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Now displaying: April, 2016
Apr 26, 2016

Real Talk with That Guy

What Do I Do? (Acts 5:22-32)

Introduction

There are times in life when it is unclear what we should do. Should we take the job or not take the job? She we buy the house or not buy the house? Should we try to adopt a child or not try to adopt a child? Should I marry this person or not marry this person? Should I put solar panels on my home and learn more about conservation or not put solar panels on my home... and not learn about conservation? In such times it is more than moderately helpful to review our corporate and personal why. Our why is always more important than our what. A clear understanding of why we exist and why God has called us to Himself is often enough guidance for the formulation a plan of action that will find heaven's approval. If you are unsure about what to do in the face of increasing personal difficulty, growing opposition, a motley crew of options, or mixed emotions about your situation this message is going to help.

 

Lost Their Way (Acts 5:22-24)

22 But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, 23 saying, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!” 24 Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be.

Previously in our study of Acts we saw the apostles being arrested... again (Acts 5:17-18). Their open defiance of the mandate not to talk about Jesus (Acts 4:17) had run its course. The religious authorities, hearing that these unapproved religious upstarts were still in the temple teaching Jesus and resurrection was too much; the Sadducees came unglued. Among the people making the arrest was the high priest himself.

 

But after they were unlawfully incarcerated they receive a Get Out of Jail Free from an angel of the Lord (Acts 5:19). And the heavenly messenger, in case they were wondering what to do, reminded them:

 

Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life. (Acts 5:20)

 

And so the apostles have continued in the rabble rousing what of proclaiming salvation in Jesus name even when it carries with it the promise of prison. The authorities are now ready to retrieve the criminals and review their crimes. But there is problem.

 

The officers went as instructed to retrieve the rogue rabbis and could not find them. Imagine the looks on their faces and the questions they asked among themselves. "This is the jail right?" "Did someone post bail last night?" "How did you not see 12 grown men leave through a single door?" "Who unlocked the door?" "This is obviously an attempt to make us look bad. Seriously, who locked the door after all of the prisoners had been released?" In their report were the following facts:

 

  • Prison Shut Securely - They locks were all intact and the doors were shut.
  • Posted Guards - They guards were at their posts. In fact they were standing at their posts. None of this sitting at a monitor business.
  • Positively Empty - The prisoners' whereabouts is a mystery. But we do know where they are not.

 

The effect upon the leadership was immediate and profound. Only hours ago they had been confident of what to do and how to do it: (1) get the perpetrators, (2) put the perpetrators in prison, (3) conduct a "trial" and condemn them, and then (4) find a way to get rid of them. The word used to describe their state of mind (διαπορέω (diaporeō) - be at a loss) indicates that they were completely confused or thoroughly perplexed. When we see this word in Scripture it is always used to convey the idea that a person has no idea what to do:

 

  • Luke 9:7 - Seeing the miracles of the Messiah the tetrarch Herod is confounded. Is it John that was beheaded at work through this Man?
  • Acts 2:12 - The wonder of tongues was overwhelming. How is it that people who can't speak their language are speaking the native tongue of everyone else?
  • Acts 10:17 - Why would the Lord tell Peter in a vision to eat things formerly considered unclean? Peter cannot make heads or tails of the vision.

 

The inability to understand or forge ahead is rooted in a loss of identity.

 

Religious leaders who are devoted to glorifying themselves cannot find peace or function properly when confronted by genuine glory. Their angst and anxieties are only amplified by the anticipation of His appearing (Matthew 2:1-3). And they cannot be happy when hearing His name on the lips of His people (Matthew 21:9-15). In getting away from their why they lose their way.

 

Resistance is Futile (Acts 5:24-26)

25 So one came and told them, saying, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” 26 Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned.

Even as the Sadduccees are reeling with the unsettling news about the empty prison there comes in more news that must have made some of them realize that they were not accomplishing anything by fighting against this faith (Acts 5:33-39). The "So" of this verse does not translate a word normally used to introduce a logical conclusion but rather a connected idea. Luke wants his readership to see that the message of this latter messenger is to be viewed with the news of the empty prison. Seen together they say that the war on His witnesses is irrelevant.

 

In the light of the apostles great and growing support the captain went with the officers but was careful to bring them without violence. There is no mention of fear in the apostles. However their adversaries are now beginning to feel unsafe as they harass these men of God.

 

What Is Going On? (Acts 5:27-28)

27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”

The apostles are conducted to the council chamber and set before the convened group - the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:27). The high priest begins with a rhetorical question. It is the type of interrogative that is presented not because the person asking is unaware of the answer but because they are wanting to bring the answer to the fore of thinking. Sometimes it is used for dramatic effect; the question draws attention to a fact for the sake of a point that is going to be made. This is the intent of the high priest. He is making much drama out of the defiant actions of the apostles. He is taking issue with two whats.

