This is an amazing thing

Today’s chapters in John’s Gospel very graphically illustrate the impact Jesus was having on the people and the jealousy this caused among their religious leaders. He heals a man who had been born blind, who had never been able to see – utterly remarkable. The religious leaders tell this man to

“give glory to God, saying, ‘we know this man (Jesus) is a sinner’” (9:24).

They cannot deny that an amazing miracle has occurred, but say,

“We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from”.

The healed man answers them,

“Why this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes” (verses 29,30).

Their anger boils over against the man as he persists in reasoning with them and telling them,

“If this man were not from God, he could do nothing”.

They end up telling him,

“’You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?’ And they cast him out” (verses 33,34).

This made us think of the increasing blindness of so many today who keep on saying at every opportunity, indeed making opportunities, to declare there is No god, there never was a Creator, everything that exists is the result of countless happens of pure chance!

This is an amazing thing”  => “herein is the marvel

especially that people persist in this way of thinking!

Yet in one way we can understand why this is so – it is because the established church are so hypocritical – in some ways they are parallel to the religious people who surrounded Jesus.

Those who are willing to read God’s word for themselves – and to keep reading so that they get its full flavour and meaning – are conscious of the amazing message that unfolds and that becomes clearer the more they read. But sadly, as we read in John’s next chapter there are others that hinder the message – Jesus says,

“He who is a hired hand, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees and the wolf snatches them and scatters them” (verse 12).

Sadly this happened!

sheep

sheep (Photo credit: amcunningham72)

But scattered sheep can listen and, even today, hear “the good shepherd” through reading the words which he inspired his followers to remember and write down (see 14:25-27) so that true sheep, even in the 21st Century, can “hear” his voice by reading his words and those of his disciples and other of God’s prophets. If they feed on them every day they find the only true pasture in the wilderness of this world – and will come into the promised land.

Joh 14:25-27 The Scriptures 1998+  (25)  “These Words I have spoken to you while still with you.  (26)  “But the Helper, the Set-apart Spirit, whom the Father shall send in My Name, He shall teach you all, and remind you of all that I said to you.  (27)  “Peace I leave with you – My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

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Additional reading:

  1. Jesus Messiah
  2. Seeing Jesus
  3. Written to recognise the Promissed One
  4. Jesus’s answers about God’s silence
  5. Knowing Rabboni
  6. On the Nature of Christ
  7. Reasons that Jesus was not God
  8. Servant of his Father
  9. Servant for the truth of God
  10. Blinkered minds
  11. Working of the hope
  12. A fact of History or just a fancy Story

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  • Not Alone: Maundy Thursday and the Building of Intimacy (drewdowns.net)
    This year, it was helpful for me to remember that we have developed a different way of marking days from Jesus’s time and place. Then, the day began at dusk. So this, Jesus’s final day, has begun. He gathers His friends for dinner, for a final teaching. Small. Subtle.
  • John 16:25-33: He has Overcome the World (disciplesforlife.wordpress.com)
    When we are trying to communicate a complex idea to our children, we often resort to more simple analogies to help them understand what we are saying.  The goal is so that no matter the age, they will understand what we are saying because we have adapted it to their way of understanding.
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    Remember Jesus was always concluding parables by saying “those who have ears to hear, let them hear.”  Well there are many theories on this, but I believe that just as His righteousness light unto the world, a light that had a necessarily judging or dividing affect so also His teaching (think Matthew 10:34).  He was the light and the darkness necessarily was scattered from Him.
  • John 9-10 (whatshotn.wordpress.com)
    And as [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man which was blind from [his] birth.
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    As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
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    But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight.
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    The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and [yet] he hath opened mine eyes.
  • To Sheep or not to Sheep…. (cooksvillechurch.wordpress.com)
    Blind man healed, Religious leaders not happy, kick out blind man…
    Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”

    And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.”
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    Sectarianism is not our goal, it is Christ Jesus that unites His body by the power of the Holy Spirit. Clearly, men have different views and agendas for the Church. These clash with the Scriptures. This is not cause for war but for fruitful discussion and diligent study of the Word of God bringing us closer to, and conforming us to Christ Jesus’ image. This takes much time and is a work of the Holy Spirit. Scripture reminds us that it is Christ Jesus that is perfecting His Church.

