Monday, March 31, 2014

John 8:1-11 a story we must hear

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

The passage we are studying this week is one that has sparked debate on several different levels. Some have questioned if it should even be included in our Bible! 
Let's dig in!
God inspired men to write the Bible. I think we can all agree on that. The handwritten pages were carried from city to city, where Christians copied them. These copies were circulated, treasured and copied again. The materials the passages were written on were quite frail, and some copies were lost, or destroyed, or simply worn out from much use. Many, though, were preserved. 
With any hand-copied work, there were occasional errors -- a spelling mistake, a reversal of two words in a phrase -- but the rare errors were easily recognized and corrected, so that out of thousands of fragments and books of hand-copied manuscripts, there is an amazing uniformity of the text. Some questions remain about John 7:53 through 8:11. Some early manuscripts even omitted the verses.

Scholars questioned it because they were shocked by Christ's apparent un-asked for pardon of the woman. It seemed to them that he granted her leave to sin. Some simply questioned whether it was "supposed" to be there, seeing that it was not in some of the Greek manuscripts. Others noted that the story was entirely in keeping with the mercy and compassion of Christ, and seemed to be perfectly true.
One way to look at it, is that this text actually proves (pretty convincingly) the rest of the manuscripts. Consider this -- given the ease with which mistakes and errors could be made, anyone studying the Bible must be amazed at the consistency between all of the many texts! This is a rare example of confusion and it shines a brighter light of confidence elsewhere. Lastly, it may be God's providence that one or two "knots" were left for believers not to untie, but to take on faith, and wait for greater understanding.

Jesus' enemies were presenting Him with a profound problem here, trying to trap Him. They were asking "how can justice and mercy be reconciled?" The Law demands punishment. If we set it aside, we are inviting more sin, and then anarchy, for without discipline, humans will not be reined in. And in Leviticus (and other passages) we read that God is holy.
So what possible hope does this woman have? We have all fallen short of God's glory; none is righteous, no not one; all have transgressed the law and are condemned. Who will deliver us?
This is the test they presented to Jesus, and in our human way of thinking, He seems trapped. "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act....Now the Law of Moses commands us to stone her. What do you say?"

It is the compassion of Jesus that attracted the crowds who followed Him. The everyday people are comforted by the preacher Who speaks of grace. Those arrogant ones who are so pleased with themselves are not as engaged by Him. But wait -- isn't He slipping into relativism? Is His mercy undercutting morality? The Messiah would not contradict Moses, would He? But if He will not go against the law, the scribes and Pharisees envision his crowds slipping away from Him . . . those people would not follow a Messiah who stones desperate young women, would they? This one has been bruised by both her sin and society, will He claim Isaiah 42 as His guide: "A bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick He will not quench; He will faithfully bring forth justice."

Oh. There's that word again. Justice.
See the trap they laid for Him? If Jesus keeps His compassion, He would seem to be soft on morality. If He stays strictly in the Law, He loses His claim to a unique mercy and compassion.
This seems to be a parable being acted out before our eyes. How will Jesus respond?

We will see next time that he turns the scribes and Pharisee's world upside down, and comforts the humble at the same time. 
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble." (James 4:6)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday slowdown

Come to the river of life
You will find healing here
Come to the river of life
Come and drink freely here
Come if your heart is searching
Come if your soul is thirsty
Draw near and drink of the mercy of Jesus Christ
At the river of life

There is a river who streams make glad
The city of God, the city of God
So come if you're wounded or sad
There is a river, there is a river
It flows, from the land of eternal life
Where there's no more sorrow and no more night
Into the hearts that are lifted to Him
Filling His children again and again and again

 Draw near and drink of the mercy of Jesus Christ
At the river of life

Thursday, March 27, 2014

If anyone is thirsty, Conclusion

Jesus has invited all of us to come to Him, and He promises to quench our thirst.
But He promises to do more than just fill us -- He promises to fill us till we overflow!

Let's dig in!
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." (John 7:38)
On the last great day of the feast, the people had gone to the Pool of Siloam, a pool that actually overflows into another pool. They had rejoiced in the ceremony of water drawing.

Now Jesus told them, I will not only water your soul. But I will make you a channel of blessing to others as well. Jesus mentioned scripture . . . we don't know for sure which passage He referred to, for He didn't quote it, but Isaiah 58:11 is a really good possibility:
The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. 
What does that mean?
That is the blessing that we will be, to others.

When we get full of anything we overflow.
Israel in the wilderness got full of complaints and overflowed with murmuring. (Not a good thing.)
A person who is full of resentment will overflow with bitterness. (Still not good.)
A person who is full of anger will overflow with harsh words and hurtful attitudes. (So not good.)

