03.5 John – What was in

We have all been caught, from time to time, in the lure of “what is in”.  It may be the latest fashion, the latest food or fad.  It may be electronics, toys, tools.  It may be news.  It can also be people, events, what has been done or is just new and exciting.

At the Passover Feast, Jesus began to accumulate a following.  It was a following of the curious and hangers on.  Those interested in the works and not the man.

Works can be an interesting thing.  On one hand, James 2 tells us that faith without works is dead.  If we have faith, then we are compelled to live out that faith in our thoughts, words and deeds.  However, Hebrews 9:14 speaks of “acts that lead to death”, or as the KJV called them, “dead works”.  The works that are not done from a basis of faith in Jesus Christ.

In either scenario, it is not the works but the heart that is key.

The crowds followed Jesus because of His works and the power of His name.  They were following Him because “He was in.”  They followed the crowd.  The heard each others’ testimony and stories and followed along. They looked for entertainment and excitement and to see what happened next.  But it did not change their heart.

But Jesus sees “what’s in” differently.  John 2:25 tells us “He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.”  For Jesus, “what’s in” is what is in your heart.

My Answers:

The disciples believed that Jesus was the Messiah and thus He had power and authority.  The many believed He had power and authority because they saw the power and authority, they didn’t see the Messiah.

Everywhere.  WII-FM.  “I’m not getting that much out of reading the bible, praying, going to church.”  That may be true for you but it doesn’t mean it is true for me.  I only believe what I can see.

He knew their hearts.  When I submitted fully to Him in times of worship and especially in times of need.

03.4 John – Ignoring the Clutter

First of all, let me say that signs are not the problem.  God is active and alive and we see signs of His activity and direction for and in our lives every day.  When we pray, we ask Him to reveal Himself to us and also to reveal the timing and direction that He desires for our specific lives and specific needs and calling.

The problem comes when you substitute a reliance on signs over the word of scripture.  The problem comes when you continue to do what you know is wrong because, well, you are waiting on a sign.

The priests knew the activity going on at the temple was wrong.  One need only look at the care with which the original priestly tribe, the Levites, were tasked with handling every aspect of the tabernacle, from the poles to the cloth to the articles to see the importance.  One need only look back to the original sacrifices of Cain and Able to see God’s desire for a sacrificial heart, not a sacrifice given out of obligation.

I doubt that, all of a sudden, one day, the priests said, “let’s ignore what is written about the temple and set up a lot of shops and dishonest money changers.”  It probably started innocently enough.  Someone, coming to the temple, may have suffered a mishap, such as an attack by wild animals or a disease, and the lamb, dove or other animal that they had planned to bring and sacrifice was killed.  Wouldn’t it be better if a replacement was available?

That is how clutter begins in our own houses.  It is also how clutter begins in our hearts and our own lives.  When it is pointed out to us that our house is a mess or that our life is a mess, we sometimes respond like the priests.  “Who are you to tell me how to run my house, how to live my life?”

The response that Jesus gave to the priests is truly amazing.  In response He said, my authority and your sign is that I came into this world to die and defeat death for you.

So, when it comes to cleaning the clutter of sin out of your heart and out of your life, so you need more of a sign than that?  He also demonstrated that you need not do the work alone.  Jesus is more than happy to chase the sin away from your life, the same way He cleared the temple courts, the same way He sent demons scurrying and the same way He transformed you on the day you first believed: with His power, with His might, with His authority and with His Holy Spirit.

My Answers:

1. burden of proof.  They sided with the money changers and merchants, Jesus had to produce proof and signs to justify His side, although He was in the right.
2. They had all the scripture and the law.  The activity was either right or wrong under the law.  A new sign would not have overturned what was written in the scripture.

I have asked for signs to indicate direction and to confirm my actions, not His authority over me.  I do not ask my parents for signs or proof of their authority, I know love and love them in return.  (I see why this question is worded the way it is and I probably was at that stage at one time in my faith).

