The Tainted Lady at the Local Watering Hole! — John 4:1-26

The Tainted Lady at the Local Watering Hole! — John 4:1-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 16, 2014

Recently one of the local news outlets did a series on prostitution in Portland, Oregon. The people involved are younger and more dangerous than ever before. They enslave their victims, often abusing them physically, mentally, and emotionally. Police are trying to get a handle on the human trafficking in order to gain control of illegal guns on the street as well. Interestingly, no one ever mentioned the fact that the criminals involved did not register their weapons or submitted to background checks. I digress. Some call it the oldest profession, but it is a dirty, nasty, crime-ridden, and immoral blight on society that needs to be eradicated.

In Jesus’ day we discover that many women were placed in this horrendous position simply because they had no other means of support. Pimps, drugs, and illegal weapons were not necessarily a part of the trade back then, however it did carry a societal disdain and a seedier reputation, unless of course you were one of the respected pagan temple prostitutes. These were highly sought after positions that families often willingly gave their daughters over to. However in Jewish society it was seen as it should be, as ungodly and immoral behavior; not fitting for anyone to participate in. Here in John’s gospel we find Jesus with the tainted lady at a local watering hole, let’s discover what occurs…

READ: John 4:1-26

Here we find…

I. Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting! (Vv. 1-6)

The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. (John 4:1-6 NIV)

1. Interestingly we discover the reason for John the Baptist’s disciples getting frustrated that Jesus was baptizing: “The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John.” Now why this would excite them so much? Perhaps it was because of that temple incident where Jesus had forced them to confront their immoral and ill-conceived money changing scheme. Or perhaps it was because Jesus was gaining in popularity and John was waning, but whatever the reason we find out that “although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples.” However, “When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.” Evidently Jesus decided it was not worth causing a stir, it was not time to reveal himself, and decided to head back north to Galilee. Most Jews would have gone a more of a roundabout route going completely around Samaria. They would not have wanted to be tainted with even breathing the same air that Samaritans breathed or walking on the same roads they did because all pious Jews thought of their brethren in the north as half-breeds. Not real Hebrews at all; to be avoided at all cost. Yet Jesus “had to go through Samaria.” Jesus deliberately decided to head almost straight through Samaria to get to Galilee! Jesus had a divine appointment to make and “So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.” Samaritans “were racially mixed and their religion resulted from syncretism and schism from Judaism.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) “Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.” It was here Jesus stops to rest. John writes, “It was about the sixth hour”, which was about noon. We find Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting!

EXAMPLE: When I first went to have my wrist looked at for surgery, they hadn’t put up their signage yet. It was a new building. I parked the car went around the building, could not find a door with any markings on it. I then backtracked and went to where I started, looked for someone who could help me. No luck. I then called the office on my cell phone and they told me to go through the door nearest the parking lot and take the elevator. I did that and ended going up several floors, walking clear around inside of the building and finally coming to what I thought was the office. I asked the receptionist why they were so difficult to find, she replied, “Didn’t you take the elevator from the ground floor, turn left and come through the door over there?” She pointed to the way I had come in! I had simply been going the long way instead of the shortest distance. Folks can do the same thing when they try to take their own way to God instead of simply trusting him. Here we find Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting!

We listen as…

II. Jesus shares living water with a dead lady! (Vv. 7-18)

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” (John 4:7-18 NIV)

1. First a direct path and now a candid conversation. “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)” So, we find Jesus alone at Jacob’s well with a strange lady. We never know her name. Jesus asks her for some water, which in of itself is unusual. Jewish men did not talk to women they did not know and especially in Samaria and this is why she retorted, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” John reminds us, “Jews do not associate with Samaritans.” For Jesus to drink from a jar a Samaritan woman had touched would have made him unclean. Having piqued her curiosity, “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” She was arguing about well water and Jesus answers with living water! God had told the prophet Jeremiah, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jeremiah 2:13 NIV)” Now, God was offering all people the living water found in Jesus, even this Samaritan woman! The water represented the Holy Spirit, the “spring of water welling up to eternal life!” You would have thought she would have been curious as to who Jesus was, what was the gift of God, and why was he talking about living water? Instead, like so many do, she could only think of what immediately benefited her, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jacob’s well is one of the deepest in the region. She challenges Jesus by asking, “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus puts her straight, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Her sin blinds her understanding, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus however challenges her sin, “Go, call your husband and come back.” She is surprised and confesses, “I have no husband.” The truth comes to light!  “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” Her sin is exposed and we find Jesus sharing the living water with a dead lady!

EXAMPLE: All who are without Christ are spiritually dead. Like dead pools of stagnant water their lives are as still cloudy pools, while those who are born again are alive and active like rushing water that flows over rocky rapids in a clear cold stream. Living water is that which revives the deepest thirst of a weary parched soul. Nothing is more enjoyable in a desert wilderness than a cold drink of crystal clear water. Nothing is more refreshing to the sin weary soul than the refreshing rush of the cleansing spirit in one’s life. And here we discover Jesus sharing the living water with a dead lady!

And we see…

III. It is not about where you worship as to who you worship! (Vv. 19-26)

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:19-26 NIV)

1. We forget, like so many do, that our relationship with God revolves around our worship of him. Worship defines who we are and what we truly believe. This is why Jesus would teach, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24 NIV)” Again, the lady misunderstands Jesus’ words and tries to steer the conversation away from her sin and life predicament, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Women, who are caught in her line of work often, try to flatter the ones they are earning their living from and perhaps this is what she was trying to do with Jesus by calling him a prophet. Yet notice now that she no longer uses the term “our fathers” but rather, “you Jews” to argue with Jesus. She could have repented and confessed her sin but instead turns the argument into the age old discussion about where the true worship of God should take place. It is not the place where one goes through the motions of manmade worship, it is who one worships! “Jesus declared, ‘Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.’” Worship begins when one is born again! Jesus bluntly responds, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.” The Samaritans were deluded and thought they could worship God in any way they desired. However, the Messiah would not come from Samaria or anyone else but Israel. God promised it would be so and Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise! Yet the Jews were just as confused as the Samaritans! Here is the truth of the matter, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” Only those born of the Spirit of God can truly worship God! This is the truth! The woman begins to finally understand and we see a glimmer of spiritual hope when she tells Jesus, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Jesus, I believe smiled and his face lit up as he responds, “I who speak to you am he.” Now she knew the truth of the living water and that it is not about where you worship as to who you worship!