A person full of Jesus will overflow with the fruits of the Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Let's step back and look at this logically.
Before we can overflow, we have to be filled. Ephesians 5:18 tells us to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit, with Christ's love and compassion for others, is everything.
Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. (I John 4:13) 
 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

We may have been filled yesterday, but we live in today. Are we full of the Spirit now? Are we thirsty for more? Jesus is a never ending fountain of life. As long as we stay connected to Him we will never, ever run dry.
If we will hear His voice and come to Him, we will find satisfaction for our own souls, and we will also become a source of blessing to others!

His invitation is still open today: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” Are you thirsty? Come to Him today!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

If anyone is thirsty, Part II

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Yesterday we closed with this thought: Here is Jesus, the ultimate cause of celebration, the provision of God. The Messiah is standing in their midst, and He is the fulfillment of this great feast, though they don't yet realize it.
Imagine what it would have been like, to hear that invitation from Jesus; imagine being there at the celebration, and hearing His words. He is not seated, as when He has been teaching, but is standing up and proclaiming His invitation to all. His voice is probably not soft, as when speaking to a few, but louder and full of emotion -- reaching out to the crowd. Would you have thought to yourself, "Who would dare to speak at this holy moment of our ceremony?"
Ah, but it's the Lord of Glory Who is speaking -- all of the ceremony points to Him, and it is all fulfilled in Him!

It's no wonder that some of the people respond as they do; they understand His claim. They know that only the Christ could make this claim.

"If anyone is thirsty . . ."
Who is He talking to?
No one is excluded.
So, everyone is included.

Have you ever been at the ocean and seen a person casting out one of those circular nets with weights around the edge? They throw it in such a way that they can pull on a cord and the net will close, trapping fish and other sea creatures inside it, and then they pull it in. Sometimes they get fish that they can clean and cook and eat. Sometimes they get something that doesn't seem usable, and it's thrown back into the sea.

God casts a very broad net when He calls people to Himself -- He says "anyone." God loves us all, and He has a way of taking common things and everyday people and confounding the folks who think themselves wise!
Remember in the Old Testament, when the prophet Samuel went to the house of Jesse? God told him he was going to anoint a king. The last person that anyone (including Samuel) saw as qualified for the calling was a young shepherd boy named David.

Moses told the Lord God that he couldn't speak well, but God used him to lead His people out of bondage and to deliver His Law to them.

Dwight L. Moody was a clerk in his uncle's shoe store, and could scarcely read well, but God saved him and used him to conduct great meetings where many souls were saved.

God sees things in people that others cannot see. And He loves what He sees. He "wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (I Timothy 2:4)
God created us with a built in need for Him. Some say there's a "God-shaped hole inside of man" and that nothing else can even begin to fill it! We all have a thirst for God, and we long to know Him. It's that thirst that Jesus is addressing here.

How do we quench our thirst? What must we do?
Jesus is very specific as to how we should respond:
"come to me."
There's only one place we can go, that will satisfy the thirst in our souls. Not to religion, not to human relationships, not drugs, alcohol, greed or materialism . . .
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
 (Matthew 11:28)
Did this crowd, who heard this invitation, respond or reject Him?
They would later call for His crucifixion.
Israel had a history of turning to the wrong places, the wrong "watering holes" to quench their thirst. They looked to other gods and idols; they insisted on having a king; they indulged in every sin they could . . .

I Corinthians 10 lets us know that Israel's history is recorded for our benefit -- to warn us not to follow that example.
But we do.
We have our own sins, our own idols, our practices and puny, human efforts. But they don't fill that longing, that thirst.
Jesus is offering . . . Himself. He is our peace, our joy, our hope. He's provided everything that we need for life and godliness. We don't have to live a meager, miserable existence in spiritual poverty and depression. He is our limitless Resource. But we have to come to Him. All we have to do is want it bad enough to come to Christ and receive His gift.

Jesus didn't tell us to come after we'd tried everything else (although sometimes that is what we do). He didn't say come when you are good enough. He simply said "Come."
 “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3)
There is joy, peace and love available to all who will come.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Verses that inspire

Our Bibles are the perfect place to look for words to encourage and inspire us. God's Word is to teach us, to encourage us, and to provide nourishment for our hungry souls, as we aspire and work to be more like Him.

What verse or passage has helped you along your path lately? Will you share it with us?

Recently this verse helped me to feel strong and secure:
Psalm 18:32-34  the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer  and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
I hope you will share with us by leaving a comment -- it may be just what one of our sisters in Christ needs to hear!

Monday, March 24, 2014

If anyone is thirsty, Part I

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”
Others said, “He is the Messiah.”
Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
“No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.
“You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”
Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”
They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”  Then they all went home.  (John 7:37-53)

The seventh chapter of John's gospel, as we have seen, is an excellent example of the conflict that comes when people don't agree on Who Jesus is. There are verses that we are not going to focus on, that speak to the "is He real?" and "is He possessed?" questions that we have discussed before. We can see that while some believed on Him and He transformed their lives, others were not ready for that sweeping transformation. But we will see as we study that all of this did not change His mission, nor His invitation. 

