November 2014


Introduction

In our previous study, we had looked into the second miracle performed by Jesus in the book of John. We have begin looking at the various teaching that we can learn from this incident.

So far we have discussed 2 lessons 

Lesson 1 : He Learnt To Stop Relying On Himself And To Rely on Jesus 
Lesson 2 : He Learnt To Approach Jesus In Person 

As we have tried to look deeper into the issue of faith, now let us consider what is a true faith.

Understanding True Faith

Often when we approach someone for help, its natural that we would stand back and see what the person can do. This is natural as we are all human beings and there is a limit to what we can do. Assuming if the person is unable to help us, we may have to approach others for

But sadly, sometimes we adopt the same attitude when we are dealing with God.We rely on others to pray for us and we approach God with an attitude to test and  see if we can receive healing or not.

But if we choose to keep that attitude, we would never receive grace from Jesus . For Elder James tell us

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting,
  for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea
  driven and tossed by the wind.  For let not
  that man suppose that he will receive
  anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded
  man, unstable in all his ways.”- James ( Jas 1:6-8)

True faith is one that does not have doubt, and there is no middle ground between the 2. It is not possible to choose to believe and doubt at the same time. For one who practice that does not have faith. He is in fact double minded.

There is a need for us to choose not to be double minded, for it is up to us to choose whether to believe in God or not. That is a choice that no one can make for us.

We have heard what Jesus can do and we have read what he said. It is our choice to believe them or not. If we choose to believe in him, we will pray to him and receive grace from him.

Therefore we need to establish our faith in God. Even though we first knew of Jesus through our friends and relative, even though they prayed for us when we are still too weak to pray. But we need to develop our faith and build it upon the Lord. Let us learn to be firm and not be double minded

Lesson 3 : He Chose To Obey Jesus Instead of Telling Jesus What To Do

As you go through the story of this miracle, you will realise how the faith of the nobleman grew as the story progressed. His faith was first built when he heard how Jesus turning water into wine. That is why he chose to come to Jesus personally to plead with him to save his son.

His faith can be seen in his action of coming personally and inviting Jesus to his house. However, Jesus did not do according to what he wanted, instead Jesus sent the nobleman back to his house.

Lets consider what would the nobleman feel at that point of time. I think we would all react in this similar fashion

1. “Its unbelievable, Jesus did nothing to help me”  
2. “All I wanted is that he follow me, lay hand on my son and pray for him”
3. “Am I asking for too much? Did Jesus not heal the sick like this all the time?”
4. “Why did Jesus give me such strange instruction?”

It may appear as if we have pleaded and Jesus had decline our requests. All he did is to ask us to go home. 

In fact Jesus wanted the man to listen to him and go home. Jesus told the man

“Unless you people see signs and wonders,
  you will by no means believe.”- Jesus (Jn 4:48)

Indeed, the nobleman did not see his son recovering, so he reacted quickly saying “Sir, come down before my son dies” . At that point of time, Jesus told him

“Go you way, your son lives” .”- Jesus (Jn 4:50)

So now, how would we react when Jesus tell us this? That is when we need to consider, “Do we believe in the miracles or the person who perform the miracle?”

For if we choose to believe in the words of Jesus, he will trust that his son had fully recovered. But if we choose only to believe in the miracle, then there was no miracle before his very eyes. So are we going to believe just because we saw the miracle? 

At that point, the faith of the nobleman improved, that is the time he chose to believe in Jesus, he did not tell Jesus what he wants him to do, but he is willing to follow the instruction of Jesus.

He left Cana , empty handed but with faith in his heart.  Along the way he met his servant who told him that his son lives, and calculated back and discovered that his son was heal at the moment when Jesus said “Your son lives”

To Follow Or Not To Follow

Let us consider how our faith is like. Let us consider this question carefully

“Do you want God to listen to us and follow our orders?”

Whenever we approach God and make our supplications, there are many thoughts that go through our heads. We often wish that Jesus would do this and that, according to our whims and fancies.