  • The Abundant life? Or Life Abundantly – > Understanding John 10:10 (testifyingtograce.wordpress.com)
    What follows is a big debate between the man who was healed from his blindness and the scribes and Pharisees who want to discredit Jesus. The debate ends when the healed man says, “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing” and then the Pharisees threw him out of the synagogue. Then Jesus finds the man, who had been healed, and the man confesses faith and worships Jesus. Now we begin to look at what happens after this man worships Jesus.
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    What is the difference between being faithful to the text or causing deception? It is the difference between a noun and an adjective. Let’s take a look at the two words that tend to get confused… “life” and “abundantly”…
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    Jesus, when He talks about giving us an abundant life, isn’t referring to wealth, happiness, or earthly success. Jesus is promising to give us so much life that it will last all of eternity. He promises us that He will give us Himself for He Is Life. He gives us the Words of Life that give us life here on this earth and ultimately point us to Christ (John 5:39). This is what John 10:10 is talking about and it is far more glorious when you do not twist its meaning.
  • Numbers 27-28, John 5 (vesselsofclay.org)
    Sheep are not the brightest of animals. In fact, they are quite dumb, requiring someone to lead them and protect them. Sheep are herd animals with no built-in protection mechanism, other than flight. They are driven by their appetites. There are stories about flocks of sheep so intent on grazing that they literally walked off the side of a cliff one by one, so focused on feeding that they were oblivious to the danger. Sheep are easily led astray. Sheep are easy prey to predators. They spook easily and are prone to both disease and injury. And even a cursory reading of the Scriptures will reveal that so many of the characteristics of sheep really do apply to the people of God, including those in Moses’ day all the way to the Christians living during the days of Paul’s ministry.
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    God was not happy. His sheep were being neglected and even abused. He expected those men who had been given the responsibility of leading His people to take their role seriously and to lead according to His terms, not their own. God cared for His sheep and He expected those whom He had appointed as shepherds to act as His undershepherds, providing the same level of care and concern as He would.
  • Unity (jesusworshipper.wordpress.com)
    The Pharisees stole the chance of eternal life away from the people by telling them that they must follow six hundred laws in order to be saved. They divided the people, telling them that Jesus is not the right way.
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    Jesus loves the sheep so much that He laid down His life for them. He was mangled by the wolves of all the sheep’s sin, so that they wouldn’t have to be. He united the sheep by laying down His own life for them.
    Lastly Jesus says that He knows the sheep. He knows and loves them even as God the Father knows and loves Him. Jesus is saying that He loves the sheep with the same love that His Father gives Him. How amazing it must be to be a sheep in that flock. But we are sheep in that flock! We have been loved and nurtured by our Good Shepherd, who loves us as much as the Father loves Him. Jesus has united us under one Shepherd, in one Flock.
  • 14 Prophecies fulfilled on Good Friday (wheelsms.wordpress.com)
    When trying to answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” one has to consider the prophecies of the Old Testament. The New Testament explains that the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah found their fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Here are 14 prophecies about the Messiah that were fulfilled on Good Friday. Click on the link if you want to download a pdf copy of the chart.
  • What Easter Means To Me (theonlywai.com)
    Easter is a time of sacrifice and rejoicing. A time to reflect on all that Jesus Christ did for us to put us right with our Father. When you don’t recognise the crucifixion as the chance for you to get right with God, the cross becomes a mere ornament of religion or a fashion item for the lost. For some Easter is no longer the greatest religious festival in the Christian calendar but chance to over indulge in chocolate eggs. For some, it is no longer an opportunity to celebrate death defeated and all illnesses healed, but a time to wonder where the Easter Bunny left his stash or just a welcome break from daily drudgery.
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    Few people who deny Jesus can realize more than 365 prophesies written in the Old Testament about the Messiah were fulfilled that first Easter, when Jesus died and rose again. Psalm 22 verse 18 foretells of the soldiers casting lots for the Lord’s tunic, for example.
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    ‘This is how God showed His love for us: God sent His only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about – not that we once upon a time loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.’ 1John 4:7 from The Message bible.
  • Harshness to darkness. Darkness to hatred (andronicusthescribe.com)
    The John passage of scripture covers in some detail various encounters that Jesus has with the Pharisees, the religious group that laid heavy burdens of ‘legalistic compliance’ upon the Jewish people of the time.