EXAMPLE: I was listening to the radio and the speaker was saying that he liked to go to worship because it healed him. It was like going to the hospital for him and he needed to be there in order to face the following week. His whole point was that he viewed worship as for him to benefit from and that is what he felt it was for. Sadly, his view of worship is convoluted and here’s why: He, like so many do, was confusing worship with the church. The act of worship is meant for God and his people are to come to the body of Christ, the church, when hurt to be refreshed and healed. Too many think that when they come away from worship feeling good, their worship was successful. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus told the woman that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” It is not about where you worship as to who you worship!

Conclusion:
We find Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting, we discover Jesus sharing the living water with a dead lady, and it is not about where you worship as to who you worship!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Understanding! — John 3:22-36

The Understanding! — John 3:22-36
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 9, 2014

We may think we know something to be true when in fact it is not. This can cause jealousy, anger, or misunderstanding. Kind of like those biblical sayings that are not really in the Bible but folks think they are: “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” “cleanliness is next to godliness,” “God works in mysterious ways,” “pride goes before the fall,” or “moderation in all things.” None of which are found in Scripture. Folks need to read their Bibles more in order to know their Bibles more!

Here we discover that the disciples of John the Baptist were not immune to misunderstanding what God desired and how he was working through John and through Jesus. It resulted in an interesting discussion and following statement by John that clarifies for his followers and others exactly who Jesus is and who John is and what their ministries were meant to be. John wanted his disciples to come to an understanding about Jesus, let’s find out what occurred and why…

READ: John 3:22-36

We learn that…

I. Jealousy brings misunderstanding! (Vv. 22-26)

After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. (This was before John was put in prison.) An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan–the one you testified about–well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

1. After Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night to meet with him, we find that “Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized.” However, we will learn later that “although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. (John 4:2 NIV)” Evidently there were now two differing camps baptizing folks in the Jordan River, Jesus’ disciples and John’s. We see that “John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. (This was before John was put in prison.)” Yet John’s people come to him and lay kind of a false charge against Jesus when in fact it all began with “An argument [that had] developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing.” The problem begins when “a certain Jew,” probably a Pharisee or teacher of the law who came deliberately to John’s disciples and tried to stir up trouble by arguing with them concerning “ceremonial washing.” More than likely they came and wanted to argue as to why John would have anyone baptized, when all someone had to do in their way of thinking is ceremonially cleanse themselves in order to honor God. The Pharisees practiced this kind of washing to show that they were indeed clean and righteous people. Remember John was baptizing for the forgiveness of one’s sins in order to prepare they way of the Lord for the people to be able to realize the Messiah had come! In fact we read how Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem would begin to argue with Jesus because they “saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were ‘unclean,’ that is, unwashed. (Mark 7:2 NIV)” Mark explains that “The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles. (Mark 7:3-4 NIV)” So, John’s disciples fall for the baiting tactic and jealousy erupts. So they run “to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, that man [meaning Jesus] who was with you on the other side of the Jordan–the one you testified about–well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him!’” And isn’t that just how Satan works with God’s people? We learn that jealousy brings misunderstanding!

EXAMPLE: There is godly jealousy and ungodly jealousy. Godly jealousy makes us so love the words and teachings of Scripture that we defend it with respect, the same is true for those we love as well. Ungodly jealousy brings hurt feelings, anger, and or disrespect. I do not like it when someone deliberately disdains or disrespects the word of God, nor do I like it when another man deliberately disdains or disrespects my relationship with my wife. James would write, “But if your heart is full of bitter jealousy and selfishness, don’t brag or lie to cover up the truth. That kind of wisdom doesn’t come from above. It is earthly and selfish and comes from the devil himself. (James 3:14-15 CEV)” We learned that jealousy brings misunderstanding, especially about Jesus!

We discover that…

II. Humility brings joy! (Vv. 27-30)

To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.

1. To John’s credit, he does not fall for this satanic entrapment. Instead he calmly replies, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.” What a wonderful response this is! In fact it is a good lesson for many of us in our day and age to learn! We can only receive that which we have been given from heaven! Wow! I like that. I honestly believe that some of the Pharisees wanted to create a rift between John the Baptist’s disciples and Jesus’, but John does not allow it to occur. Over the decades I have been sickened and saddened to hear fellow believers fall for similar satanic prideful tactics. What this does is feed on the ungodliness of the emotional moment instead of strengthening and encouraging the body of Christ. John reiterates the ministry God had given him. He bluntly retorts, “You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’” John never professed to be more than what God desired him to be, nor did he aspire to that which he knew God did not call him to. He was to be the one preparing the way of the Lord, period. John was satisfied and knew that “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.” Here is the first reference to Jesus being referred to as the bridegroom. Perhaps John was giving his listeners a foreshadowing or teaching of how the church was to view itself! The church belongs to Jesus! It is his body, his message, his ministry to save the world – not John’s! He was simply the best man, the bride, the church was Jesus’. He attended the bridegroom by waiting and listening for him, “and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice!” What a lovely picture of the Jewish wedding and a wonderful portrayal of John’s duties as Jesus’ best man! John reinforces his satisfaction by stating, “That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” His joy was to wait and listen for Jesus! John knew in fact, “He [meaning Jesus] must become greater; I must become less.” We discover that humility brings joy!
EXAMPLE: There is something truly beautiful about a person who is humble. Not the false worldly humility we often see the world express, but the true nature of Jesus, who is intrinsically humble. I worked with a man who exemplified this in his life. When I wanted to confront folks, he remained cool. When I wanted to rant a bit, he remained calm. And, when I thought I knew best, he often would quietly comment and that was enough. He never pastored a church larger than a 60 or 70, but hundreds came to pay their respects when he passed from this earthly existence and went home. He was one of the most content people I ever knew. John the Baptist knew that humility brings joy!