That is when we forget that we cannot instruct God and tell him what we want him to do. Even though our request can be reasonable, just like what the nobleman wanted Jesus to do.

All he wanted is that Jesus to come to his house and lay hand on his son. We know from the bible that Jesus indeed did that to heal the sick, but even if our request are reasonable, we tend to forget that God has his will and his time.

We cannot ask God to follow our orders but instead we ought to listen to him. For we believe that God timing is better than ours and his foolishness is wiser than man.

So when Jesus does not heed our request, will we continue to believe in him? If Jesus sends us back empty handed, will we go home quietly? Are we willing to do as he instructed?

True faith is one that knows how to plead with God personally, it is also one that is willing to listen to the instruction of the Lord

Lesson 4: He Advanced From Praying For Physical Need To Spiritual Needs  

The faith of the nobleman grew from praying for his physical need to praying for his spiritual needs. This can be seen in the conclusion of that story. For John had written

“He himself believed, and his whole household.”- John (Jn 4:53)

The nobleman faith is now different, it is not just a faith that believes that Jesus can cure illness. It became a faith that believes that Jesus is able to save him and his household.

The nobleman witness Jesus healing his son but his faith did not stop there, in fact he understood Jesus even more. He understood that even though Jesus healed his son now, he will fall sick again in the future. Even if he does not fall sick again, his son will die one day.

That is why he realise the importance of believing in Jesus for eternal life. For only Jesus has eternal life. By believing in Jesus one could enter into eternal life.

The nobleman had heard the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine, he knew that Jesus had the power of God to create things, and now he experience how Jesus could transcend the limitation of time and space. He can heal his son who is 33 km away just by speaking.  The nobleman knew that these are abilities that no man can have as the result he believe that Jesus is God manifested in the flesh

Conclusion

Jesus performed miracles not solely for the need to provide for the physical need of the people. The miracles are done to prove that he is indeed the Christ, the anointed one of God. They are down to prove that Jesus could lead man into everlasting life

The nobleman saw Jesus showing his authority as God. Which is why he believed in the gospel preached by Jesus. He is convince that the gospel preached by Jesus is the true Gospel that can bring one into salvation

The nobleman did not just keep that belief to himself, he led his entire household to believe.

This is important because we will all pass away one day, so everyone needs to enter into eternal life. The only way to receive it is to believe in Jesus. Let us learn to be like the nobleman who led his family to believe, for Jesus had more to offer than just physical benefits.

We may receive healing as a grace from Jesus, but even as we are made well we will fall sick again. The main point is not about having our sickness healed, for Jesus is here to give us eternal life. That is something far more important and far more precious

John had recorded 7 miracles to help us understand that Jesus is the Christ, and we have only covered 2 of the miracles. But are these enough to help us see the fact that he is God?

May God guide us and help us understand it, may we be like this nobleman

Today during sharing there was a topic written on the white board, the words that are written on it is used as the title of this blog entry.

The Two Opposing View About Pestilences and Famine

View No 1: These are Judgement From God

Generally the message shared can be summarised like this

God is love, at the same time he is also judgment. Therefore there are many things that are example of judgement from God.

1. Aids is an example of punishment to the sexually immoral
2. God has used pestilences as punishment (Deut 28:58-61, Lev 26:16-15 )
         a. King Jehoram (2 Chron 21) is used as an example of this punishment
3. God uses the judgement as a way to turn people back (Rev 16:7-11, 2 Chron 7:14)
4. God did not use it as a way to make life difficult, but for one to turn back (Tit 3:5)

According to him, makes use of many forms of disasters as punishment against people who sin against him  (EG : Fire and Brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah , the great flood at the times of Noah ,  the 7 bowls of wrath poured during revelations)

View No 2: That’s is Life

At the same time, I remember another discussion we have with a CG group of a church where there are people who thinks that bad things happens to people simply because “That is life”. The concept of man having to suffer for the wrong for sin is because of our “Asian Upbringing” (AKA Karma in Buddhism and Hinduism) .. and in fact God of the bible does not do that

The Initial Thoughts

Since the beginning of Mankind, man had often encounters ups and down, good things and bad things. The question of why Bad things happen had been a topic of discussion for thousands of years. In order to tackle that question, mankind had came up with numerous religions and philosophy, they discuss about the existence of God and the reason for sufferings. For me, I would like to look at this from a Christian perspective.

