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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Impotent Meets Legalist (2 of 2)

Impotent Meets Legalist (2 of 2)
John 5:10-15

Let's start out by reading our passage from last week. Read: John 5:1-9

Joh 5:1-9 NASB After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (2) Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. (3) In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; (4) for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.] (5) A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. (6) When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He *said to him, "Do you wish to get well?" (7) The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me." (8) Jesus *said to him, "Get up, pick up your pallet and walk." (9) Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. Now it was the Sabbath on that day.

Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem for an unnamed feast, and while there, He went to the pool called “Bethesda”... which means “house of mercy”.

This pool, though pretty ornate and in a beautiful setting... was filled with such a large amount of human suffering, that a more accurate name for it might be “house of misery”.

Out of this large amount of people, all waiting for the waters to stir... Christ chose only one man to heal. We don't know why He chose this man... anymore than we know why He chooses ANY man. There was nothing we know of that recommended him to the Savior more than any other. Jesus simply made a choice.

He listened to the impotent man's, well rehearsed excuse... then instantly healed him... eliminating all excuses.

He told the man... Joh 5:8 NASB ..."Get up, pick up your pallet and walk." At which point, he did. He obeyed Christ's command. He got up... picked up his pallet... and he walked.

Had he not obeyed... he might have stayed in that place until the day he died... never taking possession of the gift that had been given him. But he did obey. Not even knowing Who it was that was speaking to him.

But there was something about Him... something in His manner... the look on His face... the sound of His voice... the obvious authority He commanded... So, he immediately decided to obey.

And as is usually the case... when you decide to obey Christ... many times you will be going contrary to the world. Because the world doesn't like Christ. The world hates Christ.

And this man... because he has decided to obey... is immediately hit with...

I. The Accusation

Joh 5:10-13 NASB So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet." (11) But he answered them, "He who made me well was the one who said to me, 'Pick up your pallet and walk.'" (12) They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Pick up your pallet and walk'?" (13) But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place.

Legalism is a trap that we all can fall into with the greatest of ease. And, it almost always starts out by simply wanting to follow God and do His will. So as good Christians, we have some do's and don'ts that we do and don't do, right? And it's all in a sincere and earnest desire to follow after Christ.

For instance... we may put cigarettes away...or try to. We know they're bad for our health, and maybe we begin to feel that maybe they're also bad for our spiritual walk. So we quit... or at least struggle with quitting for many years until like me... you have a heart attack which becomes you're wake up call and you finally put them away for good.

Then maybe it's that beer that you've grown so fond of. You know that scripturally, there's no real prohibition against a beer now and then... but all too often... the now and then becomes all the time. And since there IS a strong scriptural teaching against drunkenness and alcoholism... you hopefully, put this away too.

Then maybe, based upon what you've read in the Bible... you've decided that you have to be baptized to be saved. Or maybe, as some more radical Pentecostal groups would say... you have to speak in tongues to be saved (because that IS a doctrine of the UPC, by the way)...

This list could go on and on... Some Christian groups believe you have to observe the Sabbath on Saturday. Others say that you have to observe the Lord's Supper every time you gather together... Some groups may believe that we are still supposed to celebrate the feasts and festivals of the Lord... or even Christ's birthday on December 25th (when there's absolutely no evidence the early church ever did this...)

But the point I'm trying to make is that Legalism usually starts out with good intentions... a sincere desire to follow Christ... and follow Him correctly... But before you know it... the original intent has been superseded by form and structure...

The action itself has become more important than the reason for the action... and before you know it... it becomes the law of the land for EVERYONE... then if you're not following it... well... then you're just a dirty rotten sinner, aren't you?!

This is what our now healed and no longer impotent man immediately runs into. He broke a Sabbath law against carrying a bed on the Sabbath (yes... they really did have a law against that)... someone saw him... and immediately began pointing fingers at him.

Now maybe I should have mentioned this earlier... but the last portion of last weeks' passage is the lynch pin of today's lesson. Everything hinges upon the last part of verse 9, which says... Joh 5:9 NASB ...Now it was the Sabbath on that day.

Because you see... had Jesus healed this man on any other day of the week... the religious leaders wouldn't have had anything to complain about. But, the fact that this all occurred on a Sabbath, well, that just makes this whole thing the highest form of blasphemy in their eyes.

They... the religious leaders... had done to the Sabbath what I had mentioned earlier. They turned it into something it was never intended to be. Though their intentions, at least originally, may have been sincere...

The form had now superseded the substance. Now let me explain this...