    So, the chain of ideas expressed in the two cryptic phrases is as follows: Religious legalism leads to spiritual darkness – a state of blindness to truth that is plainly “seen” by those who are not spiritually blind – and is subsequently followed by hatred. That hatred is directed towards those who truly follow the Lord Jesus.

    Blind people live in a world of spiritual darkness. They can’t “see” or fully understand what is going on around them in the spiritual realms.

 

 

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Shabbat Pesach service reading 2/2

The Intermediate Sabbath—Losing Heart in the Wilderness
English: panorama of a wadi in the negev deser...

Panorama of a wadi in the negev desert, israel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the Israelites were delivered from Egypt, they came through areas of wilderness on their way to the Promised Land.

Even though the Israelites entered into a covenant with God in the wilderness, and came to understand their identity as God’s treasured possession there, sometimes they responded to hardship and barrenness of the wilderness with discouragement.
In the wilderness, they also lost heart, lost hope, longed for Egypt, and grumbled, murmured and complained.
For that reason, all perished but two—Joshua and Caleb—who followed the Lord wholeheartedly and kept the faith.  The bodies of the other Israelites lay scattered across that vast wilderness.

 

Jeshua is Tempted in the Wilderness, by James Tissot

 

Even Jeshua spent time in the wilderness—perhaps the Judean or Negev Desert.  The Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) led him there to be tempted by the devil, the adversary of God.  (Matthew 4:1–11)
The Negev is not an easy place to live—even with air conditioning!
It is a land of snakes and scorpions; a place of great danger.  And yet, the wilderness is not a punishment, but a necessary stage in our spiritual journey.
It is often God who leads us into our wilderness experiences to humble us, to test us, to refine our faith, and to teach us perseverance and endurance.
If we come out of it alive, we do so “leaning on our beloved” instead of relying on our own strength or limited sufficiency.  (Song of Solomon 8:5)
The wilderness can be our spiritual university where we learn to trust in and depend upon the Lord, and only God knows how long that lesson will take.

 

Holding up the Torah for all to see at Jerusalem’s Western (Wailing) Wall.


For Believers, in the vast space between salvation and the resurrection lies the wilderness, a dry and thirsty land where water is scarce.  That is where we are sanctified.
Because it is so easy to lose heart in the wilderness—our sanctification process—our response to the trials and challenges will determine how well we make it through to the resurrection.
Discouragement during our wilderness is an especially powerful weapon of the enemy because of its enfeebling, demoralizing effect.  Hatred, jealousy, fear, and other negative states may cause us to act foolishly, to fight, or to run.  But at least we act.
Discouragement on the other hand, hurts us more than any of these.  It ultimately saps the energy right out of us, causing us to sit down, pity ourselves and do nothing.
Discouragement causes us to give in to the temptation of the enemy who whispers, “Just give up.”
Hopelessness is a very dangerous state of being.  In fact, Scripture tells us that “hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  (Proverbs 13:12)

 

Jewish men sort through a table full of prayer books at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.


