Jesus Restores Lazarus to Life

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On our journey through the Gospel of John we have seen Jesus perform many miracles. He changed water into wine, healed an official’s son over a great distance, put a man crippled 38 years back on his feet, fed more than 5,000 by multiplying 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish, walked on water and gave sight to a man born blind. As impressive as these were, the greatest one was about to happen: Raising Lazarus from the dead.

Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus was close to this family as evidenced in the message the sisters sent to Jesus informing Him of their brother’s plight: “Lord, the one you love is sick.” (John 11:3 NIV)

If you are familiar with this account (and if not, I urge you to read John Chapter 11 in its entirety), you know that upon receiving the news of Lazarus’ condition Jesus delayed going to him for two days, though Bethany was only a short (less than 2 miles away) distance away.

When Jesus and His disciples do finally go to where these friends of Jesus lived, they find that Lazarus is already dead. John tells us this was the Lord’s plan all along as he explained to His confused disciples: So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe (John 11:14 NIV).

Upon arriving at Bethany, Jesus is met by Martha and then Mary, both grief-stricken not only at the loss of their brother, but also at Jesus late arrival.

As with the other recorded miracles of Jesus, there are a multitude of lessons we can glean from the giving of life back to Lazarus. Let’s look briefly at just three of them.

First, God’s timeline does not always match up with ours. Mary and Martha knew Jesus well. They had no doubt seen or heard what He had already done and were positive He could help their brother. I mentioned that Jesus delayed going to see them. As you read the rest of this account, you find that Lazarus had already been laid in the tomb for 4 days when Jesus does arrive. It is important to note that this was the amount of time required in those days to officially pronounce someone dead. By waiting, Jesus left no doubt that Lazarus had passed away, making the restoring of his life evidence of God’s power alone.

Secondly, the humanity of Jesus is in full view here. Mary, a distraught sister lay at the Lord’s feet weeping. Many of those who had been with the family also came out to see Jesus. The bible tells us that they were all weeping as well. As Jesus took this all in with great empathy, John simply tells us, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35 NIV). Despite all the fullness of deity within Him, Jesus is moved to deep sorrow by the pain He sees the sisters and the crowd suffering. Please consider this fact if at any time you might feel that Jesus does not feel the depth of your pain.

Lastly, the raising of Lazarus back to life is a snapshot of what God does for all those who put their faith in Jesus Christ. The picture cannot be any clearer: Without Jesus we are dead. When we hear His call to accept salvation, we too step out of the grave and into life with Him.

All the miracles Jesus performed are signs that were to point everyone to God. By restoring life to Lazarus as He neared the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus makes plain what He had ultimately come to do. He would soon give up His life for the salvation of many. The Lord takes our place, bearing the punishment for our sins that we might be saved. If you have not yet, please do not miss His heart for you when He calls you to life with Him.

Thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

The Man They Call Jesus

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When last we left our study of the miracles of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of John, we considered the ‘two for one’ miracles of Jesus walking on water and then simultaneously having the disciples be with Him on the far shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Between these occurrences and the next miracle, Chapters 7 and 8 contain many important teachings from the Lord. I would most certainly like to delve into them in-depth, and perhaps in another blog series we shall. I highly recommend reading those chapters in preparation for the topic today, the healing of a man born blind. If you do, you will find that Jesus makes a clear declaration of His divinity. I believe the timing of this next miracle was done to coincide with the Lord’s statement found in John 8:58.

We meet the blind man at the beginning of Chapter 9 as the narrative tells us Jesus and His entourage were walking along the road. It is helpful to know that in that culture many believed that physical ailments and deformities were believed to have occurred because either the person suffering with it or their parents had sinned, thus causing a judgment of God that would manifest in these ways.

Jesus quickly dispels this false notion. He then spits on the ground, making some mud of the dirt and then puts it on the blind man’s eyes. Given the directions to go to a certain pool to wash it off, the man does so and discovers that the gift of sight has been given to him.

As with the majority of the miracles He has performed, Jesus is not present at the time of the healing. Jesus wanted people to come to know who the Father was and His plan for the salvation all mankind. He did not want to get this message diluted by people simply seeking the next amazing (or entertaining) thing.