The traditions of the elders were the “interpretations” of the Torah (the Law). Rabbi's down through the centuries had “interpreted” the Laws to such an extent that they made life ridiculously miserable for all who simply wanted to live a simple and godly life.

The Sabbath laws had become so complex that if a person did nearly anything beyond getting out of bed that morning... they had probably broken some Sabbath tradition (law) in some way. To make matters even worse... these “traditions of the elders” had been elevated to such an extent that in Jesus' day... the traditions actually superseded the Law!

We see Jesus scolding the Pharisees for this in... Mat 15:6 NASB ...And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.

So... this breach of Jewish legal tradition by Jesus and the impotent man, was more important to the legalists of the day than the fact that not only had a miracle been done... but a person's suffering had been relieved.

When I first started working on this sermon series... I read the passage to Terri and the first thing she pointed out, without any prompting, was how that anyone who claimed to love God could be so heartless toward a man who had suffered for so long. The fact that he was healed meant nothing to them. All they were concerned about was their Sabbath “traditions”...

She could see the problem immediately... because she instinctively knew through her understanding of God's Word... what Jesus taught us concerning things like this in general... and the Sabbath specifically... that the Sabbath was made for man, as Jesus said... Mar 2:27 NASB ..."The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

Now what that means is that after a hard week of work, man could not only have a day off from work... so he could chill... relax... rejuvenate... More importantly though... so he could worship.

God rested on the 7th day from all His labors. Gen 2:2-3 NASB By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. (3) Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

The Jews, though, knew that God didn't rest on the 7th day because He was tired. In fact... they believed (and rightly so) that God never actually rests, because as the Sustainer of all things... His sustaining power never ceases. If it ever did cease... even for a second... the entire universe would blink out of existence.

So, they knew that the Sabbath rest wasn't meant for God... but for man... because man DOES need physical rest. But the Jews had lost sight of that.

And not only that, but as Gerald Borchert notes in the New American Commentary that... “Sabbath obedience became in fact an eschatological issue because it was thought at least minimally that the coming of the Messiah was linked to the perfect keeping of one Sabbath.”

So... if keeping one perfect Sabbath would bring the Messiah and usher in the Kingdom of God... then in the Jewish leaders mind... anyone who broke the Sabbath laws not only disobeyed God... but it also showed complete disregard for your own Jewish heritage... and you were preventing the Messiah from coming!

Now... with all this understanding concerning the Sabbath, and how important it was to the Jews... and also how distorted the law of the Sabbath had gotten... We can begin to maybe understand our impotent man's reaction when he's approached by the legalist.

Because you see... he wasn't simply informed that he broke the Sabbath... in the same way we would tell a Christian brother or sister... “Hey! Missed you at church on Sunday! Hope everything's is okay!”

No... he is confronted... and accused... of committing a serious crime... He was not only a lawbreaker... but a Messiah “preventer” too! And because of this, probably out of fear... he immediately transfers all blame to Jesus. He doesn't even blink an eye when he says... Joh 5:11 NASB ...He who made me well was the one who said to me, 'Pick up your pallet and walk.'

Both in v.11 and also in v.13, we learn that our guy has no idea who is was that healed him. This implies that he was healed simply upon the word of Christ. No faith on his part because he didn't know who or what he was supposed to have faith in.

And since Jesus had slipped away... he was left to wonder about that for a while... but not for long... because we see that a little while later... Jesus runs into him again. Only this time... he's in the Temple.

And it's at this point that Jesus gives him...

II. The Admonition

Joh 5:14-15 NASB Afterward Jesus *found him in the temple and said to him, "Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you." (15) The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

I think there are several reasons why Jesus finds this guy in the temple. And I believe that first and foremost... he was scared.

I mean, after all... he had been called a Sabbath breaker, and that was a serious crime. He may have gone to the temple to make atonement for that and to prevent being “put out” of the temple as a lawbreaker.

But we also have to keep in mind that whenever someone had a disease or an affliction like our guy did... if they were healed from that affliction... in certain cases they were required to show themselves to the priest... and then they needed to offer the appropriate offerings for their healing.

Now, there's still no mention anywhere concerning thanks or praise for his new found health. There's no... Act 3:8 NASB ...walking and leaping and praising God. like we see from the lame man that Peter healed...

You'd expect a little more gratitude... or excitement... after 38 years of affliction... wouldn't you?

But the situation is what it is... and when Jesus finds him in the temple he tells him... Joh 5:14b NASB "Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you."