John the Baptist realized that…

III. Understanding brings eternal life! (Vv. 31-36)

“The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

1. John does not stop with his teaching concerning Jesus because he does not want his own disciples to miss the message Jesus brings. So he now deliberately sets them straight and tells them, “The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth.” John was born as a mere man, the last Old Testament prophet of God, and Jesus was born the Messiah. Jesus was from “above” and he was from the “earth.” John knew that “The one who comes from heaven is above all.” He was above John, his disciples, and the Pharisees or the Jewish people themselves! In fact, he was “above all”! Paul would write that Jesus is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:21 NIV)” And “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11 NIV)” For John the Baptist, Jesus “testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.” He echoes John the apostles’ teaching that “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. (John 1:10 NIV)” However, “The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful.” That person knows without a doubt God’s word is true concerning Jesus because “the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.” John the Apostle would later write, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9 NIV)” Not only does Jesus have “the Spirit without limit,” but “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands!” Father, Son, and Spirit all testify as to who Jesus is and if we as mere humans accept this truth, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him!” John knew that understanding brings eternal life!
EXAMPLE: I thought if I went through the motions of religion, I was being spiritual. I thought I was a good man, but learned I was not good enough. I thought that this life brought to us all there was, and then I learned that there is an eternity to live for. I thought I knew it all, when I did not understand anything. What changed my mind? What occurred to make me rethink what I had thought I knew? I read the gospel of John and with that, by faith, I accepted the words of Jesus. With understanding comes eternal life!

Conclusion:
We learned that jealousy brings misunderstanding, especially about Jesus! John the Baptist knew that humility brings joy! John knew that understanding brings eternal life!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Interview! – John 3:1-21

The Interview! – John 3:1-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 2, 2014

I hate interviews because I often do not know what I should say. And surprise interviews are the worst. When someone all of a sudden springs questions on you that you’re not prepared for it can be a bit disconcerting to say the least. That’s why in school I never did well on pop quizzes. For me it was like having a big old bear jump out of the bushes when all I was doing was minding my own business. I can honestly say that I never liked interviews.

Jesus has a surprise interview by someone his disciples would never have suspected, one of the leaders from the Jewish High Council. What surprised everyone is that he came at night to interview Jesus. What occurs and how Jesus responds to his inquiry is very interesting as it is also instructional. Let’s discover what occurred during the interview…
READ: John 3:1-21

We discover that…

I. The interview began with an introduction to a new birth! (Vv. 1-4)

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:1-4 NIV)

1. I have explained to you about the Pharisees before. They believed in an afterlife, angels, miracles and keeping themselves holy for the Lord. And evidently they were curious about Jesus because of who he claimed to be and the miracles he did. One of them was curious enough to come by himself to find out more concerning Jesus. His name was “Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. This was the Sanhedrin. All of the Jewish religious and political life was determined by them. For one of their own to come secretly at night to see Jesus himself reveals a lot about this man’s interest. “He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.’” Later, the Jews would pick up stones to kill Jesus after they demand that he name himself the Messiah, and he responds, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. (John 10:25-26 NIV)” Was Nicodemus someone who was seeking the truth concerning Jesus? I believe this is probably true because it is Nicodemus with Joseph of Arimathea who would ask for Jesus’ body, “He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. (John 19:39 NIV)” Jesus wants Nicodemus to verbalize his interest and thereby declare for himself his intentions. “In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’” Jesus desires Nicodemus truly understand who he is. I believe he did because he saw in Nicodemus someone who truly wanted to find out if Jesus was the Messiah or not. Nicodemus’ contemporaries were not so curious. Jesus sets up the gospel message for Nicodemus, he must be “born again.” We can almost sense the intellectual and spiritual frustration as Nicodemus asks, “How can a man be born when he is old?” and then he follows with, “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” Like many, he did not understand the spiritual reality of Jesus’ statement. Nicodemus’ interview began with an introduction to a new birth!

EXAMPLE: In the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes they often discussed, dissected and dissed the art world, which, Watterson once wrote, “attracts its share of pretentious blowhards.” These discourses usually happened in the snowman strips. In one such episode, Calvin is building a snowman, despite Hobbes’s reminder that the one he made the day before had already melted. Calvin retorts, “I’m taking advantage of my medium’s impermanence,” And then Calvin boasts. “This sculpture is about transience (humanity and our death). As this figure melts, it invites the viewer to contemplate the evanescence (meaning the disappearing shortness) of life. This piece speaks to the horror of our own mortality.” No one expects a child to speak this way. However, mankind has always wanted immortality but there is only one way to enjoy it; we discover it in this interview concerning the new birth.