 

First, although the edict against evangelism was clearly articulated, the city of Jerusalem is now filled with their teaching about Jesus. The command against teaching in Jesus' name was not a suggestion. It was a strict command. And yet the what of witnessing keeps happening.

 

Second, beyond teaching a doctrine that the Sadduccees do not support there is the matter of the ongoing indictment: the religious leaders are murderers. They are guilty of the blood of an innocent Man - the Messiah Himself. But this what is the outworking of their own evil actions. And their actions are proof positive of what Jesus had said so many times during his ministry - they are murderers (Matthew 23:35; John 7:19; John 8:37, 40, 44).

 

24 When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” 25 And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.” (Matthew 27:24-25)

 

When We Are Witnesses (Acts 5:29-32)

29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

 

An Old Testament prophet had called the people of Israel to be God’s witnesses in the world (Isa. 43:10; 44:8); the task which Israel had not fulfilled was taken on by Jesus, the perfect Servant of the Lord, and shared by him with his disciples. The close relation between God’s call to Israel, “you are my witnesses,” and the risen Lord’s commission to his apostles, “you will be my witnesses,” can be appreciated the more if we consider the implications of Paul’s quotation of Isa. 49:6 in Acts 13:47.32 There the heralds of the gospel are spoken of as a light for the Gentiles, bearing God’s salvation “to the end of the earth”; here “the end of the earth” and nothing short of that is to be the limit of the apostolic witness.

Bruce, F. F. (1988). The Book of the Acts (p. 36). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

 

Questions for Discussion

  • What are the decisions that I am struggling with today? What are the actions that I am considering?
  • Am I comfortable with my identity as a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ?
  • If I accept my identity (my why) what bearing does it have on my actions (my what and my how)?
Apr 23, 2016

Mark 11New King James Version (NKJV)

The Triumphal Entry

11 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage[a] and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples; and He said to them, “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it.And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.”

So they went their way, and found the[b] colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it. But some of those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, loosing the colt?”

And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded. So they let them go. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:

“Hosanna!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’[c]
10 Blessed is the kingdom of our father David
That comes in the name of the Lord![d]
Hosanna in the highest!”

11 And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple. So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve.

The Fig Tree Withered

12 Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.”

And His disciples heard it.

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

15 So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?[e] But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”[f]

18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching. 19 When evening had come, He went out of the city.

The Lesson of the Withered Fig Tree

20 Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.”

22 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

Forgiveness and Prayer

25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”[g]

Apr 23, 2016

Acts 10New King James Version (NKJV)

Cornelius Sends a Delegation

10 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!”

And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?”

So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.[a] He will tell you what you must do.” And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa.

Peter’s Vision

The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance 11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him,“Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”

14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”

15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” 16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.

Summoned to Caesarea

17 Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate. 18 And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there.

19 While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you. 20 Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.”

21 Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius,[b] and said, “Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?”

22 And they said, “Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you.” 23 Then he invited them in and lodged them.

On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him.

Peter Meets Cornelius

24 And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends.25 As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. 28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?”

30 So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour[c] I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.[d] When he comes, he will speak to you.’ 33 So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.”

Preaching to Cornelius’ Household

34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all— 37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39 And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they[e] killed by hanging on a tree. 40 Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. 43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”

The Holy Spirit Falls on the Gentiles

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. 45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.

Then Peter answered, 47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

Apr 6, 2016

Northwest Community Evangelical Free Church

(March 22, 2014)

Dave Smith

Sermon manuscript

Sermon series: THIS Jesus

 

 

Sight to the Blind                                                                           Study #4

(John 9)

 

Introduction: A question that clarifies…

                Some time ago I was talking with a friend on a hiking trail. We were on Day Three of a multi-day backpacking trip, and this friend was at something of a crossroads in his spiritual life.

                Good talks often happen no the trail and I was listening to him express doubts and wonderings about life and God.

                When there was a silence I took the opportunity to ask a question that I hoped would help bring some clarity. We had been talking about what would be a sufficiently grand ideal or idea or value to live for.

                So I asked, “What would you be willing to die for?”

                That question sent my friend for a loop. Frankly, the question rocks me back on my heels, too. It is a challenging question and I ask it of myself pretty regularly.

                A few minutes ago you and I watched a video that highlighted the sufferings of some of our Christian family. We watched as twenty one men sang hymns of praise to God before going to their deaths for their faith in Christ.

 

                After viewing that, we almost can’t help but ask ourselves, “For what would I be willing to die?”

 

                Those men were willing to die for Jesus.

 

                Not the nice Jesus of popular culture, not “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.”