The healing he had received was complete! "Behold, you have become well... Because when Christ heals... He heals completely. He doesn't give us “part” of what we need... He gives us “all” that we need.

But with this healing... as with many others... there's a warning attached. Many times the warning is... (Joh 8:11) “Go and sin no more” ... This time there's an added admonition... Joh 5:14b NASB that nothing worse happens to you.

And this reflects an important biblical truth... that although the Scripture is clear that illness isn't always the immediate result of personal sin... it does teach that some sicknesses and even death are directly related to sin in our lives...

Paul mentions this in his letter to the Corinthians... 1Co 11:30 NASB For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.

Jesus' warning here is clear. Our guy is to quit sinning... or something worse than what he had may come upon him. It's hard for us to envision something worse than what he's already gone through... but maybe Jesus is talking about death?

This reminds me of the situation Jesus spoke of where the unclean spirit is cast out and then returns with reinforcements...

Mat 12:43-45 NASB "Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. (44) "Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came'; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. (45) "Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation."

* * * * * *

Now, another thing I get from this is that this man's affliction did in fact come upon him as a result of sin in his life. To me, that just seems to be the “natural” understanding of Jesus' warning here...

But the man's response would seem to indicate that he failed to listen to Christ's word... because without a word of thanks, or even appreciation... he makes a bee line to the Jews to “give up” Christ. In essence... he snitches on Him.

You know to me... it's just crazy that someone who's suffered for so long... though he accepts the healing... he shows no appreciation for it. He's a far cry from the blind man who Christ heals later... who defended Christ to such an extent that the religious leaders had him “put out” of the temple...

Our guy has to be an example of one of the greatest acts of ingratitude and obstinate unbelief in all of Scripture.

It's inconceivable to me that someone who had been given so much, should be so ungrateful. Yet, his attitude is but a taste of what we see in the world at large. Because this entire world has been given the greatest gift of imaginable... and its level of ingratitude far exceeds that of the impotent man.

You would think that someone who's drowning would reach for the life preserver that's been tossed to them, wouldn't you?... But so many push the life preserver away and simply drown.

If my house were on fire... I would be highly appreciative toward the fireman who threw his ladder up against the wall and breaks my window in order to save my life... yet many today would rather to sue the fireman for scratching their paneling and breaking their glass.

If the plane I were on lost all engines and began to fall out of the sky... I wouldn't hesitate to put on the parachute and jump... would you?... Yet even though there's a parachute available for everyone, most would rather take their chances with the plane...

So, as ungrateful we may think our impotent man is... this world is far worse. Because (all metaphors aside)... this world has been offered the greatest gift imaginable...

The Father sent His Son to the world... but the world rejected Him and killed Him. The world continues to reject Him even today. He promised that He would return one day soon.

If you don't know Him... you need to remedy that... quickly. Because there's still time. But when Christ returns... it'll be too late...

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Impotent Meets Omnipotent

Impotent Meets Omnipotent
John 5: 1-9

When Christ first appears on the earthly scene... though He's heralded by angels and visited by Magi and Shepherds... where the rest of the world is concerned... few take notice. His arrival on earth isn't even a “blip” on their radar.

We have no record at all of anyone from Bethlehem assisting the young couple in their time of need. A lonely birth... in a lowly manger... and the world at large couldn't care less...

But when Christ begins of His ministry... everyone takes notice. He was an unprecedented sensation throughout the regions of Judea, Samaria and Galilee. John the Baptist had a following... and many people came from all over to hear his words of repentance and turning to God...

But he never did the things that Jesus did... nor spoke with the authority that Jesus spoke...

Jesus did things unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. He relieved people's suffering through healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead and feeding the hungry.

All these signs He did... authenticated His claim to be the Son of God. He also taught about the kingdom of God with boldness, confidence and with an authority that couldn't be denied. When the Scribes spoke or taught the people, they primarily quoted other human authorities...

But when Jesus spoke... He spoke with power that could only be wielded by the Son of Man... Mat 7:28-29 NASB When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; (29) for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

Even His enemies had to acknowledge... Joh 7:46 NASB ..."Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks."

So... encouraged and excited by His astonishing miracles and powerful preaching... people flocked to Jesus... but this didn't have the beneficial results you might think because as we've seen from the early chapters of John's gospel... many of those who were among the crowd that “followed” Him... weren't really following Him at all.

They were curiosity seekers and “signs and wonders” groupies who didn't look to Him as Lord and Messiah... They had no real commitment to Christ and as we'll see later, they're fickle and will one day turn on Him and cry out... Joh 19:15 NASB ..."Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!"