His body was the temple of God, the dwelling place of the most High – It was an admission, a sign, that He is God.  It also demonstrated His full knowledge of His mission and His power over both life and death.

They twisted to say that He said, “I can/will destroy the temple”.  Their twisted wording made it to sound as if Jesus was an enemy to the temple of God as opposed to the one who would reconstruct it.

03.3 John – Cleaning House

When we read the passage of Jesus’ actions with the money changers and merchants in the temple we often see it as both a justification and a call to have “righteous anger.”  When we look at our world today we see things far, far worse, at least in our judgment, that some people making a buck from selling doves and lambs or bankers exchanging currency.  We see massive oppression.  We see terrorist plots.  We see rape and murder.  We see every type of cruelty and sin known to man.  It makes us angry.  We want to take action – to just do something – but we don’t know where to begin.

Psalm 4:4 says, “in your anger, do not sin.” On one hand this sounds a lot like the Hippocratic Oath, “primum non nocere“, “first, do no harm.”  But I think there is a distinction.  It is OK to be angry.  That, however, is not justification to sin.

We can and should be angry and we should be bold to tell the good news of Jesus Christ and draw others to Him.  We should stand out as a contrast to the sin of the world.  We should be a target as one who stands on the side of righteousness.  We should not be afraid or hesitant to speak and act in ways that acknowledge that simply because the will of man deems something to be legal or acceptable, does not mean that it is no longer a sin in the eyes of God (see Matthew 19 for a discussion by Jesus on divorce).  We should not engage in the sins of the world through acquiescence and silence as happened in the day of Lot and his family.

Contrary to the “first do no harm” principle, however, we are always called to take action.  But what type of action we are called by the bible to take does not always match the desire we have to go “straighten out others.”  In most cases, our action starts by cleaning out our own house.  It starts by being filled by the Holy Spirit and repenting of our own sins, both in things we have done as well as in things we have left undone.  It starts by studying and knowing the word of God, the most powerful weapon to attack sin.

Ephesians 4, starting in verse 24, quotes the verse in Psalm 4:4 and then goes on to give more direction:

26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

My Answers:

Passover.  A special offering and tax (donation) was required, Some who came did not have the right coinage or animal and those in the court were profiting from a requirement, not showing compassion and helping.  There was no heart, just greed.

Righteous anger for God is correct.

My strong love/zeal for your house (God’ house, the temple) consumes me

When the Lord comes, He will come to the temple and will be like a purifying fire and like laundry soap… then they will bring offerings to the Lord in the right way (in faith and love, not callous duty to “get by”)

03.2 John – Sour Grapes

In Jesus’ first miracle there is so much that is unspoken and, thus, unknown, and we must take great care not to read to much into the story.  Since this was his first miracle, we know that Mary had not witnessed previous miracles by her son.  That is not to say that she was unaware of His power and authority, but it wasn’t like she gave Him a list of chores and those got completed miraculously while he sat and talked.  We don’t know what her expectations were.  We also don’t know all of the underlying meaning conveyed by Jesus’ words about his “hour.” In almost all other uses of this word it refers to the time of his death at the cross.

So, sticking with what we do know.  Mary, Jesus, some of Jesus’ new followers and a bunch of other people were at a wedding which ran out of wine.  It would have been very bad form and a significant embarrassment for the host for this to have happened.  Mary pointed out the fact of the problem.  Jesus quietly addressed the problem.

Sure, there is a lot of underlying significance.  It was a wedding which has linkage to the wedding of the lamb to the church.  It was wine which later was used to symbolize Christ’s blood offered for the forgiveness of sins.  It was containers that would normally hold water used for ceremonial cleansing.

Not to take anything away from the miracle or all of this symbolism, but we do also have to keep in mind, at the end of the day, it was just wine.  Jesus’ first miracle did not bring someone back from the dead.  It didn’t heal someone dying.  It didn’t relieve pain and suffering, restore sight, give the ability to walk to someone who was lame or hearing to the deaf.  It didn’t call anyone to repent, convert any of those present at the wedding, or directly apply to the saving purpose of Jesus’ mission on Earth.  It was just wine.

