Tag Archives: Signs

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.

Reading the Signs

Read Matthew 16:1-4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

bobcats-12Well, we are certainly in the midst of a cold and snowy winter. The temperatures have been in the single digits and, in some cases, the temperatures has been subzero. Certainly that was the case the other day, with wind chill making matters worse. Just a minute or two outdoors and my ears and nose were ready to fall right off!

As much as I do not enjoy extreme temperatures, and as much as I semi-jokingly carry on about my dislike for the winter months, I cannot say I was not prepared for this harsh winter. In fact, I pretty much knew in advance that this winter was going to be a rough one, not because I am a soothsayer or some kind of super psychic, but because I saw the signs that were right in front of me.

Well, at least the signs were right in front of me on my youngest daughter’s class trip to Lakota Wolf Preserve in Blairstown, NJ. It was at this preserve that I met a couple of elegant and graceful bobcats! Aside from them being absolutely adorable, they also had weather prediction built naturally into their fur.

As it turns out, when ever a cold and harsh winter is approaching, their fur turns from brown to silvery white. And when ever a mild winter is approaching, their fur doesn’t change colors at all! Well, when I met these furry rascals their fur was already turning silver. Once that was pointed out to me by the tour guide, my heart sunk. Nature is ALWAYS right. I knew we were going to have a rough winter ahead of us!

Jesus calls his disciples to be observant of the signs surrounding us. He told his disciples to observe the signs of the times in order to be prepared for the things that are to come. He didn’t tell his disciples when and where these things would happen, but that the signs would be there for us to observe. With that said, Jesus also said to not get too caught up in the signs or in looking for them.

Many Christians have not heeded Jesus’ instruction to be observant of the signs and, as a result, they have missed out on the very presence of Christ, and the opportunities to bear that presence, in those moments. On the other hand, other Christians are overly observant, finding signs, and the end of the world, in everything they see. Jesus warns us against both scenarios.

Today’s challenge is for us to be observant, to be present, and to keep it real. Let us not be among the complacent who are caught unaware by the presence of God. Let us not be complacent and miss the presence of the Lord in the faces of those we ignore and pass by.  Let us also not be overzealous in seeking out signs at every turn. No one needs another blowhard predicting the unpredictable. Remember that the signs will show themselves to us and, when they do, we will be prepared for what God is doing in the world!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“My choices, including those related to the day-to-day aspects of life, like the use of a modest car, are related to a spiritual discernment that responds to a need that arises from looking at things, at people and from reading the signs of the times. Discernment in the Lord guides me in my way of governing.” – Pope Francis I

PRAYER

Lord, open my eyes to the signs of the times and fill me with the urgency to act upon them. Amen.