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Jun 29, 2015

Northwest Community Evangelical Free Church

(March 8, 2014)

Dave Smith


Sermon manuscript


Sermon series: THIS Jesus



A Tale of Two Healings                                                            Study #2

(John 4:43--5:18)


Introduction: Signs we have known and loved…


               There are signs, and then there are signs. 

               Some signs are crucial for safe driving or good navigating. We depend on STOP signs and YIELD signs and speed limit signs.


               Of course, some signs are just plain silly. 

               Like the church sign that reads, “Don’t let worries kill you. Let the church help!” or Dr. Clark’s Weight Loss Clinic which announces, “We’re expanding!”

               Or this one, posted outside of a town hall meeting:

“The purpose of this meeting is to answer any questions regarding the upcoming meeting to amend the voting requirements required to amend the documents for material alterations to the common elements and regular amendments to the documents.”


By way of review…


               The message of John’s Gospel revolves around signs Jesus performed. His miracles were signs that pointed beyond the miracles themselves to something important about Jesus and His ways.


               Last Sunday we saw the first of His signs in John, chapter 2 when He turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana.


               By that “sign” He showed that He was all about taking something common and turning it into something noble and beautiful and fresh. He did that with water, and He’s been doing that with His followers’ lives for the last two thousand years.


               Jesus intends to make out of each of us here today a stunning trophy of grace and that is part of what the sign of the wine says.


               Following that miraculous sign event, Jesus traveled from the little village of Cana to Jerusalem to observe Passover. When He got there He found the Temple in such shambles that He was compelled to use a whip to drive out the moneychangers.


               John tells us that while Jesus was there in the capitol city, Jesus did other, unnamed signs (2:23) which prompted many people to believe in Him. Then, He had redemptive conversations with two people, and John records those conversations one right after the other.


               He spoke with Nicodemus, “the teacher of Israel”, a respected member of the Sanhedrin, about eternal life. He told Nicodemus that he would have to be “born again” if he was going to see the kingdom of God.


               And then He spoke to a woman of Samaria who had lived badly, but who had a genuine spiritual hunger. He told her that He Himself was source of the living water for which her soul thirsted. He urged her to trust Him - and she did, and then went out and told everybody in the village about Jesus.


On the road again - to Cana of Galilee (vv. 43-45)


               After this trip through Samaria Jesus made His way back, north into Galilee. It is in Galilee that we will see Jesus perform anther sign, the first of two we’ll observe today.


               John tells us that the citizens of Galilee were eager to welcome Jesus back, for one primary reason.

               Many of them had gone to Jerusalem for Passover and had seen Jesus perform lots of signs there. They couldn’t wait to see Him do more of the same in Galilee, too.


               Jesus landed again in the little village of Cana, where He had performed His first miracle. This time He was nearly accosted by a man who was desperate for a miracle.


Serving the Insider with Amazing Grace (vv. 46-54)


An Urgent, Fatherly Plea from a Believing Royal Official (vv. 46-49)


               A heartsick father (v. 46)


               [4:46] Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum.[1]


               This man may have been an official in the royal court (presumably Herod’s court), but he was a father, first. Father’s are always, first, fathers. This father was in a panic because his son was very, very sick.


               He had evidently heard that Jesus was back in Cana and had left Capernaum to seek help for his son.


               A desperate, pleading father (v. 47)


               [47] When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death.


               The boy didn’t have a head cold. He was at death’s door. It’s not hard for any of us to put ourselves in this father’s shoes. He’s at his wit’s end to save his son.[2]

               When a child of any age is sick, sad, or in trouble, hurt, in danger, or in rebellion, parents panic and grieve.


               This man has come to Jesus to seek his son’s healing. Now, whatever beliefs he had about Jesus at this point were very elementary. But he came, faithfully, trusting that Jesus could do something if He was willing to.


               The text implies that he was asking over and over and over again (“was imploring” denotes asking repeatedly).


               Perhaps surprisingly, Jesus’ initial response wasn’t an encouraging one.


               A reproof from Jesus (v. 48)


               [48] So Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.”[3]


               I get the sense that Jesus may have been testing this father, trying to see if he was just out to get a flashy show of power, or if there was more, more true zeal, more faith, more love, to his request.


               He soon saw that this nobleman wasn’t just interested in seeing “signs and wonders.” He was desperate for his son’s life to be saved. If anything, the father became more insistent after Jesus’ reproof.


               A persistent father (v. 49)


               [49] The royal official said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

               He wants Jesus to come to his home in Capernaum, stand next to his child’s bed, lay His hands on him, pray for him, and raise his son to full health.


               Clearly, at least as he sees it, if there was going to be a healing, Jesus’ physical presence was required. That is why he was asking Jesus to come to his home.


               And, just like that, Jesus turned from reproof to decisive action. He will heal the man’s son. In fact, He does. Just like that.


Serving a Desperate Dad and Son (v. 50)


               [50] Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off.


               Jesus will not go to the boy’s bedside. He won’t come to the house. He’ll stay right where He is in Cana and won’t go to Capernaum.


               His words here are not to be read in terms of a prophecy, like, “Your son will be healed.”


               No, this was a word of power, as in, “Let there be light.”


               And off the father went, in the most literal way imaginable, walking to Capernaum by faith. The Bible says that he believed, and when Jesus said, “Go” He gave this dad an opportunity to exercise that faith.


               I wonder what that walk was like. Was he attacked by doubts as he traveled? Was he more fearful or eager as he walked home? Did he dread what he would find when he walked through the front door, or was his faith in Jesus’ word firm?


               He had to spend a night on the road between Cana and Capernaum (can’t you imagine that THAT was a long, sleepless night!?), because when he arose and started for the homestretch, a group of his personal slaves met him with some astonishing news.



Performing a Long-Distance Healing (vv. 51-53)


               Healed... (v. 51)


               [51] As he was now going down,[4] his slaves met him, saying that his son was living.


               So, everything’s fine! He’s outside playing with his friends!


               And I love the one question he had for his slaves.


       the word of Jesus! (v. 52)


               [52] So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” [53] So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives”; and he himself believed and his whole household.


               He asked the question because he just had to know. And sure enough, the hour at which his son was healed was the hour at which Jesus said, “Your son lives.” The recovery wasn’t coincidence or dumb luck. His son was healed by Jesus, long-distance.


               And that led the man and his household (wife, children, and slaves) to read this “sign” - Jesus is trustworthy and they all placed their faith in Jesus.


Reading the signs…


               [54] This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.


               The first sign was the water to wine miracle. This second one says something about Jesus’ compassion to respond to the desperate longing of someone for another’s blessing. It says something about power, especially the power to heal with a long-distance word.

               As we keep reading we come immediately to the next of Jesus’ signs and this one takes place, again, in the city of Jerusalem.


Serving the Outsider with Amazing Grace (vv. 1-18)


Setting the Scene for a Miracle (vv. 1-5)


               Jesus, back in Jerusalem (v. 1)


               [1] After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.


               John doesn’t bother to tell us which of the Jewish feasts was being celebrated at this time. It probably wasn’t Passover as John is careful to tell us when Jesus was in Jerusalem for a Passover.[5]


               But then, the big thing was not which feast was being observed, but the setting in Jerusalem to which Jesus was drawn at the feast.