Yes, the bridegroom and family would have been embarrassed and it would have been a bad mark on their name, but no one would have died from the embarrassment.  Sure it was honoring to His mother who must have had some expectation of Jesus given the curtness of the conversation between the two of them.  But, in the grand scheme of things, it was just wine.

But, I think that is part of the message.  Jesus doesn’t just do miracles in the things that are important to Him, He does miracles in the things that are important to us.  He is the creator of everything in the universe and hears the please of all mankind everywhere in the world.  But, He also hears us.  He hears our concerns, the things we messed up that will bring shame and embarrassment to us, the things that are not life and death, they are just sour grapes.  Not only does He hear, but He acts.  He acts in ways that we could not even imagine.  He acts in a level of love and power and compassion that we do not deserve, could not deserve, yet He freely gives.  He takes our fears and tears and turns them into something that is a witness to others as being “the best.”

And, while Christ’s glory is revealed in these acts, to those who are paying attention.  He does it not for His glory, but because He loves us and cares that much.

My Answers:

They ran out of wine.  The groom and matron of the party were expected to have adequately prepared for the guests and the event.  It would have been a negative mark on the entire families name and honor.

No, she knew He had the power and her focus was on compassion to the groom and his family, not of timing of Jesus’ mission

power over matter, power without words or incantations of touch.  Obedience was required to see the miracle, He allowed others to participate.  It was the best of the best.

He honored His mother.  He showed compassion.  He did it quietly without fanfare.  There was no gain to Him in doing this.


02.2 John – Powerful or Powerless

Do you feel powerful or powerless to change the world?  Do you feel like you live day to day, going through the paces or do you feel like someone on a mission?  Do you feel bold, strong, devoted, powerful?

While there are many lessons we can learn from John the Baptist, I think this is the one we can take most to heart.  John lived powerfully.  He didn’t run for office.  He didn’t pick fights.  He didn’t try to be a corporate giant, or even to try to move up in the hierarchy of the synagogue.  He exercised power in the wilderness, outside of the city, at a river.  He exercised power wearing camel hair and eating locusts, not focused on fashion or food.

The exercised the power to call men to repentance and to wash their sins away.

The men from the synagogue came to question John because they wanted to know the source of his power.  On what authority did you call people to repent and baptize them?  Just who was this guy?  John’s answer was that he was a voice.  His power did not come from himself, or for himself, it came from God for the Lord.

But what about you and me?  Do people question the source of our power and authority?  We are not John the Baptist, but according to Ephesians 1, we have actually be given greater power and authority that was given to John.  In the prayer of Ephesians 1:18-23, the Paul prayers that the church of Ephesus will know the hope, riches and power that God gives to those of us (including you and me) who believe.  This is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  This power is far above any authority, any rule, any other power or dominion and above and greater than any other name.  This is the power we have been given to spread the good news, to call people to recognize their sin and repent and to baptize.

When was the last time someone challenged your power?

My Answers:

1. (implied) who are you – I am not the Messiah, 2. Who are you? Are you Elijah?  – I am not 3. Are you the Prophet? – No
4. Who are you? Give us an answer to take back, what do you say about yourself? – I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘make straight the way for the Lord’ 5. Why then do you baptize if you are not Messiah, Elijah or Prophet? – I baptize with water but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.

Elijah, an OT prophet, was expected to come back before the Messiah; 1 Kin. 17—2 Kin. 2; Mal. 4:5–6, Prophet Deut 18:15-19

Quoted from Isaiah to explain the purpose of His mission.  Is 40:9 Here is your God!, 10. the Sovereign Lord comes with power and he rules with a mighty arm. 11. He tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms

To be bold and speak only the truth.  To know and quote scripture.  To point only to Christ, not to self.  Let the spirit speak through me.