Signs

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”:

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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.