               John gives us that setting.


               The pool of Bethesda (vv. 2-4)


               [2] Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes.[6] [3a] In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered [waiting for the moving of the waters; [4] for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.][7]

               Most authorities are agreed that the end of verse three and all of verse four are not a part of the original Gospel of John. So, the Bible doesn’t teach that an angel of the Lord came down and stirred the waters, and that the first one in the water was miraculously healed.


               But, that was the local legend at the time.


               Around the world, sick and diseased people flock to waters that have supposed healing powers. Hot springs and mineral springs are famous for their healing powers. The same was true at this pool, Bethesda, in Jerusalem and lots of people went to this pool, hoping for healing.


               Included in that big crowd was one especially pitiful man.


               A helpless invalid at the pool (v. 5)


               [5] A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.


               We are not told how old he was, nor what was his specific ailment. All we know is that it was chronic and that it involved his not being able to walk. From a human perspective, the man’s situation was hopeless.


               I suspect that lots of healthy people walked by that pool, walked by those crowds, and walked by this lame man.


               Unlike the crowds who walked by, though, Jesus saw the lame man. Jesus asked him a very perceptive question.


Healing a Lame Beggar (vv. 6-9a)


               A discerning Jesus meets a long disabled man (vv. 6-8)


                              Jesus’ insightful question (v. 6)


               [6] When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?”


               That’s not a silly question.


               For this man to “get well” meant the loss of a good steady supply of money from begging. It meant the necessity to work. It meant the loss of the pity of those he had come to depend on.


               “Getting well” would mean change, and change is scary, even when it’s for the better. Change usually involves a process of struggle and trouble and some re-adjustment. Status quo, even a painful status quo, is, at least, familiar.


               Jesus’ question to the man was right on the mark. Well, this guy DID want to “get well.”


               But he did also have a problem. When it came to healing at the pool of Bethesda, it was survival of the fastest. And this man, being lame, could never get to the front of the line to be first in the pool.


                              The man’s courageous answer (v. 7)


               [7] The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”


               All of a sudden it is clear that this man was a man of faith. Not that his faith was in Jesus! Not even necessarily in God. He superstitiously believed in the healing waters of the Pool of Bethesda.


               He didn’t know who Jesus was and he didn’t ask Jesus for any help (not even for help to get into the pool first). But he was clearly desperate to “get well.”


               So, with no reference to healing waters, Jesus spoke to the man’s need.


                              Jesus’ words of healing power (v. 8)


               [8] Jesus said to him, “Arise, pick up your pallet and walk.”


               Now, put yourself on this man’s pallet for a moment. He had been lame, diseased for thirty eight years.


               Now, some Guy he doesn’t know at all shows some interest in him, but gives him no handouts, and issues a command to stand up and walk.


               If you were this man, what would you have been thinking? Maybe something like, “This is either an incredibly cruel hoax, or the best day of my life.”


               Jesus is challenging this man to take an enormous “step” of faith - as great as the assignment to the father to go home to his dying son in Capernaum.


               If this man took Jesus seriously and Jesus didn’t deliver he would risk devastating disappointment, ridicule from others for trying such a foolish stunt, and physical pain from the vain attempt to stand.


               At the same time, if he chose to not take advantage of the Lord’s command and Jesus WAS able to heal, then he would lose the only chance he would ever have to walk again.


               He may have felt terribly torn between the two options, but he finally came to see that NOT obeying Jesus was the greater risk. So, by faith, he moved.


               A powerful Jesus heals this unsuspecting man (v. 9a)


               [9a] Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.


               Can you imagine the state of his heart when he realized that the state of his body has changed? He made an attempt to stand and then found that he was able to walk around?


               Talk about joy! Talk about the best day ever!


               I love to think that he had hours of walking around and hours to relish the glory of his strong legs. That’s a nice thought, isn’t it?

               But he probably didn’t have that much time to simply do a happy dance because a dark cloud was quickly looming on the horizon.


               The ominous note that sounds at the conclusion of the story is John tells us, [9b] Now it was the Sabbath on that day.


               “Ooops, sorry Jesus. You erred in performing this sign in terms of timing. You did it on the Sabbath, a day of rest meticulously enforced by the rulers of the Jews in Jesus’ day.”


               During the three years of His ministry, much of the opposition Jesus faced was from the Jewish leadership regarding the observance of the Sabbath.


               Their rules about what could and could not be done on the Sabbath were very stringent and legendary.[8]


·        Spitting on a rock was OK, but you couldn’t spit on the dirt (because the spittle and the dirt together made mortar). 

·        Pulling out a grey hair was not OK.

·        Wearing dentures was not OK.

·        Writing was forbidden.

·        Putting vinegar on your teeth to alleviate a toothache was forbidden.[9]


               The Rabbis had so strictly regulated the Sabbath by the time of Jesus that the seventh day had ceased to be a day of rest, and had become a terrible burden.[10]


               On this Sabbath, the Jewish rulers came to harass the man who had been healed on the happiest day of his life with an accusation of Sabbath-breaking for cot-carrying.

               Before we conclude, I want us to see the final scene of this episode because it reveals the increasing opposition Jesus came to face, much of that because of this episode!


Post-Healing (vv. 10-18)


               Harassed on the Sabbath (vv. 10-13)


               [10] So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.”


               From this comment it is clear that the pressing needs of simple people had ceased to be of any real concern to the religious rulers of the day.


               Sure, they noticed that the man could now walk. They would have even admitted that a miracle had occurred.


               But he was carrying his cot - and they were more concerned with the breaking of their tradition about no cot-carrying on the Sabbath than they were willing to rejoice that a man who had been lame for thirty eight years can now walk. How heartless!


               Isn’t it striking how unstruck these guys were with the miracle?


               Actually, when we look through the Bible we’re struck by how infrequently genuine, deep faith is built by miracles.


               Now miracles are wonderful things and I’m sure not voting against them. But in the periods of biblical history when there were the greatest number of miracles, we certainly don’t find the most mature, widespread faith among the people of God.


               There were lots of miracles in the days of Moses and Joshua and in the days of Elijah and Elisha. Those were days of rebellion and apostasy.


               During the time of His earthly ministry, Jesus performed a lot of miracles - and was crucified.


               As often as not, the response to the miracles of God and to the supernatural was a hardening of the spirit, not faith. And that is just what we see here, not only from the rulers and the Pharisees, but even from the man who was healed.


               The rulers demanded that this healed man defend his evil, cot-carrying ways. He seems to me to be very quick to tell them that he was just following orders.


               A dilemma for the healed man (vv. 11-15)


               [11] But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.’”


               He didn’t even know who it was who had healed him. So he placed the blame for his break with Sabbath-keeping tradition on “good ol’ what’s his name.”


               The rulers pressed to find out who it was who gave him this diabolical command.


               [12] They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?”


               I think that they probably suspected Jesus, but the man who has been healed couldn’t tell them that it was Jesus. He didn’t know and he had no idea as to who Jesus was.


               So, reluctantly, the Pharisees, who had been wanting to have some crime to pin on Jesus, let the healed beggar go.


               And he headed straight for the Temple, a place he had not been able to go to for a long, long time.


