Tag Archives: Miracles

God’s People, part 219: Bridegroom

Read John 2:1-12

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!’” (John 8:58, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

water-wine-2Part 219: Bridegroom. When reading the Gospel of John, people tend to look at the miraculous signs of Jesus as mere miracles. This is partly because, in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), Jesus is shown performing many miracles such as healings, exorcisms, raising the dead, walking on water, and calming the seas. The whole of these miracles are a sign of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 61.

It is a mistake, however, to confuse the signs in the Gospel of John with ordinary miracles. In this particular Gospel, both signs, as opposed to miracles, are performed. What is the difference, one might ask? The difference is that miracles were commonplace and not exclusive to Jesus. They displayed the power of God, or the gods, through the person performing them; however, the person him/herself was no more than a mere human being. The signs of John, on the other hand, reveal God’s glory and identity in Jesus Christ. In other words, the signs point to WHO JESUS IS in relation to God: namely, God incarnate (aka God in the flesh).

John’s Gospel is a highly developed theology and it is laid out very liturgically, which is why it works so well with Good Friday tenebrae/stations of the cross services. It can be broken up into four different sections: Prologue (John 1:1-18), Book of Signs (1:19-12:50), Book of Glory (or Exaltation) (13:1-20:31), and Epilogue (chapter 21). The Gospel of John also contains a series of sevens. Seven signs (2:1-12; 4:46-54; 5:1-47; 6:1-4; 6:15-21; 9:1-41; 11:1-57), seven “I Am” statements (6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 9; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5), seven “witnesses” (1:34; 1:49; 6:69; 10:30; 11:27; 20:28; 20:31), seven “word-images” of faith (1:12; 3:15-16; 4:14; 6:35-37; 7:37-38; 10:9; 10:16, 27), and seven “equalities” between Jesus and God the Father in John 5 (5:19-29).

The sign in the Scripture reading above is one of the most famous signs Jesus performed. We all know the story, Jesus was at a wedding with his family and disciples. Suddenly, the wine was gone as everyone had drank it up. Jesus’ mom approached him and “volun-told’ him to do something about the problem. Jesus didn’t really want to, but who can say no to their mother, so Jesus relented and told the servants to fill up the six empty jars of wine with water.

When I say jars, we are talking about stone vessels that could hold 20 to 30 gallons each. That’s a total of 120 to 180 gallons or nearly 1,000 bottles of wine. That’s an inordinate amount of wine for people who had already gone through the initial wine they had!

Once they had filled all vats to the brim, Jesus instructed them to take some out and give it to the master of ceremonies. Tasting that it was wine, he handed it to the bridegroom who was blown away by superior quality of the wine and exclaimed, “A host always serves the best wine first; then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!” (John 2:10, NLT)

This was the first sign revealing God’s glory in Jesus Christ. As a result, the disciples believed in him. In fact, that is the purpose of signs, to point to ultimate reality. Signs give us direction on which way we need to go. In the context of Jesus’ signs, they point us to the realization that there is nothing greater in the world than what we find in Jesus. This was the proclamation of the bridegroom who tasted the wine and it was this sign that led Jesus’ initial disciples of truly believe in him.

The question for us is this, have we seen the signs? Have we seen the signs that point us to God in Jesus Christ? Have we tasted his wine and have we experienced the pure goodness that comes from a life in him? Let us be challenged to search for God’s signs in order that we might see Jesus Christ for who he truly is: our resurrected and ascended Lord God, the only-begotten Son, fully human and fully divine, who is of the same substance, begotten not made, coequal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it…So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”  The Beloved Disciple, in John 1:1-5, 14, New Living Translation

PRAYER
Lord, help me to see the signs in which you are revealing yourself to me so that I may grow in my believe and in my faithful response to you. Amen.

God’s People, part 181: Lazarus

Read John 11:1-44

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.”  (John 12:10-11, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Bonnat01LazarusPart 181: Lazarus. The account of Lazarus is on that is familiar to many people. Not to be confused with the poor man named Lazarus in Jesus’ parable in Luke, Lazarus is the brother of Martha and Mary. Not too much is known about him other than the fact that he and his sisters were friends and followers of Jesus. There is much speculation as to his age, as the Bible mentions that he was “living with his sisters”, indicating that Lazarus might have even been a boy living in their care.

Regardless of his age, he was someone Jesus had loved, and when he died Jesus was deeply moved to the point of weeping. In fact, the Scripture says that Jesus grew angry (or greatly disturbed) at his death. Of course, anger is a natural part of the grieving process and Jesus, being human, was grieving the loss of Lazarus. The scene is very touching, a beautiful display of Jesus’ humanity and a testament to the love he had for Lazarus, Mary, and Martha.

Lazarus’ death, and Jesus’ reaction to it, is a stark reminder of on very important fact regarding the world we live in: it is broken and evanescent. What’s more, life in this world is short, fragile and, eventually, everything in this world dies. What’s lamentable is that is not how God created the world; however, due to human sin, that is the very reality that the world fell into. If you think back to the wicked serpent’s words to Eve in the Garden of Eden, which was addressed in part 1 of this series, you will see the bigger picture.

The devil, through the serpent, told Eve that humans would not die if they disobeyed God and ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but that humans would instead become like God. Those words were true to an extent, and the first humans did not immediately die, but became like God in having the ability to discern good from evil. With that said, they instantly became separated from God, and while they knew good from evil, they lacked in the wisdom to discern what was ULTIMATELY GOOD and ULTIMATELY EVIL.

What’s more, death immediately entered into their reality, even if they didn’t realize it at first. They were cut off from the tree of life, they had to kill animals to cover their nakedness, their oldest son killed their youngest son thus giving birth to murder. From that point on, the beautiful world that God created was never the same. As much as it was still beautiful, it was also filled with sin, evil, greed, corruption, oppression, murder and, ultimately, death for everything that lived in it.

We see this reality in what follows Lazarus being miraculously raised from the dead. Scripture says that, following his resurrection and six days prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, Lazaurs is at a supper that Martha prepared for Jesus. Many people from all over surrounded the home they were in because they wanted to see Jesus and this man whom he had raised. This, of course, disturbed the religious leaders and it says that they even considered murdering Lazarus because so many people were believing in Jesus as a result of him being raised from the dead.

While, we don’t have a ton of information on Lazarus, and it is impossible to tell what his strengths and weaknesses were as a human being, what we can do is come to an understanding of the world in which we all live. This world is so mired in sin that it would rather snuff out the presence of God than celebrate at the salvific work of God in and through others.

This should challenge us to pause and reflect on how we participate in trying to snuff out God’s work. In what ways have we allowed sin to dominate and control our lives, and in what ways have we participated in the world’s rejection of Jesus Christ. I pray that, in honest reflection, you open your heart to the ways in which you resist God so that you may respond to God’s grace and move more toward God and who God is calling you to be.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The mystery of the Christian life is that Christ expects us to flee sin and the devil, but does not expect us to rid ourselves of either on this side of glory. Repentance is a way of life, and so is the pursuit of godliness. I wish every Christian could be reminded of these two things.” – Kevin DeYoung

PRAYER
Lord, expose my sin to me and cleanse me of it so that I might fully praise, worship and serve you. Amen.

God’s People, part 74: Naaman

Read 2 Kings 5:1-19

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And many in Israel had leprosy in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.” (Luke 4:27 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

muddy-riverPart 74: Naaman. Having just read the Scripture above, you might be wondering why I am devoting a devotion on Naaman and, for that matter, why I included one on the widow of Zarephath. After all, it was the Hebrews that were God’s people, right? On the one hand, yes. Covenantally, God had a special relationship with the people of the tribes of Israel; however, every human being on earth was created by God. Thus, properly speaking, all people are God’s people. This truth is seen both in the Old and New Testaments, where God interacts, redeems, and saves people of other “Gentile” nations.

Naaman was the commander of the Aramaean army, under King Ben-Hadad II (aka King Hadadezer). Damascus Aram was the offical name of the kingdom, and was located in the area of what is now known as Damascus, Syria. Thus, Naaman was Aramaean or Syrian and not an Israelite at all; however, he ends up with an infectious skin disease. In that time period, such a disease was considered to be a sign that one was cursed by the gods, and so it was a shame upon Naaman and his family.

What is remarkable in this story is that Naaman, an Aramaean, turns to the Israelite prophet Elisha for help. A careful reading of the story shows just how remarkable this is. Naaman had invaded the Kingdom of Israel and took captives from it, including an Israelite girl as a maid for his wife. Naaman, the great Aramaean was, thus, an enemy of the Israelites.

What’s remarkable is that the maid that Naaman took as a captive is the one who suggested to his wife that he should go see the prophet Elisha. Talk about loving your enemy! What’s even more remarkable is that Naaman actually took her advice and sought out the prophet of his enemy. What a witness this unnamed Israelite maid was that day, speaking up out of concern for the one who enslaved her.

Of course, went to see Elisha in order that he might be healed, and he was willing to pay whatever it cost to be cured of the dreaded disease that was afflicting him. Elisha was more than willing to help him out; however, Naaman was disappointed when all that Elisha asked him to do was to bathe seven times in the Jordan river. “How could that possibly heal me”, he wondered? He was so disappointed and unimpressed, angry even, with Elisha and his request that he began to storm back to his kingdom dejected and still afflicted with leprosy.

Thankfully, Naaman had some wise officers surrounding him, and one of them reasoned with him. “If Elisha had asked you to do something difficult, you would have done it to be cured, wouldn’t you have? If so, then you should definitely obey him when he simply says, ‘Go was and be clean.’” Naaman, to his credit, listened to that officer. He went back to the Jordan River and washed in it seven times and was completely healed from the leprosy.

The story of Naaman’s healing should all cause us to pause and reflect. How many times have we sought God’s hope, healing and wholeness? How many of us have wished that God would just wave an arm over us and magically heal us of whatever is affecting us? How many of us become disappointed when God didn’t come through in the way we had hoped for? The question that follows these is this, has that caused you to lose faith and hope in God? Has it caused you to grow angry and to storm back to the barren land of hopelessness?

The challenge today is for us to reevaluate our faith. God IS WITH US, whether we open our eyes to see that. Healing is being offered to us, even if it does not come in the form we are looking for? Will we storm off, as Naaman originally did? Or will we, as Naaman eventually did, humble ourselves before God and have faith that God IS restoring us back to hope, healing and wholeness? Trust in God, place your faith in the Creator of all things and trust that whatever happens God is with you. Don’t come to God with expecations, but open to God’s presence and to all possibilities.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Simple is often more…miraculous!

PRAYER
Lord, help me to find you in simplicity and to not overlook you because I am expecting something ore complicated. Amen.

God’s People, part 72: Elisha

Read 2 Kings 2:15-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“When the group of prophets from Jericho saw from a distance what happened, they exclaimed, “Elijah’s spirit rests upon Elisha!” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.” (2 Kings 2:15 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

elishabearsPart 72: Elisha. On Mount Horeb, while hiding away from Ahab and Jezebel for fear of his life, Elijah was instructed to appoing a successor to him. The man he was to appoint was named Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, who was evidently a farmer. When Elijah found him, he was plowing in a field.

For years following that calling, Elisha assisted Elijah in his work and learned from him. He was Elijah’s apprentice, as it were, and Elisha witnessed many of the great deeds of his mentor, and encountered many of the confrontations between Elijah and the wicked king and queen of Israel, Ahab and Jezebel.

When Elijah, according to Scripture, was taken up into heaven in a firey chariot, Elisha took over in Elijah’s place. Just prior to Elijah’s ascension into heaven, Elisha prayed to God to be given an double portion of Elijah’s spirit. While there is scholarly debate as to what Elijah meant by that prayer, for me it seems that Elisha was praying for even greater prophetic power than that of Elijah.

Indeed, Elisha was given great power and does many wonderful deeds. Elisha was considered to be a patriot because he lent his services to soldiers and kings. First and foremost, he was known as a wonder worker. He cleansed the infected waters of Jericho, and he multiplied oil for a widow who was being harrassed by a harsh creditor. Through petitions to God he was able to provide the birth of a son to a rich woman who had shown hospitality. He also later resurrected her son back to life after he had died.

Through God, Elisha cured the Syrian military commandar, Naaman, of his leprosy. He did these and performed many other mirculous signs. He was truly one of God’s people who, for the most part, remained faithful to God. Still, not everything that Elisha did seems to hold up to the God of love, mercy and grace.

For instance, in today’s scripture we come across the story of Elisha being mocked by a large group of children. Actually, the Hebrew word (נַעַר, pronounced na’ar) could mean children or it could mean people (young adult aged) who have no religion. Young adults who were, in essence, irreverent people. What were they mocking him over? Namely, they were making fun of the fact that he was bald. Yes, I feel his pain for sure; however, Elisha’s response to that seems hardly warranted. Indignant over their behavior, Elisha cursed them, which resulted in bears coming out of the forest and devouring each and everyone of them. Overkill much?

In that moment, Elisha let his pride and his anger take over and it caused him to do something that had horrific consequences. How many of us find ourselves cursing others out of anger? Perhaps when we are driving down the road, or when someone hurts our feelings, or when someone sins against us? How many of us curse people in those moments? When we do so, can we truly say we are behaving in a way that pleases God? Of course not! Let us learn from Elisha’s sin, repent of our own and, by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, learn to bless people (even if undeserving) rather than curse them.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I say, if you are even angry with someone [without cause], you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” – Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ (Matthew 5: 22 NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, allow me to find temperance when I am angry and give me the peace I need to respond to people who hurt me with blessings and not curses. Amen.