 

                No. They were willing to die for the Jesus who is revealed on the pages of the New Testament. THIS God-in-the-flesh, wonder-working, loving, courageous Jesus. It was THIS Jesus for whom they lived and for whom they died.

 

                Signs aplenty...

 

                During these weeks leading up to Easter, we are viewing signs that Jesus performed, signs recorded in the Gospel of John. All of these signs advertise something about Him and His ways.

 

                We’ve seen signs that include turning water into wine and a couple of healings, multiplying food and walking on water.

 

                The text we are going to explore today shows us Jesus performing another sign.

 

                Today’s sign, like all the signs do, advertises His power. On a strictly physical level, He performs a miracle that defies all medical explanation.

 

                But He is going to follow up that physical miracle with its spiritual counterpart. That He is able to do THAT amazing work assures us that He is worth both living and dying for.

 

                When we catch up with Jesus today, He is in Jerusalem, having just walked through a crowd of people who were poised to stone Him to death.

 

                Of the action that follows, we are given very few details. Aside from the fact that it is in Jerusalem, we don’t know where the incident we are about to see occurs.

 

                Most scholars place this event about six months out from the crucifixion, putting it in the September/October time frame. But we really don’t know for sure exactly when it happened.

 

                As He was walking, Jesus saw something that caught His eye. He saw a man who had never seen anything.

 

Opens the Eyes of the Blind (9:1-12)


Blindness: The Dead-End of the “Cause” Question (vv. 1-5)

 

                Jesus SAW the blind man (v. 1)

 

                [1] As he passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.

 

                This man’s world was the world of the blind. Hearing, taste, touch, and smell were all intact. But he had never seen the face of his parents or sisters or brothers or friends. He had never seen a sunset, or a nighttime sky. He’d never seen the Temple or a Passover lamb.

 

                The World Health Organization tells us that today, there are over 39 million people who are blind and 285 million who suffer with compromised vision of some sort.

 

                Problems with sight can develop due to all kinds of causes, including cataracts and glaucoma, diabetes, and macular degeneration, to name only a few.

 

                One of the most touching times our team experienced during a 2012 missions trip to Kenya was the time we spent with blind children who had developed problems with sight. Blindness is a huge problem in East African children, due in large part to a simple deficiency of Vitamin A.

 

                My brother-in-law, Don Kerr, suffered a general optical neuropathy over fifteen years ago that the doctor’s still can’t explain.

 

                First sight in one eye went away; then, most of the sight in the other. Don is now virtually blind, in addition to many other ailments that plague him. But before he went blind, he had been able to see.

 

                The man Jesus has just passed by, though, had never seen anything. He had been blind from birth and he would have made his way in the world by begging, which was about the only way blind people in ancient times and in many places today can make ends meet.

 

                Jesus and His disciples passed by this man. The twelve were intrigued by his condition, so they asked Jesus a question.

 

                Theology 101 (vv. 2-3)

 

                                The disciples assume sin’s causality (v. 2)

 

                [2] And His disciples asked Him, saying, “‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”[1]

 

                Their question sounds Hindu-ish, because the Hindu says that if you see someone who is suffering, you can know that they lived badly in a previous life.

 

                The idea in Hinduism is that the moral universe is a zero-sum game. One piece of suffering is the result of one bad action by somebody somewhere. It is a convenient and simple explanation of suffering and evil in the world.

 

                Jesus’ disciples (who weren’t at all closet Hindus) reveal by their question how tempting it is to think in terms of moral cause and effect. One sin translates to one suffering.

 

                It’s tempting for us, today, to think that way, too. But it’s wrong-headed thinking.

 

                We don’t wonder, after someone has died on a slick South Texas road, what they or their parents did wrong to require such cosmic payback.

 

                We don’t walk through the cancer ward of Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital and ask what sin this child or her parents committed.

 

                The moral universe is NOT a zero-sum game. There is not a neat one-to-one correspondence between sin and suffering. The Bible doesn’t play the “sin card” every time someone suffers - and Jesus doesn’t play it here, either.

 

                                Jesus jumps to God’s great effects (v. 3)

 

                [3] Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

 

                Of course, Jesus would agree that some suffering is the result of personal sin. But the suffering of this blind man was not the direct result of his own sin or of the sin of his parents.

 

                Jesus’ answer moves us away from speculation about causality. He wants His disciples - and us! - to think of suffering in some way other than as a  part of a cosmic blame game or as a brain teaser.

 

                He wants us to think of suffering’s redemptive potential and of God’s power to bring personal wholeness out of personal brokenness.

 

                Then Jesus turned from His disciples to the blind man.

 

Blindness: Jesus Eye-to-Eye with a Blind PERSON (vv. 6-7)

 

                A messy healing (v. 6)

 

                [6] When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes

 

                Imagine the thoughts running through the blind man’s mind as - as SURPRIZE! - Jesus applied spit-moistened clay to his eyes.

