gave everything they had so people could know about Jesus. To me, that’s a miracle of life transformation. I’ve seen miracles of healing. I’ve seen financial miracles, relational miracles. In fact, let me ask today in this crowd, how many of you would say sometime in your life you think you’ve witnessed what you would call a miracle?
Okay, a lot of us believe in miracles. The truth is, this is personal for some of us because today, if we were honest, we would say, “I need a miracle in my life. There is a diagnosis, there is a relationship, there is a financial thing, there is a depression, there is anxiety. There is something in my life or in a loved one’s life that is so overwhelming and out of control in there. I don’t know where to turn. I desperately need a miracle from God.” And if that’s you, that’s what we wanna talk about for the rest of our time today is definition of miracle. Something so extraordinary that can only be explained by God. A belief that yes, miracles still happen. So the question then remains, how does God do miracles?
And so if this miracle, in John chapter four we get some insight into how miracles work. We pick up the story that Pastor Craig left last week, we were in John two and Jesus turns the water into wine. He’s in Cana. After that, Jesus goes down to Jerusalem in Judea. In fact, let me talk about geography just for a second. Because this can get confusing, Judea, and Cana, and Capernaum and all of that kind of stuff. And for those of you who know New Testament geography well, don’t listen to this next part because it’s…it kind of works, okay? But for simple people like me, it works. All right? So, Judea, Galilee, all of that. Let’s think of Judea as Colorado, okay? It’s kind of like a state, okay? We’re gonna think of Jerusalem as Denver. It’s the capital of Colorado. It’s also a very influential city all through this part of the country. So, Judea and Jerusalem, that’s gonna be like Colorado and Denver.
Now, Jesus is headed back to Galilee, and Cana and Capernaum are gonna come into play. So let’s think about those. Let’s think of Galilee as Wyoming, okay? It’s kinda like as another state, not as many people live up there. The people in Judea know it’s up there, but they don’t ever go there unless they have to. You know, that kind of thing. Sorry, Wyoming. Capernaum is kind of like Cheyenne, major city in Galilee. Everyone in Galilee knows where it is. Pretty much everybody in Judea would know where Capernaum is. Okay. So that kind of represents Capernaum and Cheyenne. And Cana is kind of like Laramie. We all know Laramie exists, but none of us know where it is, right? Some of you are saying, “I know where it is.” It’s because you’re from Wyoming. Okay.
As Pastor Craig told us last week, we don’t know exactly where Cana was. We have an idea, we know that it was probably about an hour’s trip by foot from Capernaum to Cana. So that kind of gives you the geography of this. So Jesus has gone to Judea, to Jerusalem. And while he was in Jerusalem, he cleared the temple. You may know that story where he drove people out who were ripping people off in the temple. And then we know from other Gospels he performed other miracles. He begins to get a little bit of fame and stuff starts happening and he heads back up to Wyoming. He heads back up to Galilee. On the way he stops in Samaria and he meets a woman by the well. He kind of talks to her about her life. She decides to become a Christ follower. She gets her friends to come and listen to Jesus. They decide to become Christ followers and it’s…he stays there for a couple of days. That’s where we pick up the story. So we’re gonna pick it up in John chapter 4 with the 43rd verse.
“After two days in Samaria, he departed for Galilee for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown. So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. Having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast, the cleansing of the temple, some of the other miracles, for they too had gone to the feast. So he came to Cana in Galilee where he made the water wine. And at Capernaum, there was an official whose son was ill.” Let’s stop there for just a second. Remember, Jesus is in Cana, which is kind of like Laramie, and this guy is over in Capernaum, which is kind of like Cheyenne. It’s about a day’s walk away and we know that he was an official. And based on the language that John uses here, we believe that he was an official in Herod Antipas court, okay? Herod Antipas, he was the governor basically over this area. He served under the authority of Rome.
It gets really confusing as you read through the New Testament because there’s a lot of guys named Herod. There’s Herod Antipas’ dad who’s Herod the Great and then Herod has a brother named, guess what, Herod, and then when Herod gets married, guess who he marries? Herodias. It just gets ridiculous. Okay. Just know this, this particular Herod is the one that when Jesus is tried at the end of his life by Pilate and then he gets sent over to Herod, this is the Herod he gets sent to, Herod Antipas.
This official is in his court and we know that’s a big deal. I mean, that’s a high-level position. There’s a lot of clout that comes down from Rome through Herod to this official. We also know that he was very likely well-off, very rich, because there would not be a poor person in this court. We know that he was Jewish because anyone in Herod’s court would have been Jewish. This is not a Roman palace, this is Jewish palace, and we also know that he was likely very secular. A very religious Jew would never serve in the court of Herod. Does that make sense?
So this guy that’s coming to Jesus, he’s wealthy, he has influence. He’s Jewish, but he’s kind of a secular Jew. And so we kind of pick up the story. “When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to Jesus.” He went to Jesus, that’s a one-day journey. “He walks to Jesus and he asked him to come down and heal his son for he was at the point of death.” It’s a remarkable situation. This guy with a lot of power, a lot of money, a lot of clout. He hears about this wondering rabbi, uneducated, nobody knows quite what’s going on. They heard some stuff happened in Jerusalem, but don’t know what that’s all about. Maybe heard a little bit about this wedding thing that sounded kind of weird. And this guy decides to take a day’s journey to go get this wandering, uneducated rabbi to come back with him to his house. That’s very remarkable. Why would he do that? It’s because he’s desperate. His son is dying.
All of us who have kids, grandkids, we know what that’s like. When our kids are sick, when they are in trouble, when there is something going on, there’s nothing we won’t do to help. He is facing an impossible situation. And that’s our first principle of miracles. Miracles always begin with the impossible. They always begin with the impossible. If you have a situation in your life that the reality is you can probably figure it out. Maybe you need to work harder. Maybe you need to work less. Maybe you need to rest more. Maybe you need to eat better. Maybe you need to exercise. Maybe you need to be just nicer to the people around you.
There are things that you could do that you’re having a tough time, that maybe you could work through that, you don’t need a miracle. Now, those are tough situations, but those are not situations that demand a miracle. Miracles are when it’s impossible. “I have done everything I can. There’s nothing else I can do. I have no place else to turn,” and that is when God steps in. So miracles begin with the impossible. And so let’s see what happens. “Jesus said to him,” to this father, the father comes and he says, “Jesus, you’ve got to come. You’ve got to come heal my son.” So Jesus responds and he says, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”
Jesus isn’t being rude. He’s just saying the facts. Basically this guy comes because…not because he believes in Jesus, not because he has faith, not because he wants to submit his life to God. That’s not what it’s about at all. He comes because he believes this guy might be able to do a miracle. He believes in the miracle, not the miracle worker. And Jesus is saying, “Unless you see a miracle, you’re never gonna believe in me,” that is just a fact. This is where it’s at. Now, for some people, that would be very offensive. For a high official who feels like he’s lowered himself to come to this uneducated rabbi and the rabbi is gonna lecture him about faith. No, I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s gonna happen, but that’s not what happens. Jesus says this to the man. He is undeterred. He keeps coming. He keeps asking. The verse says that the official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
You see, the second principle of miracles is miracles often require persistence. Miracles require us asking and hanging in there and not giving up because God is not like a vending machine, is he? It’s not like we stick the right prayer in, hit the right button and the right miracle comes out. That’s not how God works at all. God wants to know, do we have faith in him? Do we love him? Are we willing to stay at it and believe that he is going to act? And here’s what I have discovered in my own life. It’s in the times that I am waiting for God to move. It’s in the times when I am desperate. It is in the times when I don’t give up and I continue to ask. It’s in those times that I come closest to God. It’s in those times that I learn the most about Jesus. It’s in those times that when I am worshiping, God feels my heart. The Holy Spirit comes and comes beside me and comforts me when I’m waiting, when I am persistent, and I don’t give up. Jesus encourages this.
In Matthew chapter seven he says, “Keep on asking and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking and you will find. Keep on knocking and the door will be open to you.” So this guy comes to Jesus, he said, “Jesus, you got to come. You got to come this day’s journey. Come with me to my house. Heal my son.” Jesus says, “You know, you don’t have real faith here, man. You gotta see a miracle before you believe.” The guy says, “Be that as this may, Jesus, you got to come. You’ve gotta come heal my son.” Look what Jesus does. In the next verse, verse 50 Jesus said to him, “Go, your son will live.”
Here’s the interesting thing. That’s not what he asked for. Remember what he asked for? He said, “Jesus, come with me. We’re gonna go walk for a day. We’re gonna go to my house.” What he’s asking for is how…that’s how miracles work. He knows, he’s heard about the other miracles Jesus performed. He’s read some in the Old Testament about those miracles. He knows how miracles work. Here’s how miracles work. Jesus comes, he comes to your house. He goes to whoever’s sick, maybe has a little flask of oil in his back pocket and he makes the sign of the cross on his forehead. He probably doesn’t do that, but he lays hands on him, prays, and he gets healed. That’s how miracles work and Jesus doesn’t do the miracle that way.
Jesus says, “I’m not even coming to your house. I’m not making the one-day journey. You’re gonna have to trust me. You’re gonna have to believe. You’re gonna have to just head back home. Your son’s gonna live, but you’re gonna have to believe and have faith.” In that Jesus says, “Go and your son will live.” And that’s the third principle is that miracle seldom look like we think they should. Miracles seldom look like we think they should. We experienced this in our life a few years ago, our daughter…we have a son and a daughter, daughter’s younger. Our daughter, when she was about 12 or 13 years old, she began experiencing panic attacks, big anxiety. And if you’ve ever experienced panic attacks or worked with a child who has, it’s terrifying and she would think that she was dying. Her heart was racing.
I lost count of the number of times in the middle of the night when we ran to the ER to get an EKG for the doctor to come out and say, “She’s fine. Her heart is fine.” These panic attacks became debilitating for to the point that she wouldn’t go to slumber parties with her friends. She hated going on travel trips with her sports teams because she never knew when a panic attack would hit. Sometimes we would get calls in the middle of the day from school saying, “You gotta come get me. You got to come get me.” We would be woken up in the middle of the night, her at our door with tears and sweating and scared to death, and saying, “I’m dying. I’m dying. I’m dying,” and 15-year-old girl. We’ve prayed desperately, desperately for God to heal her. I believe in miracles. I’ve seen miracles. “God, you’ve gotta do this miracle.”
And I knew what the miracle looked like. Here’s what it looked like. It looked like the panic attacks going away completely. The anxiety and the fear going away completely. And my daughter could stand on a stage like this and she could say, “Once I had panic attacks, but I no longer do. God has completely healed me.” That’s how miracles are supposed to work. But that’s not how God did this miracle. God instead helped my daughter learn to live with panic attacks. He helped her to learn to recognize them and to know when they were coming on and to be able to name them in the middle and to be able to say to us, “I’m having a panic attack.” He helped her learn through all kinds of sources to how to breathe and how to think. He helped her to tell other people dealing with panic attacks, “Hey, I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. Let me help you walk through this.”
And now as a young adult, occasionally she still has a panic attack, but she can deal with it. It’s not debilitating. She doesn’t run to the ER anymore. That’s the miracle that God has worked in her life. And it’s not the miracle her dad drew out, but through this she has grown in her faith. She has grown in so many other ways through what God is doing in her life. And that’s the thing about miracles. We know exactly what the miracle should look like. They should come home. They should not leave. The diagnosis should change. That’s what it should look like, but what we need to know is that God is not ignoring you. He’s writing a different story. He’s writing a bigger story. He’s inviting you into his story. And so it may feel like this isn’t the miracle I prayed for. We have faith that, “God, this is the miracle that you are doing.”
Let’s look at the next principle, the next verse. Jesus says, “Go and your son will live.” And this verse, this line is significant. The man believed. What did he believe? He didn’t believe the miracle. He believed the word. He believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and he went on his way. You see, there’s been a shift in his faith. The shift has been from faith in a miracle to faith in a miracle worker. And that’s the principle is that miracles always demand faith. They always demand that we believe in God. This man’s faith wasn’t perfect, Jesus said that, but it was growing and shifting.
Faith is believing God’s promises even when we don’t see his hand at work. I love what Hebrews says in the 10th chapter, the writer of Hebrews says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. For he who promised is faithful.” You may not see God at work right now. You may not see him working but hang on to the faith that you know that he’s at work. When this guy leaves the house where Jesus was staying in Cana and he starts down the road, he has not seen a miracle. He does not know what has happened, but he is taking step by step by step in faith. We pick up the story in verse 51. “And as the father was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked him the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour, the fever left him.’ And the father knew that that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live,’ and he himself believed and all his household.”
This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee. Notice how this man’s faith progressed. He moved from desperation to belief. He moved from faith in miracles to faith in the miracle worker. He now is a Christ follower, not just a miracle follower, or a Christ follower, he now is bringing glory to God and pointing to Jesus. He is now pointing his entire family to Jesus. And that’s the last principle I wanna talk about is miracles, is miracles always bring glory to God. Miracles always point people to Jesus. Miracles are never about what I need and what I want though that is often what I receive, they’re always about bringing glory and pointing people to God.
So let’s go back to the miracles we talked about at the beginning. If the Rockies win the World Series, is that really a miracle? No, it’s not pointing people to God. If you win the lottery, is that really a miracle? The chances are tiny, but it doesn’t make it a miracle. It’s not pointing people to God. A crazy 10-year-old boy deciding he’d run as fast as a car, surviving. Is that a miracle? Nah, it’s good that it did. I’m here. It’s not really a miracle. It didn’t point people to God. Whatever is happening in your life, whatever you’re praying for now, ultimately God is working his purpose to point people to Jesus.
I’ll tell you one more reason I believe in miracles and I wanna pray for the miracle that you’re praying for because my faith has changed over the last six months. When I was with you in June, I probably mentioned that my daughter was pregnant with our fourth grandchild, our second grandson. He was due in the middle of November and some complications happened, my daughter’s blood pressure, things like that. And so they decided to induce three weeks early. It was down in Castle Rock at the hospital down there and they induced her. And through the day while we were waiting to see what was happening, there were some complications. The baby’s heartbeat wasn’t what they wanted it to be. And so we just thought that there’d be a C-section sometime Friday night. And then on Saturday morning we’d meet our new grandson.
And so we kissed our daughter goodnight when we left the hospital and went to bed looking forward to the next day of little Copeland David, our newest grandson. But we woke instead at 4:15 in the morning to a text from my son-in-law that said, “I can’t talk, just pray.” And we jumped in the car and we drove from Parker to Castle Rock as fast as we could. We got to our daughter’s room, which was gonna be the delivery room. It was empty except for my son-in-law’s parents and they said that they had just come and got Freddy to go see the baby for the very first time. As the day unfolded, we found out that the baby was not taken by C-section until it was way late in the process and then it was an emergency and the umbilical cord was wrapped around his little neck three times. He didn’t breathe. In fact, he had no heartbeat for seven minutes, couldn’t breathe on his own.
They rushed him from Castle Rock to Rocky Mountain Children’s Hospital. I drove down there as soon as I could saw the little guy, I think we may have a picture of him laying in that hospital unconscious. We sat down with the doctor at Rocky Mountain and she said, “It’s pretty grim.” She said, “When they brought him in, he had no response at all. We touched his cornea and he didn’t blink. We gave him an IV, he didn’t flinch. He can’t breathe on his own.” I don’t know if you know the Apgar score, but his Apgar was zero.
She said, “My job is to tell you the truth.” And I said, “Doc, are we gonna lose him.” And she said, “We don’t anticipate in the next four to six hours anything happening, but you need to get your daughter to this hospital.” And I said, “Doc, that doc at the other hospital said she needs to stay there.” And she looked me in the eye and she said, “You need to get your daughter here today.” We didn’t hope [SP] know if the little guy was gonna live through the night. If he lived through the night, we didn’t know what hope he had, what future he had. They have a procedure with children, babies that are oxygen-deprived at birth where they cool their body temperature down to about 90 degrees and they keep them there for 3 days in kind of a chemically induced coma.
And so for three days we walked into that hospital where the little guy was just unconscious and tubes and wires coming out of every directions and monitors and we saw no change. And they said, “After three days, we’re gonna warm him up. And when he warms up, he should begin to breathe on his own and we’ll take him off the ventilator.” So we prayed Saturday and Sunday and Monday, and Tuesday came and they began to warm him up and no change. He still couldn’t breathe. He was still just laid there motionless.
And in the midst of the darkness, we reached out to small groups. We reached out to friends, we have people from all over the country and some around the world began to pray and to text and to call. Our worship team at the church that we’re a part of, the whole production team came up to the NICU at children’s hospital and for two hours they stood in the NICU and just prayed for my grandson. I came out and talked to them and told them that, “I am in a place right now that I can’t even pray, but you’re literally praying our prayers for us.”
I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more desperate place, desperate for a miracle for this innocent little baby. At the darkest time and the darkest night, a friend texted a link to a song on YouTube. We had heard the song once or twice. It was a good song, but in that moment, it grabbed our hearts and we began to just claim the lyrics of this song. They’re biblically based, but we began to claim the lyrics of this song as our prayer. And the song said, “God, you are a way maker. You are a miracle worker. You are a promise keeper. You are a light in the darkness.” And we just listened to that song over and over and over again. We just reminded God again and again, “God, you’re a miracle worker. You’re a miracle worker, you’re a miracle worker.” And the miracle I was praying for was this little guy would open his eyes, grab a bottle, down it, and head to his house.
That’s not the miracle we got. Instead, gradually piece by piece, God began putting things together. They did an MRI of his little brain and they said, “Just know there’s gonna be damage. We’ll figure it out, but just know that.” They came back the day of the MRI and they said it’s clear, but he still couldn’t breathe on his own. But then he began to breathe and then he was able to regulate his temperature and regulate his glucose. But the most important thing a baby has to do is to be able to eat, to suck, and he couldn’t at all.
And day after day in the NICU, we cajoled, we prayed, we said, “Look at Papa, he’s fat. You can do this. Let’s go.” Little by little he began to drink an ounce and then another ounce, I never celebrate an entire three-ounce bottle more in my entire life when he drank it. And then after four weeks in the NICU, he went home, and he’s got tests ahead of him and all of this. For a couple of days, my daughter sent me a picture, I think, that we have. He thinks she’s hilarious.
Why do I believe in miracles? Because a little Copeland David in his crazy little monkey jammies. It’s a miracle. It’s a miracle. You’re a miracle. Your kids are miracles. God’s a miracle worker, way maker, promise keeper, light in the darkness. I don’t know where you’re at today. I don’t know what you’re praying for. I know in this crowd there’s some people that are desperate. You desperately need a healing. You desperately need a restoration. You don’t know financially what you’re going to do. You have anxiety that you can’t overcome. You have depression that you’re struggling to make it through.
And as I prayed for you this week, as I knew I was coming, the only word I got from God was hope. He said, “Geoff, your job is to tell them about me and tell them I’m the God of hope and I keep my promises.” So I believe that God wants to do miracles. We’re gonna take communion in a moment, and when we do, I would have encouraged you during that time and during the song to just remind God, “God, this is who you are and I believe that you’re doing a miracle. Can I pray for you?”
Jesus, you are the way maker. You are the miracle worker. You do keep your promises. You are the light in the darkest night. Lord you do not disappoint us. You do not let us down. Lord, it doesn’t always work the way we wish it would, but it doesn’t change the fact that you are at work. Our faith is in you, Lord. Lord, I pray for people who are here today who are desperate. You know their need. You know exactly what they’re praying for. Lord, I pray in these next few moments that hope will be renewed in their hearts, in their lives, even as we remember your sacrifice on the cross and your resurrection, that we will remember that you are the miracle worker. Lord, we ask it in your name. Amen.
We continue our Living Proof series looking at Jesus’ miracles in the gospel of John. Today we unpack the healing of a lame man on the Sabbath day, and the tension between mercy and morality displayed in this passage. You won’t want to miss this week’s powerful lesson!
Craig: Hey, welcome to Mission Hills. So honored to have you with us today. We are three weeks deep into our Living Proof series where we’re taking a look at seven stories about seven miracles that Jesus performed that are told to us by one of the eyewitnesses to those miracles, a man named John. John doesn’t call them miracles but he calls them signs because these seven things that Jesus did, they do more than just prove that he is who he had said he is, that he’s the Son of God, but they’re signs that point to what kind of God he is and what matters to Him and what matters to Jesus matters to us, or at least it should. At Mission Hills, we’re all about helping people become like Jesus and joining him on mission, and that sort of requires that we care about the things that Jesus cares about, and these miracles tell us a lot about that.
The problem, of course, is that there’s often a disconnect between what Jesus cares about and what we as his followers care about. I know I struggle with that. For instance, 2019 was a really good year in a lot of ways. God did amazing things at Mission Hills and around the world through the ministries that we support. He did some amazing things in my family and that was all great. But honestly, 2019 was hard in some ways, especially as a leader, I had to deal with some pretty difficult things that were pretty taxing. Honestly, probably the most draining of them was I had to make the decision and implement the decision to let two staff people go in 2019 for very different reasons. And that’s just not easy and I’m not the kind of person who can just do that and then sleep easy at night. I stay awake and I don’t make those kinds of decisions on my own. That’s always done with the wisdom and the advice and the support of the elder team as well as my executive team. And in spite of that, I still lay awake at night and I find myself just wondering, you know, “Did we do the right thing?” And I don’t necessarily mean was it the right decision, I mean, did we handle it right? I mean, did we handle the decision with as much grace, and love, and compassion, and mercy, and all those things, and did we do that leading up to it in the midst of it and coming after it? That’s the kind of things that I wonder about.
And honestly, I guess with those two decisions, if I were just really logical, I would say that I think if you know all the facts and the factors, we probably did okay. Not perfect, but not bad. But I also know that there are people who even though it’s because they don’t have all the facts or they’re looking at it from a different perspective, they’re seeing things a little bit differently that they might go, “I don’t know that you did do well. I’m not sure that you were nearly as gracious, and compassionate, and merciful, and kind and all those things as you should have been.” And the truth is they might be right. It’s kind of thing that I wonder about. So here’s what I know. I know that being right and being righteous are two very different things, right? Being right and acting right, they’re just not the same thing. You can be 100% right, but you can handle it wrong. And both of those things matter, being right and being righteous. They both matter. And it’s not an easy road to walk. I think most people can think of sometimes in their lives that you just kind of live in a tension between being right and being righteous. It’s just not an easy thing to do.
And what we’re gonna do today is we’re gonna take a look at a story that I think demonstrates the importance of wrestling like that. The importance of wrestling between those two different things because, unfortunately, the story we’re gonna look at isn’t gonna give you three principles to make the wrestling go away. It’s not gonna give you four steps to always being perfectly right and perfectly righteous at the same time. What the story is gonna do, it’s gonna tell us how important it is that we wrestle with both of those things.