What's interesting to note about our passage today is that it marks a shift in the nation's attitude toward Jesus. Whereas before, they may have viewed him with reservation... This chapter marks the beginning of their outright rejection and open, hostile opposition.

And this turning point begins at a pool called Bethesda in Jerusalem during an unnamed feast where Christ did the unthinkable... He showed compassion on someone who had suffered for many years.

And in that act of compassion, He demonstrated His outright rejection of Jewish self-righteousness and their extra-biblical “traditions” which hindered true worship and bankrupted their religion.

So... we start out today, in John, chapter 5, verses 1-5... where we meet...

I. The Impotent

Joh 5:1-5 NASB After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (2) Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. (3) In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; (4) for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.] (5) A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.

No one knows for sure which feast this is. But just about every feast the Jews have throughout the year has been put forth as a possibility. Some commentators speak with such an authority on the matter that it's ridiculous, because in the end... no one truly knows.

I look at it this way... John decided not to name it... therefore... it's not important!

It really adds nothing to the story other than maybe as an example that shows Jesus' desire to be among God's people in God's house. Jesus loved going to church... even if there were a bunch of hypocrites going too!

So, this is my plug for attending church on a regular basis... and the fact that there may be some hypocrites there... well, it didn't stop Jesus... so if you really want to follow His example... it shouldn't stop you either.

Plus... I just have to wonder that if a person doesn't want to go to church now and be among God's people, worshiping Him... then what makes them think that they would fit in, in heaven, where we'll be doing this same activity ALL THE TIME?

But... getting back to the story... which feast this is doesn't matter. What does matter is the human suffering we see... and the fact that it's in such close proximity to the temple.

Today... if we were to see such a large amount of people in pain or suffering from various illnesses or maladies... so close to a church... you would expect, or at least hope, that there would be a ministry coming out of that church... and other churches in the area... which would try to meet the needs of these people. Wouldn't you?

But back then... there doesn't appear to be any such compassion shown for the hurting and suffering by the religionists, at all.

Here we have this pool called Bethesda... which means “house of mercy”... when in reality it was more of a “house of misery”. It had 5 porches... each of which had covered colonnades in order to provide some protection from the elements.

(Next Slide) On one side, there were two porches for the women. On the other side, two for the men. In the middle, a larger one... probably for those who were on their way into the temple. They could possibly stop here and perform their ritual washing's before going in to worship. The pool itself was built by Herod the Great and was trapezoidal in form and somewhere around 165-200 ft wide and 315 ft long

But regardless of how beautiful and ornate this facility may have been... again... the most striking thing about this pool is the amount of human suffering we see here. Joh 5:3 NASB In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered

The KJV and NKJV say it was a “great multitude”... and what better place for the One we know as the Great Physician to be than among a great multitude of those needing His services?

But notice that in the midst of all that pain and suffering... only one person is mentioned... For we read in... John 5:5 NASB A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
In a time when men might live to 50 or 60 years... we see this unnamed man who has been ill with an unnamed malady... for 38 years. The greatest portion of this man's life was filled with suffering from this affliction.

He's been coming to this pool for many years now... hoping that one day he might get the cure for this disease that has plagued him for so long. But here he lies... after 38 years... still afflicted... until One comes into the pool area who can truly help...

II. The Omnipotent

Joh 5:6-9 NASB When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He *said to him, "Do you wish to get well?" (7) The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me." (8) Jesus *said to him, "Get up, pick up your pallet and walk." (9) Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. Now it was the Sabbath on that day.

Not only is Christ omnipotent... He is also omniscient... He knows all things. Out of all the great multitude who were in this place... all for the same reason... they all sought to be healed from something...

Just as He knows what's in man... Joh 2:25b NASB ... for He Himself knew what was in man.
(see also 6:64; 13:11) Jesus sees this man and knows everything about him.

And He asked him... John 5:6b NASB ..."Do you wish to get well?"

Now, normally you might think that this is an odd question to ask someone... Wouldn't everyone in similar circumstances want to be made well? That's why he's even at this pool... right?

But you know what... not everyone who is in this condition wants to be healed. I mean... just think about it... The entire world is suffering from the effects of a world-wide disease called sin... and many people, indeed, most people not only don't want to be cured... they may not even recognize that they have a problem!

And think of this too... what would be the effects upon the human psyche of being stricken for so many years with an ailment like this guy... and then, every single time you think you might be cured... you miss out on it once again?

