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Signs Done Well - V

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

            The fourth sign in the gospel of John is a miracle of feeding.  More precisely, Jesus, to whom all signs point, multiplies a small amount of food to be more than enough to feed a multitude of 5,000 people (probably closer to 15,000 when one considers spouses and children being with the men counted).  This is recorded for us faithfully in John 6:1-15.

            We find out the reason such a large group was following Jesus in verse 2 – because of the signs!  In particular because of the preceding signs of healings of sick people.  It is dinner time in Galilee, and there is little to no food available for so many.  The cost of buying groceries for this assembly would be astronomical (verse 7).  It seems perhaps just one boy has carried his dinner (verse 9), consisting of five loaves of bread and two fish.

            Jesus takes this small amount, prays over it, and begins to have it distributed to these masses – and the miracle is it never runs out!  In fact, after all have eaten their fill, leftovers are gathered, enough to fill 12 baskets full!

            As amazing as this spectacle must have been to experience, the significance of the sign is only revealed the next day.  After some time away, the crowds find Jesus once again and have some questions for him.  One apparently is “Can you do another miracle, perform another sign? (verse 30).  So that we might believe?”

            Amazing, isn’t it?  Humanity’s hunger for spectacles and visual proof?  People would rather see a magic act any day than hear the word of God proclaimed.  Not much has changed.

            Jesus in response preaches them a sermon in which he tells them that he is indeed the Bread of Life.  “Think the bread I put in your mouths yesterday was good?  Think the manna God gave the children of Israel in the wilderness was incredible?  I am the true bread from God.  If you consume me, you will never be hungry again!”

            This sign points to Jesus as the fulfiller of every need, the One sent from God, the one who offers life eternal.  Some just wanted a good meal – Jesus offered so much more.  And does.


The Bible in 50 Words

Thursday, January 07, 2016

God made
Adam bit
Noah arked
Abraham split
Jacob fooled
Joseph ruled
Bush talked
Moses balked
Pharaoh plagued
People walked
Sea divided
Tablets guided
Promise landed
Saul freaked
David peeked
Prophets warned
Jesus born
God walked
Love talked
Anger crucified
Hope died
Love rose
Spirit flamed
Word spread
God remained.


Signs Done Well - IV

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

            The third sign in the gospel of John once again involves a healing, this time of a paralyzed man at a site in Jerusalem called the pool of Bethesda.  Bethesda was apparently a gathering place for sick and troubled people, perhaps because its waters were considered to be of medicinal quality.  It is feast-time in Jerusalem, and the day on which this healing occurs happens to be a Sabbath.

            We might quickly question the healing nature of these waters, when we see here in John 5:1-18 that the man in question had been an invalid for 38 years (verse 5).  Jesus, to whom all these signs point of course, after some back and forth with the man, heals him instantly.  This stirs controversy in Jerusalem with the so-called religious leaders because Jesus instructed the man to take up his bed and walk, and it was a Sabbath day on which no work was to be done.            

            Perhaps even more inflammatory is a statement Jesus made during the course of this event, while the controversy was arising.  He said in response to critics, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”  According to verse 18, this statement in addition to the Sabbath healing were the reasons the Jews were seeking to kill Jesus.

            The statement, as much as the healing, is a part of the third sign here in John 5.  Jesus publicly identifies himself as the Son of God, making himself equal to God (verse 18).  If there were anyone else in Jerusalem able to do such miraculous healings and works of power, they were certainly either negligent in their duties or heartless in the extreme, for they left a man such as this paralytic to suffer for nearly 4 decades when they could have done something about it.

            The truth is, no one else could do what the Son of God could do.  Only Jesus could do this miracle at Bethesda pool in Jerusalem on that Sabbath day.  This was a sign done well because it showed who the Real was, and who the fake were.