We also discover that…

II. The interview turned into a lecture about the kingdom of God! (Vv. 5-13)

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man. (John 3:5-13 NIV)

1. Jesus had just gotten through telling Nicodemus, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” And now, Jesus reiterates, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” One must be born into the material world and then born again into the spiritual kingdom of God! And so that Nicodemus would not misunderstand, Jesus continues, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” People give birth to people but only God can spiritually give new birth to someone spiritually dead. One needs to be spiritually reborn to enter the kingdom of God! Nicodemus, a respected rabbi, should “not be surprised” at Jesus saying, “You must be born again.” Why are the spiritually degenerate always shocked to hear that the only way we can live eternally is through spiritual rebirth! Salvation is not found in being nice, being religious or meditating – it is only found in being born again through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit! Jesus tells him, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” While spiritual rebirth is inconceivable to us, it is not impossible with God! “How can this be?” Nicodemus asks. Being a rabbi and a Pharisee, Nicodemus should have had an understanding of these things. Again, Jesus bluntly reiterates to him, “I tell you the truth,” as in “I am telling you plainly” that “we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.” Interestingly Jesus is referring to the witness and testimony of God the Father and the Holy Spirit as well when he uses the term “we”! It is not the royal we that we often refer to but rather a deliberate reference to his own testimony. But still they did not accept his, the Spirit’s nor God’s testimony! In fact, Jesus spoke plainly “of earthly tings” and he still had a hard time believing it, “How then” could he believe Jesus if he spoke of “heavenly things?” It would be impossible! The kingdom of God is populated by those who know God! And the Messiah would come from his kingdom in heaven! Therefore, “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man.” Nicodemus did not realize it but the interview turned into a lecture about the kingdom of God!

EXAMPLE: We often forget that we are sinners by nature and by choice. We are born into a sin-fallen universe and we decide if we sin or not. Often folks are so insecure that they incorrectly think God could never love them. Then there are those who so arrogantly depend on themselves they think only they can provide their own salvation. Both are false. We forget there is a spiritual counterpart to the material world. We are held accountable to a holy God. They also realize that if it is true then they are accountable! This is why Paul would write, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:19-20 NIV)” Like many in our day who try to disdain spiritual things, Nicodemus did not realize it but his interview had turned to the kingdom of God!

Nicodemus needed to realize…

III. The interview would finished with his need of salvation! (Vv. 14-21)

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:14-21 NIV)

1. From rebirth to the kingdom of God, Jesus takes Nicodemus on an intellectual and spiritual journey. Now, Jesus brings it on home so-to-speak when he tells Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Jesus takes him back to the wilderness when the Israelites had rebelled, and were suffering and dying because of their sin. They cry out for relief. Moses was instructed to fashion a brass snake on a pole and anyone who would simply look at that pole would be healed. Just as the brass snake saved those back then, those who now believe “in him may have eternal life.” Jesus would be lifted up on a cross for our salvation. I am sure Nicodemus was wondering why God would do such thing. Jesus relates, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Simply because God loves us that he would do such a thing! Why? “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Jesus’ task was to present the message of salvation, he was not sent to condemn the world – he was sent to be lifted up to save it! Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” I am sure that Jesus understood people’s indifference and their unbelief but I am also sure it was sometimes frustrating for him to be who he was, work the miracles he did, and teach the way he taught and still folks would not believe! God gives sinful man every opportunity to come to him through faith in Jesus and it is their own unbelief and refusal that will condemn them! “This is the verdict” Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” Sinful man loves to hide their sin but their sin will be exposed, however, those who live by the truth come to Jesus, the light. The interview would finish with Nicodemus’ need of salvation!

EXAMPLE: The story is told that Queen Victoria was deeply moved during a church service. Afterward, she asked her chaplain, “Can one be absolutely sure in this life of eternal safety?” He did not have an answer. But an evangelist named John Townsend heard about the Queen’s question, and after much prayer he sent her a note: “With trembling hands, but heartfelt love, and because I know that we can be absolutely sure now of our eternal life in the Home that Jesus went to prepare, may I ask your Most Gracious Majesty to read the following passages of Scripture: John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10?” Two weeks later, the evangelist received this letter: “. . . I have carefully and prayerfully read the portions of Scripture referred to. I believe in the finished work of Christ for me, and trust by God’s grace to meet you in that Home of which He said, ‘I go to prepare a place for you.’ — Victoria Guelph” We find that here the interview concerned Nicodemus’ need of salvation! (Radio Bible Class, May 20, 2013)

Conclusion:
Nicodemus’ interview began with an introduction to a new birth, turned into a lecture about the kingdom of God, and finished with Nicodemus’ need of salvation!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Temple! – John 2:13-25

The Temple! – John 2:13-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 26, 2014

I have heard sermons where the speaker equates today’s church as the new temple of God, however, we no longer continually offer sacrifices of live animals, we do not burn incense to represent the prayers of the people to God, and we do not wash our hands and feet before coming into worship nor do we bow down before the altar of God. And of course nothing separates us from the presence of God: Neither curtain, priest, nor mercy seat can keep us from his presence! While some of the things we do remind us of the temple or tabernacle of God, the church is radically different from the temple.

The Temple was an important part of the Jewish worship of God. It represented the presence of God with his people and a place where folks could come to pray, praise, and sacrifice to God. Now it was Passover which was kept on the fourteenth day of Nisan, in commemoration of the Lord’s passing over any home that had its doorposts painted with the blood of a lamb, when he killed the firstborn of every household in Egypt. Jesus more than likely had gone to Jerusalem before and we know he was there when he was eleven teaching in the Temple courts. But now the Temple is being misused and desecrated by his own people. How would Jesus respond as he walked through the Temple?