 

                “What’s this? No! Someone is rubbing mud in my eyes!”

 

                Maybe he’s been the victim of unsuccessful and messy healing attempts before. Maybe he’s been the victim of bullying and ridicule. It may be that he thinks someone is making fun of him.

 

                Whatever his thoughts, with the mud applied, Jesus gave the blind man marching orders.

 

                Marching orders (v. 7a)

 

                [7a] and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” (which is translated Sent)

 

                And off the man went, stumbling his way to the pool of Siloam, a stone-lined pond somewhere nearby in the old city of Jerusalem.

 

                When he walked away from Jesus he was blind. His walk to the pool was a walk by faith, not sight.

 

                By faith the man walked and by faith the man washed. Then, with the mud gone from his eyes, he opened his eyes. And, for the first time in his life, his eyes work!

 

                Washed and well! (v. 7b)

 

                [7b] So he went away and washed, and came back seeing.

 

                We are not to understand that there was any healing power in the mud or in the pool’s water. The means do not explain the miracle. Jesus’ power - and that alone - explains the miracle.

 

                He could see the pavement he walked on and the trees that shaded him. He could see the faces of friends he had known for years.

 

                I would have loved to have seen him walking back. He’s probably never walked all that steadily, due to his blindness. He may still have the blind man’s cautious, shuffling gait.

 

                But his eyes are feasting on everything he sees as he makes his way back to the place where he had encountered Jesus.

 

                This sign shouts Jesus’ power.

 

                 The Lord didn’t miraculously scrape off a cataract or reverse the effects of glaucoma. He connected an optic nerve that had never been connected and trained synapses to fire that had never fired and taught nerves to send signals to the brain of what the eyes now, for the first time ever, saw.

 

                This was a display of God-sized power, poured out on an unsuspecting blind man because Jesus simply takes pleasure in bestowing grace on needy people.

 

                When this formerly blind man returned from the pool of Siloam to his familiar begging spot, I’m sure that he was looking for his Healer.

                But that one Voice he would have known above all others was gone. He had not seen Jesus and Jesus has now retreated to the sidelines.

                The healed man, though, is thrust right into the spotlight. We listen as John records the responses of a few people to the miracle. And I’ll just warn you. Their responses are kinda odd.

 

Closed Minds from the Sighted Blind (vv. 8-34)

 

The Neighbors: “It’s hard to say…” (vv. 8-12)

 

                A case of mistaken identity (vv. 8-9)

 

                [8] Therefore, the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, “Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?” [9] Others were saying, “This is he,” still others were saying, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the one.”

 

                These friends and neighbors have watched this man beg for years. Now, they are doubting their own senses of sight because he has gained his. For them, simply seeing the man see was NOT believing.

 

                Rather than embrace the obvious miracle, they figured  they were looking at the man’s heretofore unknown identical twin brother.

 

                Well, finally, someone who did see that he was the [formerly] blind man, asked the man himself to explain how he had come to see.

 

                A case of a curious healing (vv. 10-12)

 

                [10] So they were saying to him, “How then were your eyes opened?” [11] He answered, “The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’  So I went away and washed, and I received sight.”

 

                He likely doesn’t know much about Jesus. But he did know that it was Jesus who had given him his sight.[2] But he wasn’t out to preach a sermon. He didn’t have an axe to grind. He just answered the question.

 

                When they then asked him, [12] “Where is He?” he had to admit, “I do not know.”

                So confusion reigns. Nobody is exactly certain what has happened.

 

                And at the height of all this confusion, some genius among the crowd of friends and neighbors suggested that they do what was always a good idea: “Hey, let’s go see the Pharisees!”

 

The Pharisees: “You and Jesus are sinners…” (vv. 13-34)

 

                The Pharisees’ opinions about Jesus (vv. 13-17)

 

                                Polite questioning (vv. 13, 15a)

 

                This meeting between the Pharisees and the formerly blind man began friendly enough.

 

                Pharisees were among the religious heavyweights of ancient Israel and, at first, were polite in their questioning.

 

                [13] They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind…[15a] Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight.”

 

                So here, for the second time, the man recounts the story of how he came to see.

 

                                Courteous answering (v. 15b)

 

                [15b] And he said to them, “He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”

 

                It’s a consistent story. He’s telling the truth and all seems well.

 

                But all is not well because of a detail John provides. Because of this detail, there arises a difference of opinion among the Pharisees about the significance of what has happened.

 

 

 

                                Pharisaic division (vv. 14, 16)

 

                [14] Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.[3]… [16] Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man (meaning Jesus) is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them.[4]

 

                Now, here’s what I find to be the most amazing thing about this whole exchange.

