Sunday, April 23, 2017

Beyond the Signs [on the miracles of Jesus]

Since the start of the year, I've been writing about the Sunday sermons in church, sharing what I learned through listening and reading. Before, I used to attend church and forget the lessons once I step out. So I am writing these to also remind myself of God's word. I attend Victory Church and the lessons each Sunday are part of a 'series' on a chosen topic. So far, I wrote about Knowing God last January, and SelfLess last February (on true love). The third series for the year is Beyond the Signs, on the seven miracles of Jesus in the gospel of John. This series is in time for the Lenten season, where we remind ourselves of Jesus' death and resurrection.

Jesus performed miracles, but sometimes we fail to see what they mean. These miracles are also 'signs' that point to a deeper meaning. What did Jesus mean when he did them? Jesus used these miracles to reveal a truth, and also uncover the real intentions of the people around him at that time. Let's revisit the miracles and try to see what Jesus really means 'beyond the signs'.

The Wedding at Cana: Water to Wine
This is Jesus' first miracle. At a wedding where wine was running out, Jesus instructed servants to fill the jars with water which turns to great wine. Wine is a symbol of abundance at their time, and running out of wine in an important celebration like a wedding was considered a cause for shame. Jesus saves the day and the wedding with this miracle and restored the celebrants' honor to the community for nothing.

In this case, we see the unnamed servants who were chosen to 'deliver' the miracle. Though they played a small role, we should imitate their example. They obeyed with gladness even though they did not know what Jesus was up to. They, too, enjoyed the blessing of this miracle.

Through this miracle, Jesus glory was manifested and people started to believe in him. In turning water into wine, Jesus also can change our souls from ordinary water in dirty jars to excellent wine that never runs out. It is our changed life that can help change others. We may eventually run out of wine, but Jesus is the living water who never diminishes. He fills our emptiness to the brim and gives us more.

Jesus Heals an Official’s Son
Who is Jesus to us? Is he just a teacher? A healer? A performer? A miracle worker? We must not forget that first and foremost Jesus is our savior. In this miracle, an official heard the healing miracles of Jesus and travels a long way for Jesus to heal his son.
"Unless you people see signs and wonders," Jesus told him, "you will never believe."
The royal official said, "Sir, come down before my child dies."
"Go," Jesus replied, "your son will live."
The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, "Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him."
Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." So he and his whole household believed.
We hear people say, "to see is to believe," but real faith doesn't rely on signs. We focus on the miracle and not the author of it. Though the official was rebuked by Jesus, he still had faith that Jesus will be able to heal his son through His word.

We don't have to wait for miracles. God honors faith even without miracles, and God honors willingness to take bold risks. What of prayers that are unanswered? Maybe we are being tested, and in the end it is God who knows what is the best for us. Even if we are faithless, he remains faithful.

The Healing at the Pool on the Sabbath
A man who was paralyzed for 38 years is lying in a healing pool in Bethesda. In their pagan belief, there was supposedly an angel who stirs the water and when the water moves, people would try to get to the water first. Jesus visits and meets the man, who was not able to get to the pool because he had no one to help him. Jesus commands him to "get up, take your mat, and go home." The man did so.

One point here is sometimes, we combine our belief in God with other things that are not supposed to be in a Christian life. Astrology, magic, sorcery, and other beliefs that contradict with our faith. The man also believed in a baseless pagan practice during his time, and instead of healing, his misery only got worse and prolonged. Imagine being sick for almost four decades, the water so near, and not being able to reach it! But Jesus intervened and made the man walk again, and the man obeyed his word and was instantly healed.

He did not only help the man to walk, but to walk in the right direction of righteousness. Jesus sought the man again and told him to sin no more. This is also the beginning of Jesus' persecution, and the phrarisees questioned why Jesus worked on a Sabbath day.
"Faith is receiving what grace has already accomplished." -Juray Mora
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
In this famous miracle, Jesus feeds five thousand men from a few pieces of bread and fish. After that, they were ready to make him King. Though he was given a chance to rule, Jesus withdrew from the crowd instead. His purpose was not fame or worldly praise, but OUR reconciliation with God. He recognized that being King may be a blessing to the eyes of the world, but not every good opportunity is a 'God opportunity'. Not every door of opportunity is a door of blessing.

How many times in our life have we been enticed by opportunities, but later we realize that it wasn't in line with God's purpose? The word of God is still the final word of truth and wisdom. The word of God is our most effective weapon against the Enemy's attacks. Jesus is the true bread of life.

Jesus Walks on Water
The disciples cross over a sea, and in the middle of a storm they see the figure of Jesus which they didn't recognize at first. It was terrifying to them! Jesus said that it was him, and when Jesus joined them on the boat, the storm instantly cleared and they found themselves at their destination at once. This miracle reminds us that Jesus is always with us even if it feels that he is not, when we are in the middle of problems that we don't see him.

The storm was a trial, and we cannot avoid trials. They are God's way to discipline and teach us. The words of Jesus are always true. If we have problems, do we curse instead of praising God? Before the word of God entered our lives, we were fighting with our own strength. Now, we have a weapon... God's word! The devil will always lead us to focus on our lack and insecurities, but we should remember God's word and promises.

Jesus Heals a man born blind
Jesus heals a blind man. The Pharisees questioned him (because they wanted to have something against Jesus). The blind man said, "Never in the history of the world that someone has opened the eyes of someone born blind. This man must be a prophet and a man of God." This irritated the religious authority even more that they expelled him from the synagogue.

But even if he faced the rejection of their community, the man believed Jesus when they met again (Jesus said to him that Jesus is the Messiah). I like how the blind man didn't react negatively to their rejection, because he knows how far more valuable it is to be in the community of Christ. It's okay with me if you reject me, because I don't belong among you anyway, because I only need to find my place with Jesus alone.

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead
Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, died. He went to visit Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus. Martha said that if Jesus had been there to heal Lazarus, then death would not have happened. Jesus says that he is the resurrection and the life. He goes to the tomb and speaks, "Lazarus, come forth!" and Lazarus is resurrected from death.

Aren't we like Martha, sometimes? Accusing God when we do not answer our prayers? But sometimes when we think of something as dead in our life, God is making a miracle that is more than what we initially expected. Jesus didn't heal Lazarus right away, but made a more profound miracle: making the dead live again. This miracle is considered to be his triumph "over the last and most irresistible enemy of humanity—death."

After all these miracles, the most important one is Christ's resurrection after his own death. With him living again, we are assured of eternity through our faith. Our temporary bodies will die, and will rise again in a New Earth so beautiful we can't imagine it in our own earthly eyes. ✙

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