READ: John 2:13-25

The event we are about to study in the life of Jesus had such a tremendous impact on the disciples that it is one of the few circumstances of Jesus’ ministry that is mentioned in all four Gospels. I believe it is because of how Jesus responds and how others viewed what he did there. We discover…

I. Jesus shows us his passion for the temple! (Vv. 13-17)

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

1. We learn that “When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” Direction in the New Testament has to do with elevation and not direction such as north or south. So when “Jesus went up to Jerusalem” it means he traveled in elevation up toward Jerusalem which was where the Temple was built on Mt. Zion. John records what comes next early in Jesus’ ministry while the other Gospels record it happening toward the end of his ministry. Some think there could be two occasions where Jesus cleansed the Temple; however, it could also simply be the process of writing that folks in Jesus’ day used. They did not care so much when something actually occurred and were more concerned about sharing that it did indeed occurred. Either way, we find Jesus in Jerusalem at the Temple during Passover and it was there “In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.” Jesus found this distressing. The place that was to be considered the most holy place on earth was being used to store and sell animals and for the exchange of differing currencies into Temple coins! All sacrifices had to be bought with Temple currency and the powers that be had a real racket going. Temple sacrifices had to be bought with the acceptable Tyrian coinage, and a high percentage was charged for changing coins. “So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’” They had desecrated that which was to be a holy place and turned it into a money-making scam! Jesus shows us his passion for the Temple!

EXAMPLE: We would do well to ask ourselves if we desecrate the holy place of God on Sundays in order to make it more acceptable for ourselves rather than a place of worship. My grandmother would say that there should be a certain amount of decorum maintained. We would call it manners or respectability. Perhaps we have bought into the lie that since God lives in us through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit we can do anything we desire during worship. God did not live in a place made by human hands, nor does he live within the walls of a church building, yet when his people who are called by his name gather themselves together to worship, he is there. And what we do while we are there says a lot to the Lord about whether we honor him above all other things; things like lattes, the Internet, Facebook, texting, or other distractions we deem more important than focusing on him. Perhaps we need to overturn some of the tables in our lives so we can focus on what is truly important when we worship. Here, Jesus shows us his passion for the Temple!

We no longer have holy passion and so we often expect our worship leaders, music ministers, or pastors to invoke in us the passion we lack. The sad truth is, no matter how emotional one gets, emotion never makes up for a true passion for the Lord. This is why we discover that…

II. Folks can misunderstand the true temple! (Vv. 18-22)

Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

1. When we get caught in our sin we can either respond one of two ways, either by repenting and turning to the Lord or by getting defensive and demanding God prove we were in sin. Sadly, far too often those caught in sin do the latter. This is exactly what the Jews do after Jesus upsets their ill-conceived con game. The Jews vehemently demand of Jesus, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Basically they are saying, “We know we are wrong in doing what we are doing, but what gives you the right to do what you did!?” They are trying to shift the blame for their sin to Jesus! Jesus would later remind these same hypocrites, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! (Matthew 12:39 NIV)” In fact he tells them that the only “sign” they are going to get is the one of Jonah, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40 NIV)” And here Jesus bluntly answers them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” Jesus wanted them to think about his answer, but they were thickheaded and confused because of their sinfulness. When we are in sin we never want to admit it is our problem, that we should change, or that we do not understand the significance of our ungodly behavior. They respond, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” We may wonder at how dense these folks were, but how dense can we be in our response to our sinful condition? We know that “the temple he had spoken of was his body.” But that should not excuse our behavior. Notice that it was only “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.” What is the reason we are so confused? Folks can misunderstand the true Temple!

EXAMPLE: Paul would later remind his readers that “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV)” Jesus didn’t cleanse the Temple because he thought God lived there, he cleansed it because it represented the place where God met with his people. Our lives in Christ are to be kept clean as well because we are now his temple, bought with a price, the blood of Jesus our personal sacrifice. When we hypocritically treat our lives in Christ with disdain, as the Jews did the Temple courts, perhaps we are guilty of misunderstanding the true Temple!

Jesus cleanses the Temple area of animals and the money changers tables, but his time in Jerusalem was not done. He had other things to do. Jesus knew that the Hebrew nation was focused inward instead of on what mattered. They were to not only reach those who did not believe but they were honor God with their lives. The problem was and is that…

III. People often think they are the Temple! (Vv. 23-25)

Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.

1. Wow, the Jews just demanded of Jesus that he show them some miracle in order to justify his actions concerning their sins and now we read that “while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.” Interestingly, John chose not to describe any of them. John’s interest is in introducing us to Jesus and showing us how others viewed him. Folks are often more interested in making themselves the center of the universe rather than God. And isn’t it fascinating while those who questioned him about overturning the money changers tables and demanded he give them some miracle to show he could do such a thing, could now see for themselves by the miracles he performed! I believe John deliberately gives us this piece of irony to show their hypocrisy. No matter how many miracles Jesus did, they probably would not have believed he was the Messiah! This is why “Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men.” Jesus knew that people’s first inclination would be to make him into some kind of rallying point, to make him their political puppet king who would rescue them from their oppressors the Romans. Later, they try to do this on several other occasions, however, “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:15 NIV)” Those who opposed Jesus would falsely declare that Jesus wanted to make himself king! When Jesus was asked by the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate, “Are you the king of the Jews?” meaning was he declaring himself a king, Jesus responded, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place. (John 18:36 NIV)” Temporary fame or excitement over his miracles would soon fade because people would just demand more and more, kind of like those who hike clear around the Sea of Galilee in order to get more food from him! Therefore, “He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.” People often think of themselves as the Temple!

EXAMPLE: We may say we worship Jesus or that we believe in God, but what we do next can say a whole lot about what we truly believe. When we show up for worship expecting God to “bless” us because we happened to be there; when we are haphazard with our prayers and demand God listen when we have a need; or when we know more about episodes of The Walking Dead than we know about books of the Bible perhaps we think God should revolve around us. Maintaining a way of life had become more important to the spiritual leadership of Jesus’ day than knowing the Messiah! And this was the problem just as it is today, people often think of themselves as the Temple! It is time we stop focusing on ourselves and begin to focus on what God desires; people need to stop thinking they are the Temple!

