What is it? Supernatural Bread From Heaven

As we continue our journey to Jerusalem on the Pathway to the Passion, we have established that Jesus is the New Moses who leads a New Exodus from the Holy City. The time is drawing nearer. As we consider the Old Testament foundations for this New Exodus, we look to the first Exodus to inform us. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:6 and 11, that these things happened as examples for us. So, as we review Israel’s flight from Egypt, we discover that God offered His chosen ones provisions for their journey. Today, we turn our attention to the heavenly food given to sustain them during their pilgrimage – Manna! Read on…

Read Exodus 16:2-7, 13-15, 31-35

Six weeks after leaving Egypt, the Israelites were unhappy! Hunger does strange things to people. Apparently unfulfilled appetites make one forget demonstrations of transcendent power – like the ten plagues culminating in the Passover/Death Angel experience, the parting of the Red Sea, the dramatic deaths of Pharaoh’s Army, the Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night. It’s hard to imagine, but these displays of supremacy by Almighty God dissolved into displeasure as the Israelites sensed a rumbling in their tummies.

How much better it would have been if their request had been made prayerfully and reverently. Instead, with a strong sense of entitlement, the dissatisfaction of the people was voiced, and God heard their complaint. By this time, the Israelites should have known – the Creator would care for them – including their culinary concerns!

God instructed Moses that “bread from heaven” would be supplied each day but the Sabbath. Twice as much could be collected on Friday in preparation for Saturday. Each morning that the flaky bread appeared, they were to gather some for each person. Amazingly, regardless of how much they collected, it always measured an omer, or about 3 pounds – 6 pounds on Friday. At night, God provided quail for them to eat. According to verse 12, they ate manna in the morning and “flesh” in the evening. This was the diet of the Children of Israel for 40 years until they could eat the fruit of Canaan. Pervasive grumbling was met with God’s gracious provision.

When I attended college, several of my Bible professors spent a great deal of time telling us why the Scriptural accounts of miracles, like Manna, could be explained scientifically. One argument that circulated was that this flaky substance was naturally produced by a plant. This is implausible. Consider first that God calls this substance, “bread from heaven.”  Second, the people did not know what it was – it was new to their experience. If this were a plant residue, surely someone would have described it that way. Instead, they called it “man hu” or “what is it?” Third, the provisions were predictable over forty years of time. No plant could yield manna so consistently over this prolonged period. Not to mention the lack of production every Saturday! Finally, the collection of the bread, regardless of the amount, came out to one omer. This measurement phenomenon could not be explained by a plant.  Manna was nothing less than miraculous bread from heaven!

Manna, it’s what’s for dinner (actually breakfast)…and much more. Exodus 16:32-34 reveals a fascinating requirement of God. Some of the manna was to be placed “before the Lord,” that is, in the Tabernacle’s Most Holy Place. A jar of manna was kept within the Ark of the Covenant among the other “Holy objects”. Hebrews 9:3-4 makes this clear. “Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered Ark of the Covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.” This jar of manna was to be retained so that the subsequent generations might see the heavenly bread that God had provided for the wilderness wandering. While this is the plain truth of Scripture, it is often missed. God intended for this jar of bread to be on reserve before Him as a holy and perpetual memorial.

Scripture offers us other clues about the nature of this supernatural bread. Psalm 78:23-25 tells us that, “…He gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens; 24 He rained down manna for the people to eat, He gave them the grain of heaven. 25 Human beings ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat.” From this passage, it is clear that manna existed in heaven before “the doors of the heavens” were opened and it was “sent” to the Israelites. By referring to manna as the “bread of angels,” the Psalmist may well be implying that the angels have some role in keeping the manna.

One other passage is helpful. Revelation 2:17 also speaks of manna existing in heaven. “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna.” The earthly Tabernacle and later the Temple were scaled down models or replicas of the Heavenly Tabernacle/Temple. Hebrews 8:5 says that the earthly sanctuary, “…is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”’ Could it be that God required manna to be “hidden” in the Ark of the Covenant, not only to be a testimony to coming generations, but also because there is manna within the heavenly temple? This is in keeping with “making everything according to the pattern” of “what is in heaven.”

Finally, we are told that manna tasted like “wafers of honey.” Exodus 3:8 shows us that the heavenly bread was actually a foretaste of the Promised Land. “So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” When the Promised Land was reached, the manna was no longer supplied (Joshua 5:10-12). So, while on their decades long journey, this supernatural bread from heaven served as a reminder to the Israelites that God would lead them to a new life in Canaan.

What amazing, miraculous, and tasty supernatural bread! Could there be bread any greater than this? We will find out tomorrow on the Pathway to the Passion.


Christ, our Passover

Today marks the beginning of a new theme. Over the next few days we will discuss “Provisions for the Journey.” Jesus is the New Moses (see Deuteronomy 18:15, 18), coming to lead a New Exodus, it stands to reason that there will be a New Passover. In order for us to understand the “New Passover,” we would do well to review the original Passover Feast. In reading the account of that first Passover, recorded in Exodus 12, it is difficult to miss the typological connections to Jesus and what He would do in the upper room and on Calvary’s Cross!

Read Exodus 12:1-14, 24-28, Numbers 9:13 – The First Passover

As we examine the Passover, we’ll see that it was a focal point of life for the Israelites. Much like Christians look to the cross as the defining saving action of God, the Hebrew people point to the Passover as the central saving act of God on their behalf. The Passover is the first “provision” given by the Lord for the Children of Israel as they escaped their captors in Egypt. What’s more, it became a yearly springtime remembrance of the great Exodus from Pharaoh and 400 years of slavery.

What resulted from the yearly celebration of the Passover Feast? The Israelites remembered and reconnected with their past. It was a remembrance. But this does not mean it was simply to summon fond memories of a past event. This was an active remembrance that helped each generation identify with the Exodus as if they were there.

So, this feast insured that the message and memory were passed down from one generation to the next. Further, in this yearly celebration, the Israelites renewed their covenant with God. When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He called them, “my first born son” (Exodus 4:22).  This sonship was established by covenant. Through sharing the Word and repeating the Sign of the Passover, the covenant relationship was renewed. Finally, in keeping the yearly feast, they obeyed the command of the Lord that the Passover should be a yearly remembrance. And, as Numbers 9:13 indicates, this is not an optional celebration. Those who fail to share in the Passover, “…will bear the consequences of their sin.”

Let’s take a closer look at each step in the ancient meal of remembrance. Step one included the choosing of a lamb. Exodus 12:1-6 gives us the background. No ordinary lamb would suffice for this all important meal. This lamb had to be a male. It had to be one year old, that is, in its prime. And, the lamb had to be unblemished, or “spotless.”

In step two, according to Exodus 12:6, the lamb was sacrificed at twilight.  Verse 46 of Exodus 12 tells us that the sacrificial lamb could have no broken bones. For each family, the father would preside over the meal. Verse 3 tells us that, “…each man is to take a lamb for his family…” Later, after the Golden Calf incident, the fathers were stripped of their priestly roles within their families. The Levites, who remained faithful, were set apart to lead in the sacrifices (Exodus 32:25-29). The Priests (who were all Levites), and the Levites (who were not all priests), carried out the ceremonial killing of the lambs and the application of the blood to the altar (2 Chronicles 30:15-16).

Step three called for the applying of the blood to the doorposts (Exodus 12:7). After the lamb was sacrificed, the blood would be drained into a basin or a bowl. Verses 21-23 instruct us that the blood would be spread with a hyssop branch. The application of the blood was a visible sign of the sacrifice and it was absolutely vital! The Death Angel would “Passover” only if he saw the blood over the doorpost.

In step four, God required that the flesh of the lamb be eaten, along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Exodus 12:8-11, Numbers 9:11). The lamb was to be eaten the same day it was sacrificed. God instructed them to roast the lamb and to eat all of it. If some was left over, it had to be burned.

Step five of the Passover was the establishment of this day as a yearly remembrance. God commanded that the Israelites do this as a festival unto the Lord. Passover became a yearly “liturgy.” Each spring on the 14th of Nissan the feast was convened.  It was celebrated as a lasting ordinance, meaning that this yearly remembrance did not have a termination date. After God establishes Israel in the Promised Land, Exodus 13:14 instructs the fathers, “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” This meal of remembrance connected each generation with the central saving action of God on behalf of the people. In sharing the Passover Feast, all of the Israelites could “participate” in the sacrifice that initiated the Exodus. And, in a real sense, through the Passover, they could take part in that great pilgrimage to the Promised Land.

As we transition from the Exodus passage to Luke’s account of the Lord’s Supper, we will see how the first Passover lays the foundation for the New Covenant Passover Feast. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, “…Christ, our Passover was sacrificed for us, therefore, let us keep the feast…” As God made provision for the Israelites in the first Exodus, so too, Jesus offers us provisions for the journey of the New Exodus that He leads from Jerusalem to the Heavenly Promised Land.