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Additional reading:

  1. Israel God’s people
  2. Commemorating the escape from slavery
  3. On the first day for matzah
  4. Around the feast of Unleavened Bread
  5. High Holidays not only for Israel
  6. Suffering produces perseverance
  7. A new exodus and offering of a Lamb
  8. The redemption of man by Christ Jesus
  9. Atonement And Fellowship 6/8
  10. In what way were sacrifices “shadows”?
  11. The meek one riding on an ass
  12. A Messiah to die
  13. In the death of Christ, the son of God, is glorification
  14. Festival of Freedom and persecutions
  15. 14-15 Nisan and Easter
  16. Getting out of the dark corners of this world

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Wadi in Nahal Paran, Negev, Israel.

Wadi in Nahal Paran, Negev, Israel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • The Message of First Importance: “Gosh” (lifeconnectionscounseling.org)
    Some people over the centuries have called this day “Good Friday” remembering when the best human that ever lived on this earth was murdered by humankind.
  • Holy Week, Passover, and Boldly Entering Jerusalem (thewidowsmiteyblog.wordpress.com)
    This time of year can be a bit busy for pastors, and I consider myself to be both Jewish and Unitarian Universalist, so this being both Passover and Holy Week, it’s been very busy.Of course, according to the Gospels, it was both Passover and Holy Week. Well, they weren’t calling it Holy Week back then. I mean, there was no Christianity yet – Jesus was an upstart Jewish leader who was making trouble. He had a bunch of followers, and they were all Jewish, too. But the events of Holy Week chronicle what they were doing around Passover. They were pretty busy, too. And Jesus was also tired.
  • The Lamb of God Who Takes Away the Sin of the World! (drmitchglaser.wordpress.com)
    Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.This Messenger would purify the priests so they might once again offer sacrifices on behalf of the Jewish people.  As the prophet writes, Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.(Malachi 3:3)
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    The Lamb in Exodus 12 is a prophetic portrait of the One who would come and shed His blood for the sins of the world.

    The Lamb of Isaiah 53

    The prophet Isaiah develops the significance of the lamb as an atoning sacrifice.

    There are two key passages in Isaiah 53 which conjoin the idea of the Messiah with the Passover lamb…

  • Out Of The Wilderness-Shoshannah (christinmesite.wordpress.com)
    The wilderness experience is a time when you are hungry and thirsty for more of the Lord, you become dissatisfied with what the traditions and doctrines of men offer in the church, and you set out on a journey to seek the Lord and receive more of Him. You seek the solitude of Him alone.
    If your church and Pastor is hungry for more of the Lord, and He is actively seeking Him and being taught of Him, and preaching as the spirit gives utterance then you are in a good church, but there still should be a time of seeking Him alone.
  • Living in the Wilderness (bradfriedlein.wordpress.com)
    While part of a Rabbinical studies group last year, the Rabbi was talking about the Israelites and their relationship to the wilderness. And how the wilderness has greater meaning – like most things in the Jewish culture, than just being a place where they wondered for 40 years. For the Israelites, the wilderness is this place that symbolizes that time when you know where you’ve come from but you don’t know where you’re going. And it is in that place where you encounter God. It’s that place where God comes to you and reveals Himself to you in new ways.
  • A Wilderness Experience: Loving Prodigals, Release, & Rest
  • In the Wilderness: Words of Encouragement and Admonition
  • When Faith Falters: Relearning Rest
  • Sustenance for the Wilderness Journey
  • A Jew and an Atheist Host a Seder (opineseason.com)
    This past Monday evening, I had the honor of joining a good friend and his wife as they celebrated Pesach with their four year-old son. For those who don’t know, Pesach (Passover) is a holiday which celebrates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery and their exodus from Egypt. The Seder is the ritual feast that marks the beginning of the seven day holiday.

    For this year’s Seder, my friends invited a living room full of mostly Gentiles (non-Jews) to share in their feast.

 

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