Why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible and join me. We’re gonna be in the Gospel of John today. John chapter 5. It says this, it says, “Sometime later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now, there is in Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate, a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five colored colonnades and here a great number of disabled people used to lie, the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed.” Just a couple things to know, first off, is that this story takes place in a place called Bethesda. In Aramaic, Bethesda means the House of Mercy. That’s really important to this story because the story is all about mercy and so, it’s not a coincidence it takes place in a place that was called the House of Mercy.
Now, there was a pool in this part of the city of Jerusalem, pool in this place called Bethesda, and there was an urban legend around the pool and the urban legend was that every now and then an angel would come and stir the waters of the pool and if you were the first one into the pool after the angel did that, then you would be healed of your disease. Now, I call it an urban legend because I don’t think there’s any reason to think that it was actually something that God did. In fact, archeologists have excavated this particular pool and they found that it had a spring underneath it that people didn’t know about, and there was an intermittent wind. And so, that was probably what caused the waters occasionally to stir. But the point is that there was this urban legend that if you got in there first when the waters were stirred, you could be healed. Because of that, people who had all kinds of physical disabilities and ailments, they congregated there. In fact, they would stay there day and night waiting for that. And so, that’s what John says. He says there’s a large number of disabled people because that’s where they were. And we have this idea then that you have a whole bunch of people in the House of Mercy who are in desperate need of mercy. Does that make sense?
Probably it was not the kind of place that most people would go to regularly. It’s probably the kind of place that most people in Jerusalem avoided. And if you were visiting Jerusalem, it probably wasn’t on the top 10 tourist destinations because it was an uncomfortable place. You had a lot of people with tremendous sickness, and disability, and misery, and it was probably really uncomfortable to see. It probably smelled really bad. There were probably flies and I just…we could go on. But the point is you just, it’s not the kind of place you went.
But Jesus isn’t most people. Right? And it’s exactly where Jesus went, he went to this place and it says, “Now, one who was there had been an invalid for 38 years,” which I think we can all agree is a long time, right? It’s a long time today. I mean, the idea of suffering from some kind of physical disability for 38 years, that sounds like a tremendous thing, but you need to understand that in the ancient world, it’s so much worse because in the ancient world, the average lifespan, I kid you not, was 35 years. Most people lived 35 years or less, which means that this man had suffered longer than most people survived. This is a man in tremendous need of mercy, and it says, “When Jesus found him lying there, when he saw him lying there and he learned that he had been in this condition for a long time…” Pay attention to that. Of all the people that are there in need of mercy, why does Jesus focus on this guy? Because of how long he’d been there. In other words, I don’t think we’re reading between the lines too much to say that Jesus looked around for the man who probably most needed mercy and who needed the most mercy. Of all the people there, he picked this guy because of his desperate need for mercy and he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
Does anyone else feel like that’s a weird question? Yeah. I mean, it’s such a weird question. You almost expect the man to be snarky, right? “Do I wanna get well? Oh no, no. I hang out here because I just…I like the company. The view, have you seen the view from my mat? It’s amazing, right?” It’s a strange question and I don’t know if that question…I don’t know how central it is to the point that God is giving us through the story, but it’s such an odd question. It’s such a unique thing for Jesus to do, an unusual thing for Jesus to do that I think we would miss something important if we didn’t push into it, lean into it just a little bit. He says, “Do you wanna get well?” And the obvious answer was, “Well, of course, I do.” Who would say otherwise? And I think we probably all have some things in our lives that we wish were different, right? We have some places of pain in our lives. Maybe it’s a physical issue. Maybe it’s a relationship that’s draining us. Maybe it’s a work situation. Maybe it’s something in our community, maybe it’s… Gosh, there’s just so many different things that it could be, right? And I think it’s we look at these things and like almost everybody we would go, “Yeah. I wanna be free of that. Of course I wanna be well.”
But here’s something I’ve come to understand in my own life and maybe this is true for some of you as well. I’ve learned that our suffering makes a pretty good shield. I’ve learned the things that I’m suffering with actually provide a pretty good shield for some things that I don’t wanna deal with. There was a time in my life where I was too busy, and I was working four part-time jobs. I was part time as a pastor to the church, I was part-time as a seminary professor, I was part time as a speaker, I was part-time as a leader of a nonprofit organization and all four of those part-time jobs did not add up to a single full-time salary. So there was a lot of stress to keep busy and I remember feeling like, “Yeah, but there’s just so many expectations on me.” There’s so many responsibilities on my shoulder that I felt like, “Yeah, I’m suffering.” And I probably was. I was headed towards burnout, but it’s interesting, I look at that season and I also go, “You know what? I use that as an excuse.” My suffering was a shield. You know, I could say, “Well, I’m just so busy. There’s so many expectations, so many responsibilities, that’s why I’m not pouring into my marriage the way I should. That’s why I’m not loving my wife the way that I know I need to. I’m so busy, that’s why I’m not engaging with my kids as much as they need me to. I’m so busy, that’s why I’m not connecting and being active in my neighborhood as much as I should be. That’s why I’m not getting plugged into a Life Group or being on mission with Jesus.” In other words, if my suffering was a shield, then I could use it to keep from dealing with things that I know that God was working on me. I know that he was moving, and he was pointing these things out, but I could go, “Oh, yeah, I see that, Lord. Definitely need to do something about that, but I’m so busy. I got this thing.” And our suffering can be a shield. And I think a lot of us kind of struggle with something like that.
So, I’m gonna ask a question. I know I’m meddling, and the sermon just got started, but I think you need to ask yourself this question. What suffering have I turned into a shield? What legitimate suffering? I’m not minimizing and I’m not saying that it’s not real suffering, it probably is something that is legitimately very, very difficult in your life. But if you turned it into a shield to keep you from dealing with other things that God might be calling you to pay some attention to, what suffering have I turned into a shield? And then maybe, just maybe Jesus wants to ask you what he asked this man, “You’re suffering?” And he said to him, “Do you want to get well? Are you sure? Really sure? Even if it means you lose that shield. Even it means you let down your guard and we’re gonna have to deal with all that other stuff that you’ve been deflecting with this suffering?”
I mean, the fact that Jesus asked this man this, to me, suggests that Jesus knew there was more going on with this man than just his physical disability. He said, “Do you wanna get well?” “Well, sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred and while I’m trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Which is interesting because he didn’t really answer the question, did he? He gave an excuse. Well, not just an excuse, he actually cast some blame, didn’t he? “You know, I can’t get down because there’s nobody to help me down there, but also when I’m trying…” And whatever condition he had, we know that it meant he wasn’t very mobile. “When I’m trying somebody else always gets in front of me. They jump in front me, they get down there before I can get into. So, it’s kind of their fault, right?” He doesn’t answer the question. It was a simple yes or no question. “Do you wanna get well?” I mean, I would take even a sarcastic answer. “No.” Right? But we don’t even get that, right? Instead of a simple answer, he gives an excuse and he assigned some blame.
Again, I suggest to you, that probably suggests that there’s more going on here than just a physical disability. But it’s interesting that even though he made an excuse and assigned the blame, Jesus did not withhold grace. Jesus did not withhold mercy. Jesus continued to be merciful. And so, Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk.” And at once the man was cured and he picked up his mat and he walked. Wouldn’t it be cool to see? And I imagine in my head that, you know, the command Jesus gives, “Get up,” it’s a pretty strong command. And so, he’s like, “Hey, do you wanna be healed?” “Well, I can’t get in there and there’s these people.” “Get up.” “Okay, Whoa, that’s never happened. I’m up.” And Jesus said, “Pick up your mat.” “Okay.” And then he says, “Walk.”
There’s no way that didn’t turn into dancing really fast, right? Jesus has mercy on him. He heals him. Now, the day in which this took place was a Sabbath. Here’s where the story gets really interesting. If you don’t know what the Sabbath is, I wanna catch you up. Maybe you’ve never heard about the Sabbath. Maybe church has not been a regular part of your life. Maybe you’re not really all that familiar with the Bible. That’s okay. We’re so glad that you’re here, but I wanna catch you up because this is important. And here’s the thing, you don’t need to have spent a lot of time in church or know much about the Bible to have heard about the 10 Commandments, right? Again so we’ve all heard of the big 10, right? Well, one of those 10 Commandments that God gave his people says this, this is Exodus 28. Says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all of your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it, you shall not do any work.” Which is a really clear command in principle, but it’s a little fuzzy in practice, right? It’s clear in principle, “Hey, one day a week, don’t work. Stop working. Rest.” In fact, the Hebrew word for rest is Sabbath. Really clear in principle. Practice, it’s a little complicated because what exactly counts as work, right? How much work can you do before you’ve like crossed the line into working, right? Because you can’t just lay in bed. You’ve got to do a few things, but what is… And here’s the interesting thing. You know, God didn’t really answer that question. And so, in Jesus’ day, the religious leaders of his Jesus’ day were helping God out.
And I say that with a certain amount of sarcasm but also of sort of amount sort of self-admission. Because here’s the thing about religious leaders, you need to know about us. It’s about me too. We love to give really clear answers to questions that God left open. I go, “Yeah, God didn’t answer that question, but I can do that for you. Here it is.” We love to do that. And they’re helping God out there. And so, they’d come up with a bunch of other rules and regulations, a bunch of other laws to help people honor the Sabbath. Now, I believe, I really deeply believe that this was motivated by good things. They had good motives for this. They wanted to honor God and they wanted to help people honor God by obeying his commandment to rest on the Sabbath, to honor that day and because there wasn’t a lot of clarity about what exactly constituted work, they started filling it in and I think there was already good motivation, but there were several things they did.
Now, two of them, in particular, matter for us. One of them that was they said, “Hey, okay, here’s one of the things you need to pay attention to. You cannot move an object from one place to another unless it’s a very, very short distance. You can’t take an object out of one domain,” they said, “To another domain.” So, for instance, they could say, you know, “You can take a water pitcher from your kitchen counter to your kitchen table but you can’t take a water pitcher from your house to the well because you’ve moved from one place to another and that’s work, so you can’t do that.” Now, interestingly enough, Jesus said, “Get up.” “I’m up.” What’s the next thing he said? He said, “Pick up your mat.” Interesting. He didn’t have to say that. It’s not like Jesus was concerned he was littering or that he’d forget his stuff. He’s very deliberate. He said, “Get up, pick up your mat,” and the guy picks it up and the implication is he’s carrying it now. And then what does Jesus say? He says, “And walk.”
Now, there was another big rule and that was you could only walk so many steps on the Sabbath before you were working. And different rabbis, different religious leaders, they differed. They had disagreements and some debates around how many steps you could take, but all of them agreed on one thing, you couldn’t just walk around. That was work. And interestingly enough, that’s exactly very literally what Jesus said to him. He said, “Pick up your mat and walk around.” The Greek word he uses is “peripateo” and a bunch of you are like, “Is there gonna be a quiz? Do I do I need to write that down?” This is just a bonus for some of you because you like this stuff. Peripateo, pateo means walk. Peri means around. It’s where we get the word perimeter from. Literally what Jesus said is get up, pick up your mat, carry it, and walk around. Two of the most important regulations that have been put in place so that people didn’t dishonor the Sabbath. Why would Jesus do that?
Jesus is setting up a showdown between his mercy and their morality. You with me, Church? He’s setting up a showdown between his mercy and their morality, their understanding of what it means to honor God by the rules and the regulations, what it is to be moral. He’s setting up a showdown. So he says to the man, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk around.” And so, he did.” And, of course, the religious leaders were out there making sure that people were paying attention to morality and so, they saw him. Verse 10 says, “And so, the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, it is the Sabbath. The law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, pick up your mat and walk.” And you see what’s happening there? John’s making sure that we understand how important the mercy business is, right? He’s focused on the mercy. How does he identify the man? It’s the man who had been well, been made well, that’s mercy. When the man speaks to answer their question, he says, “Well, the man who made me well, the man who gave me mercy.” It’s all about the mercy. Mercy is front and center. And so they said, “Oh, well, who is this man who gave you mercy? Who’s this man who healed you? How long have you been struggling? How long you’ve been suffering? He’s taken that away. You know, praise be to God. That’s amazing.”
It’s also not what they said. They asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” Anything missing? Yeah, the mercy. There’s no interest in the mercy. There’s no interest in the healing. There’s absolutely no interest in anything other than their morality. Listen, this is a hard truth for a Bible-driven church, but it’s a truth that we have to come to grips with. It is possible to get so focused on morality that we forget about mercy. And that’s what’s happening here. I genuinely believe that their motivations were good, but they were so focused on morality that mercy wasn’t even on their radar. Even confronted with a man who suffered longer than most people survived, all they care about is morality. It’s possible to get so focused on morality that we forget about mercy and that’s a dangerous thing.
Now, it says, “The man who was healed had no idea who it was for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.” Jesus didn’t tell him who he was. He didn’t give him his name. He didn’t tell him anything. He just said, “Get up, pick up your mat, walk.” And the guy’s like, “Okay.” They’re like, “Who was it? Who told you to pick that up? Who told you to break our moral principles? Who told you that you could do that?” And he’s like, “I don’t know. I don’t know who it was.” And they grilled him. I guarantee you, it wasn’t a passing conversation. They interrogated the man, they pushed in, but eventually, they had to let him go because he’s just, “I’m sorry, I don’t know.”
Now, later, Jesus found him at the temple. Pay attention to that. They didn’t accidentally run into each other. It’s not like they were passing in the streets and Jesus is like, “Hey, you’re that guy.” He’s like, “No, you’re that guy and let’s talk.” No, no, no. Jesus went looking for him. Jesus found him and he said to him, he said, “See?” Literally, it’s behold, it’s a very powerful word, “Behold, you are well again.” That’s mercy, front and center. And then he says this. “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” That’s morality. And some of you are very relieved that I said that because some of you got nervous. Some of you got nervous because when we started talking all about this mercy business, you’re like, “Yeah but…” But, but, but, but, but morality matters. And I don’t want Mission Hills to go down that route that we’re just, you know, we’re just all love and all-inclusive, we don’t pay any attention to God’s commandments or his character. “And it sounds like you’re heading down that direction. Craig, what are you doing?” Some of you got nervous. So stop being nervous. For a second. I’m gonna make you nervous again, but let’s make sure it’s for the right reasons.
Listen, Jesus cares equally about mercy and morality. You hear me? There’s no question about that. Jesus cares equally about mercy and morality and he’s not just giving a passing nod to morality here. We wanna recognize that, okay? He puts mercy front and center, but then he doesn’t just like do a touch and go on morality. He says, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” What could possibly be worse than suffering longer than most people survive? What could possibly be worse than 38 years of a physical disability? Hell. An eternity separated from God in misery. Because the Bible is clear that the wages of sin is death and it’s not just physical death, it’s eternal separation from God in Hell. And Jesus taught us more about Hell than anybody else. And that surprises a lot of people because they think of Jesus as he’s all mercy and he is all mercy, but he’s also all morality. And Jesus understands that the wages of sin is death. And that because we are not living in alignment with God and his character and his commandments, there is an eternal penalty. There is an eternal price to be paid for that. And it is conscious, it is agony, and it is endless.
Why did Jesus teach so much about Hell? Because he’s all about mercy. Because morality matters, but he’s merciful. He loves us and so, he doesn’t want us to face that consequence of our sin, right? And it’s not just this guy, right? Let’s be really clear about that with each other. When it comes to morality, we all fall short. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God?” You’ve done it, I’ve done it, every one of us has done it. We continue to do it, and there’s a consequence for it, it’s an eternal consequence. And that would be really bad news if it weren’t for the fact that the same Jesus who shows us that morality matters also shows us mercy because that is the Gospel right? Our sin separates us from God, but God loves us so much, he sent his Son, Jesus. Jesus came, he lived a perfect life, so we had no sin to atone for, no sin to pay off. So when he went to the cross, he went there as a willing substitute. He died on the cross to pay for my sin. He died on the cross to pay for your sin. He rose from the dead. He offers salvation by a relationship. We say yes to a relationship with Jesus, we put our faith in him, and we are forgiven, and we are free, and Hell is no longer a part of the package. But make no mistake about it. Mercy and morality both matter and we see both of them in the life of Jesus. Same Jesus who shows us that morality matters, and it does, he also shows us mercy.
And I think it’s important that we understand that what Jesus said to this man was not just, “Hey, there’s mercy. Hope you enjoy it. Now, stop sinning, you’re on your own”. That’s not what he’s saying when he says, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” What he’s doing is he’s actually giving an invitation. He’s asking the man to read between the lines just a little and go, “Hey, you see what I did with your body? Yeah. Maybe just maybe, the one who could do that with your body could do something about this other much bigger problem with your soul.” There’s an offer there. There’s an invitation there. How does the man respond to the invitation?
Verse 15, “The man went away and he told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.” That strike anybody else as strange? It should cause it’s a weird thing. And in the original Greek, John actually emphasizes the going away, puts it at the beginning of the sentence, which gives it a certain amount of weight in Greek grammar. And so, what he says very literally is going away, walking away. He went to the Jewish leaders and he said, “I know who it was.” You wanted to know. I didn’t know before, but I know now. His name is Jesus. Go deal with him. And see, the interesting thing about it is if I understand this, correctly, I’m pretty sure the man just sold out Jesus. He didn’t have to go find the leaders. They’d let him go. They grilled him and they finally gave up because like I think he just genuinely doesn’t know because he didn’t.
And then Jesus comes and he says, “Look, I’ve made you well but I am offering you something that’s more than just physical healing.” And the man went away. He went away from Jesus. He walked away from Jesus. He went to Jesus’ enemies and went, “I’ve that information you’re looking for.” Why would he do that? Because, and I think this is the only thing that makes sense. He was more afraid of what they would do to him than attracted to what Jesus would do for him. He was afraid of what the religious leaders would do to him. And understand, the religious leaders had tremendous power in those days. They had the ability to ex-communicate and they had the ability to say, “You can’t hold a job in this community. You can’t see your family.” They had tremendous power and they’ve demonstrated over and over again, they were more than willing to use it for the people that weren’t moral enough for them. The people that didn’t meet their standard of morality, they used their power in incredibly harsh and harmful ways. And he was afraid of that.
In fact, he was more afraid of what they could do to him than he was attracted to what Jesus could do for him. And here’s the thing. Like I wish this weren’t true and I wish this weren’t the point of the story, but I’m pretty sure it is. For these religious leaders, morality mattered more to them than mercy. And what was the conclusion of it? They drove this man away from Jesus, and that’s the unfortunate truth that we have to wrestle with. See, when we are more concerned with morality than mercy, we drive people away from Jesus. You hear me, Church? When we’re more concerned about morality than mercy, we drive people away from Jesus.
We could talk about so many different ways that happens. We could talk about the way that we deal with homosexuality, with the immigration issue. We could talk about politics. There’s just so many ways we could talk about the ways that we fall short on the example that Jesus has given us. But today is Sanctity of Life Weekend. It’s a day where, if you’re not familiar with it, it’s a day where churches all over America sort of stand together to affirm the sanctity of human life, meaning that every human life from conception is sacred to God as a human being. And it’s kind of a stance against abortion. And I wanna push into it a little bit because I think this was such a powerful place to begin to understand how this truth that we see in God’s Word sometimes goes unrecognized in the Church.
We always struggle with how much to talk about Sanctity of Life Weekend here at Mission Hills because on the one hand it’s really important, we believe this and we wanna affirm this. On the other hand, I know that many people listening right now have abortion as part of their story. I know there are many women here and men as well for whom abortion is a part of their story. And we have absolutely no interest in causing you a deeper wound than you’ve already experienced. We have no interest in driving the knife or twisting it and we know that just bringing the issue up is gonna cause pain and it’s gonna cause all kinds of suffering and we don’t have any interest in doing that. But at the same time, we also have to recognize and stand on what God says. And so, we wrestle with this and part of the reason that I think we wrestle with it is because we know that the Church has not always wrestled with it and that some of the people who have abortion as part of their story, they have received a whole big heap and dose of morality and little to no mercy. They’ve been told harsh, harsh things that don’t give any care about understanding.
Now, let me be clear. This is really important that nobody misunderstands me on this. I believe that every human life is sacred from conception, which means I believe abortion is wrong. I believe abortion is a sin. Let me be very clear on that. But I’ve talked an awful lot of women and men who have abortion as part of their story, and I have yet to meet one who is not in deep anguish over it. People seem to have this idea that people get abortions because it’s just easy and convenient and I’ve never met one of those people. I’ve met a whole lot of people who have abortion as part of their story because they were in a place of darkness and despair, and they didn’t know what to do, and they didn’t have anybody to guide them, and they didn’t know what alternatives there were, and it’s painful.
I have heard Christians say to people that have abortion in their story. I’ve heard them say, “You only did that so you could continue your sinful sexual lifestyle. It was a matter of convenience for you.” I’ve never met one of those people. But you know what? Let’s say that there are those people, let’s say that there are people out there who pursued abortion so they could continue to pursue a sinful sexual lifestyle. Do you think it might be worth asking what happened to them to get them to that point? Do you think that the person who is living that lifestyle maybe, just maybe grew up without a father, grew up in an abusive home, suffered sexual or physical abuse, and that’s part of their story too that led them to that place of darkness? Do you think maybe asking how they got to that point is part of this whole mercy business? Now, understand. Please, again, I’m gonna say it because I can’t stand the thought anybody would misunderstand me. None of that makes it right. None of that story makes abortion okay. The morality is what the morality is. But there’s power in mercy and in understanding the stories that led them to that. Listen to me. When we don’t, it drives people away from Jesus. There are women, I know women who will not darken the door of a church because of the harsh and uncaring and the merciless things that were said to them. Listen, when we care more about morality than mercy, we drive people away from Jesus. We do.
Let me teach you three things that I’ve learned about mercy from Jesus. Okay? Number one, mercy and morality don’t sit on a seesaw. It’s kind of a silly way of saying you don’t have to have less of one when you have more of the other. It doesn’t work that way. They’re not balancing like that. We seem to have this idea that, “Well, if I’m really gonna take morality seriously, if I’m really gonna take God’s character and his commands seriously, then mercy necessarily has to be less of a focus. But if I’m really gonna focus on mercy then I really can’t focus much on morality.” And I think the Church does that a lot. There are parts of the Church that that’s what they’ve chosen to do. But this idea that they’re sitting on a teeter-totter, that you can’t have a lot of one without a lot of the other, that’s garbage thought. It’s a lie from the pit. And if you feel that way, you need to ask the Holy Spirit to set you free from that lie because it’s just a lie. We see in the life of Jesus a consistent emphasis on the importance of both morality and mercy. Over and over again, Jesus says, “I love you.” Over and over again, Jesus says, “I heal you.” Over and over again, Jesus says, “I forgive you.” Followed immediately, “Stop sinning. Go and sin no more. Stop sinning or something worse.” That’s both, right? Morality and mercy, they’re not sitting on a seesaw.