Read Luke 22:7-15 – The New Passover

On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus spoke to Moses about the “Exodus” He would lead from Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). Now, Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem. Events were about to unfold that would lead to the New Exodus. Jesus, the New Moses, instructs His followers to prepare the Passover. They were to make arrangements in an upper room. When the “hour” came, Jesus said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” On that night, they would share the Passover Feast, but it would be different than any they had ever experienced!

Before we examine the differences, let’s focus on what the Passover would have been like in Jesus’ day. First, recognize that it was 1,500 Years after the original Exodus. Liturgies develop over time. Some elements are retained while others fade away. For instance, applying blood to the doorpost, so central to that first Passover in Egypt, was not done in Jesus’ day. On the other hand, four cups of wine became a central part of the meal as the Passover developed. Rather than families sacrificing their own lambs, they were sacrificed by a priest at the Temple. Also, the feast was celebrated exclusively in Jerusalem. Pilgrims came to Jerusalem to sacrifice their lambs and to celebrate the feast. Josephus, the Hebrew historian claimed that during Passover, some 2.7 million worshipers came to the Holy City, and over 250,000 sacrifices were made. It is also important to realize that Passover was first a sacrifice, and then a meal. After the temple was destroyed in 70 AD by Titus, the sacrifices could no longer be made.

So, on that night, Jesus would have been among the throngs who had gathered in Jerusalem for the feast. But, in the upper room where Jesus met with His disciples, the Passover wouldn’t be subtly developed; it would be radically reinterpreted and transformed! Passover normally focused on the covenant with Abraham, the Exodus from Egypt, the wilderness wandering and entering the Promised Land. That night, Jesus spoke of a New Covenant. Normally the Passover liturgy revolved around the body and blood of the sacrificial Passover lamb. Jesus shifted the focus to His own Body and Blood, as if He was the sacrificial lamb (John 1:29). Normally the lamb’s blood was poured out on the altar.  Jesus says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for…the forgiveness of sins.” This would have reminded any Hebrew of Moses’ words on the mountain when the Sinai Covenant was ratified. Jesus was not only keeping the Passover, He was deliberately altering it thereby instituting a New Passover. This is the New Passover of the Messiah, Who, according to rabbinical tradition, would come on the night of the Passover.

When Jesus took the bread, He said, “This is my Body.” When He took the cup, He said, “This is the New Covenant in my blood.” By placing His own body and blood at the heart of the New Passover, Jesus is stating that He is the new Passover Lamb! Consider these uncanny typological fulfillments. The Passover Lamb had to be a male, in its prime (one year old). Jesus was a 30 year old male – in the prime of his life. The Passover Lamb had to be spotless, or unblemished. Jesus is the only “spotless” or “sinless” man. The Passover Lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus was sacrificed on the cross. The blood of the Passover Lamb had to be applied. Jesus’ blood has to be applied. “…Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”. In the first Passover, they had to eat the lamb. At the Lord’s Table, Jesus offers us a way to “eat” the New Passover Lamb. The first lamb could have no broken bones. When Jesus was on the cross, the soldiers did not have to break His legs because He was already dead. The Passover is a thanksgiving meal. Jesus, “gave thanks,” before sharing the New Passover Feast. Both the original and the New Passover Feasts are covenant establishing meals, and by repeating them, the covenant was/is renewed. Jesus instructed the Apostles to, “Do this in remembrance of me.” In saying this, Jesus instituted the New Passover as a repeated ordinance, just like the first Passover was to be an everlasting ordinance.

Finally, both the Passover and the New Passover are meals of “remembrance.” But, this is far more than just summoning a sad thought about a past event. This is an active remembrance (anamnesis) whereby later generations can experience the power of a past event. In the first Passover, those far removed from the Exodus could say that they came out of Egypt as well. For those on the New Exodus, we can also experience the power of the Passion of Christ even though it was 2000 years ago. Of this, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:16, “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” This “remembrance” far exceeds looking back fondly on a historical occurrence. Here is an example. When the thief was on the cross next to Jesus, he said, Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He was not asking Jesus to think back to their times on the cross together. He wanted to reconnect with Jesus on the other side! This is the “remembrance” of the first Passover and the New Passover – instituted by the Lord Jesus.

As Jesus leads the New Exodus out of bondage to sin, death and hell, He gives us provisions for the journey. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus offered His disciples a New Passover Meal – the Lord’s Supper. This meal has been called a great mystery. But, by considering the first Passover, we are given a great deal of information to help us understand the New Passover Feast. As we approach Jerusalem on the Pathway to the Passion, may we prepare our hearts for the celebration of the New Passover!


If I Be Lifted Up

Snakes are not my favorite creature. How about you? On some level, they just seem evil. This is no coincidence. From the first appearance of a snake in the garden, we read that they are accursed. In Genesis 3:15, God says, “Because you have done this (tempted Adam and Eve to sin), cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.” Whether this applies to Satan or all snakes is, perhaps, a matter for debate. But, after several encounters with snakes, I have my opinion! 

In today’s devotion we read of an unlikely typology. We will discover that snakes in the Exodus were actually a foreshadowing of Jesus in the New Exodus. How can this be? Read on…

Read Numbers 21:4-9

As the Children of Israel continued their pilgrimage through the wilderness, something occurred that is quite familiar and far too predictable! Once again, the Israelites complained about their provisions. They whined that there was no bread, no water, and that they abhorred the manna that God provided for them. Beyond their incessant grumbling, they said something far more insidious. Verse five tells us that they spoke against God and Moses. And what was their accusation? They claimed that God had brought them out into the wilderness to die. What a statement. Clearly, the people assign to God the intent to kill them! Imagine, charging God with attempted murder. This is nothing less than ascribing to God the works of Satan – that murderous and slimy old snake.

How did God respond to this affront? If the people believed God to be Satan, then it stands to reason they preferred to have Satan as their travelling companion through the wilderness. So, God gave them exactly what they wanted. He sent snakes among them. These venomous snakes did what snakes are quite capable of doing. They bit the people and many of the people perished.

After the unleashing of the snakes, the people had a dramatic change of heart. They approached Moses and confessed that they had sinned when they leveled their accusations against Moses and God. The people asked Moses to add them to his prayer list! They wanted Moses to plead their case before God so that God would take away the deadly snakes. God’s Prophet acquiesced to their request and prayed to the Lord on their behalf.

God’s response offers a stunning, almost jarring “type” or foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus. Moses was instructed to fashion a bronze snake and place it on a pole. As an antidote to the snake bites, the people were instructed to look to the snake and be healed. Moses lifted up the snake and the people who were bitten were healed from the bites that would have surely killed them. Could this be God’s way of humbling the people? Since the Garden, snakes had been associated with evil. Now, they were looking to the image of evil for their healing. In order to live, they had to follow God’s prescription, no matter how distasteful they found it! Suddenly, their complaints were replaced by their compliance.

Read John 3:14-15

John 3:14-15 connects the lifting up of the snake to bring physical healing, and the lifting up of Jesus, to bring spiritual healing. John quotes Jesus as saying, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” The analogy is quite compelling, at least concerning the shared outcomes. Looking to the bronze serpent and to Jesus brings healing. But, how can Jesus be compared to a snake? Consider that when Jesus was on the cross, He was, as John the Baptist describes, “…the Lamb of God, who takes upon Himself the sins of the world (John 1:29). Jesus took upon Himself our sins. Paul wrote of this, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). So, it is no stretch to say that when Jesus was lifted up on the cross, He appeared as a snake – because He took the sin of humanity upon Himself. Through this act of self-sacrifice, Jesus offers us hope of healing. When we look to Jesus, we are healed spiritually!

Just as the Children of Israel were humbled by looking to a snake for their healing, so we are humbled and broken by looking at the Son of God who took the form of a snake for us. How horrible that our sins are responsible for this atrocity! And yet, when Jesus was lifted up, when “He became sin for us,” this was done to express God’s love to sin sick humanity. This is the love that ultimately brings our healing. For God so loved the world…

All of us have turned our backs on God and His provisions for us. Therefore, all of us are infected with the venomous sting of sin. Only through the sacrifice of Jesus and His glorious resurrection are we offered forgiveness and restoration. When we are “in Him,” we, “become the righteousness of God.”  That is, we are made “right” with God. As we draw nearer to Jerusalem on the Pathway to the Passion, may we recognize that Jesus is the only antidote for the poison within us. Therefore, we should, “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Do You Believe This?

In preparation – read Ezekiel 37:12-14

Have you ever sent a card or letter to your pastor? Over the years, I have received quite a few notes from church folks. Most of the letters have been encouraging. Every now and then, they are, shall we say, quite memorable. Some of the best ones come from children. Allow me to share some genuine messages from children to their pastors. 

