Monthly Archives: November 2016

Damascus and Doomsday

Coming soon….

Here we are at the end of November, 2016 and prophetic possibilities are popping all around us. Israel is in the process of –as usual– being pressured as part  of trying to divide God’s…

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O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

I sang this last night as part of a men’s choir at my church last night. I am as gentile as can be, but the message of this hymn never fails to bring a tear to my eye, because I know the meaning of the message, and I know the main subject of the song – Emmanuel – God, the Creator, with us! Amen!

Source: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

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Jesus’ Seven Signs in John (6)

jesus-annoints-a-man-born-blind

I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. (John 9:4)

Why does God allow suffering? That question usually comes from God deniers uninterested in finding truth, but more interested in challenging the faith of those who claim to know the truth. Of course, the fundamental answer to the question fails to satisfy the skeptic, that is, that the origin of human suffering, and all other forms of evil, is due to the fall of man (Genesis 3). However, regardless of that fact, the doubter thinks, “There has to be something more to it than that!”

The disciples were no different. Popular thought at the time said that human suffering, i.e. illness, poverty, calamity, etc., was the result of personal sin, while good health, wealth, good fortune, etc., were signs of God’s favor on a righteous individual.

Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2), a 21-day long celebration which started on Tishri 1 with the Feast of Trumpets, included the Day of Atonement, and culminated Feast of Tabernacles. The latter lasted eight days. The timing of this event in the ninth chapter of John’s Gospel is not clear from John’s account, and the other Gospels are silent about this time – perhaps because Jesus went to Jerusalem alone (John 7:10) – but John records the events in Chapters 7 through 9 sequentially as if they all transpired during this feast time. How John came by these details is uncertain, but perhaps he accompanied Jesus alone.

Regardless, the events of Chapters 7 and 8 include several encounters with the Pharisees. In one very memorable event, the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught “in the very act” (John 8:4) of adultery so that He could pronounce judgement on her. After this, Jesus made His second I AM statement, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).[1] More emphatic than that was His outright proclamation: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58, emphasis mine). They clearly understood His point. “Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:59, emphasis mine).

Evidently, His disciples discovered that He was in Jerusalem and joined Him. “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:1-2, emphasis mine). In their way of thinking, someone sinned resulting in total blindness for this man from birth. “There were grave difficulties in seeing how a man could have sinned before his birth. And it is not much easier to think that a man should bear such a terrible punishment for the sin of his parents. So the disciples put the matter to Jesus.”[2]

“Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3). Jesus made it clear that human suffering is not necessarily the result of sin. The account of Job exemplifies the opposite (Job 1-2). Job was righteous before God, yet God allowed Satan to bring calamity into his life. In the end, God restored to Job all that he had lost and more. However, that is not always the case. Sin does have consequences. Think of David’s sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12). Even though God forgave David, the baby that resulted from the affair died, and David’s house knew nothing but conflict the remainder of his life. Then there was the one Jesus healed at the Pool of Bethesda.[3] After he was healed, Jesus cautioned him, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (John 5:14, emphasis mine). Apparently, his malady resulted from sin, but that was not the case with the blind man. “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents.” (Only God could know that!) This blindness could not be explained other than the result of a fallen world, and “that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

The day before, following the incident with the woman caught in adultery, Jesus made His second I AM statement: “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). This day He encounters a man who has never experienced “the light of the world,” and He reiterates, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5, emphasis mine). John said as much at the beginning of his Gospel: “In him [Jesus] was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:4-5, emphasis mine). Such an idea is rather abstract, but now Jesus would manifest it in a physical way.

“When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay” (John 9:6). Unlike other healings performed by Jesus where His word sufficed to accomplish the miracle, here the Creator actually did something. The act of making clay with His spittle reminds us of His initial creation of man where “the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). The man, having been “born blind,” possibly had no eyeballs. By forming clay to anoint the eyes, Jesus many have been going back to the original “specs” to create an entire new set for the man. The Bible does not say, but that is “my guess.”