Second thing that I’ve learned about mercy is this, that there is no mercy without morality. Fundamental misunderstanding in our culture. But the reality is if you don’t have a moral code, if you don’t understand right from wrong, if you don’t have some ability to discern what is, in fact, moral, you cannot have mercy. Because mercy is how we treat people with kindness who have sinned, right? We have experienced mercy. I have experienced mercy from God because I’m a sinner. If I wasn’t a sinner, I don’t need mercy. There’s no mercy without morality. What there is, is apathy, actually. “Oh, I’m merciful.” No, you’re not. You just don’t care about what God says is right and wrong or you don’t know what it is. That’s apathy. That’s not mercy. Sometimes what we get is a mercy that’s really, it’s kind of a wrongheaded do-good. If I just love people, if I don’t tell them that they’re doing something wrong, then I’m being merciful. No, no, no. If they’re living a life that is separated from God, they’re not in alignment with God, his character, his commands, and they’re on a road to an eternity apart from him to not tell them that, that’s not love and it’s absolutely not mercy. It’s apathy. Do you understand what I’m saying? There is no mercy without morality.
The third thing I’ve learned is this. The lack of mercy is a moral issue. Lacking mercy is a moral issue from God’s perspective. Those of us who lack mercy have transgressed God’s morality. It’s not a possibility, it’s not an option. Mercy is a moral issue. Listen, Jesus, “Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites, you give a tenth of your spices, mint, dill, and cumin, but you have neglected the more important matters of the law.” Pay attention to that, the more important matters of the law, justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, morality matters, without neglecting the former because morality matters. Mercy is a moral issue. Jesus said, “But go and learn what this means. I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, they’ll be shown mercy.” Mercy is a moral issue. And when we’re more concerned with morality than with mercy, we drive people away from Jesus, which is the exact opposite of what we’re called to do as a Church. We’re supposed to be the light that draws them to Jesus, and we can’t do that by ignoring morality. But we can’t do that by ignoring the command of mercy or this truth that we’re given in the Gospel of John, that when we focus more on morality than mercy, we drive people away from Jesus.
A couple of questions for you. Number one, where am I most likely to fall off the roof when it comes to mercy and morality? It’s kinda like, you know, you’re walking down that peak on the roof and on one side there’s mercy and the other side there’s morality. Most of us tend to fall off. If we’re gonna fall off, we fall off in one direction or the other. We either fall off, we’re focusing more on morality than mercy or we focus more on mercy than morality. Which side do you tend to fall off? Good to be aware of that tendency because you can lean a little bit in the other direction. It’s also the case we sometimes to do that with individual things more than like as a general. Maybe it’s a general stance in one reaction, but the other is sometimes just this bigger issue. On this issue, I’m more focused on the morality and not so much in the mercy. On this issue, I’m all about the mercy but not the morality and I think it’s good to isolate those things, understand them because we need to lean in the other direction a little bit so we stay in the tension. So we stay on the peak.
And it’s so important we do that because question number two is this, who in my life most needs living proof of God’s mercy? So many of you are here and you’re part of this today because you have experienced the mercy of God. And having experienced the mercy of God, you become the agent of the mercy God. You become the living proof, the demonstration. So who in your life needs living proof that our God is a merciful God? And question number three, where the rubber meets the road. How will I be that living proof? How will I be the living proof of the mercy of God? Not by ignoring morality, because that’s not possible. If you ignore morality, it’s not even mercy anymore. And how am I gonna be living proof of the mercy of God, of the mercy of God that you’ve experienced, and you’re called to demonstrate?
Would you pray with me? God, this is kind of a hard truth, and it’s not really a fun one because it just hits too close to home for me. I don’t always wrestle successfully with this. It’s easy to lean one direction or the other and yet you show us here that we don’t have that option. Morality matters and mercy matters and somehow, we’re supposed to live in both. We ask for your forgiveness for the ways that we’ve fallen off the roof one way or the other and specifically because of the demonstration from this story in your Word. We ask for your forgiveness for the ways that we have not been merciful and that in our lack of mercy, maybe we’ve even driven a wedge between some people in our lives and you. What a shame that by our lack of mercy, we would drive people away from the God of mercy, from our God of mercy. We ask for your forgiveness and we ask for strength through your Holy Spirit, wisdom through your Holy Spirit to be able to somehow live in this tension. And ask that you’d use that, Lord, to draw people to yourself.
If you’re a follower of Jesus now, would you begin praying for the people around you, the people watching online? Because I believe there are people watching here that they don’t have an experience of the mercy of God. You’re listening to this and you don’t have a relationship with God, you’ve never been saved from your sin. And, honestly, maybe the reason that you’ve never said yes to faith in Jesus is because, well, you’ve had people in your life that focus so much on morality, that you didn’t get much of a glimpse of the mercy. Listen, we’ve all sinned. That’s morality. But God so loved the world that he sent his only Son. That’s mercy. And if you’ve never accepted what he did for you, you can. Nothing you have ever done, whether things we’ve talked about today or any of those other things that are weighing you down with guilt and with shame, nothing you’ve ever done has the ability to exhaust the mercy of our God. The blood of Jesus is sufficient to pay for every single wrong you’ve ever done. If you’re here today and you’ve never allowed him to do that, if you never his gift of grace and mercy and forgiveness, you can do it right here, right now. Here’s what you’re gonna do. You’re just gonna have a conversation with God in your heart and you’re gonna tell him this, “Hey, God, I need your mercy because I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross in my place. I believe you rose from the dead, and I know you’re offering me forgiveness and freedom because of your mercy. I’m saying yes. Jesus, I’m putting my faith in you. Right here, right now, I’m yours for now and forever.” Amen.
I had a number of people make that decision to receive the mercy of God this weekend. Can we celebrate with them? It’s awesome. Yeah.
As we look at another of Jesus’ miracles, let me ask you a question: how many of us want to see Jesus do something amazing? How uncomfortable are you willing to get in order to see God do something amazing? Because the most amazing things I’ve ever seen God do were when I followed him into pretty uncomfortable places.
Craig: Well, hey. Welcome to Mission Hills. So glad to have you with us for our fourth installment of our Living Proof Series. If you’re new or you’re just joining us, let me catch up real quick. What we’re doing in this series, we’re taking a look at seven stories, about seven signs, which to most of us actually means seven stories about seven miracles that Jesus performed. But the man who was an eyewitness of those and who reported them to us, picked these seven signs and he calls them signs because they do more than just prove what kind of power Jesus has. They prove what kind of a person he is. They’re not just demonstrations he’s able to do these things, but they’re living proof of who he is. And honestly, they’re living proof of what’s important to him. And as followers of Jesus, what’s important to Jesus matters, right?
Because we’re supposed to care a lot about the things that Jesus cares a lot. So we need to know what those things are. And as we’re gonna see today, we’re not supposed to care a lot about things that Jesus doesn’t care a lot about, which is really unfortunate. Because it turns out there’s a lot of things that I think are really important that Jesus doesn’t give a rip about and I hate finding that out.
So, I’m just gonna tell you right now. Today we’re gonna take a look at a story that’s going to show that Jesus is really not at all concerned about something that a lot of us are really concerned about, at least I know I am. And I’m talking here about comfort. Yeah, I’m sorry. I’ll just tell you right now, bad news. Turns out, Jesus doesn’t give a rip about your comfort, which really stinks because I care a lot about it. In fact, I find myself making decisions on a pretty regular basis designed to maximize my comfort. Anybody else? And it’s not always big things. It’s little things that I do to maximize my comfort. Like sometimes, to be honest with you, sometimes when my phone rings and I look at it and I let it go to voicemail. Because my voicemail transcribes it, I can read it then and then I can text a reply back, which is just so much more comfortable. It just is, right? It’s not that necessarily I wanna avoid talking to those people, but it’s just a little bit more comfortable to text.
I think a lot of people feel that way about texting, which is why the phone app is actually probably the least used app on our phones, right? Because texting is so comfortable, right? I don’t know if anybody has done this. I’ll be honest. I do it. Sometimes when I’m in the grocery store, I got my cart and I’m gonna head down that aisle, but I looked down that aisle and I see somebody I know and I just keep going down to the next… Anybody else do that? It’s not just me, right? And again, it’s not that I necessarily wanna avoid that person. It’s just that I’m on a mission, right? I wanna get my Doritos and I wanna get out. I don’t want to have an uncomfortable conversation about why I have so many Doritos. They were on sale. I don’t wanna lose money on this thing, okay? It’s just more comfortable to not do it.
And speaking of grocery stores, like, the first time I walked into King Soopers and I realized they had installed like self-checkout lanes, I was like, “Hallelujah,” because I can go get my Doritos and I can check out and never talk to another human being which is awesome. And I know some of you are like, “What are you talking about? Like, going to the grocery store and having unexpected conversations with people you know or making new friends at the checkout stand, like that’s the best part of going the grocery store.” You’re what’s called an extrovert. And 50% of the population are introverts and I’m talking their language right now. Can I get an, “Amen?”
Pastor Craig: Which is a pretty loud amen, actually, for a bunch of introverts, but it’s awesome. Scan your own stuff. It’s just a little bit more comfortable. But here’s the thing. Sometimes the decisions that I make, at least, in order to maximize my comfort, are actually pretty significant decisions. Here’s something that I struggle with. I don’t like having hard conversations. I don’t like having to challenge or confront people. Those conversations are uncomfortable. And because of that, honestly, I struggle with putting those conversations off. I can put them off for days or weeks and sometimes even months. Even though I know, somebody spoke this into my life years ago and I’ve seen its truth over and over, I was told, “Hey, almost everybody is one difficult conversation away from a breakthrough in their lives.” And I think it’s true. I’ve seen it over and over again and yet I often put off those conversations because they’re uncomfortable and I don’t want to be uncomfortable.
I think we all have these areas in our lives where we work to maximize our comfort. Here’s the problem. Here’s what I’ve discovered in my own life: is that maximizing my comfort minimizes my chances of seeing God move. Do you know that, Church? It’s true. Maximizing my comfort actually minimizes my chances of seeing God move. What I wanna do is I wanna show you from God’s Word why I say that, but more importantly, I wanna show you from God’s Word why I think it’s true.
Why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible and start making your way. We’re gonna be in the Gospel of John chapter six today, which says this, it says, “Now sometime after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee, that is the Sea of Tiberius.” He says, “Sometime after this,” and what he means by this is in chapter five of John, we looked at it last week, Jesus was in Jerusalem. He’s in the heart of Jewish territory and he performed a miracle on the Sabbath that led to a very uncomfortable conversation with the Jewish religious leaders. But after this, after that ministry in Jerusalem, Jesus has now traveled. He’s moved from Jerusalem to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee. It’s about 75 miles away from Jerusalem.
But what you need to understand about this location is, as John describes it, it’s the far shore, far away from what? Far from…? Like, what’s your reference point? The answer is it’s the opposite side of the shore from Jewish territory. See, the west side of the lake was primarily Jewish territory. The far shore was kinda like the other side of the tracks from a Jewish perspective because on the far shore, that was kind of the very edge of Jewish territory. And at the edge of Jewish territory, you had a few Jewish people, but you also had a lot of Gentiles, a lot of people who weren’t Jewish. That was their word for non-Jewish people, Gentiles. And so in this part of the country, you had a lot of people who weren’t Jewish and Jewish people tried to avoid having any time spent around non-Jewish people, around Gentiles. And so it’s kind of an uncomfortable place because you had a lot of those Gentiles there.
And by the way, John specifically highlights that because he says it’s the Sea of Galilee, but then he says, “That is the Sea of Tiberius,” which is the Roman name. It’s the Gentile name for this area. What he’s doing is he’s highlighting the Gentile nature of this area. Now, that’s an uncomfortable place for Jewish people to be. It’s also uncomfortable because it’s a wilderness. It’s a very arid part of the country. It’s not very well hydrated. It’s got a lot of desert areas. It’s a wilderness. And so both geographically and demographically, it’s an uncomfortable place to be. But that’s where Jesus goes.
And a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs that he had performed by healing the sick. A big crowd of Jesus is not followers of Jesus. It’s not just that Jesus went to this uncomfortable place: a whole lot of other people. Now, these would be Jewish people. A whole lot of Jewish people follow Jesus to this uncomfortable place. Why? Because of the signs that he had performed and also because they wanted to see another one, right, which is interesting because they’re about to see another sign. They’re about to see an incredible miracle. In fact, they’re about to see something that’s such an incredible miracle that honestly, even if you’re brand new to church and you don’t know much about the Bible, and by the way, we’re so glad that you’re with us if that’s you. But you don’t have to spend a lot of time in church to have heard about this miracle. Chances are you’ve heard something about it. It’s one of his most famous miracles and this group of people that have followed him in this uncomfortable place, they’re about to see it, which is interesting to me because… Let me just ask a question.
How many of us would like to see Jesus do something amazing in our lives? Anybody like, “Yeah, I’m good.” Now, we wanna see Jesus do an amazing thing, right? Yeah. That’s the easy question. Here’s the hard question. How willing am I to follow Jesus into an uncomfortable place to see him do something amazing? Because here’s the truth, the reality is that the most amazing things God does, he often does in places that are pretty uncomfortable for us. And our unwillingness to get uncomfortable also means that we’re unable to see some of these incredible things that we long to see. I certainly experienced that in my own life.
One of the most amazing things that I’ve ever seen God do, it was the summer between my junior and senior year of college, and I joined an evangelistic rock band in Eastern Europe. Those were different days for me. I had hair in those days. I wore bandanas to hold the hair back to keep… Yeah. That’s enough, Sally. You can get rid of that. No one needs to see that. Okay, thank you. Yeah, it was different days, very, very different days. Sally. Sally’s running pro presenter for now. We’ll talk about that afterwards.
One of the days we would set up in these outdoor areas and we’d play music and people would come and we’d share the Gospel with them. And one day we were doing a concert and a bunch of Satanists showed up. I knew they were Satanist because they were dressed exactly like you would expect a Satanist to dress and they had upside-down crosses painted on their faces and they were incredibly disruptive. They were shouting, they were screaming, they were throwing stuff. And so I was singing and dodging at the same time. And at a certain point, I still don’t know what possessed me other than I think the Holy Spirit. I put the mic in the stand and I walked off the stage. I walked right up to the group, to the leader of the group and I said to him, “Hey, what are you so angry about?”
And to be honest, I don’t know what happened after that. I literally don’t remember the substance of the conversation. I assume he must’ve spoken some English or maybe honestly, maybe God supernaturally enabled communication to happen. I literally don’t remember. I don’t remember the conversation. What I do remember and I will never forget as at the end of that conversation, this guy said yes to Jesus. This guy prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. He started a relationship with Jesus Christ and I will never forget this to my dying day. As he prayed, he began to weep and his tears ran down his face and they began to wash away these upside-down crosses that he had painted on there, the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. But I had to get really uncomfortable to see it.
I gave up my summer to go on a short-term trip. Instead of working and making money, I actually had to write letters to people, asking them to give me money to go on the trip. I had to raise support, really uncomfortable. I’m an introvert by nature and I didn’t know a single person that I spent that summer with before the summer. That’s a little uncomfortable for me. They were a lot more charismatic than I was used to. I was uncomfortable. The Iron Curtain had just come down and the conditions in Eastern Europe were uncomfortable. The food was uncomfortable. I didn’t know the language. I didn’t know the custom. It was just uncomfortable.
But the truth of the matter is if you really wanna see God do something amazing, you have to come to grips with the fact that there’s a pretty good chance he’s gonna ask you to follow him somewhere uncomfortable first. So I ask the question again. How willing are you to follow Jesus to an uncomfortable place to see him do an amazing thing? That’s what’s happening here. They followed him to an uncomfortable place. Because of that, they’re gonna get to see an amazing thing. Verse three says, “Now, Jesus went up on a mountainside and he sat down with his disciples and the Jewish Passover Festival was near.” It’s really important. And if you don’t know what the Passover is, let me catch you up because it’s so important to the story.
The Passover was a festival they did every year. They celebrated a time in their history when God had set them free. At a certain point in their history, the Jewish people had been enslaved by the Egyptians. They were enslaved in the Gentile country of Egypt. But at a certain point, God did a whole bunch of miracles and he set them free. And then he led them out of the Gentile world through the wilderness and into the Promised Land, into the Nation of Israel into their safe place, okay? So he led them out of the Gentile world, through the wilderness, and into their safe place.
And now at a Passover Festival where they’re celebrating that, Jesus does the exact opposite. He leads people out of the heart of Jewish territory, into a wilderness and into the very edge, at the very edge of the Gentile world. So he reverses the events of the original Passover. And that’s not a coincidence. It’s a very deliberate action. It’s a very on-purpose thing. Because what he’s doing, I think is he’s giving us living proof of a principle that we understand throughout Scripture and it’s this, is that God doesn’t give us safe places so that we can hang out in them and be protected. God gives us safe places to recharge. Really, God leads us to safe places to find strength to go back out on a mission. Do you hear me? That’s the reason for safe places.
God leads us to safe places so that we can be strengthened so that we can go back out on a mission. And by the way, that’s what the Church is. You understand that? That’s what the Church is. Church is a safe place to find fuel for the mission. Safe places are intended to strengthen us for the mission. God doesn’t give us the Church so that we can come and feel good and we’re with other people and we’re safe and protected from the world and just hang out waiting for Jesus to come back and get us. No, no, no.
The Church is a place that we come to or it’s a people that we come together with, really… Because here’s the thing, the church isn’t a building. Do you understand that? The Church isn’t a building we come to. It’s a mission we choose to be part of. The Church is the people of God gathering together to live out the mission of God. That’s what the Church is because you can’t follow Jesus without following on a mission and that’s what the Church is, it’s coming together so we can go back out, strengthened for the mission. And that’s what Jesus is demonstrating geographically here.
Now, when he looked up…when Jesus looked up and he saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Hey, where should we buy bread for these people to eat?” Now, he asked this only to test him for he already had in mind what he was gonna do, which is a nightmare situation for Philip, right? I mean, I think anytime Jesus asks you a question in public, you’re always gonna assume this was probably a test. Is this a parable? But here John tells us, yeah, he already knew what he was gonna do. He was just asking this to test him. I feel bad for Philip, right?
Now, what you need to understand is that John is telling us that what Jesus is doing is he’s not looking for information, right? It’s not like Jesus is just looking at his crowd and going, “I don’t know what to do, Philip. You got any ideas?” No, no. Jesus already knows what he’s gonna do before he asked Philip. Actually, Jesus knows what he’s gonna do before he saw the crowd coming. Actually Jesus knew what he was gonna do before he ended up in the place where the crowd followed him. Actually, Jesus knew what he was gonna do before he left Jerusalem. This has been the plan all along. He’s been setting the stage for something amazing, right? And so he says, “Philip. Hey. What are we gonna do?” And Philip answered him, “Well, it would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite.” I love Philip.
I guarantee you, Philip is a five on the Enneagram. He is a focused, practical, solution-oriented problem solver. He does the math, right? How awesome is that? You know, “Were gonna buy food. You’re gonna buy… Carry the two. Jesus, the math doesn’t work out. It’s not gonna work. We just didn’t…” I love that. I love that he went with the math. I can imagine Jesus going, “Good job with the math, Philip. You’re right. The math does not work out. So are we just up a creek? What are we gonna do? Peter, you got something?” “Yeah, I was thinking we could, well, maybe… Yeah, I got nothing. I got nothing.” “Matthew, you got anything?” “Nope.” “Thomas?” “I mean, I have an idea but I kind of doubt that it would work.” Sorry, I’m sorry. That’s a bad pastor joke there.
Well, another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother spoke up. He said, “Here’s a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will that go among so many?” I like Andrew too. Anybody know anybody that they just say whatever is on their mind without the slightest bit of evaluation before it’s out there? Anybody know anybody like that? I mean, I know people like that. How many of us are that person? Right? That’s Andrew, right? He’s just going for it. He’s like, “Hey, I saw a kid. He’s got five barley loaves and he’s got two fishes. And so we… Yeah, now that I’m saying it, that’s not gonna really help all that much. Could we start over?”
But it is interesting, the boy has excess. He’s got more than he needs. He doesn’t have a lot more than he needs. It’s not like he’s got a truck load of bread. But he does have more than you would expect him to have. And I don’t know why that is. I don’t know if he had excess cause he was thinking maybe he’d sell some, entirely possible. Maybe he had some excess because he’s got an over-protective Jewish grandma who was like, “You’re so skinny. Here, take another one.” I don’t know. But the point is he’s got some excess.
But what’s important is not how he got the excess. The interesting thing is what he does with. And what does he do with it? Well, he puts it in Jesus’ hands. At least I assume that’s what happened. Like, I don’t think what’s happening is that Andrew was like, “Jesus, come here. Yeah, I saw there’s a boy over there. He’s got some extra bread and we can take him.” I don’t think that’s what’s happening, right? The boy has offered it up. And I think this is so, so interesting because here’s the reality. I think every one of us has an area of excess in our lives. I really believe that every one of us has an area in our lives where we have more than we need. We have an excess. And it doesn’t matter how you got it. Here’s the thing. How we get an excess isn’t as important as what we do with it. Do you hear me? How we got the excess isn’t as important as what we do with it.
Maybe you have an excess of money. Maybe you have an excess of time. Maybe you have an excess of experience. Maybe you have an excess of knowledge. Maybe you have an excess of charisma and maybe you’re just great with people. Maybe you have an excess of space in your home or an excess of other kinds of resources. It doesn’t matter what it is and it doesn’t matter how you got it. Maybe you inherited it. Maybe you worked hard for it. Maybe you learned it over time. Maybe you won the lottery, you had some kind of a windfall. It doesn’t matter how you got it. How we got an excess isn’t as important as what we do with it. And this boy does the right thing. He puts the excess in Jesus’ hands for Jesus to do with it what he will. And Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”
Now, there was plenty of grass in that place. It’s so interesting. I didn’t realize this until last night as I was praying. Right before I got on stage I was praying about this and I really felt like God spoke to me and said, “Hey, did you notice that little plenty of grass passage?” And I was like, “Oh, interesting.” Because it’s a wilderness, there’s not a lot of grass. But the place where Jesus led them to, there was plenty of grass. Even in the wilderness, Jesus led his people to a place of provision. So sometimes we find ourselves in what we think is a wilderness, but it doesn’t mean that we lack the provision that we need. In fact, it made me think of Psalm 23, “Because The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing and he makes me to lie down in green pastures. He provides even when we’re in the midst of the wilderness.”