Dear Pastor, I would like to go to heaven one day, because I know my brother Arnold won’t be there. Sincerely, Sally – Age 9 

Dear Pastor, I know the Bible tells us that God loves everybody, but He never met my sister. Yours truly, Arnold – Age 7 

Dear Pastor, Please pray for our little league team. We need God’s help, or a new pitcher. Thank you, Alexander – Age 9 

Dear Pastor, Please say in your sermon that Peter Peterson has been a good boy all week. I am Peter Peterson – Age 8 

Dear Pastor, I liked your sermon on Sunday. Especially when it was finished. Sincerely, Ralph – Age 11

While on His way to Jerusalem, Jesus received a message one day. It was from some of his dearest friends. To find out what it said…

Read John 11:1-3

Jesus had a special relationship with this family. Verse 5 tells us that He loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. The Scriptures record His visiting this family on a number of occasions. Just as we visit grandparents or parents for holidays or birthdays, Jesus would travel to visit this family because they meant so much to him. The Scripture says, “He loved them.” These dear ones were from Bethany, a city almost two miles outside Jerusalem. The name Bethany means one of two things. It may mean “place of affliction.” Or, it may mean “place of grace.” We will see as this narrative unfolds……that both of these names are appropriate.

The first thing I want you to realize, is, The Love of JESUS.

Read John 11:3-6

Have you ever received really bad news? Jesus was sent word from the two sisters that their brother Lazarus, one that Jesus loved, was sick. Imagine that you hear one of your children or grandchildren is sick and needs you. What would you do? Most of us, if we can, will drop everything to go to them.

What does Jesus do when he finds out his dear friend is ill? Jesus loved Lazarus so much that he waits two days to go to him!! This is completely counter intuitive! It would be like calling 911 and the dispatcher says, “We understand you have an emergency. Don’t worry, the ambulance has been dispatched and should arrive sometime early next week.”Jesus’ love for Lazarus is so clearly established and yet, Jesus does not go to him right away. Instead, Jesus lingers two extra days before going to his loved one, Lazarus.

Why did Jesus delay? Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Can it be that Jesus loved Lazarus so much that he wanted Lazarus to be a part of glorifying God in a dramatic, miraculous way? No doubt, Lazarus would barely be a bit actor on the stage of Salvation History without the unmistakable spotlight that was about to shine on him.

Should we view our difficulties, challenges and suffering in a similar way? Do you ever see suffering as an opportunity to glorify God? Might our darkest days be ways for God to receive glory? If so, suffering for the Lord becomes a privilege! You see, even if we die, “for us to live is Christ, to die is gain!”

Noted Christian author, Malcomb Muggeridge wrote, Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness.

 When we suffer, God may well be teaching, forming and shaping us. But, there may be something else going on as well. He may be using our suffering as a sign to others. Lazarus sickness and physical death, as we will see, made an eternal difference in the lives of others! We are still talking about him today!

Some of you are experiencing great suffering in your lives. One dear lady I know has recently been diagnosed with cancer. At the hospital, before a procedure recently, she said, “I just want my journey to be a blessing to others.” That’s exactly right!

Because Jesus loved Lazarus so much, He said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” We have seen the Love of Jesus, now let’s consider the Faith of MARTHA.

Read John 11:17-27 

When Jesus arrives, Lazarus has been dead four days. The Hebrews had a traditional belief that after three days the spirit of the deceased departed. The point of mentioning the four days is simply this: without question, Lazarus was dead! Notice the response of Martha when she sees Jesus. “If you had been here, Lazarus would not have died!” Jesus does not seem to mind this question. We might learn from this that questioning the Lord is okay! But, this must be done in faith, trusting that God’s desired outcome is for the best.

Martha then asks Jesus indirectly to raise Lazarus from the dead. She asks in faith, believing that God will grant any request that Jesus might make. Jesus said, your brother will rise again. Martha says, “I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.” Martha, like the Pharisees, believes in the general resurrection at the culmination of the age. Jesus’ response is one of the most profound statements ever uttered. He said, “I Am (ego eimi) the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus is not talking about the general resurrection at the final judgment. He is talking about a personal resurrection that is offered to His followers.  Those who are united to Him in His death, says Paul in Romans 6, will also be united with Him in His resurrection. If we are buried with Christ, we shall also be raised with Christ to walk in newness of life! Jesus ends His statement to Martha with a question. Do you believe this?  Get this question right, and death is no longer an issue!

There are many in the world who get this wrong. Archaeologists have dug up first century cemeteries in Greece and Rome and have found many tomb stones that bear the Greek or Latin inscription for, “No hope.” Imagine living your entire life with no hope! Imagine going to your death, to that eternal night, with no hope!

Martha’s statement of faith reveals that she gets it right. Do you believe this? “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” That is exactly right! Martha’s confession of faith rivals that of Peter – “You are the Christ,” and Thomas – “My Lord and my God.” 

How we answer Jesus’ question makes all the difference. If we answer “yes” to Jesus, then we can say with Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  

We have seen Jesus Love and Martha’s faith. Let’s move on to the Tears of MARY and JESUS

Read John 11:28-38

Martha was always known as the worker bee. Mary was the more contemplative one. She is the one who will later anoint Jesus with expensive perfume. Jesus was calling for Mary so she quickly went out to Him. When she meets him, her words echo her sister’s. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” How does Jesus respond to Mary who is crying for her brother? He asks where they have laid Lazarus. Then, the shortest verse in the Bible follows, “Jesus wept.”

John’s Gospel, more than the other three, goes to great lengths to demonstrate the divinity of Jesus. The eight “I Am” statements – the seven miraculous signs – all reveal that Jesus is God.  But here, we can see His humanity. Jesus is moved deeply by His friend’s death and by the grieving of his mourning sisters.

But, would you notice something else about Jesus’ emotions. In verse 33 and again in verse 38 we learn that Jesus was “deeply moved” and “greatly troubled”. The Greek here may be translated that He was angry! Why would Jesus be angry? Could it be that he is upset at sin’s effect on mankind! The wages of sin is death – and Lazarus has died. Death and sin are the enemy. So, i may be that Jesus is angered that the enemy has touched one he loves! 

But, quite clearly, Jesus had other plans, for sin and death would not have the final say. The glory would belong to God!

After the tears of Mary and Jesus comes the Raising of LAZARUS

Read John 11:39-44

Again, Martha’s obsession with cleanliness and pragmatism shows up. Jesus says, “Take away the stone,” to which Martha warns, “Lord, by now there is gonna be an odor after all, he’s been in there four days!” Jesus isn’t worried about tidying up and spraying Fabreeze around the tomb. He is consumed with showing forth the Glory of God! Jesus then lifted up his eyes – a common prayer posture, and cried out to the Father to hear his prayer. His desire was that everyone there would believe!

What were they to believe? In our Old Testament reading, Ezekiel 37:13 says, You shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. At the conclusion of His prayer, Jesus cried out, “Lazarus, come forth!” In that instant, Lazarus came out of the grave! His hands and feet were bound – Jesus said unbind him. The Greek word for unbinding is used In Luke 13:16, 1 John 3:8 and Acts 2:24 to mean being loosed from Satan’s power and death. Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead! And, He had given a vivid display of God’s power of sin, death and Satan! Bethany, the place of affliction had indeed become a place of grace!

This is the sixth and final sign before Jesus would experience His own death and resurrection (the seventh sign). By the power of God, Jesus would overcome death and be raised to life. This resurrection power is shared with His followers which we see this quite clearly in the raising of Lazarus!

Let’s conclude with the Response of the PEOPLE

Read John 11:45

Why would Jesus express his love for Lazarus by allowing him to die of his illness? It is simply this: by Lazarus’ death and resurrection, many believed in Jesus. If you are suffering…if you are struggling…would you simply trust God with your situation. Recognize that His plans are not always our plans, nor are they easy to see.

In the mid 1980’s, a young man was playing center field in Jessamine County for his high school team. It was a very pretty day with only a cloud or two in the sky. Out of nowhere, a bolt of lightning struck the young man and killed him instantly. His family, who happened to be strong Christians, trusted God through it all. At the funeral of their son, a large church sanctuary was filled with the young man’s classmates. That day, many of those young people believed in the Lord Jesus and gave their lives to follow Him. “Death was swallowed up in victory!” What does God want to accomplish with your life? Yield to Him and allow your suffering to become your mission.

Jesus is, indeed, the Resurrection and the Life! And this resurrection is offered to us as well. Jesus said, “Lazarus, come forth!” Take out Lazarus and put your name there. _____________, come forth” If you are still “dead in your trespasses and sins,” I pray that you will hear His voice calling for you! As Ezekiel said, “You shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.”