This blind man had not asked for healing, as others had (e.g., Mark 10:46-52), and thus had not yet exhibited any kind of trust in Jesus. This is probably why Jesus used a process, rather than merely a word, to heal on this occasion. The man whose eyes had been anointed with the clay still had to exhibit faith by washing in the pool of Siloam before he could see.[4]

“And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing” (John 9:7, emphasis mine). Oh, did I mention? “And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes” (John 9:14, emphasis mine). The blind Pharisees concerned themselves more with a breach of their protocol than they did for the man’s suffering, and they completely missed the creation miracle by “the Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5).  Sometimes the answer to suffering is so that Jesus can be glorified.

Notes:


[1]  See https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/09/04/jesus-seven-i-am-statements-in-john-2/

[2]  Leon Morris, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel According to John, Revised, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1995), 425.

[3]  See https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/11/06/jesus-seven-signs-in-john-3/

[4]  Henry M. Morris, The Henry Morris Study Bible, (Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2012), 1591.

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Jesus’ Seven Signs in John (5)

jesus-walking-on-waterBut he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. (John 6:20)

            After feeding the 5000[1], a group of partakers (John 6:14) thought it would be a great idea to have a king that could provide them a free lunch (not unlike many in our country today). “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone” (John 6:15). I pointed out in last week’s article that throngs of people sought after Jesus, “but one senses that they sought Him out for selfish motives.”[2] They came either to see what He could do, or to seek a remedy to their personal maladies. The kingdom of God did not even register as a priority with them. Jesus saw that, but He “was moved with compassion toward them” (Matthew 14:14) anyway. He saw them as “sheep not having a shepherd” (Mark 6:34).

            It comes as no surprise that they would make Him – one that could heal diseases and produce food out of thin air – their king, but He would have no part of that. Jesus did not come to be an earthly king, at least not at this time. “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). So, before they could carry out their plan, Jesus secreted Himself away into the higher elevations of the mountain.

            The different perspectives of the Gospel writers often lend themselves to criticism from the unlearned skeptics who purposefully strive to find error in Scripture. Such is the case in this account. Matthew and Mark say that “Jesus constrained [made] his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away” (Matthew 14:22; Mark 6:45). John indicates that this was a unilateral decision by the disciples. “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea” (John 6:15-16, emphasis mine). Matthew and Mark say nothing about some of the men wanting to make Jesus king; only John records that bit of information. As stated in my last article,[3] because of John’s close relationship with Jesus, his proximity to Him afforded him a closer perspective that the others did not have. When Jesus instructed the disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side of the lake, they followed His instructions without question, but John knew the reason. Since John recorded the reason for Jesus’ separation from the crowd, the fact that He had given instruction to the disciples to leave was of no consequence. Therefore, he merely mentions that they “entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum” (John 6:17).

            Off the disciples headed across the open waters of the Sea of Galilee. Because of the lake’s geographic location, cradled between two mountain ranges, winds funneling between the mountains frequently produce fierce storms. Without our modern weather forecasting technology, these storms were unpredictable to the sailors that ventured out on the lake. Thus, the disciples were caught up in a terrible windstorm. John records that “they had rowed about five and twenty [25] or thirty furlongs” (John 6:19) – only about three or four miles. They fought the wind all night. Matthew and Mark report that the wind was contrary, i.e. against them (Matthew 14:24; Mark 6:48). It was now about the “fourth watch” (by Roman standards) of the night making it between three and six o’clock in the morning. Fearful for their lives, and weary from battling the relentless wind “they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid” (John 6:19).

            Mark remarks that “he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them” (Mark 6:48, emphasis mine). Perhaps not apparent to the harried crew on the battered boat, Jesus was on more solid footing than they were. He could have just kept on walking. The sight frightened the already exhausted disciples. These men were not rocket scientists, but experience instructed them that men do not walk on water. Therefore, this apparition must be a ghost (Greek: phantasma)!

            Perceiving their terror, Jesus called out to assuage their fears. “εγω ειμι μη φοβεισθε” – “I, I AM. Do not be afraid,” (Matthew 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 6:20). Not included as one of the seven-I AM statements, all three Gospels record the exact phrase (in Greek), once again asserting His deity. Unique to Matthew’s account is Peter’s request. “And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water” (Matthew 14:28).  Considering the circumstances, Peter made a bold request. He demonstrated even more chutzpah when he got out of the boat and started walking toward Jesus! “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30). The lesson there is “never take your eyes off Jesus!”

            Perhaps because Mark’s Gospel is Peter’s account (as considered by many scholars), that detail was omitted. Peter had a way “talking big,” but then falling short of his boasts. This may have been one of those times he would rather put out of his memory. Peter really did walk on the water, but even after several steps of water-walking, he placed his faith in nature, rather than in the Creator of nature – and he sank.

            John may have been too busy battling the storm to have noticed Peter’s audacious attempt to walk on water. He seemed more impressed by their instant arrival on land as soon as Jesus entered the boat. “Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went” (John 6:21, emphasis mine).

            Two aspects of this “sign” stand out as demonstrations of Jesus’ deity. The first is Jesus’ power over the physical laws of nature. Humans cannot walk on water. Peter proved that when he focused on the natural elements rather than on the God-Man, Jesus. Second, Jesus demonstrated power over time and space. The disciples had struggled all night and only covered about a fourth of the distance to their destination. However, as soon as Jesus came onboard, the storm ceased, and they arrived instantly at their destination.

Although the distance was still sizable, approximately 20 kilometers (or 10 miles) to reach Kfar Nahum (Capernaum), the boat immediately and safely touched the stony beach. This may sound like an unconnected-to-anything incident, but we will be at theological fault if we do not recognize that the distance and time are also, as is all creation, under the sole lordship of God himself [sic]. He alone lives outside of time and outside of distance, and as such, he [sic] is eternal and omnipresent. Therefore, this curious occurrence is actually very important because it shows that when the God-Man Jesus (Jn. 1:1,14) is in the boat with the disciples, the boat is able to disappear from one place on the map and re-appear in another in an instant.[4]

One other important point must be made if we are to take the connection between this Gospel and the Torah of Moses seriously, as we should. One of the key stories in the Torah is Noah’s ark. It glides over the waters of judgment, saving people. Jesus does the same. The parallels are obvious (perhaps too obvious) and ironically can be easily missed.[5]

            No man can walk on water, but Jesus can, and, even for a moment, Peter did. How was that possible? Consider the fact that Jesus is the Creator. He established the laws of physics. He initiated the laws of physics; therefore, He has power over them. No created thing is greater than its creator. God-Jesus, exercises power over the physical laws He put into place and can suspend them at will. When He does, it is a supernatural act. We call that a miracle. Similarly, humans, at this point in time, cannot “teleport” themselves from one location to another. It makes for good science fiction, but otherwise it is impossible. God is not confined to time and space. Matthew and Peter were so overwhelmed by Jesus’ walk on the water that they completely overlooked what John keenly observed – they covered the remainder of the distance in no time at all. Only God can span time and space instantaneously. Jesus performed an “act of God” demonstrating once again that He is indeed God.

            There are no storms in your life that He cannot calm, and when you feel that you are drowning at sea, simply cry out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30).  His hand will be there to pull you up. When the winds of life blow contrary, invite Jesus into your boat, and He will get you to your destination, safe and sound.

Notes:


[1]  “Jesus’s Seven Signs in John (4),” https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/11/13/jesus-seven-signs-in-john-4/

[2]  Ibid.

[3]  Ibid.

[4]  Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israeli, (Jewish Studies for Christians, Tel Aviv, Israel, 2015), 96.

[5]  Ibid.