               That was also where Jesus had gone after having slipped away after the healing. And here, for the second time, Jesus looked for and found this man.


               [13] But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place.   [14] Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.”


               Jesus’ comment makes us think that this man’s illness was the result of divine discipline 38 years earlier (and perhaps it was). So, He warned him to lead a holy life, and with that, they parted ways.


                We don’t know anything else about this man’s life. We don’t know if he ended up believing in Jesus, following Jesus, living for Jesus.


               All we know is that as soon as he had the chance, he went right back to the Jewish rulers, who had been wanting to accuse Jesus of a Sabbath crime, and snitched.


               [15] The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.


               Now the rulers and Pharisees have a witness. Now, He has been named as guilty. And they immediately ramped up their opposition against Jesus.


                              3. The price a Savior is willing to pay (vv. 16-18)


               [16] For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. [17] But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” [18] For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.


               The persecution, harassment, opposition, including death threats, picks up steam here. Jesus doesn’t at all back down, but meets them head on.


               They accuse Him of breaking their traditions and He responds with a claim that He was simply doing what His Father - God! - is doing. Jesus is doing the kinds of things that only God can do.


               And the opposition absolutely “gets” that Jesus was claiming equality with the Almighty.


               What I don’t want us to miss, though, and what I have missed every time I have read this story my whole life, is that the opposition ramped up against the Lord right after the man He had healed identified that it was Jesus who had healed him.





               In moving through the life of Jesus on our way to Easter, we are using His “signs” as a template for understanding Him and His mission. Certainly, each and every sign showed His power. The signs are miracles only God could perform and they all demonstrate that Jesus is, as He claimed to be, God in the flesh.


               But I am working under the assumption that each of the signs will tell us more, and that if we will look carefully at these signs we will see something  about His ways.


               In thinking about these two signs of healing we have seen today, it has struck me that nowhere else in the Gospel of John do we find two miracles placed right next to each other, prompting me to think that, perhaps, John wanted us to take them together.


               I then remembered that these healings took place immediately after Jesus had conversations with two people, back to back, also unique for John’s Gospel.


               Then I started noticing some parallels between the two conversations and the two miracles.


               Jesus spoke with Nicodemus, “the teacher of Israel”, a respected Rabbi and a Pharisee who was upright and very moral. And, Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman, a member of a despised race and famously immoral.


               Jesus healed the son of a faithful nobleman who had a high social standing. And, Jesus healed a lame beggar with no social standing at all.


               Jesus was approached by Nicodemus and the nobleman; He Himself took the initiative with the Samaritan woman and the lame man.


               In this section, Jesus’ reach extends to the extremes of the moral and religious spectrum.  He was equally interested in people at either end, even in people who showed no interest in Him.


               Perhaps what the signs we see today are saying about Jesus is that there is no one who is outside His target group. No matter where someone may be on the continuum of human decency, spiritual interest, or biblical morality, Jesus is for you.


               With Jesus there is no “us” vs. “them.” We are all “them” and He wants us all to become His glorious, “us.”


               These two signs point to a Jesus who is equally passionate to serve the insider and the outsider. He loves the biblically literate, moral Nicodemus AND the immoral Samaritan woman; the trusting nobleman and his son AND the superstitious lame beggar; you AND everyone you know.


[1] While we aren’t told how old this boy was, by the language used, I would guess that he was a pre-adolescent.

[2] Thirty two years ago, when we became parents, nobody told Kathy and me that we were taking on a lifelong assignment of caring for our children’s welfare, investing in their lives, hurting with their every pain, hoping and rejoicing and weeping with their lives’ up and downs. Our three kids are grown now, but I can confidently say that while active parenting stops at a certain point (and it should), yet the role of father and mother never ends.

[3] As He offered this reproof to these Jews, can we imagine that perhaps at the forefront of His mind was the recent memory of the Samaritans who had responded with childlike trust, and apparently never asked for signs and wonders?

[4] Going down in elevation from Cana to Capernaum, which is on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

[5] This feast is then, likely, either Pentecost (50 days after Passover) or Tabernacles (a fall season harvest festival), or the Feast of Dedication (a winter feast).

[6] We don’t know, today, exactly where the pool of Bethesda was located in first century Jerusalem. But, the text does say that it was near the Sheep Gate, which was very close to the Temple.

[7] Most versions/translations of our English Bible tell us why the people were gathered there. If verses 3b-4 are missing from the normal text of verses in your Bible, they are probably at the bottom of the page or off to the side. They don’t appear in the earliest or best Greek manuscripts.

[8] Thousands of Jews allowed themselves to be butchered in the streets of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes rather than lift a weapon in self-defense on the Sabbath!

[9]According to Rav Yehoshua Y. Neuwirth in a book entitled, Shemirath Shabbath: A Guide to the Practical Observance of Shabbath, modern conservative Judaism is just as strict about Sabbath observances as it was in the first century.

[10] You’ll find that Jesus purposefully chose the Sabbath on many occasions to show His power, and to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the leading Jews.

Jun 22, 2015

Real Talk with Roderick

Doing What Daddy Does (John 5:19-21)


Exegesis (John 5:19-21)

19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.


5:19 The Then Jesus answered (Ἀπεκρίνατο οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς) of John 5:19 introduces the Lord's response to the accusation of sabbath breaking. To understand the answer the reader must look back to prior discussion and in particular the murderous intentions of the religious leaders. His opponents have hurled two charges at the itinerant rabbi: sabbath breaking and blasphemy (John 5:18). But Jesus' response is best seen as being His apologetic for healing a man on the Sabbath and not as directly defending His claim to deity. He does not at this time take up the opportunity to argue His deity but uses the assumption of that truth when battling the censure of healing on the Sabbath.


Most assuredly (ἀμὴν ἀμὴν) reveals the weightiness of the words that follow and the solemn tone that comes with an answer to accusations of being a law breaker. And then Jesus explains the actions that brought on the dispute.


What is His explanation for healing on the Sabbath? Simple: The actions of the only begotten of the Father are also begotten of the Father. In effect, "I cannot do otherwise as I am a Son by nature bound to follow the leading of my Father. People, I am just doing what my Daddy does (John 5:17). My Daddy does not cease from the work of doing amazing good for those in need on the Sabbath." In His defense of His actions Jesus says that He is operating according the leading of His Father and normal living of His Family - the Godhead. The problem is only apparent and results from failing to regard His deity. Or the problem is in the Parent since the Son does not act apart from the Father. "You are upset with me because of what My Father has led me to do. But if you would just calm down and consider the fulness of my identity you would see that there is no blasphemy. ...and I cannot do otherwise."


Can do nothing, nothing at all, denotes not only the dependence of the Son on the Father in His working, the negative side of obedience, nor only His imitation of the Father, the formal side of obedience, but also His working at the motion of the Father. The Father is the limit or the law, the Father is the example, and the Father is also the motive, the impulse of His action. The action of the Son is at every point begotten by the action of the Father. The negative side of the obedience of Christ consists in His being unable to do anything of Himself; the positive side consists in His seeing, His intuitive perception of the initiative of the Father (βλέπειν, comp. chap. 8:38, and ἁφʼἑαυτοῦ chap. 16:13).

