Miracles

Mark 08:01-21, “Do you not yet understand?”

Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes

Christians of the early Byzantine period built monasteries, churches and shrines in Galilee and on the shores of the Sea of Galilee to commemorate the ministry of Jesus and the miracles ascribed to him. Mosaics that is preserved from the Byzantine period at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes July 23, 2009. Photo by Rishwanth Jayapaul/FLASH90

Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngWhat does remembering have to do with understanding and faith? Today we want to consider an event in the life of Christ and his encouragement to remember and consider the things that he has done, and how that impacts our faith.

Quick quiz:

  1. When Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fish, how many loaves were there? Five or seven?
  2. How many fish were there? Two or a few?
  3. How many people were fed? Five thousand or four thousand?

A number of years ago, one of my students suggested that there was a contradiction in the Gospels. In one place we read that Jesus fed a multitude of five thousand men, not including the women and children. In another place, we read that he fed four thousand. One passage said five thousand while another passage said four thousand. So the student concluded that there was a contradiction.

Was he right? Well, some scholars would think so. Some scholars tell us that within just a few pages of the Gospel of Mark, the author has repeated the same story using different details. Now this would be amazing because there are only 49 verses with separate the two stories. The feeding of the five thousand takes place in Mark 6 and the feeding of the four thousand is told in Mark 8. Only one chapter out of 16 chapters stands between the two stories. For Mark to accidentally tell the same story twice so close to each other would be an amazing lapse of memory.

So what are we to say about these stories?

One of my purposes is to encourage your confidence and trust in the Bible as the error-free Word of God. That is a big claim to make today when skeptics abound. But most people who claim that the Bible contains errors have never read it themselves. They simply parrot what they’ve heard someone else say. They dismiss the Bible without any serious consideration of what they are dismissing: the very Word of God.

The Bible is trustworthy. The questions that liberal scholars ask have repeatedly been answered by conservative scholars. There is abundant evidence pointing to the truthfulness of the Bible.

So when we come to the question of Jesus feeding the multitude in Mark 6 and again in Mark 8, we need to look carefully at the details. We need to understand that Mark, the author, is writing with intention. He has a purpose. And we need to read at a deeper level to understand that purpose.

That means that we are not simply reading isolated stories. The Bible is not a book of short stories. The Bible is what scholars call a “meta-narrative.” It is THE BIG STORY from the creation of the heavens and the earth in the Book of Genesis to the new creation of the new heavens and the new earth in the final pages of the Bible in the Book of Revelation. Everything else fits in that big story. It is the story of God. It is God’s story. It is HiStory.

1.        The Feeding of the Four Thousand (Mark 8:1-10)

Let’s look at the text:

Mark 8:1-10 ESV In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 4 And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” 5 And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.

1.1.     Two Stories Compared

Mark starts this story of the feeding of the four thousand with the words “In those days.” This tells us immediately that this miracle took place in the region of the Decapolis where we find Jesus at the end of chapter 7 (see 7:31).

CHAPTER 6 CHAPTER 8
Feeding of the 5,000 Feeding of the 4,000
Mark 6:44 ESV And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

The term for “men” (ἄνδρες, andres) is gender specific. It means men or husbands. That means that there were 5,000 men plus women and children. Most commentators estimate that there were between 15,000 and 20,000 people who were fed.

Mark 8:9 ESV And there were about four thousand people.

The text simply says that there were about 4,000 people. This crowd was much smaller.

The people in chapter 6 had been in the wilderness for only one day. In chapter 8, the people had been in the wilderness for three days.
Jesus began with five loaves and two fish. Jesus multiplied seven loaves and a few small fish.
Jesus blessed the food one time. Jesus blessed the bread and distributed it, then he blessed the fish.
There were 12 basketfulls of leftovers. There were 7 basketfulls of leftovers.
In the first feeding, the multitude was mostly Jews. In the second feeding, the multitude was mostly Gentiles.[1]

The main objection against the feeding of the 4,000 is the argument that since the disciples had already seen Jesus feed more than 5,000, they should not have asked, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” But that is to misunderstand the disciples.

In the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus had told them to give the multitude something to eat. They wonder how they are to do it.

In the feeding of the 4,000, they simply confess that they are powerless to meet the need and left the solution to Jesus.

William Lane says: “It would have been presumptuous for the disciples to have assumed that Jesus would, as a matter of course, multiple a few loaves as he had done on an earlier occasion.”[2]

Most importantly, Jesus refers to both miracles when probing the understanding of his disciples.

1.2.     Mark’s Purpose: Gentiles Are Included!

We need to consider Mark’s purpose in including this story. Remember that the authors of the Four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), do not tell us everything that Jesus ever did. John tells us that Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that he does not include in his Gospel. He tells us that he chose certain signs so that we would believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that through believing, we would have life in his name.

Each of the authors of the Gospels write to a particular group of readers and they chose from an abundance of events in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ to accomplish their purpose.

Mark is writing for Romans. He is writing for non Jewish people. That means that he is writing for most of us. Mark is showing us that Jesus came not only for the Jews; he also came for Gentiles like you and me.

In the previous chapter (chapter 7), Jesus leaves Jewish territory and goes into Gentiles territory. There the Syrophoenician woman asks him to heal her daughter. Jesus tells her that the Jews have priority because the promises were made to Abraham that through his descendant — that is through Jesus Christ, the many times great grandson of Abraham — all the families of the earth would be blessed. The bread, Jesus said, must first be given to the Jews. But this Gentile woman has faith. She asks for the crumb of bread that fall from the table. Jesus marveled at her faith and healed her daughter.

Then we read that Jesus went to the Decapolis, again, Gentile territory. The Gentiles bring to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. Once again, Jesus heals this man so that he hears and speaks plainly. The Gentiles declare that Jesus “has done all things well, He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” (Mark 7:37).

Jesus is still in Gentile territory when he feeds the 4,000. He has already fed the multitude of Jews. The children of Abraham were served first, but the rest of the world is waiting. In this eighth chapter of Mark, Jesus feeds the Gentiles and points to the time with the gospel will be taken to Gentiles all around the world. “They will not have to scrounge for crumbs that might fall from the table, but they will receive food in abundance and also will be satisfied.”[3]

Jesus and his disciples are freely moving among the Gentiles. Jesus has already “declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:31). It does not matter what you eat, and it does not even matter who you eat with under normal circumstances (but compare 1 Corinthians 5:11; 10:21).

Here Jesus and his disciples are surrounded by Gentiles. For three days they have been with Jesus and they have nothing to eat. Jesus has compassion on them and tells his disciples,

Mark 8:3 ESV And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.”

The disciples do not ask, “How can we eat with these people?” Instead, they ask, “Where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” (8:4).[4]

Jesus himself is the answer. Jesus is able to meet the great need. He is moved with compassion and that compassion is not limited by ethnic boundaries. He is not only the Savior of the Jews. He is also the Savior of the World, even as the Samaritans declare in John 4:42.

Later in Mark 14, when Mary anoints Jesus for his burial, Jesus says,

Mark 14:9 ESV And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus tells his disciples,

Mark 16:15 ESV And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

The feeding of the 4,000 is not the same as the feeding of the 5,000, and it is good news for us. Jesus is the bread of life, not only for the Jews, but also for us Gentiles.

Here are three reasons why Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish on two separate occasions:[5]

  1. Jesus wants everyone to understand that he is the bread of life, the “bread from heaven” (Exodus 16:4). John tells us that following the first miracle, Jesus gave his great discourse on the bread of life.

John 6:48-51 ESV I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

  1. Christ wants us to understand that he is not just Bread for the Jews. He is the bread of life for us Gentiles as well. We are tempted to think the life is having things: a new phone or a new truck. But “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
  2. Jesus wants us to understand that “the supply always meets and exceeds the demand.” There is always more than enough.

Mark 8:8 ESV And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.

Christ is more than enough to satisfy the hunger of the world.

2.        The Blindness of Those Who Will Not See (8:11-13)

In the following verses, Jesus and his disciples have crossed the Sea of Galilee back into Jewish territory. There he is accosted by the Pharisees.

Mark 8:11 ESV The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.

There is a certain combative attitude that will receive nothing from God. The Pharisees came and began to argue with Jesus. They question him. They test him. But their minds are already made up.

  • They no doubt knew of the leper that he had cleansed (1:42).
  • They knew about the paralyzed man who had been let down through the roof. Jesus forgave his sins and restored his health so that he rose up and carried his bed home (2:11-12).
  • They had seen him heal the man with the withered hand (Mark 3:1-6). It was then that they made up their minds to destroy him (3:6).
  • They attributed his power to Satan and said that he cast out demons by the power of Satan (3:22).

They had heard of many of his miracles, but they found ways to explain them away. They are asking him here for a sign from heaven. A sign from above that would leave no room for any possible doubt about the source of his power.

What kind of sign are you waiting for? There are people who are always looking for one more sign. One more piece of evidence. They say they would follow Jesus if they could only believe.

The great atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if he found himself standing before God on the judgement day and God asked him, “Why didn’t you believe in Me?” Russell replied, “I would say, ‘Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!’”[6]

Not enough for what? To force you to believe? That God will not do. He will not force you into a relationship with him. But there is plenty of evidence for those who are willing to see.

When it comes to the biggest truth of all, people who are normally reasonable and rational become totally unreasonable and irrational. Ask them, “Why is there something rather than nothing at all? Why does the universe exist?”

“Well, it just happened,” they say. “There was a big bang and it happened.”

Really? What caused the big bang?

“Nothing. It just happened.”

So there was nothing, and everything came out of nothing, and nothing caused everything to come out of nothing, it just did it by itself even though it did not exist to do anything by itself. And now we have this orderly universe with the one place in the entire universe that supports life, and everything is perfectly balanced with all its amazing complexity and beauty, and it just happened?! And it all came from nothing and was caused by nothing? If you believe that, you believe in magic. Do not pretend that it’s science or scientific. It is not. It is a worldview that refuses to see the evidence.

Mark 8:12 ESV And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”

No gat! Jesus says. He is grieved and angry at the hardness of heart. Matthew tells us that Jesus said,

Matthew 16:4 ESV An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

The only sign they would get was that signified by Jonah — the Resurrection![7]

Mark 8:13 ESV And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.

What a terrible thing it is to have Christ turn his back on you and sail away. But that is ultimately what he does to those who continually refuse his revelation. There comes a time when he gives no more signs, no more help in understanding.[8]

The Pharisees turn and walk away; the disciples follow Jesus into the boat. Eduard Schweizer draws an insightful conclusion from this closing description: “faith comes when one steps into the boat with Jesus and does not prefer to remain in safety on the shore.”[9]

3.        The Danger of Being an Unbelieving Believer (8:14-21)

Mark 8:13-15 ESV And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side. 14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

Jesus is in the boat with his disciples. They have left the unbelieving Pharisees behind. But how much better off are the disciples? They have seen the miracles, but have the understood? Have they understood the signs? Have they understood the miracles and the message of Jesus? The conversation in the boat indicates that unbelief is in the boat with them.

Jesus gives them a strong warning: “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Leaven or yeast is almost always understood in a negative sense in the Bible. It has to do with corruption, unholiness, and danger. It infiltrates, penetrates, and infects everything that it touches. The Pharisees are seeking to find any explanation for the miracles that Jesus performs — any explanation except the truth. They refuse to believe that he is the Son of God.

What have the disciples understood? They’ve seen the miracles, but they have been slow to understand. They had not understood his parable about the sower:

Mark 4:13 ESV And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

When Jesus came walking on the water…

Mark 6:51-52 ESV And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

They had not understood what Jesus taught about food not being a source of defilement:

Mark 7:18-19 ESV And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)

He is warning them not to allow the hardness of heart of the Pharisees to influence them.

But they have missed the point.

Mark 8:14 ESV Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.

Mark 8:16 ESV And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread.

Jesus warns the disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees and they think that he is rebuking them for not bringing enough bread with them!

Jesus was aware that once again, they had missed the point! He hits them with a series of questions:

Mark 8:17-21 ESV And Jesus, aware of this, said to them,

  • “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread?
  • Do you not yet perceive or understand?
  • Are your hearts hardened?
  • 18 Having eyes do you not see,
  • and having ears do you not hear?
  • And do you not remember?
  • 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.”
  • 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.”
  • 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

That is a powerful rebuke, but in the midst of that correction, Jesus gives us instruction: Remember. “Do you not remember?” (8:18). And now he mentions both occasions when he fed the multitudes, the 5,000 and the 4,000.

  • 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.”
  • 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.”

Remembering what God has done is the best defense against spiritual weakness and unbelief. That is why we are to break bread and drink the cup together at the Lord’s Table:

1 Corinthians 11:24-25 ESV and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Jesus is telling the disciples to remember what he has done. He multiplied the loaves and fish and fed 5,000 plus women and children. Again, he multiplied the loaves and a few fish and fed 4,000 Gentiles.

We are prone to forget. The psalmist David tells us not to forget:

Psalm 103:1-5 ESV Of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

He forgives, he heals, he redeems, he satisfies, he renews!

We are to remember what Christ has done and we are to consider what that means. The Israelites in the desert did not remember or consider:

Psalm 106:7 ESV Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.

The Pharisees in the Gospels did not consider the works of Christ. The disciples who were with Christ had not adequately considered who they were following.

Who is this man?

From the beginning of this Gospel, Mark has told us what he wants us to understand. This is the “Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1). Jesus rebukes his disciples because they have not yet understood. Who is this man who

  • Casts out demons with a simple command (1:25)?
  • Cleanses lepers (1:42)?
  • Forgives sins (2:7)?
  • Heals the sick (1:34)?
  • Raises the dead (5:42)?
  • Commands the wind and the sea (4:41)?
  • Walks on the sea (6:48)?

Who is this Jesus of Nazareth who like God can abundantly feed the multitudes miraculously in the wilderness? Truly, he must be the Christ, the Son of God![10]

That is why you need to find a Bible-believing church where Christ is exalted and worshiped, and the Word of God is preached, taught, and lived, and where the Bible and only the Bible — not someone’s vision or some other book — but the Bible and the Bible alone is the one and only final authority for what we believe and what we do. There is no other foundation than the Word of God.

Thank you for tuning in to FM 107 and listening to the Joyful News Broadcast. This has been a ministry of Joy Bible Institute. You can visit our website at joybible.wordpress.com. Our prayer is that the joy of the Lord would be your strength.


 

[1] Akin, Daniel L.. Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary). B&H Publishing Group: 2014.

[2] Quoted by Hughes, R. Kent. Mark Vol.1 Jesus, Servant & Savior. Crossway Books: 1989, p. 185.

[3] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 466.

[4] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 466.

[5] Hughes, R. Kent. Mark Vol.1 Jesus, Servant & Savior. Crossway Books: 1989, p. 186-188.

[6] http://www.bethinking.org/is-christianity-true/the-evidence-for-christianity

[7] Hughes, R. Kent. Mark Vol.1 Jesus, Servant & Savior. Crossway Books: 1989, p. 189.

[8] Hughes, R. Kent. Mark Vol.1 Jesus, Servant & Savior. Crossway Books: 1989, p. 189.

[9] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4472-4474). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[10] Stein, Robert H.. Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). (Kindle Locations 10024-10026). Baker Publishing Group: 2008.


 

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

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Mark 07v31-37 “He does all things well!”

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 6.23.34 PMIntroduction

1456053183_thumb.pngSome studies have found that men speak an average of 7,000 words a day. They may seem like a lot, but this radio broadcast averages about 4,000 words each week. So 7,000 words would be like a man talking nonstop for close to an hour. Those same studies say that women speak on average 20,000 words a day. There you go! Nearly three times as much as men. But you always knew that, didn’t you?

One cartoon pictures a man holding a newspaper with the headline “Females Speak 13,000 More Words a Day.” The man exclaims, “Good grief! Is that all?!”

Sorry ladies! But that might be more of a compliment than you think. It would be hard to overestimate the importance of communication, and we must not forget that it is the very nature of God to communicate, as John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word…”

Those statistics that women speak 13,000 more per day than men… those statistics have been contested. With many words, no doubt, they have been contested! And we have all met men who talk a lot and women who are rather economical with their words.

But what if we could not communicate through the spoken word? What if we could not hear one another? Imagine being in the deaf world. Hearing nothing… Radio stations do not like dead air time. You probably wondered what happened just then. Did the station go off the air? Was there an electrical power outage? That’s the way it is for deaf people. The only sound they hear is “the sound of silence.” No noise. No sound of wind, or music, or babies crying, or people laughing, or birds singing, or waves splashing. Our world is made up of sounds, but for the deaf, it is a silent world.

It is through sounds, vibrations formed in larynx — the voice box — sounds shaped and produced by the entire vocal apparatus including the tongue, teeth, palate, lips — the entire mouth — it is through these sounds that we communicate to one another.

But that is only one side of the process. That is the transmission side by which words are transmitted. The science of communication involves both transmission and reception. The words are transmitted by mouth, but they are received by the ear. The ear includes not only the external ear that we see, but a whole complex of funnels and bones and fluid-filled semicircular canals and the auditory nerve that make it possible to hear the world around us.

As the Scripture says, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

But what if you could not hear the words that others were speaking to you? What if you saw the movement of someone’s mouth but could hear nothing?

Have you ever tried to read someone’s lips? Your wife is across a crowded room and she wants to tell you something. She mouths her message to you. If you are like I am, you don’t have a clue what she wants to say. You might as well be deaf.

Enter the world of the deaf. A driver honks his horn, but the deaf person hears nothing. Thunder claps and the deaf person may feel the change in atmospheric pressure, but he hears nothing.

The man in our story today was not only deaf; he had a speaking impairment. He had a speech difficulty and could not communicate properly.

We find our story in Mark 7:31-37.

Mark 7:31-37 ESV Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Jesus (still) among the Gentiles

We find in the previous verses of Mark that it was there in the region of Tyre and Sidon, that Jesus cast the demon out of the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman.

In Mark 7, Jesus is facing increasingly hostile opposition from the Pharisees and from Herod Antipas, so he leaves Jewish territory and enters Gentile territory in the region of Tyre and Sidon, near the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. But there is another reason why Jesus has gone into Gentile territory: he purposefully includes the non-Jewish world in his ministry.

Jesus shows that while the Jews have priority in terms of receiving the gospel, the gospel is for Jews and Gentiles alike. There is more than enough grace for everyone. As the Apostle Paul tells us, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).

In this story of the healing of the deaf man, we see that Jesus continues to avoid the Jewish territory and returns to the region of the Decapolis, the region of ten Gentiles:

Mark 7:31 ESV Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.

Jesus had been in the region of the Decapolis in Mark 5. There he had been met by the demon-possessed man of the tombs. That man had many demons that Jesus cast out and allowed to enter a herd of pigs. Some two thousand pigs “rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea” (Mark 5:13 ESV).

But the people of the region cared more about their pigs than they did about the man, so they begged Jesus to leave. The man who had been set free wanted to come with Jesus, but

Mark 5:19 ESV …[Jesus] did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

This man became the first Gentile missionary.

Mark 5:20 ESV And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

Now Jesus has returned to the Decapolis, and it seems that the witness of this first Gentile missionary had been fruitful. Jesus returns to the Decapolis, the region that had asked him to leave before, but this time he is warmly welcomed.

Mark 7:32 ESV And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.

Doing What the Man Could Not Do For Himself

Here is a deaf man who had difficulty speaking. He could not hear, and he could hardly talk.

Now right away, we understand that this “man’s malady made it impossible for him to have heard about Jesus or to ask him for healing had he learned about him. Others must intervene on his behalf.”[1] So he is deaf and cannot have “heard” about Jesus. If he has somehow learned about Jesus, he cannot even ask him for help because he cannot talk. This man is totally dependent on others for the help that he needs.

There is no mention that this man had any faith. It seems that he did not even know why he was being brought to Jesus. What could he have heard about Jesus? Nothing. He was deaf. What did he know? He does not seem to know much.

Romans 10:17 ESV So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

The deaf man had heard nothing. What he might have learned we do not know.

But notice that the people are bringing this man to Jesus. These Gentiles are begging Jesus to lay his hand on the deaf man. Immediately, two things seem clear:

  1. These Gentiles are doing a loving act of kindness toward the deaf man. No doubt they sometimes felt frustrated at their inability to communicate with him, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt: They are showing compassion on him. They want to help him, but they are limited. They cannot restore the man’s hearing and they cannot loosen his tongue to enable him to talk.
  2. Second, in their limited ability, they turn to Jesus. While they can do nothing to heal this man, they believe that Jesus can do something for their deaf friend. They have a certain level of faith in Jesus. They have seen or heard of what Jesus can do. Perhaps they knew the man of the tombs that Jesus had delivered or had heard his testimony. Perhaps they had heard of other miracles that Jesus had done in Galilee. We can only guess, but two things are clear: (1) they knew that they could not help the deaf man, and (2) they believed that Jesus could.

We frequently come to the end of our resources. We are stopped by our limitations. We come to an end of ourselves and must turn to God. Perhaps we may be concerned for our own children but we realize that while we may have done our best, our best was not good enough. Our best cannot bring about the best results. And so we must turn to Jesus and ask him to do what we cannot do. We beg him to lay his hand on their lives, to change their hearts, to do what he alone can do.

These Gentiles demonstrated compassion toward the deaf man and faith toward Jesus.

The Act of Healing

Mark 7:33-34 ESV And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”

A Private Encounter with Jesus

Jesus led the man away from the crowd so that they could be alone. Why does Jesus do that? Wouldn’t he want everyone to see what he was going to do?

Well, imagine this man as he grew up. He’s always been a spectacle. He’s deaf, and therefore he can’t produce proper speech. Just imagine the way people made fun of him all his life. Jesus knows this, and refuses to make a spectacle of him now. He is identifying with him emotionally.[2]

Jesus shows that this man is not simply one of the crowd. He is not simply a problem. He is a unique individual.

But now we find something quite unusual in Jesus’ method of healing:

  • Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears.
  • He spit.
  • He touched the man’s tongue.
  • He looked up to heaven.
  • He sighed.
  • He said, “Ephphata.”

What’s this all about? Is Jesus doing some kind of a ritual to bring about the healing?

No, Jesus does not need to perform any rituals to summon his power. This is different from every other miracle that we have seen so far.

  • Jesus calmed the storm by a simple command: “Peace. Be still” (Mark 4:39).
  • He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead by telling her to get up (Mark 5:41).
  • He healed the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter simply by willing it to be so (Mark 7:29-30).

[T]here was no arm-waving, no incantation, no mumbo-jumbo. Jesus obviously does not need to perform a ritual in order to summon his power. Which means Jesus is doing all this not because he needs it but because the man needs it.[3]

This healing is different because this man’s need is different. This man is deaf. This deaf man had been shut out of the world of sound. He had certainly not heard anything about Jesus with his ears. He may not have even known why the people had brought him to Jesus. Jesus cannot speak to him as he would speak to someone else, so he identifies with the man by entering his world of silence and speaking to him in a language that the deaf man can understand. Jesus speaks to him in a kind of sign language.

Jesus placed his fingers in the man’s ears and removed them. He was telling the man, “I am going to remove the blockage in your hearing.” He spit and touched the man’s tongue. He was telling him, “I am going to remove the blockage in your mouth.” He looked up toward heaven to tell the man, “It is God alone who is able to do this for you.” “Jesus wanted the man to understand that it was not magic but God’s grace that healed him.”[4]

Then Jesus sighed. This could be translated that Jesus groaned. He groaned because of the pain. He identifies with us and feels our pain.

Hebrews 4:15 NIVO For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

This man had suffered the pain of silence, the pain of trying to communicate, yet being unable to talk. Jesus felt the pain. He felt the pain of our sin and the terrible consequences that sin has brought upon the world. Jesus knows. Jesus cares. Jesus would go to the cross to bear the pain of our sin. Christ loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20).

As he looked up to heaven to let the man know that it was God alone who was doing this for him, Jesus spoke the first words that this man heard: “Ephphatha.”

Mark 7:34 ESV And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”

“Ephphatha” was not a magic word. This was simply the Aramaic that Jesus was speaking. In chapter four, he had said in Aramaic to Jairus’s dead daughter, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, get up.” Now he says to the ears of this deaf man, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened.”

Mark 7:35 ESV And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

Immediately, the silence ceased. Sounds filled the void. The auditory nerves suddenly experienced intense activity. The man could hear!

Not only could he hear, he could also speak. The impairment was gone. Literally, the text says that the shackle (chain) on his tongue was broken. Not only could he speak, but he spoke plainly.

We can only imagine the first words that came from this man’s mouth. His tongue is loosed and for the first time he speaks clearly. “No doubt he was praising and glorifying God.”[5]

Perhaps it was this miracle that inspired Charles Wesley to write the hymn

O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
Text: Charles Wesley

  1. O for a thousand tongues to sing
    my great Redeemer’s praise,
    the glories of my God and King,
    the triumphs of his grace!
  2. Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,
    your loosened tongues employ;
    ye blind, behold your savior come,
    and leap, ye lame, for joy.
  3. My gracious Master and my God,
    assist me to proclaim,
    to spread through all the earth abroad
    the honors of thy name.

The Command to Be Silent

Mark 7:36 ESV And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.

Jesus tells the people to tell no one! You will remember that when he healed the man of the tombs, he told him,

Mark 5:19 ESV …”Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

Now he tells the people to keep quiet. What’s going on here?

The first time that Jesus went to the Decapolis, the people rejected him. They asked him to leave. So he left, but he left the man who had been set free to be a witness to the people.

Now he is strictly charging the people to tell no one. Why?

This is not the first time that Jesus ordered people to be quiet.

  • Jesus told the leper that he had cleansed to “say nothing to any man” (Mark 1:44).
  • When he raised the little girl from the dead, “he strictly charged them that no one should know this” (Mark 5:43).

Now among the Gentiles, Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone.

“The command to silence to both Jew and Gentile is a reminder that knowledge of Jesus by his wonders alone is inadequate knowledge… The great differences between Jews and Gentiles on points of law, purity, and [ethnic identity] fade before the truly human question and most significant issue of all, which is the question of faith in Jesus.”[6]

It is not enough to know that Jesus works miracles. It is not enough to believe in his miracle working power. We must come to an understanding of who he is and why he came. We must understand the truly human problem of sin and our need of a Savior. It is not until we come face to face with Christ on the cross bearing our sin and shame — it is not until then that we arrive at saving faith.

Earlier in chapter 7, Jesus had called on the people to “Hear me, all of you, and understand” (7:14). His own disciples are slow to understand. Again and again, Jesus asks them why they do not yet understand:

  • “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” (4:13).
  • “They did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (6:52).
  • He will yet ask them again, “Do you not yet perceive or understand?” (8:17, 21).

James Edwards comments that…

The hearing and understanding commanded by Jesus are made possible only by Jesus. Faith in Jesus is a difficult matter; indeed, it is the most difficult matter in all the world. Some, like the disciples, are in close and constant contact with Jesus but still cannot see. Others like the Syrophoenician woman and this speech- and hearing-impaired man are in dark and distant lands… What does it mean for all these to hear and understand (7: 14)? It means that whether Jew or Gentile, near or far, knowledgeable or [new disciple], only the touch of Jesus can enable true hearing, seeing, understanding, and witness.[7]

The One Who Does All Things Well

Mark 7:37 ESV And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Jesus does all things well. The Bible tells us that Christ was the agent of creation.

Colossians 1:16 ESV For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

When God created the world, day by day through the six days of creation, he saw that “it was good.” He does all things well.

The prophet Isaiah speaks of the region of the Gentiles and of the time when God will come:

Isaiah 35:4-6 ESV Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;

The word for mute (μογιλάλων) in this passage is only used one more time in the Bible and that is here in Mark 7:32, “a speech impediment.” The people are declaring that Jesus “has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” But Isaiah says that this is what God will do: “the ears of the deaf are unstopped… the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”

“Salvation thus comes to the Gentile world in Jesus… the only categories adequate for Mark to describe the person and work of Jesus are ultimately the categories of God.”[8]

Has Jesus done all things well for you?

a.         Given you rest for your soul?

Matthew 11:28-30 ESV Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

b.         Saved you from you sins? – Mk 16:15-16

Mark 16:15-16 ESV And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

c.         Given you the peace the world cannot give?

John 14:27 ESV Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Come to Jesus. Let him open your ears that you may hear and understand what he has done for you. Your tongue will be loosed to give praise to God. You, too, will be…

Mark 7:37 ESV …astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”


 

[1] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 464.

[2] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 91). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[3] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 90). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[4] Ferguson, Mark, 116 in Akin, Daniel L. (2014-06-01). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (pp. 161-162). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[5] Akin, Daniel L. (2014-06-01). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (p. 162). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[6] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4297-4298). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[7] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4308-4312). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[8] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Location 4267). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.


See also “Gospel of Mark”:

Mark 06v45-52 “The One Who Walks on Water”

1-2015-10-02_16-20-45 Vanuatu Havannah Harbor

Introduction

What are we to believe about Jesus Christ? When we talk about faith, we are talking about believing. But exactly what are we to believe about Jesus?

In Mark 6, we find the story of Jesus walking on the sea. Jesus had just multiplied the five loaves and two fish, performing the miracle of feeding the 5,000. He makes his disciples get into the boat, dismisses the crowd, and goes up into the mountain to pray. In the middle of the night, the disciples are struggling against the wind as they try to row across the Sea of Galilee. In the midst of their struggle, Jesus comes walking on the sea. The disciples are terrified, thinking that he was a ghost. Jesus calls out to them, gets into the boat with them, the wind stops, and the disciples are astounded. Then Mark tells us why they were completely and utterly surprised: they had not understood the meaning of the miracle of the loaves.

There you have it: the disciples had not understood because, Mark explains, their hearts were hardened. Let’s read the story in Mark 6:45-52.

Mark 6:45-52 NIVO Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. 47 When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

1.        Separation: By Land Or By Sea

1.1.     The Misunderstood Miracle

This miracle takes place immediately after the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.You remember the story: Jesus and his disciples had been overwhelmed by the crowds. Wanting some time to rest and relax, they got into a boat and went looking for an isolated, quiet place. But the people had seen Jesus and the disciples get into the boat. They followed Jesus around the edge of the Sea of Galilee so that when Jesus and the disciples arrived, there was a great crowd waiting for them. When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them for, Mark tells us, they were like sheep without a shepherd. The Good Shepherd taught them through the day, but when it was getting late, the disciples suggested that Jesus send the people away to find something to eat.

Instead of sending them away, Jesus took five small loaves of bread and two fish, blessed them, multiplied them, and fed the multitude. When everyone had eaten their fill, there were 12 baskets full of the leftovers.

The people were amazed! John’s Gospel tells us that the people wanted to come make him king by force (John 6:15). What kind of a king did they want? They wanted a king to overthrow the Roman Empire. But Jesus had not come to be a freedom fighter.

The understanding the people had of Jesus and of his mission was incompatible with the real reason why he came. Jesus did not come to overthrow political powers and governments. He came to set up his kingdom in the hearts of men. Jesus could not allow his mission to be defined by the masses or by his disciples.

The people wanted to force him to be king. The disciples also wanted him to be king. They had all completely misunderstood his mission as the Messiah. Jesus had to separated the would-be king-makers. The disciples would go one way and the crowds the other way:

Mark 6:45-46 NIVO Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.

1.2.     Jesus on the Mountain, Praying

Mark only records Jesus praying three times in his Gospel. That is not to say that Jesus only prayed three times, but that Mark only mentions three times when Jesus prayed. In each case, Jesus was praying at night and in a lonely place. In each case, his disciples had failed to understand his mission. And each time, Jesus was facing a major decision or crisis.

In the first case in Mark 1:35, the disciples found Jesus alone praying early in the morning. “Everyone is looking for you!” they told Jesus.

Mark 1:38 NIVO Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

The last time was the night before his crucifixion. As Jesus submits fully to the will of his Father and determines lay down his life as a sacrifice for our sins, his disciples are sleeping, unable to watch and pray with him for one hour.

Here in Mark 6, Jesus has separated his disciples from the crowds who all want to make him king. Jesus has gone up on the mountain, away from the people, to be alone with his Father.

1.3.     The Disciples at Sea

Now the disciples are separated from Jesus.

Mark 6:47 ESV And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land.

“Whenever the disciples are separated from Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, they fall into distress.”[1]

Normally it would take six to eight hours to cross the Sea of Galilee in poor weather conditions, but the disciples are helpless against the wind.

Mark 6:48 NIVO He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.

They were straining at the oars, rowing hard, being battered as they rowed, because the wind was against them.

Can you imagine their thoughts?

First, they must have been troubled by the response of Jesus. Everyone wanted to make him king, but he calls a halt to the whole thing. He makes them get into the boat and sends the crowds away. Why not strike while the iron is hot? Why would he not accept to be their king? A storm is brewing in their thoughts about Jesus.

And then, here they are in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, at the orders of Jesus, doing what Jesus has told them to do, and everything is against them. “The wind was against them.”

Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever done what you knew was right, you did what you knew God wanted you to do, and then everything went wrong? That’s what happened to the disciples.

Before, in Mark 4, the disciples were in the midst of a terrible storm, but Jesus was in the boat with them. Jesus rebuked the storm and calmed the sea simply by speaking the word.

But now in chapter 6, the disciples are alone. Jesus is not with them. They are facing the storm along. I can imagine Peter saying to John, “The last time we were in a situation like this, Jesus was with us!” Then Thomas speaks up, “Yeah, where is Jesus when you need him?”

Ever felt that way? You are going through a crisis, one of the great storms of your life, and you don’t see Jesus anywhere around? Where is Jesus when you need him?

I will tell you where he is. He is at right hand of the Father, interceding for you! (Romans 8:34).

Notice what the Bible says, “He saw the disciples straining at the oars…”

He saw. Jesus is on a mountain top, and in the middle of the night, he sees the disciples three or four miles away in the middle of the Sea of Galilee straining at the oars. What kind of eyesight is that? “One must assume that Jesus had supernatural powers to see them so far away in the darkness (6:48).”[2]

As you are straining at the oars of life, dear friend, Jesus sees. Jesus knows. Jesus cares. And Jesus is praying for you.

  • Jesus prayed.
  • Jesus saw.
  • And Jesus came.

2.        Reunion: Jesus to the Rescue

Mark 6:48 ESV …And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.

2.1.     Jesus Walks Where God Alone Can Walk

The fourth watch began at 3:00 in the morning. Here in the darkest part of the night, Jesus comes walking on the sea.

In the darkest part of your night, look for Jesus!

Here he comes, walking on the sea!

What is this all about? Why is Jesus walking on water? Is Jesus simply going for a walk? Jesus, hem i go wokbaot nomo? Does Jesus simply want to be on the other shore when they get there? What’s going on here?

This the centerpiece of this story: Jesus is walking on the sea. He is walking on water. Who walks on water? Who is this one who comes walking on the sea?

Mark keeps bringing us back to this question, “Who is Jesus?” Who is this one who does what only God can do?

  • Who is this man who forgives sins? Only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:10).

The disciples had already asked,

  • “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41).

He forgives sins (2:10) and demonstrates his power of nature (4:39). He feeds 5,000 people with five small loaves of bread and two small fish (6:31-44). Now in walking on the sea, Jesus is unmistakably identified with God.[3]

In the Old Testament, only God can walk on water. In walking on the water, Jesus walks where only God can walk.

In Job 38:16, God asks Job,

Job 38:16 NIVO “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep?

The psalmist says of God in…

Psalm 77:19 NIVO Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.

Again we read in…

Isaiah 43:16 NIVO This is what the LORD says—he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters,

Only God walks on water.

2.2.     He meant to pass by them…

And then we read that strange phrase:

Mark 6:48 ESV …He meant to pass by them,

What does that mean? “He meant to pass by them…”

Years ago my father asked me about this verse. My father was up early every morning to read his Bible before going to work. He had read through his well-marked Bible many many times, but he was puzzled by this verse. Jesus is walking on the water and Mark tells us, “He meant to pass by them.”

These little phrases that sometimes seem to be out of place are sometimes the key to understanding the passage. In the previous story, Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion on them because, Mark tells us, they were like sheep without a shepherd. That’s a strange phrase in the middle of a miracle story about feeding five thousand people. But then Jesus showed that he was the Lord who is the Good Shepherd. He made the sheep to recline in green pastures in groups of 50 and 100 before multiplying the loaves and fish to feed the multitude. These phrases give us a key to understand the meaning of the miracle.

Now we read that Jesus came to them, walking on the sea, and, “He meant to pass by them…” (Mark 6:48).

In the Old Testament, when God “passes by,” he passes by to reveal himself and to manifest his glory. At Mt. Sinai, the LORD “passed by” Moses:

Exodus 33:19-22 ESV And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.

Again in the next chapter we read,

Exodus 34:6-8 ESV The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

In 1 Kings 19:11-12, the Lord tells Elijah to stand on the mountain, “for the LORD is about to pass by.” In Genesis 32:31-33 (LXX), “the face of God ‘passed by’ Jacob when he was wrestling with the angel.”[4]

Job makes the connection between God’s walking on water and passing by. In fact, Mark uses the same Greek words that are used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament:

Job 9:8 NIVO He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.

Job 9:11 NIVO When he passes me, I cannot see him; when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.

God had told Moses, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). Job said, “When he passes me, I cannot see him…” (Job 9:11). But when Jesus “passes by” the disciples in the midst of the sea, he fully intends to make the “God of Job visible…”[5]

The God of Israel, majestic and awesome but unknowable face to face, is now “passing by” believers in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus’ walking on the water to his disciples is a revelation of the glory that he shares with the Father and the compassion that he extends to his followers. It is a divine [manifestation] in answer to their earlier [astonishment] when he calmed the storm, “’ Who is this?’” (4:41).[6]

John, in his Gospel, declares that Jesus is God. Mark shows that Jesus is God.[7]

Jesus “meant to pass by them.” He fully meant to demonstrate his glory. And why this manifestation of his glory? The disciples are in the boat, in the midst of the sea, struggling against the wind. More than that, they are rowing hard against what the Spirit of God is trying to show them. Their minds are full of questions. Jesus was not following their agenda. Jesus performed many miracles. Was he not the Messiah? Why would he not let the people make him king?

In the midst of their struggle, Jesus comes walking on the waves. He says in effect, “I have not come to follow your agenda. But make no mistake about it. I am the King. I walk on water. I rule the waves. The winds obey my commands. I rule the universe for I am the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

2.3.     Jesus Says What God Would Say

The disciples were terrified at this display of the glory of God.

Mark 6:48-50 ESV …He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified…

These men were professionals. They knew the sea. The lived on the sea. They made their living on the sea. They were rowing hard against the wind, but then they saw something that they had never seen before. Something was approaching them. Something walking through the storm, walking on the water and getting nearer. They were terrified for they thought that a ghost.

Mark 6:50 ESV …But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

“It is I,” Jesus says. “egō eimi” That phrase is identical to the phrase that God used to reveal himself to Moses. It means, “I am.”

“Who shall I say sent me?” Moses asked. “Tell them that ‘I am’ sent you, for I am that I am.” The Greek translation of that is exactly what we have here: ἐγώ εἰμι (Mark 6:50 BGT). “Jesus not only walks in God’s stead, but he also takes his name.”[8]

Jesus says what God says in the Old Testament: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (Mark 6:50).

This passage needs to be interpreted in light of what the prophet Isaiah had said in chapter 43. God says to Israel:

Isaiah 43:1-3 NIV “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”

Isaiah 43:10-11 NIV “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. 11 I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.

Isaiah 43:15-16 NIV I am the LORD, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator, your King.” 16 This is what the LORD says—he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters,

Garland comments,

The disciples who have been called by Jesus pass through the waters, and Jesus is with them and is the one who need only say, “I am.” “The Holy One of God” (1:24), the “Son of the Most High God” (5:7), really is in the midst. For now, however, the answer sails by the disciples.[9]

2.4.     Jesus’ Presence Calms the Storm

It was not until Jesus joined the disciples in the boat that the storm stopped.

Mark 6:51 ESV And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased.

Separation from Jesus brought distress. Jesus’ presence with them overcame the storms in their lives.[10]

You will pass through storms. But with Christ, you will pass through them. As we read in Isaiah 43,

  • When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
  • When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
  • When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Deep waters, rushing rivers, fiery blazes — these you may experience in your Christian life, but with Christ you will pass through them victorious.

3.        Hard Hearts, Slow to Understand

Jesus steps into the boat, the wind ceased, and the disciples were utterly astounded (6:51).

They were amazed, but they should not have been. They were completely astonished at Jesus walking on the water and the calming of the sea when he got into the boat. They were astounded because they had not believed.

By now they should have understood, but Mark says,

Mark 6:51-52 ESV …And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

What did they not understand? Mark says specifically that they had not understood about the loaves. Jesus had multiplied the loaves and the fish, but they have not understood what that meant.

3.1.     Meaning in the Miracles

When we consider the miracles of Jesus, whether it be feeding the five thousand or walking on water, we need to understand that Jesus is not doing tricks to amuse us or amaze us. There is meaning in the miracles.

In these two miracles, the multiplication of the loaves and fish, and in the walking on the sea, Mark has given us the key to their meaning. Miracles are like signs that point beyond themselves. There are road signs along the road that goes around the island of Efate. You will see a sign that tells you how far it is to Paonangisu or Saama or Epau. When you see a sign that says that it is 13km to Saama, you do not stop at the sign and think that you have arrived at Saama. The sign points to a reality beyond itself. The signs are not put up so people would admire the signs. They are put up to point people in the right direction.

Jesus did not perform miracles so that people would admire his miracles. The miracles were signs that pointed beyond themselves. They pointed to the person of Jesus Christ. They should raise questions that ask, “Who is this that calms the storm with a word? Who is this that multiplies the loaves? Who is this who walks on the sea?”

3.2.     Failure to Understand

The disciples had not understood who it was who had multiplied the loaves and the fish. They had not understood that he was the bread of life that had come down from heaven. They had not understood that he was the Good Shepherd who made his sheep to recline in green pastures. They had not understood that he was himself the very source of life.

The disciples had not yet come to believe that Jesus was God in the flesh. They had failed to understand who he was. Had they believed that he was the Son of God, they would not have been surprised that he could walk on water. They would not have been astonished that the wind suddenly stopped. Had they understood the great might and unlimited power of the Son of God, they would not have feared.[11]

3.3.     Hearts that Were Hard

The disciples had not understood, but they were nonetheless without excuse. Mark says that they had not understood because their hearts were hardened. We have seen the hard hearts of the Pharisees and the Herodians when Jesus healed the man with the deformed hand (3:5). But these are his own disciples. And they have hard hearts.

What does that mean? That means that they have their own idea about who Jesus is supposed to be. They know what kind of a Messiah they want him to be. Like the rest of the multitude that wanted to make Jesus king, the disciples wanted a Messiah that would get rid of the Roman government and give them all the social welfare benefits that comes with multiplied loaves and fish.

Maybe you want a Jesus who will always make you happy, or well, or rich, or who will get you a wife or a husband. That’s the Jesus that you want and not another. You want a Savior on your own terms. The disciples were not the only ones to have hard hearts.

The disciples knew Jesus and had spent time with him, but they had hard hearts that kept them from knowing Jesus for who he really was and is. Their ideas about who he was kept them from truly knowing him. These men

  • had a unique calling (1:16-20; 3:13-19).
  • They had had privileged instruction (3:31-35; 4:13-20, 34).
  • They had been commissioned, and
  • Given miracle-working power, and
  • Had participated in Jesus’s ministry (6:7-13, 30, 35-44).

Still they do not understand.[12] Because they have hard hearts. They think they know how things ought to be. They know what they want in a Messiah.

Faith is not automatic; it is the result of a choice to let go of who we want Jesus to be and to accept what the Word of God reveals about him.[13]

The cults today promote a different Jesus. They have a smaller Jesus. A created Jesus. A Jesus who was simply an angel. A Jesus who was not equal with God (John 5:18). A Jesus who had some of God in him, but not one who was filled with all the fulness of God (Colossians 2:9).

They have not understood the infinite greatness of our Lord Jesus Christ. They do not want the Jesus that is revealed in the pages of the Bible. They have hard hearts.

That’s why they have their own books that they add to the Bible, or why they have their own translation of the Bible, or why they have their own prophets or prophetesses who change the meaning of the Bible.

3.4.     Hope for Hard Hearts

The disciples had failed to understand who Jesus is. But there was hope for them, and there is hope for us. Just as they came to understand who Jesus was and put their full faith in him, as we open and read the pages of the Bible and accept what the Scriptures tell us about Jesus, we can grow in faith. God will forgive us for our unbelief as we embrace what he has revealed.[14]

There is nothing more astounding than the fact that Jesus was actually God in the flesh. “The Word was God… The Word became flesh, and we beheld his glory…” (John 1:1, 14).

John 1:18 ESV No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

When you understand and accept the fact that Jesus Christ was God manifested in the flesh, then it is no longer a mystery how he could forgive sins, or heal the sick, or raise the dead, or how his death on the cross could atone for our sins.

Our God is an astounding God! Why would you want anything less than an astounding, amazing God? This is the God that evokes worship from us. This is the God who is truly awesome and worthy of our praise.

[1] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 3800-3801). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[2] David E. Garland, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel, p. 294.

[3] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 3816-3820). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[4] David E. Garland, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel, p. 297.

[5] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 3835-3844). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[6] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 3835-3844). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[7] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 3835-3844). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[8] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 3816-3820). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[9] David E. Garland, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel, p. 298.

[10] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 3855-3857). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[11] Stein, Robert H. (2008-11-01). Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (Kindle Locations 8508-8511). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[12] Stein, Robert H. (2008-11-01). Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (Kindle Locations 8533-8545). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[13] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Location 3863). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[14] Stein, Robert H. (2008-11-01). Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (Kindle Locations 8533-8545). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

John 11:01-45, “When God Is Late”

I’ve heard it said that God is never late. He is never early, but He is never late: He is always right on time.

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Well, I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have the impression that God is late. And I’m not the only one to feel that way. Today we will consider a story about God showing up late.

Punctuality — being on time — might just be a western value. My grandfather used to say, “If you leave on time with plenty of time, you’ll get there on time.”

On time? What does that mean? Sometimes we joke in the islands about being on island time or being on Vanuatu time. We show up on our time.

Christians often say that God is always right on time, but frankly, I sometimes have the distinct impression that God is late. Perhaps my watch needs to be adjusted. Or perhaps God is on another timezone. Whatever the case, sometimes God does not show up when we think He should.

That’s the story we read in John 11. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were good friends with Jesus. They lived in Bethany, about three kilometers from Jerusalem. In the previous chapter, chapter 10, the Jewish authorities at Jerusalem had just tried to stone Jesus because he had claimed to be God. So Jesus went far north, about a four days journey because it was not yet his time.

John 11:1-14 NLT A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. 2 This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. 3 So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” 4 But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” 5 So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, 6 he stayed where he was for the next two days. 7 Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.” 8 But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?” 9 Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. 10 But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.” 11 Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.” 12 The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” 13 They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died. 14 So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.

God is late and Lazarus is dead. What further proof do we need that from our perspective, from our way of calculating time, God is often late.

Some people think that everything is going to be alright. That everything will work out perfectly for the Christian. But that is not the case.

Nor is it the case that God will never allow us to suffer or sorrow or go through any difficult circumstances. That is the message that some preach today, that if you come to Jesus

  • you will have no more problems,
  • you will always get on well with everyone,
  • you will never be short on money,
  • you will never get sick.

Here we have the story of Lazarus. Lazarus is sick. And dying. Mary and Martha have had Jesus in their home. They have listened to his teaching (Mark 10). They have heard about his miracles or even seen him work miracles. They know that Jesus can heal their brother.

They also know that they can call on Jesus. He is their friend. They know that Jesus loves them. They know that he loves Lazarus.

But Jesus has travelled far north to get away from the hostility of the religious authorities in Jerusalem. Mary and Martha know where Jesus has gone. Anyway, it would not be hard to find Jesus. He always drew crowds of people even when he was trying to be alone. If Mary and Martha can get the message to Jesus, all will be well.

So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill” (John 11:3).

It is a four-day journey from Bethany to Jesus. Mary and Martha send the message. The first day passes. The second day. Lazarus has not improved. The third day comes and goes. Lazarus is getting sicker. By the end of the fourth day, Mary and Martha are getting quite concerned. Jesus receives the message but decides to stay:

John 11:6 ESV So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

“Oh, I wish that he would come!”

The fifth day comes and goes. Lazarus is dying. Mary and Martha are ringing their hands. “Hold on, Lazarus! Jesus is coming! Jesus will heal you! You are going to be alright!”

The sixth day comes and as the sun sets, the life of Lazarus comes to an end. And Jesus was not there.

  • Jesus was not there when Lazarus was sick.
  • Jesus was not there when Lazarus needed to be healed.
  • Jesus was not there when Lazarus died.
  • Jesus was not there to bury Lazarus.
  • He was not there to comfort Mary and Martha.

Mary and Martha prepare the body of their brother to be buried. Again and again, Mary and Martha tell each other that their brother would not have died had Jesus been there:

John 11:21 ESV Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

John 11:32 ESV Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

The sisters had talked. Time and again they had shared their disappointment: “If only Jesus had come, our brother would not have died!” He did come, but he came too late.

Sometimes God is late. He does not follow our calendar. He is not watching our clock. Our time is not His time. There are disappointments in life. Disappointments because God is late.

Surely Mary and Martha thought that Jesus was late: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Have you ever felt the disappointment of unanswered prayers? Have you ever been kept waiting, watching, hoping, only to have your hopes dashed because God did not show up?

Sometimes God is late. But this story gives us several truths to hold on to when God is late.

1. When God is late, it is not because of a lack of love.

Twice in three verses, John tells us that Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary and Martha:

John 11:3 ESV So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

John 11:5 ESV Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

There are times of waiting and there are times of disappointment. There are times when it seems that God is late or that He does not show up at all, but if you are a child of God, you should know this:

God loves you. This is one of the great convictions of the Christian life. Time and again we are told that God loves us. In John 3:16, we read that well known verse:

John 3:16 ESV “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The Apostle Paul expresses the great love of Christ for us in Galatians 2:20 when he says,

Galatians 2:20 ESV I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Paul exults in “the great love with which he loved us” in Ephesians 2:4. And he prays that we may be able to comprehend “the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3:18-19 ESV).

Again, the Apostle John says,

1 John 4:10 NLT This is real love– not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Romans 5:8 ESV but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This is the ultimate proof of God’s love toward us: Christ died for us. If you doubt God’s love, look at the cross. Never has there been a greater demonstration of love than the cross. Never has there been a greater demonstration of the love of God for sinners than the cross. We will go through times when it seems that God is late, that He is absent… It may seem that He did not show up. Look at the cross! Whatever else we may not understand, let us look at the cross! There is proof of God’s love for us. When God is late, it is not because of a lack of love.

2. When God is late, it is never by accident (v. 6).

John 11:6 ESV So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Lazarus was sick. Lazarus was dying. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that the one that he loved was sick. Four days later, Jesus got the message. But there is no panic. He does not jump and run. He does not take a fast camel to Bethany.

No. He waits. He stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

This may seem callused to us. Why does God wait when we suffer? What does He not respond immediately to our cry? Why must we wait?

Waiting on the Lord is the characteristic of the faithful.

ESV Psalm 27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

ESV Psalm 38:15 But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.

ESV Psalm 39:7 “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.

God is never in a hurry. He stands in eternity, knowing the end from the beginning, knowing everything that will happen before the beginning of time itself. He is never taken by surprise.

MUSIC: LINCOLN BREUSTER – EVERLASTING GOD

3. When God is late, He still plans to show up (v. 7).

John 11:7 ESV Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

It had been six days since Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was ill. Jesus had received the word after four days but had stayed where he was for two more days. Now after six days, Jesus says, “Let’s go.”

The disciples are confused. Why would Jesus want to go back to Judea? The Jewish authorities wanted to kill him. But Jesus had already said that as the Good Shepherd he would lay down his life for his sheep. Now he risks his life for one of his sheep, a sheep named Lazarus.

John 11:11 ESV After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”

“Oh, that’s good!” the disciples thought. “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.”

But Jesus was speaking of his death, but they had misunderstood. So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.”

It’s late. It’s too late. What is the point? The point is this: Jesus was going to do the unthinkable. He was going to awaken the dead.

When God is late, he still plans to show up. Daniel had been fasting and praying for 21 days without a response. But when an angel finally came with the answer, he said

Daniel 10:12 ESV … “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.

Judah would be in exile in Babylon for 70 years, but God still had a plan:

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

The prophet Habakkuk did not understand why God did not seem to answer his prayer. But then the word came to him:

Habakkuk 2:3 ESV For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end– it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

There was a time for its fulfillment and that time had not arrived. It would surely come, but Habakkuk would have to wait for it.

When Jesus asked Philip how they would feed the five thousand, he already knew what he was going to do.

John 6:6 ESV He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

Mary and Martha had to wait. Lazarus had to die. But Jesus knew what he was going to do.

When God is late, He still plans to show up for He knows what he is going to do.

4. When God is late, He want to increase our faith.

4.1. Some people have a conditional faith.

Mary and Martha seem to have had a faith that Jesus could have done something had he been there:

John 11:21 ESV Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

John 11:32 ESV Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Some of the friends of Lazarus had a conditional faith:

John 11:37 ESV But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Couldn’t things have been different? It’s too bad that Jesus wasn’t here! He could have done something! He could have kept this man from dying!

Some people believe that God is limited by the conditions. God can only do what he wants to do if all the conditions are perfect. But Jesus is purposefully showing that he is the master of every situation. There is nothing that is too hard for God. That does not mean that he is going to do everything we want him to do. I have been to funerals where people tried to raise the dead. They wanted God to do what they wanted Him to do. God can raise the dead and one day he will raise the dead again, but he does not raise the dead because we command him to. God is still God. He is sovereign and he gives life to whom he will, not to whom we will.

But our faith must not be conditioned by the conditions. Our faith must be conditioned upon the all powerful God.

4.2. Some people have a future faith.

Martha believed that Jesus could have done something had he been there:

John 11:21 ESV Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

When Jesus told her that her brother would rise again, she responded,

John 11:24 ESV … “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Her faith was good for the past: “If you had been here…”

Her faith was good for the future: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

4.3. We need a present faith.

But her faith was inadequate for the present. She had past conditional faith, and future faith, but she did not have faith for the present.

Now in verse 22, it appears that she has faith for the present:

John 11:22 ESV But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

But when Jesus told them to remove the stone from the tomb, we read in verse 39,

John 11:39 ESV … Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”

Martha did not have faith for the present. Jesus was too late. Lazarus was dead. There was nothing to do but wait for the resurrection on the last day.

When God is late, he wants to increase our faith. When Jesus received the word about Lazarus, he purposefully waited two more days. He wanted Lazarus to have been dead for four days before he got there. He wanted it to be well established that Lazarus was dead because he wanted to increase their faith. He told his disciples,

John 11:14-15 ESV Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Jesus wants to increase our faith not only in what might have been or in what will be in some distant future. He wants us to have faith in him in the here and how.

John 11:25-26 ESV Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus does not say that he would have been the resurrection and the life or that he will be the resurrection and the life. He declares that he IS the resurrection and the life.

Mary and Martha and Lazarus had gone through a terrible trial. It was neither by accident nor by unconcern that Jesus allowed them to pass through this suffering. Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus. The death of Lazarus was greatly troubling to Jesus:

John 11:33 ESV When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.

John 11:35 ESV Jesus wept.

Jesus had allowed them to go through this trial to increase their faith:

John 11:41-42 ESV So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

John 11:45 ESV Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him,

5. When God is late, He is going to display his glory (11:4, 40).

John 11:4 NLT But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.”

The glory of God is manifested when God does what God alone can do.

Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus:

John 11:39-45 NLT “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” 40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” 45 Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen.

When God is late, he is going to display his glory. We suffer in this present time, but glory is coming:

Romans 8:18 ESV For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

1 Peter 4:12-13 ESV Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

2 Corinthians 4:17 ESV For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

MUSIC: HILLSONG, GLORY

Do you know this Jesus?

Do you know who he is? Have you put your faith in him? Do you trust in him? It is easy to believe when everything is going well, when life is grand, when there is food on the table and singing in the home. But when we pass through difficult waters, our faith is put to the test. When we pass through the fire, we have an opportunity to trust. Our trust is not put to the test with we understand. Our faith and trust can only grow when we go through tough times.

Do you know this Jesus who is the resurrection and the life? Do you know this one who will call forth the living and the dead at his return? Are you ready to meet him? Have you trusted in him for your salvation? Do you know this Jesus who is life, abundant life, eternal life? Do you have the life of God in your soul?

The Bible says that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. What does that mean? That means that you recognize that Jesus Christ is the Lord. He is the Lord of your life. It is no longer your life, but his life: you belong to him. You obey him and live so that people would come to know him and love him.

Call out to him. Tell him that you need him. You need his forgiveness. You need his life giving power in your life. You want the deadness of sin to be removed. You want his life, his resurrection power that makes us dead to power of sin, but alive unto God.

Summary

God is sometimes late. But when God is late,

  1. It is not because of a lack of love.
  2. It is never by accident; he is purposefully late.
  3. He still plans to show up.
  4. He wants to increase our faith.
  5. He is going to display his glory.

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 05:30-46, “Jesus’ Witnesses”

 

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

English: Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In John 5, Jesus claimed to be equal with God. Anyone could claim to be equal with God. But where’s the proof? We need evidence for such a claim. Jesus serves as his own defense attorney, calling witness after witness to the stand. You must make a verdict. Stay tuned…

A few years ago someone came into our home and stole some important items. Thankfully, we were insured and were able to make a claim to our insurance company. Now insurance companies are not in the business to give away money. They are in the insurance business to make money, so when you make a claim and ask them to give you money to compensate for your loss, they require that you present proof of your claim. They want proof of the value of the items that were stolen in the form of receipts. And they want proof that the items were really stolen in the form of a police report. So when you make a claim against an insurance company, they in effect ask you, “What’s your proof?”

Some time ago, Josh McDowell wrote the book Evidence that Demands a Verdict and later he wrote a followup book: More Evidence that Demands a Verdict. The book is packed with evidence that proves that the Bible is reliable.

In John 5, Jesus makes an astounding claim. It was not an insurance claim, but a claim about himself. He claimed that God was his own Father. Jesus understood the implications of his claim for his next remarks show that he knew exactly what he was saying. The Jews understood the implications of his claim that God was his own Father for that was the reason why the Jews wanted to kill Jesus. And John, the author of this Gospel, understood what Jesus meant, because John is the one that tells us the importance of what Jesus was saying.

As you may remember, it all began with Jesus healing a lame man. The Jewish authorities were persecuting Jesus because he had healed the lame man on the Sabbath. In effect, they were asking him, “Who do you think you are, healing people on the Sabbath?”

Jesus simply responded, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). In other words, ‘”Whatever God does, I do.”

It is now that John gives us one of his many explanations in this Gospel. Literary specialists have counted over one hundred such parenthetical comments or “asides” as they call them. In each of them, John is leading “his readers to his desired conclusion.”[1] John tells us here in the next verse, John 5:18, exactly what we are to conclude:

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18 ESV).

John, the writer of this Gospel, wants us to understand what the Jewish authorities understood and what Jesus understood and what John himself understood: Jesus was making himself equal with God.

Jesus “justified his work of healing on the Sabbath by reminding the Jewish authorities that they admitted God worked on the Sabbath. This explains the violence of the reaction. The Sabbath privilege was peculiar to God, and no one was equal to God. In claiming the right to work even as his Father worked, Jesus was claiming a divine prerogative. He was literally making himself equal to God, as John 5:18 goes on to state explicitly for the benefit of the reader who might not have made the connection.”[2]

This is what John tells us from the first verse of this Gospel,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1).

Again in the 18th verse of chapter one, John tells us,

“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18 ESV).

In several other places in this Gospel, John makes the same point: Jesus is God. “Who do you think you are, healing people on the Sabbath?” “My Father is always working, and so am I.” John tells us that Jesus was making himself equal with God.

What right do you have?

Later we considered the verses that follow John’s explanation. Jesus tells us that though he is equal with God, as Son of the Father, he is always submission to His Father’s will. Nonetheless, he has all the rights and privileges of God.

  • He does the works of God: “Whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (5:19).
  • He raises the dead and gives them life: Just “as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will” (5:21).
  • Like the Father, Jesus has life in himself: “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (5:26).
  • Jesus will execute judgment: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (5:22).

The Son is to be honored just like the Father: “That all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (5:23). So the Son receives equal honor with the Father.

Today, we want to look at the evidence.

What proof do you have?

What is your evidence? Talk is cheap. Anyone can make claims. Anyone can claim to be God. Just visit the psychiatric ward of a major hospital and you will probably find people who believe that they are God.

When we were living in French Polynesia, I had the opportunity to talk with a short little man with long hair who rode a blue bicycle. He claimed to be Jesus Christ. My Tahitian friends told me that the man had eaten the wrong kind of mushrooms. I did share the gospel with the man that day in hopes that the Holy Spirit would be able to penetrate the man’s deranged mind with the truth about Jesus Christ.

Through the centuries, many people have made strange claims. Many have had dreams and visions and revelations and as a result, some have started new religions or cults or religious groups. What makes Jesus any different from them? What proves that Jesus wasn’t simply another lunatic? Jesus had proof. Jesus had witnesses. In fact, Jesus operates in the passage as his own defense attorney, calling witness after witness to support his claims.

 The Need for Witnesses

In a court of law, a witness is commonly sworn in. In my country, the witness is asked, “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” The witness swears an oath before God that his testimony will be true.

In the Old Testament, when capital crimes were committed — those crimes calling for the death penalty — before the death penalty could be given, there had to be at least two witnesses to the crime and their testimony had to agree completely. The idea of giving a true and accurate testimony was so important in the nation of Israel that God made it one of the Ten Commandments. The ninth commandment states, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). If a witness were to bear false witness against another, he would receive the sentence and punishment he had intended for the other (Deuteronomy 19:18-19). If a man were to bear false witness against another to get him executed, he might be found out and be executed instead.

In John 5:30-31, Jesus makes the following statement:

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true (John 5:30-31 ESV).

Jesus says that his judgment is just, but then he says, “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid” (John 5:31 NLT). What does he mean by that? Jesus makes a lot of statements about himself. He is not saying that every time he says something about himself that it is not true. He is referring to the need for additional witnesses.

…The facts of the case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15 NLT).

You may have had to go to a notary public to have your signature verified on an official document. Some documents require two signatures: there is a line your signature and another line for the signature of someone who witnesses you sign the document. Now suppose you were to sign on both lines. That would not work. You could not legally bear witness to your own action. You need someone else to confirm that you are the one who signed on the first line.

That is what Jesus mean when he said, “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid” (John 5:31 NLT).

But Jesus is not without supporting witnesses.[3] The Defense calls…

Witness Number One: John the Baptist

There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true (John 5:32).

Jesus first makes reference to God and will come back to God as his witness, but his hearers need another witness first, so Jesus calls John the Baptist as the first main witness:

33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light (John 5:32-35 ESV).

The importance of John the Baptist can hardly be overestimated. Other founders of cults and religions have had followers, but none have had a forerunner announcing their arrival before they came. John the Baptist did not come after Jesus to confirm him as the Messiah. John the Baptist came before Jesus. John’s ministry was outstanding. Multitudes were going to him to be baptized. People began wondering if he was the promised Messiah or the prophet that Moses had promised. “I am not,” the Baptist told them. “Then why are you baptizing?” they asked. “I am preparing the way for the one who comes after me,” he responded.

Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal” (John 1:27 NLT).

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God” (John 1:29-34 NLT).

Christ was born after John the Baptist and would come after him, but

John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.'” (John 1:15 NLT).

John the Baptist points to the pre-existence of Christ. Though Jesus was born at least six months after John the Baptist, John says, “He existed long before me.” Christ did not begin to exist when he was conceived in the womb of Mary. According to the first verse of this Gospel, he is the Word who was in the beginning with God, and who was God (John 1:1).

“Jesus, what proof do you have to back up your claims?” Jesus calls John the Baptist as his first witness. John testifies that Jesus is eternal. He is the Christ. He is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

John the Baptist was an excellent, competent, and reliable witness.

But Jesus has an even greater witness than John…

The next witness is called to the stand…

Witness Number Two: The Works that Jesus Does

Jesus says in John 5:36,

But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me (John 5:36 ESV).

The Jewish authorities frequently asked for signs, miracles to prove that Jesus had the authority to do the things he was doing. For example, when Jesus cleansed the temple, the Jewish authorities understood that he was making a claim. He was claiming the right as Messiah to cleanse the temple. So they asked for a sign to show that he was indeed the Messiah. Instead, he challenged them to destroy the temple and he would raise it up in three days.

The author, the apostle John, tells us that Jesus was actually speaking of the temple of his body. Jesus was predicting his own death and resurrection. The Jewish authorities would destroy him, but Jesus had the authority to raise himself up again. On the third day, he would rise from the dead.

But there were plenty of signs for those who had eyes to see. The signs were miracles pointing beyond themselves. The signs signified something about Jesus. They pointed to his identity, who he was, and what he came to do. Jesus simply calls them his works. He says that his works prove that the Father had sent him.

In John 2, Jesus changed about 600 liters of water into wine. His disciples saw his glory and believed on him.

After cleansing the temple, we read in John 2:23 that Jesus did other signs and “many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.”

In John 4, Jesus simply spoke the word and the nobleman’s son was healed at a distance of some 30 kilometers.

And in John 5, Jesus healed the man who had been lame for 38 years. It was that healing — that work on the Sabbath — that had stirred up the controversy with the Jewish authorities. It was their complaint against that work that had led him to explain, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”

“Think about it!” “…the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.”

How is it that Jesus is able change the water into wine, heal a dying boy with a word, and give a man legs who has been lame for 38 years? The “works that Jesus was doing showed that God was authenticating His identity.”[4]

Again in chapter 10 Jesus will say, “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,” (John 10:25 ESV).

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (John 10:37-38 ESV).

Witness Number Three: The Father Himself

Jesus calls a third witness on his behalf, and that is the Father Himself. The works that Jesus did were an indirect witness of the Father to Jesus’ identity. But now Jesus says that there is a direct and personal witness that the Father gives. Perhaps Jesus is referring to the voice that many heard at his baptism: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 ESV). Or perhaps he is referring to the Father’s audible testimony when Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John.

In any case, Jesus said that the Jewish authorities were totally ignorant of the Father; they did not know Him.

  1. First, “his voice you have never heard,” Jesus said (John 5:37). Moses had heard God’s voice (Exodus 33:11). And Jesus speaks the words of God (John 3:34; 17:8), but the Jewish authorities did not hear God’s voice in Jesus.
  2. Second, “his form you have never seen” (John 5:37). Jacob had seen his form. “I have seen God face to face,” Jacob said. Jesus was himself the manifestation of God (John 1:18; 14:9), but the Jewish authorities failed to see God in Jesus.
  3. Third, Jesus told them, “you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent” (John 5:38). Joshua meditated on the Word of God day and night (Joshua 1:8). The psalmist stored up God’s word in his heart (Psalm 119:11; 1:2). Jesus was himself the Word who was in the beginning with God and who was God, but the Jewish authorities did not delight in God’s word. They failed to recognize the Word when he was standing before them.

Jesus calls a fourth witness, a witness that the Jewish authorities should have known:

Witness Number Four: The Scriptures

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (John 5:39-40 ESV).

This is a most stunning indictment. The Jewish authorities searched the Scriptures but failed to understand that the Scripture themselves bear witness to Jesus Christ. Jesus is speaking, of course, of the Jewish Scriptures, what we call today the Old Testament.

We read in Luke 24:44 that before his crucifixion, Jesus had told the disciples that everything written about him in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalm had to be fulfilled. It was all written about him. Then after his resurrection, talking with two disciples on the road to Emmaus,

…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27 ESV).

The Old Testament Scriptures pointed to Christ. The Christ would be more than just a man. He would be fully human, but he would be fully God: the God-man. So later in his ministry, Jesus asked the Pharisees how David in Psalm 110 could call the Christ “Lord” if the Christ were simply a descendent of David (Matthew 22:41-46). You don’t call your many times great-grandson “Lord,” unless he is… ah.. the Lord. The Christ would be much more than a human descendent of David. He would be that, but he would also be the Word made flesh, God in the flesh.

Isaiah said that he would be born of a virgin and would be called Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). Again Isaiah said this virgin-born son would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

“Mighty God, Everlasting Father!” Yes, Jesus made himself equal with God, but that is exactly what the Scriptures had said he would be. The Scriptures gave witness to Jesus.

Witness Number Five: Moses

We might consider Moses simply as part of the Old Testament Scriptures, but Jesus mentions him specifically:

For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46-47 ESV).

Moses wrote of Jesus in a number of ways, but let me point to one very specific prophecy that Moses gave concerning Christ:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers– it is to him you shall listen– (Deuteronomy 18:15 ESV).

[God says] I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him (Deuteronomy 18:18-19 ESV).

But at the end of the Book of Deuteronomy, they were still looking for that prophet:

And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel (Deuteronomy 34:10-12 ESV).

The people were still waiting. So when John the Baptist came on the scene, they asked him, “Are you the prophet?” “No,” he replied.

When the people saw Jesus feed 5,000 men with five loaves of bread and two fish, they said, “This is surely the prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14).

In John 7, Jesus promises flowing rivers of living water, that is to say the Holy Spirit, to those who come to him. When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet” (John 7:40 ESV).

Yes, Moses was another witness of Christ. Christ was the Prophet that Moses had spoken of.

Witness Number Six: The Spirit of Truth

Jesus calls on four or five witnesses in chapter 5 to verify his claim to being equal with God. But there are two more witnesses in the Gospel of John.

In John 15:26, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will bear witness about him.

“But I will send you the Advocate– the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me (John 15:26 NLT).

Jesus describes the ministry of the Holy Spirit in John 16,

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’ (John 16:13-15 NLT).

So the Holy Spirit is a witness to Jesus.

Witness Number Seven: The Disciples

Finally, Jesus mentions the disciples. The disciples will be witnesses to Jesus Christ:

And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning (John 15:27 ESV).

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are his witnesses. Forty days after his resurrection and just before his ascension into heaven, Jesus said this,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere– in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NLT).

We are Jesus’ witnesses. The message of the early Church was Jesus Christ. The disciples went everywhere preaching and teaching about Jesus (Acts 5:42). Peter preached Christ (Acts 10:36). Stephen was a witness to Jesus Christ (Acts 22:20). Philip went to Samaria and preached the good news about Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12). The disciples that were scattered because of the persecution went everywhere preaching the Lord Jesus (Acts 11:20). Paul preached Jesus and the resurrection (Acts 17:18).

Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV).

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:5 ESV).

Yes, the focus of the church has always been on Jesus Christ, who he is – God in the flesh – and what he did for us on the cross.

We are Jesus’ witnesses. He claimed equality with God. He had the rights and privileges of God, and he called seven witnesses to authenticate his claims.

  1. John the Baptist bore witness to Christ that he was the Son of God.
  2. The works — miracles — that Jesus did showed that God authenticated his identity.
  3. The Father himself in a personal and direct manner bore witness to His Son at his baptism, at his transfiguration, and again in John 12 when his voice thundered from heaven.
  4. The Scriptures all pointed to Christ and identified him as the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, Immanuel: God with us.
  5. Moses bore witness to Christ as the Prophet whose words we must obey.
  6. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus.
  7. True disciples will always preach Christ. He is the message we preach:

… Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ (Colossians 1:27-28 ESV).

So you have heard the evidence. What is your verdict? Is Jesus who he says he is? Is he equal with God? He does what God does. The witnesses say that he is equal with God. What do you say? As many as received him, to them he gave the power to become the children of God. He is the only way to the Father.

[1]Andreas Köstenberger, A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters, 135.

[2]New English Translation (NET) note on John 5:18.

[3]R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Location 1262). Kindle Edition.

[4]R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Location 1292). Kindle Edition.

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 02:01-11, “Believing”

English: Icon of the wedding at Cana

English: Icon of the wedding at Cana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him (John 2:1-11 ESV).

BELIEVE

What do you believe? Does it matter what you believe? If, for example, you believe that all religions lead to God, will that make it true? Is truth a matter of opinion, or does it remain the same whether or not we believe it? If we are sincere, can we be wrong?

A few years ago I took a flight from Port Vila to Brisbane. When I arrived at Brisbane, I was to take a train to another terminal to catch another flight to Sydney. I found the station where I was to board the train and confirmed it with the woman at the counter who told me that the train would arrive in two minutes. Sure enough, in two minutes a train arrived and I got on to go to the other terminal where I would catch the plane for Sydney. After some time, I began to see signs for the Golden Beach near Brisbane. Another train passenger told me that I was on the wrong train going the wrong direction. I had believed that I was simply transferring to another airport terminal. I was sincere. But I was sincerely wrong.

Pastor Rick Warren says, “You can be sincere, but you can be sincerely wrong. The fact is, it takes more than sincerity to make it in life. It takes truth.”

Many people put a lot of emphasis on belief. Many books are written about believing. Motivational speakers talk about the power of belief. We are told

  • to believe in ourselves,
  • to believe in our potential,
  • to believe in belief.

We are told that believing is more important than what you believe. We are told that we have the power to create our own reality by believing. Even Christians get caught up in the false teaching that we should believe in our ability to create reality by our thoughts and words and belief and faith.

Is that what the Bible is talking about when it talks about faith and believing? Is our faith and hope in ourselves or is our hope in Jesus?

SONG: MY HOPE IS JESUS, ADRIAN LEWIS, HILLSONG – 4:12 (14 second lead)

JOHN, THE GOSPEL OF BELIEF

Today we want to continue looking at the Gospel According to John. This Gospel has been called “The Gospel of Belief.” John’s Gospel is the Gospel of belief because he emphasizes believing more than Matthew, Mark, and Luke combined. Those three gospels combined only mention believing 35 times, 65 times if we add the noun “faith.” But John uses the verb “to believe” 98 times. In fact, he writes this entire Gospel so that we would believe.

But John’s purpose is not simply to encourage us to believe. He wants us to believe something specific. His summary statement of purpose is found in 20:30-31,

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31 ESV).

It has been said that this gospel is

  1. A selective gospel: Jesus did many other signs which are not written in this book.
  2. An attested gospel: Jesus did these signs in the presence of the disciples.
  3. A purposeful gospel: It has a purpose: These signs are written so that you may believe.
  4. An interpretive gospel: The signs signify that Jesus is the Christ.
  5. A definitive gospel: Jesus is the Son of God.
  6. An effective gospel: by believing you may have life in his name.

So John’s purpose is not simply to encourage faith or belief, he wants us to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Is that important? Is it important that we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the one and only Son of God? John says that this is the way that we may have life, and the life that he is talking about is eternal life which is nothing less than knowing God and His Son Jesus Christ, both now and for eternity.

This is what Jesus said in his prayer to his Father in John 17:3,

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3 ESV).

Eternal life begins now. As John says in his first letter, 1 John 1:3,

that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3 ESV).

The Truth

Belief is not enough. Sincerity is not enough. We must believe the truth:

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 ESV).

Is it important that we believe the truth? Absolutely!

“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:24 ESV).

Knowing the truth, believing the truth, and living according to the truth is absolutely essential.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36 ESV).

Yes, John wants us to believe something specific.

  • That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (John 11:27 ESV).
  • That the Father sent him (John 11:42 ESV).
  • That Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in him (John 14:11 ESV).
  • That Jesus is God (John 13:19 ESV).

Belief alone is not enough. Belief in belief is empty. Faith in faith is meaningless. Our faith must have an object. We must believe some thing. We must believe the truth.

Today truth has been relativized. People believe that there are many different truths. You have your truth and I have my truth. What is true for you is not necessarily true for me. What is true for me is not necessarily true for you. Whatever works for me is true for me, and whatever works for you is true for you.

But that does not work! It does not work in math, or accounting, or science, or physics, or any other field of study. 2 plus 2 is 4, even if we believe that it is something else. If you go to the bank believing that 2 plus 2 is 10, and that you believe that you have 10,000 vatu in your account, you may be sincere, but the bank will tell you that you are sincerely wrong. Airplanes are carefully constructed with strict adherence to the laws of aerodynamics so that the plane will actually fly and carry its passengers safely from one place to another.

So why should we think we can have our own private truth about God who, the Bible says, cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18)? Why should we think that it matters little or not at all what we believe about Jesus who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)?

  • Belief in false gods is not enough.
  • Believing the wrong things about God and about His Son leads to false worship.
  • Sincerity is not enough.

Believing In Jesus Christ

And John has written so that we might know the truth and believe the truth. John wants us to believe the truth about Jesus Christ. And yet, he wants us to believe more than that. He wants us to believe in Jesus Christ. In other words, it is not simply a question of believing certain truths or facts about Jesus Christ, though that is important. John is calling for personal faith in Jesus Christ, a personal knowledge of Christ, entering into a personal relationship, communion, and fellowship with Christ.

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:11-13 ESV).

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:14-18 ESV).

Seven Signs

John is calling for active faith, active belief in and commitment to the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God whom God has designated as the only means of salvation. So John gives seven signs performed by Jesus Christ that point to who he is.

Now some people are always looking for signs. They see a sign and want to see another one, never understanding that a sign is meant to sign-ify something. A sign has sign-ificance—meaning—because it points beyond itself. When you see a sign on the road indicating the distance to your destination, you don’t stop and camp out at the sign. As you are going up toward Panginisu, you will see a sign for Port Vila that says 109km. If your destination is Port Vila, you don’t stop when you arrive at the sign. You keep going because the sign has told you vital information that you needed to know.

John has recorded seven signs that tell us vital information about Jesus. They tell us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

  1. Jesus changes the water into wine (John 2:1-11).
  2. He healed the official’s son who was at the point of death (John 4:47-54).
  3. He healed the man who had been lame for 38 years (5:5).
  4. He multiplied five loaves and two fishes to feed the multitude of 5,000 plus women and children (John 6:1-15).
  5. Jesus walked on water (John 6:16-21).
  6. Jesus opened the eyes of the man born blind (John 9).
  7. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11).

John also records seven great “I am” statements made by Jesus:

  1. I am the bread of life that came down from heaven (6:35, 48, 51). He is the source of life.
  2. I am the light of the world (8:12; 9:5).
  3. I am the door of the sheepfold (10:7, 9).
  4. I am the good shepherd (10:11, 14). He lays his life down for his sheep.
  5. I am the resurrection and the life (11:25). He would rise from the dead.
  6. I am the way, the truth, and the life (14:6). He is the only way to the Father.
  7. I am the true vine (15:1).

John’s purpose is to lead us to believe in Jesus Christ. But what does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? It means that we understand who he is, that we put our trust in him, and that we follow him as his disciples.

  1. We understand who he is. John’s opening verse tells us who Christ is: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John tells us in 5:18 that every time that Jesus called God his own Father, he was making himself “equal with God.” Jesus tells Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Thomas, seeing the resurrected Christ, calls him, “My Lord and my God.”
  2. We must trust him for our salvation: He is the only way to the Father.
  3. We show our love to him by obeying him:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15 ESV).

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me (John 14:23-24 ESV).

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love (John 15:10 ESV).

THE FIRST SIGN

In John chapter 2, we come to the first miracle that Jesus performed. John uses the word sign instead of miracle because he wants us to see that the miracles of Jesus were signs of who he was and is. This passage concludes with these words:

This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him (John 2:11 ESV).

The Setting: A Wedding

In chapter 1, we heard the testimony of John the Baptist, that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Andrew and John, two of the Baptist’s disciples, heard his testimony and followed Jesus. Andrew then announced to his brother Peter that they had found the Messiah. Jesus found Philip, and Philip found Nathanael. So at the end of chapter 1, Jesus already has a group of disciples. Now we read in chapter 2 that

…there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration (John 2:1-2 NLT).

Jesus’ presence at the wedding was his seal of approval on marriage. Sometimes I am asked if the marriage between unbelievers is really a marriage or if new converts should get married again. Let’s be clear about this. Marriage is God’s gift not only to Christians, but to humanity. You don’t have to be a Christian believer for your marriage to be valid. Marriage is a gift from God. Human marriage is a reflection of the true marriage that will take place when Christ returns for the Church which is his bride. The Apostle Paul speaks to this in Ephesians 5:31-32,

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31-32 ESV).

So Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding celebration in Cana.

The Situation: A Shortage of Wine and a Mother’s Concern

The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother [who as also there] told him, “They have no more wine.”

4 “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come” (John 2:3-4 NLT).

Literally Jesus said, “Woman, what to me and to you?” which means “Woman, what has this concern of yours to do with me?”

What we see here is a mother’s concern, but not just any mother. This is the mother of Jesus. It was to Mary, the mother of Jesus, that the angel Gabriel had appeared telling her that as a virgin she would bear a child who would be very great, who would be the Holy One of God, the Son of the Most High, the Son of God. His name would be Jesus, which means Savior, and he would reign as King over Israel forever.

As a virgin, Mary gave birth to that child. She and Joseph, being warned in a dream, had fled King Herod’s wrath by night. They had returned from Egypt and seen Jesus grow in stature and wisdom and in favor with God and man. They had seen him at the age of 12, amazing the elders in the temple. Mary had deeply contemplated all these things in her heart. She had watched. She had waited. Perhaps she had heard the testimony of John the Baptist. She saw that Jesus was gathering disciples. Now at the wedding, the wine supply had run out. This seemed to be the time:

“They have no more wine,” she told him.

Mary knew that the prophets Elijah and Elisha had worked miracles to supply oil in time of need. Surely this was the time for Jesus to supply the need, to manifest himself so that everyone would know who he was. Perhaps also she wanted to be vindicated against those who had accused her of immorality, who had said that she could not be a virgin when she was pregnant with Jesus.

“Woman, what have I to do with you? My hour has not yet come.”

Jesus does not address Mary as “Mother,” but as “Woman.” This is a term of respect that Jesus used on occasion when addressing women. But Jesus is here putting distance between himself and his mother. It is not her responsibility to determine when or where or how he is to manifest himself. That is not her position. She must learn that she can no longer approach him as his mother. She must come to him, not as his mother, but as his disciple.

His hour had not yet come. The hour that Jesus was talking about was his hour to return to his Father (John 13:1).

Mary no longer presumes to tell Jesus what to do. She simply speaks to the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.”

Six Stone Jars and a Sign

Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons (John 2:6 NLT).

That’s about 100 liters. These stone water jars were probably used to wash certain utensils and the hands of the guests (cf. 3:25). The “water represents the old order of Jewish law and custom, which Jesus was to replace with something better.”[1]

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17 ESV).

Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.”

When the jars had been filled, 8 he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions (John 2:7-8 NLT).

Jesus did not touch the water jars or the water. He simply gave instructions which the servants followed:

  • Fill the jars with water.
  • Now dip some out.
  • Take it to the master of ceremonies.

When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. 10 “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “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 2:9-10 NLT).

Notice how discreet Jesus is in this miracle. He does not draw attention to himself. There is no big announcement as to what he has done. The master of ceremonies did not even know where the wine had come from. Jesus had not given in to the temptation to make a big display and to show himself.

In Luke 4:9-11, Satan had tempted Jesus to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple so that the angels would carry him so that he would not even hurt his foot on a stone. “Do something dramatic! Show yourself!”

In John 7:4, the unbelieving brothers of Jesus tell him, “If you can do such wonderful things show yourself to the world!”

Here in John 2, the mother of Jesus had suggested that he do something spectacular, that it was time for people to know who he really was.

But Jesus responded to the need in a way that would not draw attention to himself. He performed the sign without even touching the jars or the water. He drew no attention to himself so that only the servants and Jesus’ disciples knew that the wine had been water. They were the only ones who knew that Jesus had turned the water into wine.

It takes great power and great intelligence to turn water into wine. With all our advanced technology today, we still have no idea how to turn water into wine. Yet, all around us is evidence of God’s great power and intelligence. God is continuously turning water into grapes and oranges and bananas and papayas and tomatoes and avocados and mangoes. All around us are plants—factories, if you will—which turn water into every kind of fruit and vegetable. It takes great intelligence to know how to do that. And yet this time, Jesus did it without even using a grape vine.

Jesus did this as the first of his miraculous signs, in Cana of Galilee. In this way he revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him (John 2:11 NET).

He manifested his glory. That’s what we read in the Prologue, the introduction of this Gospel:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14 ESV).

The glory that Jesus manifested was the glory of the only Son of the Father. And his disciples believed in him. They believed that he was the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

… these [miraculous signs] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31 ESV).

SONG: CHRIS TOMLIN – KING OF GLORY

Thank you for tuning in to FM 107. This has been a ministry of Joy Bible Institute. You can visit our website at www.joybible.wordpress.com. Our prayer is that the joy of the Lord would be your strength.