The Eyes Have It

Standard

In John 3, we learn about two different people and their different reactions to the appearance of Jesus.  One man is highly educated and has studied the Scriptures his whole life in preparation for recognizing the Messiah when he appears.  The other man is an uneducated wild man who spends his life preparing the way for the appearance of the Lord.  Shouldn’t both of them respond similarly to the Messiah when He comes on the scene?  Yet these men react very differently.  Let’s look today at Nicodemus and John the Baptist.

Nicodemus is the educated man, one of the Jewish leaders.  When Jesus comes on the scene, it seems to turn everything that Nicodemus knows on its head.  He comes to see Jesus under cover of darkness as he seeks answers to his deepest questions and Jesus is eager to address them.  Jesus tells him that he must be born again in order to get to heaven.  Nicodemus does not respond with an overwhelmingly faith-filled reaction or even a stimulating debate.  Instead, he asks, “What do you mean?”  It’s as though he has never heard this concept before.  He asks this same question of Jesus not once but twice during their discussion of spiritual rebirth.  He is being given the key to eternal life and yet he struggles to understand it.

In contrast, John the Baptist fully understands his position with regard to Jesus.  He understands that his life’s purpose was to prepare people for the arrival of Jesus on the scene, and when Jesus appears, John the Baptist has no problem fading from the public view.  In verse 30, John the Baptist tells his followers, “He [Jesus] must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”  This is a concept with which many believers have a hard time grappling, and yet John the Baptist is crystal clear on this point in his own heart and life.  He also clearly understands what it takes to have eternal life, as he explains to his followers in verses 34-36.

So how do two such different men with such a similar purpose come to have such different reactions?  Nicodemus looks at Jesus’s teaching through earthly eyes.  This is evidenced when he says in verse 4, “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”  Although he has studied things of the spiritual world his whole life, he has a hard time seeing things in the spiritual realms.  On the other hand, John the Baptist has no problem seeing with spiritual eyes, even though he has had no formal training.  As we see in verse 31, he fully understands where Jesus comes from and what his nature is, and he also understands his own place in the equation.

Seeing into the spiritual realms can be a difficult thing for us humans.  We understand things from our earthly perspectives, but it can be hard to understand spiritual things around us.  Whenever I struggle to understand the spiritual realms, I take comfort in Jesus’ response to Nicodemus.  He doesn’t mock Nicodemus or chastise him for not understanding; instead, he provides more information and gives Nicodemus handles to try to grasp what He is saying.  Doesn’t He do the same for us?  As James tells us, God will give us wisdom and He won’t resent our asking.  Let’s ask Him today for eyes to see into the spiritual realms.

The Wedding at Cana

Standard

In John 2:1-11, we read about a wedding that took place in Cana.  Jesus, his mother and his disciples were all guests at this wedding.  However, as the celebration went on, the wine that had been provided ran out.  Mary brings this to the attention of Jesus, knowing that he will do something about it. She therefore instructs the servants to do whatever Jesus says.  At his instruction, the servants fill six large jars to the brim with water, and then they take some to the master of ceremonies.

The master of ceremonies knows nothing of what has transpired, but when he tastes the water, which is now wine, I imagine that he becomes very excited.  He calls over the bridegroom and exclaims, “You have kept the best until now!”  Because of the miracle they had seen, the disciples believed in Him.

Jesus performs this miracle very quietly and inconspicuously.  Most people who were present at the wedding ceremony did not even realize that a miracle had been performed in their midst that evening.  In fact, only Mary, the disciples and the servants knew of the miracle that changed the water into wine.  Jesus seems not to have wanted to upstage the marriage celebration by becoming the center of attention, as He surely would have had the people seen what He had done.

There are three points about this passage that I find remarkable.

First, Mary sees the need and she goes straight to Jesus, knowing that he will do something about it.  This is a remarkable step of faith as up to this point, Jesus has not performed any miracles.  However, she makes her request on the behalf of another known to Jesus. She also takes action that will allow her to receive the miracle by telling the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”

Second, the bridegroom is unaware of his need.  He has no idea that he has run out of wine. He has no idea that it was Jesus who has provided the new wine for him.  Yet he and all of the guests present are beneficiaries of God’s goodness and generosity.

Third, Jesus answers the need with an overabundance.    Jesus doesn’t provide just the bare minimum needed to get by; he does “immeasurably  more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20).  The six jars would have held between 120-180 GALLONS of wine for the celebration.

I wonder how many times someone else has seen a need in my life that I’m unaware of and they have gone to God with that need in prayer and in faith.  I wonder how many times Jesus has quietly and sweetly provided miraculously for me when I didn’t even know I needed His provision.  I wonder how many times I’ve been a beneficiary of His overabundance.

I wonder who I can lift up in prayer today so that they might also be beneficiary of God’s goodness and generosity.

Foundations

Standard

John is a book of the Bible that was written by the apostle of that name.  In John 1, he establishes that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, who existed before time began and who created all things.  He further establishes that Jesus is also fully human and lived here on earth among us.

John then recounts the testimony of John the Baptist with regard to who Jesus is.  John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for Jesus, and one day as John the Baptist is baptizing people, he sees Jesus coming towards him.  He then proclaims to the people gathered there that Jesus is the Son of God.

The identity of Jesus is the foundation for all that is to come in the book of John.  Without understanding who Jesus is, it is not possible to understand his actions and his words.

What I find fascinating about John 1 is that Jesus so clearly understands the importance of the identities of others.  As He meets Simon Peter, Jesus tells him, “You are Simon, the son of John – but you will be called Cephas” (which means Peter).  (John 1:42, NLT)  The footnote in my Bible indicates that Cephas and Peter both mean “rock”.  Simon has received more than a new name – he has received his true identity.  This prepares Simon Peter for what is ahead for him; it is a foreshadowing of what is to come.

Jesus also tells Nathanael who he is when he meets him in verse 47.  Jesus says, “Here comes an honest man – a true son of Israel.”  (NLT)  Amazed, Nathanael responds in verse 49, “Teacher, you are the Son of God – the King of Israel!”  There is something about being known by Jesus which brings out a response of faith from Nathanael’s heart and a desire to proclaim who Jesus is.

I remember a time when Jesus told me who I am.  He proclaimed that I am “Chosen”.  Having my Creator reveal my identity to me totally shifted my understanding of who I am.  Has He revealed your identity to you?