Lange, J. P., & Schaff, P. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: John (pp. 187–188). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.


The Jews were perfectly right when in v. 18 they understood that Jesus made himself “equal with God.” This very relation of the Son to the Father makes it simply impossible (οὑ δύναται) that Jesus should do (ποιεῖν, now or ever) anything “of himself,” ἀφʼ ἑαυτοῦ, so that the thing would emanate from him alone and be done by him alone, separate and apart from the Father and thus deviating from and contradictory to the Father’s will—even as the Jews charged that Jesus was breaking God’s Sabbath law. Such a thing is possible for men; even Moses thus did a thing “of himself” (Num. 20:11, 12): but in the case of the Son, since he is the Son, this is absolutely excluded.

Lenski, R. C. H. (1961). The interpretation of St. John’s gospel (p. 379). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House.



5:20 The Father shows the Son His actions with the intent of moving His only begotten to do likewise. In revealing His works to the Son the love of the Father is shown to the Son. In doing the will of the Father in the way of the Father the love of the Son is shown to the Father. Chronologically the hotly debated actions of the Son are always after those of the Father. In this sense His works are begotten of God the Father and reveal what the Father is doing. Never does the Son of God move ahead of the Father. He is a leader that must, out of their relationship, be led. In this sense, for those who can resist the urge to ruthlessly refute strong statements, the Servant is not greater than His Master or the Father is greater than the Son (John 13:16; 14:28).


What Jesus says next is quite remarkable. Instead of trying to downplay the works that are so offensive to the religious leaders He says there are more to come. Who is to blame? Jesus says that the Father is going to show His Son greater works, knowing that imitation is inevitable, with the intent of causing the Son's critics to marvel. Do not miss that the goal of God the Father is not to move them to believe but to being bewildered.


5:21 Finally Jesus provides an example of the principles that He has been presenting. Jesus healed a man of his paralysis. But he also forgave his sin. In the latter work was the raising of the dead and the giving of life and the proof of His claim to be able to forgive sin.



•     Some Jews are so serious about seeing the sin that they cannot hear what the sign is saying. It says Savior.

•     His enemies are so mad about the miracle performed on a man on the Sabbath that they cannot begin to make out the meaning: It means He is Messiah.

•     His foes are so fervent in their zeal to find fault that they have no time to form faith.


Jesus' ministry on earth was not random acts of kindness cut off by His courageous embracing of crucifixion. Whether we see Him turning water into wine (John 2:1-11), healing a man full of leprosy (Luke 5:12-16), raising a man four days dead (John 11:1-44), saving the life of a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), or rebuking the hypocritical leaders of His day (Matthew 23)... His actions were the outworking of the leading and example of His Father.


I have six boys. And I can tell you that a boy's behavior is determined primarily by one thing: the father's example. The son imitates him whether he wants to or not. It is in his nature to fixate on the living of his father or male role model and then start doing what Daddy does. Jesus said as much concerning His own life:


19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. (John 5:19, NKJV)


As Jesus deals with his angry detractors He explains his angst-causing actions as being the consequence of doing what His Daddy does. Dads, if we want to have a helping hand in the raising of men and women that can stand up for good in the face of growing opposition there is nothing better than showing them the way. The homily of our words is not nearly as loud and does not last nearly as long as the sermon said through our works. If we really want to help move our children in the direction of being honorable adults in a crooked and perverse generation we must exemplify honorable adulthood. What does that look like? Here are five things that will go a long way in helping show the way:


1.   Fess Up and Forsake Sin - When you make a mistake make no excuses for it. Confess it and then repent. In the humiliation of confessing your crime and making restitution you will teach courage, humility, and the importance of holiness. Your children will see that integrity means more than image. It means I know that I will be remembered by some as the man who did not always make the right decision. But I am determined to be remembered by sons as the man who always endeavored to live in the light and make it right.

2.   Forgive - Forgive people who fail you. Forgive people who fight you. Forgive your inveterate foes. Do not do it for show but do not fail to show your kids that Daddy is not going to hold grudges or get back at the people that hurt him. But go beyond sentiment and exemplify the character of God by doing something nice for the people that did you wrong. In the forgiving you will cast vision for character and conduct that counters the bitter racism of our own day and that will eventually conquer evil.

3.   Help the Fallen - Be careful but also be intentional in providing real help to those who have screwed up real bad. Never wink at sin. But also never walk away from the person who is willing to change. Let your children see you associate with the fallen in a genuine effort to grieve with them, restore their spirit, and push them back into serving God effectively. (God Almighty, thank you for the saints who did this for me!)

4.   Fight for Family - Generally speaking it is easier to destroy than create. And any fool can find a reason to forsake his family. But it takes real fortitude and faith in God to fight for something that is flawed, feeble, and yet the means by which God raises godly generations. Sometimes Mommy and Daddy will not be able to work it out. But real men have a real role in the raising of their own kids. You cannot be there often? That suck! But be there as much as you can. Christians are always complaining about taking how they are taking "Our Father who art in heaven" out of school. Much more damaging is the father who ain't there at all. Be there as much as you can, man!

5.   Forge Ahead - What does this mean? This means never giving up. This means never giving in.  Because winners never quit and quitters never win. (caveat lector: If you read it right it rhymed.) No matter what happens, Fathers, keep the faith. No matter how many times you fail show your children the excellence of being exceedingly determined to follow Jesus (Micah 7:8; Psalm 37:24; Proverbs 24:16; Job 5:19).


If you do these things there is no guarantee that your children will appreciate it immediately. But one day they will. One day the son that refused to preach will take up the example of his role model. (Thank you, Grandad.) One day the boy that rebelled against your every word will remember your determination to help him succeed... especially through the pain of chastening. One day, without realizing it, lessons that could not be taught will have been caught and your children will find themselves doing what Daddy did.


In His grip by His grace,

Flawed Dad



Jun 17, 2015

Real Talk with Roderick

(Acts 3:1-10)


(Acts 3:1-3)

1 Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; 3 who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms.

3:1 We have seen these two men together in the past. When the Lord is transformed on the mountain Peter and John are there with James. They are together with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. We see them running together to the tomb of Jesus when the women say that the body is missing. And they are together in a boat when Jesus appears to them on the shore after His resurrection. Finally, when Jesus would talk with Peter alone these two men are not entirely separated; the disciple whom Jesus loved was compelled to walk nearby. And so we are not altogether surprised to see that Peter and John will be frequently found together in The Acts of the Apostles (Acts 3:1, 3, 11; 4:13, 19; 8:14).


They are a dynamic duo. Peter tends to be the speaker but John is always there, also with power, supporting the actions and words of his friend and fellow apostle. Their pairing may have been merely the outworking of their friendship. More likely it was also their commitment to the earlier commands and ministry conventions of Christ; He sent them by twos (Luke 10:1). And it is by twos that they are going to pray... and to preach if given an opportunity. It is by twos that Peter and John, still Jews and still practicing Judaism, are going to the second and last offering of the day. It would have been about 3:00 PM.


    The time of the apostles’ visit was the “ninth” hour, three in the afternoon, i.e., the hour of prayer. It was also the time of the evening Tamid, one of the two sacrifices held daily in the temple.3 These had become prescribed times of prayer, and people would come to the temple at the sacrifice times to observe the ceremony and pray.

