Gabriel Visits Mary (Luke 1:26-55)

As we read this portion of Luke chapter 1 today, think about Zechariah’s reply as it compares to Mary the mother of Jesus. We will see her response in vs 34.

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.
28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

The angel Gabriel plays a big role in this chapter as this is his second appearance in chapter 1. The first occurrence was with Zechariah when he came into the temple and announced the coming birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth. Gabriel comes straight from the throne of God Almighty Himself as we see in verse 26: “the angel Gabriel was sent from God”, but also in how Gabriel responds to Mary in vs 19: “And the angel answered him, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.'”

We find Mary’s response to Gabriel to be much different than Zechariah’s reply. Mary’s initial reaction seems to be fear and she was also troubled or confused. Wouldn’t any of us be confused if an angel appeared out of nowhere? Check it out:

29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

Mary asks “How will this be?” in verse 34. Compare that to Zechariah’s reply of doubt. He asks “how can I be sure what you’re saying is true?” back in verse 18: “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

As further evidence that Mary’s answer was of faith and Zechariah’s was one of doubt, we saw that at Gabriel’s word Zechariah was left mute. He couldn’t speak until after John was born. I love Gabriel’s reply of assurance to Mary in verse 37 below.

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”
As believers, we tend to doubt God don’t we? We wonder if He can really do a medical miracle of healing, or we doubt that God can create the universe in 6 days. Why do you think we doubt God? I believe it’s because He doesn’t always do what we want Him to do. When we don’t see Him perform what we ask, then we doubt that He can.

But we know that’s not the way God works. God doesn’t give us every single thing we ask for. If He did, He would be doing no better than the parent that spoils their child. If we believe that God knows all, then we can believe that he knows what is best for us. We can also know for absolutely certain that He can do anything.

Jesus says so Himself:
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
~ Matthew 19:26

And the prophet Jeremiah tells us the same:
‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.
~ Jeremiah 32:17

Mary had faith and Zechariah doubted. In this one chapter, Luke provides us this great contrast that we can all learn from. God shows us throughout His word that He is able to do absolutely anything. God saved Daniel and his friends because they had faith that He could. Victory was given to Gideon as He trusted God. Every time we have a challenge, we can choose to believe or we can choose not to believe. Faith is a choice we make every day. Even when we have doubt in our hearts, we can still choose to believe. I love the story of faith in the Gospel of Mark when the loving dad brings His boy to Jesus seeking healing and deliverance from a demon:

17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute.
18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”
19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.”
20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.
21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood.
22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.”
27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
~ Mark 9:17-27

The father’s reply to Jesus is one I have quoted back to God many, many times. “I believe, help my unbelief!” God loves it when we affirm that we believe but still ask for help from God to get rid of any doubts. Imagine how different this story would be if Zechariah’s reply to God from Gabriel’s message had been “I believe, help my unbelief”. When we ask God for help dispelling our unbelief, we are affirming that we believe He can do it!

At the end of Gabriel’s visit to Mary, she responds in complete faith that He can do it, and in total trust that God’s will is best:
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Wow, what faith this young girl had! She affirms that she is God’s servant, and then confirms that she wants God’s will over her own. God knew what He was doing to choose a young woman of incredible faith to raise Him up in complete faith that he is the Son of God.

Now, to tie this all back together with Zechariah, Elizabeth, and the birth of John the Baptist:

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah,
40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,
42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Elizabeth affirms that Mary is in fact carrying the Messiah. She knows this only by God’s Holy Spirit and speaks it out in complete faith.

Again, in total faith, Mary responds in praise and worship to God Almighty:

46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

(Lord, I do believe that you can do anything through me to reach this world for Jesus. Please help my own unbelief. I am your servant. Do with me and through me whatever you choose.)


The Trial of Peter and John Before the Jewish Leaders and Sadducees

In Acts Chapter 3, Peter and John had been teaching and preaching in and around the area called Solomon’s porch or Solomon’s portico. (See Jesus heals the Man on the Porch)

There is a pool in Israel, called Bethesda, with five roofed colonnades (or porches), where the sick and the lame used to go and wait for this “movement or stirring of the waters”. Tradition held that when the waters stirred, then the first person to get wet from the water was healed. Back in Acts Chapter 3, Peter and John heal a lame man and then teach about Jesus’ resurrection and that we also can be saved by faith in Christ.

    Acts 3:7-11
    7 And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
    8 So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God.
    9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God.
    10 Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
    11 Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon’s, greatly amazed.

This place of teaching and healing is where we find Peter and John as we start Acts chapter 4.

    Acts 4:1-4
    1 Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them,
    2 being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
    3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.
    4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

The captain of the temple was the second in command (under the High Priest) of what were effectively the “temple police”. The group called the Sadducees were in the majority on the Jewish High Court and the Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection of any kind for anyone. The Sadducees are disturbed, or upset, that Peter and John are teaching what they thought to be heresy; so they have them arrested.