My Most Memorable Christmas

Friday, December 18, 2015

[Just like many, I have some favorite preachers (and no, I ain’t one of them!). One of my favorite preachers and people is Roger Massey, who preaches and serves as an elder for the church in Pataskala, Ohio. A few years ago, he wrote a bulletin article that is one of the best I have ever read, is appropriate to the season, and will warm the cockles of your heart. Enjoy! – MEM]


My Most Memorable Christmas

by Roger Massey

     My most memorable Christmas wasn’t as a child awaiting Santa, nor was it as a parent playing Santa. My favorite Christmas actually began Thanksgiving week, 1966, when she said, “Yes.” Bonnie Lou Thomas, the love of my life, said yes to my proposal of marriage. Naturally, her Christmas gift would be an engagement ring. But how? Being a college senior I was unemployed and broke. My sister, Myrna, having already graduated from college and gainfully employed, came to my rescue. She graciously allowed me to use her charge account at a local jewelry store and she and I went ring shopping. It was the most exciting shopping I have ever done. The diamond I selected was considerably smaller than the one Prince Rainer gave to Princess Grace. In fact, the total cost of both the engagement ring and wedding band was only $150.00. But that didn’t matter, because when I placed that ring on her finger my heart nearly burst with pride. She was finally mine...40 Christmases later she still is...and always will be...the love of my life. Christmas, 1966, is a romantic memory. We went about visiting family and friends...she showing off her showing off her. Eight months later I placed the wedding band on her finger and the love grew.

     A few years ago a jeweler said to me, “Don’t you think it’s time to update Bonnie’s rings?” (I think “upgrade” meant buy a bigger diamond from him.) Now why would I want to do that? Those $150 rings have clasped my hand when I’ve wept and when I’ve prayed. Those rings have burped and diapered our babies and rested on fevered brows at midnight. Those rings have applauded at little league ball games, school programs and band competitions. Those rings have guided small hands with cookie cutters, shaved ice for snow cones and clawed that yucky stuff out of jack-o-lanterns. Those rings have turned the pages of story books, the pages of God’s word and the pages of time. Those rings have combed the tangles out of the hair of granddaughters and stuffed the toes of grandsons into shoes that were too small. Those rings are magic. Those rings are always there. Those rings are always doing. Now how does one “upgrade” something that has become priceless?

     I will always remember that special Christmas, the rings, the hand and the words of Solomon, “Rejoice with the wife of your youth (Prov. 5:18).”

Signs Done Well - III

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

            The second sign highlighted in John’s gospel involves a healing.  This is what we might expect a sign to be like – a miraculous healing of some sort.  Why might we expect this?  Because the religious world tells us to expect it.  Recently the Pope kissed an infant who was ill.  There has been much reporting in the media of how much better the child is doing since the touch of this religious leader.  We certainly hope the child is healthy and has a long and good life.

            There is a cottage industry of faith healers and such like in the religious world today – so if they can do it, we certainly expect that the Son of God could do it, right?  Of course, I am being a bit facetious.

            Let’s look at the sign itself... 

John 4:46-54

            So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, "Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe." 49 The official said to him, "Sir, come down before my child dies." 50 Jesus said to him, "Go; your son will live." The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, "Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him." 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." And he himself believed, and all his household. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

            Note here that reference is made to the first of the signs in verse 47.  Notice also that John calls this “the second sign that Jesus did” in verse 54.  Here we have a long distance, instantaneous healing.  (We would like to see our modern day “healers” do something like this!)  Also we note that this sign is done for a Gentile, most likely, as he is described as “an official.”  Perhaps he was a centurion, perhaps a servant of Herod Antipas.

            Recall the purpose of the signs:  in general, signs are designed to communicate something clearly.  More specifically, the signs in Jesus’ ministry were designed to demonstrate the greatness of Jesus.  This in John 4 is certainly an effective sign!  A long-distance, instantaneous miracle of healing for the near-death son of a Gentile official.  This sign resulted in belief in Jesus for the man and for all his house.  How could it not?

            Yet, we begin to see here a reluctance on the part of Jesus to perform signs.  Don’t miss what the Lord says in verse 48.  I guess we cannot be sure of the tone with which Jesus spoke "Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe."  But does it not seem contextually that there is a bit of exasperation in those words?  Jesus knew that ultimately, such miraculous works of power would wow people for the moment, but not insure long-term faith.

            So, the truth is, while the miracle itself is incredible and does its job of pointing us to the greatness of the Son of God, we learn even more from the words of the Son of God.  Part of this sign is Jesus’ suspicion of people seeking signs and wonders.  It tells us important truths about the Lord, and about us all.

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