John 9:1-7 and Jesus Shows He is God

SUTF 7 healing he blindmanRight on the heals of Jesus claiming to be God by applying the Divine Name to himself, Jesus actually performs an act to show that he is God. This is immediately following the confrontation with the religious authorities. Jesus departs from there and this scene unfolds:

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

Many people focus on the disciples’ illogical question of whether this man sinned before he was born so that he was born blind. There are historical and cultural reasons why they asked such a question, but leaving that aside, the real issue is the miracle. Jesus just claimed I Am as his name. Now here is a person who was born without the ability to see. He was born without eyes, as it were. So Jesus does what I Am would do–he takes dust from the ground and creates what was missing in this man’s body. Just as God took dust from the ground and created humanity originally, Jesus does the same thing to complete this man’s creation and give him sight.

This is the reason why the religious leaders deal with this miracle so much more than they did any other miracle Jesus performed, with the possible exception of raising Lazarus from the dead, and even then Jesus gives life which is something only God can do. Jesus said he was God, and now he proved he was God by his actions. Those who would deny Jesus is God are not reading the plain meaning of the text, but rather have preconceived notions about Jesus and try to make the Bible fit into their understanding, rather than let the biblical witness to Jesus inform who Jesus is.

Isaiah 64:1-2 and Answered Prayers In Very Unexpected Ways

iStock_000023764764SmallI have lived in a variety of places and known people from so many different walks of life it is almost unbelievable. We have so many different backgrounds, life experiences, hopes, desires, and beliefs in this country. For those who have some type of religious beliefs, whether they are committed or almost agnostic, at some point I have heard them say the same sentiment in this passage of Isaiah:

If only you would tear open the heavens and come down!
    Mountains would quake before you
    like fire igniting brushwood or making water boil.
 If you would make your name known to your enemies,
    the nations would tremble in your presence.

If only God would do something so spectacular so as to reveal himself to the world, then the world would be a better place because we would all believe in him.

The problem with this line of thinking is that God did just this, and it didn’t work.

God did reveal himself in the person of Jesus Christ. In fact, when he was baptized in the Jordan River, the heavens were torn open as the dove descended. This very prayer of Isaiah’s came true at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. This was in the presence of Jewish people, people who would be familiar with the Jewish scriptures, of which Isaiah was one, and would have understood what had just happened. Yet for all the power of God on display in this scene, Jesus still gets rejected and handed over to the Romans to be crucified.

It is easy to think that if God would just do something spectacular then all the problems of the world will disappear. Yet the reality is that God has done spectacular things over and over again in history and we still have sin and evil in the world.

There is another issue, as well, that makes this line of reasoning even more problematic for Christians. You see, Christians–believers and followers of Jesus Christ–are a part of Christ’s body here on earth. We have the Holy Spirit residing within us individually and collectively as the Church. We have the very power of God with us all the time. So the crux of the debate of why God doesn’t do something spectacular falls back on us. We are, in essence, the presence of God in the world. We are the instruments through which God has decided to act in the world. This is why we are called the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. We are the place where people can encounter the Living God in this world.

This is the high calling of being a Christian. Through the presence of God in our lives, and by his grace and power, we are living examples of heaven being torn apart and God descending into this world. Our lives are to be the proof of God’s presence and power in the world. We are the answer to this prayer of Isaiah’s. Is this a reality in your life?

1 Kings 17:1 and The Power of God Made Manifest

The Lord works in mysterious ways, and his power is made manifest in many different ways. One thing that is certain from this verse and its context, though, is that the greater the evil, the more powerful God is made manifest in the world. Look here:

Elijah from Tishbe, who was one of the settlers in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As surely as the Lord lives, Israel’s God, the one I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain these years unless I say so.”

This is how Elijah the Prophet is introduced to us. He is not the first prophet in the the Books of Samuel or Kings. There was Nathan, Gad, Ahijah and Jehu, but Elijah is the only one who has miracles accompany his prophetic works. In fact, Elijah will become known as the greatest of the prophets because of the mighty deeds done through him by God.

But why now? Why does God make his power manifest in this manner now through Elijah? Look at how spiritually dark things have gotten in Israel. Jeroboam, the Lord’s chosen instrument of judgment on Solomon’s legacy of idol worship, has proven to be worse than Solomon ever was. So Jeroboam’s household is wiped out and replaced. Baasha, who destroyed Jeroboam’s dynasty, is even worse and his household is wiped out. Zimri, who destroyed Baasha’s dynasty, is even worse and is killed. Omri, who killed Zimri, is worse yet. Finally Ahab, Omri’s son, is the worst of all, even going so far as to build a great temple for Baal and worshiping that god to the exclusion of the Lord. In each one of these reigns, which lasted 62 years before Ahab took the throne, Israel moved further and further away from the Lord and looked more and more like the nations Israel was sent to destroy because of their detestable actions (such as human sacrifice). Things have gotten so dark that the Lord sent a powerful prophet to be used by him to show Israel that, just as the prophet’s name means, their God is the Lord.

I find this very comforting. It reminds me that no matter how beaten down the Church may get, the Lord will raise up someone to make his power manifest once again. What is equally comforting is the fact that Elijah could only do any of this in the power of the Holy Spirit, the very same Spirit that lives in every Christian believer.

So, who will the Lord raise up to make his power manifest in this present darkness? Might it be you?elijah

Joshua 4:20-24 and Monuments to God

pile_of_rocksPeople forget.  This is why we write things down, and I am told it gets worse with age.  Our collective societies forget, as well.  This is why we create memorials and monuments and museums so we will not forget.  Sometimes these are celebratory monuments, such as the World War II memorial in Washington D.C.  Sometimes these are mournful monuments, such as the Holocaust Memorial in Israel.

Joshua is told to make a memorial, a monument, after the Israelites cross the Jordan River:

Joshua set up at Gilgal those twelve stones they had taken from the Jordan.  He said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask their parents, ‘What about these stones?’   Then you will let your children know: ‘Israel crossed over the Jordan here on dry ground.’   This was because the Lord your God dried up the water of the Jordan before you until you crossed over. This was exactly what the Lord your God did to the Reed Sea (Red Sea).  He dried it up before us until we crossed over.   This happened so that all the earth’s peoples might know that the Lord’s power is great and that you may always revere the Lord your God.”

This monument was to remind the Israelites of how the Lord had worked in their lives in the past.  It was also to signal to the world that the Lord is God, the Lord alone.

As Christians, we are the monument to the Lord.  As Peter writes, “You yourselves are being built like living stones into a spiritual temple” (1 Peter 2:5).  People are to see the glory of the Lord in us, and we remind others of what mighty acts God has done in the past through who we are now.  Can people look at you and see what great power the Lord has to transform us?  Are you a monument to the Lord?

John 9:1-7 and Who is Jesus?

jesus.healJesus gets asked several times throughout his ministry who he is, what authority he has to do what he does, and what he actually means by what he says.  Many times his answers are not direct.  This miracle is another instance of Jesus showing all around who he is, but not in a completely direct manner.

As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who was blind from birth. Jesus’ disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?”  Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents. This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him.  While it’s daytime, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work.   While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  After he said this, he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and smeared the mud on the man’s eyes.  Jesus said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (this word means sent). So the man went away and washed. When he returned, he could see.

There are several things going on in this passage.  First, Jesus shows how illogical it is to assume bad things happen to people because of sin.  This man could not have sinned before he was born so that he was born blind, nor would God have punished him for the sins of his parents.  God holds people accountable for their own sins, not someone else’s sins.

Second, Jesus shows that he is God.  Just two verses before this miracle Jesus answers his accusers with the statement, “I assure you,” Jesus replied, “before Abraham was, I Am” (8:58).  With this statement Jesus tells the religious leaders questioning him that not only is he the One who spoke to Moses from the burning bush on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 3, but because of that fact he is also the One who made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in Genesis.  I Am is the divine name of God, and by Jesus using that name for himself, he is telling them he is their God.

Then, immediately following that exchange, we have this miracle.  Here we have a man whose eyes did not form properly.  He was born without working eyes; he was born blind.  Jesus, the I Am, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Creator, finds this man and takes dirt from the ground to heal him.  Actually, he takes dirt from the ground to create new eyes for him.  He shows everyone that he creates just as he created in Genesis 2:7, where God took dirt from the earth and created man.  Jesus takes dirt from the earth and completes the creation of this particular man.

For all who are paying attention, Jesus just demonstrated that he is, in fact, I Am.

Mark 8:22-25 and a Question

SUTF 7 healing he blindmanWhat do you think this passage is getting at, with Jesus having to perform the miracle twice before it would work?

Jesus and his disciples came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch and heal him.  Taking the blind man’s hand, Jesus led him out of the village. After spitting on his eyes and laying his hands on the man, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” The man looked up and said, “I see people. They look like trees, only they are walking around.” Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again. He looked with his eyes wide open, his sight was restored, and he could see everything clearly.