“And they sat down and about 5,000 men were there. And Jesus took the loaves and he gave thanks and he distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted and did the same with the fish,” which drives me crazy because this is a major miracle and it’s another one of those super low-key announcements. It’s almost exactly the same thing as what happened if you were with us few weeks ago in John 2 and we see the water turned into wine at the wedding at Cana. And there again, it was just this really low-key announcement and they took the water and he tasted the water that had been turned into wine. That’s the only announcement of the miracle. There’s no ta-da, there’s no more biblical behold. It just happened and he kind of does the same thing. You know, Jesus gives thanks and then he passes it out to 5,000 people, maybe more than that. We don’t know if it was 5,000 men, meaning 5,000 people, or if it was 5,000 males, meaning that there may have been 10,000 to 12,000 to 15,000 people. We don’t know. It’s a huge number of people and it’s a super low-key announcement. He just gave thanks and he passed it out.
Why would he do that? Well, because again, this is a sign not just of what kind of power Jesus has. It’s a sign of what kind of person he is. He’s the Son of God. And in the person of Jesus, we see living proof of who God is and what’s important to him. And what’s interesting is that the emphasis isn’t on the doing of the miracle. The emphasis actually is on what happens after the miracle. But we often don’t pay much attention to that. Verse 12 says this, “Now, when they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the pieces that are left over and let nothing be wasted.” And so they gathered them and they filled 12 baskets with the pieces of the 5 barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.”
It’s interesting. John actually spends more time talking about the leftovers than he does about how the miracle itself happens, which I think is interesting. I think it’s important that we push in a little bit and go, “Why? What’s so significant about these leftovers?” Now, I grew up in church, which means that I heard the story of the feeding of the 5,000 about 5,000 times. And every time when they talked about the leftovers, it was really, “This is how powerful Jesus is. Not only was he able to feed all of these people, but he was even powerful enough to produce a little bit more than that.”
Okay. But I think we skim over this pretty quickly. And I get it. The reason we skim over it pretty quickly is because leftover is not a real positive word. Nobody likes leftovers. I mean, except maybe Thanksgiving, right? I like Thanksgiving leftovers. But the rest of the time, I’m just gonna be really honest with you. When I come home and I ask the question, you know, “What’s for dinner?” and the answer is leftovers, I gotta work really hard to control my face. And it’s not that I’m trying to keep joy from bursting out of my face. I’m not a big fan of leftovers.
You know what? And if that’s not how you feel, let me take it out of the context of food to show you what I mean. We’ve all probably had the experience of being the leftover in some other situation. Like maybe you’re in middle school, you know, and teams are being chosen. And there’s always those sort of choice people. Like, we’re gonna play basketball, so we’re gonna get that one kid who’s like in seventh grade and he’s already 6’9″, right? “I choose you,” right? And you get a few of those great people. And then, you know, whoever is choosing is looking at the rest of us and they’re going, “All right, Craig,” right? It doesn’t feel good to be the leftovers. It’s not a positive word.
But the Greek word that’s being used here is actually extremely positive. It’s not a negative word at all. In fact, the Greek word, it literally means something like above and beyond. It means in excess. It means running over. It’s not the leftovers. It’s the running-overs. I mean, literally what Jesus says is this. He says, “Hey, gathered the pieces that are in excess, let nothing be wasted. So they gathered them and they filled 12 baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves in excess by those who had eaten.” It’s a really positive word. By the way, interestingly enough, Psalms 23, “You will anoint my head with oil and my cup overflows.” It’s in excess, right? It’s above and beyond. It’s better than could be expected. It’s a very positive word.
And this is so cool. Check this out, John 10:10, maybe a familiar phrase to some of you. Maybe this is what you came here to hear today if you’re not familiar with this. Jesus is speaking here about the kind of mission that he’s on. What he came to do and this is what he says. He says, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Other translations normally say, “Have it in abundance,” but it’s the exact same Greek root as is being used in John 6 to talk about the pieces that were in excess. Jesus didn’t say, “I’ve come to have life and have it so that you have some leftovers.” He said, “No, I came to have life that you may have it in excess. I came that you may have life and have it running over. I came that you may have life that exceeds expectations that goes above and beyond.”
What Jesus is doing here in this miracle is he’s demonstrating. He’s giving living proof of his desire to give you the life that is in excess, to give you a life that is in excess when it comes to joy, that has an excess of peace, that has an excess of purpose, that has an excess of meaning, that has an excess of hope, and maybe, just maybe, even a life that has an excess of resources. It’s what Jesus is doing here. He’s demonstrating. He’s giving living proof of what he wants to do in your life. But, and this is a really important but, the question of whether or not we will experience that kind of life largely depends on how we answer a very important question. And this was the question: what would I do with the excess? Let’s say he gives it to you. Let’s say you experience the abundant life Jesus is talking about, and you have above and beyond, in all of those possible categories, what would you do with it? What would you do with the excess?
So it’s interesting that the boy had an excess and he put it in Jesus’ hands to help and Jesus multiplied that. It’s also interesting that Jesus put a lot of emphasis on collecting all the excess, right? Which is so interesting to me and it actually drives me a little bit crazy that he doesn’t tell us what he’s gonna do with it and John doesn’t tell us what he did with it, right? That drives me crazy. I mean, I can make some guesses at what he didn’t do. I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t gather all the excess and then set it on fire, right? Pretty sure he didn’t gather the excess and then pile it in the boats and head across and in the middle of the lake, just dump it out. I don’t think that happened. But he didn’t tell us what he did with it. And here’s my best… I don’t even think this is my best. It’s my favorite guess. Here’s my favorite guess. It’s just a guess.
But what if he collected it all and he left it in the baskets and then when Jesus left and all of his Jewish followers left, the food stayed there. And then all those people, all those Gentiles, especially, who didn’t know much about the grace of God, they didn’t know much about the love of God, they didn’t know about a God who loves them in excess. What if they went, “What was going on up there?” and they went to investigate, and they found food? That’d be pretty cool, wouldn’t it? I’m guessing. We don’t know. Here’s what we know. We know that they weren’t allowed to keep it for themselves, right? Jesus. No, gather up the excess. It’s all we know. We know for a fact they weren’t allowed to keep it for themselves and here’s where things get really interesting. Let me take a little trip down the rabbit hole, but I think it’s so important.
Remember, this is the Passover and the Passover, they celebrated when God took his people, let them out of the world through the wilderness and into their safe place. Now, Jesus comes and leads his people out of the safe place and through the wilderness to the edge of the world. Now, in that first Passover, when the Israelites got into the wilderness area, they looked around and they said, “There is no food here,” and God said, “I’ll provide,” and bread fell out of the sky. Something called manna, a bread-like substance fell out of sky. So in the wilderness, God miraculously provided bread. A coincidence that now in the wilderness, Jesus miraculously provides bread? No, no. It’s on purpose. What made it more interesting, as they were in the wilderness, and this bread, every morning, they would come out and this thing called manna would be on the ground like the dew of the grass and they were allowed to collect. And God said, “Collect as much as you need.” Jesus fed them as much as they wanted.
But the interesting thing is God also gave them an instruction and said, “Don’t take more than you need. Don’t collect more than you need.” In fact, he said, “Collect only what you need.” There was only one exception to that. And that was on the night of the Sabbath as they went into that day where they weren’t supposed to work, they were allowed to collect enough for two days. But other than that, they were told, “Don’t take any excess.” Some people tried it and anybody who took more than they needed, overnight, it rotted, and it stunk up their tents. And so once again, in the wilderness, as God miraculously provides more than is needed, they’re told, “Yeah, but the more that’s needed isn’t for you. You’re not allowed to keep it.”
Listen, Jesus provides us with extra not so that we can enjoy it. Jesus provides with extra so that we can bless others with the excess. That’s the point. That’s the point of the abundant life. You understand it? If Jesus provides us with extra so that we can bless others with the excess, then the abundant life Jesus is talking about and he says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly, have it in excess.” The abundant life is provision for the mission. You’re with me, Church? That’s the purpose. It’s not so we can go, “Look how much I have. Look how great God is.” It’s so we can go, “Look how great God is. He gave me excess so that I can be a mission with him.” That’s the abundant life. It’s provision for the mission which means, this is so important. It means that there are two keys to experiencing the abundant life.
The first one is a relationship with Jesus. The one who gives the abundant life gives it to those who are in a relationship with him. It’s not about a religion. It’s not about checking off boxes of do’s and don’ts and trying to be good enough to earn anything or that kind of a thing. No, no, no. It’s about a relationship. He is the author of life, and so of course, he’s the only source of the life that we are made to have. And if you’re here today and you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, that’s why you’re listening to this message. That’s what God has orchestrated so that you hear.
You need to understand that God loves you in excess, not just a little bit, not just enough. He loves you an excess. See, we’ve all committed sin. We’ve all done wrong. That separates us from God and there is a penalty for sin. It leads to death. It’s just an inevitable consequence, but God’s love is never exhausted by our sin. It doesn’t matter how much wrong we have done. It doesn’t matter how much sin we have committed. It doesn’t matter how many people we’ve hurt or how badly we’ve messed up. You cannot exhaust God’s love for you. He loves you enough to cover that and then above and beyond. He loves you in excess. And the proof is that he sent Jesus to you.
Jesus came. He lived a perfect life, so he didn’t have any sin to pay for. Jesus went to the cross to die to pay for your sin and his death is sufficient to pay it all off. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead. That’s a fact of history. We’re not talking faith. We’re talking facts. You can investigate it. You’re gonna find the truth of what I’m saying. The tomb is empty. The grave is empty. Jesus has risen. Here’s where the faith comes in. He offers us a relationship. He says, “If you’ll have a relationship with me, I’ll apply all of my blood, shed on the cross, to forgive your sin.” There’s plenty of it and you will be clean and you’ll begin a relationship with me. And it’s only in that relationship that you can experience the abundant life. That’s the key number one.
And if you’re here today and you don’t have that relationship, I’m gonna give you the chance before the day is done to start that relationship because that’s why you’re here. But a lot of us have the relationship and yet we’ll go, “But I don’t know that I’m experiencing the abundant life. I’m not sure that I’m experiencing this in-excess life.” Here’s the second key. It’s not the most important key. That relationship is the most important. But it’s an important key.
Listen, one of the keys to the abundant life is a habit of living on mission. It’s a habit of doing, with the excess, what the excess was intended for. It’s a provision for the mission. That’s one of the keys to experiencing this excess life. It’s becoming the kind of person who will do, with the excess, what God intended the excess to do: be on mission with him, extend his influence in the world, draw people to an understanding of who he is and what it looks like to have a relationship with him.
One of the keys to the abundant life is a habit of living on mission with that excess. And so let me ask you a difficult question, but it’s such an important question. Where’s one, in my life, one area of my life, where in my life has God provided more than I need? Where in your life has God provided more than you need? I believe, with all my heart, that in every one of our lives, there is some area where we have an excess. We have more than we need. We often don’t see it because we have a tendency to focus on where we feel like there’s a deficiency, right? We go, “Well, you know, money’s tight,” or “These relationships are draining,” or “My career is not going well,” or “My house is too small,” or “My car is not working.”
We focus on areas of deficiency, and because of that, we ignore areas of sufficiency and we certainly ignore areas that are in excess. And we have to get our eyes off of the areas of deficiency and on to the areas of sufficiency. We need to find those areas where God has actually provided more than enough. It doesn’t matter how we got it. It doesn’t matter if we inherited it or we were built that way or we’ve worked hard for it. God has allowed us to have an excess and he’s allowed us to have an excess for a reason and that is to be fuel for the mission. But we have to start with that place. Where in my life do I have an excess?
Second question is this. What am I doing with that excess? When we identify the excess, we’ve also got to ask the hard question, “What am I doing with it?” And chances are, for some of us, like you’ve never realized that you have that area of excess. Some of you know you have it and you just haven’t used it for what it’s intended for and we’re gonna have to deal with that. We have to constantly go through this.
You know, I have an amazing house and we have some extra rooms in our house. That’s an area where God’s provided an excess. But my wife and I and my whole family, we understand that we don’t have those extra rooms so that we can just go, “Hey, we have extra rooms.” No, we have extra rooms so that we can encounter a missionary or somebody who’s in need and go, “Hey, we have an extra room. Come stay with us for a while.” And we host missionaries on a regular basis. We have some coming soon and they’ll be with us for about a month. A lot of times when staff moved to Colorado and it takes them a while to get their housing, they come and they live with us. Justin Adams, our worship leader, his family lived with us for several months because that’s why we have the excess.
I also realized as a family that for the first time in our lives, we have an excess of money. And because of that, you know, churches talk about tithe, 10%. I realized that tithe is a meaningless concept to me now. It’s only meaningful to me now because I give 10% to my local church, but we give way above and beyond that because we have excess and we know the excess is not just for our enjoyment, it’s to be on mission. It’s to bless others. So you’ve gotta ask the question, “Where do I have excess and what am I doing with the excess?”
And so let’s just drill down and get real practical. Here’s the question for you. What’s one step that I will take this week to be more on mission with God’s provision? Did you identify that area of excess? That’s just one step that you’ll take this week to be more on mission with that provision and let me go ahead and warn you right now. Good news, bad news. Good news, if you’ll take that one step, you’re going to put yourself in a place where you’re gonna have the opportunity to see God do an amazing thing and that’s awesome. That’s great news.
There’s bad news. And the bad news is that one step you’re gonna take, it’s gonna put you in a place where you’re gonna be able to see God do an amazing thing. There’s a really, really, really good chance that that one step is gonna be into an uncomfortable place. But our willingness to step into uncomfortable places gives us the opportunity to see Jesus do an amazing thing.
Let’s pray. God, as a follower of Jesus and as the pastor of this congregation, I stand before you representing my friends, my brothers and sisters and we confess to you that we have not always lived with a mindset that allows us to focus on, to pay attention to those areas of excess in our lives. We often live with a mind that’s focused on our deficiencies as we perceive them. And so we’re often blind to areas of excess in our lives, whether they’re financial or material or personal or relationship or other kinds of things. And so we ask for your forgiveness for that. We ask that you’d get our eyes up off of our areas of deficiency and give us insight through your Holy Spirit about those areas in our lives where we have an excess.
And then, Lord, we ask humbly that you would…you’d stir our hearts and our minds and give us wisdom and insight about how to use that excess for the purpose for which it was given, to be on mission with Jesus, to pointing people to you, to the God who has loved us in excess and who loves them in excess. If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just pray for those listening to this message here at Littleton or around the world, online, that don’t know Jesus? Pray for them to have an awakening right now. Because if that’s you, if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, I said a moment ago that that’s the reason you’re listening to this message because he wants to have that relationship with you.
Here’s how you do it. It’s a conversation. Of course, it’s a conversation because what he wants is a relationship and almost every relationship begins with a conversation. So, you’re gonna have a conversation with Jesus. If you’re ready to begin that relationship this is the conversation, you’re gonna have. Wherever you are, you’re just gonna have this conversation with God. Just in the quietness of your heart, you’re gonna say this to him. Say, “God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve committed sin and I know I’m not worthy of your love. I don’t deserve your love. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for loving me in excess. Thank you for being willing to die on the cross in my place. I believe you rose from the dead and understand that you’re offering forgiveness, not just enough for what I’ve done so far, but every wrong I’ve ever done and every wrong I ever will do. You’re offering your forgiveness in excess. From beyond that, you’re offering a relationship and I’m ready to say yes to that relationship. Jesus, come into my life. I’m putting my trust in you. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.
A number of people made that decision this weekend. Can we just celebrate that with them? So, so great.
After Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fish, we see the contrast in the relationships with Jesus between those who recognize Jesus for who he is and those who don’t. Recognizing and receiving Jesus can get us where we need to go; into life – eternal life – in relationship with the God who loves us.
Craig: Hey, welcome to the Mission Hills. So, so glad to have you with us this weekend. If you’re just joining us, I’ll catch you up real quick. We are in the midst of our “Living Proof” series, where we’re taking a look at seven stories, about seven signs that Jesus performed, or you might know them as miracles. But the Gospel of John calls them signs because they do more than just demonstrate that Jesus had power. They give us living proof of who he is. And so, we’re looking at those and coming to understand better who Jesus is and who God is and what it looks like to follow him. We got a fair amount of territory to cover today. So, we’re gonna jump in pretty quick. I wanna ask you to go ahead and grab a Bible, start making your way to the Gospel of John. We’re gonna be in chapter 6 today, but while you’re turning there, while you’re making your way there, I wanna go ahead and ask a really important question and ask you to think about it seriously. And the question is this, who do you think Jesus is? Who do you think Jesus is? And I know you’re in church so you’re like, “Oh, I got the answer,” right? But you know what, maybe step away from the church answer for a second and really ponder for a second. And also, I just wanna recognize that some of you wouldn’t give the church answer. And that’s okay. We’re so glad you’re here. Maybe for some of you, your answer would be, “Well, I think Jesus is a great teacher.” I’m willing to give him that much.
That’s great. We’re so glad that you’re here. Or maybe you’d say, “He’s a prophet. I think the power of God flowed through him.” That’s also great. Honestly, maybe your answer is, “I don’t know. I don’t know what I think about Jesus. I don’t know who I think he is.” And that’s also fine. We’re so glad you’re here. And my prayer is that this message would help you take a step closer to understanding who Jesus is. A lot of you I know would say you’ve been following Jesus for a while and your answer’s probably a step above teacher, prophet. You might say he’s the Son of God, he’s the Christ, he’s the Messiah, he’s the Savior. And that’s awesome. That’s great. But even if that’s your answer, I would encourage you to maybe go a little bit beyond that. And, you know, how do you think about Jesus? What sort of a person do you think he is? Because it really matters. Here’s what I’ve come to understand. How we think about Jesus determines how we respond to him. How we think about Jesus determines how we respond to him. And I know that’s been true in my own life. I was very blessed to be raised in a home with two parents, a mom and a dad who both love Jesus. And so, they made sure that I heard the truth about Jesus from an early age. We were in church wherever we lived. We were an Air Force family, we moved a lot. But wherever we were, we found church. And my parents were Southern Baptists. So, it’s always interesting there’s…..
And some of you are like, “Are we supposed to applaud for that? I don’t know. I don’t know, the whole Baptist thing, Southern… I don’t know.” Yeah. And here’s the thing, like, I really enjoyed the upbringing and I’m grateful for it. There was probably a tone to some of the way that the Southern Baptist churches that I grew up in talked about Jesus. And I think that was at least partially responsible for a view of Jesus that I had that I think changed the way I responded to him for a long time. I would say, you know, if you came to me when I was a little kid and said, you know, “Who is Jesus?” I would have been, like, able to give you the Sunday school answer really quick. The Sunday school answer is the one that you gotta give so that you don’t get in trouble. Right? So, if somebody had said, you know, “Who do you think Jesus is?” I’d be like, “He’s Christ. He’s the Messiah.” I don’t know what those mean. Turns out they mean exactly the same things. Do you know that? Christ and Messiah, they both mean the Anointed One. Christ is Greek and Messiah is Hebrew. And I’m like, “I have no idea why we have two of them,” but that’s the answer. I know it’s Christ. He’s the Messiah. He’s the Savior. He’s the Son of God. And I believed that. I mean, let’s be clear. I did believe that. But at the same time, if you had pushed beneath the surface a little bit, and I had been honest with you, I probably would’ve told you that when I thought about Jesus, I tended to think of Jesus as an MP.
And if you don’t know what an MP is, I was raised on military bases and the MPs are the military police. And I knew the military police were good guys. I knew they were good people, but I also tended to think their main job was to keep me from getting in trouble, which is really to keep me from doing fun things that apparently weren’t allowed by the rules. That was how I tended to think about the MPs. And the reality is I kind of thought about Jesus in those terms. He’s a good guy. He’s the Christ. He’s the Messiah. All that’s true. But in my head, I kinda thought of him as the enforcer. And because of that, I think I probably kept Jesus a little bit of a distance for a long time in my life. And it really wasn’t until I was 12, I kind of went through a period of probably anxiety and wrestling with some things. It was the middle of the Cold War and, you know, we had these nuclear war drills. I don’t know if anybody remembers those, where, like, you know, you’d go, “Oh it could be a nuclear war so everybody get under their desk.” Because that’s gonna help, right? But we would do those. And the thing is I think a lot of people were sort of afraid of a nuclear war breaking out in the middle of the Cold War. And it was worse for me because I lived on military bases. Like, they’re on the top of every target list. Like, there was no chance I was getting out of that, even if I had got under two desks, right? Like, there was no chance. And I remember going through a period of kind of anxiety about that and fear.
And my mom found me in my room one day kind of really in the throes of wrestling with that. And I told her what I was afraid of and, you know, I expected her to say, “Hey, Craig that’s not gonna happen.” That is not what she did. What she actually said was, “I can’t promise that’s not gonna happen.” And I’m like, “You’re bad at this mom.” And she said, “I can’t promise that that’s never gonna happen.” But she said, “But I can promise that you can be confident about what’s gonna happen next. There’s no reason that your eternal destiny would need to be in doubt.” And she explained the gospel. And I’d heard the gospel before, but in the way that she explained it in that moment, I think my thinking changed a little bit. And I began to make a significant shift. I stopped seeing Jesus as the enforcer and I began to see him as my rescuer. I began to see the gospel that he came, and he lived a perfect life, and he died on the cross to pay for my sins. Not so much as, “Oh, you keep screwing up and I gotta take care of it.” But no, he came to do that for me. He came to rescue me from my sin and to bring me into eternal life. And as I began to see Jesus as a rescuer, my feelings about Jesus changed and the way I responded changed. And it was that day that I gave my life to Jesus. It was that day that I said yes to a relationship with Jesus that I have held on to ever since. But it happened because of the way I thought about him. So, it’s a significant question. And even if you are able in your head to say, “Yeah, I believe he’s the Christ, he’s the Messiah, he’s the Savior, he is the Son of God,” I wanna ask you, again, how do you think about Jesus?