As we see in view 1 and 2, even Christians had differing views about why misfortune befall on man. Hence it is important for us to take a look at what the bible says about Suffering.

The Truth Behind View No 1

As Christians we read the bible often, and it is undeniable that God indeed uses difficulties such as famine and pestilences to call back the children of Israel. This is evident throughout the period of judges and all the way to the period of the kings.

At the same time, we cannot deny the fact that God indeed sent 10 plagues to Egypt, overthrow the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, ordered the killing of the Amalekites and the Canaanites. God even make use of the Babylonians as his instrument to punish the Israelites when they disobeyed him (Jer 25:8-9)

Indeed, many a times God make use of difficulties as a way to turn the children of Israel back to him. At the same time, during the New Testament, the apostolic church is made to undergo much sufferings and it resulted to them having a stronger faith at the end.

It is important for Christians to consider when encountering tough time, and see if God was trying to teach them something, it is important for them to repent and return to the Lord. 

This view, however is incomplete. For it does not answer many difficult questions that people encounter. Take for example

1. Assuming that Aids is a pestilences from God, and it is meant to punish the sexually immoral (Which i do not agree completely) . How about the people who encounter the disease through no fault on their own? (Blood transfusion, Children born from Parents suffering from Aids)

Is it fair for us to therefore judge and say that it is a “punishment from God”?

Does God Uses Famines , Earthquakes and Pestilences For Punishment Only?

It would be very simple to just say yes when one is not suffering. We can see these words spoken the friends of Job

“Remember now, who ever
  perished being innocent?
  Or where were the upright
  ever cut off? ”- Eliphaz (Job 4 : 7-9)

“Behold, God will not cast away
  the blameless, Nor will He uphold
   the evildoers.”- Bildad (Job 8:20)

“ If he (God)  comes along and confines you in prison
   and convenes a court, who can oppose him?
   Surely he recognizes deceivers;
  and when he sees evil, does he
  not take note?”- Zophar (Job 11:10-11)

It looks as if their points was full of righteousness. That the sickness and suffering that Job encountered was the result of his sin But what was God’s response to their speech?

“My wrath is aroused against you
  and your two friends, for you have
  not spoken of Me what is right, as
  My servant Job has.”- YHWH (Job 42:7)

Sometimes when we encounter difficulties and troubles, and when we often think that it is a result of sin. Just like the time when the disciples encounter a blind man in the book of John

(Jn 9:2-3)
Disciples :“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or
                     his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus :“Neither this man nor his parents sinned, 
               but that the works of God should be 
               revealed in him.

Whenever we witness a disaster and something bad, we too often think that the cities that are suffering from it deserved it and it is because of sin. But Jesus had something to say about that too.

A Christian Response To Calamity And News Of Misfortune

Luke 13 records of a time where there were some people who came to Jesus with some of the news  of their time. There was some Galileans who was killed by Pilate .  Jesus asked them.

“Do you suppose that these Galileans
  were worse sinners than all other
  Galileans, because they suffered
  such things?  I tell you, no; but
  unless you repent you will all
  likewise perish

  Or those eighteen on whom the
  tower in Siloam fell and killed them,
  do you think that they were worse 
  sinners than all other men who dwelt
  in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no; but unless
  you repent you will all likewise perish.”- Jesus (Lk 13:2-4)

Over here Jesus taught us how Christians should react to this news. Let us not be too quick to judge and say that calamities are a result of the sins of others. But rather Let us be reminded that God has given us one more day to live and one more day to repent and return to him.

Concluding Words

so far, in our discussed we can conclude the following points.

