Tag Archives: John

Resurrection! – John 20:1-9

Resurrection! – John 20:1-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 16, 2017

We are at a spiritual crossroads in history. We live in a day and age whereby folks do not use critical thinking but rely on their instinct or passion. This is dangerous because we are then motivated to think that what we feel is more important than facts. Or worse, that we can distinguish what is right or wrong in life simply by how it feels to us. From personal relationships, what we believe in, or to whom we vote for is a matter of feelings and not what we truly know. We end up hurt and confused when our emotions have steered us in the wrong direction.

The resurrection is not a matter of emotion or personal feelings. It is a historical physical fact. This is why later when Mary is crying by the empty tomb and the angel rebukes her by reminding her of the facts, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'” (Luke 24:5-7 NIV) And later here in John the angel bluntly reminds Mary to stop relying on her emotions by asking her, “Woman, why are you crying?” (v. 13) As believers or seekers we must come to the realization of the fact of the resurrection because if we do not we are still standing outside of an empty tomb that has no effect on our lives. Therefore this morning let’s look anew at the resurrection.

READ: John 20:1-9

When people die and you put them in their graves, contrary to any TV fiction, they do not get up and walk around! The dead stay dead! Except in the truth of the resurrection! In light of what occurred we must first ask…

I. Why is the tomb empty?! (Vv. 1-2)

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

1. Now there are some pretty nifty sleight of hand arguments concerning which Mary was where at what time. However, I believe we have to take each one as they were written realizing that the authors were remembering the event as it was told to them or as they saw it for themselves. John relates what he remembers that “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.” It was early Sunday morning, probably right before the sun rose and the sky was still dark but the dawn of the new day could be seen. We discover that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb first. We know from other accounts that she was with other women who wanted to finish the burial preparation of Jesus’ body. Her gratitude and devotion to Jesus came from her deliverance from bondage to Satan. She had been an observer at the cross and now was one of the first folks at the empty tomb. She saw Jesus die and evidently knew where he was buried; now the heavy stone had been removed from the entrance! Mary does the first thing she could think of, “So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!'” Mary knew the tomb was empty but did not realize why and could only think of the logical answer, someone had taken Jesus’ body! Why is the tomb empty?

EXAMPLE: Go into any grocery store and Fred Meyer, Wal-Mart, or WinCo and you would find aisles of Easter eggs, cards, candy, baskets, bunnies, chicks, Peeps, and chocolate this or that. Yet you would not find the one thing that is most important part to all of Easter: the empty tomb! Easter is not found in bunnies, eggs, baskets, or Peeps. It is discovered in the fact that several thousand years ago folks found the tomb where Jesus’ dead body was laid empty. It therefore begs the question for us every Easter, “Why is the tomb empty?” Paul knew full well that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 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”! (1 Corinthians 15:17-20 NIV) The tomb is empty!

Hindsight is always 20/20 but when you’re in the thick of it one’s vision can become very myopic indeed. As the facts of the empty tomb just keep coming and what is revealed makes one wonder…

II. Where is the body? (Vv. 3-7)

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.

1. Whether Peter is bewildered or he simply suspects what has happened is not at first clear, but he does the one thing most of us would do, “Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.” Peter and John “Both were running.” Both understood the importance of the news Mary had brought them and as they head to the tomb where Jesus’ body was laid to rest, the younger John, “the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.” Being younger perhaps John was fearful of defilement of entering a tomb or perhaps he was afraid of what he may or may not find inside. John therefore, “bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in.” Whatever the reason, “Simon Peter, who was behind him,” and being older and more impulsive “arrived and went into the tomb” while the hesitant John waited outside in bewilderment. Peter also “saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head.” In fact we know this is an eyewitness account because of the detail described by John. Peter saw exactly how the burial cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head was lain aside and how neatly “The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.” The burial cloths were there but the fact remained, where is the body?

EXAMPLE: Where is the body? It was a natural question to ask. The Radio Bible Class relates, “No element in the Easter story is more troubling to unbelievers than the report that the followers of Jesus found the tomb empty that Sunday morning. Some simply deny it, saying that the women and others went to the wrong tomb. Others think that Jesus was not quite dead when He was buried, and somehow He revived and got out of the tomb—even though the Roman soldiers had declared Him dead (John 19:33), an eyewitness saw blood and water flow from the pierced body (v.34), and His body had been wrapped tightly with strips of linen containing 100 pounds of spices (v.39). In the first century, even Christ’s enemies agreed that He had died and the tomb was empty. They bribed the guards to say that the disciples stole His body (Matthew 28:11-15). Jesus rose from the grave in a real body, and that means everything to us. When a Christian friend or loved one dies, we can be confident that we will meet again. The body may turn to dust, but God will not forget it. It will be transformed into a body perfectly designed for heaven (1 Corinthians 15:35-50). This is not wishful thinking. It is an expectation based on solid evidence.” Where is the body? Happily it was not there!

Courage is often found in the strangest of circumstances. Here we discover John found his and…

III. Believed! (Vv. 8-9)

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb, first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

1. John in succinct fashion relates how he had gotten to the tomb first but was either too fearful or awestruck to go inside. What he had seen from the outside of the tomb was curious and so he just had to go in as well. “Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb, first, also went inside.” What he saw inside of that tomb changed his life forever. John had run to the tomb out of curiosity, concern, or fear that someone had stolen Jesus’ body. John had run to the tomb merely as a disciple of an itinerant rabbi, but came away a true follower of Jesus. Believing there was a Jesus and believing in Jesus are two different things. John had loved Jesus’ teaching, he had loved and followed Jesus the man, but now he had to believe in Jesus the Messiah. And not just in a Messianic-type person but in the actual resurrection of Jesus the Messiah! The Living God! The first born! The King of kings and Lord of lords! Jesus was no longer just a good teacher; he was John’s Master and Savior. However, John’s personal notation tells us that both he and Peter “still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” But now they did! They believed!

EXAMPLE: When the dark day of Jesus’ crucifixion drew to a close, it seemed that the most wonderful of all lives had come to an end. For a few brief years, Christ had astounded the crowds and His followers with the wisdom of His teaching and the wonder of His miracles. But Jesus chose not to save Himself from the cross, and now His life was over. It seemed that nothing more could be expected of Him. Hope returned, however, on that first resurrection morning. A painting by Eugene Burnand portrays Peter and John running to the tomb. Shortly after dawn, Mary Magdalene had told them that she and her friends had found the tomb empty. In Burnand’s painting, the faces of Peter and John show contending emotions of anguish and relief, of sorrow and surprise, of despair and wonder as they race toward the tomb. Their gaze is eagerly fixed forward, turning the viewer’s attention to the sepulcher. What did they find? An empty tomb—the Savior was alive! Christ still lives. But many of us go from day to day as if He were still in the grave. How much better to look beyond the empty tomb to the One who can fill our lives with the power of His resurrection!  (RBC, Living With Expectation, March 27, 2004) They believed!

Conclusion:

Why is the tomb empty? Where is the body? They believed!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 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 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 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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God’s incredible gift! – John 3:1-17

God’s incredible gift! – John 3:1-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 11, 2011 AM

Incredible bargains! Fantastic values! Unbelievable quality! These are some of the phrases that are blared into our ears and blazoned before our eyes as advertisers try to make us believe and buy on the basis of what they have just told us. I tend to accept their acknowledgment of reckless exaggeration and keep my money in my pocket, believing the maxim: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” The Bible speaks with unrestrained enthusiasm about his incredible gift of love in Jesus Christ. It does not call it unbelievable, though, and then ask us to believe it. What God says and does is incredible; however, we can believe it!

In today’s text is relates a truth that appeared unbelievable. Twice Nicodemus, a Jewish teacher, asked how what Jesus was telling him could happen. Jesus’ words, however, were not too good to be true; they related a truth too important to ignore! The truth of God’s incredible gift!

READ: John 3:1-17

While in Jerusalem, Jesus worked a number of miracles and “many believed in his name.” They were so shallow in their belief that Jesus did not proceed any further in revealing himself to them (John 2:23-25). One observer among the Jews considered the matter seriously enough that he determined to learn more from Jesus himself about his teaching. We meet that observer, Nicodemus, as we look closer at God’s incredible gift. Here in John’s gospel we discover…

I. An incredulous visitor! (Vv. 1-2)

1. Psalm 111:10 tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.”
1) Nicodemus was “a man of the Pharisees.” “Pharisee” meant “separate or set apart.” They were known for their strict interpretation of the Law of Moses and their rigid adherence to the traditions surrounding it. Unfortunately, their zeal for the law resulted in an obsession with outward conformity rather than an inner spiritual concern “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 NIV). A Pharisee would have been incredulous of Jesus!
2) Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews. This indicates that he was a member of the Jewish ruling council, or Sanhedrin. This was composed of seventy priests, scribes, and elders who exercised authority over the religious community. Yet, in spite of his distinguished position, he recognized a deficiency in his understanding of spiritual matters. He was curious about what Jesus had to say. As a ruler, he would have been incredulous of Jesus.
3) Nicodemus was in search of the truth. He tells Jesus, “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.” Other Pharisees had brought questions designed to trap Jesus into making public statements that could be used against him. Not Nicodemus. Rabbi and teacher were terms that were precious to the Pharisees (Matthew 23:1-10). Nicodemus’ use of them was a sincere attempt at showing respect and his statement indicates that he was not alone in his beliefs about Jesus. While incredulous, Nicodemus was in search of the truth.

EXAMPLE: So what did this God-sent teacher have to offer a God-fearing Pharisee? Nicodemus had not yet asked any questions of Jesus. He did not have to. Jesus knew what the man needed to know and what was on his mind. Some students think Nicodemus came to Jesus by night out of fear. Others think he chose a time when he could have an uninterrupted and meaningful discussion with Jesus. They find him noble. Whatever Nicodemus’ reasons, this incredulous visitor would soon learn an incredible truth that would change his life forever.

Many folks are curious about Jesus. Each year we see dozens of books written about his teaching, ministry, and who he was. Yet mere curiosity about Jesus isn’t enough. You must apply what you know to your life. It is more than being good, nice, or kind. It takes an inner change that only God can provide. Nicodemus was shocked when he learned…

II. An incredible truth! (Vv. 3-9)

1. Jesus taught, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
1) Nicodemus needed to change! Jesus’ emphatic statement, “I tell you the truth”, is a translation of the double use of “amen”. This is important to note, because Jesus was claiming that God’s kingdom could not be perceived without a radical change from one’s natural viewpoint. Jesus bluntly says, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” This change required an entirely new life, so new that Jesus described it as being literally “born from above” What an incredible truth!
2) Nicodemus took Jesus’ language literally. He incredulously asks, “How can a man be born when he is old?” then he follows up with his confusion, “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” However, Jesus affirms the incredible truth that, “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” It is a dramatic reference to physical and spiritual baptism. Paul makes a similar connection of baptism when he writes that, “[God] saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5 NIV) Jesus asserts that just as “Flesh gives birth to flesh… the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” For Nicodemus it was an incredible truth!
3) This incredible truth is for everyone! Jesus was not speaking to Nicodemus alone. He states, “You,” literally meaning, “All of you”, including the entire Sanhedrin and Jewish nation “should not be surprised” that something wholly unreasonable to your way of thinking is being presented. Incredibly, Nicodemus must learn that the truth of being “born again” was for the entire world!

EXAMPLE: God shows no racial, national, or economic favoritism. His gift is given without any reservation. Both the gift and the giver of it are completely color blind, socially and racially tolerant. A little girl sat on her porch crying. Her father found her there and asked, “What’s the problem?” she replied, “I gave Billy my new ball.” “The one you just got for your birthday?” the father asked. “Yes,” came her tearful reply, “but now he won’t play with it properly!” She explained that she wanted to play the game Four Squares with it and all he wanted to do was “bounce it all over the place!” Her father hugged her and told her, “If you give a gift, then it is a gift. It can be used however the person you gave it to wants to use it.” This is the truth of God’s greatest gift to all mankind. He gave it freely and willingly. It is our choice, if we will take it. It is our choice what we do with it. That’s why it is such an incredible truth!

We should not be surprised that we cannot grasp all the intricacies of spiritual truth as well as we would like. We cannot fully understand the movements of natural phenomena such as the wind. However, since we hear its sound and see its impact, we do not doubt that it is real. In the same way, we cannot observe the Spirit at work or actually see the processes of faith and repentance taking place, but we can see the Spirit’s influence in the transformed lives of everyone born of the Spirit. Nicodemus did not understand Jesus, but he was not giving up. He then learns about…

III. The indescribable gift! (Vv. 10-17)

1. Paul related, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)
1) Jesus takes the indescribable and makes it understandable! Jesus first asks Nicodemus, “You are Israel’s teacher and do you not understand these things?” Jesus begins by sharing that he indeed does speak the truth. In fact, he relates, “we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.” How could Jesus say such a thing? He continues by telling Nicodemus, “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” Jesus could speak of these things because, “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.” Jesus was “the Son of Man,” the Messiah! The indescribable gift was understandable!
2) Jesus begins to describe the indescribable gift! Just as God commanded Moses to set up a brass snake on a pole, directing those bitten by the serpents to look upon it and live (Numbers 21:4-9), Jesus’ crucifixion, would bring salvation from the venom of sin to those who look in obedient faith to him. Jesus said, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32). Why would he do that? Simple: so “that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” The indescribable gift that all mankind had waited for was now available!
3) Jesus tells Nicodemus why God would do such an indescribable thing: because he loves us! Jesus’ death was the result of the fact that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” so that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life!” Before Jesus, we were doomed to perish; but now we can have eternal life! Every word in this verse is stretched to the full capacity of its meaning: God … loved … the world … whoever believes … will not perish … eternal … life. You cannot grasp this on the run. You have to linger and let its truth soak in. Take the time to substitute your own name in place of the word “whoever” and delight in this indescribable gift!

EXAMPLE: I remember when an older member at another church got so distraught about the church remodeling he went and sat in a chair and wouldn’t move. Then an older and wiser man reminded him that he was focusing on the wrong thing and that “buildings were never to be more important than people.” Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a sect that collectively had become so enamored with the form of the law that they had lost sight of its substance. What happens when Christians lose sight of the substance of their faith and see only the form? What happens when we forget about this indescribable gift of God? That he so loved each of us that he gave his Son to die for our sins!

Conclusion:
John 3:16 is the most familiar verse in the Bible. It has been quoted and lauded as “the New Testament in miniature.” It may come as a surprise, then, to learn about a preacher who, given liberty to choose whatever text he pleased as the basis for what would surely be a once-in-a-lifetime sermon, chose John 3:17 instead of John 3:16. It was on June 2, 1850, that Alexander Campbell spoke from John 3:17 to both houses of the United States Congress in the chamber of the House of Representatives. Although he spoke for some ninety minutes, it was said that during this time, Campbell held his audience “in the most fixed attention.” How vital to know that God did not send Jesus to condemn the world, but to save it!

We have looked at an incredulous visitor, heard an incredible truth, and learned about an indescribable gift. Now, let me ask you, what will you do with what you have heard?
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 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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Today’s thoughts, 1 John 4:11-17

by Pastor Lee Hemen
May 6, 2008

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. (1 John 4:11-17)

There it is again. Did you notice it this time? Those two important “commands” of Jesus just keep cropping up all over Scripture. Love God completely and love others as we love ourselves. Doggone, you would have thought that there would be more to it than that. You know, like following a set of guidelines or some rule book that each of us could edit ourselves as to which rules we would follow or not. Stoning? To harsh. Animal sacrifice? Maybe. Hmmm, how about wearing long dresses for the women and long beards for the men? Perhaps some celestial being would give us special scrolls we could decipher with a secret decoder ring? Oh, wait, that has been tried before hasn’t it? Well, maybe we should just add to it? Scripture that is. You know, some really good things from here and there and call it “tradition!” Of course we would be hard pressed to find it in the pages of the Bible, but that should not hold us back from trying to rewrite it, right? After all, won’t that make us as wonderful people feel better when we can check off our lists all the good feeling stuff we have done? Isn’t that what God is all about anyway — to make us FEEL better? Maybe we should develop a method of coming to God whereby we just get ourselves into a “holy” mood with music, candles, good works, and a fine sounding mantra like this: “Oh, I’m so bleesssssed. Oh, I’m so bleesssssed. Oh, I’m so bleesssssed. Yoooooou can beeeee bleesssssed toooo!” Do that about fifty times, wave your hands in the air like at a rock concert, and I am sure it will get you closer to the Lord. Or, we could go around and smack one another with foam noodles that children use to float in the pool with. It could be fun. We could sneak up on people and BAMO, right on the back of the head! Each time we do it we could sanctimoniously say something like, “RECEIVE the second holy whack of the LORD!” That would be a real corker to do, but we might have to let TBN in on it as well.

Now that I have offended just about everyone, doesn’t this sound kind of, well, stupid? Especially after we read what John so beautifully writes? We know without a doubt God loves us if we remain in His love. Why? He is love. If we love Him totally we would understand that and then His love would be manifested in our lives and made complete. No judgment day would hold any fear for us. God’s grace towards us was made complete in Jesus and we can do nothing to make it better. When we try we sin against the Lord no matter what our motivation is. The equation is simple: God loves us, we are to love God, and show His love to others. Now go out and do that today.

NOTE: This article is copyrighted by Pastor Lee Hemen © 2008 and the property of Pastor Lee Hemen. You are welcome to copy it, email it, or use it but please if you copy it, email it, or use it you must do so in its entirety.

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