Who do you think Jesus is? What other kind of stuff is going around? Because the reality is how we think about Jesus determines how we respond to him. What I wanna do today is I wanna show you from God’s Word why that’s true and how it is that we need to pay attention to that. So, we’re gonna be in John chapter 6 starting in verse 14 says this, “Now, after the people saw the sign that Jesus performed,” and that would be the sign we looked at last week, the sign where Jesus fed over 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes, he miraculously provided for them. “Well, after the people saw the sign that Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” That’s how they thought about Jesus. They thought he was the Prophet. And we need to understand that that’s a respectful term. That’s not a casual, dismissive thing. They thought very respectfully that he’s the Prophet, and not even just a prophet, but the Prophet. Well, who’s the Prophet? Well, from a Jewish perspective, hands down, the most important prophet who had ever lived was a man named Moses. Like, when you’re doing the prophet trading cards, Moses was the card everybody wanted to get. He was the best. And as we talked about last week, at a certain point in their history, God sent Moses to take the people of Israel out of their captivity in the world and to lead them through the wilderness into the edge of the promised land, and the edge of their safe space. And, of course, while he was in the wilderness, God used Moses to miraculously provide bread, manna that fell from heaven.
And well, now, in this miracle, we’ve just seen Jesus is kind of reversing that at the Passover, which celebrated that journey. At that same time of the year, Jesus has taken people out of their safe zone. He’s taken them through the wilderness. And at the edge of the world and at the edge of the rest of the world, he sat down and he’s provided miraculous bread. And so, Moses is on everybody’s mind at this moment, right? And the interesting thing about Moses, the greatest of the Jewish prophets was that near the end of his life, Moses said this, he said, this is Deuteronomy 18:15, “The Lord your God will raise up for you, a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites, and you must listen to him.” And for centuries, at this point, the Israelites had been waiting for that prophet, the prophet that Moses prophesied would come. And they’re looking at Jesus now and they’re going, “I think he might be the guy. I think he might be the one Moses told us about. I think he might be the Prophet.” And so, I think it’s important we understand that what they say is really significant. It’s a high honor that they’re… According to Jesus, it’s a very significant title that they’re giving to him. But what I want you to notice is that the way they see Jesus, determines how they responded. And they see him as a prophet, and this is what they do in response. This is 6:15, “Now, Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” Now, I don’t know how he knew that. I don’t know if it was supernatural knowledge or if Peter came up and said, “Hey, we gotta talk. This is the plan.”
And it’s a weird plan if you think about it, right? The plan is they’re gonna take Jesus and make him king by force. Literally, in the original Greek, it’s they’re gonna seize him. They’re gonna grab him. They’re gonna kidnap him and make him king. Wait, can we just all agree that’s a weird way to get a king? Like, can you imagine if we did that with the president? We’ll find some poor guy and go with a gun, and be like, “You’re the president.” “I don’t wanna be the president.” “It doesn’t matter.” I mean, that’s what they’re doing. They’re kidnapping a guy, they wanna make him king. But what we need to understand is that it’s driven by the way that they see Jesus. Okay? They see him as the Prophet. And from their perspective, the Prophet, you know, he has access to God. So he’s got insight from God, but maybe more importantly, he has power from God, right? He has God’s power at his disposal, and they’re like, “We want that power at our disposal. So, let’s grab him and take him over here. We want him to use that power here. And while this is going on, we wanna him to use the power over there. And right over here, we want him to use the power there.” And so, there’s a sense in which basically they’re looking to force Jesus into their agenda. “He’s got the power of God so, let’s take him and make him king by force.” But it has to do with the fact that they saw him as the Prophet. And notice how Jesus responds to that. He withdrew by himself to a mountain. He left. That’s significant. And it reminds me of a truth that I’ve seen over and over again in my own life.
And this is the truth. It’s that when I push my agenda on Jesus, the more I push my agenda, the less I experience his presence. Does that make sense, church? The more I’m trying to make Jesus do my thing, the less I’m actually experiencing the presence of Jesus himself in my life. I remember several years ago, back in the mid-2000s, I was kind of making a living by doing a bunch of part-time things. And one part of my income was, I was on the road as an itinerant speaker. And somewhere around 2008, the economy crashed. And once the economy crashed, people stopped hiring speakers. And it dried up. And that was a big part of my income. And so, financially, we were in some difficult places. And I pushed in and then I was like, “Okay. Well, I’ve gotta figure this out. And so, I’ll figure out search engine optimization. And then I’ll improve my website and we’ll do some cold calling, and maybe we’ll go to some pastors’ conferences, and have a booth,” and those kinds of things. And it just wasn’t working. Speaking wasn’t coming and our financial situation was difficult. And the worst part of it was, honestly, I sensed the distance between me and Jesus in that season. As I was pushing my agenda, I was experiencing his presence less. And looking back, I’m like, “How did I miss that that’s what was going on? Because at the time I didn’t know, I was just like, “Hey, you know, financially, I don’t know where this is heading and I don’t understand what’s going on with my relationship with Jesus. I’m struggling.” And I just didn’t see it.
And then I was actually on C-470, and for those of you who are watching online, C-470 is the bypass around Denver, and I was on it, actually not far from where Mission Hills ultimately built the Littleton campus that I’m preaching from right now. I wasn’t there at the time, but I don’t know if that’s significant or not, but I think it’s interesting. I was on C-470 and I just had this moment where I was kind of like, “God, you know, I don’t understand what’s going on. Things are not going well and I just feel like we’re distant.” And I kind of felt that God kind of came back at me with this sort of like, “Well, you’re pushing your agenda pretty hard there. How’s that working out for you?” And I was like… And I pulled off the side of the road, 470, cars were whipping past and I just had this come to Jesus moment where I went, “I’m sorry. I can’t believe I missed that. But yeah, I’ve been pushing my agenda. You know what? I’m not gonna do that anymore. If you wanna send speaking my way, that’s great. If you wanna bring income in some other way, like, I don’t wanna keep pushing my agenda. Whatever you do, Lord, but I need to be near you.” And something changed. And I’m not gonna say, like, a glow lit up the car or anything like that. It wasn’t that. But there was something that changed in the spiritual realm. I sensed a renewed closeness of the presence of Jesus in that moment. And listen, I can’t promise you this way it’s gonna work out. It hasn’t always worked this way in my life. But that day, I had three separate phone calls to come and speak.
Coincidence? I think not. But way more important than those phone calls was the restoration of a sense of God’s nearness, of Jesus’s presence. Because here’s the thing, the more we push our agenda, the less we experience his presence. And that’s what they’re experiencing here. They’ve got an agenda. They’re gonna try force Jesus into it. He’s like, “No, it’s not gonna work that way.” And so, they’ve lost not only his power, but they’ve even lost his presence. He’s withdrawn. Now, it says that, “When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake where they got into a boat and set off across the lake to Capernaum.” That’s the Jewish side of the lake. “Now, by now, it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. And when they had rowed about three or four miles…” And the picture we’re supposed to understand is that this is rough rowing, right? They’re kind of confused. Jesus has withdrawn, but the disciples are still there. And the people’s like, “Do you know where he is?” And there’s some tense stuff going on. And night has come and Jesus hasn’t come back. And so, they get into the boat and they start across, but the wind is whipping and the waves are getting rough, and they’re rowing hard, but they’re not making much progress or probably getting a little bit off course, and probably beginning to wonder, at this point, “Are we even gonna make it to the other side? Are we gonna get to our destination?”
Their destination is kind of in doubt, at this point. And then all of a sudden, after they’d rowed for three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water. I love the way John does these miracles. They’re just these, like, super low-key announcements to ridiculous things. Right? And Jesus was coming, yeah, walking on the water. Wait, what? And they were frightened. Well, duh. But he said to them, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Yeah, that’s gonna work. Right? It’s interesting. There’s a little bit of a debate here and we’ve gotta push into it just a bit. Jesus came walking on the water and they saw him, and some of the other gospels say that they weren’t sure if it was a ghost or what. They were terrified. And Jesus said, “It is I.” And there’s a couple of ways to take that. It’s possible that what he said there could just mean, “Hey guys, it’s me. It’s Jesus. It’s not a ghost. It’s not a demon. It’s not some spirits. It’s me.” It could be that. But the way he says it is a little strange. What he says, and some of you are gonna love this and some of you just sit it out for a second. What he says in Greek is “Ego eimi.” Ego, ego is where we get I from. It’s the I, the sense of self. He says, “I…” Eimi, it’s the verb for to be. But he uses the present tense. So, literally what he says is, “I Am” and you’re like, “You are what?”
Like, “I am Jesus,” or, “I’m your friend,” or, you know, “I’m he” or any of… But he doesn’t do anything. It’s just I Am and he stops. He says, “I Am. Fear not.” And the reason that some scholars, and I include myself among them, think that that might be really significant is because remember, we’re thinking a lot about Moses in these stories, right? John has made sure we see the parallels. Well, back when Moses first met God, God spoke to Moses first through a burning bush. Some of you may know that story, right? And when God spoke to Moses, he said, “Here’s what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna go down to Egypt, you’re gonna tell Pharaoh and tell the Israelites that God has told you to let my people go.” And Moses is like, “Can I ask a follow-up question?” “Yeah.” “Who should I say sent me? Because I gotta be honest, the bush isn’t gonna work, right? So, who should I say you are? What’s your name?” Names are really important in the ancient Near East. And this is what God said. This is Exodus 3:14. And God said to Moses, “Oh, you want my name? I Am who I Am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites, ‘I Am has sent me to you.'”
Craig: Now, we can say amen, but if I were Moses, I’d have been like, “Yeah, that doesn’t help.” Right? “I Am. You are what? Oh, just I Am. Okay.” But what’s interesting is because that’s written in Hebrew, but when you translate that phrase “I Am” from Hebrew into Greek, the phrase is “Ego eimi,” exactly the same phrase that Jesus spoke as he came across the water. He said, “I Am. Fear not.” And what a lot of scholars think, and I include myself among them, is that Jesus is doing a little bit more than just saying, “Hey guys, it’s me.” What he’s saying is, “Hey, the people thought I was the Prophet. I’m not the Prophet, I am God.” In other words, what he’s saying is, “Hey, I’m not the prophet who speaks on God’s behalf, I’m God speaking for myself.” I think that’s what he was saying. And it’s interesting. He said, “I Am. Don’t be afraid.” And then verse 21, “And then they were willing to take him into the boat.” I love that. And they were willing… And actually, it’s probably a little bit stronger term in Greek than just willing. It’s not like they were like, “Okay, fine. If you’re God and all, fine.” No, no, no, no. It’s a longing word. And they were longing, they were wishing, they were desiring. There was a passion that began to stir in them to take him into the boat. And that’s a perfectly good way to translate it. And we know what it means. It just means, “Yeah, come on…” They’re kind of welcoming him in, but I don’t like the word take because it kind of sounds like they grabbed him by the robes and hauled him in, you know? And that’s not the word.
In Greek, the word, it’s a warm welcome word. In fact, here’s probably how I would say it. I would say that they were willing to receive him into the boat. Does that make sense? That would be the more natural way to translate it. In fact, check this out. At the very beginning of the Gospel of John, when he’s setting his agenda for his Gospel, he says this, chapter 1 verse 12, “And yet, to all who did receive him…” And it’s the exact same Greek word that they took him into the boat. They received him into the boat. “And yet, to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” So, it’s interesting he uses that exact same word to say, “Once they realized who it was, they longed to receive him into the boat.” Very, very significant. But of course, why were they willing? Why were they interested? Why were they longing? Because they recognized him for who he was. See, they were only willing to receive him because they recognized him. Does that make sense? They were only willing to receive him because they recognized him for who he was. So they received him in the boat and then check this out. John says, “And immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. They received him in the boat and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.” Now, some scholars think this is actually another miracle. And I don’t know how that would’ve played out. Like, you know, once Jesus has been received into the boat, the boat, just like, you know, like a “Star Trek” transporter like goes up and comes back down, and they’re like, “Whoa, we’re here.” That’s awesome or maybe I don’t know…
Maybe they’re still rowing, but suddenly they’re, like, picking up speed and they’re hydroplaning across the waves. I don’t know, but I’m not even sure that it’s supposed to be a miracle. Some of the other gospels, when they’re telling the story, they tell about some other details, some other things that happen. This is when Peter walked on the water for a bit and this is when Jesus got in, and he calmed the wind and the waves. But it’s interesting, John doesn’t mention that. It’s not because he disagrees. He’s not saying it didn’t happen, but it’s not what he’s focusing on. What he’s focusing on is basically that as soon as Jesus was in the boat, check this out, once Jesus was in the boat, their destination was no longer in doubt. Understand what I’m saying? Right? They were rowing and the wind was coming and the waves, and they were getting off course, and they weren’t sure if they were gonna get there, and there’s a fear there. But once they receive Jesus into the boat, suddenly what he wants to emphasize is, their destination was no longer in doubt. Whether it was an immediate thing or took a little bit of time, the point is, there was no question. But only once Jesus was in the boat. Once Jesus was in the boat, the destination was no longer in doubt, which prompts me to ask this question, what boat do you need to receive Jesus into? And here’s how you think about it. Where in your life is your destination in doubt? Where in your life are you going, “I’m not sure where this thing’s headed, but it doesn’t look like it’s headed anywhere good?”
Maybe that’s your marriage, maybe you’re rowing hard, and you’re trying to salvage this thing. But honestly, you’re not sure where your marriage is going, but it’s not looking like it’s going anywhere good. Maybe it’s your financial situation. Maybe you’re not sure where this thing’s headed, but it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere good. Maybe it’s your struggle with addiction, whether that’s maybe alcohol or painkillers or pornography, but something’s got its hooks in you and it’s hauling you off the path, and it’s taken you somewhere, you’re like, “I don’t know where I’m going, but it’s not what I wanted. I wanted to go here, but I doubt that I’m getting there. My destination is in doubt. I’m not sure where I’m headed.” Maybe it’s in your dating life, maybe it’s in your sexuality, maybe it’s in your work situation. But here’s the thing. I think we all have these places, these boats where our destination’s in doubt or maybe honestly, maybe it’s your life. You know, maybe we put all those other things aside for a second. Reckon some of you listening to this, your eternal destiny is in doubt because there’s a reality we have to all understand, and that is that, you know, every one of us has a story, but every story has an ending. We all die. But every ending has a sequel. Jesus is clear there’s only two possible sequels to our story. It’s either life spent forever in a relationship with God and peace and joy or it’s a life spent apart from God in misery. That’s what Jesus saw. Maybe you’re one of those people… “I think Jesus is a good teacher.” That’s great. That’s a good start. But you need to understand that that’s what Jesus taught.
There’s only two sequels. It’s heaven or it’s hell. And he’s the key to heaven. And maybe that’s you. Maybe your eternal destiny is in doubt. And maybe that’s the boat or maybe it is your marriage, or your addiction, or your finances, whatever. But what’s the boat? What’s the boat? Because here’s I think what we’re being told in the story, what John is emphasizing. To get where we need to go. We got to get Jesus in the boat. You with me, church? To get where we need to go, in all of those areas, we got to get Jesus in the boat. Now, why is that? Verse 22 says, “Well, the next day, the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. And then some of the boats from Tiberias,” a city there, “they landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.” And I want you to notice what does John call Jesus here? He calls him the what? The Lord. That’s the first time this title has been used for Jesus in the Gospel of John. Early on, a man named John the Baptist came and said, “We need to get the thing ready for the arrival of the Lord. We need to make straight paths for the Lord. This is the first time that that title has been applied to Jesus. John is recognizing Jesus as a whole lot more than a prophet because here we need to understand is a prophet should be listened to, but a Lord should be bowed to. Right? This is after the Lord had given thanks.
“Now, once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and they went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. Now, when they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” You notice what they call him? Rabbi, which means teacher, which is not disrespectful, but it’s a demotion. Can you see that? I mean, it’s definitely a demotion from the Lord to teacher. Again, prophets and teachers should be listened to, but Lords need to be bowed to. It’s a demotion from Lord, but honestly, it’s a demotion even from the prophet. And it’s kind of an interesting thing happening. It’s like, there’s two different trajectories here. And they both go in very different directions and it has to do with how they respond. See, the people thought of Jesus as a prophet, and they responded by trying to make him do their own thing. And now, there’s a growing distance. They’re getting farther and farther from the truth. Now, he’s just teacher. Whereas the disciples, they were given a glimpse of who Jesus is. He’s the great I Am and how did they respond? They received him into the boat and now what’s happening? Not only have they gotten to their destination, but they’re seeing Jesus different.
Now, he’s the Lord and there’s an increasing understanding of who he is. There’s an increasing closeness, all because of what they recognize and how they responded. They said, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” And Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, you’re looking for me not because you saw the signs I performed, but because you ate the loaves and you had your fill. You’re not interested in me. You’re interested in what I can do for you.” Hey, listen, do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man, that’s another very exalted title from the Book of Daniel… Daniel saw this one who was ascending on the clouds in glory and he says, “He was like a Son of Man,” meaning he’s human, but there’s a whole lot more going on. That was Jesus’s favorite title for himself. He said, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, which I will give you. For on him, God, the Father, has placed his seal of approval.” So they asked him, “Well, then what must we do to do the works God requires? He said, “Don’t work for this, this food that’s gonna fade.” So what work do we have to do to get this food to eternal life?” And Jesus answered, “The work of God is this, it’s to believe in the one he has sent.”
Man 2: Amen.
Craig: That’s it. Which is amazing because remember, you know, this is a works-oriented culture. They had over 600 Old Testament Laws they worked hard at and the Jewish religious leaders added on hundreds of more rules and regulations, and they worked hard at all that. And Jesus has just kinda thrown all that out and goes there is really only one thing that matters. Here’s the work you have to do. You just got to believe in the one that God has sent to you, which is to say, believe in me. Now, understand this, it’s very important. Believe in Jesus. Teaching doesn’t just mean in your head. It’s not just an intellectual thing. See, before I came to Jesus, I believed he was the Son of God. I believed he did die on the cross. I believed he rose from the dead. But because of the way I thought of him, I was still kind of keeping him at an arm’s distance. I had the right belief, but I hadn’t responded right. When Jesus talks about believe, it’s both to recognize and to receive. That’s what he means by it. To believe is to recognize Jesus for who he is and to receive him into our lives. Jesus says, “That’s what you gotta do. It’s the only thing that matters.” And so, they asked him, “Well, what sign then will you give us that we may see it and believe in you? You want us to believe in you, well, give us a sign. What will you do? What’s the next one, Jesus? Come on, give us another one. You want an idea? Can we stir the pot? Here’s an idea. Here’s what you could do. Hey, our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness.” As it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” And the irony, of course, is that’s exactly what Jesus has just done.
They were in the wilderness and he gave them miraculous bread. They’re like, “Why don’t you do that?” Completely missing that he’d already done it. And so, Jesus said to them, “Good night, what’s wrong with you people?” It’s somewhere in the Greek. No, Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, because it’s not Moses who’s given you the bread from heaven. Moses didn’t do that. It’s my Father who gives you true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Well, sir,” they responded, “always give us this bread.” And Jesus declared, “I am the bread. I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you’ve seen me. You still do not believe. Oh yeah, you believe that I got power. You believe that I might be speaking for God, but I didn’t do your thing. And so, now, it’s downgraded to teacher and maybe you believe that I have some wisdom but, you have not recognized and you haven’t responded.” And he goes on to unpack what it means to be the bread of life. And the gist of it is essentially, he isn’t interested in giving you what you need from a distance. He’s interested in a relationship with us. And that it’s only in that relationship that we have access to life as God intended it because he isn’t giving us the stuff of life. He is life itself. And it’s only in that relationship we experience. He unpacks that and it’s rich, and I really encourage you to read it this afternoon. For the sake of our time, I wanna skim over the rich and get to the response.
And in John 6:66 says this, “And from this time, many of his disciples turned back and they no longer followed him.” That was the trajectory. Then he looked at his closest. He looked at the 12 and he said this, he said, “You do not want to leave me too, do you?” And Simon Peter answered him, he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We’ve come to believe, to recognize and receive, and to know that you are the Holy One of God. You’re not a prophet. You’re not a priest. You’re not a teacher. You don’t give bread. You are the bread of life. You are the Holy One of God. You are the great I Am. You’re God. We recognize and we’ve seen.” That’s it. They got it, right? They recognized and they received Jesus for who he is, but so many of the crowd didn’t. How we respond to Jesus is literally the most important thing about us. They recognized, they received him for who he is, and so, I say again, this is why we can say it. This is why it’s true. To get where you need to go, you got to get Jesus in the boat. It’s because of who he is. So, let me ask you this question again. Where is my destination in doubt? Where’s your destination in doubt? As we said, maybe it’s your life. Maybe it’s your eternal destiny. We can get rid of that doubt today. We can give you confidence about where you’re gonna spend your time. I’m gonna give you a chance to do that today. But if that’s you, all you need to think about right now is, like, “What’s stopping me from inviting Jesus into the boat, from receiving him into the boat?” But maybe it’s not that. Maybe it’s your marriage, maybe it’s finances, maybe it’s an addiction, maybe it’s just relationships you’re struggling with, maybe it’s emotional places that you’re really in kind of rough places, but wherever it is you’re going, like, “I don’t know where this thing’s headed.”
Why is your destination in doubt? And then here’s the second question, so important. What step do I need to take to get Jesus into that boat? You know, if it’s your marriage, maybe what you need to do to get Jesus in the boat is to go to the Intentionally Married conferences coming up here at Mission Hills or maybe get plugged in with the Re-Engage Ministry. Those are both ministries that are all about bringing Jesus into the boat of our marriages. Maybe that’s your step. If it’s finances and you’re going, “I don’t know where this thing’s headed, but it’s nowhere good.” How do you get Jesus into the boat of your finances? We do something called Financial Peace University designed to help you bring Jesus into the boat of your finances. If you’re struggling with addiction or some kind of other issues in your emotions and those kinds of things, we have an incredible counseling team here at Mission Hills that you can get connected to and they’ll help you figure out, how do I bring Jesus into this particular struggle, whether it’s an addiction or depression or whatever it is I’m wrestling through? There’s just so many of these opportunities. Maybe you’re just feeling alone and maybe you need to join a Life Group, get people around you who will love you and help you become like Jesus and join him on our mission. But maybe that’s how you get Jesus into the boat of your loneliness right now, or your aimlessness, or your drifting aroundedness. But what step will you take? And listen, if it’s your life, if it’s your eternal destiny that’s in doubt, are you ready to take that step to get Jesus in the boat?