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Jesus’ Seven Signs in John (4)

john6_9_boywithloavesandfishes

And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. (John 6:2)

            The synoptic Gospel writers also recorded this fourth miracle selected by John. So impressive was this miracle, that the others recorded a second very much like it. Just as when Jesus turned the water into wine, Jesus took something simple and multiplied it into more than enough. I am talking about the time that Jesus took five barley loaves and two small fish and turned it into enough fish and chips to feed a crowd of over 5000 – and that was just counting men.

            “After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias” (John 6:1). “After these things” places this event between the end of Purim[1] and the beginning of the second Passover recorded by John. “And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh” (John 6:4). In the interim, Jesus left Jerusalem and returned to the region around the Sea of Galilee. John records that “Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples” (John 6:3). Matthew and Mark point out that this was after Jesus heard of the beheading of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:10-13). Luke tells us that Herod the Tetrarch heard about what Jesus was doing and wondered if this was John the Baptist reincarnated (Luke 9:7-9). The news seems to have troubled Jesus, because all four Gospels record that he wanted to get away and spend time alone with His apostles. “And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples” (John 6:3).

            However, He could not shake the crowds. They sought Him out, but one senses that they sought Him out for selfish motives. Mark indicates that Jesus and His disciples were so busy ministering that they had no down time (Mark 6:31). “And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased” (John 6:2, emphasis mine). Sometimes we tend to be that way. We follow Jesus because we expect to get something out of it, and then when we don’t get what we want, we abandon Him. Regardless, “Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14, emphasis mine). How often Jesus meets our needs even though we are undeserving!

            Jesus spent the day teaching and healing their sick until very late in the day (Matthew 14:15).  The Gospels tell us that the place they were was very remote, and apparently, no one thought to bring any food for the day.  The Synoptic Gospels tell us that the disciples came to Jesus to express concern about the lateness of the day and the need to send the people away so they could get something to eat (Matthew 14:15; Mark 6:35-36; Luke 9:12). They agree that Jesus told them, “You feed them” (Matthew 14:16; Mark 6:37; Luke 9:13). John, though, says that Jesus presented the challenge to Philip. “When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do” (John 6:5-6, emphasis mine).

John belonged to Jesus’ inner circle of three: Peter, James and John. He never names himself in his Gospel, but rather refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 20:2; 21:7; 21:30). By his own account, he was very close to Jesus. He probably stayed close at Jesus’ side all the time. Therefore, it seems that he had a special vantage point that Matthew and the others did not have. Some think that Mark got his account from Peter, and Luke received his account second hand by interviewing eyewitnesses; but John was right there. So, it seems that Jesus presented the challenge to Philip first. “Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little” (John 6:7). We often do the same when God asks something from us (knowing Himself what He will do), and the first thing that pops into our mind is “What’s it going to cost?” followed by, “We don’t have enough!”

Philip probably consulted with the other disciples, and they collectively came up with the great idea of sending them away so they could go buy their own food. Thus we have the account presented by the other Gospel writers. They also agree that someone had five barley loaves and two small fish, but it is John that records, that “One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?” (John 6:8-9, emphasis mine). Andrew must have felt that Jesus might be able to do something with the small offering. Otherwise, why would he even bring the boy to Jesus? Even so, the task was inconceivable.

According to Mark (who got it from Peter) Jesus had the disciples sit the people in groups of fifties and hundreds (Mark 6:40). “And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would” (John 6:11). Jesus, the Creator God, took that small amount and multiplied over and over again, and all ate “as much as they would.” So abundantly did He provide that there were leftovers. “When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten” (John 6:12-13, emphasis mine). Some have suggested, and I think it is true, that twelve baskets where gathered so that each disciple would have a tangible witness of Jesus’ divine, creative power.

How often do we bring our can’t-be-done attitude to Lord when He has asked us to do something for Him? We may think we have little or nothing to offer, but God never asks us for great gifts or talents in order to accomplish great things. He asks us to bring the little that we have so that He can accomplish great things through it. When we are willing to trust Him with our little, He can do much, and He, not we, gets the glory. Give your five loaves and two fish to Jesus and let Him multiply them!

NOTES:


[1]  “Jesus’ Seven Signs in John (3)”

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