What I would like us to consider today is the formerly blind man’s response to his friends and neighbors as they quizzed him about how he received is sight. After convincing those asking that he was in fact the blind man they had known, these folks asked, “How then were your eyes opened,”  (John 9:10 NIV)

The response the man gave is what has grabbed my heart and mind today: “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I washed, and then I could see.” (John 9:11 NIV)

To you, Dear Reader, I put the question: Who is this man they call Jesus? I certainly hope you are not grilled for an answer as our newly sighted man was by the religious leaders of that time. They crossed examined this fellow; many maintaining that he was not blind in the first place! The leaders even brought in his parents trying to mine information from them about their son and what he was claiming had happened.

At one point you can all but hear the exasperation in the man’s voice as the persistent questioning about Jesus continued: He replied, “Whether he (Jesus) is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25 NIV)

Though the once blind man was not entirely sure who Jesus was, the miracle itself had convinced him that He was someone from God. As you and I ponder this question, I ask us all to consider the events in our lives that gives evidence as to who Jesus is.

Perhaps you have been a witness to a great healing. Maybe you are familiar with the Scriptures and what they teach about the Son of God. Or perchance you are someone who has heard some of these stories but do not have a true sense of who Christ is.

Whatever and wherever you fit into the above context, one thing is true: They (whoever they may be) have talked about this man called Jesus. You have heard this name many times, be in it faith settings or as a coarse word of cursing.

Ultimately, it is not what the theys are saying about Jesus, but rather who do you say He is. If you are reading this and know the Lord as your Savior, I rejoice with you. I only ask that as you ponder the wonders He performed while physically on earth, you allow your heart to grow in love and awe of Him.

But if you are where so many find themselves, not knowing or having given much thought to these things, I ask that you take some time to consider them. The eternal ramifications of your decision regarding Jesus cannot be overstated. I encourage you to read and study these Scriptures for yourself. When you come to the things you don’t understand, seek out a trusted advisor who can give you guidance. For we all must have an answer when the time comes and we are asked: Who is this man they call Jesus.

Blessings to you all and thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

Two for One!!!

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Two for One! Retailers of all sizes have been using this sales pitch for as long as I can remember. Reading those ads or hearing it on TV sounds so appealing: Simply pay the asking price for one item and receive a second one free (with the disclaimer: of equal or lesser value).

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and before mega malls squashed small family businesses, I managed a retail shoe store. We sold men’s, women’s and kids shoes. Twice a year we would run a 2 for 1 sale to move remaining inventory to make room for new. The sales gimmick would work to an extent, but folks with average size feet usually found the selection pretty well pick over.

But enough about shoes, let’s turn our attention to the next of the miracles of Jesus found in John’s gospel. As we do, we will actually find two miracles in Chapter 6, verses 16-21. A supernatural 2 for 1, if you will!

These events occur on the evening of the miracle of the loaves and fishes we looked at last time. After Jesus had miraculously fed 15,000 folks by multiplying five loaves of bread and two small fish, the Lord escaped from the crowd to the hills beyond. He did this because He knew that after seeing this miracle, the large crowd wanted to proclaim Him their king. Jesus, knowing this it was not yet time, went off by Himself.

Picking up the narrative at this point, we find the disciples have gotten into a boat without Jesus and were rowing to the other side of the lake, approximately five miles from where they left from.

The bible says that they had rowed for some time against a strong wind and were barely halfway across. The disciples are then frightened when they see someone walking toward them on the turbulent waters. I find no fault with the fear the twelve felt, for I am sure that had I been in that vessel with them, my fright meter would have been pegged as well.

Miracle number one then is Jesus walking on the water toward the boat His disciples were struggling in. Just hours before Jesus had fed 15,000 from a pitifully small basket of food, demonstrating His power over matter. Walking on water is evidence of the Lord’s mastery over nature as well.

The second miracle occurs after Jesus gets into the boat with the disciples. Jesus first assures them who He is. Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. (John 6:21 NIV). The second half of the journey across the Sea of Galilee ends in less than a wink of an eye as the boat is now safely ashore at their destination.

As I mentioned above, I find it quite easy to relate to the disciples. Even though they had now first-had experience with the power Jesus displayed, their circumstances in life still somehow diverted their attention from God to their immediate trouble. I do not have time or room to mention the countless times I have done the same.

Praise God He is patient with us all! Jesus doesn’t reprimand them for a lack of faith, He just joins them in the struggle and safely brings them to the other side.

