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The Trinity

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is a hard concept to grasp, much less explain cogently. Explaining the Trinity becomes even more challenging when the inquisitor is ignorant of Christian tenets. I experienced such a challenge this week when I received an email from a Jew who was curious about the topic. His email follows:

I just visited in your site. I’m a 40yo Jew from Israel. I understand that you guys [ICR] are Christians. When I ran into this:

“The Creator of the universe is a triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is only one eternal and transcendent God, the source of all being and meaning, and He exists in three Persons, each of whom participated in the work of creation.”

I wanted to ask you a religious question. What is the meaning of triune God? Since for me there is only “one eternal God”

What follows is my response to him. It makes sense to me, but more importantly, I hope it made sense to him. Here goes …

Wow! That is a tough one! “Triune” is really a compound word: “Tri” meaning “three” and “une” meaning “union” or “one.” It refers to the Christian doctrine of the “Trinity.” As a Christian, I understand the doctrine, and I believe that it is taught in the Bible – both Old and New Testaments. It is a difficult concept to explain even for a Christian, and it is one that must be accepted by “faith” just as our belief in an Almighty, invisible God must be accepted by faith.

For me to continue, you may need to lay your kippah aside and let go of any presuppositions you may have. Try to listen to what I have to say objectively.

First of all, the word “Trinity” is found nowhere in the Bible; however, the concept is clearly taught in both Old and New Testaments. It is most clearly taught in the New Testament from which Christians developed the doctrine. You might want to keep in mind that Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew and He was faithful to all of the Mosaic Law (Torah). All the writers of the New Testament, except for perhaps Luke, were also Jews. The Gospel writer, Luke, author of the “Gospel of Luke” and the “Acts of the Apostles,” was a Greek, but because of his familiarity with the Jewish religion, he may have been a Jewish proselyte; however, we have no solid evidence for that one way or another. All of these, including Jesus, put forth the doctrine of the Trinity.

So just what is the Trinity? It is the concept of a triune God. We believe in One God, not three, as we have wrongly been accused by Jews, Muslims, and several neo-Christian cults (Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons). There is only One God revealed as three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

To help you better understand this idea, think of yourself as a “triune” being. You have a mind, body and soul/spirit. All three are required for you to live. If your mind dies, your body will eventually cease to function, your spirit will depart, and your body will die. If your body dies, your spirit departs and your mind ceases to function, and if your spirit departs, your body and mind will cease to function. You are “three persons,” yet, you are one. People see your body and recognize who you are, but they cannot discern what goes on in your mind. People know you, but they do not really “know” who you are entirely because the “real” you is that invisible mind and spirit. The mind plans, the spirit motivates and the body carries out the directions of the mind. Your mind is you, your physical body is you, and your spirit is you, yet you are one, indivisible person.

The Bible teaches us that God created man in His own image. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26-27), There are many aspects of God’s nature inherent in man (i.e. human beings), but the triune nature of man demonstrates the triune nature of God. As acknowledged before, God is One revealed in three persons. In trying to relate the triune nature of God with that of man, the Father could be compared to the “mind” that plans and controls all activity of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit is the energizing, motivating element that puts the Father’s plans in action, and Jesus is the body that does the physical work to carry out the Father’s plans. Of course, God is infinitely greater than His creation, but in this, at least in part, we can see a “family resemblance.”

We find the first “hint” of the triune nature of God in the very first verse of the Bible. בראשׁית ברא אלהים את השׁמים ואת הארץ׃ (Genesis 1:1) God, Elohim, is a plural, masculine noun; however, bara is a singular, masculine verb. On face value, this would be incorrect grammar, however, it shows the plurality of the One God. Some would argue that God was using the royal “We.” Others say that this is just a way of expressing the limitless nature of God. Both of those are reasonable and plausible arguments, however the verse that follows introduces a second element. והארץ היתה תהו ובהו וחשׁך על־פני תהום ורוח אלהים מרחפת על־פני המים׃  (Genesis 1:2) In this verse, the Spirit (rûach) is presented as separate from God (Elohim). Why the distinction? The writer (Who I believe is God) could have simply said, “and God moved upon the face of the waters” and left off the “Spirit.” Why confuse the issue? God is not a God of confusion, so the distinction is intentional. Add to that the “self-talk” in vv. 26-27 – “Let us make … in our image, after our likeness” – speaking in the plural, and then in the next verse we read, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him” – speaking in the singular.

That is just for starters. You find many places (which I cannot cover here) in the Old Testament (Torah) where the LORD (HaShem) puts His Spirit in men to accomplish some special task. You also find many instances of God appearing to men in physical form as “the Angel of the LORD.” The way you can see that this is God and no ordinary angel, is because “the Angel of the LORD” takes personal responsibility for His actions, or for what He promises to do, and He accepts the worship of humans. We know that seeing God in His full glory would bring death to a man, yet Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson’s parents, and others saw God in physical form and did not die. These were all examples of Jesus in His pre-incarnate form. So we see that in the Old Testament, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all represented, but all are One God working together in unison. The prophet Isaiah reveals the Trinity this way: “Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me” (Isaiah 48:16). In this verse, the Son is speaking, and He claims that He has spoken from the beginning, i.e., Creation (Genesis 1:1). The Son asserts that He is being sent by the Lord God (Father) and His Spirit (Holy Spirit). Here we see the Trinity represented in one Old Testament verse.

The writers of the New Testament constantly referred to the Old Testament in their teachings. This is why Christians should not discard the study of the Old Testament. Without the Old Testament, the New Testament makes no sense. Anyway, John the Apostle was Jesus’ cousin and also related to Caiaphas, the high priest at the crucifixion of Jesus. John begins his Gospel this way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1-3), “Word” in the Greek is logos, which is a very complex word that includes reason, wisdom, logic. All the wisdom of God is contained in that one word. John affirms that the Word existed in the “beginning” and he identifies the Word as God. In fact, “the Word was God” literally appears in the Greek as “God was the Word.” And even though the Word was God, the Word was “with God.” Isn’t that strange? However, it is the Word that created “all things,” and from Genesis 1:1 we know that God (Elohim) created all things. A few verses later, John clearly identifies “the Word:” “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In Genesis 1, we learn that God (the Word) made man in His image. In John 1, we learn that the Word (God) made himself in the image of man – God in human form. Jesus Himself said, “I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him” (John 10:30-31). Their reaction was understandable given their perspective.

This is your Messiah (and mine), who came to live as a man without sin, so that He could offer Himself up on the cross to make atonement for the sins of all men. You may well ask, if Jesus is God, then how could He die? Remember earlier when I described the triune nature of man? Do you recall that I never referred to the spirit as dying? Rather, I referred to the spirit as “departing.” The flesh dies, but the spirit lives on. When Jesus died, His body was offered as the perfect sinless sacrifice that only could atone for all the sins of man, but the Father and the Holy Spirit (Elohim) did not die. However, three days later, the Spirit returned to Jesus’ lifeless body, He rose again, ascended back to His throne on high, and one day, very soon, your Messiah (and mine) will return again to establish His royal throne – the throne of David – in His Holy Temple in Jerusalem. I can hardly wait!

I know this was a lot of information. If nothing else, I hope I helped you to understand the Christian concept of the Trinity. It is all through the Torah, but as I said to start, you may need to set aside your kippah (i.e. traditions) to see it. If you would like to read more on this, here are a couple of articles that may be helpful to you:

http://www.icr.org/article/wonderful-truth-trinity

http://www.icr.org/article/20941

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Life on Other Planets

NOTE: NASA has no idea what these planets look like. This is the rendition of an artist’s imagination.

Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created. (Psalm 148:5)

Recently the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) created quite a stir concerning the discovery of seven earth-sized planets around the TRAPPIST-1 System.[1] Several of the scientists are absolutely gobsmacked and giddy over the prospect of the possibility of life on these planets.

“For thousands of years, people have wondered, are there other planets like Earth out there? Do any support life?” said Sara Seager, astrophysicst [sic] and planetary scientist at MIT. “Now we have a bunch of planets that are accessible for further study to try to start to answer these ancient questions.”[2]

Given the propensity of these scientists to reject the supernatural creative acts of God, they understandably seek proof of spontaneous generation on other worlds where they are free to speculate to their heart’s content. Failing to prove evolution here on earth, they hope to prove it elsewhere where their speculations escape scrutiny.

It is bad enough that they suck the mindless masses into the void of fantasy, but sadly, many “Bible-believing” Christians get sucked into the same vortex. I received an email from such a one just recently that read as follows:

While I am in agreement with the thought that the universe is God’s creation I’m not sure I understand comments that suggest life is impossible anywhere else.  While we know the Bible is truth, there is truth outside of the Bible.  God may have created life elsewhere for His purposes, what am I missing?

The writer referred to an article recently published on the Institute for Creation Research website[3] about the seven newly discovered exoplanets.

While many cautiously practice speculating about non-disclosures in the Bible, danger lurks when personal opinions become truths that can lead the believer astray. So for this one, and others that may be going off on a tangent, I offer the following.

The best resource to address the question of life on other worlds is the Bible.

The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29, emphasis mine)

For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:18, emphasis mine)

And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:21, emphasis mine)

And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:25, emphasis mine)

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:27, emphasis mine) Question: How many “images,” according to this verse, does God have?

And the Word [i.e., the Lord Jesus Christ] was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, emphasis mine)

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8, emphasis mine)

For our [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:20-21, emphasis mine)

The Bible defines “life” more narrowly than how secular scientists define life.

For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. (Leviticus 17:11, emphasis mine)

For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off. (Leviticus 17:14, emphasis mine)

Basically, no blood, no life. So, if the question has to do with “life forms” such as bacteria, plants, or things like that, it is possible that such things could exist on other planets. However, one must ask, what would be the purpose? God does not create anything without purpose. What was God’s purpose for creating here on earth? (By the way, bear in mind that God created earth before any of the other heavenly bodies.)

Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. (Isaiah 43:7, emphasis mine)

The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works. (Psalm 104:31, emphasis mine)

I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded. (Isaiah 45:12, emphasis mine)

Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the earth. (Psalm 57:5,11, emphasis mine)

And all men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God; for they shall wisely consider of his doing. The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and shall trust in him; and all the upright in heart shall glory. (Psalm 64:9-10, emphasis mine)

The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory. (Psalm 97:6, emphasis mine)

Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth: Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children: Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven. (Psalm 148:11-13, emphasis mine)

That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it. (Isaiah 41:20, emphasis mine)

To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. (Isaiah 40:25-26, emphasis mine)

From the verses above, we see that at least part of God’s purpose in creation is twofold: for His glory and personal satisfaction, and so that man, whom He created in His image, can glorify God. Therefore, we must ask, how can we glorify God in that which we cannot observe? We continue to find more and more in the submicroscopic and subatomic levels right here on earth, so that we can marvel at God’s creation right here on earth. So, how would His purpose be accomplished by creating life on other planets beyond our observation? How can we glorify God about “life” of which we know nothing? (By the way, those NASA scientists are evolutionists. They do not believe in the Creator God of the Bible. They believe in evolution by “natural causes,” therefore, they “assume” that life “could” evolve on other planets. This is why they get so excited about the possibility. However, they have no rational basis to substantiate that belief. They cannot even prove life evolved here on earth.)

If we speculate that the “life” on other planets might be human-like, we need only to remember that humans were made in God’s image. That raises the question, in whose image were those creatures created? The question presents serious theological problems. Man’s sin in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) brought the curse upon all of God’s creation (Romans 8:22); therefore, those creatures would be under the curse of death too. However, Jesus died to redeem mankind, not Klingons or Vulcans. To redeem them, Jesus would have to die for each of those “races”, but the Bible says, “[We] are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10, emphasis mine). Jesus’ death on the cross was a one-time deal; therefore, Jesus’ sacrifice excludes Klingons and Vulcans. God is just and righteous in His judgment; therefore, I conclude that all life is here on earth alone.

Reader, if you reject the Creator God, you are just as alien to God as Klingons and Vulcans, and in grave danger of spending eternity in hell. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezekiel 18:20, emphasis mine). “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15, emphasis mine). There is a way of escape for you; however, you must decide. The Bible says, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21, emphasis mine). Do that now.

Notes:


[1] Probing the Seven Worlds with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2017/probing-seven-worlds-with-nasas-james-webb-space-telescope

[2]  Ibid.

[3]  Seven Earth-size Planets Discovered: http://www.icr.org/article/9867

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Jesus’ Birthday

DF-09134 Nativity , May 18, 2006 Photo by Jaimie Trueblood/newline.wireimage.com To license this image (9139053), contact NewLine: U.S. +1-212-686-8900 / U.K. +44-207 659 2815 / Australia +61-2-8262-9222 / Japan: +81-3-5464-7020 +1 212-686-8901 (fax) info@wireimage.com (e-mail) NewLine.wireimage.com (web site)

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

In 1992, Carol Cymbala published a song, which brings a tear to my eyes when I hear the sweet, tender voice of a child sing, “Happy Birthday, Jesus.” The words are simple and true, and when intoned by a puerile melody, they grip the heart and focus the mind on the real meaning of Christmas.

happy-b-day-jesus

Everyone, I assume, knows that Jesus was not born on December 25. The Bible does not give us a date. Was it Kislev 25, the first day of Chanukah? If that were the case, the date on the western calendar would fluctuate within the months of mid-November to mid-December. Luke recorded the events around the time of His birth thus providing an approximate year for Jesus’ arrival to earth. Augustus was emperor of Rome, and he issued an order for a census “that all the world should be taxed” (Luke 2:1), and “Cyrenius was governor of Syria” (Luke 2:2).

From Matthew’s account, we know that Herod the Great was “king” in Judah (Matthew 2:1). If secular history records accurately (and the record is dubious[1]), Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. Matthew reports that Herod, upon hearing of Jesus’ birth and not receiving word from the magi, ordered all the babies in Bethlehem, two years and under, slaughtered (Matthew 2:16). After the magi left, an angel warned Joseph to take the family and flee to Egypt, and Matthew says that they remained there until after the death of Herod. Given that we have no record of the time that elapsed between the family’s flight into Egypt and the death of Herod, Jesus’ birth could have occurred in 6 B.C. or earlier. That creates other chronological problems that distract from the point I am trying to make. (I find it strangely humorous that Jesus would be born “Before Christ.”)

The “time” of year also presents a problem. Luke records that “shepherds [were] abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). Late December would not be a good time for shepherds to be out in the field by night. It gets cold in Jerusalem/Bethlehem in December at night! Some attempt to rationalize December 25 by suggesting that it may have been the actual time of the conception, making the delivery sometime around mid-September to mid-October, the Jewish month of Tishri. That is certainly plausible. Some suggest the conception may have been in the Jewish month of Tishri (September-October), and the birth in the Jewish month of Tammuz (June-July), and that the magi arrived on December 25, after the family had moved into a house as recorded by Matthew 2:11. That is also feasible.

Who cares! The point is that the Creator God took human form and presented Himself to His creation as fully one of them – Son of God, Son of Man; fully God, fully man. He came to us because that was the ONLY way He could save us from our sins. God took extreme measures[2] to rescue His fallen creation. That is worthy of commemoration and celebration.

December 25 seems to be a fitting time in other respects. During this time, Chanukah, the “Festival of Lights,” is celebrated. By this time, the winter solstice is past and the days start getting longer. The prophet exhorts, “Arise, shine; for thy light [speaking of Jesus] is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising” (Isaiah 60:1-3). Jesus also said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12, emphasis mine). With all the talk about “light,” December 25 makes as much sense as any other day to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.  Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Notes:


[1] It is very probable, and more in line with the biblical account that Herod died in 1 B.C. http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/jesus-historical-jesus/herods-death-jesus-birth-and-a-lunar-eclipse/

[2] “Extreme Measures” https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/12/11/extreme-measures/

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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 (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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Jesus’ Seven Signs in John (2)

Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. (John 4:52)

Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. (John 4:52)

This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.  (John 4:54)

Men often boast about their abilities, but when it comes time to show what they can do, they fall far short of even their own expectations. Jesus not only demonstrated His deity by His claims, but He performed inexplicable acts attributable only to supernatural power. In the previous post, we looked at Jesus’ first sign – that of turning simple drinking water into a highly complex solution i.e. wine.[1] The low-key act called no attention to Himself, and He accomplished it by the will of His divine mind. He simply thought it, and it was done.

Jesus performed His second sign in much the same way. His first sign demonstrated His power over matter. The second sign demonstrated His power over life itself.

After the wedding in Cana where Jesus turned water into wine, Jesus went down to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover (John 2:13). This was the first Passover celebrated during His three-year ministry. John, unlike the Synoptic Gospels, records the first time that Jesus “cleansed” the Temple by chasing out the merchants and money changers (John 2:14-17). While there, Jesus intrigued a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Knowing that Jesus was sent from God, “for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2), Nicodemus met with Jesus in secret to learn what He had to say. Jesus gave him the greatest lesson that anyone has ever heard, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, emphasis mine).

When the Passover concluded, Jesus returned to the region of Galilee by way of Samaria. There He met with a Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well (John 4:12), and He gave her “living water” (John 4:10) that became in her “a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). She was “born again” and became an instant evangelist taking the “good news” to her village (John 4:28-30). “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did” (John 4:39).

Jesus remained with the Samaritans two days before returning to Cana of Galilee (John 4:43). There a “certain nobleman” met Him with an urgent request (John 4:46). That he was a “nobleman” indicates that he probably served as a “courtier” or officer in the king’s court. The Greek word translated “nobleman” is basilikos, which means, “belonging to, or befitting the sovereign.” At any rate, he was not of the “common” folk.

His son was deathly ill, and “When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death” (John 4:47). At first glance, Jesus seems somewhat annoyed with the request. “Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe” (John 4:48). Although Jesus addressed the nobleman’s request, His response was not directed at the man. After all, the he came a long way from Capernaum down to Cana only because “he heard Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee,” and he believed only Jesus could save his son from certain death.

One of the reasons I appreciate the “old” King James Bible is for the distinction it makes between the singular and plural second person personal pronouns – thee, thou, thine and you, ye, your – as expressed in the original languages (Hebrew and Greek). All the latest modern translations simply use “you” which can be either singular or plural, which adds ambiguity to the text. The distinction is important here, because in responding to the nobleman’s request, Jesus does not address him directly otherwise the text would read, “Except thou seest signs and wonders, thou wilt not believe.” However, that is not what Jesus said. He said, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” “Ye” – in Texas we would say “y’all.” Jesus addressed the crowd around Him.

John reported this as Jesus’ second miracle, but actually, Jesus had already performed many miraculous acts as recorded by the other Gospel writers. The curious crowd followed Jesus because He gave sight to the blind, opened deaf ears, healed the lame, cleansed the leprous, cast out demons, etc. It was in this same region that He entered the synagogue in Nazareth and announced, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19). Applying the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1-2 to Himself, the incensed crowd attempted to throw him over a cliff (Luke 4:28-30). “You claim to be Messiah,” they probably thought, “show us what you can do!”

In spite of all He had done, they would not believe. Jesus knew this, but He was not there for their entertainment. The nobleman was not a curiosity seeker nor did he come to be entertained. He had a serious need that only Jesus could meet. He believed this. “The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die” (John 4:49). Only Jesus could save his son’s life. “Jesus [desiring not to perform for the crowd] saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.” (John 4:50, emphasis mine). Unlike the crowd who need to “see signs and wonders” in order to believe, the unnamed nobleman took Jesus at His word, by faith, and returned to his home believing that his son would live.

Capernaum was a day’s journey north of Cana on foot. As the man neared his home, his servants ran out to meet him with the news that his son had recovered and was well. “Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house” (John 4:52-53, emphasis mine). The “seventh hour” would have been around one o’clock in the afternoon.

Interestingly, John remarks that the nobleman “himself believed, and his whole house.” Is it that he was unbelieving until he witnessed firsthand his son’s recovery? Perhaps that was true for “his whole house,” but certainly not for him. In the first place, consider that he believed enough to seek Jesus out in the first place. In the second place, he took Jesus’ word that his son was healed, and he returned home without question. He did not need to “see” to believe. What I believe John is saying is that his faith was confirmed when he realized that his son was healed the very instant that Jesus said, “Thy son liveth.” His “whole house” believed due to his testimony.

John records this as “the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee” (John 4:54, emphasis added), but as noted above, that is not exactly true. What prompted John to make that statement? Dr. Henry M. Morris, founder of the Institute for Creation Research, offers an excellent explanation:

Jesus actually had done many miracles in or near Jerusalem (John 2:23; 3:2) since the miracle of turning the water into wine. This is called the second miracle, either because it was the second done in Galilee or else because John was specifically counting only the seven great signs (all of these being miracles of creation) described in detail in order to win men to Christ (John 20:30,31). [2] (Emphasis mine)

I believe the latter to be the case. John’s purpose in writing his Gospel was to testify that Jesus was God in the flesh. He opens his Gospel with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14).

As in the miracle of turning water into wine, Jesus performed this miraculous act telepathically, i.e. by the mere power of His mind He made it happen. All it took was for Him to say, “Thy son liveth,” and it was so, even though He was miles away from where the sick lad lay. However, this was a small thing compared to when He called Creation into being by the mere power of His Word, “Let there be … and it was so.” This second miracle was nothing less than an act of God – Jesus.

NOTES:


[1]  Jesus’ Seven Signs in John (1)

[2]  Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Henry Morris Study Bible, (Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2012), 1577.

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Jesus’ Seven Signs in John (1)

jesus-turns-water-into-wine

This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.  (John 2:11)

In the past few weeks, I highlighted the seven I AM statements spoken by Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of According to John.  These statements are significant because through them Jesus declared His divine nature. The reason John recorded seven (there may have been more, see John 20:30-31) was perhaps to show the completeness, or perfection of His deity. Seven is the biblical number for perfection or completeness.

Jesus not only proclaimed His deity verbally, He also demonstrated His deity by His “works.” “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him” (John 10:37-38). As in the seven I AM statements, John records seven major “signs” demonstrating Jesus’ deity. In truth, Jesus performed many miracles, so many, in fact, that John says, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen” (John 21:25, emphasis mine). These “works” or “signs” defy natural explanation and are “creative” in nature.

Dictionary.com defines a miracle as “an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause” (emphasis mine). Those who choose to reject God attempt to explain away miraculous events by natural means. When natural means fail to explain the miracle, they simply relegate it to myth. “Pretend it is not real, and maybe it will go away,” they think. Creation is a miracle. John tells us that “All things were made [created] by him [Jesus, the Word]; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Arguably, this was the greatest of all miracles, but it is not included in the Seven Signs. Most likely this is due to the fact that no one witnessed this event. The Seven Signs recorded by John specifically testified to Jesus’ deity to those who witnessed Him during His earthly ministry. “Every one of the miracles shows how the created order submitted itself to Jesus’ authority.”[1]

According to John, the first sign Jesus performed was to turn ordinary drinking water into very fine wine (John 2:11). By this time in His ministry, Jesus had overcome Satan’s temptation in the wilderness recorded in the Synoptic Gospels and chosen His twelve apostles. He traveled up to Galilee to begin His mission. There in Cana of Galilee (distinct from Cana of Ephraim), Jesus attended a wedding probably by invitation of His mother who helped host the party (John 2:1-5). Jewish wedding feasts lasted seven days, and this one was now into its third day (John 2:1). Either due to poor planning or over indulgence of the wine, a terrible faux pas took place; the wine ran out. “The lack of wine involved another embarrassment, in that it rendered the bridegroom’s family liable to a lawsuit. They were legally required to provide a feast of a certain standard.”[2]

Jesus’ mother jumped into action. She knew Jesus could take care of the situation, “And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine” (John 2:3). Jesus’ response at first seems terse and somewhat lacking in the normal affection between a mother and son. “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come” (John 2:4, emphasis mine). While He did not call her “Mom,” the term “woman” was one of respect in the same way that we might say “Madam” or “Ma’am.” Jesus used same term when addressing other women like Mary Magdalene, the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery, and others. However, it is noteworthy that He did not address her as “Mētēr” (Mother). As Son of God and Son of Man, and as her Creator and Savior, her place was now subordinate to Him.

Recognizing her proper place, “His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it” (John 2:5). Jesus instructed the servants to fill six stone water pots with water. Each water pot held two or three firkins apiece (John 2:6).  A firkin equals to about seven and a half gallons, therefore, each water pot contained between 15 and 22 ½ gallons each. If we assume three of each size (two and three firkins), the total capacity would be around 113 gallons. That’s a lot of hooch!

“Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it” (John 2:7-8). One must note that Jesus said no “magic words.” He did not get up and walk over to the water pots or come anywhere near their vicinity. He made no special gestures. Once the pots were full, He merely instructed the servants to draw some out and take it to the host. Only by His thought was the water transformed into wine. For God, this is no feat. On the first day of creation, He called all things into existence only by speaking the words, “Let there be,” and it was so.

Jesus demonstrates His deity by creating something new. Water is a simple compound composed of two Hydrogen atoms and one Oxygen atom. Wine, on the other hand, contains over 1000 different compounds as demonstrated in the image below.[3] the-chemistry-of-wine-2015 Where did all those different compounds come from? They do not occur naturally in fresh water. Even if that water had a high mineral content, those minerals would not exist in the proper proportions to combine into wine. No, this was an entirely new creation by the One who created it all in the first place (John 1:3).

The skeptic cannot explain this away. He might say that after three days of celebration, the host and guests were too drunk to tell the difference. If that is so, how can he explain the host’s reaction? “… the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now” (John 2:9-10). No, this wine was better than the “good wine” served at the beginning of the festivities. Whatever God does always exceeds what man can do.

John reports, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him” (John 2:11).  This first of Seven Signs recorded by John exclude some of Jesus’ greatest miracles: Creation, His incarnation, His own resurrection, but perhaps the greatest of all, He creates a new life in the heart of every believer. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

Notes:


[1]  Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of Israel, (Jewish Studies for Christians, Tel Aviv, Israel, 2015), 25.

[2]  Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, Revised, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1995), 158.

[3]  A common distraction arises around this miracle over the alcohol content of the wine. Was the wine simple grape juice, did it contain a low level of alcohol, or was it fully fermented with heavy alcohol content? The question is irrelevant for two reasons. First, the host – the “governor of the feast” – proclaimed that it was better than what had been served at the beginning of the feast. Second, regardless of the inclusion or exclusion of alcohol, the end product was a thousand times more complex than the initial water, and that is precisely the point that should not be overlooked.

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