    Polhill, John B. (1992). The New American Commentary: Acts (Vol. 26, p. 126). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.


    The apostles continued to live as observant Jews, attending the set services of worship in the Jerusalem temple. The two principal daily services accompanied the offering of the morning and evening sacrifices. One afternoon, as two of the apostles, Peter and John,6 went up the steps leading from the outer court to the inner courts,7 in order to be present in the Court of Israel for the service of prayer which accompanied the evening sacrifice (about 3 p.m.),8 they were arrested by the sight of a cripple who lay begging at the “Beautiful Gate.”

    Bruce, F. F. (1988). The Book of the Acts (p. 77). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.


Throughout the narratives of Acts, especially when Peter is present, their will be a problem and a display of apostolic power, a dilemma and a dispensation of spiritual truth, an evil adversary and actions of courage and correction. Get ready!


3:2 Luke introduces another character and thereby the problem: a certain man lame from his mother's womb. In the gospel of John we were introduced to a man with the problem of blindness from birth (John 9:1-7). In that record we are witness to the power of the Lord to help or heal in a way that was (1) unprecedented (John 9:30-33), (2) readily recognized as a sign, and (3) the cause of controversy (John 9). This man, carried to the temple to beg, was laid at gate of notable beauty. As people entered the temple to pray and to observe in reverence the sacrifice many would have had a heart that was prepared to honor God in giving to the poor (Proverbs 19:17; 28:27). This man's placement and timing was aimed at making the most of the moment.


They say that beggars cannot be choosers. However, those that would beg successfully must be careful in choosing the time and place when asking for alms.


It was prime time for receiving alms. The rabbis taught that there were three pillars for the Jewish faith—the Torah, worship, and the showing of kindness, or charity.4 Almsgiving was one of the main ways to show kindness and was thus considered a major expression of one’s devotion to God. With their minds set on worship, those who entered the temple for the evening sacrifice and prayer would be particularly disposed to practice their piety by generously giving alms to a lame beggar.

Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 126). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.


3:3 The man, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked them for a gift. It is certain that he did not expect anything more than financial assistance (Acts 3:5). But for that he had petitioned the wrong men (Acts 3:6).


(Acts 3:4-8)

4 And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” 5 So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” 7 And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. 8 So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God.

Peter's eyes are fixed on the man. Why? Because he has been with Jesus and has learned to look at things differently. Where some will see only the obstacle Peter has learned to see the opportunity. Where some see only the problem Peter has learned to see the possibility. Where some see only a crippled man asking for a handout Peter sees the chance for Christ to provide some help up. The big fisherman can remember leaving the temple with Jesus and coming across a man who was born blind and seeing his Teacher make the most of that moment (John 9:1-11). 


It was not too long ago that his Teacher taught him that the tragedy of a congenital defect can become the triumph of Christ's power on display. This apostle sees that this man's handicap is not a burden but a blessing because the glory of God's ability to help or heal is seen most clearly in the ones that are hopeless or dead.


    The fact that he was born lame makes his healing all the more remarkable (cf. 4:22).

    Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 126). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.


The reference to “the name” is not incidental. In the biblical sense a name is far more than a label. It represents a person and is an extension of that person’s being and personality. To invoke the name of Jesus is to call upon his authority and power.10 In a real sense, then, Jesus through Peter continued his healing ministry. With a healing touch common to miracle narratives, Peter grasped the man’s right hand and lifted him up.

Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 128). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.


Day by day he sat there at the threshold to the place of worship, but he could not enter. He was lame, blemished, and denied access to the inner courts (cf. Lev 21:17–20; 2 Sam 5:8).13 At this time not only had he received physical healing, but he had found spiritual acceptance as well. For the first time he was deemed worthy to enter the house of worship.

Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 128). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.


On the present occasion, the very conduct of the former crippled man was itself a token, to those who had eyes to see, of the advent of the new age.15 Of the new age it had been said long before, “then shall the lame man leap like a hart” (Isa. 35:6).

Bruce, F. F. (1988). The Book of the Acts (p. 79). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.


6 Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert. (Isaiah 35:6, NKJV)


Jun 15, 2015

Northwest Community Evangelical Free Church

(March 1, 2015)

Dave Smith


Sermon Series: THIS Jesus!


Water to WineStudy #1

(John 2:1-11)

Introduction: Searching for the REAL Jesus…

In his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey describes an oil-based painting that hung in the church of his youth. It depicted Jesus with long blonde hair and blue eyes. Jesus is drawn as a shepherd with milky white skin gently holding a small lamb.

Yancey remembers that when he was a child he felt comforted by that image of Jesus. He liked to think of himself as that little lamb, cradled in Jesus’ arms.

From the perspective of adulthood, however, Yancey has come to have a very different “take” on that image. He now refers to it as a “Mister Rogers Jesus,” a Jesus with no hard edges. And, in retrospect, he recognizes that it is neither a very compelling nor a very biblical picture of Jesus.

There are lots of other images of Jesus out there.

A variety of Jesus’...


Some today view Him as a Che Guevara figure who is out to overturn the world’s governments by revolution.

Others see him as less aggressive. In one famous painting, Jesus is pictured knocking on the United Nations building, the Answer to international tensions, if anyone would just let Him in.

Modern opinions of Jesus hold Him to be a either a Galilean charismatic or an unorthodox rabbi, a Pharisee or an anti-Pharisee, an unkempt, radical, counter-cultural misfit or an hallucinogenic leader of a sacred mushroom cult.

There is truly no shortage of ways to view Jesus.

Near the end of John’s Gospel, we read that if all the things that Jesus did were written down, even the world itself would not be able to contain the books (John 21:25). Thousands of books have been written about Jesus - many of them very good books.

But except for a few scant references from the secular writings of His day, we all rely on the same basic source material.  And the best and most reliable source material for learning about Jesus remain the four Gospel accounts found in the New Testament.

And frankly, we wish the Gospels gave us more.


About THIS Jesus...


Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John give us very few details about His family life, childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood.

We don’t have a clue as to His physical appearance - except that He certainly was not a blue-eyed, blonde-haired male with milky white skin. We don’t know His height, weight, or muscularity.

In His lifetime, Jesus spoke to fewer people than have been in any of hundreds of stadiums Billy Graham has filled to preach about Him. And yet, today history divides by “before Christ” and “in the year of our Lord.” Today, people worship and curse in the Name of Jesus.

If you can gauge the size of a ship that has passed by the wake it leaves behind, then the ship of Jesus’ life was, without question, the largest ship in history.


Looking for THIS Jesus...


For every reason we could list, it is worth our while, every once in a while, to clear away the fog, do away with that Jesus and that Jesus and that Jesus and investigate THIS Jesus, the Jesus of the New Testament.

That’s because, of all the reasons to believe in Christianity, He is the most compelling.

It is not evidence for creation. It’s not the increasing  archaeological evidence for Noah’s Ark or for Moses’ Exodus or for the downed walls of Jericho that drives us to embrace the Christian way.

It is the Person of Jesus.

A right understanding of Jesus draws us to faith, while the biggest show-stopper to faith is a faulty view of Jesus.