 

                Nobody is marveling over the fact that a blind man has received his sight. Nobody is giving glory to God for the miracle of healing.

 

                Instead, they are engaged in a debate about the propriety of healing on a Sabbath.[5] And this conversation about Sabbath theology is taking place with the formerly blind man standing right there.

 

                As far as the Bible tells us nobody even said, “Congratulations! Happy for you!” to the man who can now see for the first time in his life. Talk about world class insensitivity.

 

                Finally, the Pharisees turned to the now-seeing man and asked his opinion of the Man who had opened his eyes.

 

                [17] So they said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him since He opened your eyes?” And he said, “He is a prophet.” (And what did we expect him to say? Jesus had given him his sight, after all.)

                But the Pharisees weren’t satisfied that Jesus was a prophet from God or anything of the sort.

 

                Seeing wasn’t believing for them anymore than it had been for the friends and neighbors and they looked for ways to deny the miracle.

 

Parenthetical: Meet the Parents (vv. 18-23)

 

                [18] The Jews then did not believe it of him, that he had been born blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight, [19] and questioned them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?”

 

                The first question was easy and the parents answered, “Yep, this is our son.”

 

                The second question - “How does he now see?” was tougher.

 

                Maybe they really didn’t know how he had received his sight. If so, their response isn’t unreasonable, although it does sound a little odd.

 

                [20] His parents answered them and said, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; [21] but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.”

 

                Did you notice how curt, how short, their answers are? It’s not what I would have hoped for from the parents of a blind son who can now see. I’m surprised that they didn’t say, “Yes, he can see! Isn’t it great?”

 

                We keep reading and discover the reason why they were so restrained in their responses.

 

 

                [22] His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews (meaning the Jewish leadership – Sadducees, Pharisees, chief priests, scribes); for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. [23] For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

 

                The parents’ reluctance to answer the Pharisees’ questions is due to the Pharisees’ new policy. Anybody who crossed over to Jesus’ side was to be excommunicated.

 

                To be “put out” was serious business.

 

                If you were “put out” of the synagogue, you would be treated like an unclean leper and would be excluded from the community’s social life.

 

                You wouldn’t even be admitted into the temple or the synagogue for worship. You would be talked about as if you were dead. And when you did die, you’d receive a dishonorable funeral.

 

                This is first century persecution for aligning with Jesus. This may be THE first time that people were made to suffer for siding with Jesus. What is happening in our day began in John, chapter 9, while Jesus was still alive.

 

                And with that kind of a threat, the parents weren’t very excited about answering a lot of questions posed by the Pharisees. They just put the ball back in their son’s lap. “Ask him. He is of age.”

 

                This whole scene doesn’t leave us with a warm, fuzzy feeling, does it?

 

  • We would have rather seen Mom and Dad stand up to the Pharisees, and support their son even at the risk of excommunication.
  • We also would have rather seen friends and neighbors glorify God that the blind man sees, but that didn’t happen, either.
  • And we would sure have rather seen the Pharisees view the miracle as a sign that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah.

                Sadly, though, while one man who was blind can now see, others who can see are as blind as bats to the wonder-working power of God.

 

                And as the drama continues, the next scene gives us front row seats to a Pharisaic interview that has turned into an inquisition.

 

                They have confirmed that this man really had been born blind. There’s no arguing that. But they demand that he revoke his comment about Jesus being a prophet.

 

                The Pharisees’ “put out” the former blind man (vv. 24-34)

 

                                Urging the man to condemn Jesus (v. 24)

 

                [24] So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.”

 

                According to their logic, Jesus MUST be a sinner. After all:

  • There was to be no work done on the Sabbath. (Exodus 20)
  • Mixing spit and dirt is work. (according to them, not God)
  • Jesus mixed spit and dirt on a Sabbath to heal a chronic condition (also a Pharisaic violation of the Sabbath)
  • Therefore, Jesus sinned.

 

                Air tight logic (except for the faulty presuppositions), right?

 

                And the man whose healing had sparked all of this controversy replied with a wonderfully dry wit.

 

                                I know what I know (v. 25)

 

                [25] He then answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

 

                Wow! Somebody ought to put those words to music in a song!

 

                This is a great testimony. He describes his own irrefutable, personal experience.

 

                Now bubbling with frustration, the Pharisees attacked the man again, this time with a question.

 

                                Condemning Jesus, take two (v. 26)

 

                [26] So they said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?”

 

                Listen to the man’s hilarious response.

 

                                Explanation, take three (v. 27)

 

                [27] He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?”

 

                While we may think that’s pretty funny, the Pharisees weren’t laughing. They had no interest in being Jesus’ disciples, and said so.

 

                                We choose Moses (vv. 28-29)

 

                [28] And they reviled him, and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. [29] “We know that God has spoken to Moses; but as for this Man, we do not know where He is from.”

 

                Moses had the weight of fifteen hundred years of tradition behind him. Moses was a tried and true commodity. They sided with Moses.

 

                And with that, the formerly blind man has had enough. His next words are intended to be inflammatory. And they were.

 

 

 

 

 

                                The healed man preaches! (vv. 30-33)

 

                [30] The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. [31] We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing, and does His will He hears him. [32] Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. [33] If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

 

                That little speech took guts. For the first time in his life, he is able to look at someone eye to eye. And on this day he looks at the most powerful men of his day and tells them, “Your unbelief is more of a wonder than my sight.”

 

                A lesser man would have buckled under and agreed, “He is certainly a sinner, whatever you say.”

 

                But, this man who had not had sight his entire life had developed backbone in sight’s absence. He doesn’t care all that much about what the Pharisees had to say or about what they thought. And, now that he can see, he is not about to condemn the One who gave him his sight.

 

                He sees the Pharisees and he sees them for what they are. His thinking is clear. His testimony is powerful. His healing is irrefutable.

 

                But the Pharisees aren’t about to be lectured by this guy.

 

                                Power, run amuck (v. 34)

 

                [34] They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” So they put him out.

 

                And with that, the man was summarily tossed out of the synagogue, and from the communal life of Israel.

 

                He is among the first people to ever suffer for aligning with Jesus - and he did suffer greatly.

                From this man forward we can trace an unbroken line over the last two thousand years of men and women who have willingly lost social status, jobs, family ties, friendships and even life itself for the sake of Jesus.

 

                This man and the Twenty One and others have concluded that Jesus is worth living for, suffering loss for, and dying for. At the end of this day, this man has lost substantially for choosing Jesus.

 

                It’s been quite a day. Have you ever looked back at a day and thought, “Well, that was a big day!”?

 

                This guy has had a big day.

 

                Early in the morning, he had known his place in society. It wasn’t much of a place - He was a blind beggar. But, at least that was his place. He fit.

 

                Now, late on the same day, he has no place in society. Friends haven’t stood by him. Parents have hung him out to dry. Leaders have excommunicated him.

 

                AND, he’s not blind anymore. He can see. What a dramatic change and reversal of fortunes.

 

                And now that the Pharisees have put him out and the commotion has all died down, he is alone. I picture him all alone. While he was all alone, Jesus went looking for him. I love that.

 

III. Opens the Hearts of the Blind (vv. 35-38)

 

                [35a] Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him…

 

                This Jesus we meet in the Bible is a relentless Pursuer. He searches for the lost and the least and last and the lonely.

 

                When Jesus found him, He asked a question in a voice the man would have instantly recognized.

                [35b]…He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

 

                Notice that the first thing Jesus says is not, “I’m sorry that you were excommunicated. I’m sorry you were ‘put out’.”

 

                The biggest thing going on here was not that he can now see flowers and people and a temple. The biggest game in town is not that he had lost something.

 

                Having received his sight, the biggest game in town was what it had always been: “What are you going to do with Jesus?”

 

                That’s always the biggest game in town. It was then and it is now.

 

 

                No matter what is going on in our lives, the God-question is always the most pressing. Not excommunication. Not health. Not wealth. Not popularity. Not promotion. But this: “Do you believe in Jesus, the Son of Man?”

 

                And for any of us, anything - a scary diagnosis or a surprisingly clean bill of health, a reconciliation with a long-time enemy or a relational earthquake, a financial windfall or a job loss - that forces us to face the question, “What will I do with Jesus?” is a blessing because there is no more important question than this, “Do you believe in Jesus?”

 

                Jesus had asked His question. Now the former blind man, having never before seen Jesus, has his own question.

 

                [36] He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”

 

                To which Jesus was only too happy to answer, [37]… “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.”

 

                And here is the man’s short, sweet response - [38] And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him.

 

Conclusion:

 

                Two blindnesses were removed from a man on one day. His physical blindness was the most obvious one. And Jesus dealt with that blindness and proved Himself to be the God-in-the-flesh Light of the World.

 

                But, the second blindness - his spiritual blindness - was a far more serious condition. With this second blindness intact, the man would never have a chance at life with God, no matter how well he could see flowers and trees.

 

                In calling the man to faith in Himself, Jesus removed the scales that blinded his spirit. And, in doing that, He proved Himself to be, not only the Light of the World, but also the Savior of the world.

 

                This man knew and the Egyptian 21 knew and our brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world know today that THIS Jesus, the One powerful enough to open eyes and hearts, to give sight and to give eternal life to those who believe, is worth dying for.

 

                And if He is worth dying for, He is worth living for.

 

                Once we decide what we are willing to die for, it becomes pretty clear, pretty quick, what we are going to live for.

                Live for Him at home. Be the loving, faithful, generous, hospitable man or woman you were saved to be. Whether living alone, with roommates, married, with or without children, live for Jesus at home.

                In your life outside your home, be it school or work, part-time or full-time, outside or inside, be Jesus’ light to a dark world there.

                The Jesus who laid down His life for you and who calls you to be willing to lay down your life for Him, now calls you to take up your life and live for Him.


[1] Some might have said that the man was blind because his mother sinned. The apostasy of a rabbi of Jesus’ day was attributed to his mother’s involvement with idolatry while she was pregnant with him. Or maybe his father sinned, and God was punishing the father by the blindness of his son. In Israel, until age 13, children were thought to be an extension of their father, and so, answering for his sins.

[2] Unlike the lame man at the pool of Bethesda, John 5, who didn’t know who it was who had healed him.

[3] No doubt, the man had not been begging on this day, as it was illegal to beg on the Sabbath. As well, I am certain that Jesus purposefully performed this miracle on the Sabbath - as He did frequently - to expose the hypocrisy and cruel insensitivity of the Pharisees.

[4] Not even this disapproval of Jesus was unanimous. (v. 16) Some Pharisees sided with Jesus because He performed a miracle only a man of God could have done.

[5] Mixing dirt and spittle was seen as work by the Pharisees, although not by God’s Law. This ridiculousness was purely an invention of men.  God’s Laws for the Sabbath were designed to free, not enslave.

Apr 2, 2016

Real Talk with Roderick
Called into Conflict for Christ (Acts 6:8-15)

Introduction
When we receive Jesus we receive pardon, we receive purpose, and we receive the Person of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). Once He has come gone are the days of being without power, without counsel, without comfort, without companionship (John 14:15-18). Through the Holy Spirit the Lord keeps His promise to (1) never leave us nor forsake us (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5) and (2) enable us for amazing acts of service. But with His coming also comes the unresolvable conflict that results from being indwelt by the Spirit of Christ. When the Jesus follower surrenders gladly and becomes Spirit-filled he also becomes, from the world's perspective, as irritating as Jesus.

While we should always endeavor to promote peace, love our enemies, and be a blessing to the community - we should not be surprised when living like Jesus brings out antagonism. Some believers, having failed to see or accept this truth, are working in vain to make peace with the world. They have a great zeal for Jesus. But the same believer is terribly wrong in thinking that their white hot faith is compatible with a society that is surrendered to Satan. The story in Acts, with the focus on Stephen, shows as much.

The narrative about Stephen constitutes a major turning point in Acts. It ends a series of three trials before the Sanhedrin. The first ended in a warning (4:21), the second in a flogging (5:40), and Stephen’s in his death.
Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 183). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

In the few verses under consideration today we see the consequence of becoming irresistible.

Called to Conflict (Acts 6:8)
Luke has presented the Lord and His apostles as having power to perform signs and wonders (Luke 2:40; 4:1,14-15; Acts 2:43; 5:12). Now, for the first time in the records of Luke we are hearing of wonders and signs among the people being done through someone other than the Lord or one His apostles.

He was the first other than the apostles to be described as working miracles.
Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 184). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

A naive reading of this verse begins to cheer about this new thing: regular people of faith are doing great work. But do not miss the fact that Stephen has already been introduced as a (1) a man full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3), (2) man full of faith and the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5). If you are mindful of his introduction the words of Acts 6:8 seem odd. You might think, "Okay. He was full of the Holy Spirit. It has been said three times. Got it!" But this third mention should make me ask if the author is trying to tell me something through the pattern of words (full of the Holy Spirit) and their rapid repetition (Acts 6:3, 5, 8). What do we find in the writings of Luke:

  • Before Jesus' Temptation in the Wilderness (Luke 4:1) - These words are used before Jesus enters terrible conflict with Satan. He is victorious but certainly worn down and needed refreshing.
  • Before Jesus Rejection at Home (Luke 4:14-15) - These words are used before Jesus' claims cause anger in his hometown synagogue. He is successful in demonstrating the nearness of the kingdom but they try to kill him by throwing Him down over a cliff (Luke 4:28-30).
  • Before Peter Preaches to the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:8-12) - These words are used before Peter indicts the court and makes one of the most inflammatory remarks of Scripture - especially to a group that had just murdered the Messiah.

It does not take a Bible sleuth to see that where these words occur in the writings of Luke we can expect to see conflict that cannot be resolved. The Spirit-filled person was called to it! The story with Stephen is no exception. Indeed, because of the threefold mention of his filling with the Spirit we expect unprecedented animosity.

