A Month with Jesus
What Are You Hungry For? - John 6
What are you hungry for? The question seems simple, but at its heart it reveals what our true desires are. Some hunger for fame. Some for success. Some for wealth. Some for approval. Some for sensual desires.
John 6 is a chapter about hungry people. It starts with the large crowd who are hungry for food (v. 1-14). Some were hungry for truth (v. 26-40). Some were hungry for validation and praise for their lineage, proving they were right and showing up this “would-be” Messiah (v. 41-58).
What Jesus does through this chapter is show the people how He is the true source of what we truly desire and need. He did this through the incredible statement, “I am the bread of life.” With the Apostles and the conundrum of finding enough food to feed 5000 people, Jesus shows them that He is the source of our sustenance, our greatest needs, and that He can provide, even when it seems impossible. With the group of people who came with honest questions (v. 28), Jesus is showing them that there is a greater source of strength and healing in this life – it is Him. And ultimately with the Jews who grumbled, when Jesus spoke about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, He wasn’t speaking about the Lord’s Supper, but rather showing them that unless they truly embrace Christ (believe His words, trust in His will, etc.) they’ll end up like their fathers, temporarily sustained on perishable bread. Only in Christ is there true, never-ending, all-sustaining, life.
So let me ask again, what are you hungry for? Much of what we desire is like the manna God provided from heaven. It serves a temporal purpose but can’t sustain us in the long run. Our families, brethren, friendships, jobs, material blessings – they truly are gifts from the almighty, and can be great sources of encouragement through life’s journey. But they can’t be what I build my life upon. They can’t be the only source I am drawing my strength from.
Christ is the bread of life. Knowing Christ, and being known by Him, can satisfy the soul, can strengthen the heart, can renew the mind, like nothing else that exists. Paul calls it the surpassing value (Phil. 3:8). There’s a peace in knowing the God who created the world, and remembering His will and purpose in life. There’s a real confidence I can have in knowing the God who can do all things, who can provide for my greatest need, even when it doesn’t seem possible for me. There’s a blessed reassurance in knowing Christ, realizing in Him, life lasts. He is the bread of life, not death. His strength never fades. His promises stand true and endure through time. Knowing Christ is knowing that the loss of today pales in comparison to the promise of life here and to come in Him.
Do you remember what Jesus said in the model prayer? “Give us this day our daily bread…”. Yes, He was talking about our physical needs that God provides – but look at that request through the lens of John 6. What if we prayed this prayer each morning, thinking of Christ. Give me this day my daily bread – my daily Christ – the one who sustains, who empowers, who restores my soul. That’s the bread I hunger for.
My Blessed Provider, the true Bread of Life, I need you every day. I need your strength. I need reminded of your promises. I’m reminded today that you can provide for my greatest needs, even when it seems impossible. Help me to hunger for you. Be my daily bread. Sustain my life. Renew my spirit. Strengthen my faith. Reinforce my hope. Let the source of my power be You – my living stream, my water of life, my bread, my God!
The Claims Of Jesus - John 5
“Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years” (John 5:5). Jesus healed this man, but it was on the Sabbath.
The Jews held Jesus liable for breaking the Sabbath by healing and for His general attitude regarding their traditional Sabbath observance. To these fanatical Jews their own hatred, persecution, and murderous intentions were virtues. And, the mercy, the miracles of Jesus, and His showing them as signs and seals of his divine Sonship, mortal crimes.
We get the impression that they would have been happier if the man were still lame! At least that way he couldn’t have carried his bed on the Sabbath.
Augustine said, “They sought darkness from the Sabbath, more than light from the miracle.”
Jesus had not broken the Sabbath law. What He had broken was one of their 39 interpretations of the Sabbath law.
He said, “My Father is always at work, to this very day, and I too am working.” In other words, He’s saying, “Where did you ever get the ridiculous doctrine that God doesn’t work anymore? For six days He created and on the seventh day He stopped creating, but just because God stopped creating, do you think He stopped His work as Sustainer? Do you think on the Sabbath day God says, ‘Okay, I’m not going to hold the stars in place anymore’? Doesn’t the sun come up on the Sabbath day? Doesn’t it rain on the Sabbath day? And aren’t babies born on the Sabbath day? Are you telling Me that God stops working on the Sabbath day when it’s good for people? And when you cut your hand on the Sabbath day, does God say to Himself, ‘Well, you know, I designed that body to heal itself, I designed the blood to coagulate, but since it’s the Sabbath day I’m not going to, and He can just bleed to death. That’s what he gets for cutting his hand on the Sabbath.’”
In other words, Jesus was saying, “Common sense tells you that God is still doing good things for His people, even on the Sabbath day. That’s God’s work, and that’s My work! If it’s the Sabbath day, and somebody needs help, it’s the work of God to help him, and that’s what I’ll be doing.”
That makes a lot of sense, but they didn’t hear what He said. They never heard because they were determined not to. All they heard was a second indictment. They said, “Ah-Ha! We knew He was a Sabbath breaker, but now He’s a blasphemer!” And they were determined to kill Him. They were continually plotting His murder from that day forward. A Sabbath breaker and a blasphemer, they couldn’t let such live.
The claims of Jesus were far more than that of being a prophet. The works that He did were not His alone, but He duplicated and continued the Father’s work. Even greater works than these would be done. The Jews scorned the claim that He was equal with God, but Jesus affirmed that the Father had not only given Him power to perform miracles but committed all judgment to Him.
Prayer: Father, Your Son still works today upholding this world by the power of His word. You still work to bring us back to You. Please help us keep from building our own walls that keep us from You. Amen!
The Journey of Faith - John 4
There’s a story in John 4 that we’re not as familiar with. We remember the woman by the well. Every preacher has a sermon on evangelism tied to the woman by the well. But did you catch the other story? It’s found in John 4:46-54.
Jesus is back in Cana of Galilee, the same town He performed His first sign. It’s here He’ll show His second sign (4:54). There’s a royal official – a man of power and prominence – and his son is sick and dying. He comes to Jesus imploring Him to heal his son. Not demanding. Not commanding. Not bribing. Imploring. Begging. Pleading. Sometimes faith grows the most in our darkest hours, in our times of greatest need.
This man is on a journey of faith. His first words to Jesus are words of desperation, not faith, and Jesus knows this (v. 48). But when Jesus challenges this man’s faith, he persists and asks again, and Jesus puts it to the test. “Go, your son lives” (v. 50). Would this man believe Jesus? Would he insist Jesus come with him to lay his hand on his son? Would Jesus’ words be enough?
They were. Notice the three words: “and started off” (v. 50). How do we know he believed Jesus words? He went home. If he didn’t believe Jesus he’d still be there pleading. He’d be looking for another option. This man believed Jesus.
His journey of faith reaches it’s peak when he hears the news his son has recovered, and puts it together that his son was healed while he was speaking with Jesus. It’s an incredible statement: “he himself believed and his whole household” (v. 53). His whole household believed! Maybe it was seeing the son, all of a sudden, healed. Maybe it was hearing the testimony of the father. Either way, they all came to believe.
This story reminds us that faith is a journey. For some it starts in the valley of hardship and suffering. For some it is the product of teaching from godly parents. Either way faith begins with the same thing – the words of Christ.
Have you ever had a sprained ankle? It hurts. There’s a period when you crutch around, waiting for it to strengthen and heal. In every sprained ankle there’s a moment of trust: when I (for the first time) try to put some weight on this injured ankle. Has it healed enough? Is is strong enough to bear my weight? You’ll never know until you take that step.
Our faith is the same way. As we hear Christ’s words and place our weight upon them, trusting God with our lives. It’s saying, “I trust in what you’re saying Jesus. You say you’re Lord. You say You promise good. You say that Your way and plan will bring about the best for my life, so I will trust You and do what You say. We take that step of faith. And you know what we find? It’s much like this noble man – you don’t fall. You can trust in the words of Christ. Why not take that step today?
Holy God, Word of life, today I praise You for being trustworthy. I believe in Your words. You are faithful. Your promises are sure. Your way is always right. I do believe, but help my unbelief. Help me to continue to take that step of faith and put my trust in You and in Your words. And thank You for never giving up on me. Help me in my journey of faith. May each step I take, each day i live, bring me to a greater trust in You.
Nicodemus - John 3
Nicodemus was religious. He was a Pharisee. The Pharisees get bad press, and as they are recorded in scripture, there is much about them to be critical. But, we need to remember their basic, initial intention. They were to be a separated people, wholly devoted to the laws of God.
The Pharisees were not a big group. In fact, there were never more than 6,000 at one time. They were sort of an elite brotherhood who separated themselves from ordinary life to really devote themselves to the perfect keeping of the laws of God and of the scribes. Gamaliel was a Pharisee, and a good man. Paul, the apostle, was a Pharisee. And, Nicodemus was a Pharisee.
Nicodemus had influence. He was a “ruler of the Jews,” which probably means he was a member of the Sanhedrin. That was the highest council of the Jewish people. We know politically the Romans were in charge. But, in a spiritual sense, the Sanhedrin had jurisdiction over every Jew in the world. So, it was quite an honor to be in the Sanhedrin. But, a powerful life does not necessarily mean a purposeful life.
Nicodemus had education. A prerequisite for membership in the Sanhedrin was through academic training by the finest Rabbis in the land. But, a sea of diplomas do not guarantee a sense of direction.
He is “THE” teacher. This is a subtle thing, but notice verse 10; Jesus said, “You are “THE” teacher in Israel.” Apparently Nicodemus was considered to be very astute in religious matters. And the people considered him “their teacher.” He was considered the preeminent teacher in Israel. In fact, later in John 7, Nicodemus knew the law very well. But, simply knowing the law did not bring him closer to God.
Nicodemus had money. Later in John 19, we read of how Nicodemus took Jesus’ body and buried it in 75 pounds of expensive spices that the common people couldn’t afford. In fact, the amount was so much, it was usually reserved for kings. Nicodemus had a lot of money, but you can have a lot of money and not have a lot of meaning in life.
Most people believe that if you get more of all of those things, life will work. And if it doesn’t, there is one more thing you could have. Nicodemus had it.
And so the question then is this, “Why is this man who has everything, coming at night to see a man who has nothing?” And the answer is, all of those things that Nicodemus had are external, and they have nothing to do with really being alive. Nicodemus was still missing something. Nicodemus did not have life. He needed to be born again and have true life (John 3:3).
Prayer: Lord, it is not this world, nor the things in and of this world that give us life. You have provided life through Your Son. No matter how great we are in this life, without You we have no life. We thank you and praise You for Your wonderful love for us. Amen
Firsts - John 2
Firsts. We remember firsts. The first child. The first birthday. The first steps. The first job. The first date. John 2 points us to a first. “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee…” (2:11).
It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? Of all the signs Jesus could have started with, His first seems kind of simple, especially compared to healing incurable diseases, or resurrecting the dead. We tend to struggle with this chapter – what was the big deal? They ran out of wine. It’s not as if someone was dying, or facing a chronic illness. Did this really demand a miracle? When we peel back the layers of John 2, we see why Jesus did what He did, and why this is a fantastic “first” sign.
The setting of this miracle is a wedding. Typical Jewish weddings could have lasted one to two weeks. It’s easy to understand how the refreshments could have run out in such a long duration. When they realize the wine is gone, Mary comes to Jesus with the problem (v. 3). Though she didn’t know everything about God’s plan for Jesus, from the start we see her great faith. She knew where to turn. When faced with a problem she knew where to go. Do we?
Notice Jesus’ statement in v. 4. It’s a key statement to understanding this text. “My hour has not yet come.” When Jesus spoke about His “hour,” He was speaking about the plan for which He came – His death, burial, and resurrection (see JN. 7:30; JN 8:20; JN 12:27). Isn’t that an amazing thought? Here, early in His ministry, Jesus is already focused on Calvary. His eyes looking to Jerusalem, His thoughts on His death.
Jesus has them fill 6 stone water pots to the brim. But don’t miss the detail! What kind of pots are they? What were they used for? In v. 6 they were used for the Jewish custom of “purification.” Think of that word: purification – cleansing – washing – forgiveness. Jesus chose the vessels used for cleansing pointing the “hour” He came for. The water turned to wine – red wine – which carries a strong resemblance to blood. Through Jesus hour He will be offering real cleansing, real forgiveness, through the shedding of His blood. And they didn’t just fill one pot – this cleansing isn’t just for one family or bloodline – they filled 6 pots containing 20 or 30 gallons each (v. 6) – an abundance of supply – Christ and His abundance of grace. And the scene ends with merriment and joy. Christ came and supplied a great need, replacing sorrow with joy. The result of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary is great joy in the freedom found in the blood of the lamb (MAL 4:2).
Keep this phrase in your mind: “…these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:30). The result of this miracle was exactly that – the revealing of Christ’s glory, and the development of faith in His disciples (2:11). How about us? From this first miracle, do you believe that Jesus is the answer to your life’s problems? Do you believe that Jesus can supply your every need? But let’s get to the deeper meaning – Jesus performed this miracle pointing to His hour – the hour He suffered and experienced for everyone – for me – for you. Realizing that Jesus kept His focus on Calvary, do you believe He cares for you? Do you believe He has your best interest in mind? Do you believe there’s real hope, real forgiveness, real cleansing, abundant grace found in the blood of the lamb?
“Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, I stand in all of you! I am amazed by Your love. I stand in wonder at your power. I am speechless in seeing your grace, your devotion to Your Father, to the plan that led you to Calvary. Thank You for this miracle. Thank You for showing us your devotion to the Father, and to our forgiveness. Thank You for the cleansing that comes through Your blood. Lord, I believe. I believe You love and care for me. Help me in my moments of doubt to follow Your example, and to keep my gaze on Calvary. Help me, like You, to live today focused on God’s plan, and how to live this day for His will.