The lesson I glean from this today to share with you, Most Precious Reader, is this: Do not get into the boat without having invited Jesus to go with you! Though I do not have any boating plans today, I will be going about many of my usual activities. Granted, most of these are fairly routine. But experience tells me that if I go off without acknowledging my need to have Jesus with me even during the mundane, surprises can upset my apple cart. Also, If I charge off on my own, I am less likely to see the ‘God moments’ that happen around me. What I might shake off as random encounters may well have been opportunities to share in some way the goodness of God. Simply taking the time to ask the Lord to be with me in my daily journey helps my spirit to stay better in tune with His. Perhaps the greatest blessing from this comes in those times when I am consciously aware of the presence of Jesus, the storms of my life do not seem to seriously rock the boat I am in.

This 2 for 1 with Jesus will never have you missing out on your size and more importantly, you will find that the bill you owe has already and eternally been paid by Him.

Thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

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Every summer my parents hosted a family picnic on the 4th of July and Labor Day. My aunts, uncles and cousins would all show up around noon. Each group would bring something for the feast that was about to occur. There would be ample amounts of salads, all the cookout meats you could imagine and on Labor Day, a big bag of clams to be steamed. As yummy as all these things were, there is one item than stands far above them all: Aunt Lucy and Aunt Mary’s Stuffed Macaroni.

If any of you, Faithful Reader, have ever enjoyed ‘everything made from scratch’ Italian food, you have some idea as to how delicious this was. Not only was it a treat to the tastebuds, but also in sheer volume. At each of these family parties my two little aunts brought their specality, smothered in sauce, in a black porcelain casserole dish that looked, to my young eyes, to be about half a city block long.

Best of all, as I think back on this, was that no matter how many aunts, uncles and cousins were there at the picnic, there was always a huge amount of this fantastic stuff left over; and Aunt Lucy and Mary always insisted on leaving it with us to finish up.

The running joke between my brother and me after the 4th of July version of the twice-a-summer gatherings was that the leftovers should just about make it to Labor Day, when we will be able to re-stock for the winter!

Alas, the stuffed macaroni never lasted quite as long as we hoped. But in these days thinking about them brings to mind a meal that never ran out and had much left over: The miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000 found in John 6:1-13.

Of all the recorded miracles performed by the Lord, this is the only one that is mentioned in all four gospels. Apparently, God wanted to make sure we all have the opportunity to read and consider it!

As with the other miracles we have already looked at, Jesus here draws no undue attention to Himself. Despite how He has been quietly doing the miraculous, throngs of people were hearing about Him. Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee, and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. (John 6:1-2 NIV).

 The author John tells us 5000 people were fed, though the actual number provided for that day was probably closer to 12 to 15 thousand when you include women and children in the total.

These numbers only add to the power of God displayed for as you read this account, the only food mentioned to share with everyone is 5 small loaves of bread and two fish.

As with all the words and actions of Jesus, John chapter 6 provides us with a variety of things we could consider and learn from. For the sake of brevity, let’s consider just two for today.

First, as awesome as the miracle of the loaves and fishes is, Jesus was using this as a teaching moment for His disciples. Faced with thousands of people, the Lord asks one of them, Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for all these people to eat?” (John 6:5 NIV). Philip, thinking practically, answers that even 8 months wages wouldn’t buy more than a mouthful for them all.

Then Andrew, who was Peter’s brother, steps up with a small boy who has 5 loaves of barley bread and two fish in his basket. Again, thinking inside the box, Andrew states, “but how far will they go among so many? (John 6:9 NIV)

Philip, Andrew and I dare say most of us lean toward thinking too small when we come asking of God. We are tied tightly to what we see and experience through our five senses. Because of this, our tendency is to expect God to respond within the limits of our understanding and experience.

Philip considered the financials and Andrew the practicality of miniscule resources to meet a huge demand. Remember, the disciples have up to this point seen water changed into wine, an official’s son healed over a great distance by the spoken word of Jesus and a man lame for 38 years restored to full vitality. Yet, in the face of another crisis, they thought and sought to act within a limited scope.

I am not sure about you, Most Appreciated Reader, but I know that I often fall into the same restricted view and expectation of God. What we all should do when bringing any request to God is recall what the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesian Church, Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20a NIV).