Here’s how you do it. I’m gonna ask everybody, just close your eyes and bow your heads. If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you please, please, please, right now, would you just start praying for the people at our Littleton campus, people in our Spanish campus, all the people watching on our Online Campus everywhere? Because I believe that there are many of you listening to this right now, that your eternal destiny is in doubt. And maybe honestly, you believe what you need to believe about Jesus. You believe he died on the cross to pay for your sins. You believe he rose from the dead. You’ve recognized him for who is, but you haven’t responded, and you haven’t received him onto the boat, into your life. And if that’s you, now’s the time. And here’s how you do it. Wherever you are, if you’re ready to say yes to a relationship with Jesus, to bring him into your life, here’s how you do it. Please, please, please do it right now. In your heart, just say this to God. Say, “God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned, and I know that separates me from you. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross to pay for my sin. Thank you for dying on the cross to rescue me. I believe that you rose from the dead. And I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, new life, a relationship with you. I get it. I recognize you for who you are. Right here, right now. I receive you into my life. I’m putting my trust in you. I’m yours for now and forever, Amen.” We’ve had a number of people bring Jesus into their lives this weekend at Mission Hills. Can we just celebrate that for a second? Love that. And if you made that decision, I wanna encourage you to just take one small step. Sometimes these additional steps are what really allows what we’ve made this decision to do, really grab a hold of our lives and gain traction. And I wanna encourage you to tell somebody. Maybe you came with somebody or you’re watching this with somebody.
Tell them you made that decision today or go out of here and stop by the welcome center or our next steps room and say, “I made that decision.” They actually have some stuff they’d love to give you. And we’d love everybody who made the decision to do this, just text the word Jesus to 888111, we’ll pray for you. You won’t get on a mailing list, but you will get back a link with five things that are true about you because you’ve asked Jesus into your life. We want you to have those truths so you can begin walking with him. But for those of you that have identified a different boat because your destiny isn’t in doubt, whether it’s your marriage or it’s your finances or it’s your addiction, what are you gonna do? What step are you gonna take to invite Jesus and to receive him into your boat and that area? And then last, because I never wanna leave here without a reminder that when we walk out of these doors, we’re going out into the world on mission with Jesus. Here’s the question. Who in my life needs to see Jesus for who he is through me? What will I do to make him clear?
Hey God, we’re so grateful for this opportunity to be with you and to be in your house. But though we recognize that you’re not just in here, you long to be and are willing to be in each one of us as we go out from this place and out into the world, but we’ve all identified some areas that we’re doubtful about where we’re headed. And I ask that you just give us the strength, and the courage, and the humility to bow down, and to welcome you into that boat, to receive you into it. Because the only way we’re gonna get where we’re going is if we’ve got Jesus in the boat with us. Jesus, we’re so grateful for your willingness to do that. As we go from this place, let your light shine through us so that others are able to recognize you for who you are and to receive you as so many of us have. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I CAN SEE CLEARLY
This week we examine John’s account of the blind beggar and Jesus’ healing of his sight. This is a message about blindness and the progression from (spiritually) blind to becoming equipped to lead others to see what Jesus can do in your life. Our suffering can show others that we need to be in a place of surrender to God, rather than expecting that God will do things in the way that we would plan them, in order to pass from our darkness to his light.
Reza: I’m glad to be able to be here this week. We are continuing this series, “Living Proof” that Pastor Craig started at the beginning of the year and we are examining the miracles and the signs that Jesus performed specifically in the Gospel of John. And if you haven’t been with us, I just wanna just spend a few moments walking us through how John, the Gospel of John is different from some of the other gospels that we have, the other biographies of Jesus’s life.
The first three gospels of the New Testament are called Matthew, Mark and Luke. Those are written and those are written…they’re typically called the synoptic gospels. It’s kind of a theological term. The synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, and those kind of chronologically walk through the life of Jesus. Some focus on the time before his birth, the genealogy of Jesus that Luke does a really good job sharing with us and they kind of go chronologically throughout the call to ministry, him being young, there’s a couple of accounts of him being young, but then even growing all of his sermons, all of his parables, his teachings, his miracles, the interactions with the disciples and the Pharisees. All of those are kind of chronologically outlined for us in Matthew, Mark and Luke.
The Gospel of John is different. John wrote this gospel years after, decades after Jesus was crucified and resurrected and John was reflecting back and he thought to himself, I’m gonna write a different kind of gospel because Matthew, Mark and Luke did a great job. They kind of covered the story of Jesus, but John tells us the reason that his gospel exists is a little bit of a different reason. Towards the end of the gospel that he wrote, and what we now have labeled as John 20:21, he tells us that the thesis statement, the reason for this gospel the Gospel of John, it’s very specific.
And he said, “I’ve collected a whole bunch of different miracles and signs that Jesus performed and these signs and all. There’s a whole bunch of other signs and miracles that couldn’t fit in this book, but I chose these seven signs, these seven miracles so that you would know and believe that Jesus is the Messiah,” because the Messiah to come for the first century, Jews would come and perform signs and miracles and wonders. And so John specifically pens this Gospel pointing people to the signs and the miracles, but the signs and the miracles themselves, were not what John wanted us to focus on. You see, when we’re driving down the road and we see a stop sign, I would hope that when you’re driving along, you see a stop sign you don’t just fix your attention on the sign. I hope that you recognize and realize that that stop sign is actually telling us and it’s propelling us to look to something else, on a road, it’s to the intersection where other cars might be coming to avoid danger.
The signs and miracles of Jesus as outlined in the Gospel of John are the exact same. Yet there’s somethings that we examine, and we look at and we’re awed by these miracles and signs, but the signs actually point to something else and they point to Jesus being the author and perfecter of our faith. They point to Jesus being the Alpha and the Omega, the One who created us, who knows us, who has restored us through his death and resurrection, and will come back to restore creation the way it was intended to be by our God.
And so these signs and wonders that we look at, the miracles themselves, there’s something to be examined and looked at, but they point to something different. And Geoff Surratt was actually here with us a couple of weeks into the series. And I love his definition of a miracle that a miracle is something so extraordinary that can only be explained by God.
And I also want us to remember as we’ve looked through some of these different signs, specifically the first two that we looked at, the signs and wonders and miracles specifically in the scriptures are not for the super spiritual. They’re not for the people that have been praying and fasting for miracles to happen, that oftentimes the signs and the miracles and wonders that we found in today’s passage, we’re gonna take a look at, in John chapter 9 is one of these is for people that were very confused about who Jesus was, that in some cases they weren’t even believers yet, but yet Jesus chose to display his power through them.
And here’s what I love about the way that Jesus does miracles, the first two miracles that were exposed in the Gospel of John, it wasn’t religious leaders. It wasn’t royalty. It wasn’t people that were esteemed in culture. They were the witnesses of the first two miracles that Jesus performed on this earth, but it was servants that actually witnessed and realized that they were miracles before anybody else had seen him. That tells me that God’s heart is close to those who would seek him, not necessarily close to those who have an esteemed position in society. And so as we take a look at John chapter 9 today, we’re gonna take a look at a miracle at an instance in the life of a man and I wonder if many of us or any of us would be walking through a circumstance that this man may have been feeling when Jesus showed up in his life.
Have you ever been or are you currently in a circumstance or a situation that just seems so big and so overwhelming that I can’t deal with it on my own? Maybe the series and miracles that we’ve been doing, and this is week six and Craig will finish up with week seven next week. Maybe the series and miracles has you thinking about ways in which…ways in which you wish God would show up because there’s circumstances and suffering and pain that is happening and you’ve tried and you’re tried and this is so overwhelming, but no matter how much you pray, it seems like God is ignoring your pleas.
Maybe for some of us, as Pastor Craig talked in week one, that we simply haven’t invited Jesus into our circumstance, or maybe we have invited Jesus but don’t even know what that exactly looks like, or maybe we have invited Jesus into the circumstance, but the reality is nothing’s changing. That we think we’ve invited Jesus in, we’re asking him to do something, but I feel let down because I’m experiencing something, I can’t imagine why God would allow this to happen and I’m let down because I’ve tried to invite God in, but he’s failed to show up. And because he’s failed to show up, there’s doubts and there’s questions that caused you to think things like, does God really care about me? Is Jesus really real? Is all of this just a hoax?
If you’ve experienced anything like I’ve talked about in these last few moments, I’m thrilled that you’re here this morning. I believe God has brought us here to talk about the doubts and the questions and the overwhelming circumstance and the suffering that we experience in this world because this world is not, this is not what God intended. The suffering and the pain that we experience in this world is not how God created it. But yet it’s the effects of sin that has been passed down generation after generation, after generation.
So as we dive into John chapter 9, I also wanna remind us that John did not write a gospel with numbers. He didn’t write chapters. That’s some stuff that we added so we can find certain areas of scripture and follow along with them. But in John chapter 8 right before this, John’s Gospel lets us know that Jesus started having some pretty intense interactions with the Pharisees. It’s really easy for us sitting on this side of history, it’s easy for us to look back at the Pharisees and kind of condemn them.
And the word Pharisees almost become a bad word in Christianity. But we have to remember that the Pharisees, they thought they were doing the right thing, that they were established by the Law. They were established by the religious order, by the religious culture to be able to uphold the Holy worship of God in the temple. And so they thought they were protecting God’s people from being infected by anything of the world. But yet the Pharisees missed some pretty important realities about who Jesus was and the Messiah that was promised to them.
And so because of this protection of God’s people, because it’s protection of the Law, the Pharisees and Jesus, they kind of went at it a few times. And in John chapter 8, there was a lot of disputes. There was dispute about the validity of Jesus’s ministry. And there was intense conversation about the validity of Jesus’s ministry when he claims that I am the light of this world. There’s even dispute about Jesus’s deity. The Pharisees and Jesus had this interaction and they had this conversation about Abraham, and Jesus said, “Hey, even Abraham longed to see the day that I was to come,” and that’s when the Pharisees kind of laughed like, “Oh, you don’t get it, do you? You’re not even 50 years old. But yet Abraham lived generations ago.” And Jesus comes back with a statement and he says, “Before Abraham was, I Am.”
And we might look at that and say, well, that’s just the way of Jesus saying he existed before Abraham, which it is. However, the words that Jesus used, that word I Am was a word that was so Holy that even the Jews wouldn’t speak it because that is the name that Yahweh actually gives to himself when he interacts with Moses at the burning bush back in the Book of Exodus, it was a Holy Word. So Jesus was equating himself with Yahweh, which was a big no-no in the Pharisees day and age. And not only that, he would call God his Father, which was unheard of in the first century. So there was a lot of dispute that arose and even dispute over the spiritual heritage of the Pharisees. So there was already this intense, intense rivalry between Jesus and the Pharisees.
And then we find ourselves in John chapter 9. So if you have a Bible follow along with me in John 9:1. It says, “As he, Jesus went along, he saw a man that was blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?'” You see, in the first century it was thought that maybe if people have physical ailments or disability, it’s a cause of somebody’s sin, either their own sin or the sin of a generation that has come before them. And in verse three Jesus says, “Neither this man nor his parents had sin,” said Jesus, “But this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” And I wanna pause right there because that’s something that I think we need to really talk about. Because what Jesus is saying, the reason this man is born blind, it’s not because anybody has sinned. It’s so that the work of God can be displayed in him and through them.
What Jesus is saying is there is purpose in his pain, that there’s purpose in his suffering. And I think we need to talk about this, and I think we need to wrap our minds around this because here’s the reality. If our belief, if our trust, if our thought is that life in its totality is the moment that we take our first breath when we’re born and we live our life in the moment when we breathe our last breath and we close our eyes, then that’s the totality of our existence. If those decades in between are the totality of our existence, then pain and suffering makes absolutely no sense.
But yet what Jesus is saying is instead of gazing at…if we look to, if we gaze at the world as we see it, if that’s what we fix our eyes on, we’re gonna see no purpose in pain and suffering. And what Jesus is exposing here is, hey, let’s not gaze at the life that we have on this earth. Let’s glance at it because we need to give it attention. Let’s gaze at something else. Let’s gaze at the life to come when Jesus returns, and he restores creation the way it was intended to be when he comes and makes all things right and he makes all things new.
You see, when we are only seeing life for what we see in front of us, pain and suffering makes absolutely no sense. But when we glance at what we experience and yet we gaze to the world to come, that’s when we might be able to see some purpose in the pain and suffering. I have some dear friends of mine, the Hermans, and they’ve walked through incredible tragedy and we walk through with them when their 13-year-old daughter died of cancer. And we walked with them when their father died of cancer. And we’ve been walking with them as the younger sister, Hope’s younger sister is now, Izzie, is now laying in Children’s hospital with the same exact cancer that her father and her sister had passed away from. I can look at that and say, “That makes no sense to me and I have no idea why God would allow this kind of pain and suffering.” And I don’t pretend to believe this is exactly why God would allow something to happen. But because I know this family, because I know my God, I know that her life on this earth is not limited what we experience, but yet there is a life to come and there’s there’s purpose in the midst of the pain.
And this is what Jesus is saying. The purpose in this man’s pain, in his blindness and in his suffering and his circumstance is reveal the power of God that wants to be displayed to this world. And in verse four Jesus goes along and he says, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of this world.” So, Jesus is contrasting light and darkness and the works of man and the works of God. And he claims once again, that I am the light of this world.
You see this question of suffering? It’s a great question. It’s an age-old question. Why would God allow it? And I can imagine the circumstances and situations, whether it’s physical, emotional, relational, vocational, whatever. Whatever it is, I would imagine that there’s circumstances happening represented right here in this room that are so big and it causes us to think why God, why would you allow this? But here’s what I love about Jesus. And one of the main things that prompted me to leave Islam. I was born… Some of you know my story. I was born in Iran, grew up Muslim, met Jesus through an athletic ministry called Athletes in Action while I was at college at CSU, and now I’m a follower of Jesus.
But here’s what I love about Jesus. What sets Jesus apart from every other faith system, from every other deity that people worship every other god that people have made up throughout course of history, Jesus is the only one that has suffered the way that his people has suffered, that he is a suffering servant. That he is a wounded healer, that Jesus is the only one that identifies with the same suffering that you and I walked through, that every circumstance we experienced, he himself has experienced and yet he is saying, “I am the light of this world. There’s a mission to accomplish while I am here.” And his ways are not our ways and we’re gonna see that here in a moment.
Pick up in verse six, “After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with saliva and he put it on the man’s eyes, ‘Go,’ he told him. ‘Wash in the pool of Siloam.’ (And this word means sent.) So the man went and washed and he came home seeing.” And so Jesus does something pretty peculiar. Jesus takes his spit, he spits on the ground, he takes the dust and he creates this mud paste and he puts it on the blind man’s eyes. Now, it’s not to show that Jesus has magic saliva and that Jesus’s magic saliva is gonna heal blindness, but Jesus is actually setting up something that’s pretty important for us to realize, and we’re gonna talk about this here in a little bit.
The day that this had happened was on the Sabbath. And on the Sabbath day, there was actually a lot of things were forbidden for people to do, but yet if you had, for example, if you had a skin issue, if you had something going on with your skin and a regular part of that treatment was to put ointment or olive oil or something on that skin, that was permitted on the Sabbath because that was a part of your hygiene. That was something you had to do to take care of yourself. However, you couldn’t use something that was not a regular use, like a paste or a cream that you didn’t use on a regular basis. You wouldn’t be able to use that on the Sabbath. And so Jesus very specifically not uses an ointment that this man would typically use. Whether or not he used it, we don’t know. But he takes a paste of mud and he puts it on the guy’s eyes.
And then he tells him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam.” The pool of Siloam was a fresh water source that came into the old city of Jerusalem. It was a natural spring that came into the old city of Jerusalem and Jews would look at that and it almost represented the provision of God that God had given them this place, this place called Jerusalem that belonged to God and God provided the freshwater for them to be there. And that’s the place that Jesus told him, hey, I want you to go wash your eyes in the place that God has provided the fresh water, the place that actually gives us water, which we need water for life. And in obedience, this man goes.
And here’s the truth. The man’s not exactly sure who’s putting mud on his eyes. All he hears is this commotion. He may have heard the name Jesus in the midst of the commotion. Maybe when the disciples said, “Rabbi,” but all he feels is he feels some paste going on his eyes and someone says, “Hey, go wash in the pool of Siloam.” And maybe out of desperation, maybe out of obedience we don’t know. But he got up, he went and he washed in that pool and now he could see.
In verse eight, “His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging, asked, ‘Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?'” That was a key part of his story. That’s a key part of who he was. A man who used to sit and beg. “Some claimed he was. Others said, ‘No, it only looks like him,’ but he himself insisted, ‘I am the man.’ ‘How then were your eyes opened?’ They asked. He replied, ‘The man, they call Jesus.'”
Now, that’s important. He didn’t say my Lord. He didn’t say my Savior. He didn’t say the Messiah. He said, “Hey, that guy that everyone keeps murmuring about, the one that keeps ticking off the Pharisees, the one that all the commotion is about, that guy. They call him Jesus. That’s the guy who actually told me to go do this. He made some mud, put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash, so I went, and I washed. So, if you’re mad that I washed in the pool, don’t blame me. Blame this guy. I’m just a blind guy who can now see.”
And I love what he says, that this guy that was a fixture in the community, that people are used to seeing him sitting on the side of the road blind and they’re used to seeing him begging and they’re so astonished. They even deny that it’s him and he’s saying, “No, it’s me. I am that person that used to be begging over there,” but yet the man that they call Jesus. You know why I love this. We’re gonna come back to this here as well, that you don’t need a theological degree to be able to tell people what Jesus has done in your life. You don’t need to know the whole ramifications of the fact that Jesus has come in the incarnation of God becoming flesh and that Jesus is fully God and fully man at the exact same time. You don’t have to have all the answers to simply say, “This was my life before and this is my life after.” He wasn’t even a follower of Jesus at this point. We’ll find that out here in a little bit. But something happened that he couldn’t explain, and he knew Jesus had something to do with it. And this is what I love about the works of Jesus, so the works of Jesus don’t always make sense to us and others.
You see, I would guess that when we’re praying in the midst of a circumstance, or we’re praying in the midst of suffering or we’re praying in the midst of a situation that keeps taking up our heart, and our mind, and our emotions, that I bet when we pray we have a certain outcome in mind and we consciously pray, “God, would you help me?” Because this is the outcome that I want. And we consciously pray for this outcome, but we unconsciously expect God to give us a pathway and that process is gonna be familiar to us. And when that pathway or that process doesn’t make sense to us, when it’s unfamiliar, we immediately think it’s ungodly. That we pray for a certain outcome and yet we’re also trying to control the process.
And I wonder if through the season of asking and through the season of doubting and through the season of persevering, I wonder what God shows us as we walk through these seasons of our lives. See, the ways of Jesus don’t always make sense. And it’s okay if you doubt. Hear me say this, it’s okay if you doubt. It’s okay if you have questions about Jesus. It’s okay if everything doesn’t seem to make sense to you. May I just invite us to continue to go on the journey with him and keep asking questions and keep considering our doubt and keep seeking those answers because here’s one of the reasons I believe that God allows the suffering and God allows circumstances to happen in our lives because Jesus is most oftentimes found in the searching and the seeking rather than the results. That you and I are results-oriented. God is process-oriented. You and I are fixated and focused on what the outcome’s gonna be. God is focused on who we’re becoming and how we’re being formed on the journey to that outcome. And we’re gonna see this played out in the life of this man.
See, the Pharisees completely misunderstood God, that they were so scared and so afraid of God that anything unfamiliar was ungodly to them. And see, they would engage in these spiritual practices. And one of the practices they’d engage in was this Sabbath worship, but yet they not only pursued these practices or these spiritual disciplines, which hear me say very clearly, spiritual disciplines and spiritual practices and Sabbath and those kinds of things that we engage in our spiritual life are healthy and we have to engage those things, but those things in themselves don’t give us life. Just like miracles point us to Jesus, our spiritual practices must point us right back to Jesus as well.
You see, for the Pharisees, this was their mistake. Their mistake wasn’t that they observed Sabbath. Their mistake wasn’t they observed the Law. The mistake was they felt that life and eternal life was found in the practices and they missed the fact that Jesus, God in flesh was standing right in front of them.
You see, the Sabbath was set up by God. It was a divine covenant set up by God with him and his people because he knows the way that we are. He knows that we have a tendency to be self-sufficient. And so even God as he created, and on the seventh day we read the account of Genesis, the poetic account in Genesis of creation. We see on the seventh day, God finished his work and rested. And yet he commands us to rest and I believe one, yes, we need physical rest because if we don’t rest, if God doesn’t ask us to rest, you and I will drive ourselves into the ground because we’re self-sufficient and self-reliant. But Sabbath was instituted so that we would be able to take a step back and yes, we need emotional and physical rest. Absolutely we need that. That’s proven through science that our body needs rest. That’s why we go to sleep every single night. But setting a day to rest is something that’s healthy for us physically and emotionally, but it also forms us spiritually.
Because what Sabbath does, because many of us and I know how we are, we say I’ve got too much to do. I can’t take a day of rest. And when we have too much to do, that’s the exact moment that we need to take a day because it’s not just for our physical and our emotional rest or help, it’s for us to make a spiritual statement. That me taking a day off, God can accomplish more with me taking a day off than I can accomplish with me being self-sufficient. The Sabbath was actually instituted as a weekly reminder of surrender.
You see, when an army surrenders to another army, if there’s an army that represents this king fighting this army representing this other king, and this army overpowers this army and this army surrenders, it doesn’t mean that they’re just giving up. It doesn’t mean, “Hey, we’re done fighting. I’m gonna give up fighting for the rest of my life.” No. What would happen is they’re simply saying, “We’re relinquishing the authority of this king and we’re now coming under the authority of your king.” Sabbath is the exact same thing, is we’re relinquishing the authority of self-sufficiency and coming under the authority of God’s sufficiency. And yet the Pharisees missed it. They thought life was found in Sabbath.
And in a way Sabbath rest is the antidote to greed and selfishness and self-assurance. But the Pharisees were so caught up in observing God’s law, they completely missed the fact that God had visited them in flesh through Jesus. And I wonder if this is a danger for us. I wonder if we get so caught up and we think so much about what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong in our spiritual practices, in our spiritual norms and the things that we do on a daily and weekly. What if we get so caught up in our spiritual disciplines that we forget to follow Jesus? This is exactly where the Pharisees found themselves.
So Jesus has this man who was born blind and not because anybody has sinned, so the works of God can be seen in him and through him even on the Sabbath day. So Jesus does this on a Sabbath day because if Sabbath is a way for us to remember that we are to surrender everything to God, that Jesus comes and shows that I’m actually greater than Sabbath rest, that the Law is fulfilled in me. So he chooses this specific day to perform this, to set aside the cultural and religious norms so that people would point back to him. So in a way, it’s not surprising that Jesus would heal on the Sabbath because when we’re in a place of surrender, Jesus is healing and forming us on a regular basis.