That's what this man was going through. Every time he saw the water stirring... someone beat him to the it. Can you imagine that he might experience some serious depression after 38 years of this? Or, he could have gotten used to laying about with his hand out asking for alms? (People do that too, you know. There are professional panhandler's out there, even today.)

Another possibility is that people can become so defeated by their affliction that they actually may not want to leave it behind any longer? Maybe it's some addiction to alcohol or drugs... or maybe it's an emotional instability that they cling to... like the perpetual “victim” mentality we see so much of today...

Jesus cuts through all the excuses and defenses that have grown up over the years like layers of fat. He listens to the man's excuse... one he's probably rehearsed many times throughout the years... Joh 5:7 NASB ..."Sir, I have no man...

And then He heals him with a word. Joh 5:8 NASB Jesus *said to him, "Get up, pick up your pallet and walk."

Now, I want you to notice a couple things here, and they might be controversial to some... but to me... it's just the Bible. What I mean by that is that even if I can't fully understand something in the Bible... I still accept it as God's truth.

Some things I may never understand in this life. I recognize that. I accept that. I don't dwell on it. And then, I move on.

So, with that being said, the first thing I want you to point out here is... Jesus chose this impotent man. Now, there was a whole “multitude” of suffering people all around Him... yet He chose only this one man to heal. This is a clear and indisputable example of God's election.

Now, that may be a word that many people don't like to hear, and I do know that you'll seldom even hear it spoken in the pulpit anymore... and this is really sad... because just like “salvation”, “justification” and “sanctification”... it IS a biblical word, and it IS a biblical doctrine... and whether we like it or not... it is what it is, and we have to deal with it and then we have to accept it and then... as I said... we have to move on.

And that last point is important... MOVE ON. If you get so wound up in the doctrines that are difficult to fully understand... you'll never grow in the faith. You'll be stuck... as in quicksand... incapable of moving forward.

Now, some may say that election is inherently unfair. Why didn't Christ heal everyone? Simply put, the issue really isn't one of “fairness” at all... Christ simply chose to heal some... and not others. It's about sovereignty.
In the same way that when I pull up to that stop sign in Amarillo, at the corner of Loop 335 and I-40... you probably know which one I'm talking about... And I see that person standing there on the corner with a sign asking for some sort of assistance, whether it be money or food... I make a choice at that time on whether or not I'll give him or her money...

I can do this because I'm a moral agent who makes choices all the time... and I'm responsible for the choices I make. These may be Yes to some things... No to others...

If I can do this... why would I now suppose to take that very same power of choice away from the Creator of the Universe?

So, the question really shouldn't be... “Why didn't Christ heal everyone?”... but rather... “Why did Christ heal anyone at all?” He chose this man... He did not choose any of the others.

And now... as I said... moving on... The second thing I want to point out is that “faith”, or “belief” in Christ isn't mentioned anywhere in this story. This guy exhibited no evidence of faith in Christ at all...

Matter-of-fact, it could be argued that he never came to faith in Christ. Because later, we see that he didn't know who it was that healed him... and then when he finds out... he doesn't thank Him at all... or fall down in worship as many others do... but instead, he runs to the Pharisees to snitch on Him. And... other than the fact that Jesus later finds him in the temple...there's no real evidence that he “glorified God” for his providence...

Yet still... he was healed instantly and completely.

But there are those who teach that in order to be healed... you have to have faith. And there are examples in the Scriptures that people Christ healed did in fact have “faith”..., but there are also examples where they didn't. This is one of them.

This man had nothing in particular going for him. There is no evidence that there was anything that commended him to the Master, more than anyone else... except maybe that he may have been the most difficult case of them all... (but then that's only speculation on my part)

But in His great mercy, Christ made a choice to heal this man who had no faith. Because when Jesus asked him if he wanted to be made well... the man's response shows us that he was thinking still of the pool... “I have no man...”

He may have taken a closer look at Jesus at this point... wondering if He was offering to hang around and help him into the water the next time it stirred... Was He offering to be his “man”?

And before he could get a clear understanding of what Jesus was actually asking... Jesus told him... Joh 5:8 NASB ..."Get up, pick up your pallet and walk."

That in itself was a remarkable thing to say. A man who had been an invalid for 38 years... too weak and feeble to get up fast enough to be the first one into the water...

His muscles... joints... and sinews had become atrophied from lack of use... but in a moment... he could feel the impotence leaving him. He could feel the long lost strength returning to his members...

It had been so long that he may not have even recognized what that tingling sensation in his body meant... but he knew it meant something. And without another word... he obeys.