1. God does use disasters such as famine, pestilences and earthquakes as punishment
            a. When it happens, let us take the chance and repent quickly
2. However, it would be unfair to say that whenever it happens, its a punishment
       a. For there are times where troubles came as a lesson from God 
3. Let us not suppose that we are better then those who were suffering

Let us know that whatever events that happen, be it good or be it bad all came from God. Sometimes God give us trials so that we would be able to return back to him just as what the Psalmist once said

“Before I was afflicted I went astray,
  But now I keep Your word. ……
  It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
  That I may learn Your statutes.” – Psalmist (Ps 119:67-71)

Sometimes he does that to help us know him better. Just as what Job says at the end of the suffering.

“I have heard of You by the
  hearing of the ear,
  But now my eye sees You.”-Job (Job 42:5)

Sometimes it is difficult for us to find out the reason behind our suffering. But if one were to maintain his faith and rely on Gods guidance. He may be able to see the beautiful will of God behind what that has happen.

“And we know that all things work
  together for good to those who love God,
  to those who are the called according to
  His purpose” – Paul (Rom 8:28)

That is why Christians ought to adopt the right attitude when faced with difficulties and calamities. As a conclusion, let us take a look at the words of King Solomon as a reminder for the lessons learnt today.

“In the day of prosperity be joyful,
  But in the day of adversity consider:
  Surely God has appointed the one as
  well as the other,So that man can find
  out nothing that will come after him.” – Solomon (Eccl 7:14)

Introduction

“And truly Jesus did many other signs
  in the presence of His disciples, which
  are not written in this book;  but these
  are written that you may believe that
  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and
  that believing you may have life
  in His name.”- John (Jn 20:30-31)

John tells us that there are many miracles performed by Jesus which were not recorded in the gospel. But He had specially chosen 7 for us to read. He did that so that we can believe that Jesus is indeed the Christ and we can have life through his name.

So far we have taken a look at his first miracle

1. Jesus turning water into wine (Part 1 , Part 2)

now lets continue and take a look at the second miracle recorded by John

Jesus Healing The Nobleman’s Son

Jn 4:46-54. We had all read that the first miracle perform by Jesus was in Cana, but this time, he pass by Cana in Galilee once again.

In this miracle, he cured the son of a nobleman, the boy was gravely ill in the city of Capernaum. I have managed to find a map that could give everyone an idea how far apart they are.

The distance is about 33 KM and this map featured the areas around the sea of Galilee. The town of Nazareth (Jesus’s hometown) is in the left hand bottom and Cana is slightly north of there beyond Sepphoris. Capernaum is found near the sea of Galilee

It takes around 8 hours to walk that distance on foot from Capernaum to Cana. But when Jesus told the nobleman that his sons lives, Jesus did not need to travel that distance to heal his son.

As the result, the noble man believed in Jesus, and his entire household believed as well.

The Chinese had a saying that goes 远水救不了近火 translated “A Faraway spring cannot put out a nearby fire”. Man devises such saying because they knew that they are unable to work around the limitation of time and space. The power to transcend time and space belongs exclusively to God.

This miracles testify that Jesus is indeed God who came in the form of flesh, he is the messiah, the anointed saviour sent by God to save  us. From this miracle, we can see the grow in the faith of the nobleman. That is a quality that Christian should strive after as well.  Let us look at the lessons that he had learnt

Lesson 1 : He Learnt To Stop Relying On Himself And To Rely on Jesus 

We know that the nobleman is one with power , authority and riches. He would have many man under his command and servants that obey him. It will not be surprising if he had used his power and riches to deal with the problems he encountered in life.

But today we see him helpless trying to save his dying son. I am sure he must have used all his wealth to get the best doctor one could get for him, but it seems that it cannot solve his problem.

I believe that is is then when he realise that his wealth and authority is limited, even though he can provide the best environment for his son to grow up in, but he unable to provide life to his son. If the boy were to pass away, everything that the noble man prepared would have been in vain.

Only God has the power to grant life to a person, and Jesus could do this because he is God who came in the form of flesh. Just as he once said

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears
  My word and believes in Him who sent Me
  has everlasting life, and shall not come into
  judgment, but has passed from death into life.” – Jesus(Jn 5:25)

Jesus told us that those who believe in him will have eternal life, he will pass from death to life and his soul could enter into everlasting life in heaven. We know that it is appointed for man to die once and after that to face judgement.

We may be healthy now but we all know that one day we will pass away, therefore we need to understand that we need eternal life. Only Jesus can give us this eternal life he had said it to us plainly and he had used his power to testify of it. 

We learn of how Jesus demonstrated his power to create, how he turn water into wine. That is an ability that belongs to God, the nobleman must have heard of the miracles he  performed  in Cana. When he heard that Jesus is going to Cana again, he seize the opportunity to ask Jesus to heal his son.

He learn to put aside his wealth , power and status to come before Jesus. He humbly admit to his limitation and asked Jesus to heal his son. The result of his action is great, he brought healing to his son and he also witness how Jesus transcended between time and space.

That is why he choose to believe , to stop relying on himself and to begin trusting Jesus . Are we able to learn from this nobleman and to admit our limitation? We need to learn from him to seize the opportunity to rely in Jesus.

Lesson 2 : He Learnt To Approach Jesus In Person  

The nobleman turn from sending his servant to find Jesus on his behalf to  coming to Jesus personally. For we read of how he came from Capernaum to Cana just to meet Jesus.

We know that a man of his status can easily send his workers to look for Jesus, I believe that he must have done that for many of the doctors that he invited to his house. But he knew that Jesus is no ordinary man, for he had an authority that no other doctors had. For Jesus had the power to cast out demons as well as to heal the sick.

He is able to recognise that Jesus is God coming in the form of flesh, since he believe that Jesus had all the power and authority, he chose to come down to Cana personally to plead with Jesus to help him.

A  person with true faith is  someone that can make supplication and request by themselves. He will never rely on the help of others to bring your supplications before God. Indeed there are some instances where it is inconvenient for us to come before God, but most of the time the problem lies with us not having the faith to come before Jesus.

Lets take a look at an example 

An Example from Mark Chapter 9

Mk 99:17-19, 23-24

Man : “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. 
               And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he 
               foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes
               rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should 
               cast it out, but they could not.”

Jesus : “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you?
                How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.”
               “If you can believe, all things are possible to him 
                who believes.”

Man : “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Here we read of a father who had a demon possessed son. He brought the son to the disciples, but yet there was no miracles. So in the end they brought him before Jesus.

Jesus called our generation a faithless generation and indeed it is true. For our generation claims that they have no religion but yet they are full of superstitions, they choose not to ask God for help yet they wish for miracles.  They choose not to fear God but yet are afraid of ghost and spirits. They choose not to believe in God but yet they blame God for every calamity that befall them.

The same thing goes for this man with a demon process son. He did not believe in Jesus yet he wanted to bring his son before the disciples. He did not ask for a miracle, he merely hoped that it happens. He came with a heart of unbelief and he just wanted to test Jesus. He wants to know if Jesus could heal his son or not. His action is not a display of faith, but a test , he would only believe when he see his son healed. He wanted to test water before diving in.

In the eyes of man that is reasonable, but in the eyes of God that is unacceptable.

Assuming today we meet a martial arts master and we think that he had the skill. Will you now send him to defeat your champion before believing that he is a master? Now if we were to think from another perspective, if you are an expert in your field, will you accept a challenge just to prove your own skills.

A true master will not need to prove his skill before anyone, and if this applies to man, the same principle should apply to God.

That is why when the main claim that “Your disciples cannot heal him” Jesus was quick to point out that the problem lies with him and not his disciples. For the disciples are just humans, but the only difference was that they choose to believe in Jesus

That is why Jesus conclude by saying “All things are possible for those who believe”

Faith is one that does not doubt, and the man realise his mistake and he understood what Jesus was telling him. He responded by saying “Lord I believe, help my unbelief“. Jesus being full of mercy, helped him, he cured his son and the evil spirit left the child.

True faith is not about getting others to plead to God on your behalf, for we must plead with God personally.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow.
Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi

We have discussed that there are many  things Christians ought to learn during their walk of faith.  So far we had covered the following lessons.

Lesson 1 : Learning To Fear God
Lesson 2: Learning To Do Good And Be Honest

Lesson 3: To Learn Righteousness

Let us continue to look at the 4th  Lesson

Lesson 4: Learning To Be A Good Samaritan

Jesus: “So which of these three do you
think was neighbour to him who
fell among the thieves?”

Lawyer: “He who showed mercy on him.”

Jesus: “Go and do likewise.”

The Samaritan encountered something that we would encounter often. Perhaps our encounter is less dramatic, but we do encounter people in trouble. When we encounter them will we choose to feel indignant and just do nothing? Or will we choose to be like the Samaritan to be moved with compassion to help?

Usually when we read the parable, we push the blame onto the Levites and the priest. We pointed out that they are people who understood the law of God yet they did not practice what they preach. For they saw a person in need and they pretended that he does not exist and they pass him by.

But if we were the ones at the scene, will we choose to do nothing just like the Levites and the priest? Therefore instead of being angry at them, let us learn to be moved by compassion just like the good Samaritan

Lk 10:33 tells us that the Samaritan is moved by compassion to help. He did not know the man and he is well aware that by helping the man he will need to delay his journey by at least a day. He is a on a trip and he is in a hurry to get to his destination.

Did the bible indicate that he is in a hurry?

In Lk 10:35 he left the man under the care of the innkeeper and went on his way. He could have left the man and declare “I have done all i can to help him” .  But he told the innkeeper

“Take care of him; and whatever more
you spend, when I come again, I will
repay you. “ Samaritan (Lk 10:35)

He did not perform this deed to get an award, but he did it out of his compassion for the man. When he witness an unfortunate event, and there was no one to help the man. He did not blame the others for their inaction, but rather he offered his help automatically.

That is why Jesus concluded the parable by saying “Go and Do Likewise”

A Story To Share

There was a shop that put up an advertisement saying “Puppies For Sale” There was a kid who went into the store and wanted to buy a puppy. So the shop keeper whistled and out came the puppies who came alongside with her mother.

Four of the puppies ran very fast, and there was one who lagged behind at the back.

The shopkeeper being a good businessman immediately said “He had been sent to the the vet, he is crippled and he will be lame for the rest of his life.”

but the child replied “I wanted that puppy”. The shopkeeper was surprised and he said
“You can have him for free”.  But the boy was angry, he said “I do not want him for free, this puppy is like any other, he is worth every penny” So he gave him 5 dollars and replied “I will pay up the remaining 5 dollars every week until I have paid up in full.”

The boss replied “That is not what i meant, I did not have a bad intention, it is just that the puppy cannot run with you and play with you. I meant well”

That is when the kid rolled up his trousers. it revealed an artificial limb. He replied. “I bought him because he cannot play like the other puppy, and I understand how he feels. He need someone who can understand and care for him”

This time, the shopkeeper with tears in his eyes said “I wish every dog would have a owner like you.”

Conclusion

The good Samaritan is just like this boy, he had compassion to empathise with others, he will always show compassion regardless of gender and race, he will help anyone who are in trouble.

For those who experience the love of God ,, we will know that he loved even those who are unworthy of his love. He continue to love us today, it is that love that move us.

Let us love each other with the same love that Jesus give us, let us not say that there is someone undeserving of our love and respect. Let us give them a chance of repent and help them change.

For if we are unwilling to do so, one day we will face the judgement of God. Jesus will ask  us “You have heard the story of the good Samaritan, have you understood what i am trying to say? I did not tell you the story to let you know that he is good, but I said “Go and do likewise”

Let us learn from the good Samaritan and let us show this love of God.