In spite of opposition and persecution, we see the new church growing! “Many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.” The Lord has continued to grow the early church through the first 3 chapters of the book of Acts:

    Acts 1:15
    And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty)

    Acts 2:41, 47b
    Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them….And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

God continues to grow the church through persecution to this very day. I love the story of the persecution and deliverance of Brother Yun. There is an excellent autobiography on him, and here is a great book review on it.

Peter and John are put on trial the very next day.

    5 And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes,
    6 as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.
    7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”

Peter responds by making the case that they simply did a good deed by healing, and in fact the healing is from Jesus Himself. This opportunity to respond also gives Peter a wide open door to begin to teach!

    8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel:
    9 “If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well,
    10 “let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.
    11 “This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’

Peter is saying this lame man was healed by Jesus (through His Apostles), the same Jesus that all of you killed and God resurrected. It’s the same Messiah that you rejected. Verse 11 is a direct quote from the Psalms to remind us that Jesus Christ is the Messiah that was promised to us and that would be denied and shunned by the Jews.

    Psalm 118:22 “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.”

Then Peter finishes his response with a simple truth:

    12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

There is no other name but Jesus that can save us! Jesus told us this Himself in

    John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'”

From David Guzik:
“Does this mean that everyone must make a personal decision for Jesus Christ? What about the infant who dies? What about the person who has never heard about Jesus? God will deal with them fairly and justly, and those who are saved will be saved by the work of Jesus done on their behalf, even if they lacked a full knowledge of Jesus. But what about you?
If you wish to believe that all are saved or that there are many roads to heaven or that you can take the best of all faiths and blend them into one, fine, believe so and bear the consequences; but please do not claim this is the teaching of the Bible.”

The Bible is incredibly clear and specific: There is one way to God – it’s through Jesus Christ and Him alone. It’s not through Buddha, Joseph Smith, Muhammad, and it’s not through our own “enlightenment”.

    13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.
    14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.

When we have accepted the free gift of salvation from Jesus and we become followers of Christ, the world knows we are different. Jesus told us that would happen:

    Matthew 5:14-16 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Now the council is trying to figure out what to do. The plan they come up with is persecution and force. But they don’t know that God grows the church through persecution!

    15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,
    16 saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.
    17 “But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”
    18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.

The Plan: beat the Apostles and then command them not to teach of Jesus anymore.

    19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.
    20 “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

They’re saying “Do whatever you decide to do to us, but we cannot help but teach the Truth.”

    21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done.
    22 For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

They felt the pressure of the will of the crowd, in addition to the plain evidence that a 40 year old crippled man had just been miraculously healed.

    23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.
    24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them,
    25 “who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things?
    26 The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the LORD and against His Christ.’
    27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together
    28 “to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.
    29 “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,
    30 “by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
    31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

Now, in spite of the persecution and the ruling by the court, these saints whole desire is to go out and teach the Good News – that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead and He offers that life to us today! Lord let that be my own desire.

Jesus even instructs us to do go out and teach:

    Matthew 28:18-20
    “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Breakfast by the Sea (Jesus and the disciples)

Breakfast by the Sea

John 21

    Vs 1-3 “After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We are going with you also.’ They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.”

When we go through awful, difficult, and stressful times, we have the tendency to pull back into the familiar. Doing what you know, what we’re used to doing. This helps us to get our minds off of the rough patch we are going through.

For me, when dealing with stress in my life, there is nothing I love better than gardening. Digging in the soil, pulling weeds, planting seeds, driving on my tractor, tilling, moving manure – I love all of it. If I could make a living at it, I’d do it in a minute. (I love praying to God while gardening. It’s a wonderful time of communion with the Lord for me.)

Other folks love exercise at the gym, or running, some love sewing or quilting, many love to sit and read a great book. We all deal with stress and difficulty in our lives in different ways.

That’s what the disciples are doing here. They are going fishing. It’s something they all know how to do, it’s familiar to them, and they have no idea what The Lord wants them to do with their lives going forward. They’ve not yet been given the Great Commission and the Holy Spirit in Acts 1 and 2.

    Vs 4 “But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.”

Remember in the last chapter Mary didn’t recognize Jesus either (Jesus’ Resurrection and Doubting Thomas). In this case, if the disciples had recognized Jesus immediately, they would have rushed to shore right away and He wouldn’t have been able to perform this miracle. He does something similar in Luke 24 on the road to Emmaus.

    Vs 5-6 “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Children, have you any food?’ They answered Him, ‘No.’ And He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.”
    Vs 7-8 “Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish.”

Peter gets so excited! I love his heart for Christ! In his excitement and enthusiasm to see God, he jumps in the water to swim to shore and leaves the other guys to drag the fish to shore. This reminds me of story about Mary and Martha in Luke Ch. 10:38-42

“Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’ ”

Peter and Mary both had hearts that longed to be with Jesus, I love that! Lord give me that kind of heart!