He stands up... probably feebly and hesitantly at first... but as he gains his equilibrium... he bends over and rolls up his bedding... picks it up... and walks.

* * * * * *

Now... later on in the story we'll find out that Jesus removes Himself from the scene almost immediately. It looks as if He might have taken advantage of all the hub bub this healing would have caused... and simply slipped away.

We'll talk about that some more, next week.

But the final point I want to bring out is that though Christ may have chosen this man... and not others.

And I suppose there could be arguments on both sides of the issue concerning faith... whether he had any or not... though personally, I don't believe he really did...

Both of those are really side issues to what I think is really the key issue here... and that's the fact that he obeyed.

You see... nothing else would have really mattered if he hadn't obeyed, would it? That would be like receiving a gift on Christmas or your birthday. Someone wraps up a present for you, and when they give it to you... you thank them, and then instead of unwrapping it and taking actual ownership of it... you simply put it in the closet and forget about it.

In order for this man to actually receive the gift that Christ offered him... he had to obey the command to... Joh 5:8 NASB ..."Get up, pick up your pallet and walk."

He had to unwrap that present, didn't he?!

The same can be said of salvation. In order to become a member of God's household... we have to “receive” Christ... Joh 1:12 NASB But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,

And the Father isn't sitting up in heaven... wringing His hands... begging and pleading for you to believe in His Son...

No, the Father commands us from heaven, saying... Mar 9:7 NASB "This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!"

And again... Joh 3:36 NASB "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

Have you heard the Father's call to receive His Son? I know you've heard Him... don't you think its time now to obey that call?

You may obey this call feebly and hesitantly at first... like the man in our story. But receiving Christ... and the salvation He offers begins with taking that first step... in obedience.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Nobleman's Belief

A Nobleman's Belief
John 4:43-54

We are commanded throughout the Bible to “believe”. Now, that word... “believe”, is found in the Bible... in one of its various forms (believe, believes, believed, believing) 305 times... 43 times in the OT, and 262 times in the NT.

The book of the Bible that uses the word “believe”, or one of those forms... more than any other book is the Gospel of John. When you consider what the Apostle wrote concerning his gospel...

Joh 20:31 NKJV but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

So... it's understandable to find that he uses the word “believe” more than any other book... over 100 times. His gospel, after all... as he says... is written so that we may “believe”. The gospel of John is the gospel of “belief”

It's through believing that we are saved... Joh 3:16 NKJV For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

It's through believing that we become children of God... Joh 1:12 NKJV But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:

Through believing we avoid judgment... Joh 5:24 NKJV "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

Through believing we take part in the resurrection... Joh 11:25 NKJV Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.

Through believing we're delivered from spiritual darkness... Joh 12:46 NKJV I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.

And through believing we're empowered for God's service... Joh 14:12 NKJV "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

These are just some of the things that the Christian receives through “believing”... “Believing” therefore, is vitally important to the Christian life... Matter-of-fact... you can't even be a Christian without it.

But it's important to understand two things concerning Christian belief... and the first, is that the “object” of our belief is in the Person of Jesus Christ.

All of those things I just mentioned that we receive through our “belief”... salvation... eternal life... children of God... empowerment for God's service... and on and on...

These are all based upon our belief in Jesus Christ... The Son of God... The Second Person of the Trinity... No one or nothing else!

The second thing to understand is the “type” of belief is also important. Because the Scripture is abundantly clear that there are are those who believe in Jesus Christ... and are saved... And, there are those who believe in Jesus Christ... and are not saved.

Jesus tells us that one day, there are going to be many people who will be surprised to find out that though they thought they were saved... they actually weren't...

Mat 7:22-23 NKJV Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' (23) And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

To me... this is one of the scariest passages in the entire Bible! These people thought they were saved. They were prophesying in Jesus' name... They were casting out demons in Jesus' name... They were doing wonders (grk=dunamis... eng=dynamite, dynamo, dynamic works). Besides the things that are already mentioned... can you think of some wonders, or dynamic works, that people might do in Jesus name? (healing... tongues...)

Yet... Jesus didn't know them! Why? Because though they claimed to know and love Christ... they practiced “lawlessness”... grk=anomia... violation of the law of God... wickedness...

They practiced wickedness. Though they claimed to believe in Jesus... and they said they were saved... they were still living in and practicing sin... They were posers... liars... false converts.

Mat 7:19-21 NKJV Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (20) Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (21) "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

They did not do the Father's will... their fruit was rotten...

So... the “type” of belief is just as important as the “object” of our belief. Because apparently... we can have a true belief... a belief that saves...