Let's dig in!

The first phrase of this passage is really vital to understanding what Jesus is saying and offering. "On the last and greatest day of the festival" . . .
I know that we looked briefly at the festival before -- today let's look at the final day of the ceremonies.
The Feast of Tabernacles was a week-long festival which focused on the faithfulness of God in bringing the children of Israel out of bondage, and asked for His blessings, both of rain, and of bountiful harvests. There is an entire chapter in the Talmud (the assembled traditions of the Rabbis) that gives instructions for the festival, even going into the detail of dimensions for the booths that they were to erect and live in!

On this, the "greatest" day of the festival, the worshipers would be up at dawn to prepare. They would dress in their most festive attire (we'd say we wore our "Sunday-go-to-meetin' clothes!) and they would carry special worship items. In everyone's right hand you would see the "Lulabh" which is a palm branch. More accurately, the commentaries say it is a myrtle branch and a willow branch tied together, with the palm branch in between. If you look in their left hands, you will see a citrus fruit, called "ethrog" in the Jewish texts. They will have chosen a beautiful, unblemished fruit, yellow in color.

The worshipers will divide into three groups. One group will remain at the temple, and another will trek in procession, singing as they go, to Maza, to gather willow branches: the altar must be adorned with a leafy canopy.
The third group will also have music, and they will follow one of the priests in a procession from the temple to the valley, to the Pool of Siloam. The priest will fill a golden pitcher from the waters of the Pool. They they will go back to the Temple; they will try to time their arrival so that they reach the Temple just as the morning sacrifice is laid on the Brazen Altar. There will be a trumpet fanfare as the priest enters and ascends toward the altar. 
Are you picturing all of this? It is beautiful pageantry, and must have inspired the worshipers!
The priest bearing the pitcher of water is joined by another priest who is carrying the wine for the drink offering. They come to two silver funnels, leading down to the base of the altar. The two pour their pitchers simultaneously -- the wine into the eastern funnel, and the water into the western funnel. Remember that both wine and water represent the Holy Spirit in scriptures.
As the priests pour, the people are shouting, and then a Psalm is chanted, while musical instruments are played. (The commentaries that I read mentioned the Psalms 113 through 118; you might like to pause and read those, to truly see what the worshipers were experiencing.)
"O, give thanks unto the Lord!"
As they repeated those lines, they shake the branches in their hands toward the altar, as a praise for past blessings and also to remind God of His promises.

Then there is a silence.
It's the climax of the celebration.

And one voice rises in the crowd:
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
This ceremony is a celebration of God's goodness, and a prayer for His provision. And here is the ultimate cause for us to celebrate; here is the ultimate, be-all-end-all provision of God for all of us -- the Messiah is standing in their midst.

Let's ponder this and continue in our next study......


Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday slowdown

This week we've studied about being real, and giving glory to God. This hymn has been featured before, but it seemed so right that I included it again today:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The real deal, conclusion

14 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15 The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”
16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.

We talked yesterday about how Jesus is the real deal, because everything He did was about honoring God the Father.
Let's dig in!
Look back at some of the things we have studied so far in John's gospel.
When Jesus talked to the woman at the well, He did it to honor God:
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:21-24)
He healed the man at the pool of Bethesda -- to honor God
Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (John 5:19-30)
Most recently we studied the feeding of the five thousand: before He fed them, He blessed the basket of food and thanked the Father for the loaves and fishes. Then, when the meal was over, and the baskets of leftovers were gathered up, He gave the honor again to God.

How much more, then, should we do all for the glory of God and His Son, Jesus Christ!

Sometimes we work for God and we feel woebegone, and slighted, and blue. We should know in our hearts that God sees us and sees our hard work for Him. His reward is sure!

We may not receive applause from man, but we will receive acknowledgment from God. He doesn't forget what we do to honor Him.
Are we committed to following the revealed will of God? To learning and growing and being able to discern the will of God that He has for our future? If we are the real deal, we must be ready to be obedient to Him.

Are we the real deal?
When we speak, are we talking about His acts, or about our own? Are we seeking His kingdom, or our own reputation and applause from men? Are we honoring Him? Exalting Him?
Are we seeking His glory?
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  (Matthew 5:16)

Lord, help us to interested in glorifying you, instead of ourselves.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The real deal, part II

14 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15 The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”
16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.

We've been studying this passage and talking about reality versus pretense . . . let's dig in again!

Jesus tells us how to determine if something or someone is real, in verse 17: if anyone is willing to do His will, he will know if the teaching is of God, or of someone speaking for themselves. Now, this doesn't mean that if we happen to do God's will, we will know the origin of a teaching. It doesn't mean that if one of His hearers at the festival just happened to be in God's will at the moment, that person would know the origin of Jesus' teachings . . .
What He is indicating here, is a definite, purposeful act of the human will. It's a determined choice to do God's will.
I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. Psalm 119:10
I will eagerly pursue your commandments because you continue to increase my understanding. Psalm 119:32
These verses are good examples of the attitude we are talking about; we are to be determined and eager to follow Him and to do His will.
How can we know His will? How many times have we asked ourselves that question?
The secret of knowing God's will is our being willing to do it. He doesn't give us answers just to get our approval; He gives answers to get our obedience. We simply must surrender and trust in Him. His will is true, but sometimes we must exercise our faith and act on that faith, before we will fully know what He plans for us.
I heard this illustration years ago . . . you may have heard it, too:

  There was a man who got lost in the desert. After wandering around for a long time his throat became very dry; about that time he saw a little shack in the distance. He made his way over to the shack and found a water pump with a small jug of water and a note. The note read: "pour all the water into the top of the pump to prime it, if you do this you will get all the water you need". Now the man had a choice to make, if he trusted the note and poured the water in and it worked he would have all the water he needed. If it didn’t work he would still be thirsty and he might die. Or he could choose to drink the water in the jug and get immediate satisfaction, but it might not be enough and he still might die. After thinking about it the man decided to risk it. He poured the entire jug into the pump and began to work the handle, at first nothing happened and he got a little scared but he kept going and water started coming out. So much water came out he drank all he wanted, took a shower, and filled all the containers he could find. Because he was willing to give up momentary satisfaction, he got all the water he needed. Now the note also said: after you have finished, please refill the jug for the next traveler.” The man refilled the jug and added to the note: “ Please prime the pump, believe me it works”!  (Thank you to Sermon Central and Dennis Davidson for the illustration)
As followers of Christ, we must make that same choice -- shall we hold on to what we have, or do we trust God, even to the point of giving up what we have in our hands, anticipating what God has promised to us?
Obviously, our answer needs to be that we trust God, for then we can tell others to trust Him, too. Every time that we obey Him, and step out in faith, we will receive the blessing He promised, along with more confidence and faith.
We know that we need to be obedient to God's known will, for then we will develop discernment, as we studied in Proverbs. Then we'll be able to tell the difference between falsehood and truth.And we have the words of Jesus in verse 18: 
Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.
That is how we can know a religious pretender, a fake, from the real deal. A teacher whose message originates within himself is going to be seeking his own glory. He'll be out to increase his own reputation, and grow his own following.

Jesus was out to grow the glory of God. He wanted to honor Him. He certainly wasn't seeking the applause of the people, or He would have been speaking a completely different message!  His heart sought to exalt the Father -- the net result was that his hearers needed to humble themselves. We can't truly honor and exalt God until we humble ourselves.

So, how do we tell the real deal from fakes?
We should just ask ourselves, who is this person trying to honor?
The scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders of the time, were not very interested in honoring God. They were far more interested in gaining reputation and fame for themselves. They were not real.
Jesus was interested in honoring God, and bringing glory to Him. He was (is) the real deal.

Tomorrow we'll conclude this study with some time spent looking at ourselves. I'll have the bandaids ready for all of us, including me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Prayer requests

On Tuesdays, twice monthly, we have an opportunity to share with each other the prayer requests and needs that we have on our minds. Many of us are struggling right now; some financially, others with health issues, still others are wrestling with family conflicts and more. It's an honor and a privilege to kneel and ask our Father to bless and heal those women, men, and families that are hurting.

We are always happy, too, when someone mentions an answer to prayer. We rejoice with those who have been blessed by God with His grace and mercy.

Personally, I'd like to request that y'all join me in praying for an unspoken request. I cannot reveal the details in this format, but I covet your prayers.  I covenant with you to pray for God's will in all things that you mention here . . . please leave a comment and let us know how we can help pray for you.  Let's ask God for wisdom and discernment; let's ask Him to teach us how to pray and what to pray for.

Psalm 107:28-30 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The real deal, part I

14 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15 The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”
16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.

The real deal.
It's a phrase that is used frequently today. What is the opposite? Fakery, pretense, illusion.
How do we tell the difference?
It's ironic, but there are two movies in two different eras that illustrate this principle . . . in 1961, Tony Curtis starred in a movie (The Great Imposter) that was the fictionalized account of Ferdinand Waldo Demara Jr. who stole or created fictional identities and worked in a variety of occupations (most quite successfully). He worked as a prison warden, impersonated a monk and was also a doctor aboard a Royal Canadian Navy warship where he was required to perform an appendectomy. His impersonations (in the movie, at least) were more to allow himself to live different lives, as opposed to making any kind of personal gain. However, he did get in trouble with the law as a result of his exploits.
In 2002, Catch Me if You Can was released, and it was another true story; this time the story was about Frank Abagnale Jr., who before his 19th birthday was successful at conning millions of dollars in checks as he assumed the identities of a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and an attorney. 

Both of these individuals were able to parlay their talents and the trust of others into schemes that resulted in gain for them. Their fakery and pretense were difficult to discern. They were not, obviously, the real deal.

Jesus, however, is different. Jesus is the reality, the real deal. The two men above looked like reality, but were fakes. Jesus, our Savior, is the opposite. Jesus, according to Scripture, was not handsome, and didn't look the part -- but He claimed to be, and was, the Son of God. Here was the God-man who looked like an everyday person. He did not look like a wealthy man, and worked as a carpenter. He taught like a learned rabbi, amazing all who heard Him. He preached like a prophet and did miracles like God. So, here is the man Who claimed to be God, and was not a fake. He's the real deal.

Let's dig in to our verses!
Jesus came out of His seclusion and He went to the feast when it was at its height. He went to the temple, to the assembled throngs who were there for the important ceremonies, and He asked people to make serious judgments -- not snap decisions like we humans are wont to do. Many times we simply make a quick decision based on surface appearance, right? That is how fakes get past us. But then sometimes we may decide something is a fake, and it's not!  Jesus pointed out to His listeners that if any of them were truly earnest about knowing if He was real, there was a way to determine if His teaching was from God: by choosing to do the will of God. 

Since Jesus arrived late to the feast, curiosity about Him had continued to build. When He arrived in Jerusalem, He headed directly to the temple and taught in the outer court. We can see that to some, Jesus was the reality that looked to them like a fake.
Look at verse 15 -- John shows that Jesus was an amazing teacher. The Jews were astonished, saying "How has this man become learned, having never been educated?" As all of the people (including the temple elders and the leaders of the religious sects) listened to His teaching, they were amazed. His knowledge and mastery of the Scriptures seemed incredible to them. His wise, authoritative explanations were undeniable. But how could an uneducated man know as much (more, actually!) than the great rabbis of the day? Why, He had not sat at the feet of the gifted, accepted teachers, yet He was way past them in understanding and knowledge! How could this be?

In verse 16, Jesus tells them the source of His incredible wisdom -- He says, in effect, "I'm not a fake, I'm real." So Jesus answered them and said, "My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me."  In that verse, Jesus is declaring the the reason His teaching is so amazing, is because it did not originate with Him. His message and His power came from His Father.

He gives all the glory back to the One who had sent Him.
Yes, Jesus was the real deal.
We'll continue with this, next time. Please join us.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Slowdown

"Who Am I"

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name,
Would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart?

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done.
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are.

I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean.
A vapor in the wind.
Still You hear me when I'm calling.
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling.
And You've told me who I am.
I am Yours, I am Yours.

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again?
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me?

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done.
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are.

Whom shall I fear?
Whom shall I fear?
'Cause I am Yours, I am Yours.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

He is a good man, a teacher . . . part II

After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.
10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”
12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”
Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.

The Feast of Tabernacles, or Festival of Booths, was one of the most popular events of the Jewish calendar. That is why in this passage, there were crowds of people celebrating.
This feast is Israel's "Thanksgiving" and was a joyous harvest festival. The main characteristic of the festival is the requirement that the revelers dwell in temporary shelters (booths) in remembrance of God's protection and care while they journeyed for forty years in the wilderness.

There were two very important ceremonies during the festival. The people would carry torches around the temple, lighting candles along the walls of the temple, to demonstrate that the Messiah would be a light to the Gentiles, the Jews and the whole world.
Also, one of the priests would draw water from the pool of Siloam, and carry it into the temple. It would then be poured into a silver basin that sat beside the altar, and the priest would call upon the Lord to provide water from heaven, in the form of rain.
This was important for their agriculture and their harvests, and it also reminded the people to look forward to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, as spoken of by Joel:
"And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. (Joel 2:28)
It was perfectly natural for the Jewish leaders to expect to see Jesus there at this feast, and they probably were irritated that everyone was gossiping about Him. Some were saying He was good, others were not certain, but everyone had an opinion. The Pharisees were agitated by Jesus, for He looked into their hearts and told them that their good works were not all that good; He said, in fact, that they were evil, for they were leading the people astray. People hate to hear that their "good" works condemn them.
They were amazed and enraged by his words on the last day of the feast:
"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." (John 7:37-38)
And then, on the next morning (in chapter 8) he said this:
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)

Nothing has changed.  If we were to ask random people today, "Who do you think Jesus is?" we would hear many different answers.
"Jesus Christ was a man who thought he was God."
"I think that's something you have to decide for yourself, but he had some beautiful ideas."
 "He was a good man." 
"He was a great teacher."
"He lives today, and is my Friend."

Paul promised the Ephesians that good teaching and true doctrine prevent us from being tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. That  illustrates how people respond to Jesus. Unless the Holy Spirit calms the mind, truth washes right on through and we are captivated by each new opinion that we hear.

If we want to stay on course, and if we want to have a true understanding of Who Jesus really is, we must first be born again, and then we must ask for wisdom from His Spirit. He will indwell us and guide us. What awesome grace, to promise this to us!
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.(John 14:26)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

He is a good man, a teacher . . .part I

After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.
10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”
12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”
Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.

Bear with me . . . this is a rather lengthy post!

For centuries, people have been arguing about who Jesus was . . . many say that He was a good and moral man. Others say He was a wonderful teacher. Some will admit that He was a prophet, and that He fulfilled many prophecies.

In His own day, people argued about Him, too. Some called Him a liar, a blasphemer. Some said he was crazy. But to those the Father drew by the Holy Spirit, He appeared as His true self -- the Son of God, the Messiah.

It would be difficult to accept Jesus as a good and moral man, and as a great teacher, without also accepting Him as God. 
Ever thought that one through? Since He claimed to be God, He must either be telling the truth (as He was) or He must be lying or deceiving Himself and others. If that latter phrase is true (if He's lying) then He can't be a good, moral teacher.
C. S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him, "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God."  That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
Let's look at some of the claims that Jesus made:
       He said that He and the Father are one.
       He also said that whoever has seen Jesus has seen God.
       He told everyone that God the Father sent Him to do His will.
       Jesus said also that He is the Savior and the only way to God.
       He said that He was the light of the world, and the resurrection and the life.

And here is where He really enraged the Pharisees: He said that not only did He have the power to heal the sick, and to raise the dead, but He claimed authority over the Sabbath, authority to answer prayer, and authority to forgive sins!

Here is the earthly, mortal, legalistic way that the Pharisees looked at that last one . . .well, let's use an example, one of the faithful followers of this study blog. Let's say that I stomped on B's toe.
On purpose.
Now, if I ask her to forgive me, then she can be gracious, and as she applies a bandaid, she can say that I'm pardoned.
But, if I stomp on B's toe, and then B starts to stomp on mine -- but C steps in and says, "Wait a minute, B! I forgive her for stomping you."
Then we would all wonder why she stepped in, right? It isn't really her argument. B is the one who can forgive me.  The offense was against her.
Now, here is the difference -- the Pharisees heard Jesus saying that He could forgive sins. And sins are sins because they are wrongs committed against God the Father.

Ahhhh, I think I get it now. They (the scribes and Pharisees) called Jesus a blasphemer, because they were thinking, "Who can forgive sins, except God?"

In addition to the scribes and Pharisees, we also see that His own family said that He was out of His mind. His brothers didn't believe in Him, and they didn't believe on Him.
Why is this? Why, as C. S. Lewis said, do some call Him Lord, and others say He has a demon? Well, Paul told us in the New Testament that natural thinking can never accept spiritual's thought to be foolishness. The spiritual truth is that Jesus is not a great teacher Who came to explain how to live a moral life; He is a merciful God, Who came to save a sinful human race. And we can only accept Jesus and treasure Him as we should, when we are born again of the Spirit.

Let's really "get down and dirty" here; let's examine His brothers closely: Jesus grew up with them and they saw his character every day. He was cheerful and obedient to His parents; He was gentle and unselfish; He did not lash out at others with pride or anger. He never lied or blamed others. But in spite of this, His own family is no better than the Jewish leadership. They don't believe.
And they're not quiet about it, either! They try to manipulate Him, and show their jealousy with their spiteful words. But Jesus said that some people would not be convinced, even if someone is raised from the dead.

We should not despair when we are rejected as we sincerely try to tell others about our Lord. Even Jesus was rebuffed by those who should have been his biggest champions, his warmest allies. Jesus will know our loneliness, and will comfort us.

What we should do, is to pray for grace and wisdom as we try to tell others about Him. He says in His word that if we call out to Him, He will answer us.

We also should claim His promise -- He promised His presence and the power of His Spirit, when we tell of how our lives have been changed, and try to persuade others to come to a relationship with Him.

Let's be totally different from the Jewish leaders, and Jesus' brothers . . . let's believe in Him, and on Him, and let's delight in doing His will!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What are you listening to?

This week, let's share what hymns or songs have been a blessing to us. We are told to be
speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, (Ephesians 5:19)
and Paul also said,
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:16-17)
The reality of God and Christ and creation and salvation and heaven and hell are simply too great for mere speaking; they must also be sung.

What are you listening to? And are you singing to Him?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lessons from a pelican

Recently I was blessed to have a few hours of respite in the midst of a hectic business trip, and was able to spend some time seated on a quiet beach, listening to the pounding of the waves and watching the surf. My idea of heaven, actually. (Grin)

As I relaxed, I enjoyed watching the life around me. Of course, there were the ever-present gulls, shrieking and wheeling and turning overhead. There were tiny sandlappers who scooted along the edges of the waves, with their little legs moving so fast they blurred before my eyes. There were regal dolphins occasionally showing their fins further out.

My attention was captured by a pelican. Not a flock of pelicans, like I usually see, but one lone bird. This bird had character. Moxie. And he taught me some lessons, in spite of the fact that I don't speak pelican.

This particular pelican (let's call him Pelly for short) sat serenely bobbing on the waves, just beyond the breakers. Free from the hassle of dealing with the fiercer currents, the waves, and the foam, he seemed content to stay right where he was, as if he was well aware that was where he belonged.

Pelly didn't get all flustered when a flock of pelicans circled twice overhead. Even when they landed nearby, he simply looked them over and then got back to business . . . looking into the water below him. I guess he was looking for a small fish to swim by. The flock seemed nervous; they were constantly moving about, splashing, twittering amongst themselves. Their activity didn't seem to accomplish much, though, and soon they were ready to leave again. They seemed to call out to Pelly, squawking a couple of times, then rising into the air and heading down the coast. Pelly watched them quietly, and floated.

Pelly surprised me, then, by stretching out his massive wings and taking flight. His purposeful cadence lifted him high into the sunny sky, and then he pointed his long beak straight down toward the water, and unafraid, began to plummet. His wings closed around his body and he fell toward the waves even faster. I'd seen pelicans do this many times before, but it amazed me simply because he'd seemed so passive and quiet before. In seconds his beak pierced the water and his body went under the surface.

When he popped up, there was a silvery tail hanging from one side of his beak: success!  He had accomplished his goal and had a nice breakfast!

I think that many of you will have caught on to what I'm about to say, but here are the lessons that Pelly taught me as I sat on the sand that day:
  1.    God has a place for me. It's the perfect place for me, because it is in His will.
  2.    Even if the circumstances around me are difficult, if I'm in His will, I can be content and quiet.
  3.    I don't need to worry about what others are doing. I can rest, confident that I'm doing what He wants.
  4.    When God gives me a job to do, I don't need to be afraid. If I do my job the way He planned, I will acccomplish the goal.
  5.     God will provide for my every need, if I strive to stay in His will.

I think Pelly was pretty smart, don't you? 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Thursday, March 6, 2014

John 6, conclusion

Today we are concluding our study of the sixth chapter of John's gospel. Let's dig in!

We've seen the miracle of Jesus providing food for over five thousand people, from a small basket containing only two fish and five barley loaves. Now let's see what the reaction was, from the people who received this food . . .
At the beginning of this passage, we saw that this large crowd was following Him because "they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick." So this throng followed because of the signs and miracles that they saw Him doing. He was healing the sick, and they were amazed; they wished for more of the benefits of His awesome power. Hmmmm . . . we've seen this before, right?
"Many believed in His name when they saw the signs that He was doing."  (John 2:23) 
This was Christ's response at the time:
“But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people” (John 2:24)
 We talked about how Jesus knew their hearts and realized that they were excited by His miracles. They believed He was a genuine miracle-worker. But something was wrong  . . .
The people in this crowd had a similar problem. When they saw the sign (the miracle of feeding so many people) they said, "This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!" And Jesus, who knew their hearts, perceived that they were about to take Him by force to make Him king. So He withdrew to the mountain.
The enthusiasm these people had, was not for who He really was.
This reference to the "Prophet" points all the way back to Deuteronomy 18:15, where Moses prophesied, "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers -- it is to him you shall listen." Well, Jesus was indeed this predicted Prophet. He was the fulfillment of that prophecy.

But the people didn't understand what it meant. Let's look at verses 32 and 33:
“Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’”
In other words, I am like Moses, but so much more! Moses asked God, and God supplied the manna, the miracle bread that sustained the people in the wilderness. Now Jesus is saying, "I don't just give you the bread of life; I am the bread of life. You can see my power, but you don't yet understand the glory of how this power will be used.

Later in the passage, Jesus says,
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6:51
There were three things about Jesus, the bread of life, that they didn't "get" --

Jesus was going to use His power not to triumph over the Romans, as the people wished, but to triumph over their sins.  And it was He, not the miracles, that their souls needed (and ours do, too).  And the connection between these two is the way He becomes food for the eternal satisfying of our souls: by laying down His life for us.

But wait! Isn't He a king?
Yes, He is. In John 18:36 Jesus told Pilate:
“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
Yes, He is King, but not the way Pilate, or this crowd in John 6 thinks of a king. In that verse, Jesus doesn't mean that this world belongs to someone else -- it belongs to Him. He made it. And someday He will come again and claim it. But He came into the world not to be a military captain or a earthly king, but to be bread. He came not to subdue armies but to satisfy souls.