    Vs 9-11 “Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken.”

From David Guzik:
“Why 153 fish? This number has been a field day for speculative interpretations of the Bible since the early church.
-153 is the sum of numbers 1 to 17. Some (like Augustine) say that it is a number representing the number of commandments (10) added to the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit.
-153 is the added numerical value of the Greek words “Peter” and “fish.”
-Some ancient writers (such as Jerome) held that there were 153 different types of fish in the world; this represents a “full harvest” of all of the world.
-Some (like Cyril of Alexandria) say that 100 stands for the Gentiles, 50 for Israel and 3 for the Trinity.
-The truth is that all we know for certain is that 153 stands for the number of fish that they caught! We must always be careful of manufacturing ‘hidden meanings’ in the Word of God.”

Miracles we see here:
Jesus knew the fish were down there, and he knew EXACTLY where they were (Cast the net on the right side of the boat)
Jesus had to strengthen the net such that it didn’t break under the severe weight of 153 large fish.

(As a side note, the Sea of Tiberias is also known as the Sea of Galilee, and the fish caught has long been thought to be the tilapia which in this area can grow to 9 or 10 pounds. So on the large size, this is could be well over 1,000 pounds of fish.)

    Vs 12-13 “Jesus said to them, ‘Come and eat breakfast.’ Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, ‘Who are You?’—knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.”

I love reading about the many occasions Jesus shared a meal with His disciples. Have you noticed that these times are often associated with a miracle Jesus performs? Jesus feeding the 5,000, the Last Supper, and so on. God made us to love food, and to enjoy “communion” or communing with others when we eat! It can be such a blessed time of loving and sharing! Yet how often do we eat in silence, or eat in front of the television?

    Vs 14 “This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.”

The other two occasions that Jesus revealed Himself were both back in Chapter 20 that we studied last week.

    Vs 15-17 “So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’ He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep.’

Guzik: “Jesus allowed Peter a three-fold public affirmation of love to replace a three-fold denial, and gave him a three-fold challenge to feed my sheep”.

Feed my lambs – Lambs are the young of the flock. Feed them the Word of God (like teaching Sunday School!) (:-) We’re called to teach those that are new in the faith or young in the faith.

Tend my sheep – This makes me thing of caring for and tending the flock. The disciples were charged with building the church, loving and caring for the believers, and guiding them faithfully. You don’t beat or abuse the sheep, you herd them and care for them.

Feed my sheep- The disciples were also told to feed (teach) the flock, and feed (teach) they did! The entire New Testament was written by God using disciples of Christ. Many of the books of the New Testament are letters written to churches of pastors to teach and guide them.

Vs 18-25 ” ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.’ This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, ‘Lord, who is the one who betrays You?’ Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, ‘But Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.’ Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, ‘If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?’

This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.”

“You will stretch out your hands” was Jesus’ way of saying Peter would be crucified (which he later was). But after telling Peter he will be crucified, He says “follow me”. No matter the cost Peter. Follow me.

Jesus Prays for His Followers

I’m teaching through the book of John in Sunday School, here is my study on Ch. 17

John 17

    Vs 1-3 “Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

I love that Jesus “lifted up His eyes to heaven”! I once told someone years ago that I couldn’t pray without closing my eyes. What I meant at the time was simply that I tend to lack focus, I have a hard time concentrating at times and closing my eyes when I pray can help me stay focused on the Lord. But certainly we can pray anytime/anywhere and God hears us! I pray while I’m driving, while I’m working at the office or in the yard, when I’m walking downtown or watching tv. I’ve even woken up in the morning and realized I had been praying for someone in a dream! God hears us no matter what we’re doing.

Check out Psalm 123:1 “I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven”. I have often looked up at the sky and talked to the Lord. He loves to hear from us. (:-)

Central to Jesus’ prayer are four ideas: summed up in these first three verses: glorifying God the Father; the Father glorifying the Son; the gift of eternal life to mankind; and that eternal life happens when we know the Father and the Son.

    Vs 4-5 “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”

Jesus lived in a glorious place with God the Father before He came to earth as a baby. Can you imagine living in that absolutely wonderful palacios place with God – the place we dream of GOING TO – and coming down to earth to live among the animal dung and the dusty straw that was in the little barn He was born in.

    Vs 6-9 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.”

Jesus came here to bring us back with Him to live in that glorious place! He came to teach us, to show us the way, to give us His Word, and to sacrifice His life for us.

Look at an earlier verse in John 6:37-39:
“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.”

Another great prayer in the Bible is Abraham’s prayer way back at the beginning of time in Genesis 18. God was looking toward Sodom and Gomorrah where they were incredibly wicked and sinful (a good picture of all of mankind isn’t it?) and God was planning to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham felt compassion for the believers there, and he stood before God and implored Him to not destroy the righteous with the wicked. Before the destruction, God made sure to save Lot and his daughters from death. Jesus has done something similar for us. He felt compassion for sinful man, and offered His own life so that those that choose Christ would not be destroyed.