God is capable of infinitely more than we can possibly think of. We need to set our pre-determined limitations aside and pray for God to answer our prayers in His awesome and creative ways.

The other learning point for me in the miracle of the loaves and fishes is about be thankful. Before Jesus does what He does to multiply the food, He took the loaves, gave thanks and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted (John 6:11 NIV).

Jesus modeled for us the mindset (and heart-set) we all need: be grateful for what you have. With upwards of 15000 people waiting to be fed, Jesus gave thanks for 5 loaves of bread and two fish. What a tremendous reminder for us all to thank God for what He has provided for us. For it is not in relation to the amount of need presented, but rather it is the unlimited resources of our Creator that deserves our praise and thanksgiving.

Jesus served much more than abundant bread and fish that day. He once again brought His disciples (and us too) to a deeper understanding of who He is, and in so doing taught a valuable lessons on gratitude and how we need to raise our expectations of what God is capable of.

Thanks for reading.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Believing is Seeing

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Continuing with our look into the miracles performed by Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of John, we find the second one in Chapter 4:43-54. Before we go any further, let me help clarify something you may have noticed if you have read the first four chapters of John. Though we are about to consider the second recorded miracle, there have been others performed by Jesus since He changed the water into wine at the wedding in Cana that we talked about last time.

To bring us up to speed, let’s briefly consider where Jesus has been and done since He left that wedding. He first left Cana for Jerusalem where He celebrated the Passover. The author John tells it this way:

Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. (John 2:23 NIV).

The beginning of Chapter 3 reveals a conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus,  a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling counsel. This man sought out Jesus to learn more about Him.

“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. (John 3:2 NIV).

After explaining to Nicodemus why He came (John 3:16), Jesus left Jerusalem for the countryside where He spent time with His disciples. He and His group then headed back toward Galilee, passing through Samaria where the Lord has the wonderful encounter with the Woman at the Well. I’m passing by that encounter, rich as it is with things to teach us, to get to the miracle we shall examine. This one can be found in John 4:43:54. As is always the case, reading it from the source is always the best way to go, but in the short-term, here is what happened. A royal official from Capernaum heard that Jesus was back in Galilee. He went to Jesus, begging the Lord to heal his son who was near death.

Taken out of context, Jesus’ initial response to the official seems a bit harsh, much as did the way He responded to His mother about the lack of wine at the wedding. Jesus was not calling out this man in particular, but rather the local Jewish community. Remember, just prior to meeting this man Jesus had been in Samaria, a place and people that the Jews held in great contempt. Yet many there embraced Jesus’ teaching and put their faith in him; yet there was much resistance in Jesus’ own territory to Him and His message.

The heart of this miracle is revealed in the next few verses. First, the royal official, having heard what Jesus said about the locals only wanting to see something spectacular to wow them, then says to Jesus, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” (John 4:49 NIV)

I respect this father’s heart! His son’s well-being was all that was on his mind. He had heard of the things Jesus was doing and sought Him out to restore health to his son. He wasn’t arguing the point with Jesus. His sole focus was the health of his child.

The compassionate heart of the Lord then shines forth, Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” (John 4:50 NIV). Jesus does indeed love us all with an eternal, inexplicable love. Here we are given evidence of its power.

As significant as this is, it is the official’s response that I would like us all to ponder. The man took Jesus at his word and departed (John 4:50 NIV). Remember, this man had traveled a full day to seek out Jesus on behalf of his son and from the conversation he had with the Lord, we can safely assume he spent less than 5 minutes with Jesus. Yet, at the mere words of Jesus this desperate dad left to return home. More incredible is the fact that as of that time, this man did not believe nor know who Jesus truly was.

God’s awesome power to heal is made known to this official as he approaches his home. His servants rush out to tell him the wonderful news that his son is better. He then puts the timeline together to realize the fever left his son at the precise moment Jesus told him his son would live. We then learn that this man and his entire household put their faith in Jesus because of what has happened!

God heals on so many levels! By healing the boy physically, Jesus healed that whole family eternally. The family had not seen Jesus, but they had seen the results of His love and power.

This leads to the question I ask both you, Most Appreciated Readers, and me to ponder: How much do you believe without seeing? Asked another and more pointed way: Does your faith in Christ allow you to see Him at work around you, even though your physical eyes give no clue?