Conclusion:

Jesus shows us his passion for the Temple, perhaps we are guilty of misunderstanding the true Temple, and sometimes people need to stop thinking they are the Temple!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Wedding! — John 2:1-12

The Wedding! — John 2:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 19, 2014

According to a recent article by Kelsey Thibodeau of WGGB/CNN, “Marriage can be an expensive adventure. But can the size of your ring be a predictor of how long that marriage will last? New research from Emory University suggests the bigger the diamond, the shorter the marriage. Researchers surveyed 3,000 adults who’ve been married at some point. They found that men who spent between $2,000 and $4,000 on engagement rings were more likely to end up divorced than those men who spent less than $2,000. The same appeared to be true for women receiving rings. The more expensive it was, the more likely the woman reported being divorced. The study also suggests the more expensive the wedding, the higher the divorce rate. Women whose wedding cost $20,000 or more are 3.5 times more likely to divorce than women who spent $10,000 or less.”

Here we find Jesus invited to a wedding in Cana. It is a wonderful retelling of an intimate event in Jewish life. And what makes it even more delightful is the fact we not only find Jesus, but his mother, and the disciples there as well. I find it somehow comforting that Jesus enjoyed the normal things, the traditional things, and the joyous occasions of family and friends. What could be more enjoyable than a wedding of a friend or beloved relative? It is here we see the Savior at the wedding…

READ: John 2:1-12

I know that some pastors would rather do funerals than weddings; as one minister related to me, “Grief over death makes people see life in a healthier perspective and silences the obnoxious relative.” However, we find the wedding a place where…

I. Jesus does his first miracle! (Vv. 1-5)

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

1. The third day could refer to three days after meeting Nathaniel, three days after Meeting Peter, or three days following John the Baptist telling his disciples to look intently at the Lamb of God. More than likely it was three days after meeting Nathaniel. And now, “a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.” We also discover that “Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.” She must have had a major part in the wedding planning and execution of the celebration, the feast, and the events. The reason I say this is because of her involvement in what occurs next, her concern for the wedding couple, and the embarrassment it would cause them, because “When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’” A simple guest would not have been aware of such an intimate detail and certainly would not have been concerned. Yet we find Jesus’ mother both knowledgeable and anxious about the couple being embarrassed. And, interestingly John never names himself nor uses the name of Jesus’ mother. Here we read Jesus replies, “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus’ response has been dissected and discussed for centuries; however, within the words he uses we see his respect and love for her. Could she have known of her son’s ability to perform miracles or of his Messianic status? I would say “No” because we find her and the rest of Jesus’ siblings trying to discourage him later in the direction his life would take and John notes, “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. (v. 11)” And, we see Jesus immediately responds to her request, “My time has not yet come.” It was not time for him to reveal himself to the general public through any outward sign. His mother commands the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” He still had not called all of his disciples yet to follow him and he was not willing to do something dramatic to draw attention to his self but out of respect and love for his mother, he does his first miracle.

EXAMPLE: “Keep calm and eat bacon.” “Keep calm and put the kettle on.” These sayings originate from the phrase: “Keep Calm and Carry On.” This message first appeared in Great Britain as World War II began in 1939. British officials printed it on posters designed to offset panic and discouragement during the war. My favorite would be, “Keep calm and ask mom!” There is something very endearing about Jesus doing this act of kindness. I do not believe Mary forces him into doing something he does not desire to do. The answer that Jesus gives his mother might be better translated as, “What do you want of me? I am not prepared for this.” Yet for sake of a young couple and because he loves his mother, Jesus performs his first miracle.

Jesus is always using the simplest of things for great things. He does this when feeding thousands, using a fish net, or in providing wine for a wedding. We discover that…

II. Jesus provides the very best using the mundane! (Vv. 6-12)

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

1. John relates that “Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.” This was no small gathering but rather a large celebration where perhaps the whole village was invited or at least a large group of folks. We find that there is between 120 and 180 gallons of water, and soon to be wine involved! This was not a few bottles of Champagne! Jesus tells the servant to “Fill the jars with water” and to fill “them to the brim.” They have no idea what is about to occur but in the time it took them to finish filling the jars and when the master of the banquet tastes the newly drawn liquid, it miraculously changes! Jesus simply tells the servants, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” Obediently they do so “and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.” The water was used for purification rights before the meal so the participants would come to the meal clean. The master of the banquet “did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.” This ceremonial water that was turned into wine ceased to be what it was before and became what it was not: celebration wine! The wine used in Hebrew meals was far weaker than what we drink in our day because wine for the Jew was seen as a food item to be enjoyed as part of the meal and not something to get a buzz from. And during most feasts folks would bring out the stronger wine first. This is why we learn that when the master of the banquet “called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’” The plain water of cleansing became the joyous drink of celebration! Jesus uses the mundane to provide the very best!

EXAMPLE: How often have parents planned and schemed to give a child a present they wanted only to later find them playing with the box it came in instead. I loved getting a refrigerator or washing machine box and turning it into a rocket ship, army tank, or play house. It is taking something simple and turning it into something wonderful. However, what Jesus does is more than using one’s imagination, it is the power and presence of God actively involved in the lives of those he loves. The Savior of the world provides the very best using the mundane! How truly marvelous is that? And yet this is exactly what Jesus does with our lives when we trust him with them? I believe so.

Conclusion:
Jesus does his first miracle! Jesus provides the very best using the mundane!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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John 1:35-51 – The Calling!

John 1:35-51 – The Calling!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 12, 2004

Tom T. Hall, an old country western singer, wrote a song that went, “If you love somebody enough, you’ll follow wherever they go. That’s how I got to Memphis.” The sentiment of the song is quite true because if you truly do love someone enough you will follow wherever they go. This is why Jesus would later relate to his followers, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37-38 NIV)” When Jesus calls us we are to leave everything and follow him.