In addition to that, verse 9 in John 17 says: “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.” The Son of God prays for us just like Abraham prayed for the righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah. What an incredible thing!

    Vs 10-12 “And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”

Jesus prays to God the Father on our behalf. There is no one better to be the advocate for us! Have you ever had one of your parents, or maybe a boss get angry and you could see it on their face. Then someone else advocates on your behalf, maybe they tell your side of the story or ask for compassion, or a free pass. That’s what Jesus has done and does for believers. Through His death on the cross He has offered to take our punishment and prays to God on our behalf.

Jesus mentions that none of them have been lost “except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” This is talking about the fact that Judas – the betrayer of Jesus – was the fulfillment of prophecy. Take a look at Psalm 41:9 “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me”.

    Vs 13-16 “But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

We are warned all through the Bible, and particularly in the New Testament, that the world will hate Christians. Indeed, Christians have been hated and persecuted since the time of the early church immediately following Christ’s death and resurrection. The persecution of the believers found in the Book of Acts was initially conducted by the Roman man Saul who would later become the Apostle Paul. (God saves murderers who choose His free gift of salvation in Jesus!) Christian believers continued to be persecuted through the centuries and are still tormented and killed by governments and people groups today.

    Vs 17-19 “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.”

John 14:6 says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” We are sanctified (meaning purified, cleansed, and set apart) through God’s Truth, which is Jesus Christ!

    Vs 20-22 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one”

Christians have a tendency to bicker and fight among themselves. Churches have been divided and dissolved over bitter disputes on issues that don’t matter for eternity. If our focus is on Jesus and on glorifying Him, we will instead concentrate on pointing the world to Jesus, His righteousness, God’s Word, and the salvation Christ offers.

Satan is called the “Deceiver” in the Bible. A key tactic the Deceiver uses to attack the church is to get them to attack themselves. When we bicker and fight and get angry and gossip and fight among ourselves, we’re doing the devil’s work for him! We are NOT furthering God’s kingdom or glorifying Christ, we are instead more concerned about our selfish agendas.

    Vs 23-26 “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
    Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

Our role in God’s plan is to simply follow Christ, read God’s Word, and point the world to Jesus. Are we doing that?

Jesus Gives Sight to A Blind Man – John 9

To read the entire chapter of John 9 click here

Vs. 1-2 “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?'”

Do you think God actually punishes people with difficulty, pain, and misery because they have sinned or made Him angry? There were occasions in the Old Testament when God punished individuals or entire people groups or nations for their sin. However, this man certainly didn’t sin from birth so we know that’s not the case here. God uses difficulties and hardships in all of our lives to draw us closer to Him.

For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous
~ Matt.5:45

The Lord allows rain to fall on all of us, the same as He allows the sun to shine upon all of us. It doesn’t matter how good or bad we are.

Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you.
~ 1 Peter 5:7

He cares just as much for this blind man as He cares for each of those disciples.

Vs 3-5 “Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.'”

God has a very specific purpose and a plan. His plan included this man suffering and being blind from the time he was born. Jesus explains it to us – “that the works of God should be revealed in him”. It was so that Jesus could reveal and reflect God’s glory.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians:
Lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
~ 2 Corinthians 12:7

Are this man and his parents sinners? Yes! How do we know that? The Bible tells us ALL OF US ARE SINNERS.

For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.
~ Romans 3:23

As sinners, what is our punishment for sin?

These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
~ Matthew 25:46

The punishment for sin is not blindness, it is eternal death and hell.

Remember, when bad things happen to you and me, it is NOT because God is punishing us. There will be times when God is using a difficult situation in our lives to teach us, train us, or correct our course. God will always be acting in our best interest. He simply asks that we love Him, follow Him, serve Him, and TRUST that He is acting in our best interest.

From David Guzik: “This is consistent with the spirit of the book of Job. Sometimes, God intentionally leaves us without knowledge regarding the source or reason behind pain.
It is possible that John 9:3 could be punctuated ‘. . . nor his parents sinned. But that the works of God should be revealed in him, I must work . . .'”

Vs 6-7 “He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’. So he went and washed, and came back seeing.”

Remember we talked a few weeks ago about the healing of the crippled man on the porch at the Pool of Siloam. It’s interesting that Jesus uses the Pool of Siloam twice in this few chapters to heal someone, first a crippled man and now a blind man. There are many methods that God shows us in the New Testament that He heals: the laying on of hands on each other in prayer, God may grant someone a gift of healing, God may grant healing in response to faith, and God can heal through medical treatment.