So, Jesus is doing much more than taking five loaves and two fish and feeding a huge crowd -- He is opening a window on who He is. He is showing us His glory. And He is showing us, not so we can get excited about how useful He could be in giving us what we want, but so that we can see that He, Jesus, is better than anything we ever wanted before.
The point of making bread for the throng, like God making manna, is that the Son of God came into the world not to give us bread, but to be our bread. And we are all, every one of us, sinners, so we don't deserve this bread.
Then how will He give it to us?
“The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51)
When He gives His flesh on the cross, he becomes that bread. Something -- no, someone -- who will nourish us, and satisfy us, the sinners who believe.
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8
Thank you Lord, for coming to earth to be the Bread of Life!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

John 6, continued

We are studying the miracle of Jesus' feeding the five thousand this week . . . let's dig in again!

When I was a teen, I heard this passage preached upon, and what the speaker said has stayed with me for years. He guided us to look at the miracle, and then to look past it.
Let me explain.
Jesus took a basket that a small boy had brought with him, and looked inside. He saw two fish, and five loaves of barley bread.
Surely that is not enough to feed this throng, the disciples said.
But Jesus must have smiled. He knew the potential contained in this basket. He blessed the food, and then broke it into pieces and began to hand it out. (Wouldn't it have been wonderful to receive a bit of food from our Lord's own hand? It is an awe-inspiring thought.)
The disciples took over and kept handing out bread and fish to the assembled crowd. When they were finished, over five thousand people had been fed.
That, in itself, is incredible.
Now listen to the rest of the story. Jesus told them to gather up what was left, so that nothing would go to waste.
They gathered up twelve baskets of food!
Even more incredible, right?
Now let's look past the miracle, to today.

We need to realize that when God looks at the basket of our life, he doesn't see "not enough to do the job." He sees the potential. He sees what we can do, and what we can be, with His help.
He doesn't focus on how small, or how weak, or how inexperienced we are.
He is all-powerful, and He knows what He can do through us.
There's another thing we can see here: God isn't satisfied doing "just enough." He loves to surprise us with His bounty. He enjoys showing His mercy and His grace.
He will shower us with much more than we need, much more than we ask Him for. Just like when the five thousand were fed, and twelve baskets of food were left over, He will bless us and then bless us more.
 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. Luke 6:38
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,  Ephesians 3:20

What an awesome God!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Prayer Requests

We've been blessed recently to hear of wonderful answers to prayer. God is good, and He showers us with mercy and grace, doesn't He?

Leave a comment today if there is something on your heart that you'd like for us to join you in praying about. If it is very personal, or your heart is just too full and stressed to share, simply tell us it is an unspoken request. We don't have to know. God knows.

..........for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.  (Matthew 6:8)

Let's pray.

Monday, March 3, 2014

John 6:1-15

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

The sixth chapter of John's gospel is a troublesome chapter for many unbelievers, and for the Christians that they question regarding it. Hopefully we can study this and make it possible to understand it more fully.

How long has it been since the aroma of baking bread filled your home? Has it been a while since you sliced a still-warm loaf and savored the wonderful taste? As wonderful as that is, and as nourishing as it can be, Jesus our Lord is even better! Like so many other things that He created, like cool spring water, and glorious sunshine, bread is something that can remind us of the special relationship we have with Him.

In the first few verses of this chapter, we see Jesus work a miracle with the everyday, commonplace bread that all of his hearers were familiar with. Then in the next verses, with language that confuses some and offends others, He preached on His miracle. He tells them that this miracle of bread is about Himself -- the bread of God, come down from heaven. 

It's amazing to note in verse 66, that many of His followers abandoned Him after He spoke these words. "After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him."
But not all of them left. Jesus turned to the twelve in the very next verse and asked if they wanted to leave, as well. But Peter (bless his heart, he always spoke up so quickly; he blurted out just what was in his heart!) told him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

So as we study, let's first focus on the miracle in the first fifteen verses, when Jesus took two fishes and five barley loaves and fed over five thousand people. Then we'll look at the controversy about Jesus as the bread of heaven, in the rest of the chapter. 

You see, there is more here than meets the eye. There are clues at the beginning and at the end of this passage about the feeding of the five thousand, that show us two things: Jesus is doing more than feeding people with natural bread, and the people in general are in no spiritual condition to see what He is doing.

We've seen this before, remember? John has written down instances where Jesus does something or says something in the natural world, as a way of pointing to the heavenly realm, and the people just don't "get it."
Remember, that is why John is we'll "get it." And in less time than some of his contemporaries!

He told the leaders in chapter two, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." What was their answer? "It took forty-six years to build this temple."     
He told Nicodemus: "You must be born again." What did Nicodemus say? "How do I get back into my mother's womb?"
He told the woman at the well that He would give her living water . . . she said, "You don't have a bucket."

We will see in these verses that this group doesn't "get it" either.  As we pray today, perhaps we should ask for wisdom to see what He wants us to see, and hear what He wants us to hear. Please, Lord, help us to "get it."