OFFENCE

OFFENCE

John 5: 10-15

“The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” 11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” 12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” 13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.”

If you can be offended you will be.

The man had been unable to walk for 38 years. Surely Jesus could have waited one more day to heal him? Just a day and the offence would not have been made.

The Sabbath was holy. The seventh day when God rested from his work and so should we.

The healing wasn’t the work because at the most it was just a command. But picking up his mate, well, that was work.

A wonderful healing and those who saw the results were offended.

But I see the possibility of another offended party. The healed man.

What was his sin? John doesn’t say. Maybe it was attached to the fact that this Jewish man had spent his whole life at a healing centre dedicated to the god Asclepius. Maybe it wasn’t that. It seems only Jesus knew.

Previously the man could not tell the Jewish leaders who Jesus was or where he was. But after this rebuke about his sin that’s exactly what he does. It could be of course an innocent reason but very possibly because he was offended. Whatever the reason it led to difficulty for Jesus.

Offence strikes at us all. We get offended when others are blessed and we get offended when we are corrected even if we are blessed.

The greatest miracle is that of a changed heart.

The WORD within Mercy

The WORD within Mercy

 

John 5: 1-9

“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.”

This place in Hebrew means ‘House of mercy’. It was used by everyone, not only the Jews. In fact it was dedicated at one time to the pagan healing god, Asclepius.

How it worked (according to several ancient copies of John, but not the oldest ones), an angel would periodically stir the water and the first one in was healed. How that happened could have been simply the workers at the pool turning some pipes to let water in. However it was, there was one man who never got anywhere near being the first.

“If only I could be first!”

Many will cry that today.

There are many who nearly got there, but didn’t.

In the house of mercy there was no one showing him mercy.

But his problem was he had become focused on the reason why he couldn’t get into the pool and not the fact that he desired healing. He doesn’t answer the question of Jesus, he just gives the reason why he hasn’t been successful.

Sometimes we are looking at trying to solve the problem when maybe we are never meant to be solving it.

All the man needed was the WORD.

The word from Jesus is all that it takes.

John is building this case in his gospel in each and every sign and miracle.

In this place shared by pagans and Jews (the whole world) Jesus demonstrated that the Word is for everyone.

May that be true today for us all. Wherever we go we carry the WORD in our hearts and as we speak it to the world they will indeed receive mercy.

 

The unusual enemies of your faith

The unusual enemies of your faith

John 4: 43-54

After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honour in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there. 46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. 48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” 49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.” 53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed. 54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.”

It is a strange thing that knowing Jesus and longing for Him to move can end up being enemies of our faith.

Jesus spent two days in Sychar and because of what he was teaching them many believed, v40-42.

At 1pm in Cana a certain royal official chose to believe the words of Jesus that his son would live, he acted on that and it ended wonderfully. His son was healed and he and his household became believers.

It is important to John that we see Jesus as the Word of God, “In the beginning was the Word”. It is the Word that makes believers. Hear and believe.

There are many enemies against the Word. The ones that seem to appear the most are still with us today and it is not the dark forces that we may assume. They are:

  1. “Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honour in his own country”

Jesus left Galilee as a carpenter and returned as a rabbi with disciples following.

There had been a significant development in his life. But that could not be said of his home region.

Some people never want you to progress. They want to keep you just exactly where you were even many years ago. Familiarity breeds contempt. “We know you. And we can get offended by you if you don’t act the way you should in our eyes.”

2 v 23 “Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name.” Here in V45 “… the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there.”

Jesus, back in Cana knew that some people will only believe if they see the miracles. “What’s in it for me? Change my circumstances and I will believe.” Their Jesus is important for what He does and not what He says.

 

Your faith has enemies and they are closer than you think.

Today can be a glorious day!

Today can be a glorious day!

John 4: 39-42

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.”

It is amazing what God can do in one day.

When she woke up that day she would never have thought what was going to happen.

Not only her but also many people in Sychar.

Her testimony was not that Jesus told her the whole list of sins of her life. But that he knew all about her life.

How do you move from a broken woman to a town of believers saying ‘we know Jesus is the Saviour of the world’? They didn’t know fully what they were saying but they used the title of the Roman emperor and they gave it to Jesus.

John brilliantly shows us how not only Jesus is the Saviour of the Jews (v22) but he is the Saviour of the Samaritans and the Samaritans say the world! Incredible!

How do we get from a Jesus tired from the journey sitting sown at a well to this scene in just one day?

Never underestimate what God can do today!

 

 

 

 

An energised Jesus

An energised Jesus

John 4: 27-38

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him. 31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” 33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour.”

 

She was a woman.

A Samaritan woman.

A woman who had a story that either ostracised her in the suffering or because of social stigma.

She hadn’t fully grasped everything Jesus had said.

She doesn’t ask for baptism.

She doesn’t say she has found the Messiah, she is not 100% convinced yet.

She runs into the town and tells everyone her experience. That she had met a man who knew everything about her and all she had done. It wasn’t exactly the full gospel explained. No one had signed up for Alpha yet.

However, despite this, Jesus was energised. He didn’t need any earthly stimulus. He didn’t need food. Not on this occasion. This conversation with a Samaritan woman was full of possibilities and opportunities. This is why he had come.

May we all be energised continually with the conversations we have despite our own needs to sit by wells because of tiredness. The impromptu ones that are not held within the week of evangelism but are just part of our lives.

May we be so fired up with the possibilities of what could happen if these conversations turn out to be conversions that we are so consumed and energised we don’t think or worry about what others do.