As you journey with Jesus on the Pathway to the Passion, listen for His voice. And when you don’t sense that He is near, remember that He loves you. He might just be waiting a few extra days. There is no telling what He will accomplish in the lives of those He loves!




The Shepherd, The Flock, and the Lamb

Two shepherds were standing in the field leaning on their crooks at the end of a long day. After hours of silence the first asks the second, “So, how’s it going?” The second one sighed and shook his head, “Not good, I can’t pay my bills, my health isn’t good, my kids don’t respect me, and my wife is leaving me.” The first replied, “Well, don’t lose any sheep over it.” I know…that was really bahhhhhhd!

In our devotion for today we will be considering John 10 and the Good Shepherd. In our culture, we don’t run in to too many shepherds. It’s just not really part of our experience. But, in Jesus’ day, sheep and shepherds were quite prevalent. Jesus often taught using every day illustrations. But, as we will see, Jesus is tapping into something far deeper.

This idea of a Good Shepherd meant more than just a benevolent keeper of lovable little lambs. Ezekiel had prophesied about the coming of a Good Shepherd. As Jesus teaches about the Good Shepherd, realize that this is more than a lesson on agrarian life. Jesus is revealing foundational, transformational truths that help define our faith, the nature of the church and her mission, and our ultimate destiny. Jesus is also demonstrating without ambiguity that HE IS GOD!! As we focus on the Good Shepherd and His sheep, let’s open our hearts and minds to what the Spirit wants to teach us. 

Read John 10:14-15, 27-31 – The Good Shepherd

Verse 14 leaves no doubt that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and those who are following Jesus are His flock – that’s us! Notice that the Shepherd and Sheep have a relationship. Jesus said, “I know my own, and my own know me.” Are you aware that Biblical “knowing” suggests intimacy. To know Jesus – to truly know Him is far more than knowing about Him!

In verse 15, Jesus reveals to us the nature of our intimate relationship with Him. He says, I know my sheep, “…just as I know the Father and the Father knows me.” Do you grasp the unbelievable privilege we are given? God the Father and God the Son are inseparably united. Jesus says we are known just like that! John 14:20 helps me understand this. Jesus said, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

This is far more than being a nameless face in the flock. He knows us, intimately. Jesus says in verse 27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” The sheep hear and know the Shepherd. Sheep are not the smartest animals. They have absolutely no defenses. Without the shepherd they would struggle to find food and water. Sometimes they can’t even figure out how to lie down! So, early on, they learn to hear the voice of their Shepherd. The familiar strains of his voice mean safety and sustenance. His commands are welcomed because, as Psalm 23 tells us, the shepherd leads them to green pastures and still waters. Rough waters and sheep don’t go together. Sheep go in the water to drink and if the water is rough, they may fall over. Their already heavy coats quickly become soaked and they are unable to get up. They drown because they don’t realize the danger. Sheep get into trouble when they wander off, or, when they are separated from their Shepherd. Sheep have been known to follow other sheep. One sheep might fall of a cliff, and like lemmings, the others follow right after. Sheep are safe only when they follow their shepherd. It is a matter of life and death to know him and to listen for his voice.

The sheep know the shepherd and the Shepherd knows the sheep. Have you ever had someone come up and enthusiastically greet you and call you by name? The only problem is – you have no idea who they are? They seem to know you – but you don’t know them! That’s really awkward. The sheep know the Good Shepherd, but, He also knows every one of the sheep. He knows their characteristics and quirks, and He knows them by name! The Shepherd is not a rock star with a nameless fan club. He is intimately familiar with every sheep. The sheep know the Shepherd and the Shepherd knows the sheep.

A famous actor was a guest of honor at a large gathering where he received many requests to recite favorite excerpts from various literary works. An elderly pastor who was in the audience asked the actor to recite the 23rd Psalm. The actor agreed – but only on the condition that that pastor would also recite it. The actor went first, and his recitation was everything that you might expect. It was beautifully intoned, with great dramatic emphasis added to the words. When he was done, he received a thunderous round of applause. The elderly pastor went next. Age had taken a toll on his voice, …and his diction was anything but polished. But when he finished there was not a dry eye in the room. When someone asked the actor what made the difference, he replied: “I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd.”

The Shepherd leads them the flock to eternal life.  Verse 28 reveals two vital truths about our faith: the giver and the gift. As sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd, we receive an amazing gift. We don’t earn this gift. In fact, we don’t deserve this gift. If we did earn it, it would cease to be a gift! What is the gift? It is nothing less than eternal life. What a blessing to be in the flock of the Good Shepherd. In this earthly life He leads us beside the still waters. He makes us lie down in green pastures. We have abundant life in the here and now. But, he also restores our soul!

Jesus said in John 10:15, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” By His atoning death, our sins are forgiven. By His resurrection to life, we too are raised to new life. This means Jesus will not only lead us to green meadows, He will lead us to the pastures of paradise. Jesus said, “I give unto them eternal life.” He adds that we are held in the hands of God, and no one can remove us!! That is blessed assurance!

We have already seen that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Now, let’s see a clear presentation that the Good Shepherd is God. In John 10:30 Jesus says, …I and the Father are one.” Those who wish to dismiss the Trinity and Jesus’ divinity try to reinterpret this very clear verse. They say, Jesus is one in purpose with the Father, or, Jesus is one in agreement with the Father. Let’s not miss the simple, literal truth here. Jesus is saying that He is God. This is revealed by the reaction of the people. The Jewish people are furious with Jesus and pick up stones to kill him. Those who wanted to stone Jesus knew what He meant. They accused Jesus of blasphemy. Why would they do that? Because Jesus was claiming to be God! But, we have further compelling evidence of Jesus’ divinity. Read on…

Read Ezekiel 34:11-15 – The Bad Shepherds

In this passage, the Ezekiel prophesies that the Good Shepherd would come. God, through the prophet, rebukes the bad shepherds who happen to be the religious leaders. Those who should have cared for the flock have actually abused them. Rather than feed them, these men have fed on the sheep! A day was coming when those bad shepherds would be cast down. They would be replaced by the Good shepherd. And who would that shepherd be? God says that He, Himself will be the Shepherd of the sheep. He says, “I, myself will make them lie down”! Jesus, said, “I am the Good Shepherd.” As the Good Shepherd, He is the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy, and without hesitation we can affirm that, Jesus is God!!

Now, let’s turn our attention to The Flock. In John 10:16, Jesus says, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Ezekiel prophesied that the flock would be restored. Now, Jesus tells us that the original flock will gain other sheep. There will ultimately be one flock and one shepherd. This flock is found in two places. Part of the flock is on earth and part of the flock is already in heaven.

Let’s look first at the Earthly Flock. Let’s see how the original flock is expanded with sheep not of this fold. In Acts 13:43 and following we read…

 “And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God. The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you.”

To the Jew first. Paul and Barnabus are in Antioch in Pisidia (Asia Minor). They have gone to the Jewish Synagogue to preach. The Gospel is for the Jew first. This was their pattern to preach to the Jewish people first. But, what happens when they share the Gospel. Many became followers. But verse 45 tells us that many others were filled with jealousy and contradicted Paul, rebuking him. Paul said their reaction was necessary because God’s plan was for the message to be taken to the Jew first and then to the Gentiles.

Acts 13:46 and following says, “And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.”

From the time of Abraham, this was the plan. Abraham’s offspring would be blessed and then be a blessing to the entire world. The Gospel came to the Jews first. They are the first flock, then to the Gentile. The Gentiles are the sheep from the other fold. But, Jesus said, they would become one flock and have one shepherd – Jesus, the Good Shepherd! We are part of that flock here on earth. But, part of the one flock is not here. They have gone ahead to be part of…

The Heavenly Flock. In Revelation 7:10 we see the result of the Gospel message being shared with Jew and Gentile. In John’s great vision of heaven, listen to what he sees!

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Here we see the flock in heaven. It was a great multitude that no one could number! This is Abraham’s promise fulfilled. God promised Abraham that, “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. …and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” Now, the one flock that Jesus described exists on earth and in heaven. At this very moment the saints of old, and our loved ones who died “in the Lord,” are standing with that great multitude around the throne. My mother and grandparents, and many other loved ones are there!! Imagine what they see. In the middle of the great throng, they see…

The Lamb who is a Shepherd. Revelation 7:13 says, “Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

They are washed in the blood of the Lamb. Notice that we will not be there in filthy robes. But, they will be washed in the blood of the Lamb. Our righteousness is as filthy rags, but, clothed in His righteousness, and washed by His blood, we can boldly come before God’s throne!

And notice one last – astounding truth: The Lamb is our Shepherd.  Revelation 7:15 states, “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

The Lamb is our shepherd. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, God Himself, wants to know you, to guide and guard you, to bring you to eternal life. As we walk this Pathway to the Passion, realize that the Shepherd is leading us. He is leading us to green pastures where we will feed in peace. The upper room is just ahead where Jesus will share a sacred meal and give us His peace. The Shepherd will lead us beside the still waters. Soon, water and blood will flow from His side. The Shepherd will lead us with his wooden staff. Just over the hill, we see the wooden altar where the Lamb will be slain – the Lamb who is our Shepherd.


To Serve and Protect

Today we look back to the Garden, and we fast forward from creation to the cross. As we look back to Genesis 3, we see the first glimpse of the cross. And, as we approach Jerusalem on this Pathway to the Passion, on the horizon is the shadowy figure of the cross. What Jesus does on that instrument of Roman torture is to fulfill God’s prophecy in verse 15 of Genesis 3. In both of these scenes, a man is found who represents all of mankind. In creation, Adam goes to a tree and fails. At Calvary, Jesus goes to a tree and fulfills perfectly what God had sent Him to do. What did these men accomplish and what difference does it make in our lives? Read on…

Read Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-15 – A Bride Dies

            A man and his wife stood near a tree. Suddenly a serpent appeared to them. He tempted them to break the one commandment God had given them. The woman first, and then the man fell prey to Satan’s evil enticement. Adam committed a sin of commission by eating from the tree he was commanded not to eat. But, he also committed a sin of omission by not doing what God had required of him. He was instructed to work and protect the garden (Genesis 2:15). Adam stood at the tree and watched Eve fall into sin and death. He failed to protect his bride from the serpent. What a horrific moment in time! Not only did Adam and Eve die spiritually, but all of humanity died spiritually as well. Paul wrote, “For as in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22). The man at the tree failed to save his bride!

From the very beginning, a showdown was prophesied and inevitable. After Adam and Eve succumbed to the snake’s seduction, ignoring God’s one prohibition, God spoke to the “woman” and the “serpent.” Genesis 3:15 records these prophetic Words of the Lord as He offers the first reference to the Gospel in the Scriptures. God says to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” This primal picture of the Gospel offers faint glimpses of the ultimate face-off of good and evil. In that garden scene, God speaks prophetically of hostility that will exist between the seed of the woman and Satan. Her seed will somehow crush Satan’s head. This would be nothing less than a death blow. While Satan will strike at the seed of the woman, but only manage to wound his heal.  One day, this showdown between right and wrong, good and evil, holiness and wickedness, and heaven and hell would come to pass.

Read John 12:3-33, 19:17-18, 26-27 – A Bride is Saved

John 19 records the fulfillment of the prophecy offered in Genesis 3:15. We are told that Jesus, accompanied by the soldiers, carried His cross to Golgotha, the place of the skull. It was there that they nailed him to that old rugged cross. Jesus, the second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45) was there at the tree. And what was the “God-man” accomplishing there? He was stepping in to protect and save His bride!

Notice that the same “characters” who stood at the tree in Genesis 3:15 are present at Calvary’s tree: the woman, her seed and the serpent.  As Jesus looked down from the cross, He said, Woman, behold your son.” In that “hour”, though Jesus’ heal was bruised, and though His death made it appear as if Satan had won, it was actually Jesus who was winning a decisive victory. For, even though He died on that cross, three days later, Jesus would be gloriously raised from the dead! Satan, that serpent of old and arch enemy of God, was dealt a death blow from which he would never recover. What God predicted from the beginning had come to pass, just as He said.

The irony of this scene is hard to miss. Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up.” As Jesus was raised up on the tree, the One who knew no sin, became sin for us! Jesus really did resemble the bronze snake. In the very moment that Jesus defeated Satan, the wily old serpent must have looked at Jesus and thought, I have made Him into what I am! I have finally become greater than God and defeated the divine! What Satan failed to realize was that Jesus was destroying death by dying. He was conquering sin, by taking all of man’s sin upon Himself. And, He was crushing Satan’s head by wearing a crown of thorns on His own.

Though Adam stood at the tree and failed to save his bride…though Adam brought the curse of sin upon the entire human race…though Adam’s sin meant death for us all, because the wages of sin is death…it was the second Adam, Jesus Himself, who went to the tree and saved His bride, who reversed the curse of sin, and brought life to those who deserve death. What an epic moment in time! 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “As in Adam all die, but in Christ shall all be made alive.”

As we move ever nearer to the cross on the Pathway to the Passion, may the words of Genesis 3:15 echo in our ears. What Adam failed to do, Jesus did perfectly. Jesus said, “…when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” By going to the cross, Jesus opens the life gate that all may go in! And we who are drawn to Him are the bride He died to save.

No Turning Back!

In our readings for today, we see a pattern arise. God is faithful and we are unfaithful. Over and over throughout the Scriptures we see it. In Moses’ day, the people would not turn loose of the gods of Egypt. In Jesus’ day, the people wanted to hang on to the Old Covenant and dismiss the New. In our day, have things changed much? What should we do? Read on…

Read Exodus 32:7-14 – Turn Your Head and…Calf!

All Moses did was turn his head away and…voila…the people had fashioned a golden calf to worship! How did it comes to this?

After God had delivered Israel from Egypt, the people proceeded to Mount Sinai. They had witnessed God’s mighty hand move decisively as He had delivered them from Pharaoh. After ten plagues, culminating in the devastation to Egypt and her first born by the death angel, the pillar of fire, the parting of the Red Sea, manna and water from the rock, now they have arrived at Sinai. Through Moses, God has instituted a covenant relationship with the Children of Israel. Moses was called by God to come back up the mountain to receive further instructions.

While he is gone, Israel proves to be utterly unfaithful. Doubting that Moses will ever return from the mountain, they fashion a golden calf believing it will lead them on the remainder of their journey. Israel fell down before the god of Egypt and worshiped it.

Meanwhile up on he mountain and in great anger, God recounts Israel’s actions to Moses. It’s interesting that God blames Moses for bringing them out of Egypt! He says, “The people you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.” God shares the details of the evil debauchery that is transpiring below. He details how Israel made the idol, sacrificed to it, and claimed that the idol had brought them out of Egypt. Clearly, they had left Egypt, but Egypt had not left them! God was furious and wanted to destroy these unfaithful reprobates! He would make a great nation out of Moses!

Moses appeals to God to spare his people. After all, what would the Egyptians think if God brings the people out of Egypt only to kill them in the desert. Then, Moses appeals to God’s covenant promises given to the Patriarchs so many centuries earlier. God relented from destroying Israel. Moses proved to be an effective mediator for his people. In verses 30-32, Moses offers himself to God as an atoning sacrifice for his people. One day, a deliverer would offer Himself as a sacrifice for the sake of His covenant family. But, God did not take Moses up on his offer.

The tragedy of this story is that they had seen the signs – the miracles – the demonstrations of God’s power. Yet, despite the new direction God had called them to take, the people denied God and wanted to rely on the ways of the past. Surely a great lesson would be learned from this. Read on…

Read Psalm 106:19-23 – It Was a Horeb Bull Decision

Our Psalm reading is a recounting of the story above, and the sinfulness of Israel.

Read John 5:31-47 – I’ll Be a Witness for My Lord!

Again, as Mark Twain was purported to have said, “History may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme!” What happened to Moses is happening to Jesus. The Children of Israel had seen so many expressions of God’s power. Yet, they turned back to their old ways of worship and reject Moses and God. Now, the Jews of Jesus day believe Moses, but reject Jesus. 2 Corinthians 13:1 states, “Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”  Jesus begins to call witnesses to support Him.

John the Baptist had testified about Jesus. Jesus has a greater testimony than John! Yet, the people celebrated John and reject Jesus. Jesus goes on to say that His works give testimony to His identity. Yet, the people reject Jesus. Not only does John testify and Jesus works testify, but the Father testifies that Jesus is the Promised One – the Messiah – the Deliverer. But, once again, the people reject Jesus because they do not listen to the voice of God. Jesus goes so far as to say that they have searched the Scriptures thinking that they will save them – but they have done so in vain. Why? Because they have not read the Scriptures looking for Jesus, for the Scriptures testify about Jesus. Frankly, they don’t see Jesus in the Scriptures because they don’t want Jesus and the eternal life that He is offering.

Jesus takes the Jewish people to task, claiming that they are more interested in pleasing each other than pleasing God. They will accept one another but they won’t accept the one God has sent to them. In the final analysis, it won’t be Jesus who judges them, it will be Moses. Despite their stated allegiance to Moses and rejection of Jesus, it was Moses that also gave testimony to Jesus!

Who can read the Exodus account and not see Jesus? The Passover Lamb is an excellent example. A perfect male lamb had to be chosen. It had to dwell with the family. Then it had to be sacrificed, the blood applied, and it had to be eaten. Jesus was the only sinless human. Jesus, the Word made flesh, came to dwell among us. He was sacrificed, His blood applied, and we are told by Paul, that, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast.” Or, what about the passing through the red sea? Who could miss the imagery of baptism? What a vivid demonstration of death to the old life in Egypt and coming through the waters to live a new life? Or, what about the manna in the wilderness – miraculous bread from heaven? Jesus said, “I am the true bread come down from heaven. I am the Bread of Life.”  Or, what about Deuteronomy 18:15 and 18 when Moses and God predict God will raise up a prophet like Moses. Moses says that when this new and greater prophet comes the people should, “listen to him.”  In the Transfiguration, Jesus talks to Moses about the “Exodus” He will lead from Jerusalem. And, the voice of God is heard saying, “This is my beloved son, listen to Him!” God has provided the deliverance and the deliverer, yet the people look back to the old comfortable ways of worship and reject the One who is worthy of worship.

As we travel the Pathway to the Passion, may we avoid the temptation to be satisfied with the ways of our old nature when Jesus calls us to the New and everlasting way. In Moses’ day, Israel wanted to return to Egypt. In Jesus’ day, the Jews wanted to cling to the Old Covenant. What is it that entices us to return to the old ways? Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). God has provided the deliverance and the deliverer. May we accept Him. May we embrace Him. May we worship Him. May we follow Him wherever He leads! As the old hymn says, “No turning back.”





How Should We Pray?

A young boy called the pastor of a church near his house. He asked the pastor to come by and pray for his mother. She had been very ill with the flu. The pastor knew the family and he was aware they had been attending another church. So the pastor asked, “Shouldn’t you be asking your new pastor, Brother Simon to come by and pray for your mom?”  The young boy replied, “Yeah, we thought of that, but we didn’t want to take the chance that he might catch whatever Mom has.”

Have you ever pondered, “What is the purpose of prayer?” As I have observed Christians through the years, it is apparent that the perceived purpose for prayer differs from person to person. For some, prayer is like a 9-1-1 call. If circumstances deteriorate into a crisis, well, then it’s time to pray. For others, prayer is like visiting Santa at the mall. God exists to give us what we want, and we are not too proud to ask. In fact, I had a training union leader who said, “Don’t just tell God what you want, tell him what color!”  Still others view prayer as a time to inform God. One man was praying and said, “Dear Lord, if you haven’t already, you need to read the front page article in the New York Times.”

9-1-1…Santa…Breaking the news to God…Is this why we pray? Just how should we pray? In our devotion today we will discover the priority and pattern of prayer. Read on…

Read Jeremiah 33:3, Colossians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – The Right Priority

From the beginning to the ending of the Scriptures we find prayer. According to the article, “All the Prayers in the Bible,” 61 of the 66 books either contain prayers or teach prayer. The Bible contains almost 1,100 references to prayer. Considering that we are restored to God in a covenant relationship, it stands to reason that the Lord would desire to commune with us. We are His children and He is our Heavenly Father.

In Jeremiah 33:3, God invites Jeremiah to call unto Him. Not only are God’s children invited to call unto Him, Colossians 4:2 teaches us to devote ourselves to prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 reveals that prayer should be a priority. We are to pray without ceasing. This continual state of prayer means an ongoing dialogue with the Lord, recognizing that He is “with us always,” and the we are “temples of the Holy Spirit.”

With such a preponderance of prayer in the Scriptures, and with God’s invitation to make prayer a priority, just how is it that we should pray? Read on…

Read Luke 11:1-4, Matthew 6:5-13 – The Right Person and Pattern

If we want to know how to pray, we must be taught by the One who prays perfectly. We must learn from the Right Person.

When I was a student at Georgetown College, the President hosted an alumni dinner. I was asked to represent my class at this elegant event. When I sat down at the table, what lay before me was the most confusing array of forks, spoons, knives, multiple cups, plates and saucers. Everything appeared to have a purpose and be in its place. It was really quite impressive. As I pondered the place setting, it occurred to me – I had no idea what to do!! My confusion must have been apparent because a dear elderly lady across from me whispered, “Just watch what I do. You’ll be fine.” I didn’t know where to start until I looked to one who knew.

After Jesus prayed, the disciples were gathered around. One of them said to him, teach us how to pray. They had come to the right person. They were looking to the one who knew precisely what to do! Jesus was a man of prayer. He did absolutely nothing without consulting with His Father!

Before He chose the disciples he spent the night in prayer. Many times he withdrew from everyone to pray. Think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane pouring out His heart, or just before His arrest and crucifixion. As Jesus prayed, the disciples watched what He did! And they made a request of Him: “Lord, teach us how to pray.” They had come to the right person.

Before we move on, let me offer a warning. There are many people today, even Christians, …who are adapting prayer techniques from other religions. This is not only dangerous – I believe it is idolatrous. When Kendall, my middle son, was in the 1st grade, I made a visit to his school. That day the children gathered on mats in a corner of the room. I asked the aid what was going on. She said the children were participating in yoga. She described it as “centering.”  The aid assured me it was not religious. She said it was just a harmless way for the children to relax and focus.

Contrary to her description, this adaptation of Eastern Religions and New Age Spirituality teaches that divinity is naturally within all of creation. So, prayer becomes an inward searching for harmony and oneness with the universe. This stands in contrast and is incompatible with Christian spirituality and prayer. Our spirituality is not born from within. It is offered to us by God’s grace through faith. It is formed as we are crucified with Christ, when we no longer live, but Christ lives within us! We don’t search inside ourselves for some cosmic connection. We are united to Christ by new birth. We don’t connect to God by meditating really intensely. Rather, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds! We don’t look within. we fix our eyes on Jesus. He is the author and finisher of our faith! He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father, but by Him!!!  If we truly want to know how to pray, don’t look within – look to Jesus. He is the right person to teach us!!

So, they ask Jesus how to pray. Jesus shares with them the Right Pattern.  You may have noticed that Luke’s account of the Lord’s Prayer is sort of the “Reader’s Digest abridged” or shorter version. Matthew records the longer version. The differences are not contradictory. They reveal that two men were inspired to write different accounts. Of the Lord’s Prayer, theologian J. I. Packer said, “This prayer is a pattern for all Christian praying. Jesus is teaching that prayer will be acceptable when, and only when, the attitudes, thoughts, and desires expressed fit the pattern…

Let’s consider this pattern by focusing briefly on each part. Jesus begins by identifying the one to whom we pray. He said, “Our Father.” Many early manuscripts, and Matthew add, “who art in heaven.” These two statements communicate volumes. God is our “Father.” This speaks to God’s nearness to us – His immanence. We have a relationship with God as His children! In Jesus, this family bond is restored. Adam Hamilton tells the story of visiting a family in his church. The family included a single mom with two children. One was a 5 year old girl. The father had deserted them and moved to Texas to avoid paying child support. When Adam walked in, this little girl wrapped her arms around his leg and then said, “I got a birthday card from my daddy, do you want to see it?”  Adam said, “Absolutely.” She went to her bedroom and brought out a card which was torn and tattered. When he looked at it, he saw it was 2 years old. But she still carried that card with her wherever she went. She didn’t remember what her daddy looked like but she had a longing to be in relationship with her father. Pastor Tim Smith, who tells Adam’s story, points out, regardless of our relationship to our earthly fathers, or the lack of a relationship, deep within us is a longing to be in relationship to God the Father.

By uniting with God’s Son, we have become sons in the Son! God is indeed our father, but we must also recognize that God is in heaven. This speaks of His transcendent holiness. We must understand the balance of the two ideas. Yes, we are children of God, even allowed to call Him Abba – daddy or papa. But, God is still the all-powerful creator of the universe. Even though we have been invited to crawl up onto his lap, he still deserves our deepest reverence and worship. “Our Father, who art in Heaven hallowed be your name.”

I have a strong aversion to anyone calling God, “The man upstairs,” or, referring to the Lord as my good buddy. God’s name is not “the man” or “good buddy.” His name is to be holy above every other name! And so, Jesus teaches us to pray, “Lord help me put your first!” Heavenly Father – I set you apart over my entire being. Without this priority – our lives are completely out of order.

Jesus then teaches us to pray, “Thy kingdom come…” Isn’t this what Jesus came to preach? This was His ministry. He proclaimed – The Kingdom is at hand – the Kingdom is near – the Kingdom is in your midst. Indeed the king had come – but few recognized His reign. As we pray, “Thy kingdom come…” We are praying for God’s purposes in Christ to take hold. For the Lord to reign in our hearts and in the hearts of an ever expanding kingdom! One day, God’s Kingdom will come in final consummation. On that day the tyrannical earthly regimes and corrupt kingdoms will fall and God’s Kingdom will be established forever! But, until that day, we pray that His kingdom will be known in the here and now as we carry on the ministry of Jesus. He is enthroned on our praise and in our lives. Where the King is, there is the Kingdom!!

Next, Jesus teaches them to say, “Give us each day our daily bread.”  This phrase is a fascinating one! For any Hebrew, “daily bread” would have carried extra meaning. They would think about “manna,” which was miraculous bread given to them daily. So, this could mean to pray for our ordinary everyday provisions. But, manna was no ordinary bread – it was bread from heaven. In John 6:31-35, there is an interesting parallel. Jesus is approached by thousands whom he has just fed with five loaves and two fish with 12 baskets left over.

The people say to Jesus, Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;”

Is it possible that praying for our “daily bread” means praying for more of Jesus in our lives? Lord, every day, we want to feast on your Word!! When tempted to turn stones into bread, Jesus said to Satan, quoting the words of Moses, “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God!”  So, Jesus teaches us to pray for more than our daily portion of bread. We are to pray daily for the Bread of Life!! Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more…

Jesus then teaches them to pray, “forgive us our sins as we forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Uh oh…this one starts to get really personal. I read a story about a little boy was sitting on a park bench in obvious pain and he was filled with anger.  A man walking by asked him what was wrong. The young boy said, “I’m sitting on a bumble bee.” The man urgently asked, “Then why don’t you get up?” The boy replied, “Because I figure I’m hurting him more than he is hurting me!”

How many of us handle forgiveness like this little boy? We endure pain for the sadistic satisfaction of believing we are hurting our offender more than he is hurting us. When we get off the bench of un-forgiveness, both of us can begin to realize relief from our pain. Jesus teaches us to pray for God to forgive us just as we forgive others. For some of us, this brings great comfort – we forgive easily. For others of us, who hold grudges. This should be horrifying! Jesus said in Mark 11:25, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Who do you need to forgive?

Finally, we are to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” It was Satan who tempted Jesus. It is Satan who tempts us. The story is told of four high school boys who couldn’t resist the temptation to skip morning classes. Each had been smitten with a bad case of spring fever. After lunch they showed up at school and reported to the teacher that their car had a flat tire. Much to their relief, she smiled and said, “Well, you missed a quiz this morning, so take your seats and get out a pencil and paper.” Still smiling, she waited as they settled down and got ready for her questions. Then she said, “First question—which tire was flat?” Lord, please lead us not into temptation. We are to ask God to keep us from wandering into the mine field of Satan’s malicious intent. Sometimes the temptation is of our own choosing!

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray No doubt they saw a connection between his public power and His private prayer. Jesus offered them this beautiful prayer. Elmer Towns said of it, “The Lord’s Prayer includes everything you need to ask when you talk to God. It is a model prayer that teaches us how to pray.”  N. T. Wright made this observation, “For the Lord’s Prayer is not so much a command as an invitation: an invitation to share in the prayer-life of Jesus himself.”

During these days of Journeying to Jerusalem, we are following the footsteps of Jesus. As we move ever closer to the cross, may we also be brought to our knees. By following Jesus on the Pathway to the Passion, may we rediscover the priority and pattern of prayer.


Two 38s

Israel languished in the wilderness for 38 years as the last of the unfaithful generation died off. Crippled as they were, after almost four decades, they were finally rid of their malady. God’s chosen people got up and followed Joshua into the land of their inheritance – the Promised Land. This narrative of Israel’s unfaithfulness, invalid status in the desert and eventual rising up to enter the Holy Land, has an important part to play in our understanding of John 5. Read on…

Read Deuteronomy 1:19-46 2:14-15 – A 38 Year Sentence

While we don’t know for certain which feast is referred to in John 5, most scholars believe it is the Feast of Pentecost.

A Look at Pentecost

Acts 2 records the first Christian Pentecost which signifies the birth of the Church. The Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and the 120 in the Upper Room. However, the Pentecost of the Jews was a feast celebrating the grain harvest in the spring. Pentecost also celebrated the giving of the Law to Moses and Israel on Mount Sinai. There are multiple levels of significance.

Pentecost occurred 50 days after Passover, which was a feast of unleavened bread lasting for seven days? In 50 days there are seven weeks. Seven weeks is one seventh of the year. Seven was an extremely important number for the Jews. It was the number of covenant completion and perfection. Pentecost, the 50th day, after 7 weeks and the 7 days of Passover sounds a lot like a miniature Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-22)! It was decreed that every seven years a Sabbath Year was to be celebrated. The land was to lay fallow, and debts were forgiven. But, every seven times seven years, on the fiftieth year, the debts were to be forgiven, the land was to lie fallow, and the Law of this Jubilee decreed that one went back to where his family had been given land, their ancestral inheritance when Israel first entered the Promised land.

In this scene with the blind man, we will see that the concept of restoration (a Sabbath and Jubilee concept) is front and center as we see healing on the Sabbath. Pentecost is the Sabbath of the Sabbath!

John 5:1-2Passing the Pool

As Jesus enters the Holy City for the Feast of Pentecost, he walked by the pool of Bethesda. Bethesda means – “the house of flowing.” Archeologists have found this pool and its five porticos. Some theologians point to the five colonnades as symbolic of the Pentateuch – the five books of the Law. If this is true, this would suggest another connection to the feast of Pentecost when the Law, given to Moses, was celebrated.  

John 5:3-6  – Paralyzed at the Pool

What’s strange about the length of the paralytic man’s condition? Why not say he was there for “decades” or “most of his life”, or perhaps the years could be rounded up to 40. Why does John tell us he was there for precisely “38 years”? Numbers are very important in John’s gospel. There is, no doubt, a reason for the inclusion of this detail.

 In the book “The Genius of John” Peter Ellis writes, “The number thirty eight may be an allusion to the 40 years that the Jews spent in the desert according to Deuteronomy 2:14-15, and thus may symbolize Judaism’s incapacity to do anything without (the Lord).” But, wait a minute. We must admit, 38 is not quite 40, right? Look at verse 14…

Deuteronomy 2:14 Thirty-eight years passed from the time we left Kadesh Barnea until we crossed the Zered Valley. By then, that entire generation of fighting men had perished from the camp, as the LORD had sworn to them.

The incident at Kadesh Barnea is our Old Testament reading for today found in Deuteronomy 1:19-46. God saw the sinfulness of Israel. His judgment fell on them. They fashioned a golden calf, one of the gods of Egypt and worshiped it. They would wander in the wilderness because they had rebelled against God while Moses was on Mount Sinai.

After Moses had renewed the covenant with the Lord, he sent twelve spies into the Promised Land according to the Lord’s command. When the twelve spies returned, ten of them cried out in fear, “This is a trap, the Lord led us out of Egypt to get us slaughtered in Canaan.”  But Joshua and Caleb, had faith. They declared, “The Lord will deliver our enemies into our hands.” Israel opted to follow the ten cowardly spies. Their decision revealed their hearts. They believed God had evil intentions toward them and actually wanted to murder them.

So, once again, God declares His judgement on the Children of Israel. Those who have stood opposed to Him and failed to trust Him shall never enter His Promised Land. Thirty-eight years passed before the covenant cripples perished, and a new generation emerged. Led by Joshua, they entered the Promised Land (the Greek for Joshua is Jesus). It took 38 years for the Israelites to be raised up again to be properly disposed toward God and to be renewed to spiritual health so that they could finally receive the land God intended for them.

Is it possible that the reason John mentions that the crippled man has been there for 38 years is a connection to Israel? Is it possible that Israel pre-figures the paralytic man? Much like the crippled man had waited 38 years to enter his healing, the Israelites were crippled in the desert waiting to enter their Promised Land?

John 5:6-7 – Do You Want to be Healed?

Jesus’ question to the man who has been crippled for 38 years seems rather strange! “Do you want to be healed?”  Really! He has been trying for decades, but he can never quite get to the pool. This may seem odd, but there are times when we get used to and almost enjoy the pity party we throw for ourselves. It may also be true that we want what we know. This man had known his disability for so long that it may have become almost intimidating to think what might happen if he were he first to the water. Besides, he had no one to move him to the pool. Jesus says, “Do you want to be healed? ” This is a good question for us as well. Far too often we become accustomed to our ways. We become fond of our pet sins and our selfish proclivities. If Jesus is truly going to heal us, we must willfully repent and turn to him. That old sinful and unfaithful man within us must die off. Then, we must turn away from the old way and be raised up with Jesus to walk in a new life and a new man! This was true of the paralyzed man. It was also true of Israel.

If the paralyzed man symbolizes Israel, then this takes on a much deeper meaning and significance. It is as if Jesus is really standing before the paralyzed nation of Israel saying to them, “Your long wait for the real Messiah, the real Joshua, the one who is to deliver you into the real Promised Land is here…do you want to be healed spiritually?”

John 5:8-18 – Jubilee! Healed on the Sabbath!!

What an epic scene was playing out at he pool. Jesus tells the man to pick up his mat and walk. This is high drama! Surely everyone will be ecstatic that this one who has waited so long has been healed. But, the Jewish leaders didn’t see it that way. They were not concerned about the cure – they were consumed with criticism and legalism. The healed man had the audacity to carry his mat on the Sabbath. This was, according to the leaders, a violation of the law. Rightfully, the man says that the One who healed him instructed him to pick up his mat. Those religious elitists demanded to know who had given him this instruction. Presumably, they already knew and were simply trying to accuse Jesus, the trouble maker, of law breaking. Jesus, meanwhile, had slipped into the crowd.

Was Jesus violating the Sabbath and causing the healed man to do the same? Not in the least. Instead, Jesus is defining the Sabbath. Because of the fall of man, we lost our familial relationship with God. Only in Christ are we made sons in the son. This is not our work, it is the atoning, healing work of Christ. Therefore, we rest on the Sabbath to worship, remember, and to find repose in the Saving work of Christ. On the Sabbath, we cease from our labors precisely to show our dependence on God. We are reminded to cease from sinning, precisely because we have been healed by God. The Sabbath is a day of “Jubilee,” if you will. We rest, not from our healing, but because of it – to celebrate it and renew it!

Later, Jesus found the man he had healed and instructed him to stop sinning or something worse than physical disability would befall him. Far worse than being crippled was being condemned in your sin. This was true for him and for the Jewish people. It would be some 38 years later, in 70 A.D. that Jerusalem would come under God’s judgment. The Romans would lay siege to the Holy City and utterly destroy it and its temple. They did not stop sinning, and the result was tragic.

The man went to tell the leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him. From that point on, the religious leaders were bent on destroying Jesus. In the end, they would destroy themselves!

As we journey to Jerusalem on the Pathway to the Passion, may we reflect on our own healing. In futility does mankind attempt to heal himself. Only when Jesus passes by and we respond to his invitation will we find true healing. His healing calls us to holy living and away from sin. His calling will also lead us to be ridiculed by those who are Jesus’ enemies. May we stay on this straight and narrow path – a path that leads to the true instrument of healing – the cross.

























I Once Was Blind (2)

Read John 9:1-8 – I Once Was Blind (Review)

As a quick review of our reading from yesterday, we read that Jesus meets a man born blind. The disciples ask Jesus why he is blind. Is it because of his own sin or the sin of his parents? Jesus says, “neither.” His blindness would be utilized by God for a higher purpose. In this man’s life, the works of God would be on display. It is important that we do the work of God, Jesus says, because the night is coming when we can no longer work.

Jesus then unleashes a barrage of “Genesis 1 and 2/Creation” themes that lay a foundation for what he is doing. For instance, Jesus says, I Am the light of the world.” I Am, is the name of God (Exodus 3:14). Jesus is claiming to be God! Then, by saying He is the light of the world, Jesus reminds us that after the heavens and earth were created, God filled the void and the darkness with light by the power of His Word! Then, Jesus spit on the ground and made clay from the dust. He anointed the blind man’s eyes with the dust. This reminds us of God forming man from the dust of the earth. After applying the mud, Jesus tells him to wash in the pool of Siloam. This pool was filled with water from the spring of Gihon. Gihon is another “creation” connection. The spring in Jerusalem was named after one of the rivers that flowed out of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:13). When the man came up from the water, he could see!

What had just happened. With all of these connections to creation – Jesus has offered this man recreation. But, the deeper message applies to all mankind. For, this man represents all of us. We are all born blind spiritually. We all need recreation! What Jesus offered the man born blind, he also offers to us.

With the healing of the blind man, the people and the religious leaders were delighted by this development, right? In reality, they went into panic mode. This did not fit their narrative! They wanted to get rid of Jesus not celebrate Him. This would require a rapid response. Their first approach was to utilize incorrect identification.

Read John 9:8-12 – Incorrect Identification

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”     

Some of those from his community denied that this was the man was the one born blind. Some thought it was him. But, the idea was introduced that he just looks like the man born blind. The healed man kept saying, “I am the man!” His repetition reveals that the people were reluctant to recognize him. Strategy number one was to deny that the man who was healed was the man born blind and thereby discredit the miracle.  

John 9:13-17 – Sinning on the Sabbath

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

Strategy two of the rapid response was to take the focus of off the miracle and to draw attention to Jesus. All they had to do was accuse him of being a lawbreaker. After all, Jesus had healed on the Sabbath! Clearly,  Jesus was  sinning on the Sabbath. By undermining Jesus’ credibility, they wouldn’t have to deal with the miracle.  

The healed man was brought to the Pharisees. Did they rejoice in this miraculous display of God’s power?  To the contrary. They executed their plan and claimed that Jesus was a law breaker and not from God. The implication is that Jesus is from Satan! Others realized that this healing is a sign though they are unsure of its origin.

What are they demonstrating? We see their disbelief displayed.

John 9:18-23 – Disbelief Displayed

            The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

The Jews, meaning the religious leaders and people, did not believe – even after interviewing him twice. So, they went to his parents. Look at the response of the parents. They are not celebrating Jesus either. Their blind son – blind from his birth – was healed. Do they thank Jesus and lift Him up? No, they respond carefully for fear of being thrown out of the synagogue. They deny knowing anything about Jesus. They said, they didn’t know who did this or how. Why? They were afraid of what others would think! And they certainly didn’t want to lose their place at the synagogue.

The responses of the people are instructive. From denying that the miracle occurred by claiming that the seeing man was not the blind man, to discrediting Jesus and calling Him a sinner, to the parents claiming not to know Jesus for fear of what others would think – what we see is a group of folks “walking in darkness.” John 1:4-5 tells us, “In [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not comprehended it.” Compare their response to that of the man born blind.

 Read John 9:24-34 – Belief is Born

            So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

In the healed man we see that belief is born. Again the man is called before the religious men. They want him to swear an oath that Jesus is a sinner. This “one who was blind but now can see” is ready to take them on!

It’s like when the young boy traveling by airplane to visit his grandparents sat beside a man who happened to be a seminary professor. The boy was reading a Sunday school take-home paper. The professor thought he would have some fun with the lad. “Young man,” said the professor, “if you can tell me something God can do I will give you a big, shiny apple.” The boy thought for a moment and then replied, “Mister, if you can tell me something God can’t do, I’ll give you a whole barrel of apples!”

The healed man was about to teach the seminary professors! First, he invites the Pharisees to become followers of Jesus! That didn’t sit too well. The Pharisees claim allegiance to Moses. They can be sure that God spoke to him. But, this Jesus, we don’t know about him! Then, the blind man offers a blistering sermon. He says, “I am a living witness of this man’s power! If Jesus were not from God – could he do this?” The Pharisees respond – you were born in sin. In other words – you are still blind! Only we can see clearly! They are so smug.

While the religious leaders are demonstrating their lack of faith, do you see what’s happening with the healed man? There is a clear progression presented. He is growing in his faith.

Read John 9:10-11 – Progression Presented

So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes.

First, recognized Jesus as, “The man called Jesus”

Read John 9:17

17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

Notice how his faith is growing. First he was the “man called Jesus”. Then, the healed man says, “He is a prophet”.

Read John 9:35-38

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

You can see the progression. From man to prophet. Now, in verse 38, he calls Jesus, “Lord”. He says, “I believe” and he worshipped Jesus! His physical eyes were opened. But far more important, this man could see spiritually!

Finally, in this account we find an astounding reversal of roles. 

Read John 9:39-41 – Reversal of Roles

            38 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

 How tragic that the religious leaders and the people were not able to celebrate God’s hand at work. Instead, those who should have seen were blinded to truth. But, the one born blind – he can see so clearly!

What about you?  As you travel the Pathway to the Passion, do you realize that you were born blind? Have you ever been “healed” by Jesus. Maybe you are like the healed man’s family. You are more concerned about what others think, than what God thinks. You may be like the religious leaders who were consumed with their own agenda. They think they can see – but they are blind. They are relying on their own understanding, and their eyes and minds are darkened. If you are still blind – realize that though you are blind – Jesus will give you sight.

One final point. In verse 9, the healed man was asked by the people if he was really the man born blind. He kept saying, I am the man.” As we saw earlier, I Am is a name for God. Is there something for us to learn by this? Indeed there is. When we come to Jesus and obey His instructions, He will open our eyes. He will change our darkness to light. He will transform our blindness to sight! When this happens, we are brought into God’s covenant family. As Peter wrote, we share in God’s divine nature. The blind man kept saying, “I Am the man.” He had become a true man of God. He once was blind – but now he could see.