A young man went to the same work he did every night with the same crew and the same duties he always did, but this evening he would be called. He never suspected that his friend would introduce him to the one who calls us eternally. Just as those who thought they were following a good and righteous man named John the Baptizer so long ago never realized that the one they followed would point them to the one they truly needed to follow. Let’s discover this morning what that calling means for each of us…

READ: John 1:35-51

In this section of John’s gospel we find Jesus calling his first disciples. When we are called by God we are to follow him wherever he leads us. The call of Christ calls us from our sin into his wonderful grace, from our normal way of life into his marvelous way, and from the darkness into his light; but first and foremost…

I. The call of Christ asks us to go with him! (Vv. 35-39)

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.

1. The following day after John had given Jesus that wonderful name as the ultimate sacrifice for all mankind we find him with two of his own disciples. He now turns to them and “When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’” This is more than a pronouncement it is a benediction, a sanction or a kind of an approval of who Jesus is. John is encouraging them to go with Jesus! How would it be if you were asked to devote the next 3 years of your life to one who would ultimately die? That you would be called to devote the rest of your life to proclaiming his gospel message! We discover that John fixes his gaze on Jesus and he knows that his ministry is about over and this is the one whom he has been preparing the way for. It is time for his disciples to be with Jesus. “When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.” It is interesting to note that when John points them to Christ, they do not ask him why nor debate the issue, they “followed Jesus.” Of course this was in the sense that he was walking by and now they are following after him, but it would lead to much more. “Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’” It is a natural thing to ask when strangers begin to tail after you. They heard John’s words, realized what they meant, and it reached into their souls whereby they had to choose and choose they did. Now, Jesus addresses them. I believe that Jesus perhaps overheard John and he knew these men had a choice to make. Perhaps God the Father whispered to his Son’s ear, “These are the first of many.” Whatever the case; “Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’”  And then they immediately respond, “‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’” They become Jesus’ disciples in that moment. Called to follow Christ, they now go with him.  “‘Come,’ he replied, ‘and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.” The call of Christ asks us to go with him!

EXAMPLE: The “tenth hour” was about 4 PM in our time frame since it was around ten hours after sunrise. So it was quite natural for them to go with Jesus after being invited to do so to see where he was staying. They spent the rest of the day with him, and probably shared the evening meal as well. While we are not implicitly told they did, the timing and the structure of the events suggests this is true. I wonder what they talked about, what the food they shared was, and how they made their introductions. In fact we learn from the other Gospels that “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. (Matthew 4:17 NIV)’” What I find truly fascinating is the fact that when John told them who Jesus was, they immediately curious and wanted to find out for themselves what that meant. Too few folks are curious about Jesus in our day and age. Perhaps we need to induce curiosity in others concerning Christ so that they will want to see for themselves? Remember, the call of Christ asks us to go with him!

It is easy to secretly follow someone. You do not have to put yourself out, risk embarrassment, or stand out in the crowd. However, following Jesus does not work that way. It becomes a matter of public record no matter how hard you try to be a secret saint. There simply is no such thing in the kingdom of God. And afterwards, we soon discover that…

II. The call of Christ asks us to invite others! (Vv. 40-44)

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.

1. Here begins a delightful tale of one disciple. We find “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John said and followed Jesus.” He realizes the one he has been introduced to requires that we share him. That is the very nature of discipleship. The disciple shares his teacher, his rabbi, with others. Andrew appears two more times in John’s Gospel (John 6:4-9; John 12:20-22); and both times he is bringing someone to Jesus. The unnamed disciple is thought to be John the son of Zebedee, brother of James and author of this Gospel. Andrew is about telling others who he has found. “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.” Interestingly we learn from the other Gospels that Peter and John return to their father’s business of fishing. And it isn’t until later when “Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20 NIV)” Curious of what Jesus is teaching, later they would have to decide to go and completely follow after him. Jesus takes them from their fisher nets and makes them fishers of men instead. After meeting Peter, “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated, is Peter).” Names often depicted one’s character and Jesus knowing these men are to be chosen, gives Simon (he who hears) the Aramaic name Cephas (stone). Peter would become the stone the disciples would depend upon after Jesus’ ascension.  In Matthew 16:18 Jesus asks the disciples who they people say he is and then he asks who they think he is. Peter submits that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah the Son of the Living God. Jesus responds to Peter that while he is petros (a small pebble), it would be upon the truth Peter just exclaimed the petra (large stone) that Jesus would build his church! “The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” Philip was a fisherman as well, Bethsaida means fish house. And, interestingly, we discover “Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.” It begins with Andrew and John and they in turn go tell others. The call of Christ asks us to invite others!

EXAMPLE: When I was four years old I received an invitation to a birthday party for the little girl down the street. Being shy, I did not want to go. My mother dressed me in my best clothes, handed me a wrapped present with a card, and sent me off in the direction of the little girl’s house. After receiving a phone call wondering where I was, my mom came looking for me. She found me hiding in the bushes next door. She dragged me out, brushed me off, and marched me down to the birthday party. Invitations can be wonderful to receive. I stayed long enough to shove the gift at the girl, grab a piece of cake, and flee out the backdoor. I think the other kids had a great time. Birthdays, weddings, or parties but what if the invitation was to follow the Lamb of God? To follow the one who can save you from your sin and give you eternal life? Jesus tells us, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20 NIV)” Jesus invites us. The call of Christ asks us to invite others!

Some folks have a struggle with predestination, the notion God knows who will come to him and that it is he who calls us, frankly I do not. If God created all things, sent himself as Jesus to redeem us, and now lives in us through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, I find it quite reasonable and comforting to know God knew beforehand I was his. However, in the calling we do not know who is chosen and here we learn that…

III. The call of Christ asks us to respond by faith! (Vv. 45-51)

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

1. Like Andrew Philip does not let moss grown under his feet. We find that “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’” At this point in time Philip does not know of Jesus extraordinary birth, but he does understand a few vital truths concerning Jesus. God told Moses, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. (Deuteronomy 18:18-19 NIV)” Daniel, Micah, and Zechariah were just some of the prophets who spoke of the coming Messiah and now Philip had seen him, he tells his friend Nathanael!  Incredulous that such a small smelly fishing village could produce the Messiah to come, Nathanael asks, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nazareth was the backwoods; it was full of backwards folks who would not understand the intricacies of spiritual truth concerning the Messiah. Philip’s response is simple, “Come and see.” Nathanael does not expect to experience what he does next, “When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.’” Skeptical, Philip asks, “How do you know me?” Jesus responds to Philip with just the information this skeptic needs to hear, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” How did this man know when and where Philip had asked him to “come and see” for himself? For this skeptic it was enough, only the Messiah could have the foreknowledge Jesus had concerning Nathanael. He exclaims, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” I honestly believe Jesus had a wonderful sense of humor and we see it displayed here with Nathanael. I believe that with a twinkle in his eye, Jesus smiles and responds to Nathanael, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that! I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man!” Nathanael believed Jesus was the Messiah simply because Jesus had seen him under a fig tree, well Nathanael – you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Nathanael would see far greater things than he could understand and hear greater things than he had ever heard. The call of Christ asks us to respond by faith!

EXAMPLE: God takes us where we are and then begins to build us in him. He never asks us to understand all there is and then come to faith. It is impossible to do because we are to respond in faith, not by sight! Besides we cannot fully understand spiritual truth without the Spirit of God living within us! This is what Jesus is referring to when he responds to Nathanael the way he does. Jesus is basically congratulating Nathanael on his simple faith! There is a beautiful story that takes place at the verify end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Another skeptic, Thomas, tells the other disciples who claim they saw the resurrected Jesus, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it. (John 20:25 NIV)” Thomas wanted all the answers to what he could not grasp. Jesus then appears to him and the rest and Thomas learns that faith is more than seeing and believing. Jesus tells him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (John 20:29 NIV)” The writer of Hebrews would state “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)” The folks who lived before Christ were applauded for their faith, not what they fully understood! While they knew God created the universe, they did not know exactly how he did it so and they follow God by their willingness to trust in him and who he is! We do not need to clean up our lives nor understand the Bible; the call of Christ asks us to respond by faith!

Conclusion:
The call of Christ asks us to go with him! The call of Christ asks us to invite others! The call of Christ asks us to respond by faith!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Sticks and Stones and Little Boys

Sticks and Stones and Little Boys
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 6, 2014

Sticks and rocks are beautiful things, if you do not believe me then you do not have any little boys because sticks, rocks, and little boys go together. I am not sure why, they just do. Perhaps it is our “aggressive” natures outwardly manifesting themselves. I certainly believe this is why too many little boys in our day and age have little or no imaginations because their overly protective parents do not let them enjoy the simplicity of a good stick or rock. Of course the Darwinist would postulate that it comes from our Neanderthal background as cavemen! I do not think so. I believe it is simply the outward expression of boyhood to have a good stick or rock on hand.

I remember well my mother telling me in no uncertain terms, “If you run with that stick young man you will poke someone’s eye out!” Or how she would grumble as she emptied my pockets before doing the laundry, knowing that if she did not then she would hear the clanging of the rocks in the dryer I had treasured in my patched jean pockets. She never realized that you would have to have the stick at just the right angle and then you would have to meet the other unsuspecting person’s head at just the precise time for certain impact. Of course these kinds of miracles happen all the time in the life of young boy because it seems they are always poking someone’s eye out with a wayward stick, scrapping their knees, running in the house, or carrying a ton of rocks in their pockets to pound dents into the inside of the dyer with. I digress. My mother would often lovingly place each rock by the door where the dryer was so I could replace them in my clean jean pockets again!

Just a few years ago I opened the backdoor of our church just in time to see a trio of boys walking by with their sticks. They had scrounged them from the trash bin where I had thrown them after tripping over them for the umpteenth time. When I asked them where they had gotten their sticks from, they answered, “What sticks?” I almost immediately responded, “The one’s you will poke someone’s eye out with!” but I held my tongue. Instead, I pointed to the wooden pikes they held in their grubby hands, too which they responded, “Oh, you mean these sticks!”

My grandson has a pile of stones and sticks by the front door our house. If we are buried under a pile of ash from Mt. St. Helens in the next few days I am sure future archeologists will dig up my front door and determine that we worshipped at some shrine whereby we placed certain prized rocks and sticks! And yes, we find them in his pants pockets as well. When asked why he saves them or if we dare ask him to part with even one rock, you would think we are robbing gold from Fort Knox. Each is a prize to be kept and treasured. And in fact he cannot be outside for long without finding a wayward stick to carry, tap on things, and use with his imagination.

See, these two stories prove my point that little boys and sticks and rocks go together. In fact there may be some kind of unknown magnetism between inert discarded branches and random stones and little boys. And I am sure that just as Grog’s mom once told him a millennium ago, “You play with stick, you poke um eye out!” a future mom will declare, “You play with that stick with your anti-gravity belt and you’re gonna poke someone’s eye out!”

Sadly, in our day and age too many “adults” have lost the imagination of sticks and stones and only think of them in the politically correctness of their convoluted narrowly focused world. However, my advice is to let little boys have sticks and random rocks to treasure and play with, as long as they do not poke the dog, hit their little sister, or bonk one other on the head with them. Of course if this happens, so what? You may as well as give up now because even if you do not live where your little boy can find sticks and stones, a boy will find a stick or rock of sorts somewhere. In fact, if you ever go camping they will suddenly appear in your campsite, and fathers, you may never have to hunt for firewood or rocks to make a fire or fire pit with again!

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