Please feel free to share your thoughts and insights with us all. Thanks.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Jesus Changes Everything

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The account of Jesus turning water into wine is familiar to many, many people. Those who are more familiar with their bibles will say “Ah yes, John’s gospel; Chapter 2, verses 1 through 11.

I have also encountered lots of folks, with little to no affiliation with church or anything spiritual, who also know of this event. I find in my conversations with the unchurched that they have also heard of this Jesus having fed thousands and calming a stormy sea as well as raising His friend Lazarus from the dead.

Pondering this, Dear Faithful and Deeply Appreciated Reader (with a special shout-out to my Saturday morning friends who encourage me so much), I thought I would spend some time over my next blogs considering the miracles of Jesus as recorded by an eye witness to them, John. This same John wrote five books found in the new Testament: the Gospel of John, three letters (John 1, 2 and 3) as well as the Book of Revelation.

It is my hope that together, we can come to a deeper understanding of the wonders Jesus performed during His physical ministry and ultimately that we bring honor to the Lord because of it. I pray that these times together will strengthen the faith of those who already claim Jesus as Savior while at the same time encouraging us to share what we know of these miracles with others that they too might know Him more deeply.

As I said, the miracle of Jesus changing water into wine can be found in John 2:1-11. Reading it for yourselves is always the best way to go, but in case you are pressed for time right now, here’s my version of events.

Context: Jesus has just recently been baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, thus the Lord’s earthly ministry was in its beginning stages. He and His six disciples (the other six would come a little later) are attending a wedding in the village of Cana. Weddings were hugely important social affairs back then and it would not be uncommon for everyone from the village to be invited as well as folks from nearby places. Also, these weren’t just 4-hour gatherings after vows were exchanged. These celebrations usually went on for several days.

I mention this as background to help you see what a social gaff it would be to run out of refreshments before the party ended. And in this case, that was about to happen.

Jesus’ mother somehow finds out the wine is gone and tells Him of the problem. After an interesting exchange with His mother, Jesus instructs some of the servants at the gathering to go fill six stone water jars, each with a capacity of about 20 gallons.

They fill them as instructed and then Jesus tells them to take some of the water/wine to the event organizer. When this man samples the wine, he is amazed at its quality. It was far superior to what had been served and this fellow goes so far as to call out the host for serving this top shelf wine later in the event as people have already dulled their taste buds a little bit with an inferior drink.

The writer John concludes his coverage of the event this way:

This, the first of the miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him (John 2:11 NIV).

As John wrote, this miracle showed Jesus to be not just another prophet or teacher, but in fact He had the power to create something from something else. No doubt this was a great way to start His earthly ministry, as evidenced by those first disciples who were awed by what they had seen.

We could leave it there, but those of you who have followed me for any time know that’s not going to happen! This miracle was performed in such a way that only a few knew it had happened at all. I conclude that it is included in the Holy Scriptures therefore for all subsequent readers, including you and me! ‘Seeing’ this miracle in this light, I can understand why the Holy Spirit inspired John to put this in his account of the life of Jesus.

Here are three things I glean from this miracle and invite you to consider as well:

Jesus showed his true humility. He didn’t make a big show out of this, as only the servants and His disciples were privy to what happened. I see this as a great lesson/reminder for when God chooses to do something special through us. That action, whatever it may be, is for the glory of God. It is not to have a spotlight shone on us.

Secondly, the jars involved were used for ceremonial cleaning. Don’t overlook this: they were empty as these event unfolded! I believe this reveals that our attempts at purification are useless in and of themselves. Jesus miraculously changes the water that was added into wine. Jump ahead with me to the Last Supper. Jesus offers the ceremonial wine to His disciples as a symbol of His blood; the very blood that would be shed for the forgiveness of sins that leads to salvation.

And lastly (for now anyway), consider the quality of the wine produced by Jesus. The master of the wedding ceremony claims that this wine was far superior to what had been previously served. My conclusion: Anything and everything the Lord creates/lays His hands to or leads us toward is also going to be infinitely superior to anything we have known. When Jesus makes the change, you can be assured it will be for the best!

I hope this encourages you as much as it has me. I would cherish hearing from you on this topic. Questions are always welcome as are other insights into this miracle that God reveals to you.

Blessings and thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck