Is Your All on the Altar?

April 22, 2018

Listen to the definition of the word, “surrender.” It means to “give oneself up into the power of another; to yield.” As you might imagine, surrender is not viewed in a positive way by most people. Who wants to yield their power over to someone else?

We are willing to yield to our employer because they are paying us, but even then we are very concerned about our rights as employees. Husband and wives often struggle over issues of power. It is difficult to surrender.

Last week we saw how Jesus provided breakfast for the disciples after a long night of fruitless fishing. In Jn.21:15-22 Jesus has a significant conversation with Peter, and it has much to with this matter of surrender. From these verses I want to point out that Jesus, our life-giving Savior, pursues our full surrender to him.


After eating breakfast Jesus looks at Peter and asks a penetrating question. It is not a religious question. Religion is concerned with rituals, traditions, and doctrines. Were you baptized? Are you meeting the obligations of our religion? Etc. It is not a question designed to bring overwhelming guilt and feelings of failure. That is not what Jesus is trying to accomplish. Nor, in this case, is it a private question. Jesus did not take Peter aside to talk with him in private. He asked this question in front of all the others. Jesus is pursuing Peter’s heart.

He looked at Peter and asked, “Do you love me more than these?” I do not think Jesus is asking, “Do you love me more than you love fishing?” Or, “Do you love me more than you love these other men.” It’s not that those would be inappropriate questions. Rather, I think Jesus is asking, “Do you love me more than these other men love me?” You remember that Peter boasted confidently of his absolute loyalty to Jesus in front of the other disciples. And yet, Peter was the one who verbally denied even knowing the Lord.

One other observation: When Jesus asks the question in v.16, he uses the word, “agape.” This is considered the deepest kind of love. It refers to an unyielding, thoughtful, purposeful, and selfless commitment to the welfare and good of another. When Peter responds in v.16 he uses the word, “phileo,” which refers to a spontaneous, warm, affectionate, familial kind of love. Some scholars make a big deal about the different words used here, as if Peter is saying, “Well, Lord I can’t go that far, but yes, I do love you.” But it has been shown that John uses both “agape” and “phileo” interchangeably. I believe it is better to just take the question as it is. “Peter, do you love me more than these?”

Jesus asks this question three times. Why? I believe he is intentionally awakening Peter’s memory of when he denied the Lord three times. That was a painful moment in Peter’s life. In addition to this, Peter was the recognized leader among the disciples. Jesus said that he would build his church upon Peter, the rock. It was important for Peter and the other disciples to witness the restoration of Peter in his relationship with Jesus.

If Jesus were to ask, “Do you love me more than any other person or thing,” what would you say? I mean this is the kind of question that husbands and wives ask each other if they think their spouse does not love them. It is a penetrating question. It is a question that requires us to go deep into our heart and soul. Underneath this question is the assumption that if love is present, it will be displayed in meaningful ways in every dimension of a person’s life. Each time Jesus repeated the question, Peter responded, “You know I love you.” Peter had a repentant, chastened heart. He was grieved. His grief revealed the depth of his love.

This is encouraging because we all know what it is to turn away from the Lord, to choose to go in a direction not in keeping with the Lord. But if we love the Lord, we will have a repentant, chastened heart. We will be grieved over our sin and we will desire to profess our love for Christ. In fact Jesus will be asking, “Do you love me?”

Each time Peter professes his love for Jesus, Jesus tells him to tend or feed his sheep, not Peter’s sheep, but Jesus’ sheep. It is surely a call to ministry from Jesus to Peter. Jesus uses broken people who love him. This is also instructive because it shows us that love for Jesus is expressed in our attending to and participating in and with the things that are important to Jesus. If we love Jesus we will prioritize the things that Jesus loves, which will certainly include his people, his church.

There are people today who attend church largely because church is in their background. For whatever reason, being in church seems like something they ought to do. And I think it is better to be in church than to not be in church, but whether or not these people love Jesus is another question. If Jesus has little involvement in their daily lives then he is more of an “add on” than a life giving Savior. Jesus asks, “Do you love me.”

Our relationship with Jesus is not like a business transaction or contract. It is not, “If I do something for Jesus he’ll do something for me.” Jesus gives his life for us and to us. In fact, this is what makes Jesus so compelling. Out of love for us, he died on the cross in our place, bearing our sins. In rising from the dead he has eternal life to give. It is the very life he has in himself. Life with Jesus is very personal. It is impossible to receive his eternal life in the Kingdom of God and live as if Jesus doesn’t exist. If we love him, his words, his actions, his interests, and his church will be front and center in all we do every moment of every day.


After this exchange Jesus goes on to say something that seems to spoil this Hallmark moment. Here is Peter expressing his love for the Lord from the depth of his heart, and Jesus informs Peter of how he is going to die. Really? Is that the way to follow up a tender moment? Obviously this is not just a tender moment. This is a life shaping moment. Look at what Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go." (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, "Follow me."

The Church Fathers understood the phrase, “stretch out your hands,” as a reference to crucifixion. Eusebius of Caesarea who died in 339 AD said that Paul was beheaded and Peter was crucified under the persecution of Nero.

Now if I knew I was going to be crucified or martyred, I might be inclined to regularly be looking over my shoulder. In other words I wouldn’t want to rush into it and would prefer to spare my life. Few of us ever know how we will die and that is probably a good thing. But if you did know how you are going to die, wouldn’t you try to buy yourself a little more time? I mean, many of us try to eat healthy and exercise and take vitamins, so that we can live longer. Ever since I heard that coffee can ward off Alzheimer’s, I have taken that to heart, since my dad and both grandmothers had Alzheimer’s!

But there is something very important for us to recognize from these verses. Jesus is pursuing within Peter a body-centered surrender to Christ. At one time Peter had boasted that he was even willing to die for the Lord. But in his own strength he could not do it. He denied the Lord instead. The flesh is weak. Augustine writes, “After he was strengthened by Christ’s resurrection, Peter would do what in his weakness he had promised prematurely. For the necessary order was that Christ should first die for Peter’s salvation and then that Peter should die for the preaching of Christ.”

And do not miss what Jesus says in v.19. “This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.” Do you ever think about your death? Do you ever think about your death in terms of glorifying God? I’m not suggesting that we all start thinking about our deaths. But I am wanting to call us to consider what it means to be a follower of Jesus in terms of our bodies. These earthen bodies contain an amazing treasure, the very life of Christ. So Paul urges us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Paul tells us that our bodies are members of Christ and that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this he tells us to glorify God in our bodies. A person may claim to love Christ all day long, but if that love is not revealed in the way they use their body, that claim is suspect.

And so, seeing how Jesus willingly surrendered his body to the cross so that we might live in him, we surrender our body as living sacrifices. We surrender our eyes, our ears, our tongue, our mind, our hands and feet. Every part must come under the rule and Lordship of Jesus Christ. Whenever we sin, our bodies are involved. And so we are talking about a body-centered surrender. We are seeking to die to the sinful desires that are embedded in our bodies.


This was a sobering prophecy. In v.20 it seems that Jesus and Peter must have walked away from the others and John began to follow them. As Peter looked around and saw John, he asked, "Lord, what about this man?" Jesus’ response is very clear. “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!"

I don’t know how this strikes you, but it sounds a little, “in your face to me.” It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Hey, what happens to John is none of your beeswax.” And in many ways that is exactly the truth. Peter had enough to think about let alone having to concern himself with what might or might not happen to John. Suppose it was Jesus’ will for John to remain until the second coming? How would that information be of any help to Peter, especially after Peter knew that he was going to be crucified?

Suppose you found out that a co-worker who has the exact same job as you, is making $10,000 more than you. Would that encourage you? It might make you feel unappreciated. Jesus was pursuing in Peter a Christ-centered kind of surrender. “Peter, you must keep your eyes focused on me. Do not be distracted by other disciples. They have their calling and you have yours. They have their challenges and you have yours. You will not fall short.”

Comparing ourselves with others is an activity that trips up many followers of Jesus. When we compare ourselves with others we tend either towards pride or despair. We make judgements about others that we are not capable of making because we don’t know the full picture. In Rm.12:3, Paul writes, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

This is more difficult and more important than we might think. And so, as followers of Christ in this world, our goal is to fix our eyes on Jesus. It seems that Peter and John both lived to be old. As far as we know John died a natural death. Peter was crucified. “Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well. It is well with my soul.” The only way we will be able to say, “It is well with my soul,” in whatever our lot, is to keep our eyes on Jesus. So in whatever you do, simply seek to do the best you can and look to Jesus to sort it all out.

This morning, Jesus is pursuing this kind of surrender from you and me. In fact, every day we must engage and answer the call to surrender to Christ. That surrender will be a Heart-centered, body-centered, and Christ-centered surrender. The old gospel song asks, “Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid? Your heart does the Spirit control? You can only be blest, and have peace and sweet rest, as you yield him your body and soul.” Are you surrendered to Jesus? Amen


Living in the Presence of Jesus

April 15, 2018

There are a number of living trees present in our back yard. I engage with their presence on a daily basis when I am in the back yard and am present with them. When I am at the church those trees are not present with me although I can think about them if I want to. I can think about how they need to be pruned. So those trees impact my life while I am at church, but only as I bring them to mind.

This morning we want to think about the presence of Jesus. Is Jesus present with us? Or is Jesus localized in heaven at the right hand of the Father? Is he only present to me as I think about him or is he actually with me whether I think about him or not? We are looking at Jn.21:1-14. It is the epilogue of John’s Gospel. As we consider these verses I want to point out that in our life with Jesus Christ, He is always present.


John recounts three post resurrection appearances of Jesus to his disciples. The first appearance took place on Easter Sunday. In that appearance Jesus said that in the same way that the Father had sent him into the world, so he was sending them into the world. Jesus was commissioning his disciples to take the gospel into the world. The second appearance occurred a week later when Thomas was with the disciples. And the third appearance took place in Galilee.

In the Synoptic gospels we learn that after his resurrection Jesus told his disciples they should go to Galilee and that he would meet them there. So here in Jn.21:1 we find seven of the disciples in Galilee. Why did Jesus tell them to go to Galilee? There are a number of good thoughts about this. I just want to note that the disciples were largely from the area of Galilee. They had just been through a very stressful time as they saw Jesus betrayed and crucified. They were living in a state of fear of the Jewish leaders and so returning to Galilee was a welcomed respite. They were home.

Think about it. For the previous three years they had been traveling around, doing ministry with Jesus. They had been busy. But now what? Jesus was not physically present with them all the time. They didn’t really know what to do. So Peter decides to go fishing.

And why not? I have heard preachers suggest that Peter was going back to the old life of fishing. He was despondent and felt guilty for denying the Lord. “I’m going fishing.” It may have been like that, but not necessarily. They all may have felt unsettled. They lacked clarity about what they were supposed to be doing. Have you ever felt that way? Maybe you are between jobs and weeks are turning into months and you just don’t know what you should do.

That is not a time to sit around and do nothing. Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” Nothing like fishing to clear your mind! So they get into the boat and they fish all night and catch nothing. These men were experienced fishermen. They knew what they were doing, but they caught nothing.

I imagine they were tired and a bit disappointed. If they had caught some fish they could have at least sold them in the market and gotten some money. They would have food. But there were no fish. They had nothing to show for their effort. It was time wasted.

It is not uncommon to feel this way as we live our lives. We begin a career or a job and years later we wake up and we wonder, “What have I even accomplished in my life?” What do I have to show for my efforts? And if we were successful in one area of life, we may feel that we neglected other important areas and we have regrets.

But I wonder if there isn’t more going on here. They had pretty much lived in the presence of Jesus for those years. I imagine that in his absence there was a sense of being alone. They were fishing but not with Jesus. I wonder if they thought back to the time recorded in Lk.5 when after they had fished all night, Jesus told them to let down their nets. Peter had protested, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." A large number of fish were caught. At that moment, Peter fell to his knees and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

I believe that during the days immediately following the resurrection, Jesus was beginning to teach his disciples something very important for the years to come. His disciples would have to learn how to abide in the presence of Jesus when Jesus was not physically present with them. They would have to learn how to do their work with an ongoing confidence that even though they could not see Jesus, he was with them and they could trust him. In their work of making disciples there would be many more days of fruitless effort and response, just like their empty nets. They would have to trust in Jesus.

In v.4 we read, “Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.” Jesus was present; they didn’t know it. Now we have never experienced the physical presence of Jesus with us. We are followers of Jesus but we live on this side of the Ascension. We have only known the indwelling Holy Spirit. Sometimes we wish we could see Jesus because even though we have the Holy Spirit, we are not always living with the confidence that Jesus is with us.  But he is with us. He is with us in all of life, even in life’s most mundane and disappointing moments. And we need him. This is why it is important to seek to cultivate an awareness in our minds that Jesus is present with us.


The disciples may not have been able to clearly see the person standing on shore. But Jesus calls out, “Guys, do you have any fish?” The answer came back, “No!” And Jesus yelled back, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” And Peter said, “Who is that guy?” Only kidding! And so that’s what they do. And indeed, they don’t just find some fish, they find more fish than they can handle.

In v.7 we read, “That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" Most think this is referring to John. You remember that at the tomb John saw the grave cloths and the folded face cloth and he believed. John seemed to have an intuitive sense about spiritual things. Seeing the miraculous catch of fish, John knew it was Jesus. He tells Peter and Peter immediately puts on his outer garment, girding it up so he can swim. He jumps in the water. Did he swim for shore? The text doesn’t say, but we presume so because in v.8 we read that “the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish.”

In Lk.5 when Jesus told the disciples to let down their nets for a catch, he was in the boat with them. In Mk.4 when the disciples were in the boat on the stormy sea of Galilee, Jesus was in the boat with them and he said, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind and waves grew calm. We have that little chorus, “With Christ in the vessel we can smile at the storm.” But this time, Jesus was not in the boat. In fact, the disciples did not think Jesus was anywhere near them. But he was! Not only was he near, he knew what they needed to hear in order to catch some fish. He gave the guidance they needed. And he gave the guidance they needed after they had come to the end of their night of fishing.

Now if there is a lesson many of us need to learn, it is the importance of recognizing Jesus as a person to whom we can confidently go to for guidance and wisdom. The other day I was skating at noon skate and saw some of my hockey buddies. One is pretty much of an agnostic. We were talking and I mentioned that I believe Jesus is the most brilliant, up-to-date person alive today. He said, “Is that what you believe?” I said, “Yes.” Certainly we get that sense when we read the gospels, and since Jesus is alive today, he is still the most brilliant, up-to-date person. So if that is the case then doesn’t it make sense that we would consider Jesus worthy of consulting on just about any and every matter? Dallas Willard used to say, that when you pray, “Jesus will come right up to you.” Willard believed deeply in the living and present reality of Jesus Christ.

But the fact that Jesus waits until the disciples have expended themselves in their fishing is also instructive. I don’t mean to suggest that Jesus always waits until the last moment, but it does often seem that way. We ask our questions in prayer and then we wait. But we are not much good at waiting and so it is not uncommon for us to go ahead anyway. Jesus was present and he initiated the conversation. And he gave the needed information.

And Jesus still does the same thing today. He is interested in seeing us thrive as his followers in this world. In 2Pt.1:2-3 we read, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

It is never too late to begin learning to listen for the Lord’s guidance. In prayer we present our requests and concerns and we ask for his guidance. And then we listen. Now if you do this and you don’t hear anything and you need to make a decision then commit it to the Lord and make the best decision you can. But continue to practice bringing your concerns to the Lord and listening. Ask him to order or direct your steps. He has the guidance you need to flourish as his follower in this world.


The disciples made it to shore dragging the fish. When they landed they saw a charcoal fire already lit and they could smell some fish being grilled and they saw some bread. That must have been a welcome sight. Jesus was providing breakfast.

But then Jesus says, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” That statement is suggestive of an important truth for Christian living. Jesus invites us into the work that he is doing. He invites us to bring our labor, our talents, our abilities and skills in order that we might participate with him. Every day we live, every place we go, Jesus is already present and at work. He call us to come and bring what we have to join him. He is working from within the invisible kingdom of God that is all around us and we serve as the visible expression of his kingdom work in the world.

What would you think if the disciples pulled up on shore, unloaded their fish, started their own fire, and grilled their own breakfast? Would that not have been a rejection of Jesus? As followers of Jesus Christ we are not in this world to do our own thing. Ideally we do not have a thing of our own to do. We are doing the work of Jesus in all that we do. Everything we do and have we bring under the rule of Jesus.

Peter hauls the net ashore. Jesus says, “Come and have breakfast.” “Breakfast is served!” This had a profound impact on the disciples. Remember, this was only the third time they had seen Jesus. It seems to me that the familiarity which they once enjoyed with Jesus had taken on a deep sense of wonder and awe. This is profound! And yet, notice that Jesus is still serving his people. He is Lord of heaven and earth and he is still serving you and me.

In fact, when Jesus sent his disciples out he said to them, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” When Jesus was teaching on prayer, he told his disciples, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Later the apostle Paul would testify to God’s faithful provision in Phil.4:19. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus gives us his life in the kingdom of God. He calls us into his work to make disciples of himself. He promises to give the guidance we need to live as his disciples in this world. And he shows that he is more than able to provide for our needs as we live for him in this world.

The trees in my backyard have a presence, but my ability to perceive what they might communicate, if they communicate at all, is pretty much nonexistent. Jesus, on the other hand, is a living human being who is God and who has no limitation in his ability to be present to us and to communicate with us. He dwells in us. As we daily make ourselves available to him he will provide what we need to live life with him in this world. Amen

Do You Believe in Jesus?

April 8, 2018

Last week it was Easter Sunday. Many came to enjoy the wonderful Easter breakfast and stayed for the worship service. We had a great time together. But as wonderful as the breakfast meal was last week, this week we are sharing in an even more wonderful and important meal. Obviously I’m referring to the Lord’s Supper.

This morning we continue in John 20, looking at two post resurrection appearances of Jesus. Both of these appearances speak to issue of faith in Christ. You see, it is through faith in Jesus Christ that we have life in his name.


On that first Easter Sunday, Mary came to the tomb first. Seeing the stone removed she immediately concluded that someone had taken the body of Jesus. Without looking into the tomb she ran to tell Peter and John. Peter and John ran to the tomb and went inside. When John saw the grave cloths it says, “…he saw and believed.” Peter did not seem to believe as John did.

Then Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and told Mary to go and tell the disciples that she had seen the Lord. We assume she did that but when we come to v.19, we find the disciples huddled together in a room behind locked doors. It tells us that the doors were locked for fear of the Jewish religious leaders. Did they believe what Mary told them? According to Lk.24:11, the words of Mary and the other women, “seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” After all, women get a little emotional and you just don’t know what to think. You can’t always take what they say as “gospel.” At least that was how men thought about women back then.

But again in v.19 we see that suddenly Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Now I’m thinking that is probably the best thing Jesus could have said, because if someone who was dead for three days suddenly materialized in a room where I was sitting I might be just a little startled! I might have been looking around at the others out of the corners of my eyes because, actually, I’m a little frightened!

Notice what Jesus did next. It says in v.20, “When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” Jesus made sure they knew he wasn’t a ghost or any other kind of apparition. They saw the wounds in his hands, feet, and side that was pierced. After seeing these marks of crucifixion, they believed it truly was Jesus. They were seeing the real presence of Jesus. And again, Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” In the immediate context it would seem that Jesus is referring to peace from fear. “Don’t be afraid of the Jewish authorities. Be at peace. I am here.”

In v.21 Jesus commissions his disciples. This is similar to the other gospels in which Jesus commissions his disciples to go into all the world making disciples. Here in John, Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." Why did the Father send the Son into the world? In Jn.3:16-17 we read, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 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.” And then in Jn.6:56-58, Jesus is giving a teaching about how he is the true bread from heaven who gives life to the world. He says, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." Jesus was sent by the Father to give his life for us and to give his resurrection life to us. Followers of Jesus are also sent to seek to bring the good news of salvation to the lost by sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In v.22 we read that Jesus, breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld." Now you may be wondering to yourself about this. After all we know that the Holy Spirit was not given until the day of Pentecost, which occurred some 50 days after Easter. So what was Jesus doing here in John? Many think Jesus was symbolically acting out what was to come on the Day of Pentecost by using a picture. You remember when Mary anointed Jesus with the costly perfume and Jesus said, she did this for his burial which would soon take place. Likewise when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet he explained, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand." Here, it is thought by many that Jesus was acting out a kind of parable of what would occur on the Day of Pentecost. The mission to go out and preach the gospel would require the power of the Holy Spirit. And then it seems that Jesus gives the disciples the authority to forgive sins. But again, we know that only God can forgive sins. Many take this to mean that in the proclamation of the gospel we are announcing the forgiveness of sins for all who embrace Christ.

But I want to move into v.24-28. It’s as if the disciples have their first opportunity to announce the good news. Thomas had not been with them on Easter Sunday. So when they see Thomas they announce to him that they had seen the Lord. You would think Thomas would say, “O Wow! That’s great. I can’t wait to see him.” But Thomas’ response was one of disbelief. “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Thomas was not going to be duped. Dead people do not rise from the dead.

On the Sunday after Easter, again, they were all in the room together. The doors were locked and Thomas was there. Suddenly Jesus appeared again. He invited Thomas to put his finger in the nail prints and his hand into Jesus’ side. It’s as if Jesus knew what Thomas had said to the other disciples. Clearly Jesus did know what Thomas had said. That’s powerful.

Men and women, If Jesus knew the heart of Thomas, if Jesus knew what Thomas needed to believe, then he surely knows what you need to come to faith.

Thomas didn’t blink an eye. He immediately said, “My Lord and my God! The honor that Thomas had given to the Father, he now freely gave to the Son. Thomas came to full faith in Jesus Christ.

Seeing is believing. This is how we live life. The disciples were no different. We prefer to be able to verify in a physical way, by personal experience what we believe to be true. Our confidence in things is bolstered by sight and experience. But that is not the whole of the story.


In v.29 we read, “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” What we believe in, what we place our confidence in is clearly not only based upon what we can actually see and experience.

There are some very significant things that I believe but have never personally seen or experienced. For example. I have never met any of my great grandmothers and only knew one of my great grandfathers. I do have a few pictures of these people, but if I saw those pictures randomly I wouldn’t be able to tell you who the people in those pictures are. I only know these pictures represent my dead relatives because my mom told me so. And except for an odd story here and there, I don’t even know much of anything about those people. Yet, I believe in their existence and in their relationship to me based upon what my parents have told me. If I said to you, “Unless I see the actual corpse and the death certificates I will not believe those people are my relatives,” you would think that I was a little over the top. Really?

Thomas had spent about three years with those other disciples. He knew them well. How is it that he could not believe their testimony? We accept the testimonies of people that we trust. When Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” What did he mean? Is Jesus suggesting that he expects people to believe in him without any evidence at all? Is Jesus promoting a leap of faith, a leap into the darkness? I don’t think so. I think Jesus is promoting the idea that credible testimony, eyewitness accounts are sufficient to call out from within a person, faith and confidence in him. John says as much in v.30-31. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 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.”

But there is a component of personal experience involved when it comes to faith in Jesus. I believe my dead relatives lived at one time and then died. I believe in their existence, but I do not know them. However, with Jesus the situation is a little different. The eyewitness accounts tell us that Jesus is alive. He is not just alive; he is alive and is able to know things and come and go at will unhindered by physical realities. He just materialized in a locked room. He knew what Thomas had said.

The promise of Jesus is that all who receive him, who entrust their life to him in faith receive his eternal living, his resurrection life. We enter into an ongoing, ever present relationship with God through Jesus.

In Jn.14:19-23 Jesus is teaching and he says, “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?" 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.”

“Make our home with him!” That is an amazing promise. In the words of Peter in 1Pt.1:8 “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

When John ran to the tomb on Easter Sunday morning, he went in and saw the grave cloths and the folded head cloth lying there. It says he saw and believed. He had not seen Jesus. This is why I am saying, “Believing is seeing.” Throughout the many years since the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, countless numbers of men, women, and children have entered into a life-giving relationship with Jesus by faith.

And here we are at the Lord’s Table. And he is present here. You say, “I don’t see him.” That is true. But open your eyes. See and eat the bread. It speaks of his body broken for us. See and drink the cup. It speaks of his blood that was poured out for us. Eat and drink for in eating and drinking we acknowledge Jesus Christ who lived, died, rose from the dead, ascended to the Father, and now through the Holy Spirit, lives and abides in us. The real presence of Christ is not in the cracker or the juice. It is in us and at his table. By faith we see him through the physical elements. By faith we are strengthened in and through his real presence here in and among us. Let us come to the table of the Lord. Amen.

How Clearly Do You See?

March 18, 2018

Irish clergyman, Pat Buckley, wrote the following statement. “I believe that life is a journey towards God, and that no one has the right to insist that you go a certain road.” Well, that kind of sentiment is popular these days. But I’m puzzled by this statement. If everyone determines their own road to God, then the god they are journeying towards is one of their own making. I mean, what if God has prepared the road by which we come to him? If we miss that road because we have chosen a different one, then we will miss God.

John 9 tells the story of how Jesus restored sight to a blind man. The story has deep implications concerning our journey towards God. The story shows us that our journey towards God is vitally connected to Jesus Christ. And so I want to ask you: Where are you in your journey with Jesus?


Maybe, as far as you know, you are not on a journey with Jesus. In the Gospel of John one prominent metaphor has to do with darkness and light. For example, in Jn.1:4-5 we read, referring to Jesus, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Or in Jn.3:19 it says, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” In Jn.8:12 Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Darkness stands for sin and death. Light stands for Jesus and life.

It is only a small stretch to see the connection between darkness and blindness. John 9 ends with v.41, “Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, ‘Are we also blind?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains.” Well, what does blindness have to do with guilt?

This is the question that begins the story. Jesus is in Jerusalem with his disciples and they see a man blind from birth. In fact he was a beggar because that was the only thing the man was good for. The disciples ask a question. You might say that it is a question about karma. According to the Yogic Encyclopedia, “If you sow evil, you will reap evil in the form of suffering. And if you sow goodness, you will reap goodness in the form of inner joy. Every action, every thought, brings about its own corresponding rewards.” We are not Hindu or Buddhist, but a similar idea is even found in the Bible. In Gal.6:7-8 Paul writes, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” In Jb.4:8 we read, “those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.” Proverbs tells us, “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity.”

In Jesus’ day it was common to think that if you lived an unrighteous life you would pay for it. So the disciples see this man blind from birth and they ask, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind.” Someone must have sinned. That’s the only conclusion they could come to. Jesus replies, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

It is not uncommon for us to think like the disciples. But Jesus makes it clear that not all suffering is the result of someone’s sin. We live in a fallen world. When Adam and Eve took it upon themselves to order their own lives apart from God in disobedience, they brought sinful disorder into this world. And in a world of sinful disorder, bad things happen. The fact that God exists gives great hope that in the face of suffering and evil, there’s the potential for redemption. God can and does bring good out of evil. God delivers us from sin, evil, and death. It is what the Gospel is all about.

But in v.3-5, Jesus shows that he is not just talking about physical blindness. He speaks about working the works of God. In v.5 he calls himself the light of the world. Well, I can tell you that Jesus came for something more significant than restoring physical sight to blind people. Jesus did not come to just enhance our already full lives. In calling himself “the light of the world,” Jesus is implying that the world is blind. The world is spiritually blind. Just as this man was blind from birth, so the entire world, everyone in the world, is spiritually blind from birth.

This is not a comment on whether or not there is goodness in people. Because we are created in the image of God and because of God’s common grace, most people are not as bad as they could be. There are many wonderful qualities in the people of the world. But that does not negate the fact that we are all spiritually blind to God and his Son, Jesus.

Jesus says he is the light of the world, then he spits on the ground and makes a little mud pack and anoints the man’s eyes with the mud. “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.” Jesus didn’t ask the man any questions. He just did this miracle of unprecedented healing.

Now Stage 1 refers to the reality that everyone in this world is spiritually blind. And what I mean by that is that no one comes to the truth concerning God on their own. We prefer to shape and control our own destinies. We do not view ourselves like this helpless blind man. Our inclinations about life are more in keeping with karma. If I try hard enough and do my best I will reap good things, joy, happiness etc. Life is based on performance and some lucky breaks. Many people do not reflect deeply on spiritual matters. But if they do they still think in terms of performance. If a person believes in God and some kind of afterlife, they think that if they can be good enough they will gain God’s favor. But this is not at all what Jesus demonstrates or teaches. He healed this man while the man was still living in physical darkness. Jesus made the difference in his life. If this man had woken up that morning and decided on his own to wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam, nothing would have happened. The healing came through the work of Jesus. The man did what Jesus told him to do. It is very possible that you are in stage 1 this morning. You are spiritually blind. You are lost in your sins and you don’t know the way to life.


The man came back seeing. This miracle caused quite a stir. His neighbors had to look twice to make sure it was the same man. He said, “I am the man.” They asked him how he could see. He replied, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.' So I went and washed and received my sight." It was so astounding that they took the man to the Pharisees to get their thoughts on the whole thing. Why did they do this? It’s because no one had ever cured someone blind from birth. Even today most forms of blindness are incurable. O, and did I mention that Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath? That little bit of information is found in v.14.

In v.15 the Pharisees ask the man to recount how he had received his sight. The man told the story of what Jesus did. Immediately the Pharisees zeroed in on the problem. In v.16 we read, “Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?’ And there was a division among them.” They turned again to the man and asked, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?”

The man knew it was Jesus who opened his eyes, but he never actually saw Jesus. He didn’t know who Jesus was. So he gave it his best guess. “He is a prophet.” Many people thought Jesus was a prophet of some kind.

Well, the Pharisees were not buying it. In fact they started to wonder if the man had really been blind to begin with. Maybe this was hoax. That is still a common way of thinking about Jesus even today. In v.18 they call the man’s parents to find out if they can vouch for their son’s blindness. They ask the parents about how their son came to be able to see. How amazing! The formerly blind man was right in front of them. But they would not accept it. The lengths some people will go to disbelieve what is right in front of their eyes is astounding.

The parents confirmed that the man was their son and that he had been born blind. But they would not comment about how their son was cured because, according to v.22, “they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.”

They call the man again and say, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner." The man responds in v.25. “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." It almost seems as if they want the blind man to renounce his sight. When they asked him to tell them again how Jesus had opened his eyes, the man begins to reveal more about what was happening inside of himself. Verse 27 says, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?" Note the word, “also.” Is the man proclaiming his own discipleship to Jesus? It would seem so. In v.28 the Pharisees are incensed and notice they refer to the man as a disciple of Jesus. In v.28 the Pharisees say that they are disciples of Moses. In v.29 they say, “We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." Again see the response of the blind man.

In v.30-33 the man responds, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." Filled with anger and arrogance, the Pharisees cast him out. He was excommunicated.

Now, let me ask. Was this man converted? Had this man received life in Christ? I think so. When Jesus cured his blindness he began a good work in that man. And in his dialogue with the Pharisees we see the light of life dawning in the man. Clearly the man was not going to deny what had happened to him and he would not deny what Jesus had done for him. He forsook all for Jesus sake. He was receiving life from Jesus. The works of God were already on display in this man’s life. If this man had not received life from Jesus I don’t think he would have risked being excommunicated by the Jewish leaders. He threw his lot in with Jesus.

I point this out because when a person comes to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit begins a work of transformation in that person’s life. It is a transformation that draws a person to surrender more and more of his or her life to the Lordship, the rule of Jesus. This is what it means to be converted. A person gives themselves to Jesus. Have you given yourself to Jesus? Have you received spiritual life in Jesus? You are in church; that is a good thing. But have you entered into the spiritual life that Jesus gives?


Someone told Jesus that the Pharisees had cast the man out. Jesus went to find him. In v.35 Jesus asks, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?" Since the man had never seen Jesus he was not sure who the Son of Man actually was. From v.36 we get the idea that the man was more than ready to make his formal declaration of faith. Jesus said, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you."

The man immediately declared his faith in Jesus and he worshipped Jesus. The word means to bow down, to prostrate oneself. This man had no hesitation in acknowledging Jesus Christ publicly as his Lord.

I’m calling this stage 3. But really, it is the natural continuation of stage 2. Those who receive life in Christ and whose lives are being transformed are willing to publically own Jesus before everyone without reservation. Followers of Jesus seek to live out their faith in Jesus every day. We don’t just worship Jesus on Sunday; we worship Jesus in all we do. What does that look like? Well, if Jesus were with you in the flesh at work, at home, with your friends and neighbors how would his physical presence impact your conduct and conversation?

It’s clear that the man publicly professed his faith and surrender to Christ because in v.40 we see that some of the Pharisees were present. The man didn’t care. He wasn’t looking for their approval. He didn’t care what the world thought about his faith in Christ. There was nothing obnoxious about what the man did. He just wasn’t afraid to declare his allegiance and surrender to Jesus Christ.

In v.39 Jesus says, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind." Last week we noted that Jesus did not come to condemn the world. But look! When people encounter Jesus there are only two ways to respond. Either a person embraces Christ or rejects Christ. Jesus Christ stands as a figure who initiates judgment. This man certainly knew that he had been blind. And there are some who recognize their spiritual blindness. They know that there is more to life than what they are experiencing. They recognize the darkness of their own heart and when they hear the good news about life in Christ their eyes are opened and they turn to Christ. Unfortunately many others think they already see. They have no interest in Christ and they remain in their blindness. That is a sad thing. In your spiritual journey with Jesus, do you bow in worship of Jesus every day?

I remember speaking with a man about Jesus. Even though he had been raised Catholic and knew about Jesus, he was convinced that when he stood before God, God would judge him on the basis of how he performed. He was convinced that he would fare okay. Nothing I said could change his mind about that. He thought he was seeing clearly, but he was blind. He was making his own road to god.

Men and women, the gospel message about the gift of life through faith in Christ is unique among all the religions of the world. As far as I know, there is no other world religion that offers to give a person eternal life and the forgiveness of sins as a gift of God through Jesus Christ. Obviously a gift must be received.

If the gift holds no interest for you or if you think you already have the gift of life apart from Jesus Christ, then you are as spiritually blind as the man was physically blind. Jesus restored his sight and gave him a new life. Jesus can do the same for you if you will have him. Amen.

"Me Too, Jesus!"

March 11, 2018

The phrase has appeared online millions of times since October 15, 2017. I’m referring to the phrase, “Me Too.” Actress, Alyssa Milano said, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote, 'Me too' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Since then many women and some men have used the phrase along with telling their story of sexual harassment or assault. But this is only the tip of the ice berg. Think of all the women who have been sexually abused, assaulted, and mistreated throughout all of history and it is staggering. Yet this is only one expression of sin.

Think about the various ways in which people are manipulated, taken advantage of, abused and mistreated in the world and one has to wonder if there is anything good about humanity at all. And we are just talking about sins against other humans. What about the fact that every sin against another is a sin against God who created all people? Ultimately we answer to God. Thankfully God has graciously provided a means for our sin to be forgiven. This morning as we consider the woman caught in adultery we will see that Jesus longs for you to receive his loving forgiveness.


Last week as we looked at Jn.5 we noted a verse that did not appear in the earliest manuscripts of John’s gospel. The verses that we are looking at this morning also do not appear in the earliest manuscripts of John’s gospel. The early church Fathers knew of this story but did not refer to it because it seems to be soft on sin! Those who copied the scriptures were not sure where to put this story. Some put it after Lk.21:38. Others put it after Jn.7:44 or Jn.21:25. Most put it at the beginning of Jn.8. New Testament scholars suggest that while the story is not part of John’s gospel, it has an authentic ring about it. In Jn.21:25, John writes, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” Clearly there were numerous true stories circulating about Jesus, but not all of them were included in the gospel accounts.

There was plenty of space in the outer courts of the temple complex for scribes to sit and teach their students. When he was in Jerusalem Jesus did the same. On this day he was sitting and teaching a group of people when suddenly his teaching was interrupted by some scribes and Pharisees. Most, but not all, of the scribes would have been Pharisees. Scribes could read and write and were very learned in the Law of Moses. They took on the roles of lawyers, theologians, religious teachers, etc.

They interrupted Jesus by bringing a woman whom they claimed had been caught in the very act of adultery. They brought this woman into the midst of those gathered around Jesus. They explained to Jesus that the woman had been caught in adultery and they reminded Jesus that in the Law of Moses such women are to be stoned to death. They asked Jesus to give his view about what should happen to this woman. And John tells us that they were testing Jesus in order to bring a charge against him. It was a trap.

In his commentary on John, D.A. Carson points out that if Jesus had not sided with the Law of Moses he would lose his credibility and could be charged with disobeying the Law of Moses. But if he said that the woman should be stoned according to the Law of Moses, he would be taking a position that would have been unpopular with the people because rarely was this law enforced during the days of Jesus. Think about it, Jesus was one who hung out with tax collectors and sinners. He was known for his compassion.

Not only this, but in those days capital punishment could only be imposed by the Roman administrator. If Jesus said the woman should be stoned perhaps he would have gotten into trouble with Rome. So there’s the situation.

From what I can see, this passage has much to do with condemnation. Our first thought is, “Will Jesus condemn this woman.” But before we get to Jesus, let us consider the condemnation of these Pharisees. What exactly does the Law of Moses say? In Lev.20:10 we read, “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” Then again in Dt.22:23-24 it says, “If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones….” Perhaps you immediately see the problem here. Where was the man? If the woman was caught in the act there would have been a man. Obviously, somehow the man got away.

These Pharisees were so intent on finding a way to condemn Jesus that they had no problem whatsoever exposing this woman to public humiliation and condemnation. They cared nothing about the woman and they hated Jesus.

The world traffics in condemnation. In fact, condemning others comes naturally to all of us. When we condemn other people we are conforming to this world. Think about it. The devil is called the accuser of the brothers and sisters. We condemn people who disagree with the views we hold. We condemn people in order to justify and exonerate ourselves. We condemn people just because they have a different skin color, culture, or ethnicity from our own. We write them off in a dismissive way. Such condemnation promotes antagonism and hostility that breeds contempt and violence.

And condemnation runs deep. Many of us are self-condemning. Perhaps you were raised by a parent or relative who knew just how to bring condemnation upon you so that you often felt shame and disapproval. You could never measure up. You felt guilty even though you didn’t know what you even did to incur the guilt. And you have learned to condemn yourself. You speak words of self-condemnation. It does not bode well for your soul or for the soul of anyone else.

Now you may be thinking, “Wait a minute. There is a place for condemnation. When people commit wrongdoing they need to be judged. I get that. We will come back to that thought. But for now I want for us to recognize that a spirit of condemnation resides in many of us. Given the right circumstances we could be part of this group of Pharisees. The world is given to condemnation.


So here is this guilty woman standing in front of Jesus. And in more than one sense, her life is in Jesus hands. We read in v.6 that Jesus bends down and begins to write with his finger on the ground. From what I can tell, Jesus is silent. In v.7 we read that the Pharisees continued to goad Jesus into saying something.

There is a great deal of speculation about what Jesus wrote on the ground. Many different ideas have been suggested. No one knows what he wrote. Was he buying time for himself? I don’t think so. Maybe he wrote something similar to what he said. In v.7 Jesus stands up and says to the Pharisees, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." Similar words are found in the Law of Moses. For example, in Dt.17:6-7 it says, “On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people.”

After speaking, Jesus again bent down and wrote on the ground, allowing time for his words to sink in. It was a brilliant response. Jesus didn’t have to decide for or against the woman. He didn’t have to compromise the Law of Moses. What he did was to use the Law of Moses to silence the condemnation of these Pharisees.

In saying, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her," it does not mean that these Pharisees had to be sinless. Rather, as Carson points out, it means that they themselves could not be guilty of this particular sin. Where is justice in this situation? It would seem that Jesus’ words, brought shame into their own hearts. While the woman was, no doubt, guilty of adultery, these men were guilty of entrapment with ulterior, unjust motives. And who knows but they themselves may have been guilty of adultery or other kinds of sexual immorality. Beginning with the older men, her accusers all melt away.

But this doesn’t solve the problem. The woman was left standing there. It says, “and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.” Was she guilty? She was. She was surely a sinner. I love what Augustine says about this. “The two were left alone, the pitiful and Pity…They left the woman with her great sin in the keeping of him who was without sin. And because she had heard, ‘He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone at her,’ she most likely expected to be punished by one in whom no sin could be found.”

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more."

Perhaps you can see why the early church Fathers shied away from this story. It sounds like Jesus is a little soft on sin. It sounds like Jesus is saying, “Well we will give you a pass on this today. Just don’t do it again.” Nowhere in this passage does Jesus dismiss her sin. He doesn’t even say, “Your sins are forgiven.” What he does say is, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on stop sinning.”

In Jn.3:17-18, John writes, “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. 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.” Jesus Christ did not come to condemn us. He came because we were already condemned by virtue of our sinful hearts which are set against God and his kingdom life. Because of our selfish, self-directed hearts we have effectively shown ourselves worthy of his judgment and we are in need of his forgiveness.

Notice something in v.10. It says that Jesus stood up and spoke to the woman. I am reminded of a verse in Is.30:18. It says, “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” Jesus stood up to show this woman compassion. “Neither do I condemn you.”

Now men and women, the reality is that all of us stand in the place of this woman. We may or may not be guilty of adultery, but we are all guilty before God of something worse than adultery. We are guilty of rejecting God and his Son, Jesus, in order to pursue our own life, life apart from God our creator. Adultery doesn’t keep a person out of the kingdom of God. Failure to believe in and embrace Jesus Christ is what keeps us out of the kingdom of God.

Something else! In this story this sinful woman was standing in the midst of Jesus for judgment, but no judgment was given. In the gospel story, Jesus stands in the midst of humanity and hears the words of judgment. “Crucify Him.” Jesus willingly experienced the condemnation of our sin when he died on the cross in our place.

In 1Pt.2:24-25 we read, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

And here we are at the Lord’s Table. At this table we come to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. We come to the Lord’s Table and in coming we show that we acknowledge our need for forgiveness and life with God in Jesus Christ. We renew our faith and trust in Jesus and are strengthened in our life with Jesus.

Charles Spurgeon wrote a hymn for the Lord’s Table. Listen to the words. 1) Amidst us our Beloved stands, and bids us view His pierced hands; points to the wounded feet and side, blest emblems of the Crucified. 2) What food luxurious loads the board, when, at His table, sits the Lord! The cup how rich, the bread how sweet, when Jesus deigns the guests to meet! 3) If now, with eyes defiled and dim, we see the signs, but see not Him; O may His love the scales displace, and bid us see Him face to face! 4) Thou glorious bridegroom of our hearts, Thy present smile a heaven imparts! O, lift the veil, if veil there be, Let every saint Thy glory see! Let us come to the Lord’s Table. Amen

What Is Your Deepest Need?

February 25, 2018

At some point in our lives all of us experience deep need. Whether it is a serious illness, a tragic accident, an unexpected death, a family crisis, or sudden job loss, these situations quickly overwhelm us. We feel alone, anxious, and hopeless. And if we believe that God exists, we wonder if he cares about us.

But this morning I am also thinking of another need that we all experience. It is our need for life and relationship with God. By far, this is the deepest need of our lives, and yet most people do not really attend to it. This is the need that the late Billy Graham spoke about again and again.

As we look at the story of the man in Jn.5, I want us to know that God loves each one of us and cares about every need of our lives, especially our need for life and relationship with him. From this story we learn that Jesus, the Son of God, wants to meet you in your deepest need.


The pool of Bethesda is just to the north of the temple complex. Bethesda means, “House of mercy.” In Jesus’ day many with disabilities would sit by that pool. Most of our Bibles have a footnote by v.3 informing us that there is an additional verse. This verse tells us that the people believed that from time to time an angel of the Lord would come and stir the water. Whoever was able to get into the water first would be cured. The reason this verse is not found with the others is because it is not found in the earliest manuscripts of John’s gospel. This verse was inserted at a later date. That said, there must have been some belief about the stirring of the water because in v.7, the man Jesus was speaking to explained that when the water was stirred he was not able to get in. Some speculate that perhaps the water was stirred by some event in the springs that fed the pool. We don’t know.

But that brings us to the man. Jesus was in Jerusalem for one of the feasts. We are told that there was a man lying at the pool who had been an invalid for 38 years. Many think he was probably paralyzed. Think about this. The average life span during the days of Jesus was only about 30-35 years. This man had suffered for a long time. In v.6 we read that Jesus was aware of this man’s situation. He knew that the man was a regular at the pool for many years. Day after day the man would lay by the pool waiting for the water to be stirred.

Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be healed?” Really? What kind of a question is that? “Do you want to be healed!” The man told Jesus that when the water is stirred he had no one to put him into the pool. I take that to be a, “Yes. I want to be healed but I can’t be healed because I have no one to help me.”

I have read a number of different perspectives on this man. Some scholars view him in a positive light while others view him in a negative light. It seems to me that in asking if the man wanted to be healed, that Jesus was offering a word of hope, but I don’t sense that the man discerned that. He was hopeless.

If the man had been Roman Catholic he could have prayed to the four patron saints of hopeless causes: St. Rita, St. Jude, St. Philomena, and St. Gregory of Thaumaturgus. Supposedly when you are facing an impossible situation you can pray to these saints and they will intercede for you. I find nothing in the Bible that lends support for this idea. But this man didn’t even have a saint he could pray to. In fact, you don’t get the idea that this man was doing much praying any more. After 38 years of being paralyzed, he was hopeless.

But Jesus knew about this man. Did Jesus inquire about him? Is that how he knew about the man? Or maybe Jesus knew about the man because he is God in the flesh. We are not told. It doesn’t make much difference. The important thing is that this forgotten man was not forgotten by Jesus.

A lot has changed since the days of Jesus. Today we have medical science. It is amazing what medical science can do. And yet as amazing as science is, many situations are beyond cure. Many people are living with all kinds of physical pain and emotional anxiety. Some of the pain is caused by illness or accident or violence. Emotional anxiety is often the result of emotional damage that has been done to us. Many live in a prison of pain, fear, and anxiety. Jesus knows about us. He knows us intimately. He understands all about our pain.

Jesus tells the man to get up, take up his bed, and walk. Verse 9 tells us that at once the man was healed. He got up and did exactly as Jesus told him to do. We don’t read anything about the man having faith. Jesus just healed him. As far as we know, Jesus did not heal the others at the pool. He healed this man who had suffered for so many years. Why didn’t Jesus heal all the others? I don’t know. I suppose he didn’t have to heal anyone. But he healed this man.

If you have been praying for healing for many years, a passage like this might be frustrating. It might cause you to wonder, “Is there something wrong with my faith or my prayer? Why doesn’t God heal me? Maybe God doesn’t care about me.”

Most of us are probably familiar with Joni Eareckson Tada. In 1967 a diving accident left Joni a quadriplegic. She was only 17 at the time. Now she is 68. She has been paralyzed for 51 years. For a long time Joni prayed for healing. She longs to be healed. God has not healed her yet. But God has touched Joni’s life in amazing ways. She is the founder and CEO of the Joni and Friends International Disability Center. Joni lives in pain on a daily basis. But God has met her in her deepest need. She continually learns to draw from God’s sustaining grace. She allows God to touch her life with his grace in Jesus Christ.

When Jesus healed this man he gave him a new life. That’s what Jesus does. He gives life. The most important life that Jesus gives is eternal life in the kingdom of God through the forgiveness of our sins. He made this life available by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. His resurrection life is available to all who will have Jesus as Savior, Lord and King. Jesus saves us from sin, death, and hell. He may heal your body and your emotions. Maybe not. But he will give you his eternal life if you will repent of your sin and give your life to him. Allow Jesus to touch your life by putting your faith and trust in him.


At the end of v.9 we learn that Jesus healed this man on the Sabbath. When the Jewish leaders saw the man carrying his mat they were upset because the man was breaking the Sabbath laws. He was doing work. Now, as far as I can tell from my study, the man was not breaking any Sabbath law found in the Old Testament. Rather he was breaking one of the many additions to the Sabbath law created by the Jewish religious leaders. The man was not breaking God’s law; He was breaking their laws.

When they questioned him, in v.11 he said, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, 'Take up your bed, and walk." It’s as if the man assumed that anyone who could heal him with a word, had the authority to tell him to take up his mat even on the Sabbath. The Jewish leaders didn’t comment on the healing. They replied, “Who is the man who said to you, 'Take up your bed and walk'?" From v.13 we learn that after healing the man, Jesus withdrew because of the crowd. So the man didn’t even know it was Jesus. In fact we don’t know if the man knew much of anything about Jesus.

Look at v.14. “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you." The verse could be translated, “Stop sinning.” There is a sense of urgency in Jesus’ words. And it seems that Jesus links the man’s paralysis to his sin.

This doesn’t mean that every problem and trial is the consequence of our sins. We live in a fallen world filled with sicknesses and problems of many kinds. And while I would be hesitant to tell someone that their problem is because of their sin, surely there are times when things happen as a result of sin. Alcoholics get cirrhosis of the liver because of their addiction to alcohol. Drug addicts overdose. Sexually immoral people often get diseases. According to 1Cor.11, a cavalier attitude towards the Lord’s Supper can lead to sickness and even death. Jesus seems to make a link between this man’s sin and his sickness. So Jesus says, “Stop sinning, that nothing worse may happen to you.”

In fact, Jesus words are for all of us. Anyone who is a follower of Jesus is called to stop sinning. It is because of our sins that Jesus died. Well, if we have received forgiveness of sin and life in Christ, does that mean we can continue to sin? Of course not. We must resist temptation and sin. This is all over the New Testament. In 1Jn.3:7-8 John writes, “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as He is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” The new life that Christ gives us is his life. Since this is the case it only follows that we who have Christ’s life will seek to live a righteous life like Jesus. None of us does this well. We all fall prey to sin. But we confess our sins and seek to turn away, no matter how often we fall.

In Rm.13:14 Paul writes, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” This is what believers do. We are to put on the Lord Jesus and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.

Notice that Jesus says, “Sin no more that nothing worse may happen to you.” That sounds ominous. And it is! Jesus could be speaking of some other kind of illness, but there is an implication here of future judgment. Now in our society there is very little awareness of any kind of future judgment. I would venture to say that most of us are not thinking about future judgment. Perhaps that is because we believe that when a person trusts in Jesus for salvation, all sins, past, present, and future are forgiven. And I believe that. However for anyone who professes to be a believer and then practices sin and seeks to justify it, there is no guarantee of eternal salvation because your life does not reflect a heart that seeks after God. So, yes. Jesus is encouraging this man to seek after righteousness and Jesus encourages all who follow him to seek after righteousness. Jesus’ purpose for us is to live a righteous life. That’s the kind of life he gives us. Have you embraced Jesus’ purpose for your life?


Each of the four gospels describe the developing conflict that occurs between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders. In John’s gospel that conflict begins to show itself in this chapter concerning the Sabbath. Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath. Not only was that considered to be a breaking of the Sabbath, but in telling the man to carry his mat, Jesus was causing that man to break the Sabbath as well.

After Jesus told the man to sin no more, the man went to the Jewish leaders and told them that it was Jesus who healed him. In v.16 we learn that the Jewish leaders were persecuting Jesus because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. We are not told in what ways Jesus was being persecuted, but this should help us see that already Jesus was bearing the reproach of the world. Notice how Jesus answered the Jewish leaders, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This is interesting. Essentially Jesus is claiming that in healing on the Sabbath he is doing exactly what God does. He is doing God’s work. Jesus was claiming that his authority to heal on the Sabbath came from God, his Father. But this only made things worse. Now it’s not as if Jesus made this statement and then realized that he put his foot into his mouth. Jesus didn’t say, “Oops! I shouldn’t have said that!” No. Jesus knew exactly what he was saying. And the Jewish leaders quickly discerned the implication of Jesus’ words. In v.18 it says, “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.”

Clearly the Jewish leaders understood what Jesus was saying, and we see that they were actually seeking to kill him. Jesus was claiming to have a special relationship with the Father. In calling God his Father he is claiming to be the Son of God, fully equal with God. For the Jewish leaders that was blasphemy.

Now we don’t really know much about the man healed by Jesus. Did this man embrace Jesus? It’s hard to discern. It does not appear that he gave much thought to who Jesus is. But that does raise the question. Who is Jesus to you? I am not asking about your theological understanding of Jesus. I imagine most of us would answer by saying that Jesus is God’s Son. Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. Jesus is the Savior of the world. We can say all these things because we have heard them many times. But I want us to go deeper than the theological understanding.

Who is Jesus to you? What does it mean to you that Jesus is God in the flesh? What bearing does this truth have on your life? For many professing Christians it has little bearing on their life because they don’t think about it from one day to the next. The truth about who Jesus is has little impact on how they do their work, how they treat their spouse, how they raise their children, how they deal with worry, fear and temptation. In fact, for many professing Christians their relationship to Jesus has been confined to praying a prayer for salvation.

Jesus is God in the flesh. He is Lord of heaven and earth. To acknowledge who Jesus is implies that we live every day in light of his ongoing presence in our lives and in this world. Throughout the day we turn to the Lord Jesus, seeking his strength, his guidance, his forgiveness, his love. We want the beauty of Jesus to be seen in our lives because we acknowledge him as Lord of our life.

How do I know that Jesus wants to meet you in your deepest need? I know this because it is in our deepest need that God does his finest work. God did his finest work when Jesus died and rose again that we might have forgiveness and life in his kingdom, beginning now. Whatever need you have Jesus wants to meet you in that need. He wants to use that situation to draw you closer to him. He wants to meet your deepest need for life with God. Have you turned to Jesus for life? Amen

Entrusting One's Life to Jesus

February 18, 2018

To whom would you entrust your most valuable possession? What is your most valuable possession? Is it your house, your money, your children, your life? Invest your money with the wrong advisor and you might end up losing it. Entrust your children to the wrong daycare and you may experience deep grief. But wait! What about your life? Would you entrust your life into the hands of just anyone? Will any surgeon do?

In the Gospels we come to understand that Jesus calls us to completely entrust our entire life into his care. The Gospel is not just about securing a place in heaven. The gospel is about securing your life in Jesus. This morning as we look at Jn.4:43-54 I want to ask: Are you trusting in Jesus for life?


In Jn.1:11, referring to Jesus, John writes, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” Jesus was Jewish and carried on his ministry to the Jewish people. By in large the Jewish people did not accept him. We see this clearly in Jn.4. In Jn.4 Jesus is with the Samaritans and they totally receive him. In v.39-42 it says, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’ That was certainly not the usual response to Jesus.

In v.43 when Jesus quotes the proverb, “a prophet has no honor in his own hometown,” many think Jesus is not just referring to Nazareth. Rather he is referring to Galilee and Judea. In other words all of Israel. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” So it is a little baffling to read in v.45 that when Jesus came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. I mean, which is it? Did they receive him or not? Well, look at the rest of v.45. It says that they “welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.” In v.46 Jesus arrives in Cana, and John quickly reminds us that it was at Cana where Jesus performed an amazing miracle by turning water into wine at a wedding banquet. In v.46-47 we read about a man who asks Jesus to heal his dying son. We will look at this man shortly. But notice Jesus’ response in v.48. “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”

The reason, the Jews of Galilee welcomed Jesus was because of the miraculous signs and wonders they had seen him do. They were fascinated by Jesus. “What an amazing man Jesus is! He can do these amazing things! He has amazing powers!” In our day, Jesus would be a Marvel or DC superhero. Got a problem? Jesus to the rescue! Are dark powers afoot, Jesus is coming! Turn back to Jn.2:23-25. It says, “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” Wow, people were believing in his name. But not really. They were focused on the miracles. Their faith was all about themselves and not Jesus. After miraculously feeding the 5,000, in Jn.6:15 we read, “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” They were all about the free food. In the way of the world, people are fascinated with anyone who seems to be extraordinary. People are fascinated by anyone they think can advance their own life and prosperity. In other words people looked to Jesus as someone who could benefit themselves and that’s about it. They did not come to the same conclusion as the Samaritans did. They did not see Jesus as the Savior of the world.

Even today, many are fascinated with Jesus. Many books have been written about him. People find his teachings to be insightful and the stories about him to be interesting. On the whole Jesus is seen as only one of this world’s great teachers. It is not uncommon to hear people talk about Jesus in the same breath that they talk about the Dalai Lama, or Krishna in human form, or Muhammed. These are all fascinating people who have something to contribute to our lives.

What I find to be really interesting is that after Jesus gave a difficult teaching in Jn.6, we read in v.66-69 that, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." There were people considered to be disciples, followers of Jesus who turned away from him. They were fascinated but had not really believed in or given themselves to Jesus.

It seems that fewer and fewer people are attending church these days, at least according to the latest research. But I imagine that people come to church for many different reasons, and not all of those reasons have to do with Jesus. For some church is just part of their social habit. For others church may be a means of enhancing their standing in the community or a means of strengthening business ties. Maybe for some it gives them a good feeling. Or perhaps it is a way of trying to leverage a few blessings out of God. Like the old Art Reynolds song covered by the Byrds at the Fillmore East in 1970, and in 1975 by the Doobie Brothers, “Jesus is just alright with Me!” Yeah! Jesus, he’s cool!


In v.46 we learn about an official from Capernaum whose son was ill. The word, “official,” implies that this man probably worked in the service of Herod Antipas, son of the late Herod the Great. He makes the 20 mile trip to Cana in order to ask Jesus to come to Capernaum and heal his son. In v.47 we learn that his son was at the point of death. In v.48 Jesus seems to be rude to the man. “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” Jesus was talking to the man, but the word, “you” is plural in both cases. In other words Jesus is speaking about the people of Israel in general.

Notice the man’s response in v.49. It is a spoken prayer, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” This man was desperate like any loving father would be desperate to save his child from death. We have no idea what this man believed about Jesus except that he knew Jesus could heal the sick and that Jesus was good and kind. That’s a good place to start concerning Jesus, but it is not a good place to stop. Jesus said to the man, “Go; your son will live.”

I’m reminded of the man hanging by his hands from the gutter of his two story house after the ladder fell from beneath his feet. He cried out, “Is there anyone up there who can help me?” A voice came out of heaven, “Yes! Do you have faith?” The man said, “Yes.” The voice replied, “Let go.” The man cried out again, “Is there anyone else up there who can help me?” If you had just come 20 miles and Jesus said, “Go; your son will live.” What would you have done?

It says this man believed. While many were fascinated with Jesus, this man believed Jesus. We know he believed because the text says so. But more importantly, this man’s faith was seen in the fact that he went on his way. He didn’t ask for a sign of assurance. He put feet to faith. He believed and went home. According to v.51-53, the man’s servants met him on the way to tell him that his son was recovering. They compared notes and discovered that the son started to get better at the very hour Jesus said, “Your son will live.” Then we are told in v.53, “And he himself believed, and all his household.”

Something happened in the heart and mind of this man. In v.50, he accepted the word of healing from Jesus, but in v.53 he accepted Jesus. He believed that Jesus is the way to life with God. He began to stake his life on Jesus and to base his living on Jesus. For this man the question was not, “If I were to die tonight do I know if I would go to heaven?” He wasn’t thinking about that question. He embraced Jesus by faith and by embracing Jesus he entered into a new life that is, indeed, eternal. This new life has eternal implications that begin to be lived out in the present.

Now think about this. We don’t know anything more about this man. Obviously at some point his story became known to John and others. That might be an indication that this man associated himself with other believers. But at this point, we have no sense that the man had any ongoing physical interactions with Jesus. He believed from afar! Can you do that? Can you believe in Jesus from afar? You surely can. Jesus healed the boy from afar and you can believe from afar. Because Jesus rose from the dead after dying on the cross for our sin, because Jesus ascended to the Father after rising from the dead, because Jesus sent the Holy Spirit after ascending to the Father, everyone who desires life that is eternal can also believe in Jesus, who is the way to the Father. To believe in Jesus is to be born again by the Holy Spirit. To believe in Jesus is to embrace the Savior of the world.

Have you believed in Jesus in this way? How would a person take the step to begin believing in Jesus? Well it is a step that begins in the heart and mind of a person. A person begins to trust in who Jesus is and all that Jesus has said, and all that Jesus has done and will do. Jesus called people to follow him and obey all that he commanded. So in believing in Jesus we are embracing the life that he gives and seeking to live according to his teachings found in the New Testament. But there is one more thing. In order to believe in Jesus a person must turn away from their self-centered, self-directed life. That is the essence of what it means to be a sinner. Sinners are committed to living their lives apart from God and his good commands. So when a person comes to Jesus they turn away from that kind of life and entrust their life to Jesus. This is called repentance. Have you repented of your sinful heart and behavior and turned to Jesus for forgiveness and life with God?

This past week has been brutal. Chicago lost one of its best police officers in gunfire. Seventeen students were gunned down in Florida. Men and women, life is too short and filled with too much sadness and distraction to play around with trying to be god. You will come up short. Only Jesus Christ can give you eternal life that begins to blossom and bear fruit immediately as you live your life in Christ. Are you trusting in Jesus for life? Amen

"Please Pour Me A Drink!"

February 11, 2018

I have never had high expectations in life, but I do have deep longings. Given my emotional bent, I don’t expect great things from life in this world. However on beautiful summer days when the weather is ideal and I feel good, I find myself wistful for that day to continue forever, but it never does. I am longing for something that I can’t even seem to put into words. The best way I can describe it is that I am longing for life and eternity.

I’m sure that I’m not alone in this. I believe everyone has these longings. In Eccl.3:11 we read, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” This morning we are in Jn.4. It is the story of Jesus and the woman at the well of Sychar. As we consider this story we will see that entering into life with Jesus brings fulfillment to our deepest longings.


A little history lesson will help us get a picture of what was going on in these verses. After King Solomon died, the nation of Israel divided into the northern and southern kingdoms in 930 BC. The southern kingdom was called Judah and the northern kingdom was called Samaria because the city of Samaria was its capital. In order to keep his people from going to the temple in Jerusalem, Jeroboam, the king of Samaria set up two golden calves, one in the north and one in the south and told the people to worship these calves. It was idolatry.

Over the next 200 years the northern kingdom turned further away from the Lord, to the point that they were practicing child sacrifice. In 722 BC, Assyria conquered the northern kingdom and resettled the very best and prominent Jews throughout the Assyrian empire. They also brought in people from Babylon and other Gentile areas. These gentiles intermarried with the Jews still living in the northern kingdom. Their descendants came to be called Samaritans. In about 400 BC, the Samaritans built a rival temple on Mt. Gerizim. They set up their own religion which was based on the Pentateuch, the first 5 books of the Old Testament. They did not accept the rest of the Old Testament. Along with this I read that there were other religious practices that were not in keeping with Judaism. In about 110 BC, led by a Jewish Priest named John Hyrcanus, the army of Judah invaded Samaria and destroyed the temple on Mt. Gerizim. This only deepened resentments and hostilities between these two people groups. By the time we get to Jesus in about 6 BC, Jews and Samaritans did not associate with each other if they didn’t have to. These people did not like each other.

And so we come to Jn.4. Jesus is making his way north to Galilee and the quickest route was through Samaria. Jesus and his disciples come to the well at Sycar. It is noon time and it is hot, and Jesus is tired. He sits by the well while the disciples go into the city to buy food. A Samaritan woman comes to get water. This is interesting because the women usually came to get water either in the morning or the evening when it wasn’t so hot. But this woman came in the heat of the day.

We see what happens. Jesus asks the woman for a drink of water. It was a very inappropriate thing to do. For one thing, Jewish men did not usually talk with women, let alone a Samaritan woman. And this woman was taken aback. She couldn’t believe that Jesus was talking with her. But there is another level of inappropriateness going on. No Jew in their right mind would ever think of drinking from a pitcher that was handled by a Samaritan, let alone a Samaritan woman. It wasn’t that they were afraid of getting Samaritan germs; rather they believed it would make them unclean. In fact, an alternate translation for the parenthesis in v.9 is “for Jews do not use dishes Samaritans have used.”

But we do not get the slightest sense that Jesus was worried about talking with this woman. He doesn’t pull back. He doesn’t ignore her. In fact he asks her for a drink of water. There is no fear on the part of Jesus of becoming unclean and when you stop to think about it, Jesus was the holiest, cleanest Jew in Israel at the time. Take the whitest sheet you can find and get it around mud and it won’t be long before that sheet is unclean. But it doesn’t work that way with Jesus. In fact Jesus teaches that it’s not what goes into a person from the outside that makes that person unclean. It is what comes out of that person’s heart that makes them unclean. There was no unrighteousness in Jesus and so nothing outside of Jesus could contaminate his righteous life. This woman knew nothing about Jesus. She was surprised that a Jewish man would treat her with respect and even ask her for a drink of water.

The world we live in thrives on antagonism and bigotry. It is normal for people in all parts of the world to feel disrespected, unwelcomed, unappreciated, unwanted. It is common for people to be treated as less than human just because of their ethnicity, their place of birth, their skin color or whatever. It doesn’t take much. In our country this is often played out between whites and blacks, but that is not the only racial antagonism found in this country. There are plenty of others. These kinds of hostilities do things to people that are destructive and breed hatred regardless of which group you are in.

The important thing to see here is that Jesus accepts people as they are. He welcomes people of every ethnicity, skin color, and culture. In this case he was part of the privileged group. But that meant little to him in relationship to this woman. In fact, Jesus also knew what it is like to be despised and rejected by his own people.

The Bible says that God is love. Jesus is God embodied in human flesh. He reveals God, and we see that he loves all people as they are. He is interested in you and me. There is nothing that you have done or can do to diminish God’s love for you. It is a wonderful thing to know that God accepts us as we are. You never need wonder about whether or not God loves you. He does! He made us!


Jesus offers to give this woman living water. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus told Nicodemus about being born of water and spirit and now he is talking about giving living water to this Samaritan woman? Of course, living water speaks of fresh, running water as opposed to water that stands still and is stagnant. Think of drinking from a fresh mountain stream. But there is more to this picture. Again, Jesus is appealing to the Old Testament. Listen to some verses.

In Jer.2:13 we read, “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” In Zc.14:8 it says, “On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. And the LORD will be king over all the earth.” Living water speaks of God’s grace, cleansing of sins, life, and transformation by Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.

We can see from v.11 that she did not understand what Jesus was talking about. This is generally the way it is in the world. People do not really understand what we are trying to say when we talk about life in Christ and the kingdom of God. These concepts are not in their mind. That is because they think only in terms of life in this world. She thought Jesus was talking about physical water. And so Jesus clarifies that no, he is using water as a metaphor for eternal life, for a life that is so satisfying that she will never thirst again. She still didn’t get it. In v.15 she says, “Give me this water so I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

And in response Jesus says something that seems to come out of left field. “Go, call your husband, and come here.” “What? What does my husband have to do with any of this? I have no husband.”

Why did Jesus tell her to call her husband? Here’s what I think. This woman came to the well to draw water to quench her thirst. Jesus wanted to help her see that she was spiritually thirsty as well. Jesus immediately clarifies the woman’s answer by saying, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband.”

Here was a woman who was just trying to survive. It was very difficult for a single woman to live alone at that time because it was very much a man’s world. Women had little resource or recourse to provide for themselves. Perhaps some of her husbands died or perhaps they divorced her. It might be that no one else would take a chance on marrying her and so she took what she could get and was just living with a man outside of marriage. It was the best she could do. It was a life, but not a promising or satisfying life. What is more, it was a life that had little to do with God. This woman was living a self-centered, self-directed, fear-filled life apart from God.

Right away she realized that Jesus was no ordinary man. “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.” So why did Jesus have to throw all of that up in her face? No one particularly likes having their immorality and brokenness exposed. I will point out that there does not seem to be any hint of condemnation in Jesus’ voice. He just states the truth and because the woman had never met Jesus, she realized that Jesus was someone special. He knew stuff about her. And he knows stuff about you. The reality is that before anyone will begin to listen to Jesus’ offer of life, they need to come to a place in which they hear the truth about their lives. This is true for all of us.

Now some of us were baptized when we were babies. I was baptized when I was a baby. Maybe you were told that by baptism your sins are forgiven and you are in the family of God. Well, this does not in any way change the fact that before we can receive eternal life from Jesus, we need to come to grips with our selfish, self-directed, self-reliant, fear-filled, disobedient lives. I don’t know about you, but my being baptized as a baby didn’t take away my self-centered, disobedient will. I still had to come to a place of repentance and active faith in Jesus.

Most people draw their life from the things and people of this world. They think about life in this world only. Like this woman, their goal is to secure their lives in this world. We all understand this. But this focus leaves little room to consider the reality of God and our accountability to Him. If we are satisfied with our current life on earth why would we have any desire to receive life from above? At the end of the day, we will not give an account of ourselves before anyone in this world. We will give an account before God. And if we have not repented of our sin and received eternal living from Jesus, we will only know eternal death because we have ignored or rejected life in Christ. Have you received eternal life in Jesus?


Jesus shows us that God accepts us as we are. But he does not let anyone who comes to him remain as they are. Jesus shows us that God is interested in giving us new life and the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus.

Once she realized that Jesus was a prophet she raises a question about the proper place of worship. The Samaritans worshiped on Mt. Gerizim while the Jews worshiped at the temple in Jerusalem. She wanted to know where people ought to worship. Now Mt. Gerizim figures prominently in the Pentateuch. So the Samaritans felt they had good grounds for worshiping on Mt. Gerizim. But, of course, in the Old Testament we also learn that God caused his name to dwell in the temple at Jerusalem. The Jews believed that the temple in Jerusalem was the only appropriate place to worship. And so there were competing claims about where the right place to worship was.

Jesus’ answer is interesting. He points out in v.22 that the Samaritans didn’t know God because they had limited knowledge of God. They rejected the Prophets, the Psalms, and the historical books of the Old Testament. The Jews, on the other hand, were given clear revelation about God and his ways. Any salvation that was to come would come through the Jews. And of course, Jesus is Jewish.

But in v.21 Jesus pretty much says, the place of worship is not on Mt. Gerizim or in Jerusalem because in v.23 he says, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” In fact that is the kind of worshipers God is looking for.

Last week we noted that the phrase “lifted up” refers to the cross. Well, in John’s gospel, the word “hour” is very significant. It appears often. Jesus talks about his hour, or about an hour that is to come. Look it up. It’s interesting. It refers to his death, resurrection and ascension. In other words, what Jesus is saying is that he is the new temple. He is the person through whom we worship God. By faith in Jesus Christ we receive his eternal life and we are qualified to actually worship God in his presence in spirit and truth. The truth is in Jesus.

When a person embraces life and forgiveness through faith in Jesus, that person is brought into an eternal, ongoing relationship with God in his kingdom. It is a relationship in which we seek to honor and worship God with our lives every day in every way.

The woman responded, “I know that Messiah is coming…When he comes he will tell us all things.” Jesus said, “I who speak to you am he.” The woman left her water jar and went into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” Jesus Christ is the only one who can bring us into a life giving, life transforming relationship with God. This woman’s life was wonderfully changed. What about you?

 Our deepest longings have to do with being loved, having a secure and meaningful life, and worship. We all worship some thing or some one or both. Worship is a deep longing. Jesus is the only person who can satisfy every longing of our heart. Are you in a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ?