Jesus Saves the (Wedding) Day

March 7, 2019 at 4:36 pm | Posted in John | 6 Comments
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And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:

John 2:1

“The third day” is probably referring to the third day after the call of Nathanael (John 1:45-51). Jesus performed the first miracle (sign) of His earthly ministry at a wedding in Cana – a wedding to which He had been INVITED. Jesus (not the pastor or officiant, not the groom, not even the bride!) should be the guest of honor at every wedding. During the wedding celebration, when the wine ran dry, threatening to put a damper on the festivities, and further threatening to embarrass the groom and his family who were charged in Jewish culture with having enough provisions to supply the invited guests for a week, Mary, who would have been a close friend of the family or families, came to Jesus with the problem.

And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

John 2:4

Jesus’s response was a balance between filial respect and a declaration of His own authority – almost as if He knew that one day people would sinfully want to call Mary a redemptrix or mediatrix between human beings and God, or as if they would erroneously claim that she belonged in a similar category of deserved adoration, veneration, or even worship (idolatry/Mariolatry) as Jesus Himself.

Actually, Mary’s response to Jesus’s response is a good example of what everyone’s response should be: Whatever Jesus says to do, do it.

His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

John 2:5

Mary pointed to Jesus, not herself, and He solved the problem, not Mary.

And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

John 2:6

The Greek term translated as “firkin” referred to a container that held about 11-30 gallons, depending upon which commentator you favor. In English “firkin” originally meant a “fourth,” as in a fourth of a barrel (however helpful that may be without knowing the size of the barrel). The point is, though, that they were large containers, and Jesus had people fill them with water, and then miraculously turned the water into wine. There is an interesting contrast here when we remember that Moses turned water into blood (a sign of judgment), whereas Jesus turned it into wine (a symbol of blessings and joy).

This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

John 2:11

The phrase “beginning of miracles” indicates that the tales of Jesus supposedly performing miracles in His childhood are myths. The word for “miracles” in the Greek is semeion, meaning that they were miracles performed for a purpose. They were acts of supernatural power done to point to eternal truths so that people “might believe.” “Signs” point to something greater, something more “sign”ificant.

Character and Integrity Part 3

August 28, 2009 at 10:31 am | Posted in character and integrity, Luke | 12 Comments
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Who are your three main enemies? They are the devil, the “world,” and your flesh. The devil wants to lie to you, and deceive you. Your flesh wants you to please you, and not to please God. The world wants you to be fake – something you’re not – so that it can somehow make money at your expense.

It is important to be what God wants you to be. When you are fake, God knows it, and that is damaging to your integrity. When you are fake, other people know it, and that’s damaging to your character. Let’s look at the example of Mary in the Bible, and see what we can learn about her character and integrity.

Mary lived in Nazareth, a disreputable place.

Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.

John 1:45-46

There are places today with a reputation similar to Nazareth. I grew up in a small town that is kind of the “Nazareth” of North Louisiana. Nazareth in Mary’s time would have been the kind of place where a teenaged girl could have easily been bored, seeing the merchants and traders going to and from Jerusalem. That boredom could have led to temptation and promiscuity and immorality for many of the teenaged girls who lived there.

However, Mary was engaged to be married, and she was a virgin. The angel Gabriel came to visit her. He told her that she would conceive and bear a Son, and that she was to name Him Jesus, and that this Jesus was the Son of God. Mary was probably around 13-15 years old at this time.

Contrary to Roman Catholic dogma, Mary was not sinless. She, like all of us, was a descendant of Adam. Of all the people ever to walk the face of the Earth, only Jesus was without sin.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Romans 5:12

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Romans 3:23

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:15

Mary called called God her Savior (Luke 1:47). She knew she was a sinner, and she knew she needed a Savior.

Even though she was a sinner, Mary is a good Bible example of someone with integrity. She kept her virginity. She was saved.

Let’s look at her character. In a previous lesson we learned about the things which spoke well of David’s character.

Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.

I Samuel 16:28

We can compare this description of David to Mary.

And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Luke 1:28

People who knew Mary might have wondered about her character. God knew she was a virgin, but what do you think people said when they found out she was pregnant before she got married?

They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

John 8:39-41

People who knew about Jesus’s birth and childhood accused Him of being born out of wedlock. That was a reflection of their opinion of Mary, too. However, Mary surrendered her character to the Lord.

Character has to do with your name – what other people think of you – but we can’t always control that. What happens when you have integrity, but other people are wrongly smearing your character? I have three school-age daughters, and I can tell you from what I know of their experiences that all children can be mean, but girls can be meaner than boys – especially when it comes to gossip.

And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38

Even though Mary could predict how her miraculous pregnancy would affect her character, she said, “That’s fine with me, Lord.” Mary considered herself a handmaiden, and, in Mary’s day, handmaidens had to serve – and they had to serve joyfully.

Can you say with Mary, “Be it unto me according to Thy Word?” Before you begin to hope that God would never do something to you that would embarrass you the way Mary’s pregnancy embarrassed her, remember: He already has. His Word tells you to do all sorts of things that are going to make people think you’re weird. And some of those things are going to affect your character – in the short term.

Are we willing to look in the Book and see it what it says? Are we dressing immodestly? Do we tell lies? Do we put ourselves in places of sexual temptation? Are we actively hoping for some strong temptation to come along, so that when we fall, we can blame the temptation, and not ourselves?

Many Christians say, “I’m saved – but I’m going to mess up once in while.” If we call ourselves Christians, then we had better stand for the Name of Christ. When I fill in the blank on a form that asks what religion I am, and I say, “Christian,” I don’t want to be responsible for someone else saying no to Jesus, based on my character.

Mary not only surrendered to the Lord, she was happy about it. As soon as she heard about God’s plan, she went to see her cousin, and she sang a song of praise about it. Her song is found in Luke 1:46-55. It is often called the “Magnificat.”

The word “Magnificat,” comes from the same root which gives us our word, “magnify.” To “magnify” something means to “make something bigger” or “to give someone glory.” Mary’s song magnified the Lord. She was interested in making herself seem smaller, and the Lord seem bigger. Mary would not have been happy with the way this part of the Bible is often used today. The Roman Catholic Church has a well-known prayer referred to as the “Hail Mary.” It comes from a combination of Luke 1:28 and 42. The Catholic prayer says, “Hail Mary, full of grace…” But Luke 1:28 tells us that the “hail” with which the angel greeted Mary, was just that: a greeting – not a description of sinlessness. Mary was not “full of grace.” She was a sinner, saved by God’s grace, through faith. When the Bible calls her “highly favored” it means that Mary was the recipient of grace given to her by God.

Note that Luke 1:32 does not say, “You will be great…” It says, “He shall be great..,” referring to Jesus. And Verse 42, which says, “blessed art thou among women,” has Elisabeth, Mary’s cousin – not the angel – speaking.

So, what was Mary’s secret? How could she be so happy, so excited, so obedient… knowing that her character was going to be questioned? For one thing, Mary loved the Word of God – she knew the Scriptures.

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

Psalm 119:165

Remember, Mary did not have a Bible. She would have gone to the synagogue to hear the Word of God in the Old Testament being read aloud. Mary hid the Word in her heart – she memorized it. In her song, she quotes from the Law, the prophets, and the Psalms. Luke 1:50 has part of Exodus 20:6 in it. Luke 1:51 has part of Isaiah 40:10 in it. Luke 1:53 has part of Psalm 107:9 in it. If Mary could memorize Bible verses without even owning a Bible, how much more should we be able to do it when we can have access to a Bible any time we want!

It grieves me to see people – especially teenaged children – get up after a Sunday School class, and leave their Bibles laying on the floor. We have to wonder if Mary would have gone out of the synagogue and left her written copy of God’s Word, if she had had one, laying on the floor.

So we see, Mary could face the possibility of having people say bad things about her – to fail to see her true character – because she was not being fake. She was being real. She understood that her life needed to be given to obeying the Lord joyfully. The secret of having that joy was (1) surrendering to God’s Word and His way; (2) magnifying the Lord; and (3) knowing the Bible and memorizing it.

Unlike David, other people didn’t always say, “The Lord is with him/her…” However, when it comes to Mary’s character, think about the people who whispered about Mary, and said bad things about her behind her back. And then ask yourself, “Who do we recognize as the earthly mother of our Savior?” Bible students for centuries have honored the name of Mary for her Godly character, but we do not know the name of a single one of her critics. I’d say that’s pretty good character.

The Power of the Resurrection and of the Holy Ghost

April 17, 2009 at 11:49 am | Posted in Acts, Resurrection | 19 Comments
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The period of time discussed in the Book of Acts was a time of great changes and transitions in the way the Gospel was to be proclaimed and spread throughout the world.

In Chapter One there is a focus on what, to Jesus’s Disciples and Apostles, had to be an earth-shaking and life-changing event: the Resurrection.

The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:

Acts 1:1-3 (Emphasis added.)

Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.

Acts 1:22 (Emphasis added.)

The Apostles now understood something about the “Kingdom of God” that they did not fully understand before Jesus’s Resurrection: that the Kingdom was not a “political” Kingdom.

When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

Acts 1:6-7

The Kingdom of God is a Kingdom where the King reigns over the hearts of believers.

Another truth which the apostles began to fully grasp in the Book of Acts was the fulfillment of the prophecy of John the Baptist.

John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:

Luke 3:16 (Note that believers are baptized with the Holy Ghost AND fire – referring to purifying and sanctifying persecution – not with the Holy Ghost IN fire, as has become a common cliche’ in Pentecostalism.)

For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

Acts 1:5

Since Luke is the human instrument which the Holy Ghost used to write both Luke and Acts, it seems as if they can be read as part one and part two of a two-volume set.

This new, living, breathing institution called the Church would receive its power from the Holy Ghost, and not from men. The power would be manifested in the act of becoming witnesses. “Witnesses” are people who tell what they have personally seen and heard – not their opinions.

The opinions of men have often become traditions, and have corrupted the transfer of Biblical truth. One example can be found in Acts 1:14: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” Notice that Mary was there participating in the worship – not being worshiped. Roman Catholic tradition is full of the unbiblical worship of Mary.

Acts Chapter 2 begins to highlight the unity among believers that was a key element in the success of the Church.

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

Acts 2:1 (Emphasis added.)

And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,

Acts 2:46 (Emphasis added.)

The early Church was extremely successful even though it had none of the so-called advantages of churches today: no fancy buildings; no large donations of money; no political influence; and no real social standing.

There is also in Acts Chapter 2 an interesting comparison between the ceremonies of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.

The Old was primarily Jewish. The New would be mostly rejected by the Jews, and would prosper among Gentiles. The Old had a Passover. The New had the Crucifixion. The Old brought death. The New brought life. The Old had a feast of first fruits. The New had the Resurrection. The Old had the day of Pentecost. The New had the giving of the Holy Spirit.

The giving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost – TO THE JEWS – was a one-time non-repeatable event. It is part of salvific history – like the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. There will be no more Calvaries, and there will be no more Pentecosts.

There were signs of the Spirit coming upon a group of Jewish people. There was wind which was heard, but not felt. There were flames which were seen, and not felt.

The Bible calls them “tongues of fire.” These believers praised God in various languages. Note the symbolism of what happens in nature: Wind + fire = a mighty blaze.

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.

James 3:5-6

Our tongues can be set on fire by Heaven, or they can be set on fire of hell!

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 2:4

The “other tongues” were different languages – not speech that was unknown anywhere – not Heavenly speech. Here we see the reversal of what happened at the Tower of Babel in Genesis Chapter 11. There, people were divided by God because of rebellion against God. Here, people are united in praise of God.

These believers were accused of being drunk, but not because of a lack of self-control. In fact, Peter preached with great logic.

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Acts 2:21

Holy Spirit-empowered sermons are still logical. Here is his logic: One, the Holy Ghost is here – in the world. Two, the same Spirit (not the same event) prophesied by Joel – the same Spirit that came upon Moses, Samson, David, the prophets – is here. Three, if He is here, God must have given Him. Four, Jesus promised this would happen (Luke 24:49). Five, if Jesus had died and not risen, He would still be dead, and could not have sent His Spirit.

THEREFORE, He is alive. He is risen!

Six, He is alive, but how could He have sent the Spirit from Heaven? Seven, He must have ascended to Heaven.

In Acts 2:23 the logical proof becomes an accusation: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:”

The power of the Holy Ghost empowered Peter, who had denied Jesus three times, to be able to accuse others of denying Him. Peter did not preach about how good a deal salvation was: “Jesus was perfect and He died for you – you give your life to Him and He’ll save you.” First, he told them they killed their own Messiah – the greatest crime in history – the most horrible crime in history. He told them that God sent His Son to save them, and they mocked Him, beat Him, spit on Him, and killed Him. THEN He explained WHY God allowed it to happen.

Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

Acts 2:36


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