Who’s got the right kind of worship? Who’s right?

Who’s got the right kind of worship? Who’s right?

John 4:19-26 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” 25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”  26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

Who is right?

There are so many churches and groups of Christianity.

They worship differently, focus their mission differently and some even think they are the best expression of what church should be.

Of course there are obvious similarities. The Bible for example. We all believe that though we can argue about the translations (we are so good at finding things to argue and differ about).

In that context we can understand this passage.

The Jews and Samaritans are different and don’t like each other because of their difference. The one thing they are together on, is the Torah (the first 5 O.T. books).

They each have the centres for their worship: the Mount Gerizim for the Samaritans and the Mount Zion in Jerusalem for the Jews.

However, when buildings, styles, practices, philosophies and mountains become the big deal then we have lost our way.

God is bigger than anything we build for Him, no matter if we build it out of some divine revelation we have had of Him.

You cannot squeeze the fullness of God into any ‘Temple’. The monopoly on truth never exists.

This is the one time when Jesus has an extended conversation about worship and it is with the wrong gender and a Samaritan of all people!

He says it is not about mountains and buildings. But about spirit and truth.

Worship is not about us but about God alone.

Worship is never about the songs we sing but who we sing them to.

Worship is more than the outward, that is only the expression of where worship comes from which is inside of us, born by the Spirit.

Worship engages our mind and our hearts. So we worship with the truth of Jesus’ teachings but also the alertness of our minds, authenticity with no sloppy lip-service.

We don’t necessarily have to come away from our Temples and Mountains so long as we realise that they in themselves don’t make us worshippers of God. Neither can we say because we have come away from the established Mountains of worship that we now are the enlightened ones who have the exclusivity of correct worship.

But we do need to let the streams of living water flow from within us to worship and we do need to be real, engaging our thoughts on Jesus the Truth bringing authentic worship to God.

 

 

 

Why make a judgment on what you don’t know?

Why make a judgment on what you don’t know?

John 4: 5-18

So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

John is keen to show us where they are on the GPS map.

They are near the bones of Joseph.

In Joshua 24 it records how Joshua called the people and said ‘Choose this day who you will serve’ and he made a covenant with God for himself and his household and the people of God. “And Joseph’s bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver” (v32).

In that same place where Joseph’s bones were placed, a symbol of how one man suffered for the purpose of bringing salvation to others is John’s story.

In that same place where Joseph whose blessing was to be a fruitful vine climbing over a wall (Genesis 49:21) sits Jesus the true vine (15:1).

But there’s another person there. The Samaritan woman. Is she also connected to the story of Joseph and Jesus in that she was a suffering woman who would later lead her village to salvation?

Who was this woman?

Was she immoral going through husbands like no-tomorrow or was she a suffering woman (women were not permitted to initiate divorces)? Did they divorce her or had they died?

Was she a fallen woman or a suffering woman?

Was the man she lived with her boyfriend or was he an uncle or another relative who was looking after her financially?

Is the time of midday (where she was least likely to meet people in the heat of the day) an indicator she was ashamed or depressed?

You can hold to either position. Many do.

But the truth is we don’t fully know.

And so it is in maybe the next conversation you have with someone or the next time you see someone walk towards you.

It is hard to judge people’s stories. So why do we try?

 

Days of courage.

Days of courage.

John 4:1-4 “Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria.”

The territories located in the Palestinian National Authority are mostly the region of Samaria in Jesus’ day.

The tensions and disputes don’t seem to have changed for 2,000 years.

The Samaritans and the Jews did all they could to avoid travelling through each other’s domain.

To get to Galilee it would take the Jew nearly 6 days travel having to cross the Jordan River twice.

The alternative was to take the dangerous 3 day trip through Samaria.

Jesus had to go through Samaria.

John doesn’t say why. There is no indication of an appointment. However what is true is that Jesus came to bring reconciliation between mankind, whether Jew or Samaritan.

Some days are dangerous days.

Some days are tough. You have to have that conversation that you don’t want to have. You have to go where others wouldn’t necessarily go. You have to be brave and selfless. But you do it because your Father has sent you.

 

What words will you hear and what words will you use today?

What words will you hear and what words will you use today?

John 3: 31-36

“The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”

I am not interested in what the earth produces.

The words from the earth, what outcome will they bring?

Do you ever wake up wounded from the words of yesterday?

The words from heaven are without limit, there is no rationing of the exhorting message from Him; they are eternal, continuing. These words are filled with love, authoritative yet sacrificial love. These words are life-affirming.

Oh that His people would learn the language of heaven!

Get you out of the way

Get you out of the way

John 3: 27-30

27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”

 

The disciples of John the Baptist are complaining that everyone was going to Jesus which actually makes John very successful.

John uses an illustration of the wedding to challenge them on who is the central figure. It is not him and it is not them. It is Jesus.

It is difficult when you used to be top and you are now second. It is hard when you were the centre and now you are side-lined. It doesn’t feel nice not to be noticed anymore.

We spend years centring our world on us and then we are gone, it’s over.

But if we were never centre and if we were never really that important and say if Jesus was truly greater and we were truly less, then we wouldn’t be disappointed would we?

Now of course we all want Jesus to be greater. But where is He? If He is in heaven then all is well, we can do it. But if he is with the beggar on the street or the annoying neighbour or the stubborn church member then we certainly don’t want to become less! They would walk right over us and we certainly don’t want that.

He must become greater; I must become less.

Let’s try again. Draw the line. Start today. See if you can get yourself out of the way.