Or we can have a false belief... one that doesn't save... And it's important that we know that there is a difference between these... because as we've seen in these early chapters of John... that many of those who were following Christ...

Many of those who “believed” in Him... believed more in the signs and wonders He did... than in Him as the Messiah. And as we see in the last verses of chapter two... Jesus didn't commit Himself to those who came seeking only signs.

Signs can lead people to faith in Christ... but our faith... our belief... must be in Christ... not the signs!

So... in our text today... we see Jesus leaving Samaria and continuing His journey to Galilee. Almost immediately we're confronted with the contrast between the Samaritans who believed without the benefit of signs... and the Galilean's... who, without signs... display their...

I. Lack of Belief (43-45)

Joh 4:43-45 NKJV Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee. (44) For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. (45) So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they also had gone to the feast.

After spending two days with the Samaritans in Sychar... Jesus continues His journey to Galilee. He doesn't return to Nazareth, probably because He knows the type of reception He'd receive there, like He said... Joh 4:44b... a prophet has no honor in his own country

But He heads on into Galilee... which is also His country... and though before... He might not have had a “reputation” there... now, He's well received because many of these Galileans had been in Jerusalem for the Passover and had seen the miracles He had done there.

These people carried the news of this miracle working Galilean... back into Galilee with them. His reputation had preceeded Him. And though the people of Nazareth might still be a little too familiar with Him... since that's where He grew up... the rest of Galilee has been anticipating the return of this “prophet”, or “miracle worker”... They wanted to see more.

Now... where it says they “received” Him... this doesn't necessarily mean that they believed unto salvation, because as we see a little later... He fusses at them for seeking signs and wonders...

No, these are mostly curiosity seekers who were so caught up in wanting to see miracles that they weren't hearing His message. They wanted the flash... the sensational. And if they continued in this frame of mind... they would remain hopelessly lost.

As I mentioned earlier... the miracles Christ did were to bring attention to Him as the Messiah and to verify His message of salvation. They were never meant to be an end in themselves.

And once they realized this... once we realize this... and we stop looking for the shiny bobbles that grab our attention... we can begin to experience the...

II. Growth of Belief (46-47)

Joh 4:46-47 NKJV So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. (47) When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.

Nazareth is almost directly north of Sychar... and Cana is north of Nazareth. A person making the trip to Cana from Sychar... would have to go out of their way to to avoid Narareth.

And yet... it seems that this is just what Jesus did. His hometown isn't even mentioned as He arrives in Cana... the place where He performed His first miracle of turning the water into wine.

Now, about 25 miles east, and just a little north of Cana... was the city of Capernaum. Jesus' reputation had gone well ahead of Him. Word had reached Capernaum that the same Jesus, who had done all those amazing healings and other miracles in Jerusalem... was now in Cana.

Upon hearing this news... a nobleman (some say this was Chuza, “Herod's steward”, who's wife would later become one of Christ's followers who helped support His ministry)... anyway, this nobleman whose son was so sick he was close to death... rushed to Cana.

His mission was urgent... just as it would be for any parent who had a sick and dying child. You'd move heaven and earth to get them help if you could... wouldn't you?

Many years ago... my wife and I found our eldest son lying on the couch in the front room of our house in Portales... white as a sheet and unresponsive. We were frantic and grabbed him up and rushed him to the hospital.

Unknown to us, the floor furnace that was heating the house had a vent pipe that had fallen off and there was a crack in it's firebox... Carbon monoxide fumes were filling our home throughout the winter... slowly killing us... Glory to God my son was spared... as were the rest of us...

So, I can identify with this man... as I'm sure many of you can... that once he came and found the one he was sure... who could cure his son... he began to frantically beg him to come to Capernaum and heal him.

We know he was frantic in this because first off... that's what any parent would be … frantic! But we also know this because the word that's translated “implored” indicates that he repeatedly begged Jesus to come...

He believes that Jesus can heal his son... but it's a belief that's driven by desperation for his son... not a desire for the salvation of his soul.

But in this desperation and because of his deep love for his son... he doesn't give up... and just like in the parable of the Friend at Midnight (Luk 11:5-8)... who continues to ask his neighbor for help... even after being denied at first...

We see this nobleman's belief begin to morph into something stronger... We see that his belief develops into certainty that Jesus can really help him... and this certainty in turn becomes a dogged assurance that just won't give up.

And in this assurance we see the...

III. Persistence of Belief (48-49)

Joh 4:48-49 NKJV Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe." (49) The nobleman said to Him, "Sir, come down before my child dies!"