Irresistible Witness (Acts 6:9-11)
9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.
The great wonders and signs among the people has the effect of drawing much attention to Stephen. And with the increased attention come the questions about what how he has done these things. We can be certain that the Spirit of Christ was at work to produce the miracles in order to gain this audience. And when Stephen was questioned the answers kept coming back Jesus. His infiltration of the Hellenistic synagogues with indisputable power and irresistible wisdom were quickly making him unpopular among the zealots of these other synagogues.

The Greek of v. 9 is notoriously obscure and could refer to as many as five synagogues. In fact, there are scholars who represent every point on the spectrum between one and five. Content suggests one synagogue (named “Freedmen”) with the four national constituencies in its membership, although grammatically two synagogues has strong support—(1) Freedmen, with Alexandrians and Cyrenians, and (2) a synagogue of Asians and Cilicians. A poorly attested textual variant reads “Libyan” instead of “Freedmen” (Libystinōn for Libertīnon), and Moffatt’s translation adopts it, but its authenticity is highly unlikely.
Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Could Stephen have avoided his conflict with the Synagogue of the Freedmen? Was it possible to prevent the problem caused by his witness? The answer will be found in considering the other times where the Spirit is filling the witness. Could the Savior have avoided the conflict in the wilderness with Satan? Only in disobedience to the Spirit's leading. Could Peter have avoided the conflict that led to his arrest by the Sanhedrin? Only in rejecting the command to feed Jesus' sheep and refusing to accept his own identity as a witness. Stephen cannot avoid this conflict - he is called to it!

The members of this synagogue were from three divergent areas—North Africa (Cyrene and Alexandria were two of its leading cities), Asia (the western portion of modern-day Turkey), and Cilicia. Possibly this was the assembly Paul attended because Tarsus was located in the province of Cilicia.
Toussaint, S. D. (1985). Acts. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 368). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

We can no more avoid the conflict that comes with being filled with the Spirit of Christ than could Jesus, or Peter, or Stephen - not without being disobedient. It is part of the work of being a witness. But we need not worry.

The Spirit will both do the work and provide the witness. What is needed more than anything else is a willingness. In that moment where we relinquish ourselves to being used by God for His glory and the good of His people there comes the filling of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus on Trial - Again(Acts 6:11-14)
11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. 13 They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.”

Stephen is on the edge of known theology. Some of what he is saying has not even been written down by the apostles. One cannot help but wonder if he has not come to understand some things that will not be formally acknowledged by the twelve or Paul until later. Christians today have great difficulty with the concept of covenants and the changing role of the law in the life of the believer. Before Saul becomes Paul and writes to the Galatians against legalism and Judaizers this man foresees that some aspects of the Mosaic system are going away altogether. Why? How? Jesus said that not one jot or tittle would pass from the law until all was fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-18). He also said that He came not to destroy the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill. He did (Romans 10:4).

In the background to v. 14 stands the charge of blasphemy directed against Jesus at his own trial when he was accused of threatening to destroy the temple (Mark 14:57–58). Luke did not include that tradition in the narrative of Jesus’ trial in his Gospel, but its inclusion here is highly significant. It put Jesus back on trial once again.25
Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 186). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

The false witnesses were not necessarily outright liars. Stephen had probably said the things they accused him of; however, they misrepresented the intentions and imports of his statements (cf. Matt. 26:61; Mark 14:58; John 2:19). The Lord Himself predicted the destruction of the temple (Matt. 24:1–2; Mark 13:1–2; Luke 21:5–6), though He never said He would do it. The other half of the allegation against Stephen involved the temporary nature of the Mosaic system. Undoubtedly he saw the theological implications of justification by faith and the fulfillment of the Law in Christ. Furthermore, if the gospel was for the whole world (Acts 1:8), the Law had to be a temporary arrangement.
Toussaint, S. D. (1985). Acts. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 368–369). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

In an attempt to rid their synagogues of this wonder working man with irresistible wisdom they resorted to the same scheming that they used against Jesus - false charges and misrepresentation of the message.

The Reason for the Radiance (Acts 6:15-7:1)
15 And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel. 1 Then the high priest said, “Are these things so?”
The face of an angel is undoubtedly a description of radiance. But why did his face shine? It shone because of God's indwelling presence. It shone as a sign that He must be heard.

The radiant face of Stephen recalls that of Moses when descending from Sinai (Exod 34:29–35) and of Jesus on the mount of transfiguration (Luke 9:29).
Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Conclusion
Conflict comes with the calling of the Jesus follower. When it comes do not think it strange but count it all joy.

12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. (1 Peter 4:12-16)

Questions for Review

  • What am I inclined to do when I sense conflict coming because of my association with Christ?
  • Can the conflict be avoided?
  • What prices are going to be paid for following Christ?
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