And my fear is that today believers, we’ve substituted following Jesus for practicing Christian things. And in verse 18 I’m sorry, in yes, in verse 18 no, verse 13, “They brought to the Pharisees, a man who had been blind. Now, the day in which Jesus made the mud and opened the man’s eyes, was a Sabbath. Therefore, the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. ‘He put mud on his eyes.’ The man replied, ‘And I washed it and now I see.’ Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God for he does not keep the Sabbath.'” Basically, he doesn’t do it right. “But others ask, ‘How can a sinner performs such signs?’ So, they were divided. Then they turned again to the blind man, ‘What have you say about him? It was your eyes that he opened.’ And the man replied, ‘He is a prophet.'”
You catch that? He went from calling him a Jesus. I think people call him Jesus to saying that actually I think he’s a prophet and that’s what people say about him. So this progression of this man who’s being healed, he goes from hearing about this name Jesus to actually now calling him a prophet. And it goes on in verse 18, “They still did not believe that he had been blind and received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. ‘Is this your son?’ They asked, ‘Is this the one that you say was born blind? How is it that he can now see?’ ‘We know this is our son.’ The parents answered. ‘We know he was born blind, but how he can see now or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age. He’ll speak for himself.'”
His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders who had already decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. And that’s why his parents said he is of age, ask him. And so they’re trying to trap them and they’re trying to trap this man and they’re trying to bring us parents into it. And so they summoned his parents and his parents say, “We know this is our son. We know this has happened. We’re not entirely sure how this happened. Why don’t you ask him because he’s of age.”
And we pick up in verse 24. “A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. ‘Give glory to God by telling the truth.’ They said, ‘We know this man is a sinner.’ He replied, ‘Look, whether he’s a sinner or not, I don’t know. Here’s what I do know. I was blind, but now I see.’ Then they asked him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ And he answered, ‘Look, I’ve told you already. You didn’t listen. Why do you wanna hear it again? Do you guys wanna be one of his disciples too?'” Which was not a good thing for him to say in that time.
“Then they hurled insults at him and said, ‘You’re this fellow’s disciple? We are disciples of Moses. We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.'” And the man starts to have a little bit fun here. The man is like, “Now, that’s remarkable. You don’t know where he comes from. Like, aren’t you guys supposed to have it all together? Aren’t you all the religious leaders? Aren’t you all supposed to be ones that are closest to God? How is it you all that are closest to God can’t even tell where this man has come from? You don’t know where he’s come from yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin in birth. How dare you lecture us,” and they threw him out.
You see, this man started with a lot of doubts about who Jesus was and he went from a person that was begging on the side of the road and now he’s standing in front of the Pharisees, emboldened and sharing what had happened to him. There was a couple of points I want us to jot down and maybe think about and consider as we walk through this and some things that I believe are exposed about who Jesus is and what he’s looking to do in our lives.
You see, the first point is this. The man focused on what he knew, not what he didn’t. The man focused on, hey, this is what’s happened to me. I was blind, mud went on my face, I went and washed and now I can see. He focused on what he knew. He didn’t focus on what he didn’t know. He didn’t know the ramifications of everything that was wrapped up and God coming in flesh. He didn’t know everything there is to know about Jesus. He probably didn’t know the Torah very well because if he was blind from birth, he probably didn’t go to school. He probably didn’t memorize the Torah like other kids his age. So he probably was a little ignorant to the ways in which God would interact with his people growing up. But yet he focused on what he knew, not what he didn’t.
But see, the Pharisees, what do they focus on? They couldn’t even tell where this guy came from. They focused on what they didn’t know, not what they did know. So this man focused exactly on what had happened and that builds onto the next point that because of Jesus, he went from being a blind beggar to an empowered evangelist. Like he went and stood in front of the religious court, the religious leaders. If he was blind, he wouldn’t even be able to come into the temple because of his disability. But yet because he’s healed, he is empowered, and he’s emboldened and he stands in front of them and he’s actually challenging and taunting the religious leaders. He went from blind beggar to empowered evangelist because of what Jesus has done.
And here’s the last point I wanna talk about this point a little bit, that his testimony and your testimony of what God has done in your life is your greatest tool for others to know Jesus. Like here’s something I want us to sit here and think about our stories. I want us to realize and understand that our story is the main apologetic, the main tool that God has given us to display that Jesus is the light of this world. Like I can tell you this very clearly in high school and in college, my life was a disaster. Like it was a mess. I was doing things I shouldn’t have been doing. I was going through a lot of emotions. Things were not going well. And then Jesus happened. And then I was discipled in Jesus and someone walked with me and taught me what it meant to walk like Jesus and lead like Jesus led.
And when I encounter people from high school or even in college and they hear what I do now, they think to themselves what? Like you’re doing what with your life? Like don’t people do background checks to do the things that you’re like doing? And I say, well sometimes they do and here I am. But here’s the cool thing about our stories and students. If you’re a student here, I want you to hear me. Nobody can tell your story didn’t happen. That’s why it’s such a powerful tool. Like I believe I whole heartedly I’d study. I believe that the 4,000 plus original manuscripts of the New Testament that had been found by archeologists absolutely affirmed the validity of the scriptures. The Dead Sea Scrolls absolutely affirmed the validity of the Old Testament. But there are people that know philosophy and archeology and they say things to me I can’t even pronounce. And I said, “Well, I don’t know about that, but here’s what I do know. My life was this way and then Jesus happened and now my life is this way. And no matter what philosophy or archeological evidence you provide, you can’t tell me that didn’t happen in my life.”
Your greatest tool in sharing the gospel is your story. It’s so important that even in Revelation at the end of the scriptures we find in the Book of Revelation that John as he sees this picture of heaven. He looks into heaven and he sees that the whole story of God and he writes it down for us. There’s this picture in Revelation chapter 12. And in Revelation chapter 12, he sees basically the story of good and evil and God and his armies fighting Satan and his armies and Satan, his army has been hurled down to the earth. And Revelation 12 tells us that he went to go make war with all of God’s people. And Revelation 12:11 it’s this beautiful, beautiful, beautiful passage that tells us that they, the people of God triumphed over him, triumphed over Satan by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony.
Do you realize that your story and your testimony, what God has done in your life, is such a powerful tool that it can even drive back darkness and evil? And yet sometimes we sit and we think, well, I don’t have much of a story to share. If Jesus is involved in your story, you have a story to share because there’s no such thing as a Christian without a testimony. There’s no such thing as a Christian without purpose and there’s no such thing as a Christian without mission. And us telling our story and sharing the gospel is so key and so important to who we are.
Pastor Craig and I are actually crafting a series. It’s gonna start in a couple of weeks called “The Playbook: How to Change the World.” And what we’re gonna center on is our individual stories. How do we share our story of what Jesus has done in our life to be able to share with the people in our community? That our story is so important for us. And in verse 35 as we start to round the corner for this man’s journey and this man’s story is he’s been seeking and goes from saying, “Hey, that guy, they called Jesus” to “I think Jesus is a prophet.”
Listen to what happens in verse 35. “Jesus heard they had thrown them out when they found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Who is he sir?’ The man asked, ‘Tell me so that I might believe in him.'” So you remember he hadn’t seen who Jesus was. The last interaction, he was still blind. He may be have recognized the voice. “And Jesus said, ‘You have seen him. In fact, he is the one speaking with you.’ Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him.” The journey of him asking questions, seeking things out, people ask him, considering his journey led him from calling Jesus, “Hey, that man that they call Jesus” to calling him Lord and I believe in you and he worships him. That Jesus is found in the seeking and the searching, not just the outcome. And Jesus said for judgment, I’ve come into this world so that the blind will see, and those who see will become blind. In a nutshell, people that don’t see me, people who don’t believe in me, I have come so that they might see so that they might see clearly. And those people that think they’re wise, those people that think they have it all together, they’re actually gonna become blind because they’re gonna think their life is found in their self sufficiency, in their self-reliance.
So this is a beautiful story of a man who journeys from physical blindness to sight, but in reality it was a symbolism of his transition from spiritual darkness to spiritual light because of the light of the world. I wanna speak to a few of us here today and you might be here today, and you might call yourself a believer and a follower of Jesus and I’m thrilled for that. And I hope you will still continue to seek and you’ll still continue to question and you’ll still continue to search for these answers you might be looking for in your heart or maybe you don’t believe. Maybe you made a conscious decision to say, “I’m never gonna believe, I don’t believe and I won’t believe.” May I simply invite you to continue to ask questions, to continue to search even when maybe the ways in which we hope God would show up even when he doesn’t show up, may we continue just going on the journey of discovery, seeing what Jesus would do in our lives, or what he would show us to invite us to go on this journey in this pathway.
I remember years ago, it was about 15 years ago, I was in a season in my life that was really difficult and really hard. And there was this hike, if you’re familiar with Northern Colorado at all, my family and I, we live in Fort Collins and if you’re familiar with Northern Colorado, there’s a very popular hike. There’s a reservoir called Horsetooth Reservoir, and there’s a Horsetooth Trail that takes you up to the very top of the mountain. There’s this rock called Horsetooth Rock. And when you get up there, you can kind of see the whole horizon. You get to see Eastern Colorado and it’s beautiful. And there was a season in my life where I was really searching and just asking God for some things that were going on in me.
And I remember I had a friend that said, if you ever wanna do that Horsetooth hike, if you want to see it from a different perspective, go at night and try to start early in the morning, in the summer and by the time you get up to the top, watch the sunrise over the horizon. And I thought, I wanna do that. And so I drove up to the trail, head to the parking lot, got there, it was about 3:00 in the morning and I put my headlamp on and I’m starting and guys, I gotta tell you, and I’ll tell you, I’m terrified of the dark. I don’t like the dark especially being out on a trail in the summer. And I’m thinking, you know, I’m gonna get eaten by a mountain lion, a bear, big foot, something’s gonna attack me.
And I remember going up this trail and it was pitch black and it was dark and I had my headlamp and I remember walking, looking all the way up the trail, I couldn’t see a thing, but you know what? I could see, I could see a few feet in front of me because of my headlamp. So I just kept walking and then I heard some rustling in the bushes and terrified and look over, and this is a little bunny rabbit that kind of goes over, but in the dark, everything seems scary. When circumstances are overwhelming, everything seems scary. But yet I took a couple of steps and took a couple of steps, go around the corner and took a couple of steps and my headlamp, kind of illuminated the path in front of me and I kept walking and I kept walking. And that went on for about an hour and 45 minutes, maybe two hours, and I could finally get up to the top. And I’m sitting up there and the sun is starting to come up and everything’s starting to light up.
And I swear I saw Kansas over there in the horizon and the sun coming up over Kansas and the sunrise and it was beautiful. You know what? Thinking back to that, you know what I realize? That I wouldn’t have been able to see that beautiful sunrise over Kansas or the horizon. I wouldn’t have been able to see that if I was at the bottom, but I had to go on a journey, and I had to go on that journey step by step by step. And when I got to the top of the rock, my position was different than when I started, and because my position was different, my perspective had changed. And I was actually able to see the trail, I was able to see my car. I was able to experience everything that I just walked through because my position was different.
And friends, I wonder what it would look like for us to realize what does it mean for us to change our position to move from a position of self-sufficiency on our feet, that we’re self-reliant, that we can figure everything out. That this is exactly how God’s gonna work. And I’m gonna ask God to work in a way, and this is the pathway in which and the process that God’s gonna take. Give me the outcome I want, but I wonder if the position of being constantly on our feet if we simply change our position and move to our knees. Because when you’re on your knees, your position is different. And when you’re on your knees, this is a position of surrender. Remember, surrendering isn’t giving up when you’re going through circumstances. Surrender is relinquishing authority and I wonder if the position some of us need to take is moving from our feet of confidence to our knees and surrender. Come in before God. As a statement saying, I relinquish my authority. However you wanna do, whatever you want to do, Jesus, I surrender to you.
And I wonder if some of us need to be in this place. We recognize that we can’t be self-sufficient any longer, that we are to live a life that is surrender. You see, I think that this passage really isn’t about blindness. It’s not about sight, although that’s a really important part. This passage isn’t about the Sabbath, although it’s a pretty important part because Jesus shows that he’s greater than the Sabbath. This passage is all about Jesus moving us from spiritual darkness to spiritual light, that we can’t see things clearly on this side of eternity. And we get so caught up in the things of gazing at things of this world that we even forget to gaze to the life to come. This passage is all about moving from spiritual blindness, spiritual darkness to spiritual light because of the light of the world.
Would you pray with me? Lord, thank you for this time. Thank you that we are here in this place. God, I pray for a continued spirit of surrender. That Lord that we would not try to control the way that you would work in our lives, but we would live lives knowing that you’ve given us a great opportunity and tool to let the world know of this hope that we have in us, and that is our story. So I thank you for the example of this man who searched and was asked questions and considered and thought and moved from not even knowing what your name was, to calling you Lord, and he believes and worships. And I pray that the hearts that are represented here today, Father, that we also would move from a place of self-sufficiency as we ask questions, as we consider, as we doubt, as we go on the journey of life, that Lord, that you would change our position, we would have great eternal perspective of who you are and what you do in our lives. So Lord, we surrender ourselves to you in your name. Amen.
In our final installment looking at the miracles described in John, we hear the story of Lazarus and his sisters. This story is an example of how sometimes, even though God loves us passionately, he allows pain to occur in our lives for a greater purpose; his purpose. Our pain may actually be meant to be used by God as his example of the good that can come from our suffering.
Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills, so glad, so glad to have you with us today. I can’t believe that we’re actually wrapping up our “Living Proof” series today, which means that we are a solid seven weeks into 2020. It’s no longer the New Year, which is really frustrating actually because like I had a whole bunch of plans that I don’t feel like they’re getting any traction yet. So, anybody else? Sorry, just the way it is.
We actually have a new series launching next week I’m really excited about, it’s called “Travel Light.” And what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna take a look at a teaching from the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew Chapter 6, where Jesus basically asks us three questions. He asked the question, “Where’s your treasure? Who’s your master?” I gotta be careful because last night I almost said, “Who’s your daddy?” That was just weird. It’s like who’s your master? That’s the word I’m looking for, right? And last question is “What’s your worry?”
And so if you ever experience just a sense of like you’re probably burdened more heavily than you should, you’re not experiencing life in the way that it was intended, those three questions are really helpful. And we’re gonna see Jesus teach on why it is that how we answer those questions really determines what kind of an experience we have of life both in the here and now and in the hereafter. So, I really believe it’s gonna be a powerful series in your life. I also think you probably have some people in your life that would really benefit from that content. So, on your way out today, you’ll find some sermon invite cards that you can use to invite somebody to come to church with you next week because you think that’s gonna be a blessing to them. But that’s next week.
This week, we have one more sign to take a look at. For the last several weeks, we’ve been looking at seven stories of seven signs that Jesus performed. And we call them signs rather than miracles because, as we said, they’re not just a proof of what kind of power Jesus had, that they’re the proof of what kind of a person he is.
And today, that’s especially true. And so, I need to tell you in advance that what we’re gonna look at today is gonna tell you some things about Jesus that are not all that fun. Okay. In fact, honestly, what we’re gonna find out about Jesus today might be a little bit confusing for you. I know it is for me sometimes because what we’re gonna find out about Jesus is basically two things.
Number one, Jesus is passionate about his people. Nothing really tricky about that. Anybody ever heard that Jesus loves you? All right. We’re gonna affirm that Jesus loves you. Awesome. The other one though is this is that sometimes Jesus allows pain to come into the lives of his people for a greater purpose. Let me say that again. Sometimes even though he loves us, he allows pain to come into the lives of his people for a greater purpose. And I don’t like that second one nearly as much as I like the first one.
But what we’re gonna see today is that both of those things are true, and we have to somehow learn to live in the tension of those. And that’s not an easy thing to do. What I’ve discovered is that it’s actually a much easier thing to do. It’s much easier to believe both of those things when it’s not my pain. Anybody else?
Right. When it’s somebody else’s pain, I’m like, “Oh, I totally get it. Jesus loves you, but sometimes he allows pain. I can totally see how that works out.” But when it’s my pain, when it’s my daughter who has, you know, struggled for two years with chronic severe pain and we didn’t have a solution to that, or when it’s my dad whose body has been wrecked by Agent Orange, and he’s got two different kinds of cancer, and liver problems, and kidney problems, and diabetes, and heart issues, when it’s my dad, that’s just a much harder thing to hold on to, right? And yet, I do believe that it’s possible, even in the midst of our own pain, to understand and hold both of those things in a certain kind of tension.
I actually realized last year kind of in the midst of our daughters, my youngest daughter struggle with chronic pain, that I was actually doing it. I was able to believe that God loves me and that he sometimes allows pain to come into our lives and it doesn’t change the fact that he loves me. And I remember kind of having a moment in that going, “Huh, I’m doing it.” Now, I may be honest, sometimes my hold on both of those truths is tenacious and sometimes it’s a little tenuous. Like, they’re kind of always on the edge of slipping out of my fingers.
But the reality is it is possible to know and to believe and to trust in both of those things. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. And I think the reason I was able to do that is because I’ve learned some things about who God is that we’re actually gonna see in this story today. And so, I encourage you to go ahead and grab a Bible, start making your way to John Chapter 11. What we’re gonna see in this story are some things that make it possible to believe that God is good, and that he loves us, and that he sometimes allows pain to come into our lives for a greater purpose, and it’s gonna make it easier to do that.
And notice I said easier. Not easy, easier. Because let’s just be real with each other, when life is bad, it’s hard to believe that God is good, right? But it’s possible and it’s important, and this story is gonna help us. John 11:1 says this, “Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.” This is Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. That’s another story that John’s told us about this sister. “And so the sister sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one that you love is sick.'” And right there we feel the tension a little bit, right? “Lord, the one that you love that you care deeply about, he is sick.”
And it kind of sets up attention right from the very beginning, and we kind of wanna go, “Okay. Well, which is gonna win out,” right? I mean, if love wins out, then the sickness is gonna go away. But if the sickness wins out, then it kind of means that the love wasn’t there in the first place, right? And so we sort of feel this tension from the very beginning, which is it? Is it love or are you gonna let him be sick?
“Now, when he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, no, no, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it,'” which sounds like really good news, right? It sounds like love wins. Jesus was like, “Hey, don’t worry about it. This sickness will not end in death.” Now, that sounds like good news as long as you don’t know the rest of the story.
But if you know the story at all…and if you don’t, let me just catch up real quick. We’re gonna see it in a second but let me pitch this before. He does stay sick. Lazarus not only stays sick, he gets sicker and he dies. And you’re going, “No, no, no, no, Jesus just said it won’t end in death.” Well, Jesus is being tricky. He is because the reality is it didn’t end in death. That wasn’t the last chapter in the story, and that’s what Jesus is saying. He’s saying, “Death doesn’t get the final say in this story.”
But in reality, death is gonna have a chapter. The sickness is gonna get worse and it’s gonna lead to death. And in addition to Lazarus’s death, that means there’s gonna be pain, and there’s suffering, and there’s grieving, and there’s struggle on the part of everybody surrounding that. Death doesn’t have the final say, but there is some struggle in the chapters leading up to that. And that’s where the tension comes in. How does that work? If you really love them, why would you allow all that to happen?
And there’s a couple of things we’re gonna have to come to grips with, a couple of truths that are so important that we begin to bring on board. And the first truth is just this, it’s that the presence of pain doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of love. The presence of pain doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of love. We tend to think that it does, right? We tend to go, “Well, if you really love somebody, you wouldn’t allow pain into their lives. So, if you do allow pain, it must mean that you don’t love them.” And so we translate that to God and we go, “Well, if God really loved me, He wouldn’t allow pain to come into my life.” But that’s not the way it is at all.
The reality is, the truth is, and honestly, this is the truth we experience on a daily basis, the presence of pain doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of love. I mean, think about this, during the worst part of my youngest daughter’s struggle with this chronic pain. Late last year, we got a diagnosis. We’ve been praying for one and we had a doctor who looked at the MRI. Another doctor had looked at the MRI and said everything’s normal, and the other doctor looked at it and went, “No, it’s not. There’s a significant issue, and it’s this and this.”
And I remember sitting in my car afterwards and I was crying. I’ll just be honest and admit that. I was crying and I was just so grateful that God had given us a diagnosis. And so I said thank you, and then I picked up the phone, and we called the surgeon, and we scheduled a surgery. And it was a painful surgery. And we knew that going in, we knew that it wasn’t gonna be a quick recovery thing. We knew that what they had to do was pretty invasive and there was gonna be a long-term recovery process. There was gonna be a lot of pain involved in that, but I called the surgeon anyway.
Actually, it’s worse than that. I paid them, right? Like, I paid this surgeon to bring pain into my daughter’s life. Because I don’t love her? No, because I do. The presence of pain doesn’t mean a lack of love. If you’ve ever worked out with a personal trainer, they’ve probably brought some pain into your life, but it’s not because they don’t care. If you’ve ever gotten a kid a bike knowing they’re probably gonna fall off and skin their knees, but there’s so much good that comes from it. You know. You know. You get it. The presence of pain doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of love.
But the problem is that we get it when it comes to everyday life, but we forget it when it comes to God. And we find ourselves going, “Well, God, if you really love me, my marriage wouldn’t be on the rocks. God, if you really love me, this relationship wouldn’t have ended that way. God, if you really love me, this abuse would never have come into my life. God, if you love me, my career wouldn’t be where it is. God, if you love me, I wouldn’t have cancer. God, if you love me, whatever,” right?
We forget this truth. We get it in our everyday lives, but we forget it when it comes to God. But the reality is presence of pain does not necessarily mean a lack of love. And you might go, “Yeah. The problem with your analogy, Craig, is like your daughter, she understood. Your daughter understood that if she got this painful surgery, it was gonna be good for her over the long haul. It would actually be a reduction.” I mean, she got it. And that’s true, but the reality is I would have done the same thing. I would have scheduled the surgery. I would have paid for them to bring this pain into her life even when she was 2 months old, right? I would have gone even if she can’t see how it was gonna be good for her. I know what’s good, and I’m still gonna do it even though it’s gonna bring some pain into her life.
Sometimes we have this idea that if I can’t see it, it must not be true. And then that’s probably a truth we ought to understand there too. Just because we can’t see how it’s gonna be good doesn’t mean that it’s not, right? And you might go, “Okay. But that’s fine when it’s obviously for their good.” But how was this for Lazarus’s good? How was this pain that Jesus is gonna allow that is gonna allow him to get sicker and ultimately die? And how was the grief and the pain and everything that comes with it? How is that possibly for Lazarus’s good? And, in fact, honestly, let’s be honest, he doesn’t say that it’s for Lazarus’s good. He says, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Come on, Craig, he says it right there, “It’s not for Lazarus’s good. It’s for God’s good. It’s for God’s glory.”