God is amazing! He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. He can and will act in His time! This man had lived his entire life blind. The Lord waited for this very moment in all of history to heal his eyesight. Could God have healed him earlier? Absolutely! I’m sure in this man’s life, many, many times he had prayed for eyesight. His parents had probably begged for healing. He may have even given up by now. This man has no idea Jesus is Lord, he doesn’t know Jesus and has never seen miraculous spit in action. But God in His perfect time approaches the man and puts spit-made mud on his face and heals his eyesight.

We can see many times in Biblical history instances where God waits for His time, and then takes action to perform His miracle. Moses and the Hebrews in Exodus is one great example. The Israelites had waited 400 years in Egypt to return home to Israel. They had prayed, they had begged God for deliverance.

Exodus 3:7-8 “And the LORD said: ‘I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey'”

Again from David Guzik: “This was a completely unique miracle in the Scriptures. From Genesis to John, no prophet, priest, or apostle ever gave sight to blind eyes but Jesus did this type of healing more than any other miracle. Since healing blind eyes is the work of the Lord, it shows that Jesus is God: The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. (Psalm 146:8)”

This also shows the prophecy fulfilled by the Messiah: “The eyes of the blind shall be opened.” (Isaiah 35:5)

Vs 17-23 “They said to the blind man again, ‘What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’ But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight. And they asked them, saying, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ His parents answered them and said, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself.’ His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’

The (formerly) blind man still didn’t quite understand that Jesus is God and the promised Messiah. What he did know was he was healed and delivered from a lifetime of difficulty from blindness. He makes an assumption about Jesus: “He is a prophet.” The Pharisees had even threatened excommunication from the synagogue if anyone called Him Christ (Messiah or Savior). They were probably really angry that a miracle had just occurred and it seems here that they were looking to make an example of the man or his family. This way they could put into everyone watching a fear of being thrown out. They go to his parents and ask them the same thing.

Vs 24-34 “So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, ‘Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.’ He answered and said, ‘Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.’ Then they said to him again, ‘What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?’ He answered them, ‘I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?’ Then they reviled him and said, ‘You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.’ The man answered and said to them, ‘Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.’ They answered and said to him, ‘You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?’ And they cast him out.”

This man still doesn’t seem to quite understand that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah, but the light is dawning on him. “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” The blind man realizes that this is a miracle that has NEVER BEEN DONE and he gives God the glory! This is what God wants us to do as well.

Notice also that this man says “God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.” When he says “sinners” here he is talking about unbelievers, folks that don’t believe in Jesus. When he says “worshiper of God” he is talking about Christians. God hears and answers the prayers of His followers.

This poor blind man was finally healed of his blindness after a lifetime of sadness and difficulty and then the religious community kicked him out! How incredibly painful!

Churches are filled with people. A bunch of sinners we are – forgiven – but sinners nonetheless. When we sin, it hurts others. God’s church is His bride, and it is His intent that the church be loving, kind, and generous toward one another. That doesn’t always happen. Sinners hurt each other at times. You and I will get hurt at times by others – yes – even at church. I have no secret to making that hurt less painful, but I can tell you that the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ was enough for this man and it is enough for us.

Vs 35-38 “Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of God?’ He answered and said, ‘Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”‘ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.’ Then he said, ‘Lord, I believe!’ And he worshiped Him.

Notice this man was so filled with joy at being healed and knowing Christ, he didn’t mourn a single moment over being rejected from the synagogue. It was enough for him. He didn’t whine, no complaints, no anger – the Bible simply says “he said, ‘Lord, I believe!’ And he worshiped Him”. He just focused on Jesus.

Jesus, the Adulteress woman, and the Pharisees

John chapter 8 is a beautiful lesson of forgiveness, mercy, and grace. It’s also a great reminder on the importance of remaining steadfast in the faith.

vs 1-6 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.

The Jews thought they’d found a sinner who had no way out and no excuse. What was their plan? They wanted to trap Jesus in His response so that they could prove His lack of authority. With this woman, they hoped that whatever Jesus’ response, they would be able to use that to show Him to be unrighteous or a fake. After all, He had been claiming to be God! They hoped or assumed His response would be one of compassion for her life, to NOT stone her to death. In that response, they could then suggest that Jesus would disobey the law of Moses, or that He was unrighteous and was not doing the Will of God.

They could have brought any one of their own to Jesus, or any one of us for that matter. We’re all sinners! Every one of us is guilty of committing sin against God. As a matter of fact, we were born in our sin since we inherited it all the way from Adam. Psalm 51:5 “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (That doesn’t mean babies are sinners, and that’s not what the verse is saying. It just means you and I are both sinners.) Yes, there is guilt in each of us, but complete forgiveness is possible and oh so much better!
Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus’ response to this woman was not one of conviction (you deserve to die because you’ve done this terrible thing), nor did He tell her that she was not in sin (don’t worry, you did nothing wrong). He responded with simple love for her. That love is something He demonstrates to us so that we can know how to respond as well.