When we read this in the KJV it would seem that Jesus is scolding this nobleman for his continued pleading and seeking after signs, because it reads... Joh 4:48 KJV Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.

It seems a little harsh... to rebuke a man who's desperate for his son to be cured... but when we realize that “ye”... or “you” that's used here, is plural... we come to understand that Jesus isn't speaking specifically to this nobleman... but all the people around Him who have latched onto Him... as just another “miracle worker”... or side show novelty.

Because as I said... “signs” can be a powerful tool to bring attention to the message... but they should never replace the message. Though it's the “signs” that point the way... it's the message that builds true faith... because...

Rom 10:17 NKJV comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

So, Jesus, with an air of frustration... rebukes those in the crowd who are hoping to get their “signs and wonders fix”... but this nobleman is thinking of only one thing... his son... so he again asks Jesus... Joh 4:49b ..."Sir, come down before my child dies!"

Thinking only of his son and believing that this person before him now is his only hope... he asks Jesus to come back to Capernaum with him to heal his son before he dies...

His persistence is praiseworthy... but it's clear that in his desperation, he really hasn't come as yet to a full understanding of who Jesus really is! He's still got it in his mind that Jesus was just a miracle worker. That He'd have to come to Capernaum to do his thing. He'd have to be in his son's presence to do what He was going to do to heal his son.

And even though Jesus performed many miracles... He was much more than a miracle worker... wasn't He?!?

He is the second Person of the Trinity. The Son of God in whom all the fullness of deity dwelt. He was the Word of God who spoke all things into existence “in the beginning”, and as such He commands all authority in heaven and earth to do whatsoever He so wills to do.

He does not need to be in Capernaum to heal this boy. All He does is speak the word, and it's done. And when a person hears His Word... and believes... they will experience the...

IV. Results of Belief (50-54)

Joh 4:50-54 NKJV Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your son lives." So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. (51) And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, "Your son lives!" (52) Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, "Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him." (53) So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, "Your son lives." And he himself believed, and his whole household. (54) This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

When Jesus sees this man's fearful and feeble faith... in an act of astonishing love and kindness... He stretches forth His power well beyond what was expected...

The nobleman asked Christ to “come”... but Christ replied, “Go”. But He doesn't leave it there. He also tells this father his son's current condition. He says... “...your son lives”.

In other words... “All is well”. And at that very instant... the boy was healed.

The father has no proof or other confirmation... yet he believed the word spoken to him. And with this word... the nobleman moves to a whole new level of belief.

He no longer has to see signs and wonders in order to believe. The word of Christ is enough. This nobleman seized upon Jesus' word and fixed them in his heart. He now believed that the life of his son was contained within a single word of Christ.

Until now... this nobleman's belief that Christ could heal his son was based upon the testimony of others... he had heard of the things Christ had done. Now he trust's in Christ Himself. He has a better foundation now... because now, he has Jesus Himself.

So with this newfound faith toward Christ... and believing His word is true... he sets off for home.

And while he's making his descent down the hill country toward Capernaum... he meets his servants who were in a rush to find him to let him know the good news that his son was past danger and doing fine!

When the nobleman discovered that the very moment Jesus told him that his son would live was the moment that the cure was affected... Joh 4:53b ...he himself believed, and his whole household.

After recalling the order of events to his servants, they undoubtedly glorified God and believed. And then... upon arriving back at home... after telling his wife and the rest of his family... the wonderful thing God had done... they also believed.

This is a beautiful example of the head of the household, doing all that he can to meet the physical needs of his household. One of his number was deathly ill and needed a cure. He was willing to travel wherever needed. He was ready to not simply ask for help... but to humble and debase himself, begging for the cure. And then once the cure is given... he humbly and gratefully accepts it.

But this is also an example of a man who desires to provide for the more important, spiritual needs of his household. He sought a physical cure for his son's illness, so that he wouldn't die... but what he also finds is the spiritual cure for the disease that has plagued him and his family... and indeed all of humanity since the Garden.

And once he finds this cure... he embraces it for himself... and then leads his entire household to embrace this cure also...

* * * * * *

I'm sure you're well aware that this last disease I'm referring to is sin... and the cure for sin, is Jesus Christ

There are probably some here today that may still be suffering from the effects of sin. There may be those who still haven't believed in Christ “unto salvation”

Though Christ performed many miracles throughout His ministry... by far, the greatest miracle He's ever performed is the salvation of souls.

And this is what He offers still... to all who “believe” in Him.

He tells us... still today... Act 16:31 NKJV ..."Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."