Here’s another truth we gotta come to grips with, giving God glory is good for us. You hear me, Church? Giving God glory is good for us. Why is that? Well, to understand it, the first thing you have to do is you have to recognize what it means to give God glory. So, we have this idea that to give God glory is to praise Jesus. It’s to lift our hands and worship and sing the songs out loud or it’s to say thank you in private. Ultimately, it’s just to, you know, focus on praising and worshiping God. And that’s not actually what it means to give God glory. That might be a way that we do it, but the reality is to give God glory means to make God the highest priority. That’s what it means to give God glory. It means to make him the highest priority. It means that he wins, that he is the heavyweight in the room, and everything else finds its place in orbit around him. It means that we give him the highest priority. That’s what it means to give God glory.
And when we understand that, we can begin to understand how it is that giving God glory is actually good for us. We can talk about it in negative and positive terms. In negative terms, I mean, imagine, you know, God’s kind of like a road roller, you know, those big machines that smooth down the asphalt. Well, you know, if I’m standing in front of the road roller and I’m like, “Stop.” I’m insisting on having the priority, right? But the reality is, like, even if I’m pushing against it, like, I’m not gonna stop that thing. It’s gonna roll over me. It’s not even gonna hesitate, right? So, it’s to my benefit if I do this little thing, right? Get out of the way, that’s negative.
But let’s talk about positive because God wants to do positive things in your life. And when giving God glory is good for you in a positive way, here’s what it means, it means that life doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to unless you’re doing that. It means that unless you’re giving God glory, you’re not gonna get to experience all that God has for you. I mean, here I got a video. Check this out. Okay. So here’s what’s going on. We got a really big boat and we got a very small man. Now, the small man would like to get on the big boat because the big boat’s going somewhere way better. It’s gonna get out of this frozen wasteland. Okay.
But you notice the boat’s not stopping. So the man to get on the boat has to be at exactly the right place. And he waits there, and he’s gotta be right there on the edge. He’s got one chance because the boat’s not slowing down. His only hope of getting on the boat is to grab that ladder, get on it, climb on because the boat didn’t stop. Do you know why? Because the boat’s a jerk. The boat’s an egotistical, self-centered glory hog, right?
No, no, because here’s the thing, if the man had been given priority and the boat slowed down, cut the engines and gradually let its inertia come to the point where it stopped so the man could get on at his convenience and then started the engines back up and gradually raised speed until it was moving again, in the time that that would have happened, the ice would have refrozen and the boat and the man wouldn’t be going anywhere. That’s what I mean when I say to give God glory is good for us.
It’s the only way to actually get to all the good that God has for us. And so Jesus says, “Hey, this sickness won’t end in death.” That’s not gonna be the end of the story for Lazarus, but in the in-between, there’s gonna be some pain. It’s not gonna be easy, but all of this is for God’s glory. But that doesn’t mean it’s not also for Lazarus’s good. Now, verse 3 says, “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” He starts with the love. So don’t lose sight of this, he loves them.
“And Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. And so, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” That’s a weird sentence, isn’t it? Now, here’s what I expect. He loved them so he got up and ran. He loved them so he leaps to take care of the problem as quickly as possible. He loved them so he’s like, “We don’t even have time to go. I’m just gonna heal him at a distance.” We know Jesus is capable of doing that. He loved them. So, as John says, “He stayed where he was.” That’s weird.
And here’s what’s gonna happen. What Jesus is about to do is so much better than anything else he’s ever done. I mean, he’s made one liquid turn into another kind of liquid. He’s turned water to wine. That was impressive. He’s made a man who couldn’t stand on his legs for longer than most people have survived, he’s given him the ability to stand up again on those legs. He’s given sight back to blind. All of that power, all that’s impressive, but what he’s about to do blows all of that away. And he’s setting the stage for what he’s gonna do that is so much better.
You know, the sisters, they’re like, “If you could just fix the sickness, that’s good. We don’t need anything else. This is good enough.” And Jesus says, “No, I’ve got something way, way better than that, but it’s gonna take a little time.” And so here’s the truth, and I don’t like this truth but it’s true truth, we hurry towards good, God waits for great. Do you hear me, Church? We hurry, we rush towards good, God waits for great. I’ve begun to learn it. And I’m 49 years old, and I’m just now beginning to get a handle on this that when God seems to be taking his sweet time on something that I really, really deeply believe he wants to move in but it’s not happening, I’m finally learning to go, “I bet he’s got something better than I’m looking for.” I’ve seen it so many times in my own life. It’s a hard truth but it’s true. We hurry towards good, but God waits for great.
“And then he said to the disciples, ‘Let’s go back to Judea.’ ‘But Rabbi,’ they said, ‘a short while ago, the Jews there tried to stone you, and you’re gonna go back?’ And Jesus answered, ‘Hey, are there not 12 hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble for they see by this world’s light. It’s when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”‘ And basically, what Jesus is saying is, “We still got time. Don’t worry about it.”
He knows that there’s an hour coming when he’s gonna be arrested, he’s gonna be crucified, but he also knows that that time isn’t coming. And nothing any human being does can derail God’s timetable. Okay. God’s the big boat. You can stand in front of the boat and push against it go, “I’m gonna stop this thing.” It’s not gonna go well for you, and the boat’s not gonna slowdown in the slightest. God is going to win. His timetable will always play out.
And so Jesus says, “We don’t have to worry about this. God set the hour, it’s gonna happen. In the meantime, we just need to focus on getting done what we need to do for this hour. So don’t worry about it. It’s gonna be fine.” “Now, after he said this, he went on to tell them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m going there to wake him up.’ And his disciples replied, ‘Lord, if he sleeps, he’ll get better.”‘ Naps are good for sick people. Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. “And so he told them plainly,” and I promise you there was an eye-roll here, “Lazarus is dead.” Then he says the weirdest thing. “And for your sake, I’m glad I was not there so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” He says, “For your sake, I’m glad I wasn’t there.”
Now, what Jesus means is that what he’s about to do, the great that he’s been waiting for, is he’s gonna show himself to his disciples in a way they haven’t seen yet. They’ve caught glimpses, they’ve begun to understand, but the whole truth of who Jesus is that he’s God in the flesh, that hasn’t completely come to roost yet. They don’t fully understand that, but what he’s about to say is gonna change all that. And he says, “I’m excited about this moment because it’s gonna allow you to believe. For your sake, I’m glad I wasn’t there. This is so that you may believe and fully understand who I am.” And that’s great for the disciples.
Does anybody feel just a little bad for Lazarus in that? At this point, Lazarus has already died, so he’s in heaven. I don’t know if he gets to listen in, but I can imagine him hearing Jesus go, “For you guys’ sake, I’m glad that I wasn’t there.” And Lazarus is like. “Forget them, what about me? Like, I died. What about my sisters? They’re grieving.”
Here’s another hard truth, but it’s a true truth and we gotta get a handle on it, sometimes the good is for others. Sometimes the good’s for others but that will be good for us too. So here’s the thing, like. I actually know some people that they said yes to Jesus. They have a relationship with Jesus because of this story. This story was that light bulb moment for them. And maybe for some of you today, this story is gonna be it. Nobody goes from being an atheist to being a follower of Jesus overnight. It’s always a process.
God is stirring in our hearts. He’s drawing us to himself, and there’s these moments, there’s these steps that we take, but for most of us, there’s a moment where you’re kind of at the threshold and something happens that turns on the light bulb and you’re like, “Ah, that’s the last thing I needed.” And you’re able to step forward. You’re able to say yes to a relationship with Jesus to receive him by faith to put your trust in him.
And I actually know several people that this story was the light bulb moment for them. And I think throughout history, there have been hundreds of thousands of people for whom this story was the light bulb moment, which means someday they’re gonna go find Lazarus. And they’re gonna go, “Hey, I just want you to know I’m here because of what you went through.” And do you know what Lazarus is gonna say? “Worth it.” He’s gonna say, “Worth it. Absolutely, it’s worth it.”
In the same way that police officers, and paramedics, and firefighters, they go out every day. For who? For them? No, it’s for those of us that they serve. They put themselves in harm’s way every day, and at the end of the day they say, “Worth it.” Sometimes the good’s for others. A pastor friend just two weeks ago was talking about the importance of pastors pouring into other pastors, especially younger ones. And he said, “You may not ever actually see the results of the time that you put in with that.” But he said this, and I love this, he said, “Sometimes your fruit grows on other people’s trees.” I was like, “I love that.” And then I added my own little bit, which is sometimes our fruit grows on other people’s trees, and we don’t get to enjoy it until the last banquet.
There’s a day we sit down in front of Jesus at this wedding banquet the Bible describes, and I believe some people are gonna bring you a pie. If this analogy got weird, never mind that. Do you understand what I’m saying? Sometimes the fruit we don’t get to enjoy until another season because sometimes the good’s for others, but that is going to be good for you. It’s going to be good, I promise you that. “And then Thomas, also known as Didymus, said to the disciples, ‘Let us also go with him that we may die with him.'” I love that.
I love it because it’s a different picture of Thomas than a lot of us have. Thomas has probably the most unfortunate nickname in the whole Bible. And even if church isn’t a regular part of your life, you’ve probably heard this nickname. The nickname is this, it’s doubting Thomas, right? And you go, “I don’t get it. Why is he doubting Thomas?” This is like faith-filled Thomas, right? This is loyal to the end Thomas. This is courageous Thomas, right? Why would you call him doubting Thomas?
Well, because later in his life, he saw Jesus get arrested. He saw Jesus beaten. He saw Jesus nailed to a cross. He saw Jesus breathe his last breath on the cross. He saw them shove a spear into Jesus’ side to make sure he was really dead. And then they saw him throw his body into a borrowed tomb. He saw all that, and three days later, Jesus rose from the dead. And he met some of his disciples, but Thomas wasn’t with them.
And so after they met Jesus, they ran back and they found Thomas. They said, “He’s back.” And Thomas went, “What are you smoking? I’m gonna call nonsense on it. No way. What are you talking about?” Would you have done better? I don’t think it’s a fair nickname. I also think it’s not a fair nickname because here John gives us a very different picture of this man, right? And I love that.
I love that John under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which is to say God directed John to give us this other picture of Thomas to kind of round him out. Because here’s the thing, this is so important that we understand, God doesn’t define us by our weakest moments, right? God doesn’t define you by your weakest moment. The world does. Okay. To the world he’s doubting Thomas, and to you the world may say you’re your weakest moment but God doesn’t define you by your weakest moment. The world does, God doesn’t. We do, right?
We define ourselves by our weakest moment. For so many of us, we live in this cloak of shame because, you know, who am I? Well, I’m the guy who said that horrible thing to his wife. I’m the guy who screwed up so badly with my kids. I’m the man who failed last night one more time on the internet. I’m the person who did this to my friends. That’s who I am. It’s that thing.
And listen to me, please hear me, God does not define you by your weakest moment. Especially if you’re a follower of Jesus, you have been set free, not only from the guilt of your sin, but he longs to set you free from the shame of it. And so often we allow Jesus to forgive our sin, but we hold on to the weight of our shame. And Jesus goes, “Why are you doing that? Do you understand that it’s trapping you in a grave and I’m trying to call you out of it?” Listen to me, God does not define you by your weakest moment.
“And on his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed home.” It’s so interesting. We know Mary from some other places in Scripture, and we know that she’s a woman of tremendous faith. But it’s interesting that faith is not really on display here.
John didn’t have to tell us that Mary stayed home, he could have just focused on Martha. But he makes sure that we understand that Martha gets up and runs and Mary sits where she is. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t that faith, but it does mean she’s struggling. Maybe even she’s a little frustrated with Jesus, maybe even a little bitter. It’s not to say that Martha doesn’t have some questions too. Check this out. “‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you’d been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.'”
Do you hear the doubt? Do you hear the question? I mean, I know it’s a statement, right? “If you’d been here, my brother would not have died.” I know that’s a statement, but there’s a question in there too, isn’t there? Probably a whole lot of them. Where were you? Why did you take so long? I don’t get it. I don’t understand. I thought you loved us. But also notice that she voices what she doesn’t know, what she doesn’t get, what she doesn’t understand, but she moves forward on what she does know. She says “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” I love that.
If you were with us last week, Reza taught us that’s how you deal with doubt. You don’t deny it. You don’t pretend it doesn’t exist. You don’t fail to acknowledge the questions that we have that we’re looking for answers for. We acknowledge what we don’t know, but we move forward on what we do. We focus on what we do know. That’s what Martha’s doing here, right? And what this tells us is this, it tells us that you don’t have to have all the answers to move forward in faith.
Some of you are here today and you’re struggling. Maybe you’re a follower of Jesus, but it’s hard for you to trust God in something because you’ve got questions. You don’t understand why he hasn’t or why he has, and, like, you got all kinds of questions. That’s fair, but you don’t have to have all the answers to move forward in faith. The question is whether or not you’re focused on what you don’t know or what you do.
Or maybe you’re here today and you’re not a follower of Jesus. And maybe you’re at that place, maybe you’re that person I was talking to a moment ago that’s gotten to the edge of the threshold. Something’s going on in you. You’re being drawn, and you find yourself moving towards God and towards faith in Jesus, but you can’t quite step in yet because there’s a question that hasn’t been resolved. There’s a struggle you’re still trying to work your way through. And you know what? The reality is sometimes you’re not gonna get all of the answers, but you don’t have to have all the answers to move forward in faith. Maybe today’s the day you need to take that step.
Martha trusts in what she knows. “And Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ And Martha answered, ‘I know.'” She focuses on what she knows. “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” The Jews knew because God had told them in the Old Testament that there was a day coming he would make everything new again, and in that moment, all of those who had a relationship with him would be raised to life, given new bodies, and they’d be reunited with those that had passed before them that had a relationship with God.
She says, “I know that’s coming. That’s what I’m trusting and that’s what I’m waiting for.” And Jesus says to her, “Basically, the wait is over.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He says, “I’m what you’ve been waiting for. The day that you’ve been waiting to come, it has dawned. The sun is peeking over the horizon. Everything is changing because I’m here now. I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Martha, do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who is to come into the world.” This is so cool.
Listen, in the ancient Near Eastern world when you wrote a book like these Gospels we’re looking at, when you wrote a book, typically, the way you structured it in the ancient world was right in the middle of the book you put a key event. And it was kind of the pinnacle. It’s almost the climax of the book. It was a pivotal point that everything kind of shifted and move forward from there. And we have four Gospels in the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell us the story of Jesus’s life. Well, all four of them do the same thing. Right in the middle, they put a pivotal event.
Now, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have the same event in the dead center of their Gospel. And that event is at a moment when Jesus looked at his followers and he said, “Who do you guys say that I am?” And a man named Peter went, “Oh, I got this one. I totally got this. I know I messed up the last one, but I got this one. I totally got it.” And he said, “You’re the Christ. You’re the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus said, “You’re right.”
And then Jesus went on and he said, “And, you know, you didn’t just like realize this,” roughly, he said, “My Father in heaven revealed this to you.” You guys heard that, right? “Yeah. God talks to me. Not so much you John, but me he does.” But that’s the moment, that’s the pivot. Like somebody going, “I get it. I see you for who you are.” And that’s the pivot point.
Now, John doesn’t tell us that story. John, “Hey, three other guys already told you.” Let me tell you another story, let me tell you another story of a person who got it, who saw Jesus for who he was, and by the way, we are at dead center in John’s Gospel right now. And there’s a story of another person who said something very similar. She said, “I believe. I believe you’re the Christ, you’re the Messiah, you’re the Savior, you’re the Son of God.” No, it’s not Peter here. It’s Martha. It’s a woman, and I love that because sometimes we can get this idea, some women get the idea that maybe you’re not as important in the kingdom.
In the ancient world, women often didn’t have value. And sometimes we look at those stories and were like, “Yeah, they’re not really given real value.” But you understand that Jesus didn’t treat women that way. Jesus allowed Martha and Mary to sit at his feet learning from him. John, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, allows a woman to sit in this pivotal moment in the Gospel of John where it all comes together. And it’s a woman who says, “Yeah, I believe you’re the Christ, you’re the Son of God.” I love that.
“Now, after she said this, she went back and she called her sister Mary aside, ‘The Teacher is here,’ she said, ‘and he’s asking for you.’ And when Mary heard this, she got up quickly, and she went to him. Now, Jesus did not get into the village but was still at the place where Martha had met him. Now, when the Jews who had been with Mary in the house comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. And when Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, and she said, ‘Lord, if you’d been here, my brother would not have died.'” So, interesting.
She has the same questions as her sister Martha, “Where were you? If you’d been here, this wouldn’t happen. What were you doing? What took you so long? I thought you loved us.” What’s interesting, though, is she doesn’t say what she does know. And for a while, for a long time, actually, I thought that she just didn’t express her faith. But I realized recently, yes, she did. She just did it without words. She fell at his feet. She came and she fell at his feet with her brokenness and maybe even a little bit of bitterness, but she still fell at his feet. And, yes, it took a little extra push to get her there, but she fell at his feet.
She didn’t have the words because her grief had robbed her of the words. Her struggle, her pain, her suffering had taken the words out, but she still fell at his feet. And that’s faith. Listen to me, where we fall matters more than what we say. Sometimes we lose track of that in the Christian world. I feel it a lot as a pastor, we have this idea that if you really love Jesus, if you really have faith in Jesus, then, you know, when you’re going through a hard thing and somebody says, “How you’re doing?” You’re supposed to say, “This is hard but God is good.” But you know what? Sometimes I don’t have those words, and maybe you’re here today and you don’t have them either. That’s okay.
The question is not whether or not you have the right words, the question is whether or not you know the right place to fall. Where we fall matters more than what we say. Fall at his feet with your brokenness, and your pain, and your suffering, and your bitterness, even when you have no words, fall at his feet. And that’s the place to be.
“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” And it’s interesting that the word troubled or deeply moved in spirit, it literally, it’s usually translated as angry. He was angry. We don’t translate it that way because it doesn’t make sense what he’s angry at, and I don’t think he’s actually angry.
I think what John’s doing is he’s trying to find a word that conveys how deeply he was passionate about this, and sometimes really passionate people look angry. How many passionate people have ever been accused of being mad and you’re like, “No, I’m just excited”? Sometimes really deep passion looks anger from the outside. He’s like, “That’s how deep it was.” “‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. And Jesus wept.” It’s the shortest verse in the Bible, also maybe one of the most powerful because it demonstrates his passion.
See, I think sometimes we have this idea that what God does for us he does because it’s somehow in the God job description. And I want you to understand this truth, Church, what God does for us he does because he’s passionate about us. It’s because he’s crazy about you, not because he has to. He didn’t have to do anything. God does for us what he does because he’s passionate about us.
“And then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him.’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?'” And the hard answer is, yeah, he could have, but he didn’t. That doesn’t mean he didn’t love him. “And Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said. But, ‘Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘but by this time there’s a bad odor, for it’s been four days.’ And Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?'” And we could add in, “And it will be good for you.”
“And so they took away the stone. And then Jesus looked up and he said, ‘Father, I thank you that you’ve heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.'” Sometimes the good grows on other people’s trees. “When he’d said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ And the dead man came out, his hands and his feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.” It’s so interesting. He’s basically a mummy, right? I mean, he’s still wrapped up, and he still hasn’t even taken the cloth off of his face maybe because his hands are wrapped up.
It’s so interesting because it means that with Jesus’s command, his soul leapt from heaven back into his body, and he bolted upright, and he jumped to his feet. And the command was so urgent, his desire to obey it so deep that he…not rushed, he waddled without even taking time to break his hands free and to take the cloth off of his face. He came out into the light, and Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.'” And this is the living proof of what he said to Martha, “I am the resurrection of life,” right?
I mean, anybody can say they’re the resurrection of life. Only Jesus can call a dead man out of the grave to prove it, right? This is the living proof. But really, this is just a prelude to the real proof, right? Because the real proof of who Jesus is isn’t that he called this man out of his grave, the real proof of who he is and what he’s all about is that he went to the grave for us. That because of his love for us, he died to pay for our sins. Because of his love for us, they put him in a borrowed tomb. And because of his love for us, he got up out of that grave and walked out of it so that he could look back and call us out of ours. Why does he do this? Because he loves us. Listen to me, Jesus died so he could walk out of his grave and call us out of ours because he loves us.
Three questions for you. Question number one, “Where in my life do I need to make God the priority?” Because we all have these areas of our lives and we’re like, “Lord, I know that you really are the priority, but in this area, it really feels like it would be better for me if I just kind of did my own thing.” It never will be. Giving God glory is good for us. We need to identify those places in our lives where we are not making God the priority. We’re not giving him the glory. And we need to change, or it’s not gonna be good for us. Where in your life is that true?
Question number two, “Where do I need to stop defining myself by my weakest moment?” As I said, God doesn’t but we so often do. And Jesus, not only has called us out of the grave of our sin, but he’s saying to us, “Take off the grave clothes.” If you’re no longer guilty of your sin, well, what advantage do you gain by continuing to wrap yourself in the grave clothes of shame and defining yourself by your weakest moments? All that’s doing is keeping you from moving into all that I have for you and all that I wanna do in the world through you. Where do you need to stop defining yourself by your weakest moment and accept that you’re not only forgiven of your sin, but you’re free of the shame of it? You’re a new creation in Christ, and it’s time to live that way.
And then lastly, “What step do I need to take to move forward in faith?” Maybe you’re a believer and God’s calling you to some step of faith, some new way of being on mission with him or just trusting him in your life, or maybe you’re listening to this and you’re not a follower of Jesus, and that’s your step of faith. Today’s the day to say, “I don’t have all the answers, but it’s time to take that next step.” I wanna give you the opportunity to do that.
In fact, everybody just close your eyes, bow your heads. If you’re a follower Jesus, we’ll just begin praying right now for those that are listening to this message wherever they are, who haven’t said yes to a relationship with Jesus. And if that’s you, I just wanna speak to you for a moment. It’s time. Today is the day. Jesus is looking back at you. He’s walked out of his grave, he’s looking back, and he’s saying, “Come out. Come out of the grave of your sin. I wanna set you free from your shame.” Because he loves you. God loves you so much. He sent his Son to die for you to pay for your sin. Three days later, he rose from the dead and he is calling you into forgiveness and new life with him. And if you don’t have that, you can have it right here right now.
Here’s what you’re gonna do, you’re just gonna say yes and have a conversation, have this conversation in your heart right now. Do it right now. You’re gonna say, “God, I’ve done wrong, and I’m sorry. I know my sin put me in the grave. Jesus, thank you for coming and dying for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead and I understand that I’m kind of like Lazarus. You’re calling me out of my grave, so I’m saying yes. I’m walking out, accepting your forgiveness, accepting freedom I can have from shame and guilt. Jesus, I’m yours for now and forever.” Amen. I had a lot of people make that decision this weekend, and I’m sure just now. Can we just welcome them into the family of God? It’s so awesome.