I am a sinner. It’s true. I’ve done terrible and awful things in my life. I’ve committed sins that have kept me awake at night, sins that I have mourned over, beat myself up about, and wrestled with on so many occasions. God loves me anyway, in spite of me. He loved me even before I became a Christian, before I asked Christ to forgive my sins and make me whole and clean and pure in Him. He loved me before I believed in Christ the Messiah, that He is the only way to eternal life. And He has forgiven my sins because Jesus took that sin upon Himself and died on the cross in my place.

In this story, He demonstrates that love to us, so that we would love others the same way. I know you are a sinner. It’s a fact none of us can escape. But through Jesus, I love you anyway.

Vs 7-11 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

There have been centuries of debate over what Jesus might have been writing in the sand. I love what Pastor Chuck Smith writes:

“The problem: where was the man? Because they caught them in the very act. And according to the law of Moses they were both to be stoned. Why did they only bring the woman if they were caught in the act? So there was an injustice at the very onset, in their own judgments. They should have brought the man too. The question: what was Jesus writing there in the sand? Now, of course, the scripture doesn’t tell us, so we can guess.”

“Down the line from the oldest to the youngest, Jesus begins to write their names and write the things they have been doing. Because they were, all of them, convicted one by one in their own conscience. And they went out one by one, beginning from the eldest even to the youngest, until there was no one left but the woman.”

vs 12 “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’”

When I was a kid and I wanted to read late at night and I didn’t want my parents to know I was up late reading, you know what I did? I hid under the covers of my bed and used a flashlight to read. That one little bitty light bulb and a couple of small batteries gave me more light than I needed to read in such a small space. Jesus isn’t necessarily asking us to fly all over the United States and to be on television and to preach to millions of people. He’s not necessarily asking us to fly to Africa and spend our entire lives preaching to the native tribes there. God may not even be asking us to become pastors and teach God’s word to a congregation.

What He is telling us to do is be a light – a beacon – sharing His love and His Word where ever He has placed us. Loving others when they don’t deserve it (remember, NONE of us deserve God’s love). Maybe that will be teaching in Africa or preaching to millions, but it more certainly means telling your friend about Jesus, or teaching in Sunday School. (:-) Or helping in the infants room on Sundays. Or setting up chairs in the sanctuary, or being an usher or a greeter at church. Or talking to that friend at work or school, listening to their problems, and showing them God’s love just by being a friend.

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

vs 23-24 “And He said to them, ‘You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”‘

What did Jesus mean? From David Guzik: “Jesus knew He was going to heaven. Because of their hatred against Him, Jesus could say that His accusers were not going to heaven. Where He was going, they could not follow. If we follow Jesus on earth, we will follow Him to heaven. If we express no desire to follow Him on earth, what would make us think we will follow Him to heaven?”

I would add that if we follow the path of sin, which is Satan’s path, we will also follow him to eternity in hell. It’s that simple.

vs 31-32 “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’”

If we believe in Jesus, then we are commanded to live (abide) in His word, and we will be His disciples. If we believe in Him, but are not living (abiding) in His word, then we are not being discipled, nor are we following Him. Abiding in His word would suggest we are absorbed in it, surrounded by it, reading it, living it, thinking about it, and telling it to others. If we are absorbed in it, we will know the truth from the lies of the world.

Remaining steadfast in the faith
The Apostle Paul wrote:
Yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.
~ Colossians 1:22-23

That is abiding in Christ. Continuing to hold onto faith, growing and learning. We do that by prayer, attending church to be taught, and by reading God’s Word -the Bible-.

In vs 37-59 the Jewish leaders continue to question Jesus, misunderstand and lie about Him (even suggesting He had a demon in Him in vs 48), and completely dishonored Him.

vs 59 “Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.”

As we learned last week, Jesus knew that it was not His time to die. He wasn’t slipping away because He was afraid of them, He was miraculously hidden away from them so that God’s will and God’s timing would be fulfilled (See Jesus teaches in the Temple). God does His will in His perfect time. Ecclesiastes 3:17 “I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.”

The Bible even tells us that Jesus died at the right time in Romans 5:6 “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

Jesus Christ died for our sin, and was raised again on the third day so we could each have eternal life with Him. He came to you and He came to me at just the right time. When we need Him most.

The Sinners Prayer:
Saying the sinner’s prayer is simply a way of declaring to God that you are relying on Jesus Christ as your Savior. There are no “magical” words that result in salvation. It is only faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection that can save us. If you understand that you are a sinner and in need of salvation through Jesus Christ, here is a sinner’s prayer you can pray to God:

“God, I know that I am a sinner. I know that I deserve the consequences of my sin. However, I am trusting in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I believe that His death and resurrection provided for my forgiveness. I trust in Jesus and Jesus alone as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank you Lord, for saving me and forgiving me! Amen!”

Jesus and Nicodemus (this guy became a baby!)

John 3:1-3
1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”
3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus was a Pharisee (one of the leaders and teachers of the synagogue), and he was also a member of the Sanhedrin (the ruling body of the Jews at the time). How did the Pharisees feel about Jesus? What did they think of Him? Generally as a group, they hated Him and felt threatened by Him. Jesus regularly showed them how incredibly conceited they were and how little they actually knew God. They certainly knew a lot about God and the Scriptures, but they didn’t know or trust God personally.

The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. ~ Luke 16:14-15

So Nicodemus comes sneaking out to see Jesus by night! Did you ever see others kids making fun of a child on the playground, and you were actually embarrassed to talk to or be seen with that kid? I’m guessing that’s how Nicodemus felt. On top of that, Nicodemus was even asking Jesus to further explain Himself and His teaching. The last thing he wanted was the other Pharisees to spot him talking with Jesus. Yet even so, he believed that Jesus had the answers as he says – “we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

When we see God do work in our lives or in the lives of others, we recognize Him! Non-believers recognize Him too.

Here we see Nicodemus approach Jesus with a statement rather than a question to open the conversation. Jesus’ response is as if Nicodemus had actually asked the question that was on his mind: “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus had never heard of being “born again”. This was a whole new concept and it didn’t make much sense to him. Remember in verse 4 he said: “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”

When we were born, each of us was descended from the first sinner – Adam – and each of us inherited that same sin nature. Sin is anything that we do, or say, or think, that doesn’t please the perfect and Holy God. Sin is wired into us. I have hurt so many people in my lifetime, I don’t ever want to see that list!

So being “born again” means to be born into God’s family, or to be “remade”. Imagine you’ve been working in the mud and the heat, and you’re all filthy and sweaty. Then you go take a shower, and you look, feel, and smell like a whole new person! You’re fresh, clean, and people want to be around you again! (:-). When you put my trust in Jesus to remake you into a “new person”, you ask Him then to forgive your sins, and you accept the fact that He died for you and rose again so you could have eternal life – that is a rebirthing for you.

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

“Born of water” is the birth you had from your mom. “Born of the Spirit” is the birth you have through Jesus Christ when you accept His free gift of eternal life and forgiveness of your sin.

Check out verses 8-15:
8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”
10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?
11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.
12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Pastor Chuck Smith said:
“There is that mysterious working of God’s Spirit within our lives and we cannot fully comprehend it or understand it, we just know it. We can see the effects of it. My mother used to ask me when I was a child, ‘Can you see the wind?’ And I said, ‘Oh, yes, I can see the wind.’ She said, ‘No, you can’t.’ ‘Oh, yes, I can, I can see it out there. Look, it’s blowing the dust.’ She said, ‘You’re seeing the results of the wind. You don’t see the wind.’ I can see the results of the Spirit. I believe it, I know that the Spirit exists. I have never seen Him, but I can feel His effect upon my life, it’s very real. I can see His effects in the lives of those around me, it is very obvious. And so are they who are born of the Spirit, there is that mystic work of God’s Spirit that I can recognize, I can feel, I can see that work of God’s Spirit within me.”

In verse 8 Jesus is telling Nicodemus that even though we cannot see the Holy Spirit, we can still see the effects of the Holy Spirit on our lives and in the lives of believers. We can see the good things that come out of the life of the believer.

What is Jesus talking about when He says the “Son of Man must be lifted up”? He is talking about His own coming death on the cross for us.

Jesus goes on to tell Nicodemus in vs 16-18:
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

God did not send Jesus to earth to condemn or to judge us. Jesus could have done that from heaven, and as a matter of fact it will happen from heaven some day for those that don’t believe. No, God sent Jesus to the world so that the world could be saved.

When God originally created man in Hs own image on Day 6 of creation in Genesis 1, He said His creation was good!

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. ~ Genesis 1:31

You see, when Adam and Eve were created, they were good! Then they sinned in eating the fruit that was forbidden, and that sin separated them from God. When you and I were each born from our mom, we were good! God looked at you as a baby and said “You are good!” But then you and I later sinned and in doing so, we became like Adam and Eve – banished from the garden of God’s presence because of our sin. But even though we sin and do wrong things, God never stopped loving each of us. That’s why He sent Jesus to earth.

Nicodemus later does believe and is “born again” and actually helps in the burial of Jesus before His resurrection in John 19:39-42 – “Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.”

(To read the entire chapter of John 3, click here)

Here is a great link if you want to pray or want more information about being “born again”, or you can message me or comment below if you have questions.

The Role of John the Baptist – John 1

If you’d like to read the entire chapter of John 1, click here.

John 1
Vs 1-5 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

BEGINNING: Where else in the Bible do we read the phrase “In the beginning…” Genesis 1:1 “In the Beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

WORD: Who is the Word? The answer is found in vs 14- “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

So Jesus was there at the beginning of the world, at the dawn of creation, for “In the beginning was the Word”.

Vs 6-8 “There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.”

There are two significant men named John in the New Testament, and here the one “John” (the Apostle) is writing about the other “John” (the Baptist). John the Baptist had a job given to him by God, “to declare the way of the Lord” and to proclaim Jesus’ coming. Why would he do that, what’s the point?

When you hear a friend describe for you all of the wonderful reasons why you need to try this new car, read a new book that just came out, or go see a movie they just saw – they are testifying to you from their own experience. Your friend saw the movie, thought it was awesome, and thinks you will to. This kind of testimony carries so much credit and weight. That’s one reason why movies become blockbusters and books become bestsellers.

A movie came out recently about the book of Exodus, and it had a good opening weekend in ticket sales. But after folks saw it and told their friends how terrible the movie was, it bombed. The advertising for the movie can only bring in so many ticket sales. It’s the personal testimony of others that can make the movie a hit.

That was the job of John the Baptist here. His role was to “testify” to the people around him that the long-awaited, long-promised Savior was coming!

John the Baptist is telling the Jews “He is here, He is walking among us right now! Watch for Him!” John is preparing the hearts of the Jewish people, God’s chosen people, to discover Jesus as their Savior.

Let’s take a quick look at some Old Testament prophecy that predicted Jesus was coming as King and Savior from 2 Samuel 7:12-16

12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.
13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men,
15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.
16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.'”

After David dies (verse 12), God will raise up one of his descendants to reign as King. Jesus was actually born as a descendant of King David.

God will establish Jesus as King forever (vs 13). Israel was waiting for an eternal King!

King David was Jesus’ ancestor/father, but Jesus is eternal and existed at creation. So he is both a “father” to King David and a “son”.

Again, God promised that He would establish Jesus as King forever.

Vs 9-14
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.
11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The true light” is Jesus Christ. Jesus is described as “the Word” in verse 1 and the psalmist tells us that God’s “word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”. Jesus embodies the Word of God, the promises of God. He is our light along the dark path we travel in this world.

Verse 10 reminds us that Jesus was there at the beginning of Creation. He has always existed and always will be.

Jesus Christ is the third person of the Trinity, God’s only Son. Verses 12-13 remind us that He is also a choice each of us has to make. We can choose Jesus as our Savior and accept his free gift of eternal life, or we can choose to reject Him.

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
~ Joshua 24:15

In verse 14, John is saying that the Word – the Promise of a coming King and Savior – has been born. It has become flesh. The Promise has been fulfilled.

I had a dad who would frequently promise to do things with us – play baseball, take us sledding, whatever. He was a busy guy, it wasn’t a big priority for him, and he frequently broke those promises. God has made a promise to Israel and they have been longing and waiting for this promise to be completed.

God always does what He promised. Always. We can trust Him.

Vs 15-16 “John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me. For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”

John is “bearing witness”, he is testifying, that Jesus is the Savior from God and from Him we “receive grace upon grace”. In other words, there is no end to the grace He gives us. John is telling anyone and everyone who will listen.

Vs 19a, 23 “And this is the testimony of John, He said I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

John is quoting from the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 40:3 “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’ ”

A highway is a fast, simple, smooth route for us to get to where we are going. Straight, smooth, and simple. That’s what God was providing to us: a simple route to have a relationship with Him through Jesus. Not complicated or based on all kinds of work we have to do or things we need to clean up before we get there. A straight, simple, smooth highway. Jesus. Nothing in our lives- things we’ve done or people we’ve hurt- can block the highway. There is forgiveness and grace and love in Jesus that we can’t get anywhere else. All we have to do is ask for it from God. “Please forgive me, give me your life, your Son, I want the grace you have, I want you Lord to take over my life. Please change me and take me in like a lost sheep that you love and protect.”

That’s it. Straight, smooth, and simple.

God intentionally keeps it easy so that even the simplest soul can understand how to find salvation in Jesus.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

The old English proverb “For Want of a Nail” instructs us that seemingly small choice, can lead to later and greater consequences. Think about some of the choices you made earlier in life: That first date with him/her, the first cigarette, spending that big check on something you wanted, whatever.

I am reminded of math homework, particularly in high school. Early on in my freshman year, I didn’t work too hard on my Algebra. I could have made much greater effort but I didn’t. Later I took Geometry, Algebra II, and Pre-Calculus – all of which I struggled through. All because I didn’t get the basic concepts back in my freshman year.

If you could name the one most important choice you will ever make in life, what would it be? I’ll tell you what I think it is. It’s the choice you make on Jesus Christ. There is no middle ground on Jesus. You either believe or you don’t. And if you truly believe, it changes everything. There is no halfway. He died for you and I so that we don’t need to spend eternity in hell. It’s a pretty simple choice, but with consequences that last for eternity. Choose Christ. You will never be the same.

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
~ Joshua 24:15

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.
~Acts 16:31