So, I propose that over the next several Sundays we allow the Apostle John to lead us into the understanding of Jesus he obtained via firsthand exposure. From now through the Sunday after Easter, we’ll be looking for evidence of what Jesus was really like from John’s Gospel.

John’s record of Jesus begins differently from the other three.

Matthew and Luke give us genealogies and birth narratives and the launch of Jesus’ ministry with temptations in the wilderness. Mark skips the birth stories and goes right to the temptations.

The other Gospels give us the Sermon on the Mount, the Transfiguration, and parables. John gives us none of that.

What John does do, however, is give us a very tightly focused picture of Jesus, and He begins at the beginning, the very beginning.

Listen closely to John’s opening. His first words have more in common with Genesis 1 than they do with Matthew 1 or Mark 1 or Luke 1.

Prologue to Consideration of a Saving Lord (John 1:1-51)


The Prologue (vv. 1-18)


Meet “the Word” (vv. 1-5)


[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] He was in the beginning with God.[3] All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. [4] In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. [5] And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.


You and I hear the word “Word” and think, “A word.” Big deal.


But to John’s audience, the “Word” was a very big deal. The world was created by the Word of God. When the prophets thundered their messages, they would often begin, “The Word of the Lord…”


The Word is the communication and the revelation of God.


But John’s Word is more than that. The Word IS God. Not “godly.” Not “god-like.” Not “a god.” GOD. The Almighty.


And, in the Word was life.


Not dependent life, like ours. Independent life. The Word is the source from which all creation draws life.

And the life within the Word serves as a lighthouse, directing us to God’s life.


So John has introduced us to the Word. The Word is an eternal, creative, cosmic life force.


He now brings us in from eternity and infinity, crashing back in to the flesh and blood world of planet earth.


Meet John (vv. 6-8)


[6] There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. [7] He came as a witness, to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. [8] He was not the light, but came to testify about the light.


This is not John the author, the Apostle John, but the other John - John the Baptist. John the Baptist was a untamed and untamable man who dressed in unclean animal skins and ate locusts and honey. He is among the most intriguing characters in the Bible.


He enters the story of Jesus from the deserts to the east of Palestine, calling people to repentance by baptism in the Jordan River.


John was a no-nonsense ascetic. Leather-skinned from exposure to the wilderness and leather-lunged to condemn sin, he was all zeal and thundering passion for God.


John was a man sent from God, but John was not the star of the show. He was the prequel. He came to bear witness of the light that the Word shines into the darkness.


John, the author, shifts back to a focus on the Word now, emphasizing that the Word is a Person.

Meet the God-Man (vv. 9-18)


The rejection of the true Light (vv. 10-11)


[9] There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. [10] HE was in the world, and the world was made through HIM, and the world did not know HIM. [11] HE came to HIS own, and those who were HIS own did not receive HIM.


The transcendent, eternal, creative Word is a Person. And by the time we come to verse 11, we can’t resist the temptation to draw the line between the Word and Jesus!


Jesus came home to the Jews, His own people, who should have welcomed Him the way we welcome returning heroes. By and large they didn’t.


BUT those who did not reject Him found life, abundant, free, and eternal.


The reception of the true Light (vv. 12-14)


[12] But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, [13] who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. [14] And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.


Very briefly we’ve traced the Word’s story from creation (“In the beginning was the Word…”), to a birth at Bethlehem when the light first shined (“the Word became flesh”) to Calvary where the light was rejected.


John’s Prologue gives us the heart of the Christian faith, and it is this: That the Word of God took on flesh for our salvation, in the Person of Jesus.


During the three years John spent as an apostle of Jesus, He lived with the Word. He walked the streets of Nazareth with the Word. He watched the Word’s healing hands at work and he heard the Word’s life-giving message.


When we think of seeing God’s glory, we may think of visions and miracles and spectacular shows of power. John says that in all human history, the glory of God was most clearly seen during the thirty three years of Jesus’ life when He lived “in the flesh.”


And THIS that we now read is the vision the Apostle John wants us to take forward into our exploration of Jesus.


Grace upon grace… (vv. 15-18)


[15] John testified about Him, and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.” [16] For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. [17] For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. [18] No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.


Anyone who believes in Jesus receives grace upon grace upon grace upon grace, wave upon unending wave of grace, from God.


On the day you trusted in Jesus for your salvation and passed from darkness into light, God gave you the gift of grace. The angels were jumping up and down, shouting, “He is forgiven! He is forgiven!!”


And on every day that follows, when you sin, because you are child of God through faith in Christ, the angels continue to shout, “He is forgiven! He is forgiven!!”


The wonder of grace never fades because we remember the enormous problem that our sin caused and the lengths to which God went to solve our problem.


He sent His only begotten Son, the eternal Word, to earth to be clothed in flesh and to offer Himself as a sacrifice on a Roman cross so that we could become children of God.


That’s John’s opening salvo, his Prologue. He continues the story of Jesus, tracing the most private season of Jesus’ early public life.


After Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River, He began to collect disciples.


These first disciples included two from among the ranks of John the Baptist’s disciples, one of whom was Andrew. Then Andrew brought his brother, Simon (Peter), who followed Jesus. Then Jesus found Philip, who followed. Philip brought along Nathanael, who also followed.


So, by the time we come to the end of John’s first chapter, Jesus had five disciples.


The next chapter, where we’ll spend the remainder of our time today, begins with a time stamp (“on the third day” - i.e. the third day after the baptism), a place stamp (“in Cana of Galilee”), and an event stamp (“there was a wedding”).


The action takes place in the northern part of Palestine, in the region of Galilee, at the tiny town of Cana. Cana was a village located a few miles north of Nazareth (the city in which Jesus grew up) out on the plains mid-way between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean.


Transforming Water Into Wine (vv. 1-10)


A Wedding (vv. 1-2)


[1] And on the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there, [2] and both Jesus  and His disciples were invited to the wedding.


Wedding guests


You would not likely have found John the Baptist at a wedding. He was a man more given to fasting than to feasting.


But it’s not strange to find Jesus there. Trace Jesus’ life through the Gospels and you’ll often find Him at parties and celebrations.


I have wondered if Andrew, the former follower of John the Baptist who was now following Jesus, might have had some difficulty with his new Rabbi’s willingness to eat, drink, and party.


John and his disciples would have never been invited to a party or to a wedding. Jesus was, evidently, exactly the kind of guy you would want at a wedding celebration.


Not that Jesus was some wild party animal. Only that nobody would have thought, “Oh, don’t invite Jesus. He’s such a wet blanket.”


Jesus was no grim-faced ascetic. He brought joy and abundant life.


Those who were hosting this wedding feast knew that Jesus and His followers either had family or friendly relations with the bride or the groom, so they invited them.



In ancient Israel, weddings generally took place late in the day and often after dark so that the processions through the city streets would be lit by impressive torchlight.


The wedding event itself would begin with a parade of the groom and his friends to the home of the bride.


Once at her home, wedding guests would give speeches and toast the couple. Then the wedding party would walk to the groom’s house.


There, they would hold a brief religious ceremony, to be followed by the reception and a wedding feast.


By the time we are brought into this scene, the wedding is over and the reception is on.


Unlike our wedding receptions, though, which may last for some hours, a Jewish wedding feast might last for up to a week. This one had been going on for some time when a problem - a big problem - hits.


A Wedding Crisis (vv. 3-5)


Mary’s motherly remark to Jesus (v. 3)


[3] When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”


In the first century - and actually throughout biblical history - wine was a staple of the Jewish diet.


There have always been warnings against drunkenness, of course. But wine was a welcomed part of any celebration.


The guests at a wedding would taste the wine as they traveled from house to house. Sometimes, the couple would drink wine to seal their vows. And, at the reception (again, sometimes lasting for days), wine was served.


At this wedding in Cana, they have run out of wine. There is no telling WHY they ran out of wine, but THAT they ran out of wine was a serious problem. It was a breach of etiquette to stop serving wine.


When the wine runs out, the party’s over. When the wine runs out, the hosts have egg all over their faces. I read in one source that the couple could have actually been sued over the lack of wine.


So, this was a very sobering situation (sorry), and Mary let her Son, Jesus, know about it. It was, after all, only natural for Mary to look to Jesus at a time like this. She, of all people, knew who He really was and that He could do something about it.


While others may have had their doubts about Jesus’ identity, Mary was the one person who knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was the Son of God.


She had given birth to other children after Jesus. Those conceptions were quite normal. Only Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.


Mary has been waiting a long time, all of Jesus’ life, thirty years by this time, for her Son to reveal His true identity. To this point He has not performed a miracle. This would surely have been a convenient time for Him to do something.

And Jesus had a response to give to His mother.


Jesus: “Lady, I know My business.” (4)


[4] And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.”


By those words, Jesus made a dramatic turn in His relationship with His mother. No longer is she the one to whom He submits. He’s not her “little boy.” Now, He is in control, and He’s not taking orders from Mom.


His message is, “My timetable is My own. I’ll handle this. I don’t need your wisdom, your prompting, your suggestions or your nudges.”


When Jesus said these things, Mary graciously accepted her new role in her Son’s life. He is now her Lord - and she promptly spoke to the servants at the wedding.


Mary:  “Servants - do His bidding!” (5)


[5] His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”


Now it might have appeared to us that when Jesus said, “My hour has not yet come” He was refusing to take action. Not so.


He was simply refusing to act on anyone’s timetable but His own. He will perform His first miracle when He has decided that it is time.


My own sense is that Jesus had not gone to the wedding intending to identify Himself as the miracle-working Son of God.  But He chose to do what He will now do in response to a need - and it won’t be the last time that Jesus alters His plans to meet someone else’s pressing need.


Mary seemed to know her Son well enough to know that He was going to do something and so she put the servants on notice that Jesus is, now, in charge. He is going to be giving them orders.


A Wedding Miracle (vv. 6-10)


The vessels for the miracle (v. 6)


[6] Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each.


In the home where the wedding reception was being held there were six stone waterpots holding a total of at least one hundred and twenty gallons of water.


These were very large and heavy containers, not the kinds of pitchers that people would carry around. They were kept out of view of the guests and held water that was used for ceremonial hand-washing.


The Jews of Jesus’ day took great pains to avoid ritual uncleanness. One rabbinic book of the first century has multiple chapters on how and when a person was to wash his or her hands.


Seeing these large containers, Jesus spoke to the servants.


Jesus’ really unappetizing instructions (vv. 7-8)


Fill the waterpots (v. 7)


[7] Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim.


So, quick. What do you think was going through the minds of the servants when they heard this command?

I suspect that they were confused. They were wondering what in the world this Jesus guy has in mind.


It was their job to keep the waterpots sufficiently filled for various hand-washings, but now they have to fill them, and that’s going to be a job.


If you’ve ever had to haul water, you know that this would have taken some time and some effort. But they did what Jesus commanded and filled them all up to the brim.


Then, He gave His next command, which probably caused the servants to turn queasy.


Present it to the headwaiter (v. 8)


[8] And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the headwaiter.”


The headwaiter at this wedding was the one responsible for tasting the wine before it was served. So why in the world would Jesus want the servers to take the hand-washing water to him?


That water was fine for washing hands, but it wasn’t suitable for drinking. It wasn’t potable.


When I went camping to West Texas a couple of weeks ago, my brother-in-law and I were hiking up a stream bed in a canyon. The canyon actually had flowing water that looked crystal clear, like you could just kneel down and drink.


We knew better. On a previous trip up this same canyon we had found that some wild donkeys (donkeys, by the way, who had a very diminished sense of personal hygiene) had made a filthy mess of the creek just upstream. The water wasn’t potable and we weren’t about to drink without treating or boiling it.


Of course first century Jews didn’t know about microscopic pathogens in water, but they did know that there was drinkable water and there was undrinkable water.

The water in the stone pots was not suitable for drinking - but Jesus had just told them to serve some of it to the headwaiter.


They must have thought, “I know what Mary said, but this Guy can’t be serious! When the headwaiter finds out it is only water - and that it is THAT water, he’ll have our jobs, or worse.”


Not one of the servants had a clue as to what Jesus was up to. He didn’t wave His arms over the waterpots. He didn’t issue a command to the water to turn into wine. He never touched the water or the pots. As far as they know, Jesus was instructing them to serve hand-washing water to the boss.


But, obey Jesus they did. They filled the waterpots. They dipped pitchers into the water. They walked over to their boss, dreading what was going to happen when he took a drink.


But as they poured from the pitcher to his drinking goblet, he and the servants saw not the dirty water they had poured in, but the deep blush of aged wine!


The headwaiter is impressed (vv. 9-10)


[9] When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom [10] and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.”


He is not impressed with the miracle, because he didn’t know that a miracle had taken place. He’s impressed with the quality of the wine.


There is no response recorded from the bride, the groom or the guests because what had really happened wasn’t widely known.


This miracle was like a lot of my jokes. Subtle. My jokes are often so subtle that nobody gets them. And nobody “got” this miracle, either, because Jesus did it under the radar.


He could have been dramatic about it. He could have waved His hands, muttered an incantation, and then presented the headwaiter with the water-turned-wine, Himself.


But He didn’t do that. Jesus minimized the exposure of His power in this first miracle so that the only ones who “got it” were His disciples.


And that explains the punch line, the point, of this water-to-wine event. John doesn’t wrap up with, “And they lived happily ever after”, but this:


[11] This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.


Of all the responses they might have had, they believed.


They certainly might have become afraid of Him. They might have been impressed with Him. They might have sought to use Him (after all, someone who could do magic tricks could come in pretty handy.)


Instead, they believed in Him. They came to trust in Him more than they had before.


The end game of God’s work in the lives of Jesus’ followers is always that we would trust Him and our faith would grow.


So, the bottom line of this episode in the life of Jesus is what it says about Jesus. It is a “sign”, John tells us, pointing to something beyond itself.

It was a sign that shouted, “Trust Jesus! He is more than man. He is the God-man who can do what only God can do.”


Yes, this “sign” signals that Jesus is trustworthy. But as I have thought about the wedding in Cana this week, I have wondered if this sign signaled something else.



Think of all the miracles Jesus performed and you’ll find that there is more often than not an element of genuine, deep, human need.


A crowd is really, really hungry; a little girl is at the point of death; a blind beggar is desperate to see; a demon-oppressed man needs freedom.


Here, there is none of that. The only pain likely to be caused by the absence of wine at this wedding is the pain of embarrassment. So why do it? Let’s read this sign carefully to see what it says.


Jesus turned hand-washing water into fine wine. He started with a most common element - H2O - made morecommon by its purpose (wash water), and transformed it into something noble.


THAT water was the very picture of drudgery and legalistic formalism. Jesus made it tasty. He took something that symbolized a pain and made it a pleasure.


That’s what Jesus does. He takes the ordinary and makes it shine.


He took plain and common people like Simon Peter, Andrew and Nathanael and Philip and turned them into courageous apostles whose lives were transformed by a transcendent purpose.


He’s doing the same thing today with you and me.

Now, I am a no-big-deal, hand-washing-water kind of a guy. I do very normal things. My job happens to be at a church, but I go to work every day, like you. I love my family, like you. I exercise, read, take out the trash, go camping, do yardwork, drive, eat. Just like you.


But because of Jesus, my everyday, ordinary, H2O life is layered with transcendent meaning and purpose. Same for you.


Jesus infuses every activity with richness. Every interaction with someone holds potential for a God break-through. Every event brings an invitation to pray to Almighty God. All day we are “on mission” for Jesus’ Great Commission.


And our H2O lives have become fine wine, transformed by the same Jesus who built faith into the first disciples at Cana.


And if you are doubtful that Jesus could ever or would ever do this with you, consider this “sign” one final time.


Remember that the headwaiter at the wedding wasn’t impressed that he was tasting wine. He expected to taste wine. He was impressed that the wine was so tasty. He expected poorer quality. Jesus created a better quality of wine than would have been expected at the tail end of a feast.


And how much wine was created? It was between one hundred and twenty and one hundred and eighty gallons. For the end of wedding feast in a tiny village. One hundred and eighty gallons of wine. Really?


That’s waaaay more than would have been required. But Jesus went overboard (just like He went overboard in the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000 by providing more than enough food) to show that it is His desire and plan to bless and to transform extravagantly.


His grand plan is to make of you such a stunning and impactful player in His kingdom that people will look at you and say, “Look at what God has made out of her! Look at how God has used him!”


The same Jesus who turned hand-washing water into fine wine in Cana is actively at work, transforming you.

Jun 12, 2015

Real Talk is a mission of providing people with the help they need to live effectively. Listen in as we take a moment to share the vision.


In His grip by His grace,

Roderick L. Barnes, Sr.

Jun 7, 2015

Real Talk with Roderick

Stuff Just Got Real (Acts 2:40-47)


Real Faith (Acts 2:40-42; Luke 9:41; 11:29)

40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

The message of Peter did not end with the words of Acts 2:38-39.  He went on at length pressing people for a decision. How did the fisher of men do this? He testified. In the many other words were declarations of what he and the other apostles had seen, had heard, and had handled with their own hands (Matthew 17:1-9; John 20:26-28; 1 John 1:1). In the many other words there were no doubt mentions of the many infallible proofs (Acts 1:3) that had served to convince the apostles that Jesus was risen from the dead with authority and power. Peter pressed the issue of salvation by clearly communicated the facts surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. In doing this he worked to convince the convicted listeners to do something.


How did the fisher of men press? He exhorted them. Merely making the truth known was not enough. The Spirit-led proclamation was also an impassioned call to believe and be baptized: "Be saved from this perverse generation." There was summons in his sermon. It was an in-your-face beseeching and an unapologetic characterization of the those who would not hear and heed the call to repentance. The man had become like his Master and now preached like him; Jesus had already named the people of that time Perverse Generation.

  • 41 Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” (Luke 9:41, NKJV)
  • 27 And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” 28 But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” 29 And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. (Luke 11:27-32, NKJV)


As hard as it was to hear it was a message of mercy and hope. In it God was extending His hand yet one more time to the very people that had killed his Son.


    But there was a way of deliverance from the judgment which such faithlessness must inevitably incur. The deliverance of which Joel (Joel 2:28-32) had spoken was to be enjoyed by a remnant of the whole people; so now Peter urged his hearers to make sure, by a repentant calling on the Lord, that they belonged to this remnant and saved themselves from that perverse generation.

    Bruce, F. F. (1988). The Book of the Acts (p. 72). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.


Those who accepted the apostolic admonition of Peter responded immediately in the obedience of believer's baptism (Acts 2:41). They knew that it was not enough to agree with Peter or attend prayer meetings.

  • Intellectual ascension alone is insufficient as an appropriate response to the calling of God. Saving faith moves us to more than just accepting the facts of the gospel. Beyond the confession of my need for a Savior and the acknowledgement of the salvation that has come in Jesus Christ I must appropriate the provision of God by choosing to trust in Him.
  • Inveterate attendance alone is insufficient as an appropriate response to the calling of God. Saving faith motivates a man to more than the keeping of a Christian calendar. If the rebel's response does not come with obedience he has not come at all and his confidence in Christ may be nothing more than the stuff of demons (James 2:19). The first sign of this surrendered life is seen in the act of public baptism.


Real Fear and Real Fellowship (Acts 2:43-45)

43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

Signs and wonders had been done by the Spirit through Jesus (Luke 4:14-19) and were now being done by the Spirit through the apostles (Acts 2:43). This is what the prophet Joel had, by the Spirit, predicted (Joel 2:30; Acts 2:19). Seeing the signs and wonders produced a reverent fear among the people.


    The former signs said that Jesus is both Savior  and Lord; they were the credentials of Christ. These latter signs say that the apostles are sent by Jesus and that their words should be heeded as His words; respect is due. Godly fear or reverence manifest in respect is the appropriate response when we in the presence of heaven-sent authority.


Luke now tells the reader that the fellowship was not characterized by cowering before the apostles and morbid fear of their decisions. He says that it was a community of caring, of sharing possessions, and bearing one another burdens.


    Real fellowship is seen not in merely sitting together on Sunday but also in relevant expressions of love Monday through Saturday. It is more than singing songs and saying Amen in the theatrical pauses of self-absorbed preaching. It must meet needs! 


Real Favor (Acts 2:46-47) 

46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Do not miss the fact that daily life for the new church involved unity in the fellowship (with one accord), the regular practice of communion (breaking bread from house to house), and worship (praising God). Their unity, solemn meal, and regular worship were enough to make people notice. In fact, though some would not join their growing number, they recognized their fellowship as being good and looked upon it with favor.


Jun 1, 2015

Real Talk with Roderick

Cut to the Heart (Acts 2:14-39)

12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Above the sound of the ecstatic utterances Peter has heard the marveling and mocking of the men who have come to investigate (Acts 2:12-13). Standing with the other eleven apostles Peter begins to deliver a message where he will explain the sign, expand his sermon to focus on the Son of David, and exhort the hearers toward salvation through faith in Jesus. There is a boldness in him as he raises his voice (Acts 2:14). But it is not based in the type of arrogance that moves a self-absorbed man to speak because he feels self-entitled to the attention of other men. It is not an arrogance but a confidence in Christ and an outworking of a commitment to fulfill the commission.  The years of being mentored, the time spent praying,  and the pouring out of the Spirit have now come